The Secret to All Things Yum (Stuffing Edition)

I’m starting to think that the secret to all things yum is caramelized onions.

Well, caramelized onions for savory, cooked food. It would probably be the wrong kind of secret ingredient for cherry pie. Or Jell-o. And probably a little weird for peanut butter & jelly. But spicy peanut sauce may be another story …

For cooked and savory — if you have time to properly caramelize onions it will make practically everything taste better.

It’s like adding pure yum extract.

As little as a year ago I would have said, “no, thank you,” to onions. “They make me feel sick.”

And it’s true, if I eat very many of them I usually feel like I’m coming down with the flu — sore throat, achy all over. I’m probably a little allergic. I didn’t even like onions, except Blooming Onions, for most of my life.

Real, true caramelized onions are so yummy I don’t mind feeling a little off. And I think they don’t bother me as much if they are properly cooked then caramelized through and through. If they’re a little bit cooked they still bother me.

Until this past summer I never knew how to properly caramelize onions. Those rare times I cooked them I mostly just browned them on the outside. They were not cooked all the way. They were not caramelized. I blame attribute my awakening to real caramelization on to Julia Child.

I rewatched several episodes of The French Chef. I hadn’t seen it in such a long time, and I don’t think I understood as much about cooking back then either. She calls it a two-step process. First cook. Then brown and caramelize. I often skipped the cooking step and tried to start browning too soon.

So both steps are critical. Then because I’m a busy mom (like most moms) I busy-mom hacked the process — microwave the onions before putting them in a pan to caramelize them. I’ve mentioned this before and still love it. You can caramelize onions in about half the time it takes to caramelize without the microwave.

This is what I did for stuffing this morning (we had a potluck / covered dish thing):

Caramelized Onions:

Dice 1 large onion (I like sweet onions) or a couple of medium onions. It was about 2 Cups of raw finely diced onion*.

Put the onions in a microwave-safe bowl with about a Tablespoon of olive oil. Toss to coat.

Zap on high for 3 minutes. Stir lightly. Repeat until all the onions are translucent and steaming hot. It was about 9 minutes total in our microwave. It will look like all your onions have shrunk.

While microwaving the onions, get a large skillet, sauce pan, or heavy-bottom pot ready on the stove. Spray with a bit of non-stick spray and drizzle with a couple of Tablespoons of olive oil or melt a Tablespoon or two of butter. (I prefer regular pans to non-stick pans. Note that lighter pans like stainless steel make it easier to see the browning start. Darker pans, like cast iron, make it harder, but still work well.)

Set to low-medium heat shortly before adding the steaming hot onions to the pan. (Heat will depend some on your stove and burner. You don’t want the onions to burn.) Use a slotted spoon to lift the onions into the pan. You don’t want to transfer extra liquid to the pan. Save the liquid for soups or adding to recipes instead of water.

As the onions sizzle, watch for browning edges on the onions. Then stir. You don’t want to stir too soon or too often or they won’t caramelize. Stir too little and the onions will burn and get bitter. So look for brown edges, then stir. Then wait for more edges to brown and stir until the onions are golden brown and caramelized all the way through.

At this point you’ve achieved total yum.

*You can slice the onions instead of dicing of that’s what your recipe calls for. You may also season with some salt as you go. Otherwise use the same basic process.

You can add the onions to lots of dishes, but I made the rest of the stuffing like this:

Extra Yummy Busy-Mom Stuffing

Caramelized onions (as above – started as 2 cups of finely diced, raw onions).

2 cups of finely diced celery. Cooked for about half as long as the onions, so they’re tender but still have some crunch. I start the celery in the microwave then add to pan just like then onions but add celery when onions are almost done.

1 to 2 Tablespoons finely chopped sage

1/2 bunch parsley, finely diced (about a half Cup)

3 Cups of water

2 (6 oz) boxes of Stovetop Stuffing  Mix. (Yes, Stovetop. This is the busy-mom version. Plenty of salt here, so don’t need to add any.)

3/4 stick of butter

Once onions are caramelized and celery is lightly cooked. Add the butter to the pan and allow to melt. Once it’s sizzling, add the sage. Stir. Allow to sizzle for 1 or 2 minutes.

Add the water. Bring to a boil. (This will also deglaze the pan.)

Pour in Stovetop Stuffing mix and fresh chopped parsley. Stir.

Put a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff.

Serve or Stuff.

Nearly every bit got eaten. I could lick the bowl. (Maybe I did.)



(This post is also for NaBloPoMo. I forget what day. I also edited some on 11-20-15 for a bit more info on caramelizing.)



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