Posts Tagged cooking tips

Kitchen Basics: Caramelizing Onions

Sexy Salad 2

Caramelized onions, as seen in the Sexy Salad.

I feel a bit sheepish writing about caramelizing onions, because I’ve only done it a handful of times. But it was so easy and foolproof and delicious that I absolutely must share my onion caramelizing experiences with the world. If I can do it, you can do it too.

A note to nervous newbie chefs: caramelizing onions sounds intimidating, but it’s really not difficult. The most difficult part, for me at least, is being patient. You must allow yourself to step back and let the low heat do its work.

I’ve made caramelized onions with regular old yellow onions and with red onions, and both times they were amazing. I would hazard that any kind of onion – from vidalia to walla walla – is fair game for the caramelizing process.

To begin, peel your onions and slice off the tips. Then slice the onions as thinly as you can. This may require you to resharpen your knife, but it will be worth it.

Next, melt your butter or olive oil in a saute pan over very low heat. I used a nonstick pan for caramelizing onions because I’m a wuss, but this is not absolutely necessary. The most important thing is to keep the heat very, very low – I had my burner on the absolute lowest flame it can produce. Add your fat to the pan (I recommend being generous with the fat – I would use two or three tablespoons of fat to three medium onions) and allow it to gently heat.

When the fat is warm, add your onion slices and a pinch of salt. Then let it hang out for five minutes. Give it a stir – the onions will still look entirely raw at this point. Wait five minutes, and then give it another stir. Continue this process for around an hour, or until the onions reach your desired consistency. This can be quite a long time – one person on the Chowhound forums cooked her onions for two hours!

If it seems that your onions are beginning to stick, deglaze the pan with a little water, or a little wine (my preference). If they are looking really brown near the end of the hour, stir them a little more vigorously – every two or three minutes – to keep them from burning.

Patience really is key to caramelized onions. You cannot freak out if your onions still look raw after 15 minutes of cooking. You cannot turn up the heat. You simply have to let them chill out and do their thing.

But your patience will be rewarded, because caramelized onions have a deep, sweet, earthy flavor that is a perfect pairing to salads, sandwiches, or meat. If you are making them for guests, they will be amazed at your cooking prowess – you will have changed plain old onions into something truly divine.

For a recipe using caramelized onions, check out this sexy salad.


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Thanksgiving Hotlines To The Rescue!

Phone courtesy of
tj scenes on flickr.

I’m sure that some of you have started preparing the great Thanksgiving meal today – either that, or you’re en route home to help someone else prepare it. Wonktheplank and I are already back in Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, and today my mother and I are going to be making pies; she’ll be making the apple, and I’ll be tackling the pumpkin.

If you’re at all nervous about the task ahead of you, you’re in luck – corporate America has come to the rescue! Big companies have set up a series of Thanksgiving hotlines that offer advice to panicked cooks about everything from turkey to soggy pie crusts. Below is my compilation of hotlines that you can reach out to in the midst of a cooking crisis.

Thanksgiving Hotlines:

Butterball Turkey Talk-Line®
Tips on all things turkey.
Phone: 1-800-Butterball.

The Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Hotline
Martha Stewart is here to answer all your Thanksgiving questions.
Phone: 866-675-6675 between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET.

King Arther Flour Baker’s Hotline
King Arther Flour produces excellent, high quality flour, and I expect that this hotline will offer similarly high-quality baking advice.
Phone: (802) 649-3717.

Crisco® Pie Hotline
This one is kind of cool, even though I would never make a pie crust with all Crisco (but a couple tablespoons mixed in with the butter are excellent for creating a crisp, flaky texture). Call the Crisco® Pie Hotline with all your pie questions.
Phone: (877) FOR-PIE-TIPS.

OceanSpray Consumer Hotline
Is making cranberry sauce all that hard? You just put your cranberries, sugar and other seasonings into a pot and let them all cook away. Still, if you encounter any cranberry conundrums, the OceanSpray Consumer Hotline is here to help.
Phone: (800) 662-3263 (toll free). Weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST.

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