Dear Cook Smarts,
My cooking is feeling bland and boring. What can I do to add a little flavor that’s quick and doesn’t require investing in a lot of new spices or jarred sauces?
Our simple answer: put some caramel in it. And by that we mean, some caramelized onions. There is a reason why the burgers are your local restaurant are so good – just this minor addition gives whatever you’re eating so much more flavor and texture. When onions are heated with a bit of fat (oil or butter), the water evaporates, the sugars are drawn out, and all you are left with is sweet, buttery goodness. They can be served with almost any meal and will make your weeknight cooking feel incredibly special. As you can see in the photo below, we’ve even mixed it up a bit caramelizing a white onion, a red onion, and fennel.
- Any slab of meat: seared & roasted, grilled, pattied
- Any crunchy vegetable (e.g., brussel sprouts, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, etc) – the buttery textures provides a great contrast, and the richness of the onions enhance the freshness of the vegetables
- Sauted beans (I like garbanzo) with some basic spices, like paprika
- In a grilled cheese sandwich
- Over mashed root vegetables – just imagine mashed potatoes with caramelized onions. I’m sure ready to make some
- On a pizza
Prep (can be done 5 days ahead)
- Onions can be chopped ahead of time and then placed in an airtight container
- Saute and caramelize a few on a Sunday and use throughout the week on anything you’re preparing
- Slice onions as shown below
- Heat up a pan over medium-high heat. Choose one that’s large enough to accomodate the number of onions you’re using
- Add 1 to 2 tbs of oil / butter per onion
- Once the fat has heated up (oil should start shimmering, butter should be melted and starting to bubble)
- Coat the onions in the fat; add 1 tsp of salt / onion and toss around
- Cook for about 15 to 20 minutes until the onions are nice and golden brown
- If the onions are starting to char, add some liquid such as water, broth, or wine. With red onions, I like to add a few drops of balsamic vinegar. It adds some delicious tartness
- Professional chefs will say you need at least 30 to 45 minutes to really caramelize onions. True, but this is definitely good enough for all the non-professionals. After all, we still need a reason to eat out every once in awhile, right?
Homework: Caramelize some onions this week and show us what creative ways you’ve use them and put a photo on our Facebook page. Also, are you liking our photos with instructions. Hit that like button below if you do, so we can make some more of these.