Getting the juices flowing

Do you ever get in the mood to cook but don’t know what to make so you waffle all over the place, flipping and clicking your way through cookbooks and internet, totally wasting time and accomplishing nothing? I get in those moods a lot, and when I do, then I know it’s time to caramelize some onions.

It really is the best method for getting myself out of the I-want-to-cook-but-I-don’t-know-what-to-make funk. The prep time is quick, the cook time is slow, and the rich smells get your brain juices to flowing and unstick your culinary stuckness.

Even if you don’t need caramelized onions, do it anyway. I learned from Nigella Lawson that you can freeze caramelized onions (she says they make a “gorgeous mush” and suggests freezing them in ice cube trays, but I put mine in little plastic containers instead) and then you have the rich, sweet onions on hand to add to any sauce or soup. (I used a container of frozen mushy onions in a ham and sausage quiche the other night and it elevated the simple pie most divinely.)

Caramelized Onions

Clunk your biggest cast-iron skillet onto the stove and turn the burner to medium-high. Pour in a couple glugs of olive oil (or use several generous pats of butter, instead).

Moving quickly, peel three or four onions and roughly chop them up—you can even leave them in rings, if you so please.

Scrape the onion pieces into the hot oil, sprinkle them with salt, and give them a stir. Once the onions are thoroughly browned (about ten to fifteen minutes), turn the heat down to medium-low and stir them occasionally. They’ll probably be done after about 30-45 minutes.

Divide the onions into little containers to freeze, or use immediately to flavor some savory dish.


  • Jennifer Jo

    Well hello there, Bess!

    Answer 1: I think I’ve heard that if you put a crust of bread in with the brown sugar that that somehow softens the sugar, but I could be wrong on that. If it does, by chance, work, I would have no idea how or why.

    Response: Why thank you! I liked sitting beside you, too!

    Answer 2: Absolutely! But I must admit to being a bit flummoxed by your generous, but odd, offer. See, in my world almost no one offers to help with the garden, least of all the people who directly benefit from it (that means that sometimes I have to whap my hubby upside the head with the shovel to get him moving in the right direction), so you can imagine that I’m both delighted and puzzled. But yes, yes, you may help!

  • Anonymous

    question: is there a way to un-harden brown sugar?
    statement: i love your blog and it was nice sitting by you in sunday school. generally speaking, i like what you have to say.
    question 2: could i come and help you someday with the prep of your garden?

  • Anonymous

    google BALSAMIC VINEGAR CARMELIZED ONIONS. you can serve them as a condiment with veggies or classically with a roast or grilled steak or even with pasta.

  • Anonymous

    Carmalized onions don’t hardly stand a chance of getting frozen in my kitchen. I make them, eat them, pick at the leftovers, and force myself to put some in the refrigerator for my ever main stay for lunch: quesadillas

  • 40winkzzz

    Re your first question, “Do you ever get in the mood to cook?”: my answer is, “Rarely.” Oh, wait, that wasn’t the end of your sentence.

    RYC- OK, one computer, so I bet it’s a laptop and you blog from various places? That *could* account for the myriad of IP numbers, but I’m no expert on that sort of thing, so I don’t know. All I know is that most of the time, comments from the same person come from the same IP address (my blog is set up to log them), but your comments came from four different IPs.

    What *is* an IP? Um… it’s a way of identifying a computer or a network? I checked with my good friends at Wikipedia, who said, “An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a numerical identification (logical address) that is assigned to devices participating in a computer network utilizing the Internet Protocol for communication between its nodes.” Isn’t *that* clear as mud?

    Webopedia, on the other hand, defines IP as “an identifier for a computer or device on a TCP/IP network” and goes on to explain that it is “a 32-bit numeric address written as four numbers separated by periods. Each number can be zero to 255. For example, could be an IP address.”

    Whatev, right? Sounds like a spooky Big Brother thing to me. Not really. Sort of.

  • Anonymous

    My problem most days is I-want-to-cook-but-I-don’t-know-what-to-make-that-my-whole-family-will enjoy. Plenty of foods for the two elder folks in the household, but the two younguns? They definitely wouldn’t go for the caramelized onions. But I do start almost every meal with my nearly ritualized onion chopping. I don’t even cry much any more. Have I mentioned that onions are my favorite vegetable? Maybe even favorite food, if I was forced to choose one over all the many amazing foods in the world. But heaven forbid I should ever have to choose a single favorite food…


    PS – What the kiddos DO like is a day that includes chocolate cake, maple doughnuts, maple (leaf-shaped) candy, maple sugar nuggets. We spent the day at the Highland County (surprise!) Maple Festival. I tossed balanced diet to the wind.

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