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 reach a dark caramelized jam taste better than a packet dehydrated who-knows-what. And it's also no surprise to me that good quality cream cheese and sour cream whipped together in front of my eyes tastes better than whatever stabilizers and thickening agents have gone into a tub of store-bought French Onion. 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. —Sarah Coates
about 2 cups
For the onion jam:
large red onions
chopped fresh thyme leaves
white wine or dry vermouth
For the dip:
cream cheese at room temperature
fried shallots, optional, to garnish (these can be found in the asian food section of your supermarket)
First, make the onion jam. Peel and slice the onions into fine half-moons. Place them into a wide heavy-based pan, along with the olive oil, and sweat over a medium-low heat until they begin to caramelize and brown, about 15 minutes.
Add the thyme leaves and 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 can be kept 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.
At this point, you can either add the cooled onion jam and mix the two together, or do as I like to do, and serve the smooth, creamy dip spread out on a plate, and topped with a tangle of onions. Either way, sprinkle with the crisp fried shallots and serve!
Sarah is the author and photographer behind The Sugar Hit, a blog solely devoted to the joys of eating. She is a typical 21st century creative type, totally obsessed with food, writing, design, photography and styling. She lives in Brisbane, Australia and regularly eats mountains of crudités in a misguided attempt to offset the staggering amounts of butter she consumes daily.