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.)
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.