I’ll never forget the first time I learned to properly chop an onion. I lived in Washington, DC, at the time and had recently caught the cooking bug. I decided to sign up for a knife skills class, designed for absolute beginners. The teacher showed us how to chop off the stem end off the onion to create a flat surface and then halve the onion from the root end to the stem end. She then laid it flat on the board, explaining we should avoid chopping wobbly round vegetables whenever possible. It seems so obvious now, but at the time, this little tidbit was a revelation. It’s when I realized cooking did not have to be a heroic act that risked your fingers and eyebrows, but you could learn a series of techniques that would help you put dinner on the table more easily.
She then showed us how to make horizontal slits in the onion, using our opposite hand to hold the onion down while we kept our fingers flared and out of reach of the knife. Then came the vertical slices, made while using the root to keep the onion intact using the top one-third of the knife. Finally, we sliced across the top of the onion down to the board to create a satisfying dice. That day was life changing.
Most of the students’ eyes watered from the room full of chopped onions, but mine stayed dry. I later realized my contact lens protects them. As I became a more avid cook, chopping onions became part of my daily routine. In fact, I began to find it relaxing, a way to mindfully shift from a day at the office to an evening at home.
While onions—in one form or another—are included in most of the dishes I cook, they’re rarely the star. Enter Kate Winslow and Guy Ambrosino’s new book, Onions Etcetera, a book devoted to the omnipresent alliums. A number of recipes in the book caught my eye, including the Four Onion Dip (why do two when you can do four, I mean really?); Kimchi-Scallion Omelet; 20/20 Roast Chicken (made with 20 shallots and 20 cloves of garlic); Noodles Toss with Pork, Shredded Tofu, and Garlic Chives; Sylvie’s Thai Cucumber Salad; Lamb Stew with Favas, Turnips, and Leeks; Green Garlic Caesar. I could go on.
I zeroed in on the Red Onion Goat Cheese Galette here, because it reminded me (slightly) of Nigella Lawson’s Supper Onion Pie from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. In Nigella’s recipe headnote, she writes she makes the pie when she’s tired, which always makes me laugh. While I love the idea of standing over a fragrant batch of slowly caramelizing onions and whipping up some scone dough when I’m tired, I’m more likely to order pizza. Nigella’s pie is cozy, like a warm hug, but there is a slightly unappealing layer of gooeyness between the onions and crust.
This galette is more elegant, with none of the gooeyness and no long caramelizing process required. Plus, like many of the authors’ recipes, it calls for two different types of onions to add layers of flavor. I totally plan to make this again, either as a starter to serve with a crisp glass of white wine or to bring to a potluck (of course.) If I have the dough ready in advance, I might even consider making it when I’m tired. 🙂
- For the dough
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- Kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
- 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
- For the filling
- 4 medium red onions (or 2 large)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- To make the dough, combine the flour and ¼ teaspoon salt in a bowl, and, using your hands or a pastry cutter, quickly work in the butter, squeezing or cutting it until the floury mixture is filled with pea-sized lumps. Drizzle 3 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir together with your hands or a fork until lit will just hold together when squeezed. Add the remaining water if you need it. Gather the dough into a ball and flatten slightly, then wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days; the dough can also be frozen for up to 1 month.
- To make the filling, peel the onions, neatly trim the root end and cut them lengthwise into ½ inch wedges, keep the root end intact so they hold together. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat. Arrange as many onion wedges as will fit in a single layer in the skillet and season with slat and pepper. Cook the onions, without stirring or moving them, until the bottoms are nicely browned, about 5 minutes. Spoon the onions onto a plate, taking care not to break them up, but not worrying about it if you do. Repeat with the remaining onions. Combine the scallions and goat cheese in a bowl and mash together with a fork until very well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silat.
- Roll the dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured countertop, then transfer it to the baking sheet. Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the onions, browned sides up, over the cheese, then fold the edges of the dough over, pleating as necessary. Bake the galette until the pastry is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.