Onions are funny, aren’t they? When on one hand they make you cry, on the other their innate sweetness makes you go WOW! When as a 9-10 year old I wouldn’t get off my mum’s back and follow her around the kitchen like a stubborn puppy, she would give me a few onions and would ask me to peel, chop, mince and grind them. She knew that the juices from the onions will make me give up and if that doesn’t do the trick the tiring job of chopping and mincing would wear me off. Well, that worked for a few days but I was stubborn and determined and that helped me learn how to cook ground onions with masala to make a curry paste and also to caramelize onions. Some really simple things to do around the kitchen but if not done right can leave you, well, with a stinking mouth!
Today I want to share one such very simple but important technique. How to caramelize onions. Onions are naturally sweet so when you cook them slowly over low heat, the sugar in them comes out and caramelizes them giving them a nice sweet and slightly nutty flavor which works amazingly well with sweet as well as savory dishes. Here’s how you do it:
Onions (sliced) I used 2 medium sized or approximately 3 cups for this recipe.
2-3 Tablespoon Oil (any lighter kind is fine. I used canola) Unsalted butter or olive oil also work great and give the onions a slightly distinct flavor.
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or red wine (optional) to deglaze the pan and add some extra flavor
Heat a oil or melt butter in a large thick bottom pan (preferably not a non-stick pan) over medium heat. Add sliced onion. Stir well to coat the onion with oil/butter. Turn the heat to medium low and let the onion cook slowly, stirring occasionally (only once in 10-15 minutes). You want the onion to brown slowly over low heat, that will help the sugar in the onion caramelize. Scrape and turn the onion once in a while making sure its browning slowly but not burning.
After about 20 minutes add sugar and salt. Continue cooking.
Once the onion is cooked and turned golden (approx. 35-40 mins) with some brownings stuck to the bottom of the pan, its time to either turn of the heat or deglaze the pan. Add balsamic vinegar or wine to the bottom of the pan. Scrape the sides and bottom. Mix everything well together. Turn off the heat and remove from the stove. Use as your recipe asks for. Works great on tarts, pizzas, biryani or even add extra sugar and make onion jams.