Musical pairing – Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Here’s the deal . . . when Virginia Willis says that you need to buy a particular cookbook, pay attention . . . pay close attention and do exactly what she’s telling you to do.  Why? Well, because she’s Virginia Willis and she just knows these things. When she recommended this book, I high-tailed it to my nearest Sur La Table and bought a copy.  Can I just say that Virginia was right?

This book is fast becoming one of my favorites, not just for gift-giving ideas but also for recipes I’ll be making for me and The Professor throughout the year; I already have jars of this fabulous curd stored in my cupboards and there’s also a very large bottle of Limoncello perking down in my basement pantry – I’ll let you know how it goes in about 60 days or so.  These 8-hour Butter-Braised Onions caught my eye because I’m a big, big fan of caramelized onions . . . and this recipe my friends, is made in a slow cooker . . . yes, you read that right!

I’m starting with this basic recipe and then over the next week or so, I’m going to show you several ways to use them. You can thank me now or better yet, thank Virginia.

So – without checking any musical references, who else has covered the musical pairing???

Gifts Cooks Love, Sur la table
Makes two (6-Cup/1-1/2 liter) jars of butter-braised onions
10 Large (about 8-1/2 pounds) Sweet Onions, such as Walla Walla (imagine that, I’M from Walla Walla!), Vidalia or Maui
½ Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  1. To prep the onions, trim the stem end, cut in half lengthwise through the root and peel each half.  Leaving the root end intact, cut each half lengthwise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Trim to remove the root.
  2. Scatter the butter in the bottom of a 6-1/2-quart electric slow cooker.  Add the onions and sprinkle the thyme over the top.  Place the lid on the slow cooker, set the cooking mode to high and set a timer for 2 hours.
  3. After 3 hours, use a silicone spatula to stir the onion mixture. Set a timer for 6 hours, continuing to cook on high. (As tempting as it might be, there is no need to stir the onions during this long cooking period.)
  4. Turn the power off, remove the cover, give the onions a stir and let cool in the ceramic insert for 1 hour.
  5. Ladle the onions into the jars through a wide-mouth funnel, dividing evenly. Cool completely and then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
SMITH BITES NOTE: I happen have a slow cooker with a built in timer and temperature settings for high and low; I set the first time for 2 hours, stirred, then reset for the additional 6 hours required. It also has an automatic shut-off so I could even make these overnight and wake up to perfectly caramelized onions in the morning – total time saver!!


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  5. Debra, how did I miss these back in January? To think I’ve wasted an entire month when I could have been enjoying butter braised onions.

  6. I’m making these today. I wanted to make French Onion Soup and some sort of broccoli soup and this process will be nice for cooking the onions down and not taking up a big pot on my stovetop for the day. Great idea, thanks for posting.


  8. I love caramelized onions, but this is a completely new way for me to make it. I can imagine the intense flavors with the long cooking.

  9. hi! I live in Argentina and don´t have a slow cooker. can you suggest another way to make this delicious onions?
    thanks a lot

    • Hi Lali ~

      I think you could do these in the oven at a low temperature, say 300 degrees maybe? I’ve never done them that way, but would try it and see what happens. Prepare your onions the same way, add the sliced butter to the bottom of the pan, onions, thyme. Check them at 2hrs, stir and then start checking at the 3-4hr mark until they are done. Having not made them this way myself, I can’t really give you good directions.

  10. That sounds so good, my partner would love that with a big steak!

  11. I absolutely LOVE this book and have made several things including these onions. They’re ah-mazing!

  12. I have what is almost an antique slow cooker that I have had since college (so you know it’s old!) I wonder if I could fit all of those onions? I love the idea of tucking them in and walking away until they are done!

    • Debi ~ You could certainly cut the amount of onions back to fit the size of your slow cooker; adjust the butter a bit but I think you’d be fine!

  13. This looks scrumptious. I bought my slow cooker because I love Michele Scicolone’s fabulous Italian Slow Cooker cookbook, but then I got distracted from using the slow cooker further. You have inspired to do the onions and now I want that Sur la Table Gifts Cooks Love book! Thanks for sharing.

