Onion CustardFebruary 11, 2019
Malinda Russell’s “A Domestic Cook Book” of 1866 is the first cookbook published by an African American woman. A treasure of American history, its 39-pages provide a peek into the lives of free African Americans during the Civil War and reveal that there was so much more to Southern cooking than “soul food.” This elegant Onion Custard recipe is delicious evidence.
“Pare and boil twelve large onions; mash when cooked soft, and strain through a sieve; stir in, while hot, 1-4th of a lb of butter; beat half a lb sugar with the yolks of six eggs; stir into the sugar three tablespoons flour, one pint of rich cream; stir all together until smooth; on tablespoon cinnamon, half spoon cloves, stir well; beat the whites of the eggs, and stir it in last; paste your pans with rich pastry; bake in a quick oven.” – Malinda Russell
This recipe below is a simplified, unsweetened version of Russell’s recipe.
2 tablespoons butter
2 small yellow onions, minced (about 2 cups)
salt and pepper
4 egg yolks
1 ½ cup milk or cream
Preheat oven to 325° F. In a medium skillet, melt butter. Add onions and cook until soft, translucent, and they begin to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Stir in salt and pepper. Taste, adjust seasoning, remove from heat and cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with milk, pinch nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Divide the onions evenly among six 4-ounce ramekins. Evenly divide the custard mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Place in a large baking pan with 2-inch sides. Pour enough boiling water in pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins and transfer to oven. Bake until custards are just set, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove ramekins from hot water bath and serve warm.