Caramelized Onions are sweet and savory Nirvana made from nothing but plump yellow sugary onions, a chef’s tears and time at the stove.
I’m blogging it because there are a few tips that can make this inexpensive, delicious, gourmet treat easy to add to your everyday repertoire of recipe ingredients.
We use caramelized onions in quiche, omelettes, pizza, tacos, hummus wraps, sandwiches, charcuterie. We love them added to bread crumbs and herbs in any kind of topping for Mac and Cheese or casseroles too.
For starters, make caramelized onions in bulk. They take too much time and make too much of a cutting mess to prepare for each individual recipe. They keep for ages in the fridge and even longer in the freezer.
Here I am using 20 large onions.
It may look like a lot but it cooks down to a just a bit of onion jam.
Make them on a day when you are doing lots of other things in your kitchen. They will cook on the stove for several hours with only very occasional stirring, at least up to the very end. So they are a perfect background project.
Buy large, firm yellow sweet onions in bulk. The pre-packaged onions are smaller, less fresh, frequently soft, have more waste and are more expensive.
Slice the onions and discard peel and tough ends. Poke out rounds.
Use heavy metal cookware and a metal spoon.
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
You do not need to add butter, oil or water. No salt. No matter what other recipes say. Nothing at all. The sweet juices from the onions will caramelize all on their own.
The onions will melt down into a bubbly wet soup.
Stir frequently at the start until the juices are flowing and all the onions are soft and cooking down evenly. Then stir occasionally, every 15 minutes or so. Pick out remaining strips or pieces of peel as they rise up.
Some hours later (yes, hours), when they begin to brown, stir more attentively. You will know when that is as the liquid dries up.
When the onions start sticking to the pan let them stick a little and brown, but then stir them before they burn.
When I am making a large batch I use two or three big pots so I have lots of surface area and my browning time is shortened.
The art is to patiently let them brown (because if you stir them too often they won't) but not brown so long that they burn. Resist the urge to stir: they have to stick to the pan in order to brown!!!
A metal spatula will help you scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the caramelization proceeds.
As the onions cook down, you may find you need to scrape the pan every minute, instead of every few minutes.
Continue to cook and scrape, cook and scrape, until the onions are a rich, browned color.
Patience and art at the finish:
How brown do you want them? Light brown? Chocolate brown? You decide. I like them very brown.
These 20 large onions produced just 1 1/2 quarts of jam. Amazing shrinkage! But a little goes a long way in recipes!
Store refrigerated for several days or a week in an air-tight container.
Here us another tip: Freeze caramelized onions in a freezer safe zip top bag or a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Best yet: Freeze portions of caramelized onions in ice cube trays. When they're frozen, pop the portions out and quickly put them in a freezer safe zip top bag and back in the freezer. They won't stick together, and you'll be able to grab as much as you need when you need it.
One last tip: Don’t just wash away all that goodness left in the pans! You can deglaze and use all the bits and goo in other ways. Today I added vegetarian soup stock and made an impromptu onion soup.