Onions are loaded with sugars, and have the sweetest taste when they have been caramelized. The inherent sweetness of caramelized onions is what makes French Onion Soup so delicious and rich tasting. Other uses of caramelized onions are in French Onion Dips, Roast beef recipes, and in almost any recipe that calls for “cooked onions”. You’ll find that caramelized onions will add a depth of flavor to your recipes that can be achieved by no other means. The process of caramelizing onions is quick, easy, and subtle. It can also be a source of frustration for new cooks. I prefer yellow onions: they are very forgiving. However, try different onion varieties to see what works in your cooking style. Some of these varieties include the whites, the Vidalia, Bermuda, and the Mayan Sweet onions. These varieties have a high sugar content and caramelize easily. White onions have a more subtle character and may have to be handled differently. Common red onions are harsher in taste and texture. Soaking chopped or sliced red onions in cool water for 20 minutes or so may moderate their harsh taste. You’ll have to experiment to find out what works for you and your recipes.
1 large yellow onion, sliced into rings about ¼ inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
White cane sugar
Heat butter in a 5 qt. Dutch oven over medium heat until no longer foaming.
Stir in the salt.
The first step is adding not just butter but also salt to the pot, and waiting until the ingredients begin to “sing.” You can hurry the caramelization along by adding a little sugar. But don’t add too much. A light dusting may be all you need.
Only after the butter and salt begin to “sing”, can you add your sliced onions. After a few seconds, the onions should start to “sing” in the pot, too.
Now comes the hard part: Waiting. You will be tempted to stir the onions, but resist that urge!
Leave the onions alone!
You want to wait until the bottom of the pan looks slightly browned. Only then you can begin to stir your onions.
As the onions begin to brown, stir-cook them every few minutes. But don’t overdo it!
As they caramelize, the onions will become translucent, soft, and turn a deep brown color. Because of their inherently high sugar content, the onions are prone to burning at this point. Watch carefully and remove the onions from the heat if they begin to show any signs of burning. Burnt onions can be very bitter!
Remove the caramelized onions from the heat and fold in seasoning as you may desire: flakey sea salt, freshly ground white pepper.