Friday, October 13, 2006

Little Onion, Much Smell


I hate in-betweens. I hate being in between sizes, in between meals, in between decisions, in between a rock and a hard place… Point is, in-betweens are uncomfortable and disconcerting and I hate both them and the fact that life is filled with them. Well mine is, in any case. I particularly loathe the in-between when it comes to food. I am not terribly upset when something I make sucks royally and completely. I can chuck it in the trash bin, deem it a failed experiment (oh I am so good at failing experiments - ace, in fact) and move on. Likewise, if I make something wonderfully excellent and spectacular, I eat it, I am happy, I write a blog post. It’s all very straight forward. But then sometimes, I make something that is almost-there-but-not-quite-something-is-missing. That bugs me. I am not happy eating it, I feel guilty tossing it, and I can see what I should have done differently. That one small misstep is staring me smugly in the face, taunting me with what could have been.

In the name of full disclosure, I would like to present my latest in-between: the roasted onion. A long time ago, the Boston Globe ran an article on onions slowly roasted on a bed of salt. They were said to come out picturesque, meltingly soft and sweet, and were eaten whole from the top, like a soft-boiled egg. I loved the idea of eating an onion in its shell, of turning something sharp and unappealing into something sweet and scoopable.

I had a lot of onions in my last Boston Organics box. They were picture perfect – small, perfectly round, and looking really perky. I left them to sit around for a while because I was (surprise) in lab and too busy. They were starting to look decidedly less perky. It was time for me to intervene in their rapid descent into non-perkiness. And so we come to my first mistake. The Globe article used red Bermuda onions but all I had were plain yellow ones. I figured that all onions become sweet when slowly cooked so I decided to take a chance. Bugger.

I didn’t remember if I was supposed to cut the top off the onion or not - being the experimenter that I am (not for much longer, I hope) I cut the top off one and left the other whole.



I then rubbed the onions with olive oil, sprinkled them with black pepper and Red Hawaiian Sea Salt that I have been dying to use, and stuck them atop a mound of coarse (plain) salt. Into the oven they went, at 350F for as long as I could stand it.

Turns out I could only stand it for an hour and a half. They stank. Seriously. My entire apartment filled with essence of onion, and not in a good way. It was a pungent smell that hung in the air. How something so small could emit so much odor is beyond me. The onions were two inches in diameter, max! I even lit a candle to cover up the smell but it was no match for the mighty onion. So, mistake number two – I should have probably left them to roast longer but I didn't, for fear of being told I stink the next day. Bugger, again.


The grand reveal came the next day because I was too tired to eat them that night. Turns out that leaving the top on is definitely the way to go – the whole onion was more thoroughly cooked than the decapitated one. I guess it could steam inside of its own skin, as disturbing as that sounds. The texture of the onion was close to smooth and buttery (I could tell that it would have gotten there had I been more patient) but the taste was off. It tasted just like… onion. Less offensive than raw onion to be sure, but not terribly flavorful. I don’t think there is enough sugar in yellow onions to develop the depth of flavor and sweetness that I am guessing would be the case with red onions. It was alright as a spread on bread but certainly not something to be eaten with a spoon, as I had envisioned. Bugger once more.

The texture was almost there, but not quite. The taste was kinda there, but not quite. So there you have it - my in-between. The onions made for a pretty picture but sadly, that was about it. I will try to make this again once I have a) a bigger apartment with b) a powerful exhaust hood and c) red onions. I do recommend you give it a try. They really are nice to look at, if nothing else.

17 comments:

amanda said...

heheheh you had me cracking up during this post, anna. :-) seriously, i've never tried to roast a whole onion, but i can only imagine how your apartment must have smelled! too funny. maybe you can make a sauce or something with the partially roasted decapitated one...

ben said...

ha! That is hilarious, I can just imagine how oniony it must have smelled in your place. I bet that if you used a sweeter onion it would be better, I.E. - Vidallia. I bet those would turn out wicked awesome. Not that I am going to try, I am totally only going to use onions as an aromatic or something to put on my burgers and dogs.

