Are you ready for Thanksgiving? (Good . . . me neither!) There’s always so much to bake . . . and so little oven space to bake it all! Nevertheless, I always get big-time inspired reading about all the crazy dish ideas from chefs and in cooking magazines (additions, of course, to the already overcrowded table of food people expect to see on this holiday.)
This year I wanted to make something special, but not too fussy. Comfort food that tastes good with turkey–that’s always the goal. Because making up variations and tweaking recipes or mixes is one of my favorite things about baking, I decided to play around with add-ins for Hodgson Mill Cornbread and Muffin mix.
The first thing that popped into my head was caramelized onions.
You should know that I am deeply in love with caramelized onions. I am converted to the church of caramelized onions. I am in caramelized onions’ fan club (I may be president). Burgers, chicken, mushrooms, potatoes, sandwiches . . . there are few savory dishes that can’t be improved by adding caramelized onions.
I will say the only thing that saves me from this addiction is that the onions do take some time and attention to make. I think the main ingredient you need is patience. The trick is to keep the heat just high enough to brown and soften the onions without burning them. It takes about 20 minutes of cooking. I think it’s a fun process, now that I’ve gotten the hang of it. The raw onions start out fresh and crisp, then slowly relax and become translucent, then finish up looking browned and stringy. (By this point, the smell makes me want to slap those onions on a sandwich and go to town.) By the time you add the rosemary and balsamic vinegar, your house smells amazing!
Timing wise, you’ll want to make the caramelized onions first, and then gather your ingredients for the cornbread muffins. This way the onions are cooled and ready for your mix.
Here’s a quick pictorial guide documenting the onion’s progress during the caramelizing process:
Time-saver tip #1: You can caramelize the onions the night before Turkey Day (brilliant!). Hey, make a double- or triple-batch. The onions keep in the fridge for a few days, and if you’re like me, you can use them as a condiment…I think a leftover turkey and caramelized onion sandwich with a dab of cranberry sauce sounds amazing.
Time-saver tip #2: A friend told me you can caramelize the onions in a slow cooker (double brilliant!). It takes more time, but you can get away with using a little less oil. I tried it out, and it’s great–directions are in notes below the caramelized onion recipe.
I played with this recipe a good bit. Keeping in mind that the basic cornbread mix is already pretty hearty, I decided I wanted to add the oomph, moisture and fragrance of caramelized onions, backed up with a little balsamic vinegar and rosemary, to see if the simple staple of cornbread could be jazzed up to give the Turkey a run for its money. I think these muffins complement turkey marvelously. The steps to the recipe are a little different from most—when using caramelized onions, you can cut down the milk and oil you add to the basic cornbread recipe (on the back of the box).
The big difference is that instead of adding the onions last, like you would with chocolate chips for cookies, I add the onions to the dry mix, and they replace most of the butter or oil.
Then you go ahead and add the milk and egg, like usual. The mixture looks a little like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Don’t panic.
After that, it’s a hop, skip and a jump into the muffin pan. Add garnish of onions on top to brown in the oven. I made muffins, but the recipe will work in an 8” x 8” pan as well.
I hope you enjoy this recipe—and I hope you, your family and your friends all have a fantastic Thanksgiving. Happy baking!
Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Cornbread Muffins
- 1 box Hodgson Mill Cornbread and Muffin mix
- 1 cup caramelized onions (see recipe below), cooled, separated (save 3 Tablespoons for topping)
- 1 teaspoon butter, vegetable oil, or olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup 2% milk
Preheat oven to 400˚ F. Grease 6 muffin tins or an 8” x 8” x 1-1/2” baking pan. (I don’t recommend using cupcake liners, unless they are made of foil, and sprayed with nonstick spray. This mix sticks to paper like the dickens.)
Pour contents of Hodgson Mill Cornbread and Muffin mix into a medium-sized bowl. Add 1 cup caramelized onions (reserving 3 Tablespoons for the topping) and the teaspoon butter/oil/olive oil. Stir well; making sure all the dry mix is moistened. Add milk and egg. Mix until just blended. Pour into prepared muffin tins or baking pan. Sprinkle the remaining 3 Tablespoons onions evenly on top of batter. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until tops look dry and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (The onions may make the cornbread muffins look wet and shiny even if they’re done.)
Rosemary Balsamic Caramelized Onions
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter, plus a little more as needed
- 1 large or 2 medium onions (about 1 1/2 cups raw), chopped small
- 1/2 teaspoon dry rosemary, crushed (or 1 Tablespoon fresh, chopped)
- 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Dash of salt
Heat a medium saucepan on medium-low. When pan is heated, add olive oil or butter. When the olive oil is heated (bubbles form inside the puddle’s edges) or the butter is melted and simmering, add the chopped onions. Stir to coat them in the oil/butter. Add dash of salt. Cook over low heat, gently stirring every few minutes, for about 15-18 minutes. If you use a nonstick pan, you can get away with less stirring; if you have stainless steel, the onions will brown better but you will have to watch them like a hawk. If at any time the onions start to get browned and crispy or stick to the pan, turn down the heat. If they seem dry, add a tiny splash more oil to coat them. After 15-18 minutes, when the onions are browned, a little stringy and in the smelling-delicious phase, add rosemary. Continue stirring and cooking until you can smell the rosemary, about 2-3 minutes. Drizzle onions with balsamic vinegar. Stir everything a few times to mix well and take any bits of onion off the bottom of the pan. Cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat.
Let cool to use immediately (cool before adding to cornbread mixture, or you’ll cook the egg!), or let cool and keep in sealed container in fridge or freezer for later use. Makes about 1 cup caramelized onion.
Caramelized onions can also be made in your slow cooker. Put ¼ cup olive oil or butter and 4-6 chopped onions into the slow cooker. Turn slow cooker on low and let cook for about 6 hours (your slow cooker may need more or less time. If yours doesn’t run too hot, you could let it cook overnight.) This recipe makes 2-3 cups.
Makes 6 medium size muffins