Caramelizing Onions is a wonderful way to bring out the natural sweetness that is locked inside these lovely vegetables. Any type of onion can be caramelized, but depending on the sugar content different onions will achieve caramelization faster. Once caramelized, onions are a great addition to soups, sandwiches, steaks, pizza or as a garnish to other vegetables.
To caramelize an onion we will use the following:
1 Medium Onion
3 TBLS Olive Oil or Butter
A pinch Salt
A pinch Black Pepper (optional)
A pinch Sugar, white or brown (optional)
A large skillet or saucepan
1. To start cut the top off of the onion. Cut the onion in half vertically from top to bottom and peel each half.
2. Place the onion flat side down on a clean, flat cutting board. Slice the onion into half-rings, not worrying about the size. The main difference in the thickness of the slices is that thinner slices will cook faster.
3. Place the skillet or saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat and add the olive oil or butter. Olive oil will be better because butter tends to burn. If you prefer the taste that butter lends to the onions simply add a little olive oil or vegetable oil to the pan first to prevent the butter from burning. It is best to use a skillet or saucepan rather than a narrower pot because they allow faster evaporation of liquid.
4. You will want to add the onions after the oil begins to ripple in the pan. Stir the onions to ensure and even coating.
5. If you add the salt to the pan now it will help bring out the flavor of the onions and will speed up the caramelization process by drawing moisture out of the onions which will then be able to evaporate. You can also add a pinch of pepper and sugar if wanted at this time. The sugar will simply add some additional sweetness to the onions.
6. Continue to stir the onions. After one to two minutes the onions should begin to turn darker in color and might begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Both of these are OK, and this is what should be happening.
7. As you continue stirring the onions should become darker in color. If the onions begin sticking to much you can add a little wine, broth, or water to the pan to loosen them up. By “deglazing” the onions this way you can add additional flavor from the wine or broth without worrying about the water which will evaporate right away.
8. Continue cooking and deglazing as needed until the onions reach the desired texture, consistency, color, and flavor you need for you dish.
Now that you are finished use your caramelized onions in a soup, on a sandwich, over meats, in a gravy, or as garnish to other vegetables. Of course depending on how much you actually need more or less onion can be used.
If you have extra you can store the caramelized onions in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or a few months in the freezer.