onions 101.

We spend a lot of produce-shopping time gasping at the variety of vibrant, shimmery things: berries, for instance. Or tomatoes – more on those, actually, in a future post. But we completely overlook the massive variety of onions we have right in front of us. Are they too common? Maybe: ours are shoved in with the the other nearly-round neutrals – potatoes, garlic – unadorned and far away from attention-getting leaves and fruit.

What I realized in writing this particular column was how much I under-appreciated onions; and I love onions. I’m the one who scoffs at recipes calling for one “onion,” usually making some snippy remark about how all onions aren’t the same and it’s folly to act like their is. In some cases, it’s a recipe-ruiner: using a red onion where a yellow onion should be, or vice versa, can yield some pretty meh results. Those of us that cook on a fairly regular basis tend to know which onions to reach for for which projects – but do we know why?

Answer: Sometimes we do: often, it’s what we’ve used for that recipe or category of recipe in the past. Or it’s what we like. These are all fine reasons, but I feel like I added a layer of confidence to my own recipe development and cooking knowledge by learning what each onion does best.

*Sweeps hand dramatically from one side to the other* So I’ve made you this informative guide! I’ve said it before, but writing both of my columns is a learning experience, but these deep-dives into things have been super helpful in my cooking life, and I hope they are in yours as well. This installment covers a little bit about:

  • different types of onions you’ll find anywhere, including what to use them for and how they fit best into your cooking adventures;
  • how to dice an onion – because yes, most of us have done this, but is it the most efficient way to do it?
  • how to caramelize onions, three ways: blonde, golden, and brunette (dark brown, just kidding);
  • A near-perfect recipe for creamed onions you’ll want to eat over and over;

and as a bonus, I talk about why exactly onions make us cry in a very science-y way. Because I’m helpful, I sent this visual explainer to my editor, who promptly died laughing and shared it around the office. She loves me like, a lot.

If you’re into onions, head here, because I did a bunch of work for you. I’m going to go over how to caramelize in the next post, but that’s in there too, and so is this recipe for creamed onions, which is indulgent, but absolutely comforting and divine. Every one of these photos was taken by Jennifer Silverberg, because she is my partner in crime and food writing/photography forever. She’s doing a print sale on her website right now to support her crew during all of this. That’s the thing about photographers and artists: they generally have assistants, and if she’s not working, neither are they. Many of these prints are of my work, actually, so if you’re into some breathtaking photos of food, very cute farm animals, or landscapes, head here: you’ll be supporting some really great people, I promise you.

You want to see the entire magazine? I don’t blame you: head right here to virtually flip through. It’s gorgeous, and I just realized in all this mess that I didn’t pick up a hard copy, which is a first, and something I won’t be repeating in the future.

Happy day to you! See you soon with more onion things.

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