Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Basics: Caramelizing Onions/Shallots

I love Caramelized Onions and Shallots.   I can eat them straight out of the pan, on top of a hamburger, in French onion soup, in a stew or...

Let me just get that out of the way first...

I read a recipe last week online about how you get this incredible browning on an onion in 10 minutes.   I have no idea how they did it. 

Cause I sure can't. 

Caramelizing shallots or onions takes time and patience.

Sorry people, you cannot get caramelized onions or shallots in ten or fifteen minutes.  

It just ain't going to happen.  The whole process of caramelizing an onion or shallot, in this case, is a low and slow process. 

Let me demonstrate, well, let me show you some pictures and tell you the time frame for each picture.  I was taking pictures of the process so I could tell you all about how to make that delicious tart, and then ended up not using a lot of the pictures, cause I thought I had too many pictures in the post already.

Here's my how-to's on the subject.

Now remember this is from the time I finished cutting the shallots, the time I put them in the pan with the coconut oil, and during the cooking process.   It took a good half an hour til I got them to the point where I could put them onto a tart to finish off the caramelization.

This is just after I finished cutting up the Shallots at 1:57 pm.
They were ready for the pan.   

The Shallots in the pan with the Coconut Oil.
1:58 pm.   I had preheated the oil, and yes, that is a lot of oil.  
 This is 7 or so minutes into the cooking process.  The picture was taken at 2:05 pm.   The shallots are getting translucent here. 
 The first signs of browning are starting at 2:13 pm.   I don't mess with the process, I might shake the pan or flip the shallots/onions at this point, but honestly, you won't get a good caramelization unless you leave them alone to cook.  Moving them around in the pan is contradictory. 
 Ready to take out of the pan at 2:23 pm.
And this one after I wiped the steam off of the lens of the camera.  

I didn't want the shallots to caramelize all the way as they were going to be topping the tart and would continue to cook.   And even at this point, they tasted so good.

I had to taste test, I am the cook!

One thing I've noticed over the years of doing this, and probably the hundreds of pounds of onions I've done this to.   The more I cry when peeling and chopping the onions, the sweeter the onions are when I'm done.
Cooking the shallots or onions over medium low heat for a long period of time helps the sugars in the onions to caramelize and gives them the deep rich flavour and sweetness.  The sweetness comes from the sulphur compounds breaking down.  The same stuff that makes you cry. 

My personal favourites are yellow onions, they have the most flavour.    White onions are second, red onions third and sweet onions, well, they may be sweet to eat when they're raw, but they don't caramelize well.    And I do love a good dark caramelization.   And as a Dane, we love our frisk stegt løg.  We use them as a topping on a lot of our Smørrebrød, they're really quite good cold.   And fresh out of the pan, well, gee, ummm, that's the best.  
 OK, so I eat them right out of the pan.  Sometimes I even save enough for an onion sandwich later on, or for my burger or as a topping on a rare roast beef smørrebrød .  

Hmmmm, I think I'm getting hungry again.
Sidsel Munkholm - Author
Sidsel Munkholm - Author

Sid loves to cook, feed people and have fun in the kitchen. She shares her successes and the involuntary offerings she sometimes gives the kitchen goddess as well. And she's still looking for the mythical fairy to help her clean the kitchen after a marathon cooking session. Currently working on a cookbook showcasing the recipes from her Danish heritage.

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