Thursday, September 15, 2011

Onion Love

On a recent trip to South Carolina, my wife ordered a sandwich in a small bakery/sandwich shop. It was described as turkey, bacon, and avocado topped with balsamic glazed caramelized onions. I tried it and really liked it, too.

I can hear my brother, and also a fellow blogger, Rick Wagner, expressing disgust clear over here at my computer. Some people just don't like onions. Some do, and some, like me, really like them.

Like Mission Impossible, my task was to replicate that sandwich.

Step 1 - Caramelize the onions.
Caramelization is the browning of sugar, a process used extensively in cooking for the resulting nutty flavor and brown color. As the process occurs, volatile chemicals are released, producing the characteristic caramel flavor. Doing it with onions also breaks down the cell walls to soften the onions.

How to Make Caramelized Onions - wikiHow

The process requires slow cooking over low heat. I used a slow cooker for several hours to reduce the original 4 pounds of onions to an amount that would fit in a skillet. A slightly higher heat was used to finish the browning process. When the onions are nearly cooked, add a couple of ounces of balsamic vinegar. Caramelized onions can be kept in the fridge or frozen. Use them to top sandwiches, steak, or pizza. Add them to soups, stews, mashed potatoes or almost anything. It is worth the little extra trouble to make a lot at one time.

Step 2 - Bake the bread

The right bread is an essential ingredient to a good sandwich. I used ciabatta bread to make individual sandwich rolls. Follow the link for a recipe and directions.

Step 3 - Assemble the sandwich
Sandwich makers know that the order of ingredients is important. So is having a good balance of the amounts of each component. This sandwich was assembled upside down. Toppings went on the top piece of bread.

First, butter both sides of the bread. Now is not a time to worry about calories. Add a layer of onions ( I added much more than is shown in the picture). Next, add a couple of bacon pieces. On top of the bacon I added chopped/mashed avocado. Finally, a healthy layer of turkey. I used my scale to make 4 oz portions.

It was a great sandwich.

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