My husband and I love finding ways to add flavors to our dishes without creating a lot of work for ourselves, but we are willing to put in a little time if it means making our lives easier and tastier in the long run. This has become one of our projects we take on together.
There many ways that you can enhance a recipe, even in a hurry. One way we do this in our house, is to caramelize down some onions or roast lots of garlic, in oil, and then freeze into ice cube trays. This is especially useful if you find as great deal on in-season bulk onions or garlic. For garlic, we also like to get bags of pre-peeled garlic (larger sized bags can be found at stores such as Costco or Cash-And-Carry, possibly Sam’s Club). Once the ice cube trays have completely frozen, you can empty the trays into a labelled gallon sized freezer bag for future use.
My husband once discovered, that many standard sized ice cube trays will freeze 1 ounce cubes. I can’t promise yours does, but most standard sized trays will be close. This allows for easier portioning. It’s even better when you use silicone ice cube trays, as they release from the mold much easier. You can use these cubes of caramelized onion or garlic (or as my husband calls them: “flavor bombs”) to add to sauces, dips, or soups for a quick burst of flavor. These tasty cubes are a key ingredient to our jalapeno popper dip, which I will discuss in the future.
There are several ways to caramelize down lots of onions or roasting lots of garlic. If you want an easier approach, lean towards the slow cooker or pressure cooker methods. If you want more depth of caramelization, you are going to want to find pan cook them. I will provide information on each.
I will post a couple of links to give more specific information on amounts, but keep in mind that your main purpose is for the onions and garlic to be browned, tender and sweet. With that said, we don’t measure when we do this, ever. Here’s what we do:
We slice as many onions down as we can fit in our slow cooker. After halfway filling the slow cooker, we toss the onions with a drizzle of oil (vegetable, avocado or olive have all worked fine) and a sprinkle of salt/pepper. We repeat the oil and salt/pepper process once full, the goal is to have them evenly coated. The mixture gets cooked for 8-10 hours on low, stirring every couple of hours. If I find the mixture is looking really watery, I leave the lid cracked for about 30 minutes. If pieces are sticking to the sides and burning a bit, that’s okay. Once stirred in and cooked for a bit, they will just add to the flavor.
We buy a large bag of peeled garlic (at Coscto or Cash and Carry), and slow cook them on low for about 6 hours with some oil and salt/pepper (again, we just try to get them evenly coated), or until browned and tender. This allows us get as much out of each clove as possible, and is less of a mess. Traditionally (and more affordably), cut the tops off the garlic heads, add salt/pepper and oil, wrap in foil, and then squeeze the garlic out when cool enough to handle.
Links to help you get started
Keep in mind the onions cook down a lot, so you may want to make more than the recipes recommend. I have tried to provide options, depending on your way of cooking:
For onions: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/crock-pot-caramelized-onions-24750
For garlic: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/crock-pot-roasted-garlic-24420
Pressure Cooker (such as Instant Pot or GoWise USA):
For onions: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2016/01/pressure-cooker-caramelized-onion-recipe.html
For garlic: https://www.thekitchn.com/make-roasted-garlic-in-15-minutes-with-this-trick-229011
Traditional (pan or oven):
For onions: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/caramelized-onions-356677
For garlic: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/how-to-roast-garlic-303247
You can follow oven method link for ingredient amounts. Basically, you want to prepare the garlic as I described above (with foil, or place peeled clove in oven safe dish), and roast in your air fryer for 15-20 minutes at 400F.
Most importantly, please have fun and try new things in the kitchen!