First off, start with good onions

If you, like me, are one of the majority blessed with taste buds and digestive tracts that allow appreciation of the marvelous allium family — in all its varieties and forms of preparation — read on about one of my favorite members: the plain, old, yellow onion.

Also known as a "storage onion" for its low-water, high-pungency personality, the yellow globe more likely is found throughout the year than any other in the family. This is the guy you want to use when a recipe calls for long periods of cooking. Its character won't be diminished in the least. The application of low heat, over 45 minutes or more, brings out its sweet and gentle nature.

But to turn out a delicious onion dish, first you have to start with good onions. Pass over those with soft spots or those that aren't firm around the stem ends. They'll have a grainy, mushy texture and possibly an off flavor.

The simplest cooking treatment — if your cholesterol count will allow — is the gentle sauteing of diced or sliced onions in butter. We're talking lots of butter, over low heat, for at least an hour. As onion dishes go, this one is worthy of instant gratification: just you, the deep-yellow, caramelized onions and a spoon. Here are detailed instructions for pulling off this terrific culinary maneuver, as well as recipes for a few more favorites.

Caramelized Onions (Traditional Method)

Peel three large, yellow onions and either slice into rings or chop (depending on what you want to use them for). Melt 1/2 cup butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, stir with a spoon to coat well, season with a bit of salt and cook gently over low to medium-low heat for about one hour, until the onions are thoroughly softened and a deep, golden color. Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from turning brown.

Add onions to a soup, serve over steak or mix into meatloaf or hamburgers.

Caramelized Onions in a Slow Cooker

Peel about 3 pounds of onions and slice into 1/4-inch-wide rings (or slightly narrower). Place the onions with 6 tablespoons butter in the insert of a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours, until the onions are deep brown and very soft. It's almost impossible to overcook these; make sure to let the onions cook until they are mahogany-colored. These onions may be prepared several days ahead and refrigerated until needed.

See the accompanying recipes.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at

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