For someone who tasted flavor only when in friends’ homes, I vividly recall many first tastes. Butter…Ann Avery’s house. That was beyond stellar. Tuna salad would be at Andrea’s house. Her mama mixed in a teaspoon of mustard that certainly made it the chicken of MY sea! Pork chop gravy at Dana’s house was seared into my flavor bank. I had never had ANY gravy before and her mama made it from scratch. Where has this stuff been hiding?!? I experienced a double first at my neighbor and classmate, Susy Tankard’s, house. We had come in from playing “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” outside, all hot and sweaty. Her mama and mine were very close but worlds apart when it came to cooking. Susy’s mom baked, cooked and liked it. My mama couldn’t give a fig what went on in the kitchen nor would she have recognized a fig if there had ever been one sitting on the counter. Anyway, that noteworthy day stands out because it is the day Susy offered me an English muffin with strawberry jam. I had no idea what either one of those things were. At first bite I was head over heels in love with both. But probably my favorite first was a double of potato chips and onion dip, both processed, filled with preservatives and loaded with salt. Holy smoke. Talk about a lifelong passion for that kind of bad. And I’m still a fool for chips and dip but now I prefer the real thing. Homemade onion dip is from another realm. Once you make homemade you will never go back to that powdered stuff in an envelope. After caramelizing naturally sweet onions, you’ll end up with a skillet brimming with the flavors of a savory jam, all thick and gooey. I add fresh thyme leaves and that brings out the earthiness and allows the dip to “pop”. The addition of cayenne pepper lightens each bite and keeps the onion dip from becoming too heavy. It’s always one of the first dishes to fly at a party; in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to stay out of it before you leave your house. Perfect for a beach or pool party, whether it’s game day or not, this kickin’ onion dip will become a life long favorite!
This recipe makes quite a bit which is great for a party but if you don’t need that much, it’s easily halved. It’s an incredibly flavorful appetizer so if you’re not a fan of heat, rest assured the cayenne pepper may be omitted and you’ll still have a fantastic dip. Take your time caramelizing the onions. You don’t want them to burn but to release their liquids and sugar. Give them a good stir every now and again, cook them uncovered letting all excess moisture evaporate and you’ll achieve the flavors and consistency you want. I tried a mess of chips to see which really brought out the flavor of the dip and this is my conclusion. The best potato chip turned out to be Kettle Chips. They were sturdy enough to stand up to the stiff dip both in structure and potato taste. But my number one chip pick wasn’t a potato chip but a plantain chip. Holy smoke! They really complemented each other, not to mention, the plantains were much better looking. In closing, I hope you’ll take the time to search out Vidalia onions as their sweetness truly stands out and makes a huge difference in this dish. Enjoy!
Kickin' Sweet Vidalia Onion Dip
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 3 pounds Vidalia onions, about 3 large Vidalia onions
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 cups sour cream
- 1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves plus additional to garnish
- 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- In a large, heavy bottom skillet melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add the olive oil, chopped onions, one tablespoon of salt and stir well until the onions are thoroughly coated with the olive oil and butter.
- Lower the heat to medium low and cook the onions uncovered until they are golden brown in color and all liquid from them has evaporated, anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. Stir often to keep onions from browning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Remove onions from heat and allow to cool.
- In a large bowl mix the cream cheese to loosen. Add the mayonnaise and whisk until completely smooth.
- Add the sour cream, thyme, cayenne pepper and remaining teaspoon of salt. Mix until smooth.
- Add cooled onions to cream cheese mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
- Serve chilled with chips and crudite.