Smoky Onion Pie (Tennessee, 1996, adapted)

Smoky Onion Pie is a cheesy, savory pie that comes off as something between a gratin and a quiche.  This recipe comes to me by way of a 1996 cookbook from the Crye-Leike Realty company, a Tennessee-based real estate company.   Crye-Leike has published more than two dozen cookbooks from their founding in 1977 up through at least 2018.    Their cookbooks collect recipes from realtors and Crye-Leike employees, in the same vein as a traditional community cookbook, but are offered as a promotional giveaway to prospective clients and community members.   The 1996 cookbook – VOL XVI – is titled Cherished Southern Recipes.

The original recipe is simply “Onion Pie” with a Swiss cheese base and seasoned with nutmeg and curry powder.  This doesn’t strike me as particularly Southern, except perhaps for the heartstopping amount of cheese required.    Nutmeg and onions are nonetheless a brilliant combination, but the curry powder makes the original recipe much less versatile.   But there’s the core of a great recipe here.  The onions are sliced thin and float on top of the custardy innards, allowing them to soften and sweat off some liquid and brown just enough to bring out some sweetness.  It’s a great way to showcase good onions in season.

I’ve made a few adjustments to turn Onion Pie into Smokey Onion Pie.  The most significant change is mixing up the cheese.  The original recipe uses plain old Swiss cheese, which doesn’t have enough flavor on its own to carry the dish.  It adds fat and texture but not much else.   I’ve opted instead of a half-and-half mix of Swiss and a smoked Gruyere; the smoky-salty punch helps to accentuate the sweetness of the onions.   Instead of curry and nutmeg I’ve added some Worchestershire and a dash of hot sauce to lend some acidity and heat and spruce up the cheese even further.  The key to success is to slice the onions into paper thin rings, so that they are fork tender at the end of the bake.

The  end result is a versatile side dish that can be used pretty much interchangeably with mashed or scalloped potatoes.   Consider serving Smoky Onion Pie with freshly carved ham and green beans or a chargrilled steak with roasted baby broccoli.  As an alternative, consider serving as a vegetarian lunch with marinated green beans or a cold asparagus salad.   Enjoy!

Smoky Onion Pie

Smoky Onion Pie (Tennessee, 1996, adapted)

  • Preparation: 15 min
  • Cooking: 45 min
  • Ready in: 1 h
  • For: 8 servings
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  1. Preheat oven to 350º F
  2. Lay pie crust in 9-inch pie pan. Toss cheeses in flour to coat and spread in the pie crust to form an even layer. The cheese will come up almost to the top of the pie pan.
  3. Add a layer of onions over top, overlapping slightly to ensure complete coverage but trying to maintain a single layer.
  4. In a mixing bowl lightly beat eggs, then whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth and eggs are well-incorporated. Pour over the onions, being careful not to overflow the pie tin. Discard any remaining egg mixture.
  5. Bake uncovered for 60 minutes, checking frequently after about 45 minutes. The pie is done when the edges and onions are browned and the center is very nearly set. Allow to cool five minutes before serving, then cut as serve as you would any other pie or quiche.

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