Thursday, February 1, 2018

French Onion Dip

If you're a lover of caramelized onions, homemade French Onion Dip is a fantastic way to indulge in their rich bittersweet taste

French Onion Dip

There is something cathartic for me about caramelizing onions. A big, heavy pot fulled to the brim with yellowy-white half-moons slowly but surely condenses into almost nothing, and what the vegetable loses in volume it gains in a caramel-like sweetness and a luxurious texture not found in any other food. Even people who hate the taste of onions as a rule - my sister or stepdad, for instance - are drawn to the kitchen by the unmistakable aroma of perfectly done caramelized ones, and if you love onions the allure is ten times stronger.

Now, I will put caramelized onions on many things - pasta, rice (so good on Camargue red rice), garlic bread... even roasted green beans (leave the casserole at the door). However, the one thing you will never see me eating is French Onion Dip. The storebought kinds are flat in flavour and overwhelmingly fake-tasting, and the one "homemade" version I've had at a house party tasted like weirdly sweet-sour-bitter mayo that had gone ever so slightly bad. I know I'm a bad judge of things like this - I'm just not a fan of creamy sauces and dips - but I knew I could make a version that at least tasted of real onions, had a touch more oomph to the cream base, and that was still easy enough that my grade 7 and 8 students could make it themselves. I tinkered with an onion-garlic dip that I had clipped from a magazine a few years ago, not only adding more onions but swapping some of the mayo for yogurt, adding smoked paprika and letting the medley sit overnight before serving - a key step to preventing bites of just "cream" or just "onion".

Adding the extra onions was mostly fluke - I made a double batch of this with the kids and my class total was 16 students, but most children were able to decimate a whole onion quite capably (albeit with a lot of complaining about watery eyes). The original recipe only called for 3 onions, but since it was French Onion Dip, I asked them if adding some extras was okay. Thank goodness for the palates of that class - and all their hard work! The extras were sauteed and frozen for later lessons, and the kids learned the lesson of prepping ahead. Of course, most of them didn't realize what they were learning as they downed bowlfuls of carrot coins and dip, but I'll take what I can get!

French Onion Dip

While I won't argue that slicing and caramelizing onions takes time, this dip is quite simple to make - easy enough to get your (older) kids in the kitchen to help when there's a house party coming up (like say, the SuperBowl). I guarantee they will be proud to serve "their masterpiece" on the big day.

French Onion Dip
Makes about 2 cups, 24 servings
3 tbsp canola oil
5 small onions, diced (20 oz by weight)
pinch baking soda
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp paprika (use smoked for a delicious twist!)
4 oz (½ cup) cream cheese, cubed and at room temperature
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ cup non-fat plain Greek-style yogurt
½ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
  1. Heat the oil in a fry pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium low, add the baking soda and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are sweet and deep golden.
  4. Stir in the salt, pepper and paprika. Cook 5 minutes more.
  5. Remove from stove and allow to cool.
  6. Place the cream cheese in a bowl and microwave on high for 10 to 20 seconds, until soft enough to cream with a spatula but not melted.
  7. Add the mayonnaise, yogurt, onion powder and garlic powder. Mix well to form a lump free mixture.
  8. Add the caramelized onions and fold in.
  9. Refrigerate until required (this is best after at least 24 hours).
  10. Serve at room temperature with chips, crackers or vegetable sticks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 57.6
Total Fat: 5.0 g
Cholesterol: 6.1 mg
Sodium: 100.7 mg
Total Carbs: 2.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 1.1 g