Karma from Caramelized Onions

13 Jun

Sometimes when I find myself in a culinary rut I make the simplest thing I can think of. I feel like when I get so caught up in trying new things that aren’t working or making dinners that are lacking magic that I sometime doubt my talent. Sometimes when I’m wondering why I choose to leave my steady desk job to take up cooking, I go back to the simple flavors that inspired me in the beginning.

There are certain things that I make that have universal appeal and tons of applications. One of my favorites is caramelized onions. To achieve the perfect caramelized onion you need 4 things. Butter, salt, onions and lots of patience. You might think that caramelized onions are easily achieved in 5 minutes flat, but the truth is that they can take up to 45 minutes to be completely perfect.

The key to melty, sweet, flavorful caramelized onions is to go low and slow. Slice your onions as thinly as you can with the grain. As long as you move your knife in a radial movement that matches the curve of the onion you will wind up with pieces of onion that are exactly the same size. If you cut your onions against the grain, your onions will have a funny shape in the end, looking more like tape worms than melted onions.

Start your pan on medium heat and add in the butter. (Yes, I realize there are no measurements listed, just keep reading) Let the butter melt and add in your sliced onions. Stir to coat the onions in the butter. Season with the salt. Stir. Don’t rush the stirring. Basically you want to keep the onions moving just enough so that they don’t brown unevenly. Keeping the temperature low will help with this. Don’t walk away too long when you are doing this or the onions will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. While stirring the onions you will at some point hit a wall where the zen of stirring will give way to impatience and hunger. Do NOT turn up the heat. Your patience will be rewarded.

Do you know what the color of caramel it? If you don’t, google it and keep that color in the back of your mind. The onions will be the color of light caramel when they are ready to be pulled. They are fine to be used as is but can be punched up to even higher heights. Whenever you cook anything in a sauté pan, you wind up with little brown bits at the bottom of your pan. Those bits are called suc or fond and are FULL of flavor. In order to release said tasty morsels, you need liquid. Sure you can use water, but why not add more flavor to your already flavorful onions. My top 2 choices are marsala wine and balsamic vinegar. Both have sweetness which ups the anti of the onions. I also add a little bit of water. The water helps to loosen up the mass of onions and mellow the bold flavor of the wine or vinegar as it reduces.

Notice that I have never said to add sugar. There is plenty of sugar in the onions to cause the caramelizing process. Adding sugar is the lazy man’s way to hurry the process along.

Once you have your glorious onion mixture, use it in a tart, on burgers, on chicken, salmon or vegetables. Caramelized onions taste great as a cheese accompaniment. They pair well with goat cheese, parmesan and gouda.

Always thinking of the next meal

-Katie

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3 Responses to “Karma from Caramelized Onions”

  1. Rachel June 13, 2010 at 10:51 pm #

    Hey Katie – I sometimes have that same feeling, like I can’t make anything interesting or good. And usually I turn to baking. But I love caramelized onions…I just usually end up burning them a little 😦 Which way should I slice the onions to go with the grain – holding the knife parallel or perpendicular to the root?

  2. mrsmarquiss June 14, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Hey Rachel, hold your knife parallel to the root. Good luck… let me know how they turn out next time. PS I love your blog 🙂

  3. Diane Grant June 14, 2010 at 10:38 am #

    Hi Katie, I love carmelized onions, but the only thing I think of using them for is french onion soup. I usually eat them from the pan while I am making the soup. Will have to try them on burgers, etc.

    I wish I was there when you and your Mom and her friends helped you out with that dinner from the raffle, that would have been great.

    Keep em coming. Can’t wait for the book.

    Diane

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