A small revelation: pickled onion

A small revelation: pickled onion

Don't dismiss the small things that can so easily add big flavour and fresh excitement to any 'old' dish.

My random kitchen discovery this week: quick pickled onion! Sometimes also called macerated onion, it's basically chopped onion infused with an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice).

I first read about it in Samin Nosrat's book a couple of years back now. It was one of the many passing tips in that treasure trove of a book, that somehow got stuck at the back of my mind. But it seemed 'too small' a thing to really make the effort to try, so I didn't. Until the other day I absent-mindedly chopped half an onion too finely to go in the tray of roast veggies. Just then I remembered that thing about steeping onion in vinegar, so I set it aside doused in cider vinegar and a pinch of salt.

I'm not a huge fan of raw onion (or vinegar, for that matter) and I couldn't quite remember what the maceration process was meant to achieve, and couldn't quite be bothered to pull out the book from underneath the pile to check... but hey, I'm always up for trying something just once. 

So after it sat for about 20 mins (while preparing the rest of the meal) I added a spoonful of the concoction as a topping to the salad. Just a bit of vinegary onion, I thought.

Ha! How wrong I was with my assumption... Small thing, big flavour! A revelation, no less. Really. I went back to the book and it is exactly as Samin describes: The acid in the vinegar softens the harshness of the onion, removing the edge while simultaneously lifting its essence. What you get is a bright yet subtle aromatic onion kick that is hard to describe any better.

Great in a salad, but this will also work great with anything that could use a bright and contrasting accent - a potato salad, a piece of fish, a creamy soup, a lentil stew, or some grilled meat. We now keep a jar of chopped onion with cider vinegar in the fridge and use it every single day. No kidding. It's that good! 

Such an easy, quick, simple, big boost of flavour. And I had no idea until I tried it!

So what is the point I'm making? Upvoting jars of pickled onions? Sure, but there is much more than that to take note here. It's about not dismissing the small things that can so easily add big flavour, a new spin and fresh excitement to any simple dish. It's also about remembering to consult your food memories (the things you read, or heard or ate, at some point, now buried at the back of your mind) when in need of some kitchen inspiration.

If you are feeling stuck with your cooking, this is the place to start. What small thing can you add or change today to refresh an old (and perhaps a bit worn) favourite?

Categories: COOK, EAT


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