Time is always nipping at your heals these days, and cooking with onions isn’t always so forgiving. Sometimes, the clock makes all the difference in the outcome of a great dish.
Culinary instructor KateLynn Dunning, who teaches cooking at Platt College in Tulsa, Okla., has ways around the often time-consuming onion in some of her favorite dishes.
“We professional chefs rely on onions. Onions are in our base for everything — stocks, sauces, soups. Everything I teach my students to sauté starts with minced onions and garlic. I meal-prep every week at home and dice at least 3 large yellow onions and 1 head of garlic just to have on hand so when I cook during the week days, that is already done.”
Dunning has devised the ultimate onion hack with her “Onion Butter” recipe, which she uses to prepare for cooking classes that cannot take the time it takes, for example, to sauté onions in butter for risotto or pilafs.
“Sometimes … line cooks or students will not sauté the onions enough, making for crunchy onions in risottos,” Dunning said. And that’s not good.
Dunning suggests prepping ahead of time by poaching onions in butter for 1-2 hours until transluscent, allowing for a nice purée in the blender. Freeze for anytime cooking. Cooks can use 1- 2 tablespoons of the frozen mixture and use in a pot to sauté short grain rice (for risotto), long grain rice (for pilaf), lentils, quinoa, farro — any grain that typically is sautéed with onions and butter before adding a liquid, Dunning says.
“This cuts production time, and it allows a more mellow onion flavor that is close to caramelization but delicate,” Dunning says.
2-3 cups minced onion (small dice is also acceptable)
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Melt butter on low heat. Add onions, salt, and turn down heat. Slowly poach onions for 1-2 hours until translucent and falling apart. Puree in blender until smooth. Freeze and it will become solid in the refrigerator.
1 Tablespoon of premade onion butter
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup of White Wine (NOT cooking wine; drinking wine)
3 cups of chicken stock
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons Parmesano Reggiano (splurge and use the good stuff, TRUST ME)
Melt onion butter on medium-high heat. Toast rice in hot butter. Do not burn or let turn brown, just until the kernel has a bright, white pearl in the center with a translucent outside. Add wine and reduce to “au sec” or “almost dry.” It will look think and syrupy in the pan. Add the stock one cup at a time. Reduce the stock to au sec while storing before adding the second cup of stock. After the third addition reduces to au sec, turn off heat and stir in cold butter and Parmesan cheese.
Dunning offers some other helpful onion hacks:
- She likes to make up some sofrito a Latin version of “mirepoix” or “trinity.” Sofrito is 50 percent onions, 25 percent peppers, 25 percent tomatoes diced. It can be combined and held in a Tupperware dish or Ziplocs and added by the tablespoon for any salsas, Latin soups, enchilada sauces, mole, etc. Store up to a week in the refrigerator; do not freeze.
- “White Mire Poix” is fun because it’s so similar to mire poix with an air of elitism, Dunning says. It is 25 percent onions, 25 percent leeks, 25 percent celery (or celery root), and 25 percent parsnips. It’s meant to not add color to your stocks, sauces, soups, and bases if you want them to remain white and “delicate.” This will last up to a week in the refrigerator.