Tuesday, March 6, 2012
How to Caramelize Onions
Caramelizing onions was, until recently, one of those things that I just didn't do, mainly because it seemed fancy and hard. But since I've tried it, I'm hooked! They taste fancy but are super simple to make. Time consuming, but simple. I recommend making a big batch at once, since it takes the same amount of time and energy to caramelize one onion as four, and because they can be stored in the refrigerator or even frozen (and, according to a commenter, you can actually make them in a slow cooker) so you can add them at will to fancy up any Plain Jane meal.
First, peel your onions and cut them in half from root to stem. I used organic yellow onions, but white should work as well. (I'm not sure about red onions- anyone?) Cut off the root and stem ends, and then slice each half lengthwise so that you have lots of strips. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil (enough to generously coat however many onions you are cooking) to a large skillet and heat on medium until the oil is shimmering. Turn the heat to medium-low, add the onions, sprinkle with salt, and stir to coat.
Stir frequently. You will probably need to to lower your heat further. You don't want to brown your onions like you might if you were sauteing them. You want them to become translucent, as in risotto. The first step in this process is when the onions start sweating. That's a good thing- you're trying to get moisture out so that the natural sugars can caramelize. Stir frequently and adjust your heat as needed. You want to strike the balance of high enough so that you don't spend the entire day stirring onions and low enough so you don't brown said onions.
Slowly, slowly, your onions will begin to shrink (from moisture loss) and go from translucent to slightly golden. This is good. Keep stirring.
Keep stirring frequently. The onions will develop beautiful caramel colors and scents. If all of your oil dries up and the onions aren't done yet, you can add a little more oil, water, wine, or stock.
That's it! The whole thing take 45-60 minutes, but you end up with deliciousness. I've been adding them from everything to pizza to sweet potatoes lately.
The Important Stuff:
1. Low heat
2. Stir frequently
Does that make sense? Questions? Or, if you're already a pro, what tips can you add?