Sweet Onion Sugar Is So Weird and Good
You might dream of living a caramelized onion kind of life. Many of us do. But life gets in the way. To get real, actual caramelized onions takes time, like at least one episode of Billions time. It's been well established that caramelized onion cooking times are one of the most pervasive lies that the mainstream cooking media has foisted upon the public. If a recipe tells you that it takes 10 to 15 minutes to achieve the sweet, sticky, glorious brown of a caramelized onion, you are being hoodwinked. It takes a solid 45-minutes-plus to achieve the level of toe-curling cooked-down onion pleasure that most cooks are chasing. Look deep into your heart: Do you have that kind of patience, or would you rather half-ass it and flop down in front the latest Drag Race?
There's a middle ground, and it's weird, but wonderful. On a recent trip to Kalustyan's—the nearly 75-year-old specialty food store in Manhattan that's the geographic center of my soul—I was creeping on the sweetener aisle in search of jaggery when I spied a label that stopped me cold: sweet onion sugar. Ingredients were simply listed as cane sugar and roasted onions. This was either going to be glorious or grotesque, but I couldn't live one more day without knowing. Into my overflowing basket it went, and I'd like give myself a minor back pat for waiting until I got home and not standing outside the store on Lexington Avenue, dipping a wet finger into the bag to sample.
That proved to be the prudent option, because I would not have been able to process my emotions in a way that was appropriate for public consumption. This stuff is weird, but in a delightful, Wonka-esque way that immediately had me rifling through my kitchen drawers for little baggies so I may share it with everyone I know and possibly strangers who will immediately wish to become my friends. Think of a crunchy, large-crystal sugar, and and then imagine that tasting just like caramelized onions—only you didn't have to stand there stirring until your arm went numb. It's uncanny, and I immediately started listing all of the ways I wanted to use it: I could sprinkle it on bagels, bialys, omelets, savory muffins, frittatas, casseroles, or meat. I could blend it into salad dressings, dips, sauces, soups, and spreads. I could make a weirdly delightful rim for a I could leave it in a dish as a prank next to the coffee, but I'm not a jerk like that and also I'd probably forget and be all, My, this coffee sure tastes oniony!
Sweet onion sugar isn't anything I expected to exist, let alone recognize as a source of pleasure, or be considering purchasing a recreational vehicle, quitting my job, and driving around the country preaching the gospel thereof, but here we are. I guess I just have layers.