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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Caramelizing: The Difference between Heaven and Simply Sauteed

Today, my friends, I'm going to teach you a simple cooking technique that makes a big (B-I-G) difference in flavor: Caramelizing Onions.

Caramelized onions lend a sweet, jam-like onion flavor to dishes. You wouldn't want to use them in everything, of course, because there are times when the sharp bite and crunch of a fresh onion is what the doctor ordered.

But trust me. You want to know how to caramelize onions because you will want to eat them again and again.

First, pour some olive oil in a pan and heat over medium. The exact amount varies with the number of onions you're using - here I've used about 3 tablespoons.

Cooking is both a precise science and an art. Learn to live in the tension.

Chop your onions. I did three medium-large yellow onions.

Add your onions to the warm oil and cook for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add salt. Again, the exact amount varies. I put in a little less than 1 teaspoon.

Optional: Add a little sugar (I used less than 1/2 teaspoon). The onions will get sweet and cook down on their own, but a little sugar speeds the process along.

Some purists will say you are cheating doing this. Let them live on their high horses while I'm cleaning the kitchen because my onions finished cooking before theirs did.

Optional but smart: Add a little water to keep your onions nice and tender while cooking. I added right around 1 ounce.

Cook, cook, cook, stirring infrequently. This is how your onions will look after about 15 minutes of total cooking time.

Keep cooking. Keep stirring infrequently. This is how they look after about 30 minutes. Do.Not.Panic. This isn't an all-day task!

And brought to you through the magic of scrolling your screen...caramelized onions! Your onions will be done in about 45 minutes, but it might take a little longer. The secret is that they should look like the color in the photo below - nice and golden brown, tender and moist.

Now use them! On hamburgers, on sandwiches, in quiche, on toast, on steak...wait, that's tomorrow on the blog.

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