Caramelised onions. Rich, sweet, buttery and soft. Their flavour intensified with a hint of acid from the addition of red wine or balsamic vinegar. I could eat them by the spoonful. Fabulous on their own they also pack an incredible flavour punch to any meal.
Marry them with a sharp creamy goats cheese and crisp tart shell for an elegant hors d’oeuvre. Or pile them onto bruschetta for a more robust and rustic starter. Other ideas? A delicious relish for sandwiches. An addition to a winter salad. A topping for pizza, flatbread and tarts. They are the basis for that gorgeous French classic pissaldiere. To my mind caramelised onions have unlimited uses and are an undisputed pantry essential in my kitchen.
Its wet and rainy today. The perfect opportunity to prepare a big, luscious batch. Their aroma fills the house. Warm and inviting. We’re having good old sausages and mash for dinner. Fancied up a little with the addition of those caramelised onions to the gravy.
This pantry essential is so very easy to make at home. All that is required is a little slow cooking of the onions in a heavy based pan to caramelise their natural sugars. I like to add a little brown sugar and red wine vinegar into the pot once the onions are sticky and brown to intensify the flavours and help the process along. I also find it is easiest to make a big batch. The onions are less likely to burn and I am rewarded with a much larger yield for just a little more investment in time. Once cool I pile any surplus into sterilised jars. They will keep for about three weeks in the refrigerator but sadly never seem to hang around that long.
This post is focussing not on sausages and mash but my pantry staple – the caramelised onions. I can tell you, however, that for a decadent mashed potato recipe I will be looking no further than Stephane’s excellent post The most perfect of all comfort foods – Le plat le plus réconfortant qui soit… over at My French Heaven. That’s the recipe I will be using tonight and I have referenced it here for safekeeping. Caramelised onions and mashed potatoes all on one plate. That is my idea of the ultimate comfort food. Who needs the sausages? Probably my children but I certainly don’t.
The entire process will take 30-45 minutes. Continue cooking over a low heat until the onions have reached the colour, flavour and texture you want.
Makes about two cups
2 kg brown onions
100g unsalted butter
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
a sprig or two of thyme
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
SLICE brown onions thinly by hand or in a food processor.
MELT butter with a dash of olive oil on medium heat in a large heavy based saucepan.
ADD the onions and toss for a minute or so to coat in butter.
TURN down the heat to low, add the thyme and a pinch of salt. Stir periodically with a wooden spoon, allowing the onions to darken, but not burn. It’s perfectly acceptable if the onions catch a little on the bottom of the pan. This helps the colour develop.
WHEN nicely brown add the brown sugar and cook for 10 minutes. Deglaze with red wine vinegar.
USE immediately, or store in the fridge, in a sterilised jar, and use as required.