Earlier this week Gizmodo editor Tom Scocca resurfaced his heroic effort to expose the truth that caramelizing onions takes a hell of a lot longer than most recipes (and Google) would have you believe. While many recipes cite an absurd five or 10 minutes for getting the soft, golden, sweet onions required to enrich a multitude of dishes, the truth is that it often takes closer to 45—45!—minutes of stirring over a a skillet.
Food52’s forthcoming book, Mighty Salads, has a better idea: “roasted onion half-moons—neither stiffly raw nor caramelized to oblivion,” and an easy method for getting there—no skillet-monitoring required.
Inspired by this kale salad recipe, I recently cut a yellow onion into 1/4-inch “half moons,” tossed them with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper on a Silpat-lined baking sheet, popped them into 350°F oven, and walked away. Soon their sweet smell perfumed the house, and around 50 minutes later, I pulled them from the oven. (Mighty Salads calls for onions to spend 60-75 minutes in the oven, but after 45 minutes mine were golden and the edges were starting to brown.) They were slick and sweet. A few of the drier slices had become charred and needed to be discarded, but that probably could have been avoided with some midway stirring, and seemed a small price to pay for the luxury of leaving them alone.
When the onions had cooled, I tossed some into a pile of arugula dressed with lemon juice and olive oil and topped it with a handful of sliced dates and some shaved parmesan. It was delicious, and I still had leftovers to stash away for future salads and sandwiches.
It’s definitely a better way.