One of the more pleasant surprises in Mrs. De Graf’s Cookbook is a simple recipe for scalloped onions. The original recipe is written in paragraph form: heavy on technique but light on amounts and proportions of ingredients. This should not be intimidating; it should give you confidence that you can’t screw it up. There are dishes and preparations where precision is paramount. Scalloped onions is not one of them. In my adapted recipe below I’ve been a little bit more explicit about ingredient amounts and proportions than Mrs. De Graf, but rest assured there is a wide margin for error.
In modern parlance the term scalloped is often taken to imply a cheese-based sauce. For example, my go to recipe for scalloped potatoes includes nearly a pound of shredded sharp cheddar. If I am being precise this recipe would be properly called scalloped potatoes au gratin, where scalloped refers to cooking in dairy or cream, with au gratin specifying the addition of cheese. Mrs. De Graf’s scalloped onions follow the more traditional definition, being little more than onions cooked in a simple white sauce. The white sauce forms quite naturally during cooking; there is no need to make a separate roux.
The one key addition I’ve made to Mrs. De Graf’s recipe is to infuse a little bit of rosemary into the milk. My reasons are selfish and simple: I like to serve scalloped onions with steak and rosemary and steak are a perfect pairing. This requires a little bit of advance preparation and is not at all necessary, or you might reasonably consider choosing another herb that pairs well with your main course (although steer clear of mint and lemongrass).
As mentioned, scalloped onions pair well with steak and potatoes but would work just as well with a pork chop or ham. The long cook will make the onions quite sweet: serving a bitter green vegetable alongside will help to balance the meal overall. Leftovers can be warmed and served over buttered toast. Enjoy!
For infusing milk:
- Heat milk until hot but not boiling. Add rosemary sprig. Remove from heat and cover and let steep one hour (or longer, in the refrigerator)
For the final cook:
- Preheat oven to 400º F.
- Peel onions and slice into rings approximately ½ inch thick. Dredge in flour and layer in a small casserole dish. Dot with butter and season liberally with salt and pepper.
- Add additional layers of dredged onions, butter, and seasonings as above until casserole dish is full or onions are used up.
- Pour rosemary-infused milk over the top, adding more fresh milk or cream as necessary until the onions are just covered. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Check halfway through cooking and submerge any onions that are poking out of the liquid.