UPDATED: The Very Best Side Dish

Nov 19 2012

Creamed Onions:
the very best side dish

Now, when I say creamed onions are the very best side dish, I don’t want to take away from your family traditions by somehow implying that ours are better than yours.

That’s not my point at all.

In fact, I think blending family traditions is what this season’s all about. I bring something from my family. You bring something from yours. Together, we have something even better than the past.

Right? Right.

Like, for example, I bring creamed onions.

And my dad-in-law brings a gas mask.

And together we have something even better than before.

In conclusion,

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

And remember. No matter how you feel about your cooking, if no one shows up with gas mask this Thanksgiving, you’re steps ahead of me.


P.S. I know I couldn’t possibly look more awful in that picture, circa 2003. It was our first holiday season after we jumped from one kid to three. My hair. My ratty sweatshirt and jeans at dinner. My oh-dear-lord, I have to try to smile? look.

Which is all why this picture is SUCH A RELIEF! ‘Cause it proves I really was as strung out as I thought I was. I wasn’t crazy. I haven’t been exaggerating. I was completely exhausted. Good job, Mama Me, for showing up dressed


P.P.S. I should note for safety reasons that my dad, from whose family the creamed onions tradition hails, was less-than-pleased with my dad-in-law’s choice of facewear. My dad said, “Dave. Not smart. You can aspirate your own vomit wearing one of those things at the dinner table. Here’s my suggested alternative.”

Our dads, you guys. Our dads are always so very helpful.


P.P.P.S. What happens at your house on Turkey Day? Any must-haves? Any must-not-haves? I mean, although my father-in-law does have a long-standing doctrinal position against onions, he was (mostly) kidding with the gas mask. On the other hand, there was the year I had to talk a friend’s VERY upset mama down from a mashed potato ledge because we put Yukon Gold potato peels in ’em. There are some traditions you just don’t mess with, folks. Lesson learned.



By popular request (and because I couldn’t resist making your sister cry, Jessica), here’s the…

Recipe for Creamed Onions

Step 1: Buy the right kind of onions. They’re small and they come in a jar, like this.

They’re very hard to find. Last time my dad found them, he bought two cases. We are not kidding around about these. I suspect that they’re hard to find because they’re mostly gross and therefore hard to sell. However, that doesn’t keep me from eating buckets every holiday. What can I say? I have a strong affinity for gross.

If you can’t find these, you can use petite frozen onions, but then you should probably roast them or sauté them or something so they’re not quite so oniony. (The water in which the jarred onions are packed cuts down on that.)

Step 2: Flip open the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook your mom-in-law gave you for your wedding and find the White Sauce recipe. Make it without the pepper and salt. Unless you want to make it with the pepper and salt.

Be stunned that you’re instructed to “add milk all at once.” Next, wonder if you’ve been making white sauce wrong for years, adding a teaspoon of milk at a time and stirring thoroughly after every addition to avoid lumps. Finally, shrug your shoulders and do whatever works.

Step 3: When white sauce is bubbling, add at least a cup of shredded cheddar cheese. More if you can cram it in there. Stir ’til smooth.

Step 4: Combine drained onions and cheese sauce in a greased casserole dish.

And top with another handful of cheese.

Really, you’re just burying onions in cheese. It’s what makes this whole thing OK.

Step 5: Bake at 350 F for 45 minutes. Or at 375 F for 30 minutes. Or at any temperature you want since you’re shoving it in the oven with turkey and rolls and pies and sweet potato casserole and hoping it works out OK. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it comes out of the oven bubbling and with a crispy, oily, golden cheesy top.

Step 6: Serve hot. Gas masks optional.