How to Cook Fresh Pearl Onions

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Pearl onions really are the "pearls" of the allium family, and not just in appearance. You can find fresh pearl onions year-round, filling the void between September and March when sweet onions are in limited supply. They have a delicate, sweet taste and mild aroma, neither obtrusive nor weak, and hardly ever tear-inducing. Creamy white pearls are at home in a classic French blanc sur blanc, or white on white preparation, simmered in cream. Gold and red pearls love the saute pan, which gives them a prized caramelized exterior.

The Cream Team

Step 1

Blanch the onions for two minutes in boiling salted water or stock and scoop them out using a slotted spoon. Hold the onions under cold running water in a colander to cool them, then trim the tips off and slice a shallow "X" at each end. Squeeze the onions over a bowl to peel them. The onions will slip out of their skin and into the bowl. Drain all the water but a cup or two and reserve.

Step 2

Cook equal parts butter and flour in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove over medium-low heat for about five minutes, whisking frequently.

Step 3

Add the stock to the saucepan while whisking vigorously. Add the onions to the saucepan.

Step 4

Bring the stock to a boil and reduce the heat so it barely simmers. Simmer the onions until they pierce easily with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 minutes.

Step 5

Add fresh herbs to the cream sauce, if desired. A little freshly chopped thyme and rosemary go nicely with creamed pearl onions, as does a bit of freshly grated nutmeg.

Step 6

Lower the heat to low and give the onions a few minutes to cool. Pour heavy cream in the saucepan, whisking to incorporate.

Step 7

Season the cream sauce to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, then squeeze just enough lemon juice in to "cut" the fat. If you want a classic blanc sur blanc presentation, use white pepper instead of black. Turn the heat off.

Step 8

Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Toast panko breadcrumbs in butter in a nonstick saute pan over medium heat until golden brown, tossing occasionally, and set aside.

Step 9

Pour the creamed onions in an oven-safe dish and sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over the top. Bake the creamed onions about 20 to 25 minutes, or until you see the sauce bubbling.

Caramelized and Prized

Step 1

Blanch and peel the onions and season them to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 2

Melt enough butter reach about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over low heat. Add the onions to the butter.

Step 3

Add freshly chopped herbs to the onions and cover the saute pan. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they can be pierced easily with a knife, about 15 minutes.

Step 4

Pour off the butter and adjust the heat to medium. Cook the onions until caramelized and golden brown all over, about three minutes. Transfer the onions to a serving dish.