Listen, I’m all for a make-ahead holiday meal. So many things freeze so beautifully! The turkey stock, the cranberry sauce, pre-staled bread cubes for stuffing, the gravy, even the corn casserole if you really feel passionate about it. Someday, I will be that person.
Today is not that day. This year is not that year. Hell, this decade is not that decade.
On the flip side, though, the hallmark of holiday food is its depth of flavor, usually a product of deep roasting, long simmering, dry or wet brining, and so on. At every holiday table there is, then, a sort of navigation that has to be made between what gets prime real estate in the oven or a spot on the stove the week before, the day before, and the day of, and what gets piggybacked, elbowed in, shares a baking sheet, gets a quick hit under the broiler before serving. Because not everything can take an age. Not everything gets 100% of your TLC. The wisdom of modern motherhood applies here, too: you can have it all, just not all at the same time.
So what if there’s a sort of in-between dish? Something that can be assembled, even mostly cooked ahead of time, then popped into the oven or under the broiler (or a flambe torch if your holiday dreams, like mine, come true) in the time it takes for someone (SURELY NOT YOU but probably you) to whisk the turkey drippings into some semblance of a gravy? And what if this something is also a new thing, a little unboring if your family has eaten the same menu for 30-some years (SURELY NOT YOU but probably you)? And what if it’s got a gorgeous, crispy, bronzed crown that makes people feel some type of way in their salivary glands?
You’ve got these total babes. Equally at home on a holiday table as they are on a lazy Sunday (or Tuesday). I can’t even give you suggestions for how to use the leftovers because you will not have them. They’re light enough for one person to demolish like, five without blinking, but umami-packed enough to play ball with the roast and the stuffing and whatever other hardcore rib-sticking food you’re serving up. Naturally occurring in a vegetarian state, a sprinkle of tiny crisped pancetta bits hiding under the parm would not be unwelcome.
Parmesan Roasted Onions
Serves 4 as a side, easily doubled or tripled
2 large yellow or white onions (or sweet onions like Vidalias when you can find them), sliced into thick, 1/2-inch rounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Place the onion rounds on a baking sheet with at least an inch between onions. (You can use more than one baking sheet here if needed.) Add a drop or two of olive oil to each onion round and use your fingers to distribute the oil around the whole round. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Working carefully so the rounds stay together, use a spatula to flip the onions over to oil and season the other side.
Roast the onions until they begin to soften and become golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully remove them from the oven and flip once more, again taking care to (more or less) keep them together. There’s always one or two fiddly middle pieces that won’t flip, or flip twice, so don’t worry too much about it because soon it’ll all be hidden under some cheese anyway. You’re just aiming for some solid caramelization and softening here, it doesn’t need to be pretty!
Top each onion with a generous sprinkle of cheese, nudging the cheese as far out to the edges as possible without losing too much on the baking sheet. (Worst case it turns into fricos, a very good cook’s snack.)
Roast the onions for another 10 or 15 minutes, or just a few minutes under the broiler, until the cheese is deeply bronzed and the onions have fully softened. Serve hot.
- baked goods
- beans + legumes
- dinner party
- gluten free
- make ahead
- pregnant food
- roasted stuff
- special occasions
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