McDERMOTT: To dice an onion, or to buy a diced onion?
1 onion, diced
This entry in my recipe for pulled pork stopped me in my tracks. Sure, I can rinse an onion. Peel an onion skin? Sure thing! But dice a whole onion? That sounds like advanced cable food channel nonsense. I’m cooking in a slow cooker. I’m the laziest kind of chef. I want to put everything in a pot and go about my business for 10 or 12 hours.
I don’t want to dice an onion anymore than I want to braise a leg of lamb. And yes, I had to look up what braising was just now. I’m a slow cooker gal, recipe inventors! I don’t have the first clue how to dice an onion.
So I did what any tech-addicted 24 year old would do. I Googled that nonsense.
I’m glad I did, because I probably would have just started cutting it up in an awkward way with my sad, twice handed-down knives. Is there a certain kind of knife I’m supposed to be using? Because dull ones aren’t working. Are there any other kinds?
I found plenty of YouTube videos, but I thought maybe it wasn’t a good idea to hold a knife and watch a video at the same time. So I settled on a nice wiki page — How to dice an onion. For dummies, the website screamed at me inside my head.
I followed the directions — but even direction followers aren’t guaranteed a perfect onion. I cut the onion in half, placed one half down and made slices almost all the way to the middle of the onion half, just like the directions told me. People, I’m a devout rule follower — I was reading and rereading the directions, really I was. Then I turned the onion and cut it horizontally across my previous vertical cuts.
AND CHAOS ENSUED.
Onion slices. Everywhere. Onion slices on the floor, onion slices in the sink, onion slices flying up and smacking me on the head as if to mock me. “You’ve failed, Brenna,” the onion slices said. “Try dicing us now!”
Instead of having little tiny diced pieces, I had long, thick strips of onion that were making me cry, both because of the smell and because of my internal heartache at my basic culinary failure.
I then was forced to cut each individual onion strip into tiny pieces. It seemed there were swarms of onion strips. The dicing would never end, it seemed. So I got mad and dumped a bunch of onion strips in the slow cooker. Perhaps this is why the finished product tasted so oniony.
The lazy slow cooker part of me wants to be a little container of diced onions for next time. Slow cooker part of me doesn’t like to do things she isn’t good at — easier to just give up and buy an onion chopper or let the grocery store dice my onions and overcharge me. Right? … Right?!
But that would cost money and flavor — who knows how long those onion pieces would have been sitting before I used them? Who knows how much vacation money I would invest in pre-diced onion?
I could give up, but I’ve come so far already. I purchased a slow cooker. I purchased a recipe book that I’ve looked through more than once. What’s an onion dicing now and then, right? Tedious and hard on my eyeball moistness, sure. But I’m probably going to sacrifice flavor without a homemade diced onion of my own.
I posted my shame on Facebook and a friend reminded me that Julia Child started out the same way. This led to a 10-minute interlude of me practicing my Julia Child voice, but then some insight after that.
Everyone starts out being a crappy onion dicer. But I don’t have to end up that way. I could end up a middle-of-the-road onion dicer — and maybe that would lead to being a mediocre pepper slicer and a C average corn husker — and I basically am Julia Child at that point.
So watch out onions and be prepared hospital emergency rooms — because I’m going to either give the onion another go and cut my finger off or buy those flavorful pieces in a plastic container and pretend like I diced them myself like a pro. Or maybe I should hunt down the onion dicer at the grocery store and ask for a lesson…
— Brenna McDermott
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