Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
2 ½ ounces well smoked bacon, cut into a small dice
100 or so pearl onions, unpeeled (from 3 10-ounce bags)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 ½ tablespoons dry sherry
½ cup grated aged cheddar
kosher salt, to taste
½ bunch chives, cut into 1/2-inch segments, lengthwise, unless you want to be a hack, then mince them
1. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Blanch the pearl onions for 3 minutes, then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to an ice bath and chill until cold. Drain again and peel (making a slit with a paring knife down the side made this easiest for me), leaving a little of the root end intact. (Want to use frozen, already peeled onions instead? Go ahead. Do it. No one is watching.)
2. Add a healthy knob of butter to a broad and shallow metal or enamelware casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 8 minutes. Next, add the pearl onions and sauté them gently for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the heavy cream and nutmeg and season with salt. Cover the pot with a lid, leaving it a little ajar. Cook the onions until they are nearly cooked through, about 8 to 9 minutes, then remove the lid and finish cooking the onions while reducing the cream by half, about 6 minutes more. Stir in the sherry. If your onions are done cooking before the cream has sufficiently reduced or if you're unsure about the alcohol in the sherry, remove the onions with a slotted spoon and transfer them to your serving dish.
3. Heat the oven broiler. Add the cheddar and stir to combine and melt the cheese. Continue cooking the remaining sauce to the desired consistency and taste and pour it back over the onions. Place the dish under the broiler on high until the top bubbles and browns, 4 to 5 minutes. Garnish with minced chives. Serve immediately.