I love carmelized onions, but I really don’t like fixing them. Previous post notwithstanding, they just take too long. It’s true that they’re not hard, just time-consuming, but still. I just don’t like waiting around (for much of anything, really). So when I read this post on how to speed the process up, I was on board!
Serious Eats (the post above) didn’t go into quantity detail, so I’ve been messing around with the recipe over the last few days. If I follow the method below, I can have totally carmelized onions in about 20 minutes, tops!
1 lb onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbs butter
pinch of baking soda (about 1/16 tsp)
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
water, as needed
In a large pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat with the melted butter. Allow to cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the top of the onions and stir again. (The sugar will speed the carmelization process, and the salt will draw the juices out of the onions.) Allow another 5-7 minutes to cook, stirring occasionally.
Sprinkle the baking soda over the top and cook 5-7 more minutes, stirring as needed. This is the part where you have to pay attention to the onions. The baking soda will help the onions break down rapidly. As they cook, they’ll start to brown, especially if you leave them over medium-high heat the whole time (which I do). When you start seeing burn-ish bits on the bottom of the pan, keep stirring. After another minute or two, you’ll see more burn-ish bits. Splash a little water (maybe a Tbs or so) in there and stir vigorously. You’ll notice that the bits will come right off the bottom and the onions will start to get that great golden-brown color. Keep stirring, and any time they look a little burn-y, splash a little more water in there.
When the onions are browned through, and when they’re nice and soft (some would say mushy, but that doesn’t sound tasty, even though IT IS), they’re done!
How did it go?
Honestly, the first couple of times I tried it? NOT WELL. The article linked above states that you can put up to 1/4 tsp of baking soda in a pound of onions before compromising the taste, but holy cow, that was NOT my experience. Even 1/8 tsp seemed like too much baking soda, even when I left out the “regular” salt. And if I used any more sugar than above, the onions tasted less onion-y and more sugar-y. I like my onions to taste like onions, you know? I was also afraid to really leave the onions and let them burn a little, but it turns out that’s exactly what they needed toward the end. (The first time these came out right, I was actually kind of freaked out, thinking I’d ruined them. But no! They were PERFECT. Just be aware of that.)
You can put these in a casserole, over meat or chicken, or even do what I do: empty them into a glass canning jar, allow to cool and stash in the fridge. They’ll keep for up to two weeks – if they last that long! You can use 1 generous Tbs of these onions in any recipe: they’ll replace about 1/3 cup raw onions, and add a really nice depth to the dish.