Thinly sliced and lovingly cooked onions become sweet, tender and utterly delicious, especially when slowly caramelized until they’re a rich, dark brown colour.
Chef Rachel Ray said on a show that when she hears people say they don’t like garlic she wants to sit them down at her roasted garlic and say ‘Here! Eat this’ because it changes so completely from raw or lightly cooked. It loses its pungency and becomes rich and nutty.
I feel that way about properly sautéed onions! When someone declares they don’t like onions I always wonder if it’s because they’ve been served improperly cooked onions – which I have too and I don’t like those at all. I love sautéed onions; I don’t enjoy raw white or red onions. Even with my wonderful black bean quinoa salad that calls for half a diced onion, I sauté it and resume with the recipe. It turns out de-lish!
Gina’s Tips for Loving Onions:
Wear Your Contact Lenses
If you use them, wear your contacts for this task – it makes slicing onions pain-free. The fumes cannot burn your eyes when you are wearing contact lenses. Swimming goggles would work, and could generate comedy in the kitchen! At LifeHacker Melanie Pinola tests different suggestions to remain tear-free while cutting onions. Her verdict? Top 3 are to wear goggles, partially-freeze the onion, or work under a fast-running vent fan. Those all sound good to me! And using a sharp, quality chef’s knife helps as well. Also, try to use them before they grow long sprouts like the front onion in this gorgeous painting by artist Theresa Shelton (artwork sources at bottom of post). Mind you at this point, if the bulb hasn’t gone soft, the sprouting parts can be enjoyed like green onions/scallions. Dice and give a light sauté. They have great onion flavour and are filled with nutrients. The bulb itself would be very pungent (tears while cutting this one!) but if firm could be used in a long cooking dish such as stew.
Cook them LOW and SLOW
Bring out their sweetness! Here’s what celebrity chef Michael Smith says of cooking onions ‘low and slow’: “For caramelized onions, toss a bit of butter and oil in a pan set over medium-high heat. Melt the butter – the oil will protect the butter and its flavour from burning – and then add the onions, a splash of water and salt and pepper. Stir well, then cover with a tight fitting lid. This will capture steam and help the onions release all their moisture. Cook, stirring now and then until the onions soften and become quite wet, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring frequently until all the water has evaporated. Lower the heat a bit and slowly begin to caramelize the onions, stirring them frequently. This takes about an hour. You don’t need to stir continuously, just enough to keep the onions from sticking to the bottom. Continuing to lower the heat will also help prevent sticking.” When I don’t have that kind of time I’ve found even 20 minutes on medium-low cooks them superbly.
A Homemaker’s Secret
Start those onions cooking! If your mate or kids are home any minute and everyone’s hungry but you haven’t started dinner yet, one chopped or sliced onion cooking will fill your home with a mouth-watering aroma. I definitely do that first, and buy a bit of time while I catch up with making my dinner. On a side note, if running behind I also quickly peel a couple of carrots, chop lengthwise into ‘sticks’ and put on a plate with a small bowl of salad dressing for a dip to help tide them over. Happy family equals happy chef!
Enjoy As A Side Dish
The other night I served perogies (just the frozen kind with cheddar-potatoes inside – I haven’t learned to make them from scratch… yet!) and while I served the guys some sausages with theirs, I enjoyed my dinner meatless. Beside a nice big green salad, I had a handful of them with sour cream, a bit of freshly ground pepper, and a LOT of caramelized onions. Yum!
Health Benefits From Onions
Rich in soluble dietary fiber;
Very low in fat and calories (40 calories/100g);
Good amounts of vitamin-C and mineral manganese;
High in B-complex vitamins like pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, folates and thiamin;
Contain enzymes that have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties;
Contain compounds with anti-mutagenic (cancer protection) and anti-diabetic properties;
Have been found to help decrease an overall risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), peripheral vascular diseases (PVD), and stroke;
Good source of antioxidant flavonoid quercetin, which is found to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic functions;
And isothiocyanate anti-oxidants help provide relief from cold and flu symptoms by exerting additional anti-inflammatory actions.
Expect future recipes here highlighting onions. Yes, I am obviously an onion enthusiast but I feel I have good reason to be! If you’re not (yet) may this post help encourage you to give these ideas a try and (re)discover the beauty of the common onion.