Recently I was shopping at the Mercantile in Fossil and in the produce aisle was a cook’s bounty; a basket heaped with attractive sweet onions. A hand-written sign said “organic locally grown”. Wow! These onions had varying sizes, shapes, and colors and were more interesting to me than the “regular” yellow onions sitting on a nearby shelf. Those onions had been graded for size and appearance and had an orderly look, but were uninspiring. The organic onions stood out, as if they had vibrant personalities and even notoriety. They seemed to say “Look at me, I’m sooooo special”. Lured in, I bought five pounds and started my walk home.
As I walked, I remembered my caramelized onion recipe and wondered why I had not made it in quite some time. This condiment gives food remarkable zing. A boring baked potato, scrambled egg, burrito, or sandwich suddenly becomes a delicious special occasion treat, as if the fare was made by a five star chef who just happened to drop by. They are ridiculously easy to make, too.
A caramelized onion differs from a sautéed onion because caramelized onions cook very, very slowly, and deep, rich, sweet flavor develops as the natural sugar in them reduces down. The result is an intense, savory condiment that keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge. You will love having these on hand to transform your meals into gourmet treats. You can make these with any amount of sweet or yellow onions. I like to cook six or seven at a time. There really isn’t a recipe – just a list of ingredients and a cooking procedure. And don’t let the simplicity fool you; simplicity is enormously powerful.
Medium or large onions
Butter or butter and extra virgin olive oil; one generous teaspoon per onion
Salt (I like to use sea salt or kosher)
Slice the onions about ¼ inch thick. Heat the butter/oil in a skillet until bubbling; add the onions, sprinkle the salt, and stir to coat. Cook for thirty minutes to an hour on low heat. When they start sticking to the pan, let them brown a little and then stir. The trick is to leave them alone enough to brown. If you stir them too often they won’t brown and not often enough, they will burn. Add more oil/butter if the onions seem on the verge of burning. At the end, you can add some balsamic vinegar; I like to add thyme as well.
Yesterday I bought some more of those onions. They not only taste fabulous, they sparkle. Food has not only taste, but “feel” too. I can definitely feel that vibe, as if they absorbed the tender care of the farmer. Caramelized onions make anything taste better!