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It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Some people hear the words “French onion dip” and think tacky, outdated, and boring. I hear the words “French onion dip” and immediately start panicking about how many chips are on hand -- and whether we could ever have enough -- because I want to eat all of it.
I never have been, and probably never will be, one of those people who is snobby about food. Of course I care about quality, but mainly I just want to eat delicious things and it doesn't really matter to me if they were invented in 1896 by Escoffier or in 1985 by someone's Aunt Betsy when she only had cream cheese and a packet of French onion soup mix in the house. (I don't really know who invented French onion dip, but that sounds about right, doesn't it?)
More: Turn another tired appetizer into a party sensation with this Homemade Shrimp Cocktail Sauce.
The point is, if something tastes good, that's all that matters. But there is no denying that homemade usually tastes better than store-bought. And lucky for us, this is definitely one of those times. It's no surprise to me that sliced red onions, slowly cooked down with thyme, olive oil, a little sugar, and white wine until they're a dark caramelized jam, taste better than a packet of dehydrated who-knows-what.
It's also no surprise to me that good-quality cream cheese and sour cream, whipped together in front of my eyes, taste better than whatever stabilizers and thickening agents have gone into a tub of store-bought French onion dip. Once the creamy base and the dark, sticky onions come together, it's game over. I'm sorry, but that plastic tub never stood a chance. Homemade's got it beat, hands down.
More: If you need additional proof that homemade is better than store-bought, just try these DIY Sweet Potato Chips.
Now all you have to worry about is whether you have enough chips and crudités on hand, or whether you're going to adopt my eccentric habit of eating this dip smeared on a sesame seed bagel.
Makes about 2 cups
For the onion jam:
2 large red onions
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth
For the dip:
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup crispy fried shallots, optional, to garnish (found in the "Asian" section of your supermarket)
First, make the onion jam. Peel and slice the onions into fine half-moons, then place them in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan along with the olive oil. Sweat them over medium-low heat until they begin to caramelize and brown, about 15 minutes.
Add the thyme leaves and the granulated sugar to the pan, and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the onions are well caramelized.
Pour the white wine or vermouth into the pan, and working quickly, stir and scrape any sticky, browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring and scraping until the pan is basically clean, and the liquid has completely evaporated. Turn off the heat, and set aside to cool. (If packed into a sterilized jar, this mixture will keep in the fridge for up to a week.)
To make the dip, beat the cream cheese (either with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer) until it is completely smooth. Add the sour cream and beat again until smooth, thick, and combined.
You can either mix the cooled onion jam into the cream cheese, or do as I like to do, and serve the creamy dip spread out on a plate, topped with a tangle of onions. Either way, sprinkle with the fried shallots and serve.
Photos by Sarah Coates