Wednesday, July 31, 2013

oven caramelized onions

Usually, I caramelize my onions the long way (the normal way) taking almost an hour over the stovetop, stirring carefully as things get browned and crispy. Last time I made a caramelized onion and mushroom casserole, though, I just couldn't fathom the idea of spending an hour in sweltering heat over the stove on top of the rest of the work I needed to do.

I'd had enough. Last time I made these, though, Morgan gave me several suggestions that there might be some shortcuts available. I checked out the links she gave me and became determined that I would find a caramelizing onions method that worked comfortably for my needs. In light of the fact that recipes for which I caramelize onions tend to require lots of pots and pans I became determined to find a way that worked in the oven.

Technically these take longer than a traditional method of caramelizing the onions but most of the time is hands off. Turn the oven on high, chuck them in, and just check in on them every half hour or so. Which makes them a perfect choice for a slow afternoon, or for preparing the day before. These keep really well in the fridge for a day or two, and if they're just a component in a dish that's how I use this recipe. It also makes it somewhat of a breeze to caramelize large amounts of onion all at once ... and now that I've got that nifty mandolin it's even easier because most of the chopping is done for me.

This method yields lovely, mushy deep brown caramelized onions with just minimal effort. It's my new go to, at least on cool days.

Ingredients
  • 8 medium yellow onions, sliced
  • cooking spray
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • water, probably about a cup
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400*.
  2. Take a large cooking dish, either a dutch oven or a 9x13 baking dish (I've used both with equal success) and liberally apply cooking spray. Spread your onions evenly about the dish and sprinkle with salt. Pop the onions into the oven.
  3. After 30 minutes, remove the dish from the oven and stir the onions. At this point they are going to be very unevenly cooked - some bits may look burnt, some will look barely translucent. That's ok. Stir them up and pop them back in the oven. Regular stirring and a long cooking time will even everything out.
  4. Cook the onions for another half an hour, then remove, stir and pop them back in the oven.
  5. Once the onions have been in the oven for 1 1/2 hours total, remove and stir once more. At this point there will be browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Grab your water, and taking about 1/4 cup deglaze the pan, getting all the little bits to release from the bottom and dissolve into the onion mixture. The water will evaporate very quickly, probably before the onions are even back in the oven, but it will release the yumminess from the bottom.
  6. Put the onions back in the oven for another 30 minutes to 1 hour, stopping to stir and deglaze every 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. The onions are done when they have shrunk to about a third of the original volume, are evenly soft and have a nice deep brown colour all around.
  8. Serve as is. Alternately, use in a caramelized onion dish or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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