Take it down a notch: tips for mellowing your garlic and onions November 05, 2012
Let’s face it, garlic and onions are powerfully pungent foods. They can stay on your breath and hands for hours after preparation or consumption. Yet, they are also staple ingredients of Argentinean cuisine (and its Mediterranean roots)…so how can you prepare your favorite dishes and condiments without all of the bitter harshness that raw garlic and onion can bring? Try some of these simple tips in your next recipe:
Boil the peeled garlic cloves in salted water for 1-2 minutes prior to including them in your dish.
In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, peel your garlic cloves and leave them whole. Once boiling, place your garlic cloves in the water for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the water, let them cool, and prepare them according to your recipe.
I recently experimented with this method while making my latest batch of chimichurri. It worked quite well in reducing the garlic’s pungency without taking away any of the flavor. Clearly, garlic is the most forward ingredient in chimichurri, but the biggest complaint that people have is that is stays on your breath all day. By employing this method, you can create a subtle change that makes the sauce equally as delicious for guests without having it linger on their palate.
For onions that are still crisp/crunchy, but mild in flavor: Salt and soak onions in cold water for 15-30 minutes.
After slicing, chopping, or mincing your onions, rinse them in a colander under cold water. Let drain. Add 1 teaspoon salt per 1 whole onion (e.g. use ½ teaspoon salt for ½ sliced or chopped onion). Mix salt into the onion with your hands. Let sit 5 minutes in colander over a bowl. Then, fill the bowl with cold water covering the surface of the onions for the remaining 10-25 minutes. Drain onions thoroughly and, if necessary, pat dry with paper towel.
For onions that softer and sweeter: Pour hot or boiling water over the onions then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking (Optional: add sugar to enhance sweetness if desired).
After slicing, chopping, or mincing your onions, rinse them in a colander under hot or boiling water for about a minute. Let drain. (Optional: to enhance sweetness, add 1 teaspoon sugar per 1 whole onion. Mix sugar into the onion with your hands.) Then, fill the bowl with cold water covering the surface of the onions for the 10-15 minutes to stop the cooking. Drain onions thoroughly and, if necessary, pat dry with paper towel.
I use the first method above when preparing my salsa criolla for asados. Because salsa criolla also contains crispy bell peppers, I like to keep the onions crunchy to maintain the texture. The second method I tend use when making Mexican salsas, hot sauces, and empanada filling. Experiment for yourself as to which method might be appropriate for your recipe, but one thing is for certain: following either of these methods will reduce the harshness of the onion in your recipe but retain that essential “oniony” flavor.