I grew up expecting to have to eat the onions on my plate whether I wanted them or not. That’s just how it went at our house, and I didn’t question it. Good thing I’ve always liked them. Although I remember my mother telling me my grandfather liked a good onion sandwich, we had them sliced and in salads — mostly yellow onions because they were a staple — but scallions were included once in a while, along with red onions. Now that I think of it, red onions made their appearance when we lived in Spain because they were served in the cafes, often included with cucumbers and tomatoes in a very light water and red wine vinegar marinade. No lettuce, just a sprinkle of salt. It was wonderful.
Onions were chopped and fried in bacon fat for the liver my mother enjoyed so much, and as much as I didn’t want a taste of the liver, I could sit all day and inhale the aroma of those onions. Chopped onions went into simple spaghetti sauce to flavor it, or in goulash along with other vegetables and pasta, because it didn’t seem right to not have them in the mix. My mother’s meatloaf wouldn’t be meatloaf without chopped onions. They were quartered and added to our Sunday pot roast with carrots and celery as well, but I didn’t appreciate their flavor in the braise. Perhaps it was the sweetness — something I expected in the more predictable foods kids enjoy — not an onion. I still had to eat them. I liked them best raw on burgers, or a salami sandwich, the crunch and sharp spike of flavor something that was definitely missed if it wasn’t included.
Maybe it was the onion soup my father made one year before a holiday dinner. I’m surprised I don’t remember the details of his making it, but the flavor of those long cooked onions nestled in a rich broth gave me a different perspective on just how unique the sweetness of caramelized onions could be. I’d never had onion confit, though, and wondered just how different it might be. Would the sweetness that it took me years to appreciate be more intense and if it was, would I enjoy it? Based on many of the recipes I’ve come across where onion confit or jam is included, I’m thinking yes.
But would one type of onion suffice?