Until not so long ago, in Chile, it was customary to use fresh onions only during the warm months, when they were available due to recent harvests. The rest of the months there was no choice but to use the so-called guard onion, which was nothing more than the same vegetable but stored in cellars to be consumed throughout the season. ‘year.
In terms of flavor, new and old onions are virtually identical. However, they are very far apart in appearance, as the older they get, the thicker and darker their outer layers become – with that characteristic coppery color.
In addition, due to a natural process of water loss, they become more aromatic, which is felt more when handling them in the kitchen than when eating them. In other words, they make you cry a lot. Currently, we still have storage onions in winter, but also new onions practically all year round, thanks to the crops practiced in the north of the country.
Does it matter which onion to use? Personally, I think so, although some older cooks say some recipes, like empanadas, wouldn’t taste as good with spring onions. Well, here they are.
In the 1990s, thanks to the Peruvian immigration that began to arrive in Chile during that decade, we discovered the purple onion, widely used in a series of recipes in the neighboring country.
It is a new onion, red-purple on the outside, but with a white interior. For this reason it is much more showy than the traditional one when used raw, while when cooked it tends to lose its color due to the heat.
And the taste? It’s supposed to be sweeter than white, which happens in Peru. However, in Chile, where they have been cultivated for many years, they are practically the same. Some experts say the Chilean soil and climate give this and other onions the most potency. Yet it is used to prepare all kinds of recipes, even for the very Peruvian salsa criolla.
—1 red onion, feathered
—1 green or yellow pepper, clean and cut into strips
—Salt, pepper, marigold oil and freshly chopped coriander
Put the onion and the pepper in a bowl. Add chopped coriander to taste then season with salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice. Stir and serve immediately as an accompaniment.
Whether eaten raw or cooked, in a stew or in a salad, there are four basic cuts to work with onions. The simplest and most traditional is the so-called feather cut —or julienne—, which consists of cutting the already peeled onion in half, then placing one on the board and then cutting it finely in the same direction as the onion.
The other widely used cut is that of cubes -or brunoise, as it is taught in cooking schools—, which is carried out by putting half the onion on the board and then making horizontal cuts in the direction of the knot (or tip) of the onion, but without reaching the end. Then it is cut in the opposite direction, also towards the knot, and finally parallel to it but towards the board, in order to form the cubes.
Now, if you need onion rings, just peel one and cut it parallel to its ends. In the case of stews and other long-lasting preparations, simply peel the onion and cut it into quarters. It goes without saying that for all types of cutting, good sharp knives are essential.
It’s well known: with very few exceptions, a stir-fry without onions is not a stir-fry. Now how do you make one? To answer it, here is the recipe for an easy, rich and that works for almost everything.
—½ white onion, diced
—1 grated carrot
—1 finely minced garlic clove
-1 stalk of celery, cut into cubes
—Salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil
Heat a frying pan, add a little olive oil and sauté the onion with a pinch of salt until it starts to turn transparent. At this point, add the carrot and celery; continue sautéing Finally add the garlic, a little more salt, pepper and cumin to taste. Stir well and when the garlic begins to brown, remove the pan from the heat and the sauce is ready.
If you want to use onion in a salad, in addition to the type of cut, you need to decide whether it will be used raw or softened. If you choose the former, there’s nothing more to say, just cut and serve. Now, if the flavor seems too strong like this, you can tone it down.
How? Very simple: cut the onion in the desired way, put it in a deep container and cover it with cold water for half an hour. Finally, it is passed through a strainer so that it loses all the water and can now be used.
Although it is consumed more during the winter months, the truth is that pickled (or pickled) onion gives a special touch to all kinds of dishes at any time of the season: from charquicans and legume stews to humitas.
Their preparation is simple: in a jar with a lid, put a good quantity of red wine vinegar —of good quality— and add small onions, called pickled onions, peeled and with a cross-shaped cut at the top, to leave the vinegar will penetrate it. In two weeks they will be ready to eat, although they easily last another month.
Pickling an onion is different from pickling it. First, because usually chopped onion is used and not just vinegar: water and various spices are also added. There are many ways to pickle onions, but here’s a really simple one that’s perfect for getting into that sour but delicious world.
