“Don’t sweat the small stuff”….. Right?   You probably have heard this a few times or a thousand times in your life!

So why sweat the onion?  ….. and other vegetables?


Sweating takes on a whole new life here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.   Sweating an onion is even considered one of the many technics that we are learning about weekly.   How to sweat an onion will most likely be on the week six midterm exam and maybe even on the final exam!

Onions Hanging High to Dry

That’s right…Onions, mostly not even mentioned in the name of the recipe!  However, they are “The Foundation” or  “The Foreplay” (says me) of a multitude of savory tarts, soups, stews and even Mushroom a la Creme recipes.  Yes, that very humble vegetable is key to many wonderful recipes.  Who knew…?  Well many people really, just not me.  Even though I have been using onions all of my life, never truly gave onions the true respect or  importance that I’ve learned to give over the last five weeks.  How to chop them with ease and without tears.  How they are caramelized to just the right color when they are sliced thinly.   Even how to make them extra crispy fried onions for a garnish and of course extra flavor!

How does one go about Sweating an Onion you maybe asking.

Heavy saucepan, wooden spoon and small spoon for tasting and seasoning.

Step One:  Melt butter in a heavy saucepan until the butter foams.

Step Two:  Add the FINELY chopped onions to the butter, season with salt and pepper, cover (with a repurposed foiled butter wrapper if you happen to have one or use parchment paper) and then cover with the sauce pan’s lid,  always over a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes or until onions are quite soft but not colored.

So easy and yet if you don’t watch the onions closely they will BURN, so push the onions around occasionally,tasting for need of additional seasoning and softness,  scraping, with a wooden spoon, any area where the onion has begun to stick to the bottom of the pan.

So don’t sweat the small stuff, however please sweat your onions  properly when directed by the recipe, and do it with respect for the onion that will bring you much added flavor!

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