Entertaining This Holiday Season Without Sacrificing the Wow Factor: The Versatile Secret Ingredient to Keep on Hand


Looking for holiday comfort food you can divvy up for “together but in separate houses” celebrations, or assemble quickly for a small group? If you keep a big batch of caramelized onions in your refrigerator, then you have the base for great appetizers, soups and main dishes. This tartine recipe assembles in minutes using ingredients you likely have on hand, including leftover turkey!

Onions are a great pantry staple: they keep for a very long time, they’re incredibly versatile, and they’re forgiving, offering almost foolproof cooking. Plus, they’re a healthy, immune-boosting food thanks to their Vitamin C, sulphur and antioxidant content.

Caramelizing onions is Canadians’ favourite way to enjoy onions and the best type for caramelizing is the Spanish Sweet variety. This variety is grown in Idaho-Eastern Oregon’s Snake River Valley, and it’s prized for its mild flavour, thanks to the rich volcanic soils and dry climate in this area. Also, due to its colder climate and shorter growing season, Canada often can’t supply enough produce to meet its year-round demand.

Luckily, Idaho-Eastern Oregon has easy access to Canada and with its longer, warmer growing season can help Canadians satisfy their need for nutritious Spanish Sweet onions. The volcanic soil of the Snake River Valley is unique and provides us with another onion option: a Spanish Sweet that’s bigger, sweeter and has less water content. Which is great for caramelizing!

This region is one that you can trust; they are grown on family farms—many third and fourth generation—and have some of the most stringent growing and storage methods around. None of their onions have ever been recalled, so look for Idaho-Eastern Oregon Spanish Sweets when you shop.

Buy a lot of them so you always have them on hand but be sure to store them properly. Store Spanish Sweet onions out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry, well ventilated place in a basket or mesh bag with good air circulation. Don’t store them in plastic, or with potatoes. Stored properly, they can last up to four weeks at home.

Caramelized Onion Tartines

Caramelized Spanish Sweet Onions are the featured ingredient in these easy tartines—and the other ingredients are things you likely have on hand so these can be assembled and baked as needed, rather than making the entire batch at once.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
  • 2 large white Spanish Sweet Onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
  • 1 baguette, sliced
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced cooked chicken or turkey (optional)
  • Half sweet red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Asiago cheese
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) chopped walnuts
  • Chopped fresh parsley

To Caramelize Onions

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, for 15 minutes or until starting to colour. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until very soft and golden.

Stir in sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper; cook for 5 minutes more. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).

Place baguette slices onto large baking sheet and drizzle with oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Spoon some caramelized onion mixture onto a slice of bread. Top with chicken, if using, and red pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and add a few walnut pieces.  Repeat with remaining slices.

Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cheese is melted and flatbread is golden and crisp. Let cool slightly before sprinkling with parsley to serve.

Serves 4