Friday, September 17

Flavor from the Underground

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Onions. Can anyone imagine cooking without them?

The simple onion can add so much flavor to recipes, it’s hard to imagine cooking without this staple. It would be quicker to list savory dishes that don’t recommend onions than to catalog all the ones that do. Depending on the variety of onion you choose, you can add oniony heat, spice, sweetness or color to any dish. These onion-centric recipes are so good they might make you weep… even when you’re not chopping them!

Fresh Onion Marmalade
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large purple onions, peeled and julienned
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and julienned
  • 2 cups sliced green onions, green parts only
  • 1½ cups balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the purple and yellow onions. Sauté 5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the green onions, cover and cook 8 minutes longer.
  2. Increase heat to high and add the vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until the liquid is almost absorbed and the marmalade is thick, about 10 minutes. Serve warm
Barbecued Onions
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the ketchup, water, vinegar, garlic, sugar, Worcestershire, salt, celery seeds, hot sauce and pepper. Blend and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  2. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Add the onions, stirring to blend. Cover and simmer 4 to 6 minutes longer. Serve warm, or cool completely and serve at room temperature.
Spicy Sweet Onion Rings
  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 medium yellow or white onions, peeled
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • ⅓ cup self-rising cornmeal
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup club soda
  • ¼ cup finely minced jalapeno pepper
  • Kosher salt
  1. Pour the oil to depth of 3 inches in a Dutch oven and place over medium-high heat. Bring to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut the onions into ¼-inch slices and separate into rings. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and cornmeal. In a separate bowl, combine the egg, milk and club soda. Add to dry ingredients and stir until smooth. Stir in the jalapenos.
  3. Dip the onion rings into the batter, coating well. Fry a few at a time until golden brown, around 3 to 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.
Bacon and Onion Breakfast Pie
  • 1 recipe single crust pie pastry
  • 6 bacon slices
  • 2 sweet onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 eggs 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of hot sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the pastry. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake 3 minutes, prick with a fork again and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, around 6 to 7 minutes. Drain on paper towels and crumble when cool enough to handle.
  3. Sauté the onions and garlic in the bacon drippings until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain and spoon into the pastry shell. Sprinkle the bacon and cheese evenly over the top.
  4. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in the milk, mustard, Worcestershire, salt, paprika, pepper and hot sauce until well blended. Pour into the pastry shell. Bake 1 hour or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Five Onion Beef Tenderloin
  • 1 (3½-pound) beef tenderloin
  • 1½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large purple onion, peeled, sliced and separated in rings
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, sliced and separated in rings
  • 1 large white onion, peeled, sliced and separated in rings
  • 2 bunches green onions, sliced
  • 6 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup cognac
  • ½ cup beef broth
  1. Sprinkle the beef with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Tie with kitchen twine to secure in 2-inch intervals.
  2. Heat the oil in a large roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides, around 5 minutes. Remove the beef and reserve the drippings. Add the butter to the drippings. When melted, add the purple, yellow and white onion rings. Sauté 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Add the green onions, shallots and garlic. Cook 10 minutes, and stir in the cognac and broth. Increase heat to high, and stir constantly until the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Place the beef on top of the onion mixture.
  5. Bake 45 minutes uncovered or until a meat thermometer registers 150 degrees when inserted in the thickest portion of the tenderloin. Transfer the beef to a cutting board and loosely cover with aluminum foil. Let rest 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, transfer the pan drippings and onion mixture to a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining salt and pepper. Thinly slice the tenderloin, and serve warm with the onion mixture.
Three Onion Soup
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 purple onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 (8-ounce) carton plain yogurt
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Place the butter and oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the yellow onions, purple onions, shallots, stock, oregano, thyme, cumin and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Add the wine and simmer 20 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth (or cool and puree in a blender or food processor). Stir in the yogurt and heat another 15 minutes. Serve warm with a garnish of chopped parsley.

Tips and Trivia


Related to lilies, onions belong to the Allium family. There are hundreds of family members, but other edible relatives are shallots, leeks, chives and garlic.

The word onion comes from the Latin word “unio,” which means “a single large pearl.”

There are more than 1,000 different varieties of onions.


Onions have a relatively long shelf life if kept in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

Once cut, onions should be wrapped tightly in plastic and kept refrigerated away from fruits.

Tears when chopping or slicing are caused by sulfuric compounds in the cells of the root.

Cutting the onion cold will help eliminate the watery eyes. Just pop it in the freezer for 15 minutes, then peel and cut.

Ask Chef Tammy

Email your cooking questions to Tammy Algood:

Rebecca received a jar of marrons glacé and is not sure how to enjoy it. “Can you give me some suggestions?” she writes.

Rebecca, I would feast on them right out of the jar, probably rationing just a couple at a time! These are chestnuts that have been simmered in a vanilla sugar syrup. In essence, they are candied. You can chop them and use in fruit salads, in baked goods or as a topping on ice cream, but my preference is to enjoy them as is.

“I made a pot of stew, but the meat is tough. Can you help me remedy this?” writes Ashley.

Ashley, this usually means the stew hasn’t cooked long enough, so if it is reasonable to cook it longer, you can start there. If it is easily done, you can fish out the meat chunks and cut them into smaller pieces. Also, a teaspoon of sugar added to the pot will help the meat tenderize faster, as will tomatoes. So if the recipe is compatible, add some canned chopped tomatoes and cook a bit longer.

Marshall likes to use fresh tomatoes but has recipes from his family that almost always call for canned. “Can I substitute fresh tomatoes for canned cup for cup? That is what I have been doing, but it doesn’t seem to have the right consistency,” he writes.

Marshall, 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes is the equivalent of 1½ cups of fresh tomatoes that have been chopped, then simmered for 10 minutes. That should help your consistency issue!


About Author

Tammy Algood develops for The Tennessee Magazine recipes that feature farm-fresh Tennessee food. Those fresh, local ingredients will always add cleaner, more flavorful foods to your table. We recommend visiting local farms and farmers markets to find the freshest seasonal produce. For more information about our recipes, contact Algood at

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