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Caramelized onions


Mudpuppie
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6 hours ago, lindag said:

 

But your IP is a crock pot.

Well, yes...sorta. It heats only from the bottom, not from the sides, so the cooking is a bit different. Also, I've read where people experience a bit of difficulty in getting the cooking setting (low, normal, high) adjusted to suit them. But mostly, the reason I retired the crock pot is that the IP negates 85 percent or more of the reasons for using it. I might well try the onions in it, though.

 

There are still things I don't want to make in the IP; I made carbonnades a la flamande the other day, and I started them in the Dutch oven on top of the stove before moving them to the oven for a low, slow four-hour braise. Some things are just better cooked that way.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

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45 minutes ago, kayb said:

There are still things I don't want to make in the IP; I made carbonnades a la flamande the other day, and I started them in the Dutch oven on top of the stove before moving them to the oven for a low, slow four-hour braise. Some things are just better cooked that way.

Indubitably!   Life itself is a series of compromises. :D 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

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I haven't done the crockpot method yet. Maybe one of these days.

 

For me, it's 2-3 thinly sliced onions and 3-4 tbsp. olive oil. That's it. Warm olive oil in a pan, add onions, reduce heat to medium-low and fry until onions are caramelized to your liking.

 

27356272_1776760645708011_6392092512333954337_o.thumb.jpg.c1c8612ca6fadd3dc232c774f12cdbb1.jpg


These took nearly an hour. There might have been some rosemary mixed in; I don't remember.

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  • 2 years later...

Cooked down a few kg of onions. The tray started full to the brim and ended up in two smallish jars. I salted them and stored in the fridge, with the goal of taking a few spoonfuls as a quick flavor boost when a dish can benefit from some Maillard & caramel flavors.

 

 

PXL_20201206_220424205.jpg

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2 hours ago, shain said:

Cooked down a few kg of onions.

We really, really need more details! They look quite remarkable. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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1 hour ago, Anna N said:

We really, really need more details! They look quite remarkable. 

 

4kg chopped onions, 3 tbsp oil. Baked in 160dC for a few good hours, scrapping and mixing every so often. Ended up being slightly less than 1 kg.

Added 2 or 3 tbsp brown sugar and 5 tbsp salt to reduce the water activity and help them keep longer.

Also topped each jar with a bit of vodka to reduce mold growth until it's opened (a useful trick for many kinds of fridge preserves).

 

They taste just like deeply caramelized onion, without the butter taste I associate with them (I almost always caramelize with butter, even in recpies that traditionally use oil). They are a bit firmer than those made in a pan, probably because I didn't deglaze in the process. Quite tasty, before I added additional salt as a preservative. I intended to use them in cooked dishes, but I think they can be used anywhere the salt won't be an issue - e.g. add butter and they're instant pierogies sauce.

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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56 minutes ago, shain said:

4kg chopped onions, 3 tbsp oil. Baked in 160dC for a few good hours, scrapping and mixing every so often. Ended up being slightly less than 1 kg.

Added 2 or 3 tbsp brown sugar and 5 tbsp salt to reduce the water activity and help them keep longer.

Thank you so much.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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1 hour ago, shain said:

 

4kg chopped onions, 3 tbsp oil. Baked in 160dC for a few good hours, scrapping and mixing every so often. Ended up being slightly less than 1 kg.

Added 2 or 3 tbsp brown sugar and 5 tbsp salt to reduce the water activity and help them keep longer.

Also topped each jar with a bit of vodka to reduce mold growth until it's opened (a useful trick for many kinds of fridge preserves).

 

They taste just like deeply caramelized onion, without the butter taste I associate with them (I almost always caramelize with butter, even in recpies that traditionally use oil). They are a bit firmer than those made in a pan, probably because I didn't deglaze in the process. Quite tasty, before I added additional salt as a preservative. I intended to use them in cooked dishes, but I think they can be used anywhere the salt won't be an issue - e.g. add butter and they're instant pierogies sauce.

Very interesting trick with the vodka.  I have done similar things with vinegar.  Never thought of vodka...

