Onions and shallots are the runner-up of the vegetable world. They’re always there but rarely get to take center stage. The closest it gets in French onion soup and even then the onion flavor competes with the broth. French onion soup is a great dish in itself but it’s time to let alliums take a starring role and the best way to showcase their talents is to caramelize them.
I first caught on to this technique when I saw this recipe and then this one posted on Smitten Kitchen several years ago. I made them for Thanksgiving and spent the next few days having just-one-more-bite of the leftovers, until they were gone.
A few months went by and I made them again. But they weren’t quite as good outside of the indulgence of the holidays. Forgive me for saying this but there was too much butter. I know, how could I, is too much butter really a problem? But it was; so I made some changes. This recipe is not quite as over the top but it still hits all the key points.
Caramelizing anything makes it fairly sweet and these onions are helped along by a few spoons of sugar to help them brown. To balance that the original recipe called for vinegar to make a sweet-sour flavor and I saw no reason not to up the ante with a little spice as well. Even with plain old yellow onions, this dish will be soft and golden brown after a long session in the oven. Forget ‘aromatics’ – these onions steal the show.
Sweet-Sour Caramelized Alliums
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Caramelized Shallots
2 lbs shallots, yellow onions, or red onions*, peeled and trimmed of any dirt or roots (peeling takes the most time)
2 tbs butter, melted and cooled
2 tbs sugar
¼ cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp red chile flake
1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium bowl combine melted butter, sugar, red wine vinegar, red chile flake, and salt. Arrange the shallots/onions in the smallest baking dish you have that will fit them in a single layer (and has sides so when you toss the shallots/onions sauce won’t go everywhere. Pour the butter/sugar/vinegar mixture over the shallots/onions and toss them thoroughly.
Bake for about one hour, stirring the shallots every 20 minutes to coat them in the sauce and turn them so they don’t burn on one side .They’re done then they are soft to touch and lightly browned on a few sides. Serve hot or at least warm or the butter will solidify and feel gritty in the dish. These last at least a week in the fridge, probably up to 10 days, but we’ve never had them long enough to find out.
*If you use onions, cut them in half or quarters lengthwise, through the root-end so that they’ll stay together while you toss them but will be easier to dish up later on.