How do you caramelize an onion?
Choose Your Onion
First choose firm onions, with a good thick, glossy skin. Once the onions have lost layers of skin they begin to lose flavor. The slightly flattened onions are supposed to have a more intense flavor. Consider different varieties of onions for different flavors and intensities.
Red Onions: are sweet enough to eat raw but are delicious grilled or lightly sauteed. Caramelization of these is also possible, although they do lose color.
Yellow Onions : In my opinion these are the best onions for caramelizing. They are yellow because they have more sulfur in them and this also gives them a more complex flavor than red or white onions. Caramelization just enhanced these flavors.
White Onions: Cleaner and tangier than yellow onions, best for Hispanic dishes and more delicate flavored dishes.
Sweet Onion: These would include; Vidalia, Walla Walla, Sweet Imperial, Texas Spring Sweet, Texas 1015Y, Carzalia Sweet, Oso Sweet, Arizona, Granex, and Maui. These are mild onions best suited for being sliced on sandwiches and eaten raw in salads and such. These are the worst for caramelizing because while they have a high sugar content they have a delicate flavor that is easily overwhelmed.
Cippolini Onion - small flattened onion imported from Italy. Caramelize these whole for a fabulous addition to vegetable dishes.
Caramelizing Onions in the Crock-pot
I like cooking ahead and storing food so that I can create a recipe at a moment's notice. By using a slow cooker, or a crock-pot, you can caramelize alot of onions from your garden or the farmer's market all at once and freeze them for future use.
I have read some sources that advise to NEVER freeze onions but I have never had a problem. If in doubt, make a small amount and test freeze them.
Prepare your onions by peeling and slicing (or leaving whole, as in the case of pearl onions or Cippolini).
Drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bottom of the crock-pot. Add onions and then drizzle a bit more oil on the onion. Set the crock-pot to low and cook for approximately 12 hours, checking occasionally after 8 hours or so to make sure that they are cooking and not drying out or burning.
Once they are done let them cool and freeze them in recipe sized portions in freezer bags or freezer containers.
Carmelized Onion, Potato & Chicken Gratin
3 lbs potatoes- I prefer the red skinned ones for this
2 cups caramelized onions
2 tbs butter
1/2 lb Gruyere, emmental, or swiss cheese grated
1 1/3 c heavy cream
1 1/2 lbs cooked chicken (boned and cut in smallish pieces). (I usually poach mine for this dish, so I can have the broth for soup but sauteeing is fine)
Simmer the potatoes until tender. Drain (keep the potato water for bread-making..it is wonderful!) Mix the potatoes and the onions, and season to taste. Arrange half in a layer in 2 buttered 13 x9 casseroles. sprinkle with half the cheese, and then arrange the chicken over the cheese. Place the rest of the potato onion mixture over the chicken. Pour the cream over and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Dot with butter. Bake uncovered at 400 for 30 minutes or until cream thickens. Remove from oven and broil until the top is golden and bubbly 2 or 3 minutes.
Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Fontina Pizza
I originally found this in Bon Appetit Magazine years ago and adapted it to our tastes.
2 large uncooked pizza dough rounds fitted into pans.
1/2 stick unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups caramelized onions
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried chipotle (optional)
Melt butter with oil in an heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté 4 minutes. Add wine and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add onions, chipotle and rosemary; season with salt and pepper.
Position rack in bottom third of oven. Preheat oven to 500°F at least 30 minutes before baking. Place pizza crust on pizza pan and sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese. Scatter onions over cheese. Scatter mushrooms over onions. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake until crust is deep brown, about 6 minutes longer. Using large spatula, carefully transfer pizzas to cutting board. Let rest 1 minute. Slice into wedges.
This should make 2 pizzas