 

 

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Has anybody experimented with slicing the onions with the grain vs. against the grain? (Alongside the axis or across the axis?) I always slice perpendicular to the axis. According to this YouTuber (CookinginRussia), when making French onion soup, you're supposed to slice alongside the axis. He says that if you slice across the axis, you'll get a harsher taste b/c you've broken up more of the cells.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, MokaPot said:

Has anybody experimented with slicing the onions with the grain vs. against the grain? (Alongside the axis or across the axis?)

I have sliced onions for making caramelized onions both ways but have never done a side-by-side comparison with the same batch of onions, cooked in the same way. 

In This Will Make It Taste Good, Vivian Howard's recipe for caramelized onions specifies cutting the onions in half through their stem ends, then slicing the onions thinly, "from root to stem rather than cutting the onion across its belly," and says, "This is actually important because slicing it the other way makes the path to silky onions a longer one."  Seems to me that if they are cut thinly, it shouldn't make a ton of difference in cook time. With all the stirring, the segments separate pretty well either way.

In a couple of recipes, Deborah Madison says to cut them cross-wise, into rings or to first quarter them and then slice cross-wise.

A Serious Eats article that considers a lot of variables doesn't say boo about the slicing orientation, though the accompanying photo shows them cut root to stem.

 

 

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14 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

In This Will Make It Taste Good, Vivian Howard's recipe for caramelized onions specifies cutting the onions in half through their stem ends, then slicing the onions thinly, "from root to stem rather than cutting the onion across its belly,"

 

I'm with VH. I believe the pieces are of more uniform size that way.

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3 hours ago, blue_dolphin said:

I have sliced onions for making caramelized onions both ways but have never done a side-by-side comparison with the same batch of onions, cooked in the same way. 

In This Will Make It Taste Good, Vivian Howard's recipe for caramelized onions specifies cutting the onions in half through their stem ends, then slicing the onions thinly, "from root to stem rather than cutting the onion across its belly," and says, "This is actually important because slicing it the other way makes the path to silky onions a longer one."  Seems to me that if they are cut thinly, it shouldn't make a ton of difference in cook time. With all the stirring, the segments separate pretty well either way.

In a couple of recipes, Deborah Madison says to cut them cross-wise, into rings or to first quarter them and then slice cross-wise.

A Serious Eats article that considers a lot of variables doesn't say boo about the slicing orientation, though the accompanying photo shows them cut root to stem.

 

 

 

Next time, I'll slice root to stem. My across the belly onions already taste good. But maybe root to stem will, at the very least, speed up the process (path).

 

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I've mentioned making caramelized onions in the oven before and promised @Anna N to share my method.  @shain nudged me in that direction with his post earlier.  

On one hand, they are certainly caramelized onions, but with the addition of sage and balsamic vinegar, they may not be everyone's caramelized onions.

 

I riff off a recipe in Deborah Madison's Savory Way for Roasted Onions with Sage which shares similarities to what @shain does.  It calls for:

2 lbs red or yellow onions, cut into rounds ~ 1/2 inch (I usually go with ~ 1/4" slices and halve or quarter the onions before slicing to avoid long stringy bits.  

salt  (I usually go with a generous pinch, < 1t)

2-4 T olive oil

a dozen fresh sage leaves (or a lot more, depending...)

1 t ground pepper

2 T balsamic vinegar (@shain uses some brown sugar which I imagine would have a similar effect on browning)

 

Everything gets tossed together, then Madison roasts the onions @ 375°F, covered for ~ 30 min and then for an additional 30 min or more 

I tend to give them 45 min - an hour covered and another hour or more uncovered, stirring every 15 min or so. 

 

Here are today's onions ready for the oven:

IMG_3424.thumb.jpeg.683eb9fbca0726062e67394b1451d69c.jpeg

 

After ~ 1 hr covered and ready to go back into the oven uncovered:

IMG_3429.thumb.jpeg.1a459e331775e8d934a42e2585ec81c0.jpeg

 

After 15 min, uncovered.  

