Thursday, July 20, 2017

Caramelizing Onions

Before I met my husband, Chris, I tried my luck with online dating, which ran the gamut from dismaying to disastrous. Sound familiar anyone?

There was the guy who besmirched all Indians even though he knew my ethnic roots. During our shared meal, the waitress kept giving me “you outta ditch him” looks. Then there was the guy who unwittingly emailed me after dating my sister for several months. Guess he had a type.

There was also the guy with the seemingly promising profile (challenging job, close-knit family, big blue eyes) until I reached his list of likes/dislikes. He despised onions and didn't want them cooked in his house.

I know that relationships require compromise, but I eat onions every day. Could I really forgo the zing of red onions in salsa or three bean salad? Wouldn’t I miss the smoky undertow of yellow onions roasted with potatoes, carrots, or squash? And what about the silky, sweet touch of caramelized onions slathered on burgers, sandwiches, and pizza crust?

In the end, I decided giving up onions was too great a sacrifice and I kept looking for the one.

Did I mention that Chris loves onions? In fact, I have to ask him to dial back the mound he that mixes into guacamole and the hill that he layers onto salad. It leads to onion breath and occasional indigestion.

But that seems like a small sacrifice for Mr. Right. 

How to Caramelize Onions

Caramelizing onions is surprisingly simple. It involves cooking away the moisture hidden in each layer of an onion and browning the sugar that is left behind. The process requires patience more than anything else. Resist the temptation to speed things up by cooking the onions over high heat or adding sugar. (Chances are you’ll end up burning them.) Also opt for white, yellow, or red onions but not sweet as they become cloying when their flavors are concentrated.

To make about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of caramelized onions, thinly slice 2 large onions.

Thinly sliced onions

In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.

Heat olive oil

Add the onions and stir to coat them with oil. Season the onions with salt and pepper. Stir the onions every 2 to 3 minutes until they begin to look glassy.

Lower the heat to medium low and increase the frequency of stirring from every few minutes to every minute as they become stickier, turn light brown, and begin to lose their shape. This will take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your stove top. 

Stages of caramelization
If the onions stick to the bottom of the pan, add a splash of water and scrap them off. This technique is known as "deglazing." Only do this if the onions are sticking so much that you can't loosen them without water -- some sticking is good as it's the contact with the pan that helps to create the color. You can always add more water if necessary, but adding too much will delay the process as the onions will begin to steam.

Continue to cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they become golden brown.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poaching Fish

Poached salmon over sauteed greens

Dear readers, raise your hand if you eat two servings of omega-3 rich fish a week. Well, don’t feel bad – neither do I. But I’m starting to think that we should change our ways. After all, fatty fish is not only lovely and nuanced, it’s also easy to cook.

I usually bake or braise fish, which requires minimal effort. But with the summer heat, I’ve been poaching salmon and other fatty fish to eat it warm or chilled over a bed of sprightly greens. Like other moist-heat cooking methods, poaching locks in moisture and practically gives cooked salmon the texture of butter. I know it sounds crazy, but I am not making this up. The truth is you can easily make a five-star meal in your own kitchen, however humble it may be. Looking to comfort yourself after a long day of work or to toast the summer sunset with friends? Then, why not poach some fish.

How to Poach Fish

Chopped celery, carrots, parsley, and peppercornsFill a sauté pan or shallow pot with enough water to cover the fish.

Add a handful of your favorite herbs and spices to flavor the water. I threw in carrots, celery, cilantro, and peppercorns for this version. I also like to create a broth of sorts with lemongrass, garlic, and onions. Get creative here as the possibilities are endless (and surely you know how variety spices up life).

Adding vegetables, herb and spice to simmering water

Heat the water to a gentle simmer so tiny bubbles form along the rim of the pot. Let it simmer for 5 minutes to flavor the water.

Simmer vegetables, herb, and spice

Lower the fish into the water using a slotted spoon.

Lower fish into water

Cook the fish until it turns opaque and is heated through -- this will take about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the density of the fish.

Carefully remove the fish with the slotted spoon, and serve warm or chilled. 

Remove fish from water with slotted spoon

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