Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How do you like them onions?

What with enjoying my temporary stay in California and watching the Inauguration, I'm not doing any food reading, writing, or other than basic cooking this week. See my travel blog for that.

But I'm still reading food bits online: the L.A.Times writer Russ Parsons today had a really interesting combination of a recipe with a chemistry lesson -- Slow cook onions, and the results are delicious -- telling all about onions and how to caramelize them.

Interesting stuff:
Though the word "caramelized" is associated with sweetness (it refers specifically to sugar browning, after all), you don't want to do this with so-called "sweet onions" such as Vidalias or Mauis. That's because those onions aren't actually sweeter than regular onions.

That might sound weird, but it's all part of the peculiar world of onion chemistry. The flavor of onions derives primarily from two factors -- the amount of sugar they contain and the amount of sulfuric "burn" they give you.

The so-called sweet onions actually just contain less of those sulfurous compounds than regular onions. This makes them taste sweeter when they're raw ... But they also contain less sugar than regular onions, and because those acrid sulfurous compounds pretty much go away when heated, sweet onions turn bland as water after cooking.

The bottom line is, regular brown storage onions will make better caramelized onions than pricey sweet onions.

As for crying while you cut up 5 pounds of onions: he says you'll cry.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I learned something new today.

Maggie said...

Curious fact.