Making Cooking Easier and Tastier -- Caramelized Onions

There are certain basic foods that I keep in my freezer at all times to build quicker (but still homemade) meals with.  I always have a few jars of homemade stock.  I always have a basic herby tomato sauce.  I always have cookie dough balls that can be baked off 3 or 4 at a time.  Once a month or so (whenever I have time) I set aside one weekend day to cook all these things up.  I’m always grateful later!

 

Onions before cooking - look how many there are!

Onions before cooking - look how many there are!

My favorite thing to keep on hand by far is a big container of caramelized onions.  I live by a deep abiding rule that adding caramelized onions will make most foods better.  Not only that, but if you serve a dish with deeply caramelized onions in it to guests, man oh man, they will think you are FANCY.  They will also likely think you spent a lot more time cooking for them than you actually did, so now you are both Fancy and A Dedicated Friend.

 

I used to freeze the caramelized onions in ice cube trays before popping them out and sealing them into a freezer bag.  I have since realized that it’s such a pain to wash and twist things free from those trays!  Just freeze tablespoon sized dollops on a large plate until solid, then transfer them into the freezer bag.  Plates are dishwasher safe my friend, and there is no wrestling involved.  They do end up looking remarkably like little cookie dough balls though, so make sure you label.

Shrunken onions before they start to take on color

Shrunken onions before they start to take on color

Caramelized onions are great on pizza, added to frittatas or tossed into pasta.  But I’m going to tell you my favorite way of eating caramelized onions, the way I eat them right after I’ve turned off the stove flame and they’re still gooey (don’t fool yourself into thinking I’m testing them, I know they’re delicious already, I just want to eat them). 

 

Get a nice piece of toast.  Smear on some ricotta.  Now smear some onions on top of that.  Now try not to eat 3 more of these and move on with your life.

 

When I make caramelized onions I always do 7-10 of them at a time because...why not?  I know they’ll get used and if I’m spending this much time on something it had better have a lot of payoff.  There are a million sites on the internet who will give you painstaking instructions on how to caramelize onions, but I’m just going to give it to you straight.

Caramelized onions - ooey, gooey perfection

Caramelized onions - ooey, gooey perfection

Slice a bunch of onions thinly in half moons.  Heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil on a low heat in a large heavy bottomed pot (or even better, do half olive oil and half butter).  Add in the onions and salt them.  Stir it all up and cover, coming back to the onions to stir every 10 minutes or so.  After about 30 minutes, go ahead and take the cover off and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often.  Keep doing this for as long as it takes to get to your desired shade of golden (I usually let them go for 2 hours total) and until the liquid has been cooked off.  I usually get bored after an hour and a half and raise the temperature a smidgen, but if you do this you MUST keep a better watch on your pot as the liquid on the bottom will burn shockingly fast when encouraged. 

 

Does that sound complicated?  Let me be even briefer.

 

Fry up some onions at a really low heat for a really long time.  Eat them when you like how they look.  You can’t mess this up.

 

An Ode to Boxed Wine

Can we take a minute to talk seriously about boxed wine?

I have no particular love for Clif Wine - someone brought it to my birthday party, though, and I love free things!

I have no particular love for Clif Wine - someone brought it to my birthday party, though, and I love free things!

I’m not exactly a wine snob.  I live in the Bay Area in California, so I’m surrounded by a lot of very good wine.  I can appreciate it, but I’m going to be honest -- most of the time I don’t think I can tell the difference between a $15 bottle of wine and a $50 bottle of wine.  As a result, the wine I drink is usually around $9 and I can buy it at the Walgreen’s down the street.  Don’t judge.

Anyways, I don’t believe my wine pedigree is good enough to really judge wine, but there has been a lot of talk recently about the growing trend of boxed wine.  I can’t say either way whether or not there are any good, drinkable boxed wines out there (though I lean towards thinking there are) but I have found a great reason to buy boxed wine on the regular: for cooking!

Boxed wine is sealed completely differently than bottles of wine, and as a result an open box of wine can last up to a month in your refrigerator!  This is fantastic for me, as so many great recipes call for just a cup or less of white wine at a time (my own lentil soup recipe is a wonderful example of this).  I have never had trouble finishing a bottle of red wine, but white wine just isn’t my thing.  If I only used a cup of it...well, the rest of the bottle used to go to waste.  Now, I can always keep it on hand without worrying about it becoming oxidized!

Thank you, boxed wine!