The column is from a favorite food writer of mine in the LA Times, Russ Parsons.
Article here -
link THE CALIFORNIA COOK
Slow cook onions, and the results are delicious
Caramelizing onions over several hours creates a complex taste and smooth texture that can be savored in just about any dish or as a spread.
By Russ Parsons
January 21, 2009
It's probably only available for a week before the LAT puts a fee on it
I won't quote the entire article, but some clips. To me it's an article to keep.
clip - Such is the miracle of long, slow cooking. The happy result of a marriage between 5 pounds of onions and four hours to kill, these onions caramelize to a deep, mahogany reddish-brown with a marmalade-like consistency.
There is sweetness, yes, but there is so much else, a powerful, mouth-filling deliciousness that can't be described better than "savory." And the texture is buttery enough that they can actually be used as a fat replacement.
But just because there are no long lists of ingredients or complicated techniques does not mean caramelizing onions is without pitfalls. The main one -- and it's a dish-killer -- is that caramelizing can come awfully close to burning, and once you've scorched the onions there's no way to get rid of that bitter flavor but to dump them out, wipe the pan clean and start over.
To avoid this, cook the onions in the heaviest pot you have over the lowest heat possible for much of the time, stirring as often as you can. That should be at least every 15 to 20 minutes for most of the cooking, shortening to 5 to 10 minutes when you get down to the end stages.
The pot should be really big, too. I usually use my nearly 7-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven to cook my onions and at the start it's almost full to the top. But the onions wilt and shrink dramatically during cooking. Sprinkle them with a little salt to help draw out the moisture and just enough oil to keep them from sticking. Cover the pot and place it over medium-low heat.
After about 20 minutes you'll find that the onions have started to soften and after about 45 minutes, they will be swimming in moisture -- it's amazing just how much water an onion contains. At this point, you can increase the heat to medium and remove the lid to evaporate as much of that liquid as possible.
After about 75 minutes, the liquid will be very reduced and the onions will be the color of oatmeal. Here's where it starts to get tricky, because there's no longer enough moisture to keep the onions from scorching. You need to reduce the heat as low as it will go (use a flame tamer if necessary), and be vigilant about stirring every 10 to 15 minutes (I found this was a really good chore while I was ripping CDs onto my wife's iPod).
When you reach the two-hour point, there will be almost no water left. The onions will have darkened a bit and will taste sweet, if slightly bland. Start stirring every five to 10 minutes.
At the three-hour point they'll be getting really close. The color will have darkened substantially into a reddish-gold and the flavor will have become notably more complex (you'll also find that your house will smell absolutely amazing).
When the onions have darkened just a bit further and you can hear them really sizzling despite the low heat, they'll be done. They should still be moist and flexible, a bit like a shredded orange peel marmalade. Depending on just how low your flame will go, the full cooking will take from just over three hours to just under four.
That's a lot of time, but not a lot of effort. And the good news is that caramelized onions are one of those things that are just as easy to make in large amounts as small. Once cooked, the onions can be used immediately or stored tightly covered in the refrigerator (there will be only a couple cups of them).
Though the word "caramelized" is associated with sweetness (it refers specifically to sugar browning, after all), you don't want to do this with so-called "sweet onions" such as Vidalias or Mauis. That's because those onions aren't actually sweeter than regular onions.
Parsons goes on to explain about the differences in the onions and, further along, how to cut up 5 pounds of onions - see link above
Carmellized onions - recipe
Potato Gratin with Carmellized Onions and Prosciutto - recipe