  14. When I was at Blogher, there was a gal there who told me about crockpot onions. I came home and tried it on my own but wasn’t impressed with my results. I’m trying this recipe out soon!!

  15. This is the good stuff ain’t it?! When is braises slowly bringing out of the sweetness goodness after making you shed a tear when you slice it. I can imagine the flavor & creaminess!!

  16. I’ll bet your house smells amazing! Love this idea, and I’m adding the book to my wish list as soon as I hit Submit on this comment. Thanks for the rec!

  17. I have never heard of onions prepared like this in the slow cooker. Must try sometime soon, I would love to put a scoop over everything.

  18. I adore caramelized onions. How fun! I may actually have to break down and purchase a slow cooker. It is on the list.

  19. My slow cooker has been an amazing life saver. It literally kept us fed while I was going to grad school.

    I’m loving this recipe! Butter and braising…it doesn’t get much better than that.

  20. I am ALSO a fan of caramelized onions. And – easily convinced. So, if I can’t find this at my local library in the coming weeks, I might have to suck it up and purchase a copy from Sur La Table (also one of my favorite retailers).

    The next question is – would ouu normally eat this out of a jar, top off a salad… or… ?


  21. I think you need to amend this to say “any book that Debra recommends you should just go out and buy”!!!

    This book just went to the top of my “to buy” list and I will be making these onions just as soon as I can get to the grocery store… brilliant!!

  22. Fabulous idea, I wouldn’t have thought of using the slow cooker for this, but your right…, its the ideal method. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  23. Get out! Caramelized onions in the slow cooker? That is just pure genius!

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  25. Fabulous recipe! It would be worth getting a slow cooker just to make this recipe. I regret having given mine away.

  26. Ooh, I want this book! It looks amazing, as do those onions! Appreciate you sharing!

  27. The onions look divine. I can only imagine the smell (sauteed onions, frying bacon, and bread in the oven are my favorite smells…oh, and roasted hazelnuts:).

    French Onion Soup? Pizza? Alsace Tart? Cannot wait for the recipes!

  28. HI Debra,

    I am the author of Gifts Cooks Love and am delighted to see this posting. I found a jar of these onions in my freezer, totally forgot I had done that, and thawed them. Voila, we had yummy French onion soup in a flash. It was a rainy, cold night and all I needed to do was heat the onions with chicken broth, grate cheese, slice a baguette and broil. I am so appreciative for your enthusiastic posting. I had so much fun creating the food gifts for this book!

    Diane Morgan

    • Hello Diane and thank you so much for stopping by! I really DO love your book and have it sitting on my counter at the moment getting ready for my next recipe; as I said in my post, the book isn’t just for gift-giving, although the gift ideas are ones I’d love to receive myself. These are recipes we’ll make to enjoy ourselves throughout the year – am so happy that Virginia recommended it!

  29. In response to the Musical pairing question: The English Beat?

  30. Yippee! Can’t wait to share with Diane! Isn’t it a beautiful book! Thank you for your kind words. Best VA

    • I honestly can’t say enough positive things about this book – just lovely in every way: simple but delicious recipes, beautiful gift ideas and no fancy ingredients to search for!

  31. Drooling over the thought of onions at 8a. I’m going to have to check the book out.

  32. Luverly. Simply luverly.

  33. Oh my! I can’t wait to see what you do with these gorgeous onions. 8 hours?! They can’t be anything but wonderful.

  34. I’ve never met Virginia Willis, but I am a fan. If she says so, y’all take it to the bank!

  35. Braised onions are such a treat. I love spooning them on top of my favorite meats.

  36. Now I have both another recipe to make and another cook book to buy. I adore onions, and I can only imagine how GREAT these taste. They would turn my weekday sandwiches into something extraordinary. Thank you so much for sharing, my friend!

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  38. I’m just imagining all the uses these could have! Burgers, soups, sandwiches, hot dogs, warm pastry with goat cheese… YUM!

  39. Not sure how you could go wrong with cooking onions in a stick of butter. Sounds like the perfect gift to me!

  40. These sound delicious and way too easy!

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