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~ Sweet (& Savory): Caramelized Onions & Apples ~

IMG_4881I am a professed onion lover.  I like all kinds, I like them served every way possible, and, I forgave them a long time ago for making me cry.  I like them raw or pickled in salads and on sandwiches, simmered in stocks or soups, roasted whole or diced and baked in casseroles, and, perhaps my favorite way, sauted to different degrees of doneness:  lightly-browned, browned or caramelized.  All types of onions contain a lot of sugar and slowly cooking them on the stovetop draws out their natural sweetness.  All fruit contains sugar and apples are at their peak right now here in Central PA.  Even if an apple a day didn't keep the doctor away I would eat one.  Never tried caramelized onions or caramelized apples?  You are in for a treat today!

PICT2268What makes caramelized onions and/or apples taste so good? 

IMG_0903The longer and slower they both cook, the sweeter they get. When lightly-browned or browned, they begin to take on a pleasant, nutty taste. When deep-golden or caramelized, these candy-sweet (& savory too) morsels can transform an ordinary dish to an extraordinary one. To learn what kind of onions caramelize the best and get a detailed explanation of how to do it, read my post ~ To Sweeten Your Life:  Caramelize some Onions ~ in Categories 4, 8, 15 or 20! 

IMG_3142Apples are caramelized the same way onions are, and, firm, tart ones, like Granny Smith, work the best. I sometimes like to caramelize them with a few raisins thrown in for added sweetness and texture (as pictured on the left).  Most people associate caramelized apples (and other fruits too) with dessert or dessert toppings.  I am here to tell you, they pair extremely well with savory dishes like pork too!

Allow me to point out that like "brown butter" (butter that is cooked to pale brown, or, the color of hazelnuts, also known as "beurre noisette" and meaning "hazelnut butter" in French), caramelized anything is neither new nor gourmet.  These are techniques our ancestors invented to enhance the flavor of otherwise bland and boring meat, fish, pasta and vegetable dishes.  No one has a "secret" recipe or "perfect" recipe (avoid people who say they do).  Every chef or cook makes them a bit differently because everyone of us likes them cooked a bit differently!

Caramelized Onions + Caramelized Apples = A Great Side Dish!

IMG_2575There is no greater symbol of Fall than apples (except for maybe pumpkins).  The first ones begin to ripen in the middle of Summer, but the best ones take their time to ripen -- accumulating a sweet and tart intensity into September and October.  When apple season hits its peak here in PA, this delicious side-dish finds it way to my dinner table often.  What do I like to serve it with? Always pork or pork chops.  I suppose it is no coincidence that National Pork Month is:  October!

Caramelizing onions and apples couldn't be easier, but, it can't be done in 15-20 minutes. You'll need to allow a good 35-45 minutes or longer, depending upon how many your are making, how you regulate the heat on your stove, and, on any given day, how caramelized (brown) you want them to be.  So, pour yourself a glass of wine or make a cocktail, put on some music or a movie on the kitchen TV, relax, stand by your stove and enjoy the experience!

IMG_4716Step 1.  Peel and slice:

4  generous cups 1/4"-thick sliced, "half-ring-shaped" Vidalia onions, or other sweet onion like Walla Walla, Maui or Texas Sweet

2  generous cups 1/4"-thick sliced Granny Smith apples

These are pictured in liquid measuring cups so you can see the thickness, which is important:

Note:  To insure even cooking, it is important to slice the apples and onions to a uniform thickness.  If you want them thicker, slice them all thicker.  You can even chop them if you prefer, as long as they are uniformly chopped.  Also, don't worry if your apples turn a little brown waiting to get added to the pan.  They are going to turn brown anyway when they caramelize!

IMG_4722~ Step 2.  In a 12" skillet, place

4  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons olive oil

1  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon white pepper

over low heat and stir until the butter has melted into the olive oil.

IMG_4732Add and stir in the onions until thoroughly combined. Do not add the apples at this time.  

IMG_4746~ Step 3.  Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have lost a lot of their moisture, are limp, and steamed through, about 5 minutes.

IMG_4750Add and stir the apples into the onion mixture until thoroughly combined.

IMG_4772 IMG_4763~ Step 4. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the apples have lost their volume and are limp too, another 5 minutes.

~ Step 5.  Increase heat to medium high.  Cook, stirring frequently, another 10 minutes.  It's now that you are going to start to see what I refer to a "light browning".

IMG_4805 IMG_4820~ Step 6. Continue to cook, stirring more frequently, another 10 minutes.  Now the mixture is truly beginning to caramelize.

Note:  From this point, do not leave the stovetop.   The mixture will require constant stirring, and, can go from browned to burned quickly.

IMG_4832Step 7.  Today, my mixture cooked for another 10 minutes with me stirring constantly (for a total of 40 minutes from start to finish), before I deglazed the pan with:

1/4 cup white wine

Deglazing the pan is an important step that skyrockets this side-dish to stardom. By scraping the bottom of the pan after the wine is added, it loosens "the fond" or all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  These are some fine-looking caramelized onions and apples: 

IMG_4867Sweet & Savory:  Caramelized Onions & Apples:  Recipe yields 1 1/2-2 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 12" skillet; slotted spoon or spatula

IMG_2116Cook's Note:  Like apples, bananas are a fruit that are available to us in our markets all year long.  BYI:  I like bananas as much as I like apples, and, I eat one almost every day.  For a caramelized sweet treat side-dish, dessert or dessert topping, click into Categories 2, 6, 9 or 20 to get my recipe for ~ Caramelized Bananas:  A treat for any time of day! ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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