So many traditional recipes used caramelized onions and it’s one of my least favorite kitchen tasks. First I run around the house closing all the bedroom/bathroom doors, opening the windows and turning on the fans. It’s not unusual for tears to appear as the onions are peeled and chopped and then I have to babysit the onions so they don’t catch and burn.
In the past I’ve used slow cookers to cook onions. They’re great because you can leave them all day and give them a stir every hour or so — but they also cook all day. I’m now a convert to the electric frying pan. Like a crock pot, they basically maintain the same temperature as they cook but can be done in just a couple of hours.
If I’m going to suffer while cooking the onions, I might as well cook up a large batch, keep it in the freezer and pull some out when needed. They keep in the freezer for months in freezer-bags and can be added to kasha, chopped liver, kreplach, knish and blintz fillings, kugels or in any other recipes you use caramelized onions.
I’m not sharing quantities here, but rather the method. Start by pouring enough oil (canola, sunflowers, safflower, grapeseed, etc. ) in the pan to come up about half an inch — yes, that’s a lot of oil but when it’s done you can drain most of it and discard (or use if you’d like). Then peel and chop your onions evenly – I do a small dice but you can chop them as large or small as you like, just try to keep the pieces the same size. Add the onions to the pan, stir to coat and cover with a lid. I have a large electric frying pan and use 9-10 lbs of onions per batch. Depending on the size of your frying pan, use as much onion as you can fit in the pan.
Then I cook the onions, covered for 2 hours, at 250 degrees, stirring every 20 minutes or so, scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure nothing is burning (my pan is non stick and I haven’t had the onions stick yet). The temperature on my pan fluctuates a bit, so occasionally, if it stops bubbling completely, I turn the heat up about 25 degrees for a few minutes and then back down to 250. The onions should be bubbling a little the whole time, but not cooking too hot or bubbling too much as they may burn.
After an hour or so:
The onions will give off a lot of liquid as they cook, so after 2 hours, or when the onions are a light golden brown, I take the lid off, and let cook another 20 minutes or until some of that liquid has evaporated and the onions are a rich, caramelized brown
Transfer to a colander to drain if you’d like and t cool. You can keep them in the fridge for a few days and use in your recipes or they freeze beautifully for a few months in freezer bags or air tight containers.