Sunday, November 29, 2020
Nov. 29, 2020

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Meal possibilities endless in onion soup packet

By , Columbian staff writer
7 Photos
This Crispy Onion Baked Chicken gets its flavor from onion soup mix and tenderness from mayonnaise.
This Crispy Onion Baked Chicken gets its flavor from onion soup mix and tenderness from mayonnaise. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The French perfected onion soup, but America took it a step further, turning it into a space-age dehydrated and powdered substance with enough sodium to knock out a goat, conveniently tucked into a single-serving envelope. What’s not to love? Nothing, especially when you pause to consider the alarming possibility that, without American ingenuity, we’d have been forced to grow up in a world without sour cream onion dip, featured at absolutely every party you’ve ever been to or will ever attend in the post-pandemic future.

I, for one, refuse to contemplate such a depressing alternate reality, so let’s get down to the business of appreciating this reality, where onion soup mix abounds and the recipe possibilities are as endless as the folds in your cerebellum. (For more onion-y inspiration than I can offer in this article, see

Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

This shepherd’s pie — inspired by the British classic featuring a layer of meat and vegetables topped with creamy mashed potatoes and then baked like a pie — can also be made with ground beef, pork or lamb. (It is called shepherd’s pie, after all.) The recipe calls for frozen mixed vegetables, but I just used what I had on hand, which was carrots, peas, canned mushrooms and the final three tomatoes from my overproductive garden.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, saute 1 finely chopped medium onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil. If using fresh vegetables, toss them in right after the onion. Add 1 pound ground turkey and cook until browned and onion is soft. Next, add 1 cup of water and 1 packet onion soup mix. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 5-10 minutes, or until most of the liquid cooks off (you don’t want a soupy pie). If using frozen vegetables, stir them in now.

If baking your pie in a cast-iron skillet, top with 3 cups mashed potatoes and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, or transfer the meat and veggies to a pie dish before spreading on the mashed potatoes. If the mashed potatoes are too thick to spread, drop them by heaping tablespoons onto the meat.

The recipe calls for leftover mashed potatoes, but if you don’t have leftovers, boil 4 medium or 2-3 large peeled potatoes while you’re making the meat mixture. Make them just like regular mashed potatoes, with butter and milk or cream, plus salt and pepper to taste. They should be creamy enough to spread easily with a spatula.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese gets nice and melty and the potatoes are just browned around the edges. If using a cast-iron skillet, a good piece of advice is to put on an oven mitt before you remove the superheated skillet from the oven; your sweater sleeve stretched over your hand will not be adequate. I speak from hard experience.

Onion-Roasted Potatoes

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut 4 or 5 medium-large potatoes, any variety, into 2-inch chunks. You should have about 2 pounds total, not that I have a kitchen scale. I just keep chopping until it feels about right, depending on when my attention is drawn away from my daydream, which currently involves talking mice and a fairy godmother and a really, really pretty ballgown. I’m a simple girl.

Mix the potato chunks with 1 packet of onion soup and 1/3 cup olive oil. I went a little crazy here and added 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, plus a sprinkle of sage and thyme. Transfer everything to a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. (You can mix everything right in the baking pan, but I find it easier to get an even coating by mixing in a bowl.) Bake those taters for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally so they brown evenly, or just ignore them and let them get more browned on the bottom. They taste great either way!

Crispy Onion Baked Chicken

Turn your oven on to 425 degrees. In a shallow bowl, mix one envelope of onion soup with 1 cup plain bread crumbs. (I used panko bread crumbs.)

In another bowl, coat 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or thick cutlets with 1/2 cup mayonnaise. I used three large chicken breasts, cut into thirds crosswise to make nine big chunks. Really squish those chicken pieces around in the mayonnaise. Isn’t this fun?

Next, dip the chicken in the soup-and-crumb mixture, making sure all the nooks and crannies are covered with crumbs. Arrange chicken on a baking sheet and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken is done all the way through and crumb coating is golden brown.

Onion Dip, Two Ways

For a spicy onion dip, mix a package of dry onion soup with a 16-ounce container of sour cream and 1 cup chunky salsa. Serve with chips and veggies. Lick your fingers, but only when dipping with your pandemic bubble, and even so, don’t lick your fingers and put them back in the dip. Have some standards.

For a marginally nutritious onion dip, mix a package of onion soup with a 16-ounce container of sour cream, a package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, and a small can drained and diced water chestnuts. Congratulate yourself on eating spinach.