My house rule for cooking: “That’s not burned. It’s carmelized!”
I really, really hate a big ol hunk of raw onion. Period. I don’t care if it’s in a fresh, beautiful salad, or gracing a perfect burger just off the grill, or garnishing a summer farmer’s market feast. A raw onion can ruin anything.
A carmelized onion, on the other hand…i challenge you to find me a food that cannot be improved by the onion that has been greased and turned and browned, and loved into perfection. You could find something, i’m sure, but it would be a challenge.
Don’t you ever wonder…who was the first person to discover that an ugly, smelly, rough, dirty vegetable could be transformed into something so heavenly, simply by burning it a little?
That will preach, I tell you what. Here are three reasons the carmelized onion is downright–i hate this word, but ima say it–inspirational.
1– In the spirit of Hallmark card optimism, for instance: in the midst of struggle, chaos or wilderness, we need only remind ourselves that we are being refined for a higher purpose. The heat of trial is just drawing out an inner strength or sweetness that we never even knew to look for. We may get uncomfortable, but out of this frying pan emerges one’s best possible self.
2-In the spirit of persistence: it might be taking a long daggone time, but if i stand at this stove long enough, i’ll have produced, possibly, a thing of beauty. Don’t give up until you reach that optimum temperature and texture. Because, you know, an onion CAN be just plain burned. In which case it is every bit as gross as a raw one.
3- In the spirit of moving through life as a visionary: who are the people who can look at a seemingly overcooked meal, a failed endeavor, a missed opportunity…and rather than tossing out the whole pan and lamenting the loss, they transform the whole mess into something life-giving? Maybe even gourmet? When you say ‘yes’ to your mistakes, sometimes you’ll find you didn’t go so wrong, after all…
In keeping with my English Major Diet, I will share one of my very favorite quick and (reasonably) healthy meals to throw together on a weeknight. I say reasonably healthy because it does involve bacon; however, bacon not the main attraction, so it’s cool. Especially if you use whole grain pasta. I got the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, but it’s more a concept than a detailed step by step. Basically, you dice and cook a few pieces of bacon. Then you put the bacon on a paper towel, and pour out most of the bacon grease. In the little bit of grease that’s left, you carmelize some onions. (Are you a believer yet? Yeah, this is pretty much going to be the best thing ever). Let them cook long and slow until you get that great translucent thing going. Meanwhile, boil water and cook your pasta. Once the onions get to that happy place, add a can of diced tomatoes (do NOT go cheap/store brand on the tomatoes, folks. Not worth it the 7 cents you might save), and put the bacon back in. Serve with pasta and some fresh grated parm. Good with a chilled Shiraz. (I prefer the kind that costs about $4, but maybe you want to splurge).
Not sure if I’m feeling hungry, optimistic, or inspired right now…But I’d say any of them will make for a good rest of the evening. See? You just can’t go wrong with a good onion. It goes with everything, mood, food, or otherwise.