Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Onion

As promised, I made a how-to video showing how to quickly and neatly dice an onion. Now you can show off to all of your onion-loving friends...and maybe your mother...because she loves you.

There are numerous skills one can master in cooking, but few are as fundamental as knowing how to sauté onions. Before you can do that, you have to know how to cut them down to size. Please keep in mind that I'm aware of the fact that my method is probably not the most preferred by professional chefs. This is simply the way I learned and the way I know best:
"The Onion"
When you have to dice multiple onions, it becomes imperative to implement a quick, neat, and consistent - efficient - method. The appearance of whatever you're cooking will also suffer if you have uneven pieces. Subsequently, uneven pieces will all cook at slightly different rates, some of them becoming soft and pleasant, some of them not, all the while releasing inconsistent amounts of flavor. 
Most importantly though, this method should reduce the amount of time you spend preparing meals. 
To recap:

  1. Peel the onion
  2. Chop off the ugly ends (this is probably where my method differs from others)
  3. Place on board so that a cut end is on the top
  4. Chop in half, straight down
  5. Align it so that the scores you make with the knife run perpendicular to the lines on the bottom of the onion
  6. Score the onion (for a large dice, make them about 1/2 inch apart)
  7. Now make your knife run perpendicular to those scores, and chop (1/2 inch apart again, to make them even)

Sautéing onions comprises the first step of numerous soups, for instance, in addition to most red gravy recipes. Yes - red gravy. Or perhaps just simply, "gravy." For all intents and purposes, what is commonly known as tomato sauce, marinara sauce, pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce (the worst), will be properly referred to as red gravy in this blog. Your opinion does not matter. Sorry. This is coming from a proud Italian.

Now that I'm done being obnoxious and elitist...

Onions are nearly ubiquitous in cooking. Yes, soups and many sauces usually start with sautéing or softening onions, as well as red gravy. To make salsa, you'll need to be able to finely dice onions. To make a pepper and onion omelette, you'll need diced onions. To make chicken curry, you'll need diced onions. The list goes on. Onions provide a solid base of flavor for many dishes, so they are very important.

It may seem simple to be able to dice onions properly, but it's not. It requires some finesse that will only come with practice. Using a chef's knife in general on all different kinds of food is a skill that will come with time, but the lessons learned here on an onion will make that skill easier to master.


Apparently I have been doing it slightly wrong this whole time. But, like I said, I'm not a chef. I'm not done learning yet. What better time to share my knowledge and experiences, then? I know exactly what you're going through, because I'm going through it too!

So, when you're tryna dice an onion, don't cut the hairy looking root-y part off yet. Peel it as normal, and split the whole onion in half so that you have two halves with the root-y part on the ends. Then you can make cuts all the way through without worrying about the slices falling apart. The root-y part will hold everything together.

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