Caramelized Onions

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See those caramelized onions? Ok, so the egg and greens are a bit distracting…Go to the left of the egg, sitting right on top of the greens, nestled on top of the toast rounds/goat cheese…yep, there they are! Trust me, your taste buds will not miss these guys!

Look at that beautiful egg–check those out (and SO much more!) at Wishbone Heritage Farms.  You won’t regret it!

Ok. I won’t lie to you. The process of caramelizing onions is a bit tedious. I mean, you have to cut up a ginormous amount of them, put ’em in a pan, stir them, give them more attention than I bestow on most folks, and waaaaiiiiitttt.  BUT, they are so worth it. They’re like little candied onions.  Tons of flavor and sweet. I almost can’t eat a pork loin without them. They’re great on a crostini with some goat cheese.  Or you can mix them in with soups or try ’em with your creamy grits. My husband almost knocked me down one day when we were racing for the last bit of fluffy scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Muenster cheese.  Luckily I practice my mental acuity games, thought on my feet, threw him a sharp elbow, and beat him to the pan.  Then guilt kicked in and I shared. Dang conscience.  Those caramelized onions would’ve been all mine! So, grab yourself a beverage of choice and a stool, park yourself in front of the stove, and make a huge batch so there’s enough to share and you don’t have to resort to childish shenanigans!

  • 6 Vidalia onions, thinly sliced and separated (any sweet onion will work; You can use others but may need to add a couple of pinches of sugar in the beginning)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • Optional: 1/2 cup Marsala or Sherry wine (dry or sweet is your preference, depending on your intended use)

Heat 1 TBSP oil over medium heat in a pan large enough to accommodate your onions. Many will tell you that there should be a single layer, but I don’t have a pan the size of Texas and it still works. So, after the oil is hot, place in your onions and give them a toss to coat.  If you’re using yellow or Spanish onions, add a couple of generous pinches of sugar here.  Those onions have less natural sugar and can be harder to caramelize.  Add the water to the pan and put on your lid (or some foil to capture steam).  Let the onions steam a bit to soften up. Stir occasionally to avoid burning.

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Steam the onions a bit first to make their bulk a little more manageable. You’ll start with what seems like an insurmountable amount of onions and work your way down to a much smaller portion.

A golden brown or amber color on the edges is okay, black and charred is not tasty for this application.  After the onions are a more manageable size (maybe 10 minutes or so), remove the cover.  Remember that beverage and chair?  Use them—this is gonna take a bit. Make sure the softened onions are in as much contact with the pan as possible if they can’t be in a single layer at this point.

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The onions are beginning to get their caramel on.

Every 5 minutes or so, check the color of the onions that are in contact with the pan by lifting up a few with a spatula. If they are that deep, golden brown (not burnt!), flip gently.  Try not to break the onion skins when stirring or flipping as it can make the end result a bit stringy in my opinion.  After flipping, get the onions situated in a single layer again, aaannndd wait. Keep checking and flipping as the color darkens.  You’ll have to be more attentive as time progresses in order to avoid burning the onions. It can happen fast, so watch your heat and the time between flipping. For a big batch, the whole process can take around 40 minutes.

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This is about where I start wanting to pick at them because they smell so good! This is also the point where you can add flavorings like Marsala or Sherry or herbs like anise, rosemary, or black pepper. Try out herbs and flavorings that will complement your meal.

Depressingly, the vat of onions you started with condenses down, like the center of a black hole, to this super concentrated form of onion. They’re sweet and earthy and oniony at the same time.  Never fear onion haters (Shane!), it’s not that sharp onion flavor, but much more mellow–like a grilled onion. These guys will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for a week or so–but I promise they won’t be around that long!

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Whew! You’re done! Delicious, flavorful caramelized onions. I promise you’ll start making up reasons to use these!!

4 thoughts on “Caramelized Onions

  1. Pingback: Sweet and Savory Bacon Jam | Charlie Eats

  2. So funny! Just the other day I wast trying to caramelize onions and they wouldn’t go brown! I finally figured out that you’re NOT supposed to stir them. Now I read your post, just a few days too late. Oh well, now I all always have lovely caramelized onions. Thanks so much!

    • Caramelized onions can definitely test your patience! Luckily in the first stages you can ignore them a bit. I have to admit I want to stir them more often than I should too! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Totally Divine Duck Liver Mousse | Charlie Eats

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