This showstopping blooming onion is baked, not fried, and it's as much fun to make as it is to eat. Impress your guests with this pretty centerpiece that's made from a sweet, soft-yet-crunchy onion. Provide your favourite dip and you've got a stunning appetizer. (Skip to recipe.)
Cooking with Meredith
When Meredith and I first started cooking together a few years ago, we made this beautiful baked onion flower, inspired by the blooming onion appetizer available in some restaurants. Yes, the restaurant one's deep fried and crunchy, but this one is sweet and delicious and looks stunning. Ever since that time, Meredith has been requesting we make it again, and I figure that if a child loves an onion so much, we definitely had to bake one up again. This is a great way for kids to see how mild and melting and sweet an onion becomes once it's cooked. Kids who turn up their noses at raw onions might have a whole different attitude to this beauty. It's so tasty, with those tender sweet 'petals' and crisp caramelized bits. And it's a whole lotta fun to get right in there and pull off the petals with your fingers.
Besides, who doesn't love dipping stuff?
Preparing the onion for baking is fun when you follow a few simple tricks. Cutting it doubles as a great lesson on fractions. You can cut the onion into sixteenths for that lush chrysanthemum kind of look, or you can cut it into eighths for a more serene water lily kind of look.
Watching the onion petals unfurl as it starts roasting in the oven is mezmerizing. Meredith and I had our noses glued to the oven window to watch the show.
All you need is three ingredients, a couple wooden spoons, and a big sharp knife.
Let's get started.
First you peel a large onion. A sweet onion is nice, but a big white, or yellow, or purple one works really great, too.
Then you set it on a cutting board, and lay a wooden spoon handle on each side of the onion. That'll stop your knife from cutting all the way through the onion, so it stays together to form a nice 'blossom'.
Keep rotating and cutting the onion until you have either eight or sixteen sections. Hold the onion together with one hand while you cut with the other.
Now drizzle some olive oil onto your beautiful onion.
Then sprinkle on a bit of spice for colour and flavour.
Stick it into the oven and watch it start to 'bloom' as it heats up.
The petal tips get crispy and the onion just opens up beautifully.
Pull off the petals and dip them into your favourite dipping sauce.
I made some more blooming onions for the family to eat, since Meredith and I devoured the one we made.
Set a blooming onion out onto the table next time you're offering a selection of appetizers to your guests. It'll have people oohing and ahhing. Or bake up a few and serve them to eat with other finger food meals like tacos or hamburgers. Having to dig in and eat with your fingers makes the meal a whole lot more fun and gets people feeling comfortable way more quickly.
Sharing a meal with friends should be fun, shouldn't it?
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Kitchen Frau Notes: A blooming onion is large and meant to be shared, but you could also use medium sized onions and prepare one for each guest, to serve as a side vegetable. If making it to be shared, use the largest onion you can find. They're sometimes labeled 'jumbo onions'.
The size of your onions will dictate how long they need to bake. If using smaller onions, check them periodically and take them out of the oven when they're soft enough.
- 1 large onion, preferably a sweet onion, but any kind will do
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon of chili powder, paprika, or sumac
To serve: your favourite dipping sauce, like ranch dressing, honey mustard sauce, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, sweet chili sauce, etc.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Peel the onion and cut a thin slice off the top and bottom end. Place the onion on a cutting board and lay a wooden spoon or wooden dowel on each side of the onion. This provides a stopper to prevent your knife from cutting all the way through to the bottom of the onion, so the root end stays intact and holds the onion together.
With a large knife, push downward to cut the onion in half, stopping when the knife hits the wooden spoon handles. Give the onion a quarter turn, then cut downward again, dividing the onion in quarters. Rotate the onion slightly, hold both sides of the onion together with your fingers and cut between the quarters to make eighths. You can leave the onion cut in eighths for a larger-petaled flower, or if your onion is big enough, cut through the eighths one more time to have a sixteen-petaled flower which looks more impressive, but gives smaller petals for dipping.
Place the onion onto a parchment-paper-lined baking pan. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with your choice of spice.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the onion feels tender, but not mushy when poked in the center with a fork. There should still be a bit of crunch to the center of the petals. The baking time will depend on the size of your onion. A very large one may need a few minutes longer.
Let cool 10 minutes, then transfer the onion to a serving plate with a spatula.
Serve with your favourite sauce for dipping.
Makes one large blooming onion appetizer or side dish.
For more fun cooking projects to make with kids, see the ‘Cooking With Kids’ series here.
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