Onion

Onion

By
From
Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery

The pungent and aromatic onion acts as both a flavouring agent and a vegetable in its own right. It is indispensable in the kitchen and lends its unique qualities to many savoury dishes.

Onions can be used to flavour stocks, soups, stews, sauces, poultry, meat and vegetable dishes. They appear as vegetable accompaniments, as garnishes, either raw or cooked, shaped or whole. Tiny onions can be glazed as a garnish for roast meats or they can be pickled in spicy vinegar delicious eaten with good cheddar cheese and fresh white or brown bread.

When buying onions, choose those that are firm, with no bruising or soft spots. The outer skin should be fine and papery. Always store onions in a cool, dry, airy place.

Types of onion:

Brown onions: Readily available in supermarkets and greengrocers, these onions have a stronger flavour than the white variety, and can be too strong to eat raw. They keep well for some weeks in a cool, dry place. If your eyes water when preparing stronger onions, try peeling them under cold water, but do not let them soak. Dry well before using. Some people say it helps to hold a slice of bread in your mouth while peeling and chopping onions. Use brown onions in most cooked dishes.

Baby (pickling) onions: Tiny brown baby onions are sometimes available from greengrocers during the winter months. They are used whole in casseroles (see Boeuf à la Bourguignonne), glazed as a garnish, or fried whole as well as for pickling.

Red (Spanish) onions: These large red-skinned onions have a purple-tinted flesh. They are sweet, mild and crisp and delicious sliced in rings in salads, especially those containing fresh oranges and black olives.

White onions: These are readily available in supermarkets and greengrocers through most of the year. White onions are milder than their brown counterparts and do not keep as long. Use in any recipe calling for onions. They can also be sliced into rings and added raw to salads.

Green onions: An immature onion with an unformed bulb. See Shallot and Spring Onion.

Basic preparation:

To dice or chop onions: Cut the onion in half through the root end. Remove the skin and place flat side down on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 slits lengthways through to the board but not through the root end, so the slices are still attached. Then make 3 or 4 horizontal cuts from one side to the other, still leaving the slices attached to the root. Finally, chop into dice by slicing downwards from the stem to the root end.

To make onion rings: Peel the onion, cut off the stem end and slice thinly. Carefully push out the consecutive rings of onion from each slice.

To slice onions: Cut the onion in half from stem to root end. Remove the skin, using a sharp knife; lay flat side down on a chopping board and cut slices to required thickness from the stem to the root end.

To cook whole onions, retaining shape: Cut a small slice from the stem end and discard. Remove the skin and scrape the root end, to remove the outer skin and any tiny dried roots remaining. Using a sharp pointed knife, cut a shallow cross through the root base but do not remove or slice off the base.

To extract onion juice: Cut onion in half and squeeze on a lemon squeezer the same way you would squeeze a lemon.

To grate onions: Peel and halve onion. Using short sharp downward strokes, rub it against the medium side of a grater.

To cook: Onions should be cooked over gentle or medium heat; too high a heat may scorch the onions and turn them bitter.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
see method for ingredients

Method

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