JC said...

I have never heard of roasting onions in this manner. Thanks for sharing even though they didn't turn out like you had hoped. You wins some, you lose some.

I made the mushroom soup last night! It was great, I'll work up a post at some point.

Love the profile pic!

Anna said...

Amanda - A sauce would have been great! If I muted the onion with something else it would have been perfect. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that my apartment would stink.

Ben - It smelled for like, two days. Awful. First thing when you walk in - not the usual girly apartment smell. No. It was onion. Vidalia would have been perfect! Even more interesting than red onion. One day I will be brave enough to try it again.

JC - Yay! You made the soup! I am feeling all kinds of influencial right now :) I am looking forward to reading what you thought of it. The profile pic was taken a day after I had the cartilage piercing done. It makes me unreasonably happy :) I will post an updated photo of my decorated ear when I get the chance - the piercing looks markedly happier now.

Ben said...

When a girl's apartment smells like onions, it is dead sexae. I kid you not. I don't know if I will try the CSB recipe or the roasted onion recipe, but I will see what I find when I go grocery shopping tomorrow. I will let you know what sort of anna inspired creation I create, that is if I don't break down and eat off of the Wendy's dollar menu ;-)

vasilisa said...

hi, first time here :-)

Roasting a whole onion? I can just imagine the smell... I'd be too chicken to attempt it. Though I do roast chopped onions with potatoes, and that comes out pretty nice...

Reminds me my attempt to cook a whole squash (for the first time). It looked ok. But that was its only redeaming quality...

michelle said...

You have great delivery - even in text! I was cracking up, snickering, giggling and laughing through your poor misfortune (sorry!). I've thought of doing this before - but I never imagined they would stink so bad! So I'm glad you did it first. I might stick to roasting pieces of onion with other things...especially since I don't have anything even sort of resembling an exhaust hood!

Jonathan said...

You have a very sexy ear.

Anna said...

Vasilisa - Thank you for coming by :) I don't think I was particularly brave to try to roast a whole yellow onion. Lacking in foresight, maybe, but not brave. I am sorry your squash did't work out. I have been staring at one in my kitchen as well. It's slightly daunting.

Michelle - My misfortune was all for a good cause! I am glad you got a laugh out of it. I thought it funny as well... but much later. My exhaust hood is pointless - I really think it's only there for decorative purposes. Which is a shame, because it's ugly. Will definitely stick to roasting onions in pieces in the future.

Jonathan - Have you been drinking? :)

Anna said...

Oh I forgot - Ben! Wendy's? Desperately unsexae (not like Taco Bell, anyway :) ). I have faith in you.

Alicia said...

Umm.. spicy chicken sandwhich anyone? Not everything at wendy's is bad, just their square burgers.

Alicia said...

I spell good. I knew my SAT score was just a fluke a long time ago, around the time I quit college. Whatever, at least I can spot it after the fact. Sandwich. Also, once I had wendy's fries when I was totally wasted, and they tasted fantastic.

Anna said...

Lissa! Hi :) Quitting college was a fluke, not the SAT score. It was an odd twist of fate. I have actuallly never eaten at Wendy's so I guess I shouldn't be so judgemental. Having said that, everything tastes good when you're wasted.

Rachael said...

Funny!

I roast onions all the time (just on a silpat, not with salt) and they work out great...too bad yours didnt! Funny post though!

ben said...

It is hip to be square. As for the onions, why would you roast them? I would think that if you put them on low heat and cooked up chopped onions it would taste good? My moms cooks up a dish with onions and scrambled eggs but it isn't slow cooked since pretty much all Chinese food is hot and fast. Hmmm provocative.

JC said...

Come back Anna! Was it something I said?

Anna said...

:) I am trying, I really really am! I have been doing nothing but working these last few weeks - I have a committee meeting coming up where they get to decide my fate, educationally speaking. I am more than a little loopy right now.
And yes, it was something you said :)
(kidding).