The Goddess loves onions (and all of the lily family, including the flowers!). She uses them with complete abandon. A hamburger is not to be eaten without onion. Several thin slices of raw red or Vidalia onion, is hamburger heaven for her and The Spicy Honey. Caramelized onions are truly a thing of beauty. A flavor to savor. A condiment to always have on hand. We smear them on sandwiches, in baked and mashed potatoes, stir them into mac ‘n cheese, in omelets, grilled cheese sandwiches, or just smeared on good-quality, freshly toasted bread…right now that’s good Cuban bread, etc.
A sharp knife is a must, so get out the sharpener and hone that edge to razor-sharpness. You can use a mandoline or a food processor to slice, if that works best for you. I don’t, as I find it’s faster with a knife, so use whatever works better for you. I cut the onions in half top-to-bottom, then start slicing across the grain! You’re going to have a real mound of thinly sliced onions. Now, heat your skillet on medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil, pile in the onions, and set your timer for 5 minutes. You’re not going to stir them for the first 5 minutes. Listen to the onions; they will speak to you. After about 5 minutes, you will hear them begin to sizzle. I prefer to use a smaller, rather than a larger, skillet. You can see they’re really mounded up in there and it will be slightly difficult to stir them initially. But, they are going to collapse like crazy once the water begins to evaporate. Because the skillet is slightly smaller, the evaporation process takes a bit longer. I seem to think the caramelization is deeper and richer. But more importantly, you’re less likely to burn them…burned onions—not good! Okay, now the timer rang, because you remembered to set it, didn’t you? Give the onions a good stir, just turning them over, so the top onions will not be on the bottom. You’ll have to be slightly careful, because the pan is so full, but trust me on this, they will collapse. See they’re barely colored. Set the timer again, for 5 minutes. Now, after 10 minutes, they are beginning to color, so we lower the heat a bit, say medium-ish (maybe just a tad lower). Again, we stir and set the timer for 5 minutes. Are seeing a pattern here? The timer rings; the onions have now been over the flame for 15 minutes. We stir and reset the timer for 5 minutes. At 20 minutes the onions have reduced by about half, they are softened and becoming more jam-like. We stir, pour the beer over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir again, and raise the heat slightly. Reset the timer for 5 minutes. You’re going to want the beer to boil away, leaving them moist and jammy, but not soupy. The onions are almost to Nirvana! And here we are, after 25 minutes. See how easy that was?
Heavenly Beer-Braised Onions
- 2 lbs Spanish onions, sliced (about 4 good-sized onions)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1/3-1/2 cup dark beer (I used Trader Joe’s Mexican dark)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Get your sharp knife out and thinly slice up the onions. Heat butter and oil in a heavy skillet over high heat. Carefully dump in the onions; there’ll be a real mound. Set the timer for 5 minutes. Sauté onions until they release their juices. Lower the heat to medium and continue to sauté until they reach the state of caramelization you want. Do this in 5 minute increments. After 20-30 minutes, depending on what level of caramelization you want, add the beer and season with salt and pepper. Let onions soak up all juices and finish caramelizing. The mixture should be moist, but not soupy. Remove from heat and cool. Store in the fridge. I’ve kept them for as much as 2 weeks, but they won’t last that long!
NOTE: 1) You may wish to toss 1 sprig fresh thyme and rosemary and a bay leaf into the onions, when you begin the cooking process. Be sure to remove them at the end of cooking. 2) If adding spices, like smoked paprika, add the with the beer. 3) If gluten is an issue, use a gluten-free beer or use wine. They won’t have quite the same flavor, but they will still rock a grilled cheese!
Heavenly Beer-Braised Onions Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2016. All rights reserved.
I do two pounds of onions as a minimum, because it takes awhile to do, even though constant attention isn’t required. The caramelized onions can be frozen, but they really do keep well in the fridge. They are superb stirred into some plain Greek yogurt, as homemade onion dip. For that, I absolutely add smoked paprika (either hot or sweet).
And this is dinner. We’ll call this sandwich a Heavenly Bastardized Cuban Sandwich—sliced roast beef (it’s leftover from another Deconstructed Cuban Pot Roast to grace our table), slices of Brie, horseradish, Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and Heavenly Beer-Braised Onions, all on some of the good Cuban bread. Now, cook panini-style until the cheese is melty and the bread is crispy. Onto the plate with a side of salad and some plantain chips. Heavenly, indeed!