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An Ode to Onions by Brandy Fernow

Sometimes when I’m teaching a class, I hear someone say “I don’t like onions.” My ears perk up and I can’t wait to change their mind! Generally the dislike is because of the texture or flavor of raw onion. Onions are certainly aggressive in flavor when raw, but cooking them creates a sweetness and tender texture that will only embellish a dish!
 
I love working with onions – the most common aromatic and essential ingredient that adds depth and flavor to so many dishes. The onion family includes bulb or globe onions, pearl onions, cipollini, shallots, leeks, scallions, chives and their cousin – garlic. Collectively they belong to a plant species called alliums.
 
In my classes, one of the most common “Ah-hah” moments is learning how to correctly dice an onion.  I will break it down below.
 
1. Cut the STEM end off and leave the ROOT end on. The root end is your friend!  
2. Place the onion cut-side down on the cutting board and slice it in half lengthwise through the root. You should have two halves and the root should still be on. You wouldn’t cut off your friend, would you?
3. Peel the onion halves – you have two edges to work with, so it’s easy-peasy.
4. With the root end toward the back of the cutting board, slice lengthwise at even intervals, stopping just short of the root end. 
5. Turn the onion and holding the root end, slice horizontally toward the root, again at even intervals. The pieces will fall away as you slice, leaving only the root end, your friend that held the onion together while dicing.
 
I can guarantee this will yield uniform shaped pieces for even cooking, but I can’t guarantee you won’t be crying at the end. Cutting onions can cause watery eyes or even crocodile tears so guests also love this tip: Freeze the onion for 20 minutes before chopping – it helps contain the sulfuric compounds that make our eyes water.
 
I always have a variety of onions on hand, as well as bread, cheese and cream – the makings of a classic bread pudding. So I’m sharing a favorite savory bread pudding recipe. I guarantee even those who “don’t like onions” will enjoy the delicious aromas and flavors created from some of the best alliums – leek, shallot, chives and garlic.
Savory Leek and Fontina Bread Pudding
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups cubed baguette, sourdough or ciabatta bread
  2. 1 tablespoon butter
  3. 1 small leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thin
  4. 1 small shallot, minced
  5. 1 garlic clove, minced
  6. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  7. 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  8. 3/4 cup grated Fontina
  9. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  10. 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  11. 2 eggs
  12. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  13. 1 teaspoon salt
  14. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place bread cubes in an even layer on a parchment lined sheet tray and toast for 6-8 minutes until dry and just lightly browned. Remove and let cool.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium sauté pan. Add the leek and shallot; cook over medium-high heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Transfer leek mixture to a large bowl and add the chives, Fontina and Parmesan. Fold in the toasted bread.
  3. Whisk cream, eggs, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour custard mix into bread/leek mixture and stir to combine. Scoop bread pudding mixture into a casserole dish and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The custard should be set and the top lightly browned. Garnish with additional chives.
Notes
  1. You can add wild mushroom or asparagus to this as well.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

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