January 23, 2012
On a chilly winter's evening, get a cutting board and stand near your stove. Cut the stem and root end off two or three medium sized yellow onions. Slice them in half from stem to root and peel off the skin. Cut each hemisphere of onion into thin strips along its latitudes. Warm a skillet or saute pan over medium-low heat. Pour in a glug of olive oil and add the pile of sliced onions. They are pungent, crisp and pale in color. They make your eyes sting and cry. This temporary torture is the unfortunate price, but you will be rewarded soon. As they begin their quiet sizzle, stir the onions every few minutes to distribute the heat and cook evenly. They will begin to change color, at first a hint of golden then darker. The goal is not to brown them, but to let them melt and become their better selves.
Add some salt, stir when you think of it, and then go about your business as though nothing truly magical was happening on your stove. The onions will let go of their stiff pretense and start to relax, becoming soft and flexible. Stir. Ignore. Stir again. After 15 or 20 minutes they will have changed color entirely, but don't stop too soon. They need to stay on the heat to realize their true potential. This warm weather vacation will turn them a deep golden brown and bring out all of their sweetness. Keep stirring and checking them until they have become the color of caramel and are soft, limp and unrecognizable as the vegetable you chopped minutes ago.
Now enjoy. Use them to top pizza, focaccia, stir them into risotto, use for soups, add to sandwiches (grilled cheese, anyone?), toss into salads. I have a jarful the fridge to ensure that I can enjoy their flavor as often as possible. It is a glorious transformation.