Sunday, June 26, 2011

Caramelized Onions: Worth the Tears and Time

When onions are caramelized, they undergo a delectable transformation.  By slowly cooking the onions over a low heat, the moisture gets cooked out and the natural sugars develop and brown (the caramelized part.)  Caramelized onions are very versatile. I use them a lot in savory tarts, and they are the classic ingredient in french onion soup.  

One of the most important things to remember is that since the moisture is cooked out of the onions, they will really decrease in volume.  If you start out with your pot half full of sliced onions, you'll probably only have enough caramlized onions to coat the bottom of the pan when you're done.  In the pictures below, I used 3 medium onions, cut in half, and then sliced thin. If slicing onions is a tearful experience for you, just do it as quickly as possible, or use whatever tricks work for you. I've heard people say that slicing onions when they are really cold prevents a lachrymose (crying) experience, as well as having a metal spoon in your mouth.  There's even onion goggles.

After your onions are sliced, place them in a dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat, uncovered. Add a generous pinch of salt and give the onions a stir.  

You really won't see anything for the first 10-15 minutes, other than the onions steaming. Just stir them every once in a while, and you'll notice they begin cooking down.  

After about 25-30 minutes, the onions will start to brown, and you'll notice they will begin to smell sweet and not as "oniony."

When the onions start to brown, stir them often, and watch for the development of brown, crusty bits on the bottom of the pot.  This is known as "fond" (from the French word for "bottom" ) and it has tons of flavor.  You'll need to add a small amount of liquid (less than 1/4 cup) to the pan to loosen those brown bits so they end up in your final dish, and not stuck to the bottom of your pot.  You can use water, chicken/beef/vegetable broth, or any other liquid that your recipe calls for. Add it in and scrape the pot with a wooden spoon to get the fond up.  

Keep cooking and stirring the onions for 10-15 minutes more, deglazing as needed if the bottom of the pot starts to darken.  You'll know the onions are done when they're a deep brown, and a jam-like consistency. Remove them from the heat and enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Spiceman Cometh

You probably can't see it, but the guy sitting across from me at the airport is from McCormick spices...check out the logo on the bag. I should ask him for samples.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

The recipe is from America's Test Kitchen.  It was somewhat different because you melt and brown the butter first, instead of creaming the butter and sugar.  The cookies were crisp on the edges, but chewy in the middle.  I also used a bittersweet chocolate chip (Ghirardelli) rather than a semi-sweet one.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grilled Pineapple Salsa

8 - 1/2" thick pineapple rings
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. lime zest
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

  1. Grill the pineapple over medium heat until it has distinct grill marks (about 5 minutes).  Let cool and chop into 1/2" pieces.
  2. Mix the chopped pineapple with the cilantro, honey, lime juice, and red pepper flakes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
  3. Refrigerate for at least one hour.  

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Turkey Bolognese - An American Bird in Italy


I had some leftover turkey in the fridge, so I made this bolognese (meat sauce) to use it up.  It's an interesting twist on a classic pasta sauce.

Turkey Bolognese

2 Tbsp.olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 c. grated carrots
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/2 lb. mushrooms quartered (I used white mushrooms, but cremini would be good too.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 c. milk
1 1/2 c. red wine
1 -  28 oz.can crushed tomatoes
1 c. chicken broth
3 c. shredded, cooked turkey meat
1 c. parmesan cheese
1 c. basil, chopped
1 lb. cooked tubular pasta (such as rigatoni or ziti)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or other large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions, carrot and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally,  until they are just beginning to brown (8-10 minutes.)
  3. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the tomato paste and Italian seasoning.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Stir in the milk.  Cook until it is reduced by half (about 5 minutes.)
  6. Stir in the wine.  Cook until it is reduced by half.
  7. Stir in the crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  8. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add chicken broth as needed to reach your desired consistency (I liked it a little thick.)  
  9. Stir in the coked turkey meat.  Cook for an additional 20 minutes.  
  10. Stir in the cooked pasta, basil, and parmesan cheese.  Heat for 5 minutes and serve.