Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gratin of Pearl Onions With Gruyere

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Creamed onions are a seasonal favorite, especially at Thanksgiving. Pearl onions, traditionally any white onion less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter, are best for this dish. A number of different-colored pearl onions are available at well-stocked markets today, including white, yellow and purple.  I just use the Birdseye frozen pearl onions which taste just as good as the fresh.  If I wanted to stay really American, I would use an American cheese but Gruyere is so good in gratins I'm willing to make an exception.

Serves 6.


2 lb. pearl onions, fresh or frozen

5 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 yellow onion, minced

 2 1/2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

2 cups of whole milk

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded Gruyere Cheese

3/4 cup fine dried white bread crumbs



If you are using fresh onions, here's what you have to do:

Bring a saucepan half full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pearl onions and cook for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the onions, rinse with cold water and drain. Reserve the water in the pot. Trim off the ends of each onion, then cut a shallow X into each trimmed end. Squeeze each onion gently to slip off the skin. 

Bring the water back to a boil. Add the onions, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the onions are soft when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a bowl.

If you are using frozen onions, which I highly recommend, just follow package directions, cook and drain.

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbs. of the butter. Add the minced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until well mixed and bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and cook until the sauce boils and thickens slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Add the pearl onions, adjust the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until the onions are hot, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the onion mixture to a 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle the bread crumbs and the rest of the cheese evenly over the top. Add a dash of paprika. Cut the remaining 1 Tbs. butter into 6 equal pieces and dot the bread crumbs evenly with the butter. Bake until the crumbs are golden and small bubbles appear along the edges of the dish, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.


  1. I have been making this recipe every Thanksgiving since I first found it on your site in 2010. It's always the most popular side dish on the table. Until last year I insisted on using fresh onions; last year I had limited time and substituted frozen and as you mentioned, they are just as good. We all love this recipe!!!

  2. They are just as good and is what I use every year. Thank you for letting me know. My 92 year old mother wouldnt think of sitting at the table if they were not on the menu. Enjoy!


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