How to Make Carmelized Onions

Barilla Plus PastaOnions, like some other vegetables such as carrots, have a lot of sugar in them. This isn’t to mean they’re sweet like a candy bar, it isn’t the same type of sugar. These are complex sugars.

When you take a vegetable with complex sugars and expose it to heat those sugars carmelize. This makes them taste really really good.

Now, if you put uncooked onions on anything I eat, anything, I’ll pick around them. Why people like them I could never fathom. However when you cook the onions all the bitterness evaporates and they become very good. So, if you’re like me and dislike onions when they’re raw, don’t assume you’ll dislike this recipe as well. Give it a try.

That all being said, I always buy sweet vidalia onions (or spanish onions, or yellow onions). Red onions don’t carmelize like I want them too, and white ones just don’t seem as sweet. I also buy the big ones you pick out individually, not the little ones in the bags.

Figure on one of those large onions for every 2 people if you’re using these onions as a topping for a meat of some sort. Cut it up however you like, if you want a finely chopped topping, finely chop it, if you want larger rings, leave larger rings. I personally cut the onions in half, then I cut again every quarter inch or so, and finally cut them in half.

Put the onions in a pan with enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan (oil goes a long way, try spreading what you have by moving the pan around before adding more). Never go over medium heat. I like to start at medium to get the ball rolling but then I turn it back to a more manageable medium-low. You don’t want the onions to burn or saute, this really is just a sweat. Gentle heat to get the water out.

Also helping to remove water is salt. Through osmosis when you put salt on something it draws out moisture (concentrating flavors). Always, always, always, sprinkle salt on a vegetable you’re sweating or sauteing. Meats as well normally unless they’re cured meats (already salted, such as ham). If I had to estimate I would say it is 1 teaspoon of salt for each onion, but I only ever just sprinkle the salt with a salt shaker over the pan, I never measure it. Pretend you’re spreading grass seed and just try for even coverage.

It will take 30 minutes or more, with somewhat frequent stirring, but eventually the onions will have shrunk and be a nice golden brown color. They are then done. Put them on a burger, a steak, a braut, or just eat them (I eat the leftovers just plain). You can also save them in the fridge for a couple days.

Neat trick, if you’re making a meat loaf or meat balls you normally add onions, try carmelizing them first if you have time, it’ll add more flavor.

For a good recipe using this technique try this one, I’ve found it to be suprisingly good. In my preperation I do not use olives or capers, and I throw in a dash of basalmic vinegar. If making it as a main dish instead of a side I add some chopped up lean cured turkey sausage to punch up the protein.

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