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Archive for September 12, 2017

FOOD 101: Why Onions Make You Cry…And How To Stop It

Sliced Onion

Cutting an onion releases the “tear” chemicals (photo Flagstaff Fotos).


An onion is a thing of beauty—until you slice into it and the fumes assault your eyes. But that doesn’t need to be. Here are some tips to minimize the impact of the acrid gas that’s released when you slice into an onion.


Simply peeling an onion does not make your eyes water.

But once you chop, cut, crush or smash the onion, the onion’s cells break open, creating a chemical reaction. Enzymes called alliinases break down the amino acids (sulfoxides)in the onion and generate sulfenic acids.

These further react to produce a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor, or LF. LF diffuses through the air and activates sensory neurons in eye, causing that burning, stinging sensation.

It’s not dissimilar to the effects of tear gas. Tear glands come to the defense, producing tears to dilute and flush out the irritant. If you slice onions a lot, your eyes will become more tolerant (they may build up a tolerance to the LF).

The amount of LF differs among onion varieties. That’s why some onions are real “burners” and others are milder. Sweet onions, for example, grow in soils that are low in sulphur and don’t produce much alliinase.


Our personal technique: For no sting whatsoever, wear swimming goggles (or any goggles). It works like a charm.

No goggles? These will help:

  • Slice the onion vertically, through the root end. The onion base has a higher concentration of sulphur compounds than the rest of the bulb. Even better, avoid the root altogether. Use only the top 80% of the onion.
  • Slice under running water. Place your cutting board in the sink and cut the onions under running water. The water whisks the fumes away. Submerge the onions in a basin of water, if you have a basin large enough!
  • Refrigerate the onions before cutting. This reduces the enzyme reaction rate.
  • Turn on a fan. Position it to blow the gas away from your eyes.


    RECIPE: Buttermilk Roast Chicken

    We have roasted chicken on our mind. It’s close to Rosh Hashanah (September 23rd this year), and we’re thinking back to Nana’s roasted chicken.

    Post-Nana, our roast chicken was never as good, even if we followed the same steps. Nana must have had an understanding with chickens.

    Until we tried the recipe below, soaking the chicken in buttermilk. Some chefs prefer to soak the chicken overnight. It creates a tender chicken with an extra punch of flavor.

    Marinating chicken in buttermilk is a time-honored pathway to moister meat, whether roasted or fried. With a bit of advance planning the night before to marinate the chicken, you’re virtually guaranteed a beautifully browned and richly-flavored bird the next day.

    The recipe is from chef/writer Samin Nosrat.

    Samin serves the chicken with a panzanella (bread salad with vegetables). In this case, panzanella comprises the greens and rustic bread cooked in the pan.

    If you’re off bread, simply roast, saute or steam triple the amount of veggies. Samin uses mustard greens. We highly recommend them—they’re a very under-used green. If you don’t like even a hint of mustard flavor, you can substitute collards or kale.

    Thanks to Good Eggs for sending us the recipe.

    Don’t need a while bird? Another of our favorite food writers and photographers, the White On Rice Couple, presents this delicious recipe for Milk Roasted Chicken Thighs, using whole milk.

    With the chicken marinated in buttermilk, you need just 15 minutes of prep time, and 60 minutes to roast the chicken.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 3-4 pound chicken, salted
  • 1 quart buttermilk, well shaken
  • 3 tablespoons table salt or fine sea salt
  • 4 slices of rustic country bread, torn into 2 inch chunks
  • 2 bunches of mustard greens or kale, de-stemmed
  • 4 shallots, sliced or 1 red onion
  • Handful of fresh sage or rosemary leaves
  • 6 ounces king trumpet mushrooms*, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ preserved lemon†, sliced thinly

  • Brining bag or other resealable plastic bag
  • Butchers twine
  • ________________


    Buttermilk Roast Chicken
    [1] With this buttermilk chicken, technique delivers a remarkable bird.

    Country Loaf
    [2] A country loaf, also known as a rustic loaf.

    Mustard Greens
    Mustard greens. You can substitute kale.

    King Trumpet Mushrooms
    King trumpet mushrooms. All photos courtesy Good Eggs.

    *King trumpet mushrooms, also called king oyster mushrooms and French horn mushroom and eryngii/eringii mushroom and other names, is the largest variety in the oyster mushroom family. It is now being cultivated in the U.S. You can substitute matsutake mushrooms (which may be even harder to find), or any meaty mushroom (perhaps portabella or baby bellas).
    †Here’s a recipe for preserved lemons; but you only need a bit in this recipe. Check your food store’s olive bar or a Middle Eastern market: You may be able to buy one already made.


    This recipe requires some preparation a day in advance. Beginning the day before you plan to cook the chicken:

    1. SEASON it generously with the salt (more salt than you’d use for ordinary seasoning). Let the salted chicken sit for 30 minutes.

    2. ADD 3 tablespoons of salt into the container container of buttermilk. Seal it and shake to encourage the salt to dissolve. Place the chicken in a re-sealable plastic bag and pour in the buttermilk. Seal it, squish the buttermilk all around the chicken, place the bag on a rimmed plate or in a pan, and refrigerate. If you’re so inclined, over the next 24 hours you can turn the bag so each part of the chicken gets marinated, but it’s not essential.

