Crazy For Caramelized Onions

I’m crazy over caramelized onions.

I was recently watching a cooking show and they made something with caramelized onions. I don’t even remember what the recipe was. All I can recall is that suddenly I had a big hankering for those rich, delicious, umami, sweet and salty onions. So, without a specific dish in mind, I decided to whip up a huge batch.

One of the best things is that caramelized onions add a depth of flavor to anything. Onions are also cheap and your guests or family will appreciate that you have raised your cooking game. You’ll look like a top chef.

Since making my caramelized onions I have used them in all sorts of dishes, from soup to dips to sandwiches to side dishes.

My favorite thing that I made this week was a caramelized onion dip. Everyone has a comfort food or a guilty pleasure. Mine has long been a decidedly non-foodie treat of ridged potato chips (they must be Ruffles) and onion dip. You know, just the plain old kind of dip that mom used to make for parties in the swinging 70’s. Mom made it with Lipton onion soup mix and sour cream and I loved it. It’s my secret (okay not any more) snack when I’m home alone and watching any bad Hollywood awards show in my PJ’s.

The big batch of caramelized onions inspired me to take my favorite guilty/comfort food to a new level. So, I whipped up  a caramelized onion dip. I didn’t follow a recipe – just went on instinct – and it was so simple. It tasted similar, but so much better than making it from the package (which is mostly salt and processed stuff anyway).

Here’s how I made the dip.

Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe

Caramelized Onion Dip Recipe

  • A couple of heaping tablespoons of caramelized onions (completely cooled)
  • Mix onions with  8 ounces of sour cream
  • Add 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • Let the mixture sit in the fridge for 2 hours so all the flavors can marry together

It could not have been easier. It was as like a fancied-up version my child favorite. I will definitely make this next week for guests coming for the holidays. I might even try adding a few other ingredients (maybe roasted garlic, cheese, bacon?) and serving it warm.

I also used the caramelized onions as a spread on a turkey sandwich this week. Delish!!  And I needed a quick weeknight meal, so chicken apple sausages with a heap of reheated caramelized onions was fast, easy and so tasty.

I also put them into a hearty kale salad I made for lunch. You could put them on a burger or use them as a base to make your own version of a French onion soup. I’m thinking they might also be pretty tasty with eggs or in a quiche (which is a great item to have an hand for unexpected guests for Christmas morning). You could also use them as a spread on crostini for appetizers.Or throw them into with some bow tie pasta or serve them with crispy roasted potatoes. Put them on a made pizza or flatbread.The possibilities are endless.

Caramelized onions will keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for at least week. You can also freeze them in smaller portion-sized amounts so that you can grab what you need for a sauce or a sandwich topping when you need it.

So, break out the onion goggles and get cooking!

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Here’s how to properly caramelize onions.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes

Quantities depend on how much caramelized onions you wish to make. 5 large raw onions yielded about 2 cups caramelized onions.

Ingredients

  • Several medium or large onions, yellow, white, or red
  • Olive oil
  • Butter (optional)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar (optional)
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)

The Onions

Any onion will caramelize. Yellow onions tend caramelize the most readily and be the most versatile in dishes. Red onions are fun for their deep purple color and are great on pizzas and salads. But you can use any onions or a mix of them. Cut the onions in quarters and then slice.

The Skillet

Use a stainless steel or cast iron skillet when caramelizing onions. What makes these onions so special is the fond that builds up on the bottom of the pan – scraping this up and stirring it into the onions gives them an even richer flavor –  and this fond won’t develop in a nonstick skillet.

The Cooking

Don’t rush. This will take about 45 minutes to develop the deep, rich flavor.

Put the onions into a hot skillet with a mixture of olive oil and little butter (about one tablespoon per onion).  Don’t over crowd the pan or the onions won’t brown (about 5 onions in a large cast iron skillet is about right). Then add a little salt and pepper. I sometimes add a sprinkle of sugar to help with the caramelization process.

Once the onions are going, check on them every 5 or 10 minutes to give them a stir and see how things are progressing. Scrape up the sticky fond that builds up on the bottom of the pan and stir it into the onions. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep them cooking at a steady pace, but avoid burning. After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may want to lower the stove temperature a little, and add a couple more drops of  oil, if you find the onions are verging on burning. When the entire pan is of onions is soft, brown and delicious (you should definitely taste test), you are almost finished.

The Fond

As the onions cook and release steam, some of their sugars get transferred to the bottom of the pan. It may look like the onions are burning, but they are not. As the brown bits (the fond) form on the bottom of the pan, keep scraping them into the mixture. When the onions are almost done, you can deglaze the pan with a little water, broth, wine, or balsamic vinegar. Stir the entire pan and let the onions absorb the liquid for about 2 minutes.

Enjoy!!

How To Properly Caramelize Onions

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