Onions.

Is there any vegetable that gets less press than the onion? I consider them an invaluable ingredient right with salt, pepper, and butter. Maybe we just take them for granted. Could you imagine cooking without shallots, leeks, chives, bulb onions, green onions, or scallions? Even mashed potatoes aren’t right without some fresh chives in them. Forget about sauces or soups without onions! Mirepoix, which is the foundation for stocks, is not the same without leeks or bulb onions. Garlic is considered a onion family member, who doesn’t like garlic? It would be hard for any restaurant or kitchen to not have at least a couple members of the onion family in stock.

The onion family is very versatile and deserves a little attention now and again. A nice thing about most bulb onions it that as long as they are stored in a cool and dry place, they will keep for weeks. They are relatively inexpensive because of their hardiness. There are many varieties but how much do we know? Do you know the difference between spring onions and scallions or did you think they were the same thing? Even techniques can vary like caramelizing verses sauteing. There are so many types of onions with so many uses. Vidalia, Bermuda, pearl, Maui, Walla Walla, Cippoline, red, shallots, yellow, white, and Spanish are a few types that I use. There are numerous types of garlic as well. This root vegetable is so often used that it rarely gets to be used as the main flavor note. Obviously, deep fried onion rings and French onion soup do not count!

Some different things to try:

Onion Confit, slowly simmer sliced red onions in balsamic vinegar with a touch of honey until they are tender. These go well with salads, especially if you make a vinaigrette with the balsamic from the confit.

Oven roast a sweet variety of onions by slicing them in half and tossed in fresh ground pepper, salt, and oil. It goes well with beef.

If you are grilling, try cutting an onion in half and sticking a fork in one half, then using the end of the cut side to dip it in a little vegetable oil to season your grill before grilling.

Try slicing some white onions very thin. Slow cook them at a very low temperature for 12 hours until they are dehydrated and use them to crust fish, beef, or poultry.

This is just a start but there is so much to do with such a widely used root.

Anyone have some off-the-beaten-track uses for onions? Get off your duff and post them!

Posted by Chef Cody on February 10, 2006 in Food

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