FEAR really was the only reason I made two different dishes for the Betty Crocker meeting. Even though I knew that the recipes in the book were tested repeatedly in the Betty Crocker kitchen, I was afraid that my Baked Alaska would be a flop. I enjoy baking and even used to work in a wedding cake and special events cake bakery, so I wasn’t worried about the sponge cake component of the dish. I also was pretty sure that the ice cream that I brought separately to Emili’s house would not melt during my commute. Even though it was a 6 km bicycle ride, the -15 C outside temperature (I stubbornly refuse to stop biking no matter the season) would keep the strawberry desert cold, perhaps even a little too chilled. I had also brought my egg whites and sugar in Tupperware, ready to whip into a meringue upon arrival. Despite having all of the components of the Baked Alaska prepped, I still could not really believe that the ice cream wouldn’t melt in a 260 C (500F) degree oven. I was worried that my desert would melt, dirty Emili’s house, and make me look foolish (which is quite irrational because my fellow cooks in the Historical Cooking Group are wonderfully nice people who would only be supportive of my attempt). However, I figured I should bring a second dish.
I didn’t even really want to cook anything else. I hadn’t taken a day off of studying for my comprehensive exams (which entails reading one book a day- yes that is right- a book each and every day for about 200 days—an overall wonderful but exhausting process) in weeks. I love cooking (thus this group) but I just wanted to make the cake and assemble the final components upon arrival. The rest of my day was supposed to be spent watching cheesy vampire and werewolf shows (I am a sucker for the supernatural teen romance genre) with my dog, Bubbles, and going on a run… not doing what I actually did which was spend far too much time on the second dish.
I thought that Stuffed Onions would be simple. What was there to do but hollow out an onion, throw in some ingredients, and bake it? Wow, was I wrong. First I had to boil the onions, then hollow them out, cry my eyes out because well, obviously they are onions (and since they were boiled I couldn’t benefit from the no-cry technique of chilling them in the fridge first), make the stuffing, make a white sauce, and finally bake them for over an hour.
Betty Crocker’s actual recipe is:
“Cook large onions in boiling salted water until slightly tender (15 min.). Drain. Cool. Cut thin slices from root end. Hollow out centers, leaving ½ inch shell. Chop centers and combine with Mushroom or Cheese Sauce, or a creamed meat mixture. Use to fill onion shells. Top with buttered crumbs. Bake 1 hr. in mod. Hot oven.” (421).
Well, onions take awhile to boil. Then I had to wait for them to cool—which again was an unexpected time suck but was my fault for not reading the recipe more carefully. The real kicker, however, was the mushroom white sauce.
Her directions include that you make the white sauce by:
“1) Melt[ing] the butter over low heat in a heavy saucepan. Wooden spoon for stirring is a help. 2) Blend in flour. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bully. 3) Remove from heat. Stir in milk. Bring to boil; boil 1 min., stirring constantly. 4) Cook until thickened (for best flavor cook 10 min.)” (357)
…except for the mushroom sauce you “sauté 1 cup sliced mushrooms and 1 tsp. grated onion in the butter 5 min. before adding flour.” (358)
I decided to make her thick version of the sauce by using about 4 tbsp. butter, 4 tbsp flour, ¼ tsp. salt, 1 cup milk, and I left out the pepper because I didn’t have any. I also added a bit too much salt to make up for my unsalted butter (luckily the salt cooked off in the oven when inside of the onions) and I also used the onion insides in my sauce mixture. These portions yielded more sauce than I needed for two stuffed onions so I made whole wheat pasta with white sauce for my partner's lunch.
After baking the onions for an hour they smelled a bit like French Onion Soup. I threw them into some Tupperware and brought them to the fete.
They tasted good but were not worth the time they took to make. They looked unimpressive— even more so after simmering in Tupperware for an hour and being bounced around on a bike ride. I don’t find brown and beige food particularly attractive unless it is a fresh pumpernickel loaf or a steaming plate of beans, rice, and corn tortillas.
Conclusion: Nothing can beat some purple onions grilled in a pan with olive oil or raw onion on a bagel with crème cheese and lox. Those recipes highlight the complex flavor of the onion while giving you enough time to cuddle with your dog while watching Teen Wolf… and that truly is a beautiful thing.
(written by Alex Ketchum)