I was reading the Cooking Light food site and came upon “25 Most Common Cooking Mistakes” and there it was, exposing my ugly secret:

18. You try to rush the cooking of caramelized onions.

In theory, I love to caramelize onions. In fact, I love to caramelize the bejeezus out of everything — shallots, leeks, tomatoes, carrots — and usually always with success but when it comes to onions, I’m impatient and turn up the heat and constantly move the onions around, desperate for them to caramelize in twenty minutes, thirty max. So I always end up with crispy onions instead of soft, melty goodness.

It’s not like I actually believed that cookinglite.com was mocking my inability to caramelize onions — but maybe it was taunting me, just a little bit and that got the better of my cooking ego. Anyway, I happened to have a whole bag of onions. I was intent on perfecting the fine art of caramelization.

So I spent the next few minutes, eyes burning, in a frenzy, chopping, chopping, chopping, onion after onion and then putting them in a pan over very low heat:

According to the tip on the site, it says, “If you want real, true, sweet, creamy caramelized onions to top your burger or pizza, cook them over medium-low to low heat for a long time, maybe up to an hour.”

I was sure these onions would be the best thing smothered over a baguette as a tartine. All I needed was a little bit of thoughtful execution.

One hour later:

Success? Hardly, but not an epic failure either. The onions came out softer this time, but neither creamy or melt-in-your-mouth by a long shot. You can see there were some crunchy bits in there. Hour seems about right. Now I just have to keep myself preoccupied instead obsessing over the stove. They turned out quite delicious though and I mixed them in with some quinoa.

My method (or lack of): Probably my compulsion to constantly shift the onions in the pan every ten minutes was what put this batch over. I’m still also not quite used to the electric stove at my place. It seems to get really hot even at the lowest setting. Plus it doesn’t seem to distribute heat evenly.

Lessons learned: Patience and intention are key. Very zen, perhaps, but I’m thinking that’s how one gets to the path to caramelized onion nirvana.

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