I’ve got a lot of things on my mind this time of year:
- How can I keep my cat from climbing the Christmas tree in the middle of the night?
- Do I have enough wrapping paper and ribbon and why do I always forget to buy tape?
- Can I just tear open my entire advent calendar because I have no patience at all?
- Ok should I make my house smell like citrus and spices for this party or buttery cooked onions?
- Gosh, it’s almost Mardi Gras! Can I get away with gold glitter on my face for Christmas?
- Is there enough butter in the fridge for the cookie swap, morning toast, and everything I want to braise? Can I give butter as a gift? Is that a thing?
There’s a lot of parties to go to, parties to throw, gifts to wrap, butter to unwrap, cats to pry out of the tree – it’s a thrill, isn’t it?
Today’s recipe is a simple and super comforting dish of buttery onions and beans. It’s meant to be served with crispy bread and veggie wedges as an appetizer that you make or bring to a holiday gathering. It’s vegetarian but has a deeply savory, hearty bend. This dip also makes for a delicious dinner with a green salad and glass of wine. I speak from experience.
Today’s post is in partnership with my absolute favorite butter: Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter.
This butter is made with dairy from Vermont family farms. The cream is fermented for 20 hours then churned into super creamy, 82% butterfat, super butter! The fermentation gives this butter hints of buttermilk and hazelnuts – just a bit of tang and nuttiness that adds an incredible depth of flavor to our baked goods and onion braises – truly everything. It’s beyond delicious!
This time of year, I think as much about what my house smells like for guests, as I do the holiday decorations. There’s nothing like walking into a cozy smelling house this time of year. It’s so warming.
Sometimes I put a small pan of water, orange slices, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves over the lowest heat to simmer away and scent the house.
I also… cook onions in butter. That’s a fragrance that reaches right down into our bellies like nothing else.
The trick to this dish is the butter – add enough butter not only to coat the pan and keep the onions from sticking, but enough butter to actually braise the onions.
If this sounds so very indulgent, you’re right – this recipe is inspired by James Beard‘s take on butter and onions.
If I’m not making cookies, this is who I am as a person: content at the stovetop with a pan of buttery onions.
The trick to caramelizing onions is time, fat, and a sprinkle of sugar.
Melt the butter with the onions over medium heat until the onions just begin to sweat and soften.
Add a scant tablespoon of granulated sugar and a good dose of sea salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
Return the pan to low heat and leave the onions alone long enough to soften and slowly begin to brown.
When the onions start to take on a little color, I like to add coarsely chopped garlic.
The garlic will have long enough to soften in the butter braise but won’t hang out long enough to burn.
Once the onions have reached peak levels of golden brown, I like to deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine, light beer, or vegetable stock. Whatever you have on hand, splash about 1/3 cup into the pan, coaxing any browned bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon while reducing the liquid.
Stir in the white beans.
Fresh herbs add an extra layer of flavor to this already super comforting dish. I had thyme, oregano, and parsley on hand. Tear a small handful of whatever fresh herbs you have on top. A generous sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese is also a good idea here.
I could easily pull up a stool and eat the entire dish with a spoon – no problem. But this is to share, and besides, buttery toast and thick-sliced fresh veggies make for delicious edible spoons.
Each toast is topped with a pat of Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter, sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese before they’re set under the broiler.
Toast is no time to multi-task. I learn that the hard way over and over again.
Toast to golden brown and marvel at your success! It’s all coming together!
Top each toast with a spoonful of deeply buttery, rich bean dip. Keep sliced veggies alongside for friends to generously spread with the warm beans. It’s all so comforting and casual, but feels special. Coaxing onions to sweet and golden takes time and good butter and no doubt when you take the extra effort and splurge on the good butter, the simple things are extra delicious.
A big thank you to Vermont Creamery and Happy Holidays to each of you!
Photos with Sarah Becker.Print
For the dip:
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) + 2 tablespoons Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter
- 3 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thick half circles
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1 scant teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 scant tablespoon granulated sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped
- 2 15-ounce cans white beans. drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- small handful coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves, reserving some for serving
- small handful grated parmesan cheese, reserving some for serving
- thick sliced vegetables for dipping like zucchini, cucumber, red bell peppers
- sliced baguette spread with Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter and toasted
- Place onions and sliced onions in a large skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and allow butter to melt and onions begin to sizzle. Allow the onions to sweat and soften slightly. Sprinkle in salt, pepper, and sugar. Toss to combine.
- Reduce heat to low and allow onions to soften, brown, and caramelize slowly – stirring just occasionally. Onions may take 30 to 40 minutes to brown and caramelize. When the onions begin to brown add the chopped garlic. Stir and allow the garlic to soften with the onions. If you notice that the onions are beginning to burn, reduce the heat. This is a low and slow process.
- Remove pan from the heat and gently stir in the rinsed beans. Stir in the thyme. Stir in most of the parsley and parmesan.
- Transfer warm onion and bean dip to a serving dish and top with remaining parsley and parmesan. Serve with fresh sliced vegetables and baguette toasts. Enjoy warm.