By Chef Domenica Catelli
My cousin Celia has voiced her concerns to me on more than one occasion on which onions should be used when and why? Is there a difference between white and yellow onions? Why shallots? And how about red ones? Are they interchangeable?
In general, you can use a white or a yellow onion in a recipe and interchange them. White onions tend to have a bit more heat than the yellow variety. If you can get your hands on Vidalia onions (grown in the south in the summer) you will be in for a sweet surprise. These were first introduced to me from my friend and chef, Art Smith. We were cooking together in Indiana in the summer and he made a dish with these sweet onions cooked down until they were soft and melting…I’ll never forget it.
I love fresh red onions added to sandwiches and salads. I will also use shallots in the same way. Shallots are much sweeter than regular onions and are a great addition to pasta dishes when sautéed or chopped up fine and added raw to salad dressings. They give a great balance of sweet and spice when used in this way.
And what to do about those tears?
There is the issue of the massive amount of tears when prepping onions. I have heard plenty of tips over the years. There have only been a few that have worked. One is to keep your mouth wide open while cutting onions. I have shed many less tears from this method. The other one that helps but looks even more ridiculous is to put a tissue in your upper lip and just let it hang there while you are chopping away. I would not recommend this for date night cooking or business dinners. A last one that may be the most fashionable solution is to wear sunglasses when chopping onions—it’s not as effective as the other two, but certainly looks better.
Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!