Despite its English roots, this dish has become a cherished American favorite at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners in New York and beyond. But why save it for special occasions? Creamed onions are so delicious that you'll want to eat them year-round.
YIELD Makes 6 side-dish servings
ACTIVE TIME 40 minutes
TOTAL TIME 1 1/2 hours
2 lb white pearl onions, left unpeeled
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups coarse fresh white bread crumbs (from 1/4 lb bread with crusts removed)
Blanch onions in a 3-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute, then drain in a colander and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain and peel onions.
Put onions and 1 teaspoon salt in same pot and add fresh water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until onions are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well in colander and transfer to a buttered 2-quart baking dish.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cream in a stream, whisking, and bring to a simmer, whisking. Simmer sauce, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in pepper, nutmeg, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pour sauce over onions.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately low heat, then add bread crumbs and cook, stirring, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
Sprinkle toasted crumbs evenly over onions and bake until sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes.
Creamed onions can be assembled (without bread crumbs) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before adding bread crumbs and baking.