Excerpted from Happy in the Kitchen: The Craft of Cooking, the Art of Eating by Michel Richard (Artisan, 2006). Copyright 2006 by Michel Richard.

This caprice is absolutely carbless and delicious in every way. Put it in front of your dinner guests, and they will be sure that it is pasta. In fact, they'll keep insisting on it for a few mouthfuls before putting down their forks and saying, "I give up. What is it?" Once you tell them that it's onion slices that have been blanched to rid them of sharpness and then tossed with carbonara sauce, they take a few more bites, close their eyes, smile, and then, finally convinced, say, "Oh yeah! I get it." The larger lesson to take from all of this is that blanching onions, even diced onions that you are using in other recipes, allows the gentle personality that is hidden behind their sharpness to come out.

Hint: Slicing the onions by hand is not impossible, but cutting them on a meat slicer ensures even strands of "pasta." A Benriner will also work.


Serves 4 as a first course or side dish

  • 4 ounces sliced applewood-smoked bacon

  • 3 large yellow onions (about 12 ounces each)

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling


1. Stack the slices of bacon, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in the freezer to firm. This will make them easier to cut.

2. To cut the onions using a meat slicer, cut off the root end of each onion and dicard. Then cut off the other ends. With a paring knife, core each onion by cutting a cone-shaped piece from the root end of the onion, much as you would remove the stem of an apple. Stand each onion on one end and cut a vertical slit from top to bottom, just reaching the center. This will result in long strands of onion rather then rings when the onion is sliced. Set the slicer to cut 1/8-inch-thick slices. Place a flat end of an onion against the blade and slice.

3. To cut by hand, leave the root ends intact, but cut a slit in each onion as above, then cut across the onions to make 1/8-inch-thick slices.

4. Separate the onion slices into strands. Place the longer strands in a bowl and reserve the shorter ones for another use. You should have about 8 cups loosely packed onions.

5. Place a steamer basket in a pot over simmering water. Place the onion strands in the basket, cover, and steam for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onions are translucent but still "al dente." Remove the basket from the pot. (This can be done a few hours before serving.)

6. Remove the bacon from the freezer, unwrap, and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch strips. Place in a large nonstick skillet and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until crisp and browned. Meanwhile in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup of the cream and the egg yolk. Set aside.

7. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out the fat, and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Return the pan to the burner. Add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the bacon and the remaining 1/4 cup cream and simmer for 30 seconds. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, toss, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onions are hot. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the reserved cream mixture and the Parmesan. Taste and add additional seasoning if needed.

8. With a pair of tongs, lift each portion, letting excess sauce drip back into the pan, and arrange in a small mound on the serving plate. Serve sprinkled with additional Parmesan, if desired.

Michel Richard is a chef, restaurateur and author. He has received several James Beard awards and is the author of Home Cooking with a French Accent and Happy in the Kitchen.