Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkey Day Traditions

(Thomas Keller's Creamed Pearl Onions & a photo of the chef with his mother: Photo from
My grandma's best friend recently moved to the East Coast to be closer to her family. The transition left us with bittersweet emotions and one less side dish on Thanksgiving. 

Ruth, my honorary second grandmother, supplied the table, year after year, with a candied yam casserole. The temptingly sweet union of buttery vegetables, raisins and brown sugar was the perfect mate for my Dad's turkey blanketed in apple cider gravy.

Now that she's gone, I've been left with the daunting task of preparing a side dish to fill the culinary void. My mom keeps hinting at me to track down Ruth's recipe and recreate it, but I reason that it's time to make my own tradition, one I can carry on until I am in my 80's. 

Thomas Keller, a chef I have grown to admire over the years, recently upped my loyalty to his cooking techniques after I tested out his newest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. A bible for those who love rustic, home-cooked fare, the book offers much more than a pair of keys to his legendary archives--it offers step-by-step lessons on the basics, including how to turn out a flaky pie crust. 

So, when displayed a rendition of a Thanksgiving dish Keller's mother used to make, I had to share. Other names, such as Mario Batali and Tom Colicchio, also contribute to this special collection of "mother knows best" recipes. 

Phewww, I finally found some inspiration. See all 11 recipes, here

Creamed Pearl Onions

Provided by: Chef Thomas Keller 
  • Type of Dish: Sides
  • Servings: 8
  • Cuisine: American


80 white pearl onions, unpeeled
2 oz. applewood-smoked bacon, cut into small dice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. nutmeg, grated
2 tbs. sherry
1/2 bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch batons
Kosher salt


In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the pearl onions for about 3 minutes. Remove from the water, shock in a bowl of ice water, and drain. Peel onions, leaving a little of the root end intact.

In a medium saucepan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon, and drain on a paper towel. Leave 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the pan, and add the pearl onions, heavy cream, and nutmeg. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Cover the onions and cream with a cartouche (a circular piece of parchment paper with a 1-inch-diameter hole in the center that will fit on top of the saucepot).

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. (Published 2010)

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