    3. REMOVE the chicken from the fridge two hours before you plan to start cooking. When you’re ready to roast, preheat the oven to 425°F/218°C. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag and scrape off as much buttermilk as you can without being obsessive (we used a rubber spatula).

    4. TRUSS the chicken by placing a 12-inch length of butcher’s twine with its center at the small of the chicken’s back. Tie the twine around each wing tightly and then flip the chicken over and use the remaining twine to tie the legs together as tight as you can.

    5. PLACE the bird in a big cast iron skillet or a roasting pan with, the legs pointing toward the rear left corner of the oven. Place in the oven and close the door. You should hear the chicken sizzling pretty quickly. After about 15 minutes, when the chicken starts to brown, reduce the heat to 400°F/205°C and continue roasting.

    6. WAIT another 15 minutes, remove the pan and add the shallots/onion, greens, herbs and chanterelles. Using tongs, mix the veggies around in the chicken drippings and place the pan back in the oven, this time with the legs facing the rear right corner of the oven.

    7. CONTINUE cooking for another 35-40 minutes, stirring the veggies with tongs once or twice so they cook evenly. The chicken is done when it’s brown all over and the juices run clear when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh.

    8. REMOVE the bird to a platter and set it on a cutting board on your counter. Add the bread to the skillet or pan and toss with all of the veggies, making sure to coat the bread evenly in the drippings.

    9. RETURN the vegetables to the oven for 10 minutes. When you remove the pan from the oven, add the preserved lemon to the bread and mustard greens. The chicken will be ready to carve and eat immediately.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Quail Eggs Are Festive (& Have No Salmonella)

    Quail & Chicken Eggs
    [1] Quail eggs and chicken eggs. Quail eggs are one bite, chicken eggs are four bites (photo courtesy Petrossian).

    Blini With Quail Egg
    [2] Blini with quail eggs, trout roe and crème fraîche. Here’s the recipe from Martha Stewart.

    Quail Egg Stuffed Mushrooms
    [3] Quail egg stuffed mushrooms. Here’s the recipe from Bite Delite.

    Quail On A Branch

    [4] The quail herself (photo courtesy Red Ted Art).


    To some fine chefs, small is better: from miniature vegetables to more “elegant”-size portions overall.

    Quail eggs fit right in.

    For years, we’d only seen quail eggs at Japanese restaurants, on top of an uni (sea urchin) or tobiko (flying fish roe) gunkan-maki.

    Since better supermarkets now carry them, it’s time to take a closer look at quail eggs.

  • Quail eggs taste like chicken eggs…maybe a bit richer since they have a larger yolk-to-white ratio.
  • Quail Eggs Are Barely Healthier than Chicken Eggs! Compared to chicken eggs, quail eggs are slightly healthier if

  • You cook them the same way: boiled, fried, scrambled, deviled, egg salad, etc. If you luck into a lot of them at a bargain price, make an omelet.
  • > For soft-boiled eggs, gently place the eggs in boiling water (with a spoon) and boil for three minutes and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
    > For hard-boiled eggs, boil for 4-5 minutes. Test one after 4 minutes.

  • Four quail eggs equal one large chicken egg.
  • Quail don’t have salmonella in their digestive tract, so the eggs can be used raw—in Caesar Salad or Steak Tartare, for example. This is due to an increased amount of lysozyme, an antimicrobial enzyme that forms part of the immune system of the quail*. It kills harmful bacteria.
  • >The body temperature of quail is also higher than that of chickens: another reason why quail don’t harbor the same harmful bacteria.
    >Here’s more on the health benefits of quail eggs.

    You can garnish a green salad, serve three boiled eggs with asparagus, make Scotch eggs, stuff mushroom caps (photo #3), garnish a mini-latke with smoked salmon and a boiled quail egg.

    You can pickle quail eggs, turning the white exterior into a vivid red (from beet juice). Don’t say what they are: Let guests be surprised.

    You can pop fried quail eggs onto ramen, make breakfast tartlets, top an avocado tea sandwich, serve them raw with steak tartare…whatever your palate desires.

    Here are some ideas from D’Artagnan:

  • Little Devils. Deviled quail eggs have a wow factor. Consider a trio of flavors: plain with smoked paprika, topped with with bacon and thyme, and a truffled egg.
  • Teeny Blinis For an elegant hors d’oeuvre, crown a blin (singular for blini) with a dollop of crème fraiche, half of a hard-cooked quail egg and a spoon of caviar (photo #2).
  • Toad-in-a-Hole. Instead of a conventional slice of buttered toast with a chicken egg in the center (recipe), use a small slice brioche with truffle butter and a quail eggs.
  • Golden Egg Ravioli. If you make ravioli, nestle a raw quail yolk in a little mound of herbed ricotta as the filling. The yolk will cook gently when the pasta is dropped into boiling water, its center still molten upon serving. A delicious surprise!
  • Petite Niçoise. Add poached quail eggs instead of halved or quartered chicken eggs to a classic Niçoise Salad. Ditto with bacon lardons in a Lyonnaise Salad or a Frisée Salad.
  • Spiced Bites. For an easy hors d’oeuvre, roll peeled hard-boiled quail eggs in a favorite spice mixture. A tiny slice off the wide bottom of each egg will ensure they sit upright on the platter.
    Quail eggs are pricey, so they are [for most of us] a special-occasion treat.

    When you find them at a good price, get ready to pounce!


    *Lysozyme is present to a lesser or greater extent in other animals, as well.



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