How to use up loads of onions?
July 3, 2009 2:55 PM   Subscribe

How do I use up 4 kilos of onions? I only meant to order four onions in my online shopping but clicked the wrong thing - please help me with ideas for cooking/storing/eating lots of onions before they go mouldy...
posted by janecr to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You need a cool, dark place, and several pairs of pantyhose. Drop an onion in, force it to the bottom, tie a knot (or two) in the panty hose. Repeat, repeat, repeat, but leave enough at the top to tie the leg of pantyhose to whatever you're hanging it on. Cut each onion out from the bottom as you need it. The trick is also that they have to be free - they can't be touching walls or other onions or other items in the closet/basement/where ever you put them. My parents have stored onions like this for years (well, they don't keep for years, but they have always stored onions like this).
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:59 PM on July 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

The obvious: French onion soup

Also, look at curry recipes. They can use a lot of chopped onions.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:59 PM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Man, I love onions, but I have no idea what you would do with this many. Call a food shelter and donate some? Call friends and give them away? Have a party and make onion rings for 100.

You could make tons of salsa, this would be a way of keeping some of it from going off.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:01 PM on July 3, 2009

Classic French onion soup uses up a huge amount of onions. Sweet onions like Vidalias are ideal, but standard white or yellow onions are fine. This recipe by Alton Brown uses up about 4 pounds, which is almost half of what you have.

If you don't feel like soup, slowly cooking thinly sliced onions will make them sweet and mellow, and they are very easily frozen and re-used later in any recipe that calls for cooked onions. They reduce so much when cooked that they won't take up that much space in your freezer, either.
posted by maudlin at 3:02 PM on July 3, 2009

I am partial to confit d'oignon, which is onion jam or marmalade. I've never made it but there are loads of recipes out there.
posted by Jode at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2009

Okay, I just tried to search for this onion marmalade recipe I immediately thought of from the NYT but couldn't find it. It sounded delicious and amazing though and really stuck with me. I remember that it was basic but sounded a tad crazy: he'd recommended slicing literally all 4 kilos of your onions (or as many as you aren't using right away, he used 5 pounds) and sauteing them on extremely low heat in extra virgin olive oil for about 5 hours. Yeah, 5 hours. The key is to use a le creuset or something similar (heavy, large) that can take the low heat and the large volume at the outset. You're supposed to stir them every 15 minutes or so, and it certainly does sound painstaking.

Sorry... really frustrated with myself that I can't find the article because it sounded so delicious. Anyway, you may then can the results and store them for ages to be used on toast, salads, sandwiches... yummmm.
posted by ohyouknow at 3:08 PM on July 3, 2009

Do you like caramelized onions? They cook down a lot--I made some last week and have been putting them on omelettes, pizza, toast, etc. You can also freeze them in small portions.
posted by thaumatrope at 3:09 PM on July 3, 2009

Make onion paste. This provides an excellent starter base for soups and stews, that makes these much thicker than they normally are (so don't need cornstarch or flour to thicken).
Just chop and saute the onions in a little vegetable oil until they are soft (not brown, but a transparent light-gold color). Blend the cooked onions (I use a stick blender directly in the pan) and freeze in smallish quantities (use ice-cube trays and decant the cubes to freezer bags or just portion it out into small freezer bags: a quarter to half-cup is about right for a 4-6 portion soup or stew). My favorite starter-base is equal parts (by volume) onion and celery, but onion on its own is good too.
When you come to make your soup/stew, start with a little vegetable oil and the frozen paste. Melt it gently, then add the other ingreients. It is really good!
posted by Susurration at 3:12 PM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

You can chop and freeze onions (preferably in individual portions) and then use them in cooking when needed. They won't be good for salads or anywhere you'd want to use raw onions because the texture won't be crisp when defrosted, but they're perfect for recipes or sauteing just as you would use fresh onions.
posted by necessitas at 3:12 PM on July 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

You have almost enough onions to make The Greatest Pasta Sauce You've Never Tasted.
posted by Balonious Assault at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

Caramelized Onions (seconding maudlin--and everyone else on preview):

Another Alternate Method: Peel and slice your onions (at least 6 - leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month). Place in a slow cooker. Drizzle the onions with about 2 tablespoons of oil. Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn it on high. Cook 8-10 hours.
posted by jamjam at 3:14 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Medieval Maven's right about the storage - my dad's onions just went in string bags in the shed. Some of the middle ones would go soggy or off occasionally (I suspect this is where the tights have an advantage over a string bag), but they keep for ages and ages. And you can eat them if they start sprouting. Just cut round the sprouty bits inside.

Onion marmalade, onion chutney (I have a feeling onion marmalade is just a posh name for onion chutney). Yummy, long shelf life.

Pickled onions! Recipes will tell you you need small onions, but I grew up with my mum's pickled onions which were great big ones cut into quarters and pickled like that.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:17 PM on July 3, 2009

Yes, French Onion Soup is a great way to use a ton of onions. I saw them make this recipe on America's Test Kitchen and it looked delicious, but they also offer a version that is less time and labor-intensive.
posted by ishotjr at 3:28 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you, trip and a half, that was EXACTLY what I was thinking about!
posted by ohyouknow at 3:43 PM on July 3, 2009

Agreeing with all the caramelized onion suggestions. I've never tried to make them, don't have the patience. However, I once read on a blog that caramelized onions are the bacon of the vegetarian world, and since, I keep meaning to try to make them. Even if you're not a vegetarian, you can make a huge batch and use them wherever you'd otherwise use bacon for flavor.
posted by necessitas at 3:49 PM on July 3, 2009

Chop all of your onions up and braise them in balsamic vinegar. It makes an excellent appetizer on bread, a topping for meats or potatoes, and keeps in the freezer like a champ.
posted by munchingzombie at 4:05 PM on July 3, 2009

Here's my own recipe for onion jam, along with serving suggestions. It's absurdly delicious. I have a batch cooking right now, and the whole house smells intoxicatingly of onions.
posted by Elsa at 4:21 PM on July 3, 2009

A lot of Indian and southeast Asian recipes rely on minced onion to provide the base for thick sauce.

