Onions often provide the missing element to many dishes that seem to be lacking something, and even a tablespoon of chopped onion can transform everything from potato salad to pasta sauce. But when do onions really have their moment? Here caramelized in a heavy pot, left to ooze their own sugars until they create their own sauce. It might just be kitchen alchemy at its finest. All it takes is butter and time.
In the spring or summer, you might find “fresh eating onions.” These tend to be attached to their greens and are sometimes small and sold as “babies.” They aren’t cured for storage, so treat them like any fresh vegetable, storing them in the fridge in plastic and eating them within two weeks. These fresh onions are incredibly juicy, great raw, and ideal for the grill. And caramelized, they’re outrageously delicious. That said, you can caramelize any onion white, yellow, fresh, cured, or anything in between. Just keep in mind that the moisture content will dictate the time it takes to really get those onions caramelized. A regular stored onion might get there in 25 minutes, but a juicy, fresh eating onion will take upward of 60 minutes.
This recipe makes a lot, because if I’m going to put all that time into slicing and cooking, I want to have a solid container of onions to show for it. They’re good in the fridge for about 5 days, and I recommend freezing them in ½-cup portions. They defrost as good as new, and then you have a shortcut for Caramelized Onion Dip or Pissaladièr.
- Yield: 2 ½ cups
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds onions, halved and thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Heat the butter and the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the butter melts, stir in the onions and salt. Cover the pot and cook, setting your timer to stir every 10 minutes, until the onions turn gold and the bottom of the pan is coated with a brown crust. (If the onions begin to burn at any point, reduce the heat to medium-low.) This will take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the moisture content of the onions.
- When the onions are ready, use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring to integrate the bits into the onions. Keep the pot uncovered, cooking and scraping until the onions are a deep golden brown, another 2 to 3 minutes.