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Caramelized Onions

By +Janice D'Agostino on Jun 22, 2012 10:00 AM in Recipes

Happy is said to be the family which can eat onions together. They are, for the time being, separate, from the world, and have a harmony of aspiration. - Charles Dudley Warner, American Journalist, 1829-1900.

Dad arranged an astonishing number of home-grown yellow onion slices on the piece of soft white bread. After careful consideration, he added one more slice of onion. Smiling broadly, he topped the small mountain of onions with a second piece of bread. His favorite of all snacks was complete and he happily took an enormous bite.

We are a family of onion lovers, but Dad is the only one that eats raw onion sandwiches. I prefer onions beautifully caramelized and served with meat, veggies, eggs, rice, or mashed potatoes. 

If you cook at all, you have seen recipes that call for "caramelizing onions in oil for about 12-15 minutes." While this will make them brown tasty, it will not caramelize them. Why not? To answer that, we need just a little science and a few culinary tricks designed to bring out the natural sugars that would otherwise remain within the onion. Caramelizing happens when those sugars are in contact with moderately heated oil for a long enough time. For my friends that love real science, enjoy charts, graphs, and links detailing the specifics of the chemistry, check out this wonderful blog

Oil with a high smoking point will caramelize an alaready sweet onion in about 30 minutes. The traditional and more leisurely way works with any type of onion and allows you to use your choice of olive oil, butter, or a mixture of the two. The little beauties will be done in about 45 minutes to an hour. Quite a time consuming bit of work, but well worth every minute. Caramelized onions freeze very well so go ahead and make them ahead of time.  

You can “caramelize” the onions without fat in a slow cooker. The results are not identical to cooking them in fat, but it's pretty close to the real deal. Slice five sweet onions (such as Vidalia or Super Sweet) and put them in the slow cooker with 1 ½ cups veggie stock. Let the whole thing cook on low at least 12 hours. If they are not beautifully browned at this point, let them cook another three hours.

To make them the old fashioned way, click here: How to Caramelize Onions.

Add your caramelized onions to any of these recipes:

Pasta a al Laura is my take on a delicious recipe from Laura's Best Recipes. I've included a link to Laura's website in case you'd like to try the original! 

Pasta with Bacon, Green Beans, and Caramelized Mushrooms and Onions is heavy veggie and easy to prepare. 

Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Shepherd’s Pie from Vegetarian Times will impress all your vegetarian friends! 

Janice’s Green Beans and Tomatoes with Caramelized Mushrooms is a family favorite.

I made Mushroom Bourguignon one night when I wanted the flavors of Bourguignon, but did not want any meat. This dish is beautiful on its own with a chunk of chewy bread and equally as wonderful as a topping for a grilled steak.

BluejeanSue’s Corn Bacon Caramelized Onion is a fantastic take on an old Mid-West standard. 

This wonderful Caramelized Onion Dip recipe was found right here at Calorie Count using the recipe search bar! 

Galettes are fun to make. This Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette from Calorie Count's many recipes makes terrific use of caramelized onions.  

Your thoughts...

Do you think the flavor is worth the time to caramelize onions instead of just browning them? What fat do you like to use? Have you tried the no-fat method of caramelizing onions? Did they taste the same as the fat saute method? Have you ever had a raw onion sandwich? What is your favorite recipe that includes caramelized onions? Share your with everyone here! If you would like your recipe considered for CC Palate, send it to me via pm. Enjoy your onions, they are good for you! This article may be reprinted (including bio) with prior permission from the author.


I just find that if my food is too flavourfull I just want to eat more

Never thought of caramelizing onions in stock, sounds like a great idea. Being a big caramalized onion fan, that is one thing I miss with my burgers and steak. Definitly on my try list this weekend. I love strong flavours in my food. If I can't have big quantities of food, I make up for it with big flavour.

I've never had a raw onion sandwich and as an onion lover I still think that sounds really potent! lol Laughing  I love caramelized onions though.  My favorite way is with butter (or olive oil) and mushrooms with them....along with a nice juicy steak!!!  Mmmmm!!!  I also like them with italian sausage and some pizza sauce! 

I'm definitely going to have to try out the slow cooker method!  I have never heard of doing it that way before!

Carmelizing them in the crockpot is a fantastic idea! Sounds like the base of a wondeful soup or sidedish.  Thanks!!

If I am cooking something in the oven, such as a roast chicken, I often throw some onions,  skins and all, on the oven shelf alongside the roasting dish.  Serve them as they are, and each person 'unwraps' their own parcel.  They are so unbelievably sweet.  No fat, no effort, all the benefits.  The potatoes go in the oven the same way, but make sure that they have their skins pierced, otherwise they may explode.

I laughed with delight when I read the story of Dad and the onion sandwiches.  My sweet mother, who passed away last fall at the age of 95, used to eat onion sandwiches!  It was probably something they did in the Depression era of the 1930s when they made do with what they had.  Mom's father always had a vegetable garden and they always kept a cow, and that fed the family during the Depression.  I'll bet that even though they considered themselves very poor, they ate a healthier diet than we do today!  Hurray for onions!!

I, too, love the idea of crock pot onions; I've done French onion soup that way, but not just the onions...  When I'm in a hurry, I'll fry the mushrooms with a couple of tablespoons of water, then add a little Worcestershire for the salty flavor.  Have to pay attention, but done in a jiff, and quite tasty!

Well, I don't use anything to Carmelize my onions. Slice them, put them in the pot and then go watch some LMN movie. Suddenly you'll smell them and remember them. Go stir. Repeat. Maybe a couple of times. When the bottom of the pot goes brown, start checking them at every commercial. You'll know when you're done....makes 'em perfect every time!

The easiest fat-free way to caramelize onions is using balsamic vinegar.  Just a splash to sliced onions on medium heat gives you beautifully sweet, dark caramelized onions.

I am such an onion lover I will eat it like an apple, especially right now as the Vidalia are in season...onion bliss!! I adore onion sandwiches, and I too, cook them without fat, using balsamic vinegar. Also, I will just throw them in a saute pan with a little bit of water in the bottom and then keep adding water as it evaporates, stirring often, be careful not to have the heat too hight. Another great way is to marinate thick slices (kept together, not separated like onion rings) with balsamic vinegar, mustard, red pepper flakes, dash salt, dash sugar to cut the acidity and then throw them on the grill. I love the charred taste from the barbeque. 

I also do garlic this way, with balsamic and red pepper, I do a huge batch and then add them to soups, stocks, dressings, eggs, the list is endless!! And they keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

put the whole thing on the bbq paper and all! soo yummy!

It is absolutely worth every second. My grandmother taught me how to do this when I was very young...over 50 years ago. I loved them so much that if I were there when she was making them she always added an extra onion, then piled that onto 2 slices of her good bread to make me a 'fried onion sandwich' as a treat. I loved her SO much, and both she and my other grandmother are the ones who taught me how to cook, and gave me my enduring love of cooking and eating great food. I became a professional chef because of them, even though it was hard for a woman to find work in a commercial kitchen back then. I just refused to give up.

Original Post by: toroneh

I just find that if my food is too flavourfull I just want to eat more

For me, the opposite is true. If something satisfies my palette, I will eat less of it. Actually, I can't bear to eat flavourless foods, but if they are edible but not totally flavourful, I will eat much more in an attempt to satisfy myself.

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