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Lets Have the Onion Talk

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
What onions do you use for cooking different dishes? I am particularly looking for insight to using shallots. Which method of cooking do you think each onion is best suited for? This is how I go about it.

Red Onions - for roasting, omelettes, salads.
Scallions - for salads, garnishes, adding to soups at the last minute, chicken salads.
Yellow Onions - heavy duty onion, all purpose: sauteeing, caramelizing, not for eating raw.
Cippolini - Roasting
Leeks - Soups, braising, sweating.
Shallots - Mostly for seafood.
Vidalia - no use

Also, do you have any wonderful recipes featuring onions?

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #2 of 17
Red onion: Raw only, I only buy them for specific purposes and then only rarely. I'll often substitute with a cut yellow onion allowed to mellow in water for a bit. Reds are pretty in food, true. I think they are often harsh for raw use and will soak them after tasting as needed to appropriately mellow them.

Scallions: I use these a lot. I cook a fair bit of asian food and these show up frequently but they're also good in lots of Central and South American food. Also good grilled whole. Grilled whole on burgers, sandwiches, tacos.... My mom used to eat these dipped in salt. Radishes too. I can't quite get into that. But soups of course, many mixed patties, salads, garnishing. These and yellow onions do most of my onion work. Also good baked into biscuits, cheese bread...

Yellow Onions: my main onion. Stock, mirepoix, base flavoring for so many things. Asian. My preferred onion for onion soup. Stuffing them, stewing. I buy big bags of them. And use them quickly. I like these for onion rings too.

Cippolini. I know what they are but don't recall ever seeing one for sale in my neck of the woods. I hear that they are falling from favor even in Italy.

Leeks: I usually only buy these for specific purposes, not for just stocking the pantry. But when I have extra on hand, they can be used for most anything I'd use any other onion for. Fun to switch up the flavor color and texture of dishes this way. Not raw though. Wrong texture for that in my book.

Shallots: I buy these in the fall and winter mostly. As with leeks, it's usually something specific but they too are fun to substitute. I like them with beef a lot where they combine onion/garlic/sweetness in complementary ways. And they get used a lot in Thai and Vietnamese cooking; also fried crisp as a garnish in those cuisines. You can buy them this way in the Asian stores.

Vidalia: onion rings, salad, on burgers and sandwiches. Let me clarify. I prefer my onions cooked to raw generally. For a burger, I like them grilled, not raw. I'll use a vidalia raw on a burger and enjoy it. But I rarely buy them as they're more limited in use. And overpriced usually too.

As these are all alliums, you left off chives, garlic.

Chives: garnish of course, baked potatoes, oil flavoring, vinegar, many asian dishes call for chives though usually a different variety. Dips. i grow garli chives and plain chives. Good stuff.

garlic: Can be used in most everything at one time or other. One of the great alliums and oh so tasty.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 17
While we're at it:

White onions: all Central American cooking, also raw, also as a substitute when (as often happens to me) the yellow onions in the store have been there way too long.

Shallots: I use these for everything if they're inexpensive, which they usually aren't.

Leeks: in soup and stock.

Scallion: many, many different kinds of scallions, unfortunately very few of them readily available in the U.S. Tokyo negi are almost leek-sized, sweet, and often have a fibrous core that should be removed. Kyoto kyujo-negi are like thin "standard" scallions, extremely sweet, can become slimy if overcooked; the greens are fabulous in soups. And so on: a scallion is not just a scallion -- these are different breeds.

Green onion, green garlic, garlic scapes: all wonderful, all rarely available except at farmer's markets and in their natural seasons. (Green onion: young onions pulled early to thin the planting. Green garlic: same but with garlic. Garlic scapes: the hard tops of the garlic plant, cut to promote large, firm, flavorful bulbs.)

Vidalias and other "sweet" onions: I am unimpressed by these; the only time I buy them is if (as sometimes happens) they are cheaper and/or obviously physically superior to what else is available.

On the whole, I find that it matters little which onion you use if you're going to cook a very long time, as in soup, or very deeply, as with brown-caramelized Cajun food base and so on. With those things, texture is more important than flavor: the flavor will end up being more or less the same.

End-result: with few exceptions, I simply buy and use whatever onions seem of best quality for appropriate money, and I can't see that it makes a lot of difference.
post #4 of 17
While I think these do taste differently from yellow onions, I rarely buy the whites even for Central American food. There isn't enough differentiation for most purposes and I already have yellows on hand. If I were entertaining, then I'd probably buy some white onions.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 
What's the purpose of a white onion? Doesn't it just taste a little milder than yellow?

I think the "onion of the moment" for me is the leek. It holds up really well in braises and is BBF with potatoes.

Here's a recipe I use that features leeks prominently.

