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Sublime Holiday Buffet

One of the most amazing things about this dish is that it takes the lowly onion, the everyday, mundane onion, and turns it into heaven -- even for people who don't like onions.
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This dish is ethereal. Everyone who eats it simply falls in love with it. I am not exaggerating. It's the kind of dish you could use to seduce someone. It's a dish that every woman or man who's looking to tip the scales in their favor should learn, as it will allow you to obtain an otherwise unattainable conquest. You're welcome.

I've mentioned signature dishes before, and this absolutely has signature dish potential. It's certainly one of mine. It's spectacular as part of a brunch menu, and wonderful served in the evening with a steak or roast chicken and a salad--it's not something you do every day for a weeknight dinner, because quite frankly it's a little bit decadent. It happens to be a really great item to do on a buffet for a graduation party if you're doing many other dishes ahead, like a delicious rice salad, smoked salmon, and a beautiful grapefruit salad , and you want that one really special wow piece that you stick in the oven when guests arrive and they ask you what on earth smells so damn good.

This is a dish that I think about in that sort of fond way you think of an old friend, or a family member you may never see again, or the day you realized you were in love. One of the most amazing things about this dish is that it takes the lowly onion, the everyday, mundane onion, and turns it into heaven--even for people who don't like onions. Consider this: "The onions in that souffle were carmelized and sweet and melted in your mouth; the souffle was like a pillow of wonderfulness!" A comment from an onion-lover? No: an onion-hater! I think you get the picture.

I'm happiest in my kitchen. I love the idea of starting with nothing, gathering some ingredients with pure potential, and creating something, without knowing exactly what's going to happen. The Vidalia onion soufflé simply makes me joyful--even just thinking about it. I like the idea of making a dish and then not making it for a long time and having it be something that just simmers in the back of my mind, as I entertain thoughts of how satisfying it's going to be to prepare it and how spectacular it's going to be to eat it.

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Cooking ignites that part of us that wants to celebrate something. Making beautiful food and serving it to people you love is the best feeling in the world. It's a way to be grateful for and excited by the little things, the everyday moments. Salt. Pepper. Bacon. Sunshine.

I came across this recipe by Sarah Simmons, owner of City Grit and a food visionary, a few years back in Food and Wine magazine. Normally I take a recipe and transform it into something else, but here it is verbatim. I've never changed a single thing in this already perfect dish; her family dish has become mine, and that's another way in which I love cooking: the threads that weave connections between people and create a wonderful community.

VIDALIA ONION SOUFFLE

- 1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 4 pounds Vidalia or other sweet onions, thinly sliced
- Salt
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a very large skillet, melt the stick of butter over moderately low heat. Add the sliced onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, about 40 minutes. Let the onions cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter eight 5 1/2-inch gratin dishes (see Tip). In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the heavy cream and grated cheese.

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Whisk in the dry ingredients until incorporated, then fold in the onions. Spoon the soufflé mixture into the prepared gratin dishes and bake for about 20 minutes, until the soufflés are set and golden on top. Serve right away.

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TIP
The soufflé mixture can also be baked in a buttered 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish for 45 minutes.

Gluten-free version: substitute Thomas Keller's gluten-free flour, cup4cup.

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Teri Turner is ReadSource's contributing food expert. Follow her on Instagram here: nocrumbsleft for more delicious recipes and photographs sure to make your mouth water.