Brown-Braised Onions

Jim and I stood in the sauce aisle of the supermarket for an inexcusable amount of time yesterday. We were looking for steak sauce. The last one we tried was horrible (yet expensive!) and I think past its (unlabeled) expiration date. So, we were stuck looking over the rest of the (too-small) selection of bottles at Whole Foods. Most of them were hot in some way–Five Alarm, Smoky Hot, Chili-Fire, etc. Jim suggested we get the Thai hot steak sauce. I shook my head in disapproval. He suggested the chili pepper and smoke. Another no. The wasabi-flavored? I rolled my eyes, getting frustrated. I suggested the generic brand, which seemed to be normal steak sauce. He bawked, we were in Whole Foods, where we could get some odd-brand interesting bottle, and I wanted generic? BORE-ring.

We ended up getting nothing. And as we walked away from the aisle I had an overwhelming urge to say to him, “I know that you just don’t care about this stuff, but I do. I am cooking from Julia Child’s cookbook tonight and I cannot, can not, have some smoky, tongue burning, totally-un-French steak sauce!” As I was forming this statement in my head, however, I realized how silly I sounded. Jim just doesn’t care? Why not? He eats my food daily, he listens to me gab on about recipes all the time, he’s a diligent reader of this blog. Of course he cares. Of course he doesn’t want me to cook something that I don’t feel is right. But, also of course, how the hell would he know that five-alarm sauce doesn’t go with Julia Child–or for that matter, how would he know I’m cooking a Julia Child-French recipe when all I mentioned to him earlier was onions. So I kept my mouth shut. And felt quite proud of myself for thinking it through. I’m getting good at this “relationship” thing. (ha.)

The brown-braised pearl onions that adorned our bare steaks were fantastic, candy-like with sweet caramelized skins and tender insides. Try these if you know what’s good for you.

Brown-Braised Onions

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

For 18 to 24 peeled pearl onions about 1 inch in diameter:

  • 1½ tablespoons butter
  • 1½ tablespoons oil
  • A 9- to 10-inch enameled skillet
  • ½ cup of brown stock, canned beef bouillon, dry white wine, red wine or water*
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A medium herb bouquet: 3 parsley springs, ½ bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon thyme tied in cheesecloth**

When the butter and oil are bubbling the skillet, add the onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect to brown them uniformly.

Pour in the liquid, season to taste, and add the herb bouquet. Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove the herb bouquet. Serve them as they are.

*I used a beef bouillon.

**I used parsley wrapped around a bay leaf, because I sadly have no fresh thyme.

8 thoughts on “Brown-Braised Onions”

  1. Those look amazing! I don’t even like onions. Would you possibly become my personal chef? Haha, keep up the great recipes.

  2. Hii . u wont believe My hubby n me have just come from the supermarket …not even 5 mins ago and guess what, even he was looking for steak sauce too … he picked up a few bottles n looked n i was like … nah !!! haha to much of a freak thing this is …!

    I’m home now gotta still figure out what i’m gonna do with my beef …. wish i had pearl onions.

  3. While it’s a bit late, but why not try one of the sauces from Mastering the Art of French Cooking? Personally, I usually use the red wine sauce or just through something together. The bernaise is also good but a little harder to make.

  4. Kate– Haha, that’s great. It’s so hard to find a freaking good steak sauce I guess!

    Matt– You’re right, and I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I guess I was being lazy and going out for a bottle of red wine (they don’t sell it at my supermarket) was just too much work, lol. Next time though!

  5. I should try that thinking things through trick!
    I’d never think about making caramelized onions, but they sound delicious. Thanks for putting them on my radar.

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