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When Life Gives You Onions

January 12, 2010

Brining onions into the fussy household has been an uphill battle.  You see, Mrs. Fussy hates the little buggers.  And yes, I knew this before we were married, but as I have said before, she has many other wonderful qualities.

It used to be that I wouldn’t even keep onions in the house.

But as soon as Mrs. Fussy would leave town, the onion love would commence.  I would thinly slice half an onion, slowly caramelize it over low heat, add an unhealthy amount of butter, and scramble in two eggs.  Eggs with onions has been a comfort food of mine since I was a child.

To her credit, Mrs. Fussy has been working very hard to overcome her revulsion to this allium.  And I have been working with her.

Mostly this results in two things:
1)    I cut the onions up into very very small pieces.
2)    I cook the hell out of them, so they add flavor but no real texture.

And I’m fine with that.  Sure, there are dishes that I would say benefit from a sprinkling of raw diced onion.  But I don’t think she’ll ever get there.  Luckily as long as I don’t mind forgoing kisses and physical affection for several hours after the fact, I can eat whatever I like.

Knife skills are so critical in the kitchen. It is the thing I would most like to improve. But getting better with a knife requires a lot of time to practice and the discipline to keep your tools in tip top shape. Currently I have neither of these, so the act of cutting up onions into teeny tiny pieces will just have to remain a time-intensive labor of love.

Cooking the hell out of them is much easier.  That just involves an avalanche of cooking oil, plenty of salt, a generous amount of time on high heat, an even longer low-heat covered sweat, and a final high-heat sear.  And that’s just for starters.  Because generally the dishes that contain onions will continue to cook for another hour or two, at least.

I do all of this because onions are critical.

They are at the heart of the flavor base for many of the world’s cuisines.  A few examples are:
1)    Cajun food’s trinity of onions, celery and green pepper.
2)    French cuisine’s mirepoix of onion, carrot and celery.
3)    Italian cooking’s soffritto of onions, carrot and garlic.

Even my Indian curries start with sautéed onions that serve as the delivery device for all of the aromatic spices of the cuisine.

The Most Delicious Split Pea Soup in the Known Universe, The Centerpiece of Thanksgiving, Abuela’s Frijoles Negros, and 100g of Pure Indian Joy all rely on onions’ sweetness and depth of flavor.

I make most of the meals for the family.  But only when I start using up a lot of onions do I really feel like I’ve been cooking.

Luckily, Mrs. Fussy and I have gotten over the hump about bringing onions into the house. Now I have a handsome blue bowl that is dedicated to holding them within arm’s reach of the stove. I am happy, because that bowl just got filled.

Looks like I have some cooking to do.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2010 11:05 am

    Recently I have begun making French Onion Soup and I think that is definitely a way to bring a non onion lover into the fold. Give it a shot (I especially like adding a hint of rosemary).

  2. Vanessa Gabor permalink
    January 12, 2010 12:00 pm

    immersion blender..sauce & soups. food processor for meatloaf or meatballs. My other half hates onions as well and will find the tiniest of chop. However the onion is essential for most things delicious.

  3. January 12, 2010 12:04 pm

    Cooking onions is one of my favorite things to do, if not my most favorite thing. I really love everything about it: slicing or dicing depending on the application, listening to the sizzle on a sautee, watching for translucence on a sweat… The best thing, though, is that something that can make you cry can become so sweet. I actually put my nose in the line of fire while the onions cook in the pot so I can smell the change.

  4. January 12, 2010 12:42 pm

    Funny coincidence, I have The Best Recipe’s (from CI) French Onion Soup bookmarked next to me right now. I think I will selfishly make it for dinner tomorrow night. I and my partner will love it, two of the children will tolerate it and one will likely express some disgust but will eat a small bowl anyway.

    I love onions but I do not like them raw. If I have to use them raw (like in salsa) I soak them in a bowl of water to lessen the bite. That makes them tolerable to me in their raw state.

    And I hear you on the knife skills. I know a lot more about food than my partner but he had the good fortune of working in a restaurant kitchen so his knife skills are better than mine and it irks me to no end. A knife skills class might be in order.

  5. kerosena permalink
    January 12, 2010 1:20 pm

    No salsa, even? No fresh pico de gallo in the summertime?

    Props to Mrs. Fussy, though, for being willing to compromise.

  6. phairhead permalink
    January 12, 2010 11:14 pm

    but the basis of most flavour for cooking comes from onions.

    everybody’s taste buds are different. :D

  7. Raf permalink
    January 13, 2010 2:23 am

    I make onion-aide!

  8. kerosena permalink
    January 13, 2010 10:45 am

    Scallions? Shallots?

  9. Susan R. permalink
    January 14, 2010 12:58 pm

    So, I wonder if she is allergic? Maybe it is the fear of the burning and tearing up that comes with these alliums?
    How about shallots(I consider part of the French cooking trinity)…leeks, chives, scallions?
    I can not imagine life without onions.
    ‘Sorry that Mrs. fussy is phobic – but I am sure that she is otherwise a peach!

  10. January 15, 2010 2:08 pm

    I have to out myself here. I’ve ignored onions as much as your wife for 26 of my 27 years. If I went to a nice restaurant and there were onions, manners went out the window and I had to pile them up in a corner of the plate. This also led to many arguments with my mother over my picky eating and hours having to sit at the dinner table until I cleared my plate.

    I didn’t not like onions, I hated them.

    It wasn’t until last year that I was introduced to an onion I liked. Fried onion strings on top of a fifty dollar filet mignon with jus and a side of mashed potatoes. I’m pretty sure there was more fried flavor than actual onion, but it was enough to tempt my taste buds. I started ordering fried onion strings and eventually onion rings every chance I got. I loved them!

    One day I had a sandwich with “fried” onions that were really caramelized. I threw caution to the wind and tried them. I discovered that I loved caramelized onions, too!

    Now, there is always an onion in my home and we have to pick one up with each grocery trip. I don’t just use them because a recipe or tradition calls for it, I savor them as one of the highlights of a meal. I’m still reluctant around raw onions, but I hope that changes one of these days!

    Here’s to discovering the joy of onion, may it bring even more happiness into your home. :)

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