Salted Cod Stew
- 1 lb potatoes (peeled, and quartered)
- 1 lb salted cod (cut into pieces and desalted in water for 24 hours)
- 2 stalks of leeks (cleaned and cut into 1/2in slices)
- 1 yellow onion diced
- good olive oil
- freshly chopped dill
- the juice of 1 lemon

1. In a dutch oven sweat out the yellow onion until slightly softened.
2. Add the potatoes and leeks and sautee - add 1/2 cup water, cover, and let it simmer until the potatoes are almost cooked through.
3. Place the cod pieces on top of the potatoes in a layer. Don't stir the pot. Cover and let the cod steam through.
4. When the cod is cooked take off the heat, drizzle the lemon juice in and sprinkled the dill. Serve immediately with a good crusty bread.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #6 of 17
thank you

i love leek and i love salted cod. (my favorite preperation is varieties of salted cod fritters found in puerto rico, haiti jamaica, and trinidad, or a stew known as metemgee or simply metem from guyana as well as the brandade de moroue from france.

I have a leek soup recipe that is really good, I will post the recipe asap.

metem is a african style stew found in the south american country of guyana in which salt cod and okra is layered on top of caribbean provisions such as african yam, malanga root (taro, coco, eddo), cassava/yuca, sweet plantain, etc. with LOTS of onions and a little thyme, bayleaf, and parsley if desired... then lots of coconut milk (enough to cover the roots)is poured over the whole thing and the dish cooks so that the fish and onions steam..

a little bacon or smoked or slated meat of some kind could be added too... i would say ham hock or salted pig tails is the best...

a little hot sauce can also be added

lastly, slightly sweet flour and cornmeal dumplings are placed on top of the fish to steam once everything is almost cooked. a lid is put on and when the dumpling s puff up it is done

the main seasoning is onion

its good stuff with some greens such as lightly boiled bok choy!

try 1 lb yuca
1 lb malanga/african yam/coco/taro (potato can be substituted)
1 lb ripe yellow plantain

dumpling recipe:



3 oz flour
1 oz cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1½ oz margarine
3-4 tbsp milk or water to mix
1 oz sugar
Nutmeg, grated
  • Sift the flour, rub in the margarine, and add salt, sugar and nutmeg.
  • Mix with enough water or milk to make a stiff dough.
  • Knead lightly and form into balls.
  • Place on top of the vegetables and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes. Do not open the pot until the dumplings are well risen, and DO NOT OVER COOK. (Obviously dumplings can be tricky ...)
post #7 of 17

Thank you for the wonderful insight!

As an onion lover, I have learned more from this thread than my stomach can possibly say thank you for!
post #8 of 17
If you're using them raw, they have a somewhat brighter, cleaner flavor than yellow, and a less sweet one than red. As a rule, anyway -- it obviously depends a great deal on the crop, treatment, and so on. My understanding is that white onions are traditional in much of Central America, and I know at least one Mexican guy who considers it a near sacrilege to use any other onion in salsa cruda. Of course, I'm told that in Yucatan, the usual onion is smallish and purple, so you can't go by him.
post #9 of 17
One problem I see is that many of us are trying to generalize flavors from a rather gross set of categories.

True, common onions generally fall into one of three color classes---yellow (or brown), white, and red. But within those groupings are a vast number of varieties, each with its own flavor profile and heat level.

For instance, cippolini and granex are both yellow onions. But you'd never confuse the two of them in a blind taste test. Red onions are, in general, mild tasting and on the sweet side. But there are some surprisingly hot ones as well.

Now add in the flavor differences based on growing conditions, and you can see why the color classification, alone, isn't the best way of determining flavor. Vidalias, for instance, are actually a granex whose growing conditions give it an incredibly sweet taste. It's also why seed from Vidalias, grown elsewhere, does not produce bulbs with the same flavor.

If anything, the other alliums have an even greater diversity of flavors. There are something like 559 recognized varities of garlic, in two subspecies. While not all of them are radically different in taste, texture, and heat levels, there is enough diversity to make a real difference. The flavor and texture of the scapes (the "flower" stalk of hardneck garlics) is a culinary treat. But it has neither the same taste nor texture as green garlic grown from the same variety.

Similarly, there are shallots, and there are shallots. Most of what we know as shallots are not true ones, but, instead, are various crossings of multiplyiing onions. And they do, indeed, have differing flavor profiles. Multiplying onions, themselves, are available in a range of sizes, colors, and flavor profiles, contributing even more to the confusion.

Same goes for the bulbing leeks. Elephant garlic and Le Mols Wild Leek, for instance, taste nothing alike.

What it boils down to, actually, is that using color is not the best way of differentiating aliums. We really should be doing a better job of knowing exactly what we mean when we say "onion" or "garlic" or whatever.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #10 of 17
Gosh, this post is making my eyes water.

We use about 10 lbs of onion a week; primarily yellow. Garlic, 5-10 bulbs a week, too.

Never quite go past yellow onions, except for the occassion red in a salad (cooking with red onions? yuk!)

thanks for the enlightenment, I do believe I will expand my horizons on the onion.

