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Nate Cooks » 2009 » March » 25

Recipe Basics: Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions are pretty much one of my favorite things ever.  As you sauté an onion over low heat for a long time, the sugars in the onion darken and sweeten while the sulfur compounds (what makes onions taste sharp and smell) break down.

That’s boring and science-y though.  The really real thing about caramelized onions is how great they taste and how easy they are.  It’s so totally easy you don’t even need a recipe.  But here’s the basic idea.

  1. Take one (or more) onions, and chop however fine you like.
  2. Heat some oil or fat in a pan over medium heat (I like butter, but olive oil works well too).
  3. Toss in the onions and let them soften, then reduce the heat to medium low or low.  I usually cover them at this point, which purists would scowl on.  It reduces the cooking time a bit and I find tends to prevent the onions from sticking to the pan as much.  Suit yourself.
  4. Let the onions hang out for about 20-25 minutes or so until they get very very soft and sweet.  They should also be a dark brown color. You should stir them every few minutes to avoid them burning or the aforementioned sticking.
  5. You’re done!

Total:  About $2.00 if you’re using 2-3 medium onions.

The onions keep for a few days in the fridge.  They’re great on steak, burgers or salad.  You can also pop them (cold) into the food processor and turn them into a paste and serve them on a sandwich with ham and cheese. (or anything really).

If you want to get even fancier, you can add a splash of balsamic vinegar, wine, stock  or just some salt and pepper or even a dollop of fruit preserves when you turn the heat down to low.

Do you have a basic recipe you have questions about or love, love, love?  Let me know in the comments!

Fancy Pork Chops

So I’ve been procrastinating about posting this recipe because it’s a bit fussier than what I usually cook.  That having been said, the whole thing turned out amazingly well and it wasn’t too terribly difficult to make everything come together at the same time.

I got the inspiration from this dish when I was shopping with my friend Amy at Trader Joe’s and we saw these chops while we were stocking up on frozen eggrolls and whatnot.  The recipe comes from some embarrassingly trashy Food Network show (you can find out which one for yourself if you’re so inclined).  However, the chops were kind of amazing so I take back everything bad I’ve said about those sorts of shows (except not really).

In case you’ve never encountered frenched pork chops before, they’re basically just normal, thick cut chops that have had all the fat and whatever trimmed off the bones.  This makes them look much sexier than normal pork chops.  Since it gets rid of some of the fat, you can probably fool yourself into thinking they’re somewhat healthier for you, although I’m not sure how true that is.  What I am sure about is that it does get rid of that sort of gristle-like fat that you sometimes get on pork chops that always made me gag as a small child (I was easily disturbed when I was younger).  So good times!

1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder ($3.30 for a 2 oz jar)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt ($2.19 for a 48 oz box)
1 teaspoon pepper ($0.99 for a 2.25 oz jar)
2  frenched pork rib chops ($5.99 for 2)
1 tablespoon olive oil ($9.99 a bottle)
1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour ($1.79 for a 2lb bag)
1/4 cup red wine ($12.00 for a bottle)
2 tablespoons orange zest ($0.99 for one)
1/3 cup chicken stock ($4.59 for a 32 oz box)

Total (for 2 servings):  $29.83

So you start by mixing together the five spice power with the salt and pepper on a plate or a small bowl.  (I’m totally obsessed with small mixing bowls, so I clearly used that).  Then you smear the mixture all over the two chops.  You really have to press it onto the chops to make sure it sticks.

While you’re molesting massaging your chops, heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Be sure to use a frying pan that you can put in the oven.  I use a big husband-killer of a cast iron skillet for this.

Once the oil is nice and hot toss in the chops and sear them for about 2-3 minutes on a side.  They should be nice and brown and the five-spice powder should make your whole kitchen (apartment, house) smell like a spice store.

Then take the whole shebang off the stove and put it in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.  After the come out, take the chops out of the oven and return the pan to the stove over medium heat.  (I slipped the chops onto a cookie sheet, turned off the oven and let them chill out in the still-warm oven with the door cracked a bit).  Be sure to use an oven mitt or something with the skillet – you don’t want to end up with the huge and embarrassing blister that I did.

Once the pan is back on the stove, pop the flour in and let that soak up all the juice/grease that’s on the bottom of the pan.  Then dump in the wine, orange zest and stock.  It should boil and thicken up pretty much immediately.

Put the chops on the plate and serve the sauce over it.

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