Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions ~ A Tribute to Becky

I don’t remember when it started. I think it just always was. Right from the very first second.

To quote a line from Jerry Maguire – she had me at hello.

A little background. When the Food Network made their heart wrenching decision to close the chat forums (which they never moderated), I thought it a good idea to open a chat board dedicated to the Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten. It mostly was a good idea. I have made some wonderful friends there. I have also grown a very thick skin there.

I met Becky there. From the very beginning, Becky approached me and asked to help out. There was something gracious about her, something significant, something unwavering. She and I became instant friends. It was so easy. Our children are about the same age. We both love to cook. Love Fiesta. Love the occasional lovely cocktail. We are both innately curious.

Becky and I were also insomniacs. We would meet on AOL in the wee hours of the morning and talk for hours on end.

We talked about food, our husbands, food, dishes, food, people on the various boards, food, how to solve problems on them, and we talked about our children – ENDLESSLY. We laughed at them, we laughed with them, we cried for them and over them, we prayed for them, screamed about them, vented frustrations and absolutely adored each other’s children. I watched Abbey and Tori grow up into beautiful young women and she watched Tommy grown into the wonderful young man he is.

When Becky first found out about her illness, we discussed it. Her not getting better was not an option. We joked about the nuts and berries holistic approach she was taking at the beginning.

She was so brave – well, 90% of the time. Every once in a while she would break down – mostly by email – and say she was frightened or frustrated. When she started chemo and spending a lot of time at Vandy, I knit a blanket for her. It was pink and purple and very warm. The note I enclosed said that it was a hug. Whenever she used it, she wasn’t alone. I was there holding her hand and hugging her.

We were fortunate enough to meet in person. And she was as lovely and gracious in person as she always was online. FOr those of you who have dealt with crazies in the cyberworld, someone who was exactly the same in person as online is a rare thing.

I will never forget the morning I received Becky’s last email. I sat there staring at the screen – STUNNED. I answered her back immediately. I hope she was able to read it. I told her I loved her. I told her to be brave. I told her how much I appreciated her friendship. I told her dying was not an option – a mantra we had repeated incessantly from her initial diagnosis.

Sadly, less than 24 hours later she was gone – and I was, and still am, devastated by this loss.

I wanted – selfishly – the chance to tell her how much her friendship meant to me. We could talk on the phone, or online, or in email, or not for weeks on end and just naturally pick up where we were previously. She was trusting and honest, she was loyal beyond words (a very rare quality in people). She was always there to listen, to lend a hand, to brainstorm. I would have walked away and deleted Contessa’s Kitchen LONG ago had it not been for Becky and her optimism and faith that things would be okay.

One morning we were chatting about recipes. The recipe called for caramelized onions. My nemesis. Carmelized onions. Never made them – not ever once – without having to start them over. There were always burned parts. They were never evenly colored. Never achieved that golden color or deep flavor. Becky had said that she had read someplace that you could caramelize onions in a slow cooker. Off she went finding recipes to accomplish this, sending them to me as she found them. We both tried them, the outcome fabulous, and neither of us ever went without caramelized onions again!

As I have said previously – I will not mourn Becky’s death. I refuse. I will instead celebrate her life, our friendship, and raise a glass and toast her – Rebecca Louise Shauberger Turner, here is to you. You have touched my life and I am better for having known you and lucky to have you as my friend!

There really isn’t a recipe to this. Slow cookers come in all sizes and each manufacturer heats differently.

I have a KitchenAid 7 quart slow cooker. If I fill the slow cooker the onions take between 6 to 8 hours on high with the top off. The cover being off is what makes them brown. Some people’s slow cookers do a better job of this on medium or low. I tried that the first time and absolutely NOTHING was happening. You have to watch it and see if the onions are softening and gauge it that way.

So. Onions. Lots and lots of onions. I prefer using Vidalia onions.

Slice ‘em up. Plunk them into the slow cooker. A few pats of butter. A glug or 2 of olive oil. A pinch or 2 of salt. On high. Walk away.

I usually do this on a day I am going to be home the entire time. They need to be stirred and the top IS off – and those of you who know me already know I love my slow cooker but live in fear of it. The onions start to break down.

And stir. And wait. And stir. And wait.

And when they are browned and a complete shadow of their former selves, I add a bit of balsamic vinegar.

When they are brown and soft to your liking, let them cool.

Although I freeze most of my onions – in one cup portions so I can easily take 1/2 or a 1/4 or th entire thing depending on the recipe – I keep some out for sandwiches. The one above is toasted sourdough, roast beef, cheddar cheese and the onions. Yum!

So, back to the purpose – I will miss you, Miss Becky, and will always have an emptiness in my heart. Abbey and Tori, your Mom thought you 2 were the greatest things since sliced bread. She thought you both were so amazing. There is and always will be a special space in my heart and home for the 2 of you.

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