I am a list writer. I love lists. I live my life by them. I am addicted to my day-planner, where I write in even the most menial of tasks (eat lunch! unload the dishwasher!) just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off. I have a three page document on my laptop of “blog post ideas” – names and concepts of dishes I’ve never even tried that I’d like to develop and perfect to share with you.
Thus it should come as no surprise that I can’t go grocery shopping without a list. Every week I make one, and every weekend before the big trip, I hand the list over to N. so he can add his requests. He writes funny little notes on random lines all out of order (doesn’t he know the list is arranged by where in the store the product is found?!) and tries whenever possible to convey his desires in puns or wordplay or goofy spelling. A few weeks ago, he wrote “chip-snack” near the bottom of the list. I knew this meant we’d be trying something new – a change-up from the standard yellow corn tortilla chips we usually have lurking about in our pantry.
We came home with thick ridge-cut sweet potato chips. And they were… okay. N. noted astutely that they were tasty, but after a few you felt like you’d eaten, well, a sweet potato. And I guess that’s a sign that they are what they advertise, but maybe they aren’t our ideal snack.
As I was munching my way through a second helping one afternoon, trying to pinpoint what it was about these chips that I wasn’t crazy about (I know, I know, why would I eat more of them if I didn’t really love them?), I realized they just needed a little help. Without as much sodium as a standard potato or tortilla chip, I was missing some of the savory oomph that you really want from a chip. This meant they were going to need a friend to play with: a salty, creamy swirl of dip to plunge into.
What came together, as I played, was the best possible version of a sour cream and onion dip. Whipped cream cheese with a dollop of sour cream for consistency and tang. A pile of well-caramelized onions, sweet and soft and deeply bronze, produced through considerable patience. Salt and pepper, of course, and I didn’t want to complicate things, but it needed something else to break up the richness. That something else turned out to be the earthy herby punch of finely chopped rosemary.
You want this for your next chip and dip party (do people have those? We should). You also want, I quickly determined, at least four people at the table when you serve this, because it will disappear, and you want to prevent any guilt that would result from eating the whole cupful, along with the whole bag of chips, all by yourself.
Other suggestions: double or triple this recipe, spread it evenly into a casserole dish, and bake at 400F for 20 minutes or so, until the whole thing is luscious and bubbly and mouth-searingly hot, then serve with crostini or pita chips. And call me. Because I want in on that action. Or you could roast thick slices of sweet potato with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pipe this on top with a piping bag in pretty little swirls. Arranged on a big square platter, that would make gorgeous passed appetizers.
Or you can just jam crackers or bits of toast into the dregs of the mixing bowl to get every last creamy bit. It is, after all, your party.
Cream cheese onion dip
Yield: ¾ – 1 cup
½ cup sweet onion, finely diced
1 TB butter
½ tsp salt or to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper or to taste
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 oz. whipped cream cheese, at room temperature (if you can’t find whipped cream cheese, use regular, but take an electric mixer to it for a minute or two on medium speed before you start combining things – it will mix more willingly and produce a nicer texture in the final product)
2 TB sour cream (I use full fat because I think the flavor and texture is better. It’s such a little bit. Treat yourself.)
- Melt the butter over low heat in a small skillet. When it has liquified, add the onions, salt, and pepper.
- Caramelize the onions by cooking them over low to medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. If they sizzle aggressively or seem to be burning, turn the heat down and agitate the pan. You want the onions to get tender and golden slowly. This will enhance their sweetness.
- When the onions are evenly caramel in color and sweet to taste, turn off the heat, add the chopped rosemary, and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
- With a spatula, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, and cooled onion mixture in a small serving bowl. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, if you can stand it, to let the flavors meld.
- Serve cold or at room temperature with sweet potato chips, pita chips, crudités, or crostini.