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What’s in Season: Vidalia Onion Dressing

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How to Make Homemade Vidalia Onion Dressing and other Great Sweet Onion Recipes

Vidalia Onion Dressing on www.virginiawillis.com

A few weeks ago I shot a video making Vidalia Onion Dressing for Facebook. Since then, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit and while we liked it before, now we really love it! In this new version, I eliminated the apple cider vinegar and instead purée an entire onion for the dressing base. The result is mildly sweet and creamy with just enough heat from the mustard. This dressing is perfect for salads or as a dipping sauce for everything from crudité to chicken fingers. Homemade Vidalia Onion Dressing also makes a great spread for sandwiches and wraps–and it’s only four ingredients!

Vidalia Onion Dressing on www.virginiawillis.com

Honey is a Natural Sweetener

According to the National Honey Board, the story of honey is as old as history itself. An 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain depicts honey harvesting, and we know it’s been used for food, medicine, and more by cultures all over the world since. Honey bees visit millions of flower blossoms in their lifetimes, pollinating plants, and collecting nectar to bring back to the hive. They then make honey from the nectar and store it in the hive for nourishment. Fortunately for us, bees make more honey than their colony needs, and beekeepers remove the excess honey and store it.

Honey is higher in fructose than glucose. Fructose is sweeter than glucose, so with certain recipes you may be able to use a smaller amount of honey than sugar without sacrificing sweetness.

I seek out raw, organic honey for better nutritional benefits. Raw honey, meaning unpasteurized, contains a wide variety of nutrients. Pasteurization is a process that destroys the yeast and some antioxidants found in honey by applying high heat. Some Vidalia Onion Dressing recipes contain a cup of sugar! Yikes! A dab will do you in my Vidalia Onion Dressing and it marries very nicely with the natural sweetness of the onion.

Vidalia Onion Dressing on www.virginiawillis.com

Some Like it Hot

Mustard can be sweet, mind, or fiery hot. It lends a clean, sharp flavor and a pleasant punch of heat to many dishes. It has been one of the most widely used spices in the world for many centuries. The word mustard comes from an ancient Roman condiment of crushed mustard seed and must, or unfermented grape juice. The French word, moutarde, is derived from a contraction of moust, or must, and ardent, meaning blazing or burning – as in hot.

Dijon mustard gives this dressing a bit of “zippy zip zip” and helps the dressing emulsify. An emulsion is a suspension of small droplets of one liquid into another that is insoluble. Simply put, it is the combination of two liquids that do not go together, such as the proverbial oil and water, or, in the case of a vinaigrette, oil and vinegar. (In this dressing, the mustard helps the puréed onion and its juices emulsify with the canola oil.) For the formation of a stable emulsion, an emulsifying agent must  be present.  Dry or prepared mustard can help keep a hollandaise sauce or a homemade mayonnaise from separating, and a vinaigrette with a substantial amount of mustard will stay blended longer than one without mustard.

Vidalia Onion Dressing on www.virginiawillis.com

Strike Oil

There are internet claims that canola is poison, causes BCE, is made from genetically modified organisms, you name it, canola is the root of the menace. The USDA disagrees. There’s a lot of misinformation about canola oil. Canola oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the canola plant, is recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Misinformation about canola oil may stem from the fact that the canola plant was developed through crossbreeding with the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed oil contains very high levels of erucic acid, a compound that in large amounts can be toxic to humans. Canola oil, however, contains very low levels of erucic acid.”

As a chef, I often use canola oil because it’s flavorless and allows the flavor of the food shine through. It also has a high smoke point and is a very versatile cooking oil. It’s cholesterol free and a good source of vitamin E. Most canola in the US is actually genetically engineered, so I do choose to buy organic. Organic, by definition is not allowed to be GMO. I also buy Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, which is a chemical-free mechanical process that extracts the oil. Canola is a good all-purpose cooking oil and is excellent for sautéing, frying, and baking or for use in raw form in salad dressings, mayonnaise, and vinaigrettes.

Vidalia Onion Dressing on www.virginiawillis.com

Homemade vs Store-bought Salad Dressing

Buying salad dressing off the shelf at the grocery store may seem like a time-saver, but making it at home really doesn’t require much time or effort. (Check out my recipe for The World’s Best Salad Dressing. We always have a jar in the fridge.) Salad dressings like this Homemade Vidalia Onion Dressing can easily be tossed together in a matter of minutes! A lot of store-bought Vidalia onion dressings are packed with sugar and hard-to-pronounce chemical preservatives. My new version uses honey as a sweetener — and there’s not a preservative in sight. The deal is that what you dress your salad with should be as healthy as the salad itself. This homemade version contains about 52 calories a tablespoon vs nearly double that for some of the store-bought ones! Why ruin a good-and-good-for-you salad with a store-bought dressing that contains refined sugars, inferior oils, and fake flavors when you can make a healthier version at home?

Vidalia onion recipes on www.virginiawillis.com

Vidalia Onion Recipes

‘Tis the season for Vidalia Onion recipes — take a look.

  • Vidalia Onion Dip is a party favorite — but so often it’s a soggy, greasy mess. Take a look at the flavorful-not-fatty Vidalia Onion Dip I created for SouthernKitchen.com. (Don’t worry — it’s not so healthy that it’s not fun – look at that yummy cheese!)
  • Check out my Sheet Pan Supper: Vidalia Onion and Chicken Tacos that I created for the Vidalia Onion Commission.
  • Want to jazz up your grits? Try this recipe for Grits with Corn and Vidalia Onion. Rich, creamy and bursting with flavor. They are finished with just a tad of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and are equally fantastic for breakfast or dinner.
  • One of my all time favorites is my Vidalia Onion Quiche. I am so old school — I absolutely love quiche. The sweet onions are cooked into a soft and melting confit, then combined with eggs, milk, and cream for a decadent and divine dish.

Thanks for reading. I’ve got upcoming classes and appearances in Texas, Maine, and Massachusetts. Please take a look at my Events Page and I hope to see you soon!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Virginia Willis

Vidalia Onion Dressing on www.virginiawillis.com

Vidalia Onion Dressing

Prep Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: dressing, onions, Vidalia
Servings: 32 tablespoons
Author: Virginia Willis

Ingredients

  • 1 Vidalia onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Instructions

Put the onion, honey, and mustard in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until smooth. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow steady stream until thick and emulsified. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

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    Virginia Willis

    Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has made chocolate chip cookies with Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking -- but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Virginia is a chef instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen and author of Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome received a 2016 James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence. She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network's Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of "Seven Food Writers You Need to Know." Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and follow her traveling exploits at www.virginiawillis.com.

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