That said, I buy 5kg of onions at a time, using 1 or 2 a night, and rarely lose more than couple to spoilage. Just keep them somewhere dim and dry.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:27 PM on July 3, 2009

I went to a very non-vegetarian sub shop once and walked out with a sub that was a heaping pile of grilled onions with cheese and mayo and nothing else. It was delicious, and now I make onion subs a lot. Toast bun, trowel on the onion, broil some cheddar on top; schmear of mayo for extra greasy goodness. 1 sub requires at least 1 onion. Certainly worth trying if you make up a batch of caramelized onions as people've suggested.
posted by kmennie at 4:29 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can we swap? I love French Onion soup; but the caramelizing seems to be a very practical method of preservation, and one that will contribute awesomeness to your future cooking.
posted by purpletangerine at 7:38 PM on July 3, 2009

You want to make Mujadarra - it uses a huge amount of onions.
posted by O9scar at 8:31 PM on July 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I buy onions in 10-lb bags all the time, and there are only 4 of us in our household. They keep quite a while -- at least a month -- in a cool, dark place, using one or two per day.

That said: Dice onions, carrots, and celery and put them in freezer bags, about a cup to each bag. Instant soffritto/mirepoix. Saute just as you would fresh.

For a quick dinner, onion fritatta. (I use Marcela Hazan's recipe but can't find it online.)
posted by palliser at 9:28 PM on July 3, 2009

Seconding mujadarra - incredibly tasty comfort food. Great with spiced toasted pita.
posted by soleiluna at 10:53 PM on July 3, 2009

German Zwiebelkuchen (Onion quiche)! It's delicious with white wine, or beer, and can be served hot or cold. You can also freeze/reheat it quite well. I usually use 1kg of onions for 1 baking tray, and each tray serves 3-4 as a main dish, 6-8 as an appetizer.
posted by The Toad at 1:49 AM on July 4, 2009

There used to be a vegetarian blog called The Hungry Tiger, which has sadly gone offline, but she had a great recipe for slowly roasted sliced onion. Just slice up a whole mess of onions, spread out on one or more baking sheets, cover with oil (doesn't have to be expensive olive oil or anything, just something neutral) then roast in a medium oven (around 300 F / 150 C or so), turning occasionally, until it turns golden brown and crispy. Drain the oil off. You get the best crispy onion bits, which can be used in salads, soups, whatever, and this gorgeous tasting onion oil, to be used in dressing or whatever comes to your mind. Store both well covered in a cool, dry place. One caveat: Your house may smell like cooking onions for a while, if that's a problem.
posted by thread_makimaki at 3:28 AM on July 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing megadarra (and spelling permutations thereof), but another recipe that also feels like a veritable onion party every time I make it is the Dalai Lama's momos). I've frozen both the momos (dumplings) and the soup, and kept them frozen for maybe three months at the longest stretch; have had no problems. And it's great to just dump a baggie of momos into your steamer, pop a container of frozen soup into the microwave, and dinner's done! :)

I also freeze megadarra, for the record. In serving sized portions in ziploc bags. You could stock the freezer with pre-made meals for months! :)
posted by springbound at 4:18 AM on July 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Make oven-roasted onions. Peel, quarter, toss w/ olve oil, add seasoned salt, lots of pepper, and bake for about an hour at about 350F. Toss every 15 minutes. Add potatoes, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes or other yummy veggies, if you like.

Onion tart. Slice a big onion, saute gently in butter or olive oil until it begin to brown. Use your favorite quiche recipe for the preferred ratio of eggs and milk. Ready-made pie crust, onions, cheese (swiss, cheddar, wensleydale, whatever you like), egg mixture, top w/ parmesan. It's very sweet and savory.
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on July 4, 2009

Jode has a good idea. Onion confit (confit d'oignons).

Here's Thomas Keller's recipe from his book Bouchon.

You can add onion confit to fish, potato, and vegetables dishes. You can also make one of my favorite things on the planet, Quiche Lorraine (Onion Bacon Quiche).

Onion confit lasts for up to a week in the refrigerator. It also freezes well.

This is what onion confit looks like (here, here, and here).

Here's my poor attempt at the bouquet garni and the parchment lid mentioned in the recipe.
posted by foooooogasm at 2:37 PM on July 4, 2009

You can easily triple or quadruple the recipe to use up 8 kilos, but that's a lot of onion confit and you'll need a gigantic pot.
posted by foooooogasm at 2:39 PM on July 4, 2009

Tweaked Onion Galette from Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.

Nthing caramelized onions. Which reminds me of this potato "kugel" because the foundation of it, what really makes it, is well caramelized onions. And as a bonus, it's really easy.
posted by ifjuly at 9:59 PM on July 15, 2009

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