—1 red onion, feathered
-1 peeled garlic clove
-1 bay leaf
-1 teaspoon of salt
—1 teaspoon of sugar
—½ teaspoon whole black pepper
—1 cup red wine vinegar
—1 cup boiling water
In a clean, dry jar, put the onion, garlic and bay leaf. Meanwhile, put the salt, sugar, pepper, water and vinegar in a bowl. Stir well, and once everything is dissolved, add to the pot and fill to the top, so that the onion is completely covered with this mixture. Close the jar tightly, turn it upside down and let it cool (upside down) for a few hours. The next day, it can be consumed and it can be kept for at least a month opened in the refrigerator.
Another option is to consume the fried onion. For example, accompanying a good steak to the poor. To prepare it, you only need a good pan, salt and oil (large or olive). The rest is simply to cut a white onion into a feather and then fry it in a very hot pan, with a little oil and a pinch of salt. The idea is that the onion just takes on a little color and softens in the heat. Therefore, only a few minutes of cooking are required.
This is not the case with caramelized onion. In this case, proceed in the same way as for frying, but when it begins to color, lower the heat to a minimum and continue cooking, still stirring, until the onion takes on this caramel brown color. Be careful, you don’t need to add sugar to get your desired flavor, as this happens naturally when the onion’s own sugars caramelize. In the end, all it takes is a little patience and constant agitation.
A little more elaborate and powerful than caramelized onion is chutney, a kind of sweet and sour jam, ideal to accompany meat or simply eat with bread. Here is the recipe.
—2 red onions, feathered
—1 tablespoon grated ginger
—¼ cup of wine vinegar
-1 spoon of sugar
-Olive oil, salt and pepper
In a skillet, with olive oil and a pinch of salt, sauté the onion over low heat until it caramelizes. Then add the vinegar, ginger and sugar, and continue cooking over low heat until the mixture thickens. Finally, add a little pepper and let cool. Store in an airtight jar, where it can keep for a week in the refrigerator. It is served hot and cold.
It has nothing to do with Spanish. Of course, because our popular green sauce is something very simple, which obviously has the onion as the protagonist. In fact, it is basically this vegetable cut into small cubes, with the addition of finely chopped fresh parsley. All seasoned with salt, miracle oil and a little lemon. Ideal for baked locos, maltonous tongue or moulds. More Chilean impossible!
The onion can also be roasted in the oven or on the grill, and the truth is that it is very good. One possibility is to simply peel it, give it a bath in olive oil with salt and pepper, then put it in the oven for half an hour. It’s spectacular: burnt on the outside and tender on the inside.
And if you want them more interesting, you can give them a cut on each end, so you can put them on a baking dish and, on top, insert a piece of bacon, cheese (or both) before taking it to the oven. A wonder.
They can also be cooked on the grill, just peel them, cut them in half and season them with salt, pepper and olives. On the embers, you need to spin them in circles, until you find the desired point. A true delight.
Now we continue with pure onion, in this case with a warm salad that can only be tasty, delicate and simple. It’s worth trying.
—2 white onions, quartered
—Salt, pepper, olive oil and freshly chopped parsley
Put cold water to heat in a saucepan. When it comes to a boil, put the onions for only three minutes. Take them out with a slotted spoon, drain them well and place them in a bowl. Add some parsley on top and season with salt, pepper, olive and lemon juice.
Although the temperatures are not up to its preparation, we cannot write about this vegetable without mentioning the famous onion soup. How are you preparing? In a saucepan we put a little butter and olive oil, and over low heat we cook some onions cut into feathers, with a little salt and pepper. When they are golden brown, add a tablespoon of flour and stir to dissolve any lumps. Finally we add a cup of white wine and half a liter of water. Mix well and cook over medium heat and with a covered pan for another half hour. Finally, we correct the salt and pepper if necessary, we transfer the liquid in clay basins, and we put on it a piece of toasted baguette and a little emmental cheese (or similar) on it. We bring it to the oven only so that the cheese browns and then we serve immediately.
*Prices for products in this item are updated as of November 22, 2022. Values and availability may change.