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Onion Fraud: Consider the Caramelized

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There are some foods that simply won't get from stove to table in under an hour. Ever. Take braised short ribs, for example, or picture-perfect macarons. It's just not going to happen.


While this may be tragic for your busy weeknight meals, there is something to be said for taking the time to really go through the steps, the right way, even if that means the long way. It's therapeutic, when so much of our cooking so often becomes hurried, rushed, an effort to appease the hungry mouths around the table.

Consider caramelized onions, the cooking of which is low and slow, relaxing, and forgiving. It’s also massively misrepresented in the recipe world. This week at Slate, Tom Scocca exposes the common deceit of cooking times in recipes for achieving that slouchy sweetness from an onion. He is a bit more blunt:

“Soft, dark brown onions in five minutes. That is a lie. Fully caramelized onions in five minutes more. Also a lie.”

It’s nothing less than onion fraud, and we're inclined to agree with him: promising that onions will caramelize in 10 minutes is like selling vegan cheese as an apt substitute for the real stuff. Or like promising that an off-season tomato won't be a complete, waterlogged affront to produce everywhere.

Amidst his smart tirade against allium liars everywhere, though, you’ll find thoughtful suggestions on how to really cook an onion down. The right way. And yes, this means the long way. But that’s how it should be, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Layers of Deceit from Slate

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