Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cooking Ahead -- Caramelized Onions

Okay, so I usually cook ahead, planning leftovers for other meals, etc., but today I made something that isn't a meal in and of itself.

Inspired by Val's post on Collecting The Moments ... One By One about Mise en Place and Onion Jam I decided to make a batch of Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions. This is something I used to do more often; I think I stopped when I was having difficulties eating onions and never started again once I was able to eat onions again. Which is a shame, because caramelized onions add so much to so many dishes. You can use them as a sauce on sautéed chicken, stir them into a soup, use them to top pizza, etc. Never mind what they do for dishes such as mujadara! Just thinking about it makes me wish I was eating lentils.

I tried to find my recipe and where I got it from, but it seems to have been on of those internet things. I think perhaps original credit might be due to Beth Hensperger, but looking at her recipe it isn't the same as mine.

Anyway, I peel and slice 4 - 5 pounds of onions and put them in the slow cooker. I add one stick of unsalted butter, cubed, and turn the cooker on high. After a couple of hours I give it a stir and turn the heat to low, allowing the onions to caramelize slowly all day. Later, I add salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of sugar, turn the slow cooker back to high, leave the lid ajar, and continue to cook down the onions until most of the liquid evaporates and I am happy with how they look and taste. With patience they develop a deep brown caramel color and an amazing caramelized flavor.

 This is how they start out; look at the deep yellow Kerrygold butter!
This is the finished product. The onions cook down considerably.

Today, inspired by Val, I added a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (because I use twice as many onions as she does) when I added the other seasonings.  So far I like what it is doing for the flavors.

There seems to be some debate on caramelizing onions on the stove versus using the slow cooker. The stove is faster and some think that the initial heat and contact with steel or cast iron adds to the flavor. The slow cooker is easy, takes less hands-on time, and makes it very difficult to burn the onions. I think next time I make them I will use my vintage Farberware Electric Dutch Oven and begin with medium heat before dropping the heat down and using it as a slow cooker. When I do I'll report on my findings here on the blog.

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