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How to Hack Caramelized Onions in Just 10 Minutes

Food52 logo Food52 9/16/2019 Erin Alexander
© Provided by Food52

A few years ago my former roommate and current best friend, Julian, created a grilled cheese sandwich that has since become our staple for a comforting, quick dinner, late-night bite, or—with a fried egg on top—brunch after a big night on the town.

The components are simple, yet work together magically:

  • Two slices of buttered bread, preferably sourdough
  • Fig spread (this brand's my favorite)
  • A few thick cuts of creamy Brie
  • Caramelized onions

Pretty much every step of making this fig and Brie grilled cheese takes no time at all—except for the caramelized onions. They are an essential, but time-consuming step. So one night, feeling most impatient, I hacked a much quicker version that takes just 10 minutes or less.

a pan filled with food © Provided by Food52

Now, a warning: These aren't going to taste quite like the deeply rich, luscious caramelized onions that have cooked down over gentle heat for 45 minutes or an hour. They are, however, still remarkably soft and sweet, and they'll get the job done in a pinch.

How to Make 10-Minute "Caramelized" Onions

The secret to these "caramelized" onions isn't sugar (though you will need a pinch of it), but rather balsamic vinegar: I find that it cooks down quickly and glazes the onions nicely.

Also: high heat, much higher than you'd normally caramelize onions at. Don't let this scare you off. If it looks at any point like the onions are starting to brown or burn, add a splash of water (I often do this two or three times when I make these) to the pan to help cool things off for a moment and create a little extra jamminess.

You will need:

  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

How it works:

  • While you slice the onion, set a thick-bottomed skillet over medium to medium-high heat and melt the butter (or heat the olive oil).
  • Add the onions and stir for about 2 minutes. They should start to soften and lose their bitterness.
  • Add a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the onions, and stir to coat.
  • Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and cook until softened and sweet, about 7 or 8 minutes.
  • Enjoy in a grilled cheese sandwich, as a pizza or burger topping, in a frittata or pasta, or anything you can think of.

Related video: How to Make Simple Caramelized Onions [provided by Cooking Light]

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