We know, we know. You’re busy. You’re impatient. You’re rushing cuz you’ve got places to go, people to see, babies to kiss. And you’re thinking you can’t possibly afford to spend an hour of your life waiting for onions to caramelize. We think you can. Taste a spoonful of this and then tell us it ain’t worth it.–Renee Schettler Rossi
LC Caramelized Onions On Demand? Not! Note
What do you think of when you think of caramelized onions? Please don’t let it be those barely wilted onions that you tossed in a pan 20 minutes ago and consider done. Just to clarify, those are perfectly fine as sautéed onions, but they’re a pathetic substitute for the complex sweetness of properly caramelized onions, which require something along the lines of 60 or more minutes over a delicate flame. What’s that? You want caramelized onions on demand? Why didn’t you say so sooner? The trick is to caramelize a batch of onions when you’re in the kitchen anyways so that it’s no big whoop to stay close to the stovetop and show the slowly wilting alliums some love by stirring them on occasion. Say, perhaps, a random Tuesday night while you’re making dinner. Or a Sunday morning while you’re flipping flapjacks. Then cram the caramelized onions in a jar or other resealable container, stash them in the fridge, and you’ve got magic waiting to happen. Slather them on a sandwich. Strew them on savory tarts. Toss them with pasta and blue cheese. Or sneak them onto breakfast pizzas. You won’t be sorry.
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 1 H, 25 M
- Makes about 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- 4 medium or 3 large onions, halved and sliced as thinly as possible
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)
- 1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, tossing and stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until softened. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for another 50 to 60 minutes, or until the onions are completely soft and caramelized. They will look dark brown and mushy.
- 2. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the salt, pepper, and thyme, if using, and stir well. Go ahead and use your caramelized onions immediately or stash them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Recipe Testers Reviews
Here is a great use of +/- 60 minutes. Even if the end result wasn’t magnificent, there is the 60 minutes of deliciously fragrant onions all through the house. But the end result is magnificent. Because I was making these for a dish I felt would be plenty salty, I did not salt at the end, though I did pepper generously. If I had been smarter, I would have made a double batch, one for the recipe I was working on, and one to stash in the fridge for later. As for timing, my onions were well softened after the full 20 minutes, and, even on low took just 45 more minutes to become dark brown and mushy. I probably futzed with the onions more than necessary during the hour, but there is still plenty of time to keep these going while attending to something else, or to relax for an hour while allowing the onions to take their time browning and softening. They never even had a moment to cool before I used them in another recipe. If I didn’t have a plan for them, I would salt and also use the optional fresh thyme.
Low and slow. That's the sorta flame you need when coaxing out the complex sweetness of caramelized onions. Not this 20 minutes business. (I once got into a heated argument with a colleague at a newspaper about what exactly constituted properly caramelized onions. Unsatisfied with our stalemate, I ran to my rolodex of chefs and he ran to his, and the duel was on. Needless to say, no chef in his or her right mind would agree that 20 minutes was sufficient.) This technique and timing nails it.