Winter is coming quickly to the Midwest; it is a simple fact I can no longer deny. The trees are nearly bare, and the local squirrels have turned our front yard into their own personal nut safe. My Birkenstock sandals need to be switched for boots, and summer dresses for cozy sweaters and scarves. I like winter, for the first few snow falls, but after the third, I want a one-way ticket to Cabo and a pitcher of margaritas, served to me by an attractive cabana boy. But alas, I am stuck here for the long haul.
The wind has that undeniable chill when it tickles the back of your neck and swirls around your ears, seeming to whisper, “Hunker down, it is going to be a long one.” Though, fear not, the changing of the seasons opens up a whole new set of culinary options. After all, winter is the season of baked goods, casseroles and of course, cream sauces! My Boursin Cream Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Mushrooms is just the thing to warm your bones when the wind is whipping.
Caramelized onions are one of my very favorite things, second only to cigars, French wine, my husband and any show on AMC. I am seriously crazy about these little succulent bits of heaven. I can eat them right out of the fridge, on a grilled cheese, quesadilla or on a salad. They provide just the right amount of sweetness to any dish, while giving just the slightest crunch that is oh-so fulfilling to the palette. If you have never made them before, fear not! I will walk you through a foolproof, intimidation-free way to perfectly caramelize an onion. Be forewarned, it is a time consuming process, but worth every moment, I can assure you.
Yield: Approx. 2 cups Time: 45 mins-1 hour
1 ½ – 2 large yellow or white onions (don’t use purple, the turn a very ugly gray)
3 Tablespoons butter
Melt the butter over medium-low heat, in your cast iron skillet, or the heaviest pan you have. (I chose to use a cast iron stovetop friendly, Dutch oven.) Slice the onions 1/8th of an inch thin. Once butter is completely melted, drop all of your onions into the skillet. Salt the onions and stir to coat thoroughly. Cook over medium low, onions will slowly break down. Stir occasionally, but don’t feel a need to babysit them. Keep them on the heat until they turn a deep golden color.
Note about storage: Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Or freeze little piles of them on a sprayed cookie sheet or a muffin tin, and thaw a batch when necessary.
Now, onto the pasta, I could hardly wait any longer! This is a great dish for you and your vegetarian friends alike, though you could certainly add some chicken, to bump up the protein content, if desired. This pasta is simple enough to cook on a weeknight, but elegant enough to entertain with. The onions provide sweetness, while the balsamic mushrooms are just tart enough to excite your taste buds; the garlic and herb boursin melts like a dream and provides the base for the creamy, delicious sauce. One bite and your eyes will roll to the back of your head, guaranteed.
Boursin Cream Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Mushrooms
Serves 2 Time: 30 mins
½ pound penne pasta
8 oz white mushrooms
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (not pictured)
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 a wheel of garlic and herb boursin cheese
2 Tablespoons half and half
1/2 cup caramelized onions (see recipe above)
1 Tablespoon parsley (for garnish)
Slice mushrooms and mince garlic. Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic. Salt and pepper well. Heat for 3-4 minutes till mushrooms are slightly soft. Add balsamic vinegar, stir well. Continue cooking until balsamic has been absorbed and turn heat to low.
In a small saucepan bring ¼ cup stock to a rolling boil with some salt and black pepper. Whisk boursin cheese in until smooth, add 2 tablespoons half and half. Once boursin has incorporated with the sauce, reduce heat to low to thicken. If you desire a really thick cream sauce, remove from heat entirely.
Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add penne and cook till al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Drain and rinse pasta, and add pasta to skillet with mushrooms. Add caramelized onion and thickened sauce to skillet. Keep heat low and stir till all ingredients are hot and well incorporated. Serve hot and garnish with fresh or dried parsley.
Words cannot begin to describe how delectable this dish is, so easy, tasty and satisfying. It would be a great addition to your family’s meatless Monday rotation, or just some luscious comfort food whenever the craving strikes. With our hours of daylight shrinking and the cold creeping up, we all could use a little creamy delight every now and again. I think we deserve it! Bon appetite, buen provecho or dig in, no matter the language, this dish is sure to satisfy.