I’ve always been fascinated by the process of slow cooking. Yes, of course I’m intrigued by the deep, intense flavor that low heat and prolonged timing creates within foods. But I’m equally intrigued by the level of patience that chefs have when cooking things like pot roast and smoked meats. How can they be so good about waiting for their food to cook?!
Enter: caramelized onions. I’ve always loved these little jewel-like, sweet morsels that are stuffed in specialty paninis, nestled atop risottos and sprinkled on top of coal-fired pizzas.
I’ve been wanting to make these from scratch for a very long time but, needless to say, my impatience would never let me finish a good batch of caramelized onions. I would often look up tips and tricks to shorten the process and even resorted to using balsamic vinegar one time, only to end up with crunchy onions with a tangy aftertaste.
One Sunday night, as my boyfriend and I wandered through the supermarket aisles thinking of what to make for dinner, we thought about baking some flatbreads. While thinking about toppings I already had at home, the onions came to mind and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to caramelize them.
So I decided to be patient, for once, and try to actually caramelize these babies up for the first time in my new kitchen. I thought, “what better way to break in my stainless steel pan than caramelized onions?”
The good and bad thing about caramelized onions is that you can customize them depending on how light or dark you want them. Why it’s good – because customization, yay! But, why is it “bad”? If you crave those super dark, decadent onions, then you’ll have to be on onion watch for 40+ minutes. But it’s worth it, I promise!
We wanted the onions to be extra dark and sweet so we waited for about 45 minutes. The end result was spectacular! We roasted some mushrooms to give our flatbreads ~variety~ and grabbed a few leaves from our little basil plant to shred on top. The final touches were a drizzle of truffle oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese for a super gourmet Sunday night while we continued a weekend Netflix binge.
So, what’s the trick? There are a few, actually. First, make sure you use a stainless steel or cast iron pan. These are the best for making sure the burned bits, or fond, are perfectly integrated into your onions. Next, use the largest pan you have. Seriously. We used half of a huge onion in the largest pan I own and I was worried they would be overcrowded. The problem with overcrowding is that the onions steam instead of caramelize. Finally, keep stirring! About every 2-5 minutes, we would stir the onions. This assures that they are all evenly cooked and steadily turn nice and brown, aka caramelize!
And a final tip I’ll share with you is to store your caramelized onions in a glass container – assuming you have leftovers! I suggest glass containers because, when it comes time to clean it, you won’t have to worry about the onion smell lingering on the containers. Yes, I know caramelized onions smell delicious but you’ll reconsider when you want to store cake or cookies in the same container 🙂
I really didn’t think I could be patient enough to make caramelized onions but, like they say, good things come to those who wait.
Side note – we loved these onions so much that the next week, we made a lighter batch to top grilled cheeseburgers. Three cheers for customization!
- 1/2 large onion, chopped lengthwise
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter (I used Kerrygold... because it's the best)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 cup of chicken stock
- Salt, to taste
- Heat your largest skillet, either stainless steel or cast iron, to medium heat.
- Melt the butter and add the olive oil.
- Cook the onions in the pan, stirring every five minutes or so.
- The onions will begin to brown at around the 20 minute mark. However, the longer you leave them cooking, the darker and sweeter they will turn.
- Once they turn the color you desire, pour the chicken stock in the pan.
- Deglaze the pan by scraping the burned bits, or fond, with a wooden spatula.
- Add salt to taste.
- Serve immediately or wait a few minutes - they will turn jammy!