Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Caramelized Onions, a Run-on Blog Post

I’ve been busy in the kitchen lately. (Truth be told, I've been just plain busy since the fall semester started 5 weeks ago.) I’m not going to say I’ve been cooking a lot, although I have done a lot more cooking and baking in the last few weeks than I have done for a long, long time. Along with the actual cooking/baking, I have been a smoothie-making fool, which has led to a lot of experimentation with flavors and also with freezing fruit.

I discovered that freezing bananas in their skins doesn’t work well, at least not for me. If I tried to use them frozen, I had to cut the skins off with a sharp knife. If I thawed the bananas to use them, I was completely – and I mean COMPLETELY – grossed out by the slimy, watery mess that slid out of the blackened skins. Guh-ross.

I also discovered that store-bought frozen peaches taste like canned peaches (yuck) but fresh peaches, peeled and cut into chunks, freeze beautifully (name that movie) and make a really, really good smoothie. To which end I bought 8 pounds of peaches the other day. Yes, I do live alone, why do you ask?

I could go on. But the objective today is to crow about the caramelized onions I made on Sunday. When I tasted the finished product, I said, “Oh, mama, these are good!” Out loud. Alone in my apartment. Yeah, they are that good.

This is not quick, but it is easy. I spent about two hours, start to finish, but once the onions are in the pot, I had many 5-10 minute intervals to fill. In addition to achieving amazing onions, my kitchen is super clean!
The finished product.
Next time I will take before and after pictures.

Here’s the method/recipe:

Caramelized Onions

6 large sweet yellow onions
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
2 t. salt

Yield: 2-3 cups of yummmmm

Cut tops and root ends off of onions and peel. Slice onions lengthwise1 into small (1/4-1/2” wide) slices.

Heat oil and butter in large heavy dutch oven2 on medium until butter melts. Add onions to pot and stir to coat onions with oil/butter3. The onions will probably fill the pot to the top.

Cook on medium, stirring gently every 5 minutes, for 15-20 minutes. The onions will reduce in volume very quickly. When onions are translucent, sprinkle one teaspoon of salt over the onions; stir, then repeat with second teaspoon of salt and stir.

Continue to cook over medium or medium low4, stirring every 5-10 minutes until all of the liquid is evaporated. This may take an hour or a bit more. Use spoon/spatula5 to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot when stirring.

When the liquid is almost gone, reduce the heat. Continue to cook, stirring every 2-3 minutes, until onions reach the desired level of golden-brown deliciousness. It is important to watch the onions and stir frequently as you reach the end.

You can add a splash of wine or balsamic vinegar near the very end to add a bit of flavor and deglaze the pot. I’m sure I will try wine sometime because I love using wine in cooking but you may have deduced by now that I like these ridiculously delicious sweeties straight up.
1 I have no idea why cutting the onions length-wise is important, but every single recipe/video/guide I saw online (much research went into the production of these onions) specifically said to cut length-wise. Maybe next time I’ll cut them cross-wise. Yeah, that’s right, I get crazy like that.

2 I used my fabulous ceramic-coated cast iron dutch oven. Directions I read online said to use a large, heavy skillet with a large surface area. That would probably reduce the cooking time because the liquid would evaporate faster, but I love the results I got with the dutch oven and the ceramic coating is almost non-stick.

3 I added the onions in stages so stirring was easier.

4 You want more than a calm simmer, less than a full-on boil.

5 I used a wooden spatula for the whole process – it worked great.

The whole reason I spent two hours of my Sunday cooking onions is because I wanted to include them in my idea for breakfast pizza. I’ve been on a homemade pizza kick lately, sparked by this pizza crust recipe, so I've been googling and Pinterest searching all things pizza and somewhere along the line I came across recipes for breakfast pizza. Which compelled me to seek out interesting toppings, which led me to the caramelized onions.

After the onions were perfectly cooked, I baked them in a pizza topped with:

“sauce” made of cream cheese mixed with Rotel
caramelized onions (I probably don’t have to tell you that it was very, very hard to go easy on the onions)
cooked mild sausage
a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese
one egg

Ignore the odd shape of my pizza. Ignore the off-center placement of the egg. This pizza was tasty!

Now...how many places can I use caramelized onions??

What’s the tastiest dish you have created lately?