Friday, August 31, 2012

Caramelized Onions

I love caramelized onions. They are a great addition to family meals because they can be served on the side, jazzing up something that's designed for younger palates. I never used to make them, because, frankly, they take forever, to be done properly, and this is not in keeping with the 20-40 minute chunks of free time I seem to have in the post-school, pre-bedtime environment.

To make matters worse, lots of cookbooks and recipes pretend that the time to make caramelized onions can be simply wished away. As a recent article in Slate ranted:
There is no other word for it. Onions do not caramelize in five or 10 minutes. They never have, they never will—yet recipe writers have never stopped pretending that they will. I went on Twitter and said so, rudely, using CAPS LOCK. A chorus of frustrated cooks responded in kind.
About a year ago, I discovered a recipe on Serious Eats to speed up the process with a little sugar and baking soda. I've used it many times, and, for me, it's been largely foolproof. Today, the selfsame site has a method for doing it without the "cheats" of baking soda and added sugar, but I'm going to stick with what works for me.

The Gs requested pizza tonight, and I'm glad to oblige. I've made pizza dough many times in the past, but it's never been better than the dough balls in the freezer at the supermarket, so I generally use them. I just divide the ball and roll them out into personal size pizzas and top with the items of each person's choosing. Tonight it's italian sausage, caramelized onions and green pepper for me, same for Worldwide (hold the sausage); straight cheese for the OG and a BG experiment with pineapple and vegetarian bacon. All topped with a 10-minute tomato sauce that I make by sauteeing a little onion and garlic in a 1/4 cup of olive oil, adding a can of diced tomatoes, a little oregano, red pepper, salt and pepper and simmering (maybe a squeeze of lemon or a spoon of sugar at the end, to taste) and then pureeing. Doing our own thing, family style!

Quick Caramelized Onions
2 teaspoons sugar
3 large yellow onions, finely diced (about 1 quart)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water

Heat sugar in a 12-inch stainless-steel skillet over medium-high heat until completely melted and light brown, about 3 minutes. Immediately add onions and stir with wooden spoon to coat onions in sugar. Add butter, baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds black pepper. Toss to combine. Cook, shaking pan occasionally until onions release all their liquid and brown coating builds up on bottom of pan, 6 to 8 minutes.

Add 2 tablespoons water shake pan while scraping with wooden spoon to deglaze brown bits from bottom of pan. Continue cooking, shaking occasionally until coating begins to build up again, 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat deglazing and cooking steps three more times until all water is used up and onions are deep brown. Transfer to medium mixing bowl and allow to rest at room temperature for 5 minutes.


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