Cooking Louisiana  -  Cooking with Onions
Cooking with onions is just about a daily exercise. Yellow onions are the starter vegetable for many a dish here in South Louisiana and are used not only for flavor but also for making a rich brown gravy. Red onions are usually the choice for fresh dishes and grilling. White onions are a bit sweeter and used in Mexican style dishes. Sweet onions such as the Texas Sweet and Vidalia are used for just about everything and are great for grilling and onion rings.

You should remember one thing when cooking with onions "High heat is a no-no". Onions can have a bitter taste if cooked on a high heat which is why we always cook onions low and slow.

I've received questions about cooking onions in a gravy, or using them to make a gravy. Many of the problems accounted "not getting the onions to brown evenly", "they release too much water", etc. Low and behold, after asking a few questions, I found that most of the problems came from the chopping technique. And that technique was using a food processor to chop the onions.

Chopped onions for gravy need to cook evenly, so, all the chopped pieces need to be the same size. Hand chopping will achieve this even size; usually I cut them in 14/" pieces. A food processor will chop indiscriminately leaving some large pieces and some pieces almost as fine as sand. When trying to cook these odd sized pieces the very smallest pieces will cook, brown and even burn before the larger pieces get anywhere near done. If you've ever used a food processor to chop onions you've probably noticed an excessive amount of water released. That's because an onion is almost 90% water. The finer the chop the more water will be released. The water is another obstacle to deal with when cooking onions that are processor chopped. Bottom line is, hand chop them and eliminate the fight.

If you really love onions you can chop an onion in large pieces and throw them in your gravy dish once it's almost done. Cook them until just wilted. In doing this you'll add a nice fresh onion flavor to the dish. Browned onions have a different flavor than un-browned onions.

What about green onions, scallions and shallots?

There is always a debate about what the difference is. I've found, for the most part, that green onions and scallions are the same and are a small slender green. Shallots are a larger variety. When you hear "Onion tops" that refers to scallions. If you watch any cooking shows you'll see that when shallots are used they are mostly white. That's because the bottoms are used. BUT, if you plant most shallots close to each other you will get a smaller stalk and they work just fine.

If you're going to freeze onions you must chop them and should blanch or steam them first. You want to soften them a little before bagging as this helps them keep longer in the freezer. The only time I could think of when you might freeze onions is if you're given a bunch or grow them yourself. Fresh is always preferred. Also, fresh chopped and frozen onions in seasoning packs sold in stores. I find frozen onions don't brown as well as fresh chopped.

Here's some more info on the onion... The National Onion Association

Well I hope you learned a little about the onion here.... now go cook that gravy!