The smell of caramelizing onions is one of the most heavenly aromas one can sniff, and it’s one of those foods where the taste lives up to the promise of the fragrance. Caramelized onions are condensed, intensely flavorful, sweet, savory, and a little pungent all at once. That flavor-bomb nature is what makes them so perfect for mixing with a tub of sour cream to make a dip.
Most dips rely on a single type of onion, maybe two, but there is a whole genre of multi-onion dips out there, and the best are those that contain at least five (5) different types of allium. Each onion brings something a little different to the table. White onion lays down a classic onion-y base, red adds an aggressive note, and I bet you can guess what a sweet onion will do. Shallots add an intensely sweet, garlicky kind of flavor, and leeks bring a light chive-y kind of vibe. The green portion of a scallion makes a great garnish, but you can toss the white part in the pan along with the rest of the onions. (Another type of onion that makes a great garnish? The crunchy fried kind you’d find on top of a casserole.)
The type and amount of onions you choose for your dip is truly up to you. You could do four or six or whatever number speaks to you (but I like five); just peruse the onion aisle and grab whatever catches your eye. Add them all to a big pan and cook them on the lowest heat setting possible until they condense down into a dark, caramelized mass (at least an hour). They’ll be so flavorful, you can mix them with a cup or so of sour cream and call it a dip, but I have a full recipe if you are into that kind of thing. My number one onion dip tip? Decrease the dairy! Too much sour cream or cream cheese will dull all that flavor you coaxed out with your gentle, careful cooking. Celebrate them. Honor them. Eat them (with chips).
Claire’s Five-Onion Dip
- 1 sweet onion
- 2 shallots
- 1 bunch scallions, dark green portion separated from white and light green portion
- 1/2 cup neutral oil (such as vegetable)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Chop all three onions into 1/4-inch pieces, and slice the shallot into thin rings. Separate the dark green part from the rest of the scallions and set aside, then thinly slice the white and light green portion. Add all onions except the dark green scallions to a large pan with the oil, and season with the salt. Stir, then set over medium-low heat. Once the onions begin to sweat and soften, lower the heat as low as it will go and cook until they caramelize and reduce into a jammy, dark brown mass, at least an hour. Scrape into a bowl and let cool completely. (I usually cook the onions the night before I want dip so they can cool completely in the fridge.)
Mix the onions with the remaining ingredients, taste (with a chip), and adjust salt and pepper if needed. You can even add a pinch of MSG if you like, but this is one dip that frankly does not need it, as the mixture of onions is packed with tons of deep umami. Garnish with the thinly sliced portion of the green onion (or crunchy fried onions, or fried garlic) and consume with your favorite potato chip.
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