I love comfort food. I like that it’s usually simple to prepare, which comes in handy, especially at home where there always seems to be something else requiring my attention. Don’t get me wrong: I love stuff that is finicky and difficult and inevitably involves processes like sous vide or terms like molecular gastronomy, but there is something special about comfort food. I have this kinship with it, and there is nothing quite as delicious, and as soul-satisfying as eating anything that makes you think of words like hearty, and cozy, and cheese. When I go out to eat, I am continually drawn to elevated comfort food. Things like poutine with some duck confit, or blue cheese mac and cheese, or anything foie gras. Or say, a frumpy fish chowder with a lovely fillet of halibut tossed on top, just because (yes I’m talking about you, Chuck Hughes: the year was 2015; it was Le Bremner; you were the maître d’…true story: he was manning the door just like regular folk…but seriously that chowder? The chowder was delicious.)
The point is, food doesn’t have to be difficult in order to be delicious. You can elevate any meal with a few great tricks in your pocket. Yes, have recipes on hand. Buy those beautiful coffee-table-worthy cookbooks. But know that cooking doesn’t always have to involve 75 steps that take three weeks to prepare, and you don’t have to give up or panic when you don’t have all the ingredients you need…unless you’re baking, in which case: panic. Having those recipes to turn to are awesome, and unless you have a rolodex memory are completely necessary. I know, I just said rolodex, and just totally dated myself. Deal with it. But it’s also great to have a bunch of simple recipes lodged in your brain that you can turn to in a pinch. Easy methods that can be used to elevate any meal and take it to the next level of delicious. Like caramelized onions. They are so so SO so easy. It’s almost sinful how easy they are. The only requirement is patience, which, I get, can be in short supply sometimes.
Knowing how to make some lovely, deep, creamy caramelized onions gives you a leg up: think French onion soup, amazing appetizers, killer burger accoutrement. Whip them up and look like a champ at the cottage, while camping, or even on a random Wednesday night. If you were to put a dollop of caramelized onions on a cheese board, I would definitely become your best friend for life and probably start inviting myself over just in case you happened to be making another cheese board at some point, in say, the next 20 years that may feature caramelized onions.
Caramelized onions give the impression of being fancy, when really all they are is time consuming. Not that they’re actually consuming any of your time, they just take time to cook down. I used to be totally enamoured by anyone who could make things like caramelized onions or jam. It seemed so mysterious and I figured probably involved classified initiation rites. But they’re not secret at all! They literally take 3 ingredients. Okay 4 if you count sea salt. And 5 if you add beer. Which you must. So 5 ingredients. But still.
Beer Braised Caramelized Onions
3 large onions (I personally prefer to use sweet onions, Vidalia when they’re available because they are so delicious!)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tablespoon to 1/4 cup beer (choose one you actually like to drink. A dark beer works great, like Trois Pistoles, which is amazing! and since you won’t be using all of it, choosing one you enjoy the taste of is ideal, because someone’s gonna have to finish it…#struggles)
Peel and slice onions in half. Then cut into thin (about 1/4 inch) slices.
Melt butter and oil in a pan over medium-low heat.
Once melted, add onions and toss to coat.
Now, this is the slow part. It’s going to take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour for the onions to caramelize. Check on the onions every 5 to 10 minutes, give them a little stir. If the onions start browning too quickly, then turn the heat down a bit. Each person’s stove will be a bit different, so it’s important you keep an eye on the onions.
After about 15 minutes, the onions should be starting to soften and even shrink a bit. Best part is they’re also starting to smell really good!
After 40 minutes: the onions should be nice and deeply caramelized. If not, keep checking on them. If they look good, add the salt and stir.
Add the beer to deglaze the pan. You’re looking for enough beer to make a nice puddle, but not so much that you drown the onions and make a sauce. Start with two tablespoons, and if it absorbs too fast or looks like not enough, add some more. You can’t really screw it up. Worst case scenario you end up with soupy onions, which isn’t horrible. I’d still eat them!
And voila! Lovely, jammy, and ready to eat!
Storage tip: Did you know you can store caramelized onions in the fridge? Yup! Just let them cool, throw them into a jar and pop them in the fridge. You can keep them for a week, if they don’t disappear sooner!