Sunday, May 13, 2012

Kale and Caramelized Onion Frittata

Recently in the food world there was a bit of a debate over how long it takes to caramelize onions. You can check out the article here, but the gist of it is that *some* recipe authors are carelessly writing into recipes that caramelizing onions takes only 5-10 minutes. I posted the article on to my facebook site that 10 minutes was laughable and got into a debate with a friend, her saying that how familiar one was with a cooking technique could depend on the timing of the recipe. That's absolutely true, but I think the main problem are the liberties that authors take with cooking times. There's nothing more frustrating then deciding on a particular recipe, namely because it only takes a certain amount of time, and then have that timing be grossly untrue.
The eventual frittata I made with said caramelized onions
Here the main culprit is caramelized onions but I'm sure this could also be true of braises, stocks, sauces, etc. But going back to the original I decided to test this out. I've caramelized onions many many times and I would never describe the process as speedy, but I'd never actually timed myself. Now keep in mind, there are many factors at play here, such as the type of onion, the uniform thickness that it's been sliced (you really want the thinnest slice possible, so that as much of the onions surface is touching the heat as possible), the inclusion of a touch of sugar (so as to help bring out the natural sugars in the onion), and how many onions you're using (how crowded is the pan). Depending on all those above things, it could be a longer or shorter process, but again I was very skeptical of 10 minutes. So I used one fairly large Spanish onion, cut fairly thin, about a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and a tiny sprinkle of some turbinado sugar while nearly constantly stirring. Also, I'd consider myself fairly expert. It took me just over 15 minutes.

I put the onions on exactly at 12:00. The pan and oil had already been heating up for approx 1-2 min
5 min into cooking (you can see the clock). Still pretty white and barely any hints of brown
8 min mark. Brown is showing up more but still far from being caramelized
10 min. Getting there. Nicely browned but again, still not caramelized
13 min. Almost there
Here we go. 15 minutes. 
So 15 minutes, give or take a minute or 2 to start. That's just 1 onion, which yields about 1/4-1/3 cup of caramelized onions. So more yield will take more time, but that amount is perfect for 1 person. What I learned though is really how quickly this process happens after the 8 minute mark. So for a new, untried cook, I could see how they'd get confused at 10 minutes. The onions were browned, but definitely not caramelized.

Experiment complete, I decided to make good use of the onions and make a frittata. Never one to leave out greens, I also quickly sauteed some kale and shaved some gouda over. The result was a sweet and crunchy savory brunch meal. And since frittatas take next to no time to cook, even with the onion time built in the recipe took only 30 minutes to make.

Kale and Caramelized Onion Frittata
1 Spanish onion- caramelized (see above and here)
4-5 medium to large kale leaves- stems removed and chiffonaded)
3-4 large eggs
1/2 Tbl. cream or sour cream
3-4 Tbl. grated hard cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Optional: herbs, garlic, spices

1. In the pan that the onions had been cooked in add the kale. There should be enough oil left over that you don't need more. Add to that any herbs or spices. While those are cooking whip up the eggs and add in the cream. Add salt and pepper to the eggs.

2. Once the kale is starting to brown, add back in the caramelized onions evenly over and then pour the eggs over that. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over top. Cook 3-4 minutes over the stove top until the bottom is set and then pop in the oven at broil for 3-4 additional minutes until the top is browned and bubbling.

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