I read somewhere and some while ago that an onion is at the heart of every good meal even a salad I would say. They are cheap, flavourful, and versatile and without them a lot of meals would be, well, flavourless. Think curry, what would that be like without an onion or six making the basic sauce or a crispy topping.
Onions are always cooked in some kind of fat – vegetable, sunflower, olive, ghee, bacon lardons and I always add a pinch of salt at the start of the cooking process as this draws the liquid out of them. And it takes time; you cannot rush cooking onions unless you want them burnt and crispy.
On this occasion I am looking for a slow cook until they are soft and glowing slightly golden around the edges as I am making a basic curry sauce.
Anyhow, if you want to sweat them then cook on a fairly high-ish heat so that they start to ‘sweat’ but not brown. Keep the pan covered but check and stir them frequently.
To cook until translucent sweat then continue cooking until they lose their opacity. Keep stirring, you don’t want to turn them brown. If you want them golden or brown then keep cooking for a few minutes longer, they will turn golden and eventually deepen into brown.
And if you want the Nirvana of the onion world then caramelise them. You need a lot of onions and time; this is how I do them. First up slice the onions from top to base endeavouring to keep them uniformly sliced at ¼ inch / 6mm otherwise they will not cook evenly. It is important to slice them lengthwise as it releases more of the onion’s natural sugars.
Heat a suitably sized non-stick frying pan over medium-low flame then add a good glug of olive oil and a big knob of butter. The pan needs to be wide enough that your onions are not piled up otherwise they’ll steam instead of caramelising.
Add the onions and shake the pan making sure everything gets a little covering of fat. Let the onions cook through so that they release their sugars and start to brown then stir and continue cooking.
Don’t stir too often and cook slowly… and yes you must keep an eye on them, it helps if you have a cold beer and music in the background. This can take up to one hour but it is worth it.
When done deglaze the pan with a little white wine which will add even more flavour to the onions.
Keep the onions in your fridge in an airtight glass jar, they’ll last a week or more but if you are like me then they’ll last a few days at most.