Weeknight CookingWhat to CookMake-Ahead Meals

The Smartest (Hands-Off, Get-Ahead) Activity for Lazy Days at Home

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Do you have onions, or shallots, or garlic? Do you have olive oil? Maybe some salt?

How’d we know! If you’re stuck in your house today, watching trees get heavy with white fluff—or you’re home for a few hours at any time in your life—do this one thing while you go about your puttering around: caramelize onions, all the onions (or garlic or shallots) you’ve got. Here’s how:

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How to Achieve Perfectly Caramelized Onions

How to Achieve Perfectly Caramelized Onions by Sarah_Sherwood

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Pasta with Corn, Slow-Cooked Tomatoes, and Garlic Confit

Pasta with Corn, Slow-Cooked Tomatoes, and Garlic Confit by Phyllis Grant

Then freeze them: Either spread them into a thin layer in a plastic baggie, or spoon them into an ice cube tray if you have one you never want to use for anything else ever again (I’m that dedicated to on-demand caramelized onions; are you?). The frozen onion schmear will stay good and quick to thaw straight from the freezer for months.

The short-term benefit of this activity is your house will smell great. But on many a random weeknight in the future, you’ll feel like a kick-ass genius: Instead of wait waiting waiting waiting for onions to caramelize (or getting impatient and cranking up the heat and burning them to bits), you’ll have little quantities of the nutty, dish-boosting secret weapon ready to go.

When I remember to do this, I use the onion goo essentially wherever I would use oil or butter. It makes everything taste deeply flavorful and oniony-sweet—in a jiffy.

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Here are some dishes that can now be ready in a fraction of the time:

How to Turn 1 Batch of Caramelized Onions into 5 Dinners

How to Turn 1 Batch of Caramelized Onions into 5 Dinners by sarah kieffer | the vanilla...

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Farro Salad with Onion Confit, Persimmon, and Arugula

Farro Salad with Onion Confit, Persimmon, and Arugula by Josh Cohen

Braised Onion Sauce

Braised Onion Sauce by Kenzi Wilbur

Caramelized Onion Dip

Caramelized Onion Dip by ADRIENE

Caramelized Onion, Coconut, and Egg Curry

Caramelized Onion, Coconut, and Egg Curry by Kenzi Wilbur

Marinated Beet Salad with Garlic Confit Vinaigrette

Marinated Beet Salad with Garlic Confit Vinaigrette by Elizabeth Stark

Tell us: What are you freezer staples?