Gluten-Free Creamed Onions

Certain smells trail memories in their wake. Strong memories. Wonderful memories. A scent with such a world attached to it has the power to make you travel instantly, to bring you back to that first kiss under the weeping willow, the scent of freshly fallen rain still clinging to its green leaves. It has the ability to instantly whisk you back to afternoons spent with your grandfather, laughing and talking as you watched his powerful but gentle weathered hands break away the shells of pistachio nuts that he handed to you to pop in your mouth, one salty bite after another. To this day, pistachios still make me think of Switzerland and my grand-papa.

One of the most powerful scents in the world for me, the one that carries the largest suitcase of memories with it, that instantly sucks me back to my childhood, is the smell of onions slowly sizzling in butter or olive oil. For a moment, I am a little girl again, hungrily inhaling the air in my mother's kitchen and asking what's for dinner. That single smell bottles up all the comfort and security of home.

And never is it more powerful than at Thanksgiving.

Every year, for as long as I can remember, my mother made creamed onions for Thanksgiving. It was always my favorite dish.

I loved the way the kitchen smelled as the onions slowly crackled and hissed in the butter, eventually allowing it to turn them to a soft caramelized gold.

I would always steal one, fascinated at how easily I could squeeze the little round bulb out of its outer layer, straight into my mouth. I would then savor the caramelized skin last, perfect in its sweet saltiness. Yes, I love onions. Unabashedly.

And so, this Thanksgiving, I am sharing one of my all-time favorite holiday dishes with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I will say, however, that although this is a simple dish, it's one you definitely have to work for. Pealing those dozens upon dozens of tiny onions is not a task you want to do alone. Believe me, I found out the hard way. I made it this weekend to bring to work for a Thanksgiving lunch on Monday, and spent an hour Sunday afternoon sitting on my kitchen floor peeling onions. My hands still smelled of onions when I woke up the next morning.

This is a true Thanksgiving meal - one that is supposed to be prepared in a kitchen full of family and friends, all laughing, talking, and working together.

All, in turn, creating a day, and memories, worthy of thanks.

Gluten-Free Creamed Onions

2 10oz bags of pearl onions (any color will do - in this recipe I used one bag of yellow and one bag of red)
4 tablespoons butter
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups milk
200g (about 2 cups) grated cheddar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Peel the onions, but leave them whole. Sauté in 2 tablespoons butter on low heat until soft and golden.

In the meantime, melt the remaining two tablespoons butter in a medium sized saucepan. Whisk in the cornstarch until well blended. Slowly pour in the milk a little at a time, whisking constantly so that the sauce thickens. Once all the milk has been incorporated and the sauce has thickened, stir in the cheese until well blended. Add the nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste.

Put the onions in an ovenproof container (I used a square 8X8 dish) and cover with the sauce. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve hot!

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