The Best Creamed Onions

by Sarah on December 10, 2010

Courtesy of the master Thomas Keller, of course.  As printed in New York Magazine.  Who knew onions could be so mind-blowingly delicious?

First you need onions.  I wonder if you could just use those pearl onions in the freezer section that are already blanched and peeled?

Because the blanching and the peeling weren’t my favorite tasks.

Especially the peeling.  That’s a lot of onions, and let me tell you, it took forever.  This recipe is worth it though–don’t let me scare you away.

Like any good vegetable recipe, you start with bacon.  Chop it, or slice it and render out the fat till it’s crispy.  Set the crispy bits aside on a paper towel and pour out most of the fat, reserving about 2 Tbsp in the pan.

Add the peeled onions and and cream.

And some freshly grated nutmeg.  If you don’t have whole nutmeg, use the already ground stuff–go ahead, I won’t tell Thomas Keller.  Season with salt.

This is where old Thomas and I are going to differ.  TK tells you to make a CARTOUCHE.  In English, that’s a circle cut out of parchment paper that fits in the pan.  I say that’s stupid.  Just put a damn lid on it and leave the lid ajar so some of the steam escapes.

Cook over medium heat until the cream is reduced by at least half ( went a bit more so it was quite thick).  Add in a touch of sherry.  Garnish with the crispy bacon.

Here’s the sad part.  I took no photograph of my nice finished bowl of onions.  You want to know why?  Because I set it down, and a giant mob of humanity rushed the buffet table and ate them all.  Really.  I got to eat about 2.  I don’t think Auntie Anne got even one measly onion.

But I got my non-pork eating cousin to eat onions cooked in bacon fat so I consider my day a triumph.

Make these onions for Christmas!  Make them for Kwanzaa!  Make them for Friday night dinner!  I’m making them for a potluck next week.  But I think I will try the already peeled frozen ones this time.

Thomas Keller's Creamed Onions


  • 80 peeled onions (I used 3 net bags of pearl onions, about 4-5 cups)
  • 2 oz. applewood smoked bacon (I used 4 strips regular bacon, cut into strips)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I probably used 2)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I probably used 1/2 tsp, to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp sherry ( I used 3)
  • 1/2 bunch chives cut into 1/2" batons
  • Kosher salt


  • In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the onions for about 3 minutes. Remove from the water, shock in a bowl of ice water (I just rinsed them with cold water), and drain. Peel onions, leaving a little of the root end intact.
  • In a medium saucepan, cook he bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, and drain on a paper towel. Leave 2 Tbsp of the bacon fat in the pan, and add the onions, heavy cream, and nutmeg. Season to taste with kosher salt.
  • Cover the onions and cream with a cartouche (or a pan lid, left ajar).
  • Cook the pearl onions on medium heat until the cream has reduced by half and the onions are cooked through. Stir in the sherry.
  • Garnish with the bacon and chives.

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