Yesterday we slogged out into the rain to celebrate the grand opening of the 462 Halsey Community Garden. Under the tent it didn't feel like a rainy day. You see for us it's all about making folks happy. Smiles are a huge reward. Tacos are one thing, but we are those kind of folks that get thrills from seeing the smiles, thumbs up and smiling faces returning for more. Despite the cold and rain we sold a few tacos and a few drinks to regulars and new faces alike.
We were super happy to see so many folks come out to celebrate the launching of another terrific community asset in Bed Stuy despite the weather. Music and close huddling under the tent brought about shivering smiles and intimate conversations that we'd otherwise miss out at a busy event.
One of our guests, Ms. Chido, loved the pickled red onions we garnished our carnitas tacos with so much that she asked us to share the recipe. We're all about teaching and sharing easy ways to improve your food and cooking at home and this is one of our favorites.
I worked in many restaurants through the years that made pickled red onions and everyone has their way of doing it, neither is wrong, they are all just a little different.
Our recipe is inspired from my time in the kitchens of Bouchon Bakery, I've changed the proportions a bit, but the basic sentiment is there. Let the flavor and beauty of the ingredients come through. Our pickled red onions are sweet and acidic enough to help cut through the fat of a dish and brighten up your palate. We love to toss them in salads, top sandwiches with them or just eat them by the spoon full.
Pickled Red Onions
I'm big on making Pickled Red Onions look lovely. That is left over from working under an OCD chef and it takes some practice to get them just right. I'm making a few assumptions here. One, you know how to slice onions evenly and quickly. Two, you also appreciate something that looks and tastes nice.
A word on pickling. In the restaurant world, I usually come up with pickles based on a hard and fast pickling ratio, 1 part Water : 1 part Vinegar : 2/3 part sugar (seasoning to taste); which I learned somewhere way back before Michael Ruhlman wrote his book or launched his app (both of which I recommend for beginner cooks). This ratio is a sweeter departure from that.
Yields: 1Quart/1028g of Pickled Onions and Pickling Liquid
350g red onions, Peeled & Cored (~1# whole - red cipollini make beauties otherwise small onions)
250g Champagne Vinegar
3g salt (a pinch, 4g won't break the recipe ;)
Tools & Equipment:
Sharp chef knife, sharp paring knife, Digital Scale, 2qt Sauce pan, Scoop/Measuring cup, quart container or jar, 2 medium bowls, clean paper towel or napkin
- Weigh out the vinegars, water, salt and sugar and combine into a saucepan and place on the stove. No, don't turn it on yet.
- Peel the onions. Turn the onion with root end facing up. Hold with left hand and trim root. Flip and trim stem. Flip, and carefully peel off skins from root in small 'curtains'. try not to damage the red flesh too much.
- Place top side down (root end facing up) on cutting board and divide through them all through the root and line up with root pointed towards right or left of board. One at a time, place your knife at about a 45 degree angle just above the root point. Trim out the root. Repeat on all halves.
- Divide these root free halves in two down the vertical axis (through the missing root). Carefully remove the cores of all the pieces of the onions and reserve for some other purpose. We use them in our salsas and braises.
- You now have 1/4 onion pieces that are ready for some even width slicing.They should weigh about 350g if you were efficient. Turn them with curved side up and slice carefully and evenly.
- When you are nearly done and have a large pile building turn on the flame on your pickling liquid.
- When you have all the onions evenly sliced, pack them into your pickling container. I use plastic quart or glass jar containers.
- When the pickling liquid is brought up to a simmer and all the sugar is dissolved, pour the hot liquid to cover over the onions.
- Place a clean napkin, folded or cut to fit container, on the top surface of the mixture and ensure all onions are completely submerged. Allow to cool to room temperature and then remove paper, cover and refrigerate. These are best in 2 to three weeks, although I've used them months later for myself.
Feel free to play around with the ratios, spice additions and different kinds of onions. Sometimes I'll buy onions from one farmer and get incredibly bright red pickled red onions and sometimes I'll get more pink ones. It varies, that's a good thing.
Whatever you do, I know there is this little bird on your shoulder telling you this, do not use a red wine vinegar for pickled red onions. You will get either a mess, a brown to mauve pickle, or just something you'll wish you hadn't. I've done it before, trust me.