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May 2, 2012

Soft, dark brown onions in five minutes. That is a lie.

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As long as I've been cooking, I've been reading various versions of this lie, over and over.
Here's Madhur Jaffrey, from her otherwise reliable Indian Cooking, explaining how to do the onions for rogan josh: "Stir and fry for about 5 minutes or until the onions turn a medium-brown colour." The Boston Globe, on preparing pearl onions for coq au vin: "Add the onions and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until golden." The Washington Post, on potato-green bean soup: "Add the onion and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown." --How to cook onions: Why recipe writers lie and lie about how long they take to caramelize. - Slate Magazine

Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 2, 2012 12:51 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

I always start my duxelles well in advance. It takes at least an hour to get the onions sticky sweet and brown. And then I add the cognac.

Posted by: Jewel at May 2, 2012 3:30 PM

Yep, takes a long time. Making French Onion Soup is a matter of hours because of this, but its worth the wait. There are no short cuts to good cooking.

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at May 2, 2012 3:53 PM

This is sooo good on hot dogs :)

Posted by: Deborah at May 2, 2012 4:19 PM

Oh yes there are. It's called a pressure cooker. Throw in a nice pork roast, some garlic, and a shitload of onions, and you're almost there. Cook for about an hour.

Posted by: Casca at May 2, 2012 6:07 PM

Potatoes are another one. It always takes a lot longer to properly cook potatoes than the recipe says it will.

Posted by: Fat Man at May 2, 2012 6:41 PM

What I don't know about cooking would fill a book.

But who would want to buy it?

Posted by: rickl at May 2, 2012 7:00 PM

Of course, I should explain that duxelles is a mushroom recipe with shallots, but I use caramelized onions and mushrooms in my recipe. It makes a fine substitute for gravy on mashed potatoes.

Posted by: Jewel at May 2, 2012 7:24 PM

You just now made me drool on my shirt, Jewel. Fuck.

Posted by: james wilson at May 2, 2012 8:56 PM

If you insist, James:
She considered the Vidalia and the Spanish and went with the Spanish. The Spaniard, sliced cruelly, can bring the manliest man to tears, but when slowly simmered and bronzed in butter, took on a sweetness that only a Vidalia could dream about.
Paired with a small button mushrooms and flamed with a passionate splash of Courvoisier, the onion's true self was revealed: dark, shiny and sweet, a perfect complement to blanket the bed of soft, silken mashed potatoes.

Posted by: Jewel at May 2, 2012 9:12 PM

Of course, if you don't over pay for your onions and Norman butter at Whole Foods, the whole meal is shot in the ass.

Posted by: Peccable at May 3, 2012 5:40 AM

What is it with you sweet tooths? Aren't man enough to handle the flavors of real onions? Yuu've got to tranmogrify them into sweet sticky flavorless goo?

Posted by: John A. Fleming at May 3, 2012 1:16 PM

Posted by: sTevo at May 3, 2012 6:17 PM

The goo, it is not flavorless. Sticky. Yes. Sweet. Yes. Muchly flavored, definitely very yes.

Posted by: Jewel at May 4, 2012 2:37 AM

Nice work Jewel, now could somebody hand me a towel...?

Posted by: TBinSTL at May 5, 2012 8:18 PM

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