If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’d start to get the idea that patience is a virtue I just don’t have. Truth is, I just don’t have patience when I’m hungry. I’ll spend hours cooking something if I’ve mentally and physically prepared myself for it. If I haven’t, that’s when I look for shortcuts…and snacks.
Caramelized onions, however, don’t have any shortcuts. Oh sure, you can get some tasty soft onions in a lot less time, but to get this marmalade texture and complex taste, you will let them cook for four hours and you will like it.
I took the advice of Russ Parsons and spent the good part of a Saturday transforming crisp, pungent onions into a sweet and savory paste. The reward goes a long way. Caramelized onions are great on steaks, and they make some of the best sandwiches. (I happened to have La Brea Bakery bread and smoked gouda that same week, and oh wow, did I lunch like a queen for a few days.)
Day to day, onions aren’t too glamorous. But give them four hours to get ready, and they can be downright elegant.
Original recipe from the Los Angeles Times (If you do this on a day you’re not really doing anything else, it’s not as tedious as it sounds.)
- 5 pounds brown onions (about 6 large)
- 1/2 cup oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
Cut off the stem and root ends of the onions, then halve them lengthwise and peel away the dried brown skin. Cut the onions lengthwise into one-fourth inch thick slices. (I enjoyed the knife practice.) As you finish, gather the onions in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
When all of the onions have been sliced, pour over the oil and the salt and stir to combine. Set over medium heat and cover. Cook until the onions begin to wilt, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to keep from sticking. (I kept setting a phone alarm so I wouldn’t forget.)
After 20 to 30 minutes, the onions will be quite soft and they will begin to stick to the bottom. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking with the pot covered, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to keep from sticking.
After 45 to 50 minutes, the onions will be silky and will be swimming in moisture. Remove the lid and increase the heat back to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, until the moisture has mostly evaporated and the onions have begun to turn golden, about 25 to 30 more minutes.
Once again, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions really begin to brown more deeply, about 2 more hours (this will make 2 1/2 to 3 hours total).
At this point, you’ll need to watch the onions very carefully, stirring every couple of minutes or so. Cook until the onions have been reduced to a deep, reddish-brown marmalade, watching that they do not dry out, about 1 more hour, making 3 to 4 hours total.