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Sunday, 28 April 2013

French Style Caramelized Onions


I was reading, yet another, recipe that called for caramelized onions and said it would take 10 mins. to make them.  IT CANNOT BE DONE!  In 10 mins. you can make fried onions, delicious to be sure, but they are not caramelized.  Julia Child would be rolling over in her grave if she read that recipe!

Caramelized onions are a more delicate flavour and are the basis of authentic French onion soup.  They still taste great on a burger or Philly steak and will store for ages.  To caramelize the way Julia taught us, you are going to have to invest a little time and effort.  In fact, it's going to take 40 mins. to make these lovelies, so make extra and have them on hand!

To make a pint of onions, I need 8 cups or 2-3 lbs. of onions.  Lovin' my Perfecto scale! ~


Peel the skin from the onions and chop in strips.  Don't worry about removing the root end.  It will soften nicely in the process. I tried adding red onions this time and honestly don't think it made any difference to the final taste, so go with the cheaper cooking ones. ~


In a heavy bottom pot or frying pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil.  Olive oil is usually used but I substituted coconut oil because I'm trying to get more of it in my diet.  On medium, heat the oil until your see a shimmer rising from the pan.  ~


Add the onions to the hot oils and give them a good stir to coat. ~


Keep stirring the onions for 10 mins.  They will become translucent and a milk will develop as the juices are released. ~


Turn the heat up to medium high and add 1/2 tsp. of salt and 1/2 tsp. of sugar.  I used brown sugar and sea salt but whatever you have will do.  It's just enough to enhance the sweetness of the natural sugars in the onions. Stir for 25 - 30 mins.~


You are dealing with fairly high heat at this point and want to keep stirring so nothing sticks.  After 15 mins. the onions will look like this. ~


At this point, caramelizing begins to happen.  The onions begin to darken and bits of caramel stick to the bottom of the pan.  If it looks like your onions are scorching, you can add tiny bits of water to the pan.

After 30 mins. of stirring, the onions will look like this. ~


We're still not done!  All kinds of delicious bits are stuck to the bottom of the pan and we want to deglaze it to get all those bits in our mixture.

Remove the onions and add liquid to the pan.  I find booze works best.  Pick your poison and have at it!  Beer or wine work great but I didn't have any on hand, so I went with a fine Ontario whisky. ~


Just keep splashing some in (the pot, not you) and stir your little heart out, scraping up the browned bits, until it's all loosened and forms a light sauce.  You are keeping the heat up at medium high here.~


Add the onions back into the deglazed pan and stir to coat.

That's it.

The good news is, these keep for ages in the fridge and freeze well.  I sterilize jars and fill them with caramelized onions.  Put the jars in a boiling water bath for 5 mins. and they will keep for six months on the shelf. Doing a large batch at fall harvest is a great way to preserve onions and have a gourmet treat.  It's a perfect base for French onion soup.  Add some chicken stock and it's done!

Julia Child would be proud of us! ~


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