I don't want to say I'm lazy or anything; I prefer to think of myself as practical and efficient.
Yeah, let's go with that.
So even if I really like something that tends to be complicated or take a long time, I will always try to find a way to simplify the process so that I can incorporate it into my regular cooking more easily. Caramelized onions are just such a case.
As the name suggests, caramelized onions are packed with sweetness. When added as an ingredient to a recipe they can add a flavor punch that raises the taste experience of even a mundane dish to a higher plane. Which is why you’ll find them called for in all kinds of recipes, from grilled meats to salads to grilled cheese sandwiches. Caramelizing turns the humble, everyday, yellow onion into a gourmet-level ingredient.
But there’s one problem with them: they take forever to prepare. Yeah, you'll find so-called quick recipes that include caramelized onions as an ingredient, but they always seriously underestimate the time they take to prepare.
There is simply no such thing as a quick recipe using caramelized onions.
Truth be told, it can easily take an hour on the stovetop and almost constant attention besides. You can shorten the time a bit by putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven, as shown in the pictures below, but it still is going to take 45 minutes.
That’s a lot of time to dedicate to one single ingredient in a recipe, particularly when you have to add that cooking time to all the other prep steps
Really, it could not be easier. I put them in with some oil and whatever flavorings I’d like to include, and leave them on high for several hours, either overnight, or all day. Then when I need to use them in my recipes, all I need to do is drain them a little, and they’re ready to add to whatever it is I am making.
So the next time you encounter a recipe that calls for caramelized onions, do just a little advance planning and you can skip the time-consuming, labor-intensive steps involved.
Here’s how to do it:
Makes 2-3 cups
Total Cost – Approximately $1
Prep Time – About 10 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time – 6-8 hours
4 large onions
4-6 tablespoons canola oil, or oil of your choice
¼ cup balsamic or wine vinegar (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar or honey or maple flavored syrup (optional)
Procedure (see photos below):
- Cut the ends off the onions and peel them.
- Cut them in half and lay the flat side down. Cut across the halves to make thin half-moon slices. Or, if you prefer, you can dice the onions. That’s your choice.
- Place the onions into the slow cooker.
- Pour in the oil and mix it well with the onions, coating them well.
- Add the optional vinegar and sugar, honey, or maple flavored syrup and mix everything together well.
- Cover the slow cooker and turn it to high.
- Cook the onions for 6-8 hours, or until they are darkened in color and tender.
- Drain the onions in a colander, reserving the excess liquid, if desired.
- The onions can be used right away in any recipe that calls for them, or refrigerated for several days.