Food: onion goodness

April 14, 2008 rooroo

I love onions. Well, I lie, I love onions cooked in a particular way (I’ll be writing about caramelising them). For me, they summarise two pleasant memories shaping my way into adulthood…

1) The smell of onions and garlic softening in a very large silver cooking pot where my grandmother would be preparing a tomato based sauce, either for bolognese or a pizza sauce. The familiar inviting sweet smell is part of the scent of home and deeply comforting on days where it’s imperative to dive under the duvet for a few hours.

2) The scent of onions cooking on a dodgy street hot-dog stand. I think I have conditioned myself to salivate when I walk past. The combination of a cold (usually wet) night out, the weird buzz on the street of people impatiently waiting for night buses and alcohol fuelling the stagger home; nothing quite beats that smell of those onion slices that have been fried in oil for goodness knows how many hours.

Of course, there are other sensory experiences to behold. The sound of the sizzling, the texture but most of all, the taste! Sweet onion gravy with sausage and mash (for a great sausage and mash experience, check out the S&M cafe) or caramelised onion with roasted garlic, mashed up on some warm brown bread and butter; comfort on a plate.

So onto the cooking process, and my favourite way of cooking onions is to caramelise them. It requires a lot of patience but in the long term, it’s utterly worth it for a soft, golden, sweet onion. Recipes will vary, but this is how I do it.

Prepare by putting a pan onto the stove at the lowest heat possible. Add some olive oil (I find 2tbsps enough) and slice the onion.

Add the onion and add a teaspoon of salt. It can be table salt or Maldon etc, it has never altered the outcome either way.

At this stage, this is how they’ll look. They’ll need to cook s..l..o..w..l..y for about an hour. I give them a stir in 15 minute intervals.

After an hour, the onions would have softened considerably, there will normally be some fluid at the bottom of the pan, this will evaporate later and they won’t have too much colour, but will have a translucency about them.

At this stage, I turn the pan up to a medium heat and stir regularly.

This is where they start to take on the characteristic darker colour, and some delicious sticky dark bits will start sticking to the pan. I consider this a bonus, they come off easily after a little deglazing if gravy is being made.

They can be enjoyed in many ways, I prefer them with burgers or in mince if I’m making tacos, but the choice is up to the individual doing the devouring.

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Entry Filed under: food

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