:bounce:Cod and lots of onion, YUMMY! Gotta try that one. ty. :bounce:
Chile today, Hot Tamale!
Chile today, Hot Tamale!
post #11 of 17
Vidalia's are great for when you want a sweet onion, but don't want the color from caramelizing.
Walla-Walla's are a suitable substitute, but don't tell that to anyone from Georgia.

I've also cheated and added a pinch of brown sugar to my caramelized yellow onions, and had a customer come up and tell me, knowingly, that they were so good because they were Vidalia's.
He was trying to impress his wife with his knowledge, and being married myself, and knowing how we men are rarely right, I didn't have the heart to correct him in front of her.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
I find red onion goes really well in a Sunday roast.

Ok I made this up (well I'm sure it exists out there as a recipe somehow but I didn't look it up or try to find it, I just placed all these ingredients together spur of the moment.

Leek frittata with feta cheese
- 2 leeks with green stems removed.
- 4 small red potatoes
- 1/2 cup feta cheese roughly grated
- 1 spring fresh oregano
- olive oil
- 1 pat good butter
- 7-8 eggs beaten
- s/p

1. Clean the potatoes and cut in half. Slice each half into 1/4 inch slices.
2. In a large cast iron or aluminum pan cook the potatoes in a single layer with s/p and olive oil. Keep the heat low so that it will cook through before browning them too quickly. Set aside.
3. Slowly caramelize the leeks to desired caramelization with a little olive oil. If the leeks become too dry add a little water and let it cook away. Add the fresh oregano when nearly done. Set aside.
4. Place the potatoes back in the pan with a little butter in a single layer and turn on med-high temp.
5. Layer the leeks on top and sprinkle with the feta cheese.
6. Pour the beaten eggs over the mix and don't stir. Let it begin to cook on the bottom for 2 minutes or so and then transfer to a 365 oven to finish. Shouldn't take longer than 20 minutes.

Careful how much you season every step because feta is quite salty.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."


"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

post #13 of 17
>being married myself, and knowing how we men are rarely right, I didn't have the heart to correct him in front of her. <

If a man says something deep in the woods, with no women around, is he still wrong? :beer:
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #14 of 17
A marinated sweet onion salad has long been a favorite of ours; it comes from our favorite ol' perv, the Frugal Gourmet:

Slice some Walla Walla, Vidalia, Texas Sweet, or even mild white Bermuda onions paper-thin, preferably on a mandolin. Mix with crumbled Feta cheese and some chopped parsley and some a little green pepper.
Pour over olive oil, a little white wine vinegar, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of dried oregano. S & P to taste.

Toss it all and let it ferment at room temperature for three or four hours, and you have a really tasty, mild salad.

travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #15 of 17
Scallions go in almost everything, from scrambled eggs to salad. We pull our own. We also leave some in the ground to get bigger, what are sometimes called "Mexican green onions", with a bulb about an inch or inch and a half in diameter. They get spritzed with oil and grilled whole ANYTIME the grill is hot. I love baby red onions cooked the same way, but for some reason they don't grow well in my garden and are hard to find in town. When I can find them, they don't have their tops, so usually get added to a pot roast or get oiled and roasted alone.
Sweets we use often for caramelizing to top steaks and chops, as well as roasting them whole or halved. I can't grow sweets either, so find that vidalias or walla wallas are equally good.
Garlic is a hot purple variety we've grown here for generations, I don't know what it's called. It's just our garlic. It's similar to the purple Mexican garlic but tends to have bigger cloves that are easier to peel. It goes everywhere except Pico de Gallo salsa, which should never have garlic in it.
I use leeks for soup and love to make confit with them...I always have some big idea for leek confit but it almost always ends up getting smeared on bread and goes away before it can be called to some higher purpose.
Life without alliums would be almost as bad as life without pork, or beer.
post #16 of 17
I once had the pleasure of going on a press trip sponsored by the National Onion Association and hosted by Dr. Lawrence------- um, something, from Texas A&M who was the developer of the Texas 1015 onion- the genetic predecessor of the Vidalia, Walla-Walla, Maui, and any number of sweet onions. Larry made the point that these varieties are really all the same onion, but regional soil chemistry and climate lend distinctive flavors that make each unique.
We were treated to tours of many onion fields and processing facilities in southern Texas that are located right along the Rio Grande. The Texas sweets they served us were terrific. One dish was an onion-green olive slaw that was served with the tenderest smoked beef brisket I've ever had. I've tried any number of times to reproduce that slaw, but have not yet mastered it. Paper thin slices of sweet onion with thin slices of manzanilla olives, olive oil and some kind of vinegar, I think sherry. A little coarse salt and cracked pepper too. I always manage to add a little too much of one ingredient or the other and miss the mark somehow.
Again atop smokey beef the crispy tangy slaw was great.
post #17 of 17
Marinated. I don't know how I forgot marinated. We slice reds paper thin and marinate them in seasoned rice vinegar for taco and tostada toppings...
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