Friday, May 16, 2008

There's a recipe that made me fall in love with almost every piece of cookware that I own. Belgian beef stew with onions and beer in my Dutch oven. In my big, heavy-bottomed traditional skillet, it's blueberry-glazed chicken breasts. And in my slow cooker, it's caramelized onions.

No, really. The slow cooker is a phenomenal piece of kitchen machinery, and I'm not just talking about for pot roast or spaghetti sauce. You slow cooker does more than you think it does, and caramelized onions is just one of the things it does. And it does them really well, and much more simply than caramelizing onions on the stove top, where they need stirring and babysitting.

Using your slow cooker virtually eliminates the chance of burning the onions. The other bonus is that you end up with this amazing onion-flavored butter at the end of cooking. You can use it in pastas, risottos, to saute vegetables. The onions themselves--well, you can use them practically anywhere: pizza, fish, meat. They're part vegetable, part condiment, and totally sweet and delicious and unforgettable.

Slow-Cooker Caramelized Onions

3 pounds Vidalia or other sweet onions (4 to 5 onions, 3 to 4 inches in diameter), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick to 1/4-inch-thick slices
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter


Place the onions and butter in the insert of the slow cooker, cover, and cook on LOW for 12 to 14 hours, until the onions are deep brown and very soft. It's almost impossible to overcook these; make sure to let the onions cook until they are mahogany colored.

Notes: While this recipe calls for Vidalia onions, you can use other sweet onions such as Maui, Walla Walla, or Texas 1015s. If you have a large slow cooker, you can double the onions. It is not necessary to increase the amount of butter.

Don't blanch at the amount of butter called for here. When you drain and chill the onions, the onion-flavored butter will congeal on the surface of the cooking liquid. Skim it and use it.

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