IMG_3431.thumb.jpeg.9c1698774cba3572795588a29006c759.jpeg

 

Below is about an hour later (1 hr covered, 1 hr 15 min uncovered) and they would be nice roasted onions at this point

IMG_3433.thumb.jpeg.541bf5286803f93f77f63c5aadb76ada.jpeg

 

About 45 minutes after the photo above (1 hr covered, 2 hrs uncovered)

IMG_3435.thumb.jpeg.3c8d36a36dad9bd1639266b9b207a3bd.jpeg

 

And where I stopped, half an hour later (1 hr covered, 2.5 hrs uncovered).  For a truly caramelized onion, I'd have let them go further, but I wanted something in between roasted and completely caramelized. 

IMG_3438.thumb.jpeg.6342b769dccd5418e770c5535b7e2354.jpeg

 

I started with ~ 4 lbs of yellow onions and ended up with around a pound, an amount that fit handily in a 1 qt zip-lock. 

These make delicious crostini, topped with shaved Parmesan.  I also like them tossed with roasted cauliflower and parsley, with or without pasta and/or garbanzo beans.

 

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4 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

I've mentioned making caramelized onions in the oven before and promised @Anna N to share my method.

Two things that stood out to me about your method:

Your cooking vessel — ceramic rather than metal? 

The much larger chunks of onion? 
I suspect these two things keep the onions from burning while allowing them the necessary length of time to properly caramelize. 
 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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1 minute ago, Anna N said:

Two things that stood out to me about your method:

Your cooking vessel — ceramic rather than metal? 

The much larger chunks of onion? 
I suspect these two things keep the onions from burning while allowing them the necessary length of time to properly caramelize. 
 

 

I suspect both of those things help.  I think the challenge of using an oven is uneven browning and part of that is likely due to less frequent stirring. 

Most of my baking dishes are either glass or ceramic and I suspect that helps.   And the larger pieces of onion can end up with browned edges here and there without turning entirely into crispy critters so you're right that helps, too.

 

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@blue_dolphin looks great, cauliflower, chickpeas and pasta are all right up my alley.

Clever trick with the lid going on and off, I assume that's done for deglazing by steam.

 

I'm actually adding the sugar after baking, doin so earlier might retain moisture, while adding it later reduce water activity. My goal is preservation rather than added browning.

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7 minutes ago, shain said:

 

I'm actually adding the sugar after baking, doin so earlier might retain moisture, while adding it later reduce water activity. My goal is preservation rather than added browning.

Ah, I missed that about the sugar. My onions are certainly on the juicy side and I keep them in the freezer, they're not low moisture preservation candidates!

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Does anybody else feel like it's possible to go too far with this, at least for some uses? I diced some onions, got 'em cooking in a little olive oil and butter and dropped the heat way down. They cooked at that low heat for about an hour (maybe a little more, wasn't precisely watching the clock) with occasional stirring. They were a really nice color and texture but after tasting, I was worried they'd got a little too sweet. They were for a batch of onion dip the kid requested and, as I suspected, the dip turned out almost unpleasantly sweet. The sweet is almost entirely up-front, after that initial "wow, that's sweet" it settles down and isn't bad at all. But you get that hit of sweet with every new bite so it's a persistent almost unpleasantness. 

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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12 minutes ago, Tri2Cook said:

Does anybody else feel like it's possible to go too far with this, at least for some uses?

I am glad that you raised this issue. I have on occasion felt that you can go too low and too slow in the caramelization process and that the end product is both too sweet and too lacking in any kind of pleasant texture. I think there must be a sweet spot and I think it is very difficult to determine when or what that is.

 

I particularly dislike onions “caramelized” in the slow cooker. “Soft” and “brown” does not in my mind equal caramelized.  Not even sure I could define what I mean. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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12 minutes ago, Tri2Cook said:

Does anybody else feel like it's possible to go too far with this, at least for some uses?

 

I dunno if it's taking the caramelization step too far or using too much of the onions but I found the dip using them in Vivian Howard's recent book to be unpleasantly sweet, in much the way that you describe.   It calls for 2/3 cup of caramelized onions to make 2 cups of dip.  Given my 4 lbs of onions reduced to 1.5 cups, that's a lot.  At first, I blamed the sweetness on the balsamic vinegar that Vivian adds to the onions (along with garlic and Worcestershire) before adding them to the dip.  So I made it again, using sherry vinegar instead because I've used that in other dip recipes.  Still too sweet.  

I could try again and just dial back the onions but I'm not sure it's worth the effort. 

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