Creamy Pearl Onion Gratin (Gratin d'Oignons Perles a la Creme)
The pearl onion gratin is composed of pearl onions, crème fraîche, thyme, red chili flakes, nutmeg and parmesan. It's a nice accompaniment to poultry. I served it with the roasted pheasant stuffed with sage and Granny Smith apples I made for my 4-course French meal in honor of the movie "Julie and Julia".
One trick to making this dish look great is to use the right serving dish. I especially like these individual serving dishes, which I got from Staub.
Yields: 6 servings3 (10-ounce) bags pearl onions
1-1/2 cups water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon white peppercorns, freshly ground
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 (10-ounce) container crème fraîche
1 pinch nutmeg
1 pinch red chili flakes
1 sprig thyme
3 tablespoons whole milk, warm or at room temperature
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup parmesan cheese powder
1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley, optional
In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the sprig of thyme, butter and pearl onions. Cook for about 2-3 minutes until golden. Remove and reserve as much butter as possible in a bowl. Set aside.
Pour the water over the pearl onions. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to medium-low, for about 5 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Add about a tablespoon of crème fraîche. Season with a little salt. Cover with a lid and cook for another 20 minutes or so. Check the liquid; the water should evaporate. If you're afraid that the onions will burn before getting tender, add a little more water if the liquid is reduced. The texture of the pearl onions should be soft but still firm. Remove and discard the thyme.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Brush an oven-proof serving dish with olive oil. Place the pearl onions in the dish. Set aside.
For the béchamel sauce, pour the butter back into the same skillet. Wait until it's hot, then add the flour. Keep stirring with a whisk for approximately 2 minutes. The flour should absorb the butter instantly and form a paste. Add milk and the remaining crème fraîche. Increase the heat while constantly stirring for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to low. Add salt, pepper, red chili flakes, 3 tablespoons of parmesan powder and nutmeg. Cook for another minute. Cover the pearl onions with the sauce. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan powder.
Bake the pearl onions in the oven at 400°F for 15 minutes until browned and golden. Broil on low for another 2 minutes if necessary.
Serve with poultry. Garnish with a flat parsley leaf (optional).
An easy way to peel pearl onions is to blanch them. Place the whole onions in a saucepan filled with boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain the onions and transfer to a bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water. Let them sit for a few minutes until the onions are cool. Drain the onions and you'll see it's much easier to peel them.
If you want to save some time, you can use frozen pearl onions that you previously thawed. I find the texture to be slightly different. The frozen ones release their water and shrink in size, whereas the fresh pearl onions have a better consistency.
To get a homogenous béchamel sauce, I always use all the ingredients at the same temperature, so make sure you heat the milk in the microwave (or in a pan), so it's warm. If you get lumpy pieces in the sauce, don't hesitate to use a handheld blender.
The thyme is not essential to this dish; I just like adding it to flavor the butter.
How to obtain freshly grated parmesan powder: Cut up a chunk of parmesan and chop the morsels in a mini food processor until it's a fine powder.
Crème fraîche is quite high in calories. You can substitute Fage or Greek-style yogurt if you're health-conscious. It may alter the creamy, rich taste and the texture might be thicker; if so, just add a little liquid to thin the sauce (milk or water). Another possible substitute for crème fraîche is sour cream but I find the texture and taste to be different. Quick fact: crème fraîche has more flavor with 28% fat whereas sour cream contains "only" between 12 and 16%.
I always make my own crème fraîche with the left-over heavy cream from all my baking. Just click on the link at the end of the post for the super easy recipe.
Published By: on August 9, 2009.