Make Ahead

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

February 25, 2017

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:

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.

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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.

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Top Comment:
“I wonder what you refer too regarding the onion goo. Are you talking about what little oil is left in pan after the onions are removed?”
— Bob

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.

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

Tell us: What are you freezer staples?

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • allis
  • AntoniaJames
  • Bob
  • GeekKnitter
  • Lazyretirementgirl
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


allis February 25, 2017
I do have one question: I thought adding salt helps vegetables to "sweat" and give up their moisture. I always add it in the beginning. Is this a mistake?
AntoniaJames February 13, 2017
Also easily made, and producing a lot more of that flavorful oil -- which is downright delicious, and can be used on or in so many things -- is garlic and/or shallot confit, scented with fresh thyme and bay leaves, or whatever herbs you like. I was inspired by the separate recipes for shallot confit and garlic confit in Gjelina's cookbook (my son lives a few blocks away so he eats at or from GTA frequently), and have since found a recipe on the KAF site .

Someone posted here the garlic confit recipe within a recipe for one of my favorite dishes discovered in recent months - Gjelina's cauliflower (or broccoli or romesco) roasted and tossed with garlic confit and confit oil, red wine vinegar and parsley.

The confits and the flavored oils have become must-have staples in my fridge and freezer - a wonderfully versatile condiment and a deeply flavored alternative to caramelized onions (which I also make regularly and keep in my freezer). ;o)
Bob February 10, 2017
I wonder what you refer too regarding the onion goo. Are you talking about what little oil is left in pan after the onions are removed?
Ali S. February 10, 2017
Yes, all the oil that's left!
GeekKnitter February 9, 2017
Chicken stock. If I don't have a couple quarts in there I get twitchy.
Sarah J. February 9, 2017
I love your username and feel like we must be kindred spirits!
GeekKnitter February 10, 2017
:) You can find me on under the same name...
ktr February 26, 2017
I just realized I am down to 4 quarts in the freezer. It is amazing how quickly we go through it!
I took a hiatus from revelry because I kept finding patterns I "had" to make but couldn't find the time to sit down and knit them. Now that my yarn has been unearthed (it was packed away during out last move and it was a pain to get to) and my baby isn't really a baby any more :( I'm starting to feel the itch to knit again.
Lazyretirementgirl February 9, 2017
Bolognese in a ziplock I the freezer. Easy quick dinner.