Thursday, July 9, 2015

Let's Caramelize Onions!

I admit, caramelized onions don't sound terribly appealing.  Probably because onions are juicy and pungent and a bit spicy.  And it's hard to get past the word caramelized without seeing the word caramel, which brings a sweet, brown candy or sauce to mind.  Hard to put those two things together, I grant you.

In the culinary world, caramelizing is a process to bring forth the natural sugars found in most fruits, vegetables, and meats.  It's what happens when you cook a hamburger or a steak - why the red meat turns brown.  It's why bread browns when it's baking.  And it's why onions get delicious.

A note: Chop more onions than you think you'll need.  They'll reduce and cook down quite a bit, and you'll look at the amount and think: but I cut so much more than that! Yeah, you did, but still.

I julienned my onions for this process, but really any way will work, as long as it's fairly thin. A mandoline is a great tool for this, as you'll get consistency.

This was seconds after I'd dumped my yellow Vidalias into a medium-heat cast-iron skillet.  Cast-iron is not a must, but I prefer it.  There's about two tablespoons of butter all melty underneath the onions.

Here's the onions at the half-hour mark.  Notice the change in color...there's a lot of action going on in those first thirty minutes.  I stirred the onions about every so often, and I added a bit of water once to lift the browned bits up.  I wanted to see how dark these could get, so I left them in, but they're certainly delicious at this stage.  A little salt and pepper would not go remiss at this stage either...and because I had it, neither would a dash of Herbes de Provence.  C'est Français!

There.  I pulled them off the heat fifteen minutes later when I decided I'd caramelized enough. As you can see, they've cooked down quite a bit...I mean, remember what the pan looked like 45 minutes ago?  There's a few onions getting quite dark, near burned, even though I'd turned the heat down to a practical simmer.

However, all's well that ends well.  These were so good!  They work excellently as a burger topper, but I did them on a grilled cheese sandwich with sauteéd mushrooms, blue cheese crumbles, and Muenster cheese.  Wow.  Rich, savory, umami flavor all over the place.

Huh.  I actually started salivating just now.

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