slow cooker caramalized onions- report
A while back there was a debate on whether slow cookers could do a credible rendition of caramelized onions. Well I promised my husband french onion soup today and then we were invited to an impromptu post New Years open house so I decided to try.
I started with approx 3.5 lbs onions that I thinly sliced. I added approx 3/4 stick of butter and a slosh of evoo to the slow cooker and let the butter melt on high. I then added the onions, some salt and sugar, gave it a good stir so the onions were well coated. I set the cooker on low at around noon, left for the party and got home around 4:00 to a heavenly smelling house. The onions were a dark tan but not quite "mahogany" so I stirred them and then set the cooker on high for another hour. At that point the onions were deep and rich in both color and flavor but still very liquid. If I was going to add them to pizza or use in a dip I would have transferred them to a skillet or shallow pan and let them cook down further. Since I was making the soup I just added a little flour, stirred and then added hot beef stock, cognac, dry vermouth and a pinch of thyme and let it cook on high for about another hour. It needed some salt and pepper so I added that and then turned on the broiler. I ladled the soups into bowls and topped with some bread I had made and frozen earlier that month and some grated Gruyere. I put the bowls under the broiler. I have to say it was as good as any other times I have made it but SO much easier since I got to leave the house in the middle! I was a sceptic but no more.
My next plan is to slice about 6-7 lbs next time and let them caramelize in the slow cooker all day while I am at work- at least 10-12 hours and then keep them in the fridge to add to other meals, as a topping for pizza or just as a guilty snack!
I decided I didn't want the onions to stew in excess liquid so I started them in a stovetop pan in order to have a nice enough heat going to evaporate the initial juices thrown off during the first half hour. Once I did, it jdidn't seem worth the bother to transfer them. Plus I wanted to deglaze the pan after. I cooked them for about 2-1/2 hours I think.
I'll try it in the crockpot some day when I'm out for a half day. I didn't mind the fumes, but they bothered other people at home. If I'm alone at home I'll stick to a skillet for now.
Thanks for taking the time to report. I want to do a long caramelization on my onions but I didn't want to have to babysit it while worrying about scorching. I was concerned that the crockpot may make them too mushy. I think I will start it on the stovetop until the liquid is thrown off then transfer to the pot for another few hours, to avoid the problem you had with excess liquid
Btw, you can also do this in a large electric skillet (the big rectangular kind you can get at Costco and elsewhere for a steal) and finish the soup much more quickly once the onions are ready. Alton Brown's onion soup recipe turned me onto this trick, and I have forgone the slow cooker for this ever since.