Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, folks. This is a holiday that I don’t particularly enjoy. If you’re not in a relationship or in one that’s complicated, it can feel like a giant middle finger. If you are in a relationship, it can be stressful and/or tedious to have a mandated celebration of your love. AND EXPENSIVE, AMIRIGHT? There’s definitely surge pricing for restaurants and babysitters. Bleh. I hate it.
So instead, we’ll put the kiddo to bed early, open a bottle of wine, and make this easy French Onion Steak Skillet that requires VERY little work and even less cleanup.
But even on non-holiday nights, if your kids like French Onion Soup or steak, they’ll dig in. No need to save this for a special, adults-only meal.
Also, I think I’ve finally cracked the code for getting GENUINELY caramelized onions (not fried, frizzled, or straight-up burned) in about 20 minutes. I know, I know. Most recipes claim that it takes 20 minutes when it actually takes an hour or more to get that deep uniform jammy brownness. Behold this before and after:
After a deep dive through Youtube videos and Cook’s Illustrated articles, I’ve achieved great results much faster than usual. Here are a few secrets to speeding up this otherwise slow process:
Use a large pan with a tight fitting lid. You’ll melt butter and olive oil together and then cook the onions for 3 minutes at a time with the pan covered.
Use medium high heat the whole time. You want the onions to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan just a little bit. If they stick too much and/or blacken rather than brown, turn the heat down slightly. If the onions aren’t sticking to the bottom, turn the heat up.
Add water or stock every 3 minutes and scrape the browned bits off of the bottom and mix them into the onions while they’re cooking.
Repeat the process: Cook 3 minutes over high heat/ add liquid/ scrape the browned bits/ cover and cook for 3 more minutes. After about 15-20 minutes, the onions will be done!
Add 1/8 tsp baking powder at the very end to make the onions sweeter. You can’t add it at the beginning or the onions will break down too much, but adding it at the end lends just the right amount of jamminess.
French onion steak skillet
4 large onions, sliced in ¼ inch slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp butter, divided
5 large sprigs of thyme
2½ cups beef stock
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 lb skirt steak, strip steak, flank steak, or tri-tip steak (basically any moderately thin steak) Salt and pepper to taste
½ large baguette, sliced
1 clove garlic, halved
3 oz gruyere cheese, thinly sliced or grated
Flaky sea salt
For the onions:
In a large, ovenproof skillet or pot with a tight fitting lid, heat the olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter over a medium high flame. Add the onions and thyme, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. If the onions start to burn, turn the heat down slightly (but try to maintain a high heat). After 3 minutes, remove the cover, add ¼ cup of stock, and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan and mix the onions around. Re-cover and cook for another 3 minutes, and then repeat the stock/scrape/mix process. Repeat this 3-minute process until the onions are uniformly soft and brown, about 15-20 minutes.
Turn off the heat and mix in ¼ tsp kosher salt and 1/8 tsp of baking soda. Remove the onions to a separate plate and wipe out the pot.
For the skillet:
Whole the onions are cooking, slice the bread and toast lightly in the toaster. Rub the raw garlic over one side of the bread. Shred the gruyere. Set aside.
When the onions are done and removed to another container, heat the broiler to high.
Melt the other 2 Tbsp of butter in your wiped-out skillet over high heat. Sear the steak for about 3-4 minutes per side. While the steak is seering on one side, season with salt and pepper. Repeat when you flip to the other side.
Turn off the heat and add the cooked onions back to the pan.
Pour 3-4 Tbsp of stock over the onions in the pan. Nestle the slices of bread in the onions around the steak and top with cheese.
Place the entire pan under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.
Slice the steak to test doneness. Sprinkle with more flaky sea salt and fresh thyme sprigs.
Yield: 2 grown up and 2 kid servings