Pearls. Lovely to wear and delicious to eat. That would be pearl onions. Petite when compared to their larger family members, pearl onions have a sweet, earthy flavor.
Don’t turn your nose up until you’ve tried them cooked this way, browned in a little butter and finished with a Balsamic. You might be happily surprised…or completely amazed.
Creamed pearl onions are a holiday tradition in my family. I hated them as a kid. Then I grew up, tried them, and finally understood what the fuss was about. My mom made them with a rich cream sauce. This year I wanted to make pearl onions for our holiday dinners, but a lighter, more modern version. They came out great.
Brown butter Balsamic glazed pearl onions are good with any roasted meat or poultry. Think roast turkey, roast chicken, lamb, or beef. A great side dish not just for the holidays but for any day. I’d be totally happy with a bowl of quinoa, some greens and pearl onions for a vegetarian dinner.
Buying Pearl Onions
When buying pearl onions, don’t buy them too small if you can choose. The best size is just a hair over 1″ (2.5 cm) in diameter. Once peeled they are the perfect mouthful.
When shopping you’ll find other small onions called boiler onions. They are usually in bulk so you can choose them individually. The best size is no larger than 1 1/2″ (3.8 cm). If the onions are in netted bags, you just have to do with what you are given.
How to Cook and Peel Pearl Onions
Start by blanching raw pearl onions (peel on) in boiling water for a 1-2 minutes, then immediately place them in a bowl of ice water. This makes peeling them easy. First, trim off the root end with a sharp paring knife. You’ll find the skins slip right off. It’s a good trick.
The short cut – buy them already peeled. Packages are in the refrigerated produce section of many stores these days.
Finish Your Pearl Onions
After the pearl onions are peeled, cook them low and slow in a pan with a little butter (or a combo of olive oil and butter) until they became golden and the butter is browned. Be patient and occasionally swirl the pan to coat all of the onions. It won’t take that long, maybe 15-18 minutes.
When they are tender, drizzle them with Balsamic syrup and stir to coat them. Add a little salt. The taste is heavenly. Even people who don’t think they like pearl onions will like these. Make more than you think you will eat. Like I said, you will be surprised.
Pearl onions browned in a little butter and finished with a little Balsamic syrup or glaze make for a tasty mouthful along side of roasted poultry or meat. The trick to easy peeling is blanching in boiling water, then shocking in ice water. The peels almost slip off. Or for those in a hurry dinners, buy the pre-peeled in the refrigerated produce section.
- 1 1/2 -1 3/4 pounds (680-795 grams) pearl onions
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2-3 teaspoons Balsamic syrup or glaze
- Sea or kosher salt to taste
- Bring a medium pot of water to a full boil. While the water is coming to a boil, prepare an ice bath with a large bowl, ice cubes and water. When the water is boiling, carefully add onions into the pot and boil for 1-2 minutes.
- Remove the onions with a slotted spoon or small strainer and place immediately into the ice bath for a few minutes. Drain the onions from the ice water. With a sharp paring knife, trim the root end of the onion, and slip off the skin.
- In a large skillet or saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and turn heat down to medium-low. Allow onions to brown in the butter until they are golden and tender when pierced with a sharp paring knife. When ready, drizzle with the Balsamic and swirl the pan to coat the onions. Serve hot.