February 19, 2006


posted originally on nbl. see what you're missing if you don't read it?


one of the most satisfying cooking jobs is sauteing onions. i heard some “yesssss’s!” and also some “wha’s?” there. let me explain – as if you could stop me.

caramelizing onions. it means slowly sauteing onions to the point where they release their natural sugars and take on a nice tan color.

i like to finely chop my onions with a mandoline while heating up the saute pan. a little bit of oil and a liberal amount of butter, and then the onions go into the pan. the butter sizzles a little – not too much if you’ve heated the pan just right – and spreads out into the oil with a satisfying little bit of bubbling. the onions go into the pan. more sizzling. a little bit of kosher salt and pepper. now the fun begins.

the first transformation of the onions is from opaque to “clear.” this happens within a couple of minutes. i love the feel and the sound of my wooden spoon in the pan. if you don’t love this, too, then you probably DON’T love cooking. my theory is that if you love cooking, it’s not just the results you enjoy. it’s the senses that are tickled with each adventure in the kitchen. not just smell and taste. cooking is a very tactile experience. [one of the big things that i lost when m.s. came into my life is my “knife skills.” i was pretty good. i miss that. that’s why i can’t live without the mandoline.] and aural. the onions sizzle and pop. not too much popping, or your heat is too high.

if you’re patient, the big payoff’s coming. the caramelization. when i watch tv chefs, i’m always amazed at how many of them in the hurry to get the dish finished cheat on this step. 9 times out of ten, they don’t do this right. they just brown the onions. caramelization happens much more slowly than “browning.” when you do it right, the onions are thorough cooked, completely limp and at your mercy in the pan. keep cooking (steady. steady.), and they give up. the onions start to LIGHTLY brown, giving up.

you’ve won. you’ve tasted caramelized onions. the best cooks of caramelized onions are cooks who run a grill. they’ve got the space and time to keep a pile of “grilled” onions going, cooking them to perfection to grace your burger, hot dog, meatloaf.

Posted by Stacey at February 19, 2006 04:14 PM