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Friday, August 31, 2012

There's More Than One Way To Slice An Onion

I've never thought of chopping onions as a task that lends itself to a display of  individual style, but recently I noticed that each person seems to have her (or his) own preferred method.  A while ago, Peter recounted to me one method that he'd seen on the food network. Turns out it was the same technique that I've adopted. I've been doing it that way so long, I hardly imagined that there could be another way. Then more recently, I was observing as two of my friends were cooking dinner, and each of them had a unique way of slicing and dicing. Then there's that infomercial darling, the chopper, which I could never quite get to work for me. Chopping of onions may seem too trifling to consider, yet I find myself doing it nearly every time I prepare dinner. Chopped onions seem to be the ubiquitous ingredient, so having a good method as been important to me!

Here's the way I do it: 

cut off stem side

slice in half through root side

peel each half

make several slices horizontally (in relation to the cut half on the bottom) towards the root, but do not slice all the way through the root side

next, make several vertical slices, do not extend slices through the root

now, chop!

You can adjust the size of your slices for coarser or finer pieces.

If you only want onion slices, this baby might come in handy:  

 mandolin

Do you have a mandolin? 

A few Thanksgivings ago I was trying to go all Martha and make this ridiculous carrot cake wrapped in carrot ribbons.* (Tasted great, did not look like the picture.) My carrot slices, which I had sliced with a mandolin bought expressly for that purpose, were too thick to do the fancy bow tying that Martha had managed. I thought I'd purchased an inferior mandolin. I put it in the back of a drawer and forgot about it. Then, one winter I was trying to make some marmalade (that is a whole other post), and the recipe recommended slicing the lemons with a mandolin. I pulled it out to give it a try thinking that, since I wouldn't be doing any fantastical gift wrapping with these lemons, thick slices would not be a problem. It was then I learned, as so often turns out to be the case, it was not the mandolin that was inferior but the mandolin operator. (This is more or less the story of my life.)

The tool can be adjusted to regulate the thickness of your slices from paper thin to bulky. I had it set on too large of a setting while slicing the carrots into ribbons. Maybe I'll give that carrot cake another shot (after all, if Martha can do it...). When I adjusted it to a finer setting, I was amazed at my paper-thin lemon slices. Nevertheless, I can't say that I use the mandolin a lot. That is because I end up doing more chopping than slicing. But if thin slices are what you want, then a mandolin is what you need. Recently I was making a chicken salad which called for thinly sliced cucumbers so I pulled it out and again was amazed at it's efficiency and quality of results. Those cucumbers were paper-thin, and not even regular paper, Bible paper-thin. It turns out the mandolin is a great tool to have. But you must be careful because before you can say Martha Stewart, it can slice your fingers into paper-thin ribbons, which is much less helpful from a crafting perspective.

 slicing onions

paper-thin slices

*Carrot ribbons. Yes. I know. What will she think of next? An entire garden cake? You've got to be kidding. No, you're not kidding. Martha! You've got to stop this ridiculousness! I love Martha, but I kind of also want to throw some tiny marzipan vegetables at her. 

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