Skip to main content

In The Experienced English House-keeper, Elizabeth Raffald recommended serving this sauce as an accompaniment to Roast Duck. It can also be used for other poultry or for mild-flavored fish, such as flounder. Similar onion sauces can be found in many old cookbooks. In fact, Mary Randolph copied Raffald’s recipe verbatim in her own book, The Virginia House-Wife.

This recipe is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original. It was created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons.


  • 4 large onions, peeled and quartered
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream


  1. Cover the onions with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain in a colander, repeat the process twice more, and then drain the onions thoroughly. Set aside to cool until they can be handled easily, and chop them finely. (You should have about 4 cups.)

  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the onions, and bring to a simmer. Add the salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

  3. Stir in the cream, blending together thoroughly. Bring the sauce back to a simmer, and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cream is slightly reduced.

  4. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and pour the sauce into a sauceboat.

2 to 3 cups