I have avoided onions for as long as I can remember. My dad likes to remind me that when I was in diapers, I commonly confused onions with apples, and would help myself to the bag of onions under the sink anytime I was looking for a snack. Perhaps that’s what fueled my adversity, but I certainly haven’t gone anywhere near them since.
As a kid, I thoroughly examined every dish my Mom and Dad ever made, shuffling any dubious white chunks to the side of my plate. I tried to be a little more subtle as a teenager, but my parents would still get the occasional grumble when I smelled the notoriously pungent onion smell wafting from the kitchen up to my room.
But after two decades of studiously avoiding them, I decided that if I’m going to get serious about cooking, my fears are going to have to be faced.
I bought my very first bag of onions last week. I walked cautiously to the vegetable aisle, where they sit nestled in between rows of potatoes and carrots. I didn’t really know how to shop for onions; I couldn’t decide whether I was supposed to squeeze them for firmness or tap them for texture. I watched carefully as a man reached around me, lifted a bag in the air and circled it around, inspecting the outer onions for an visible bruises or discolourations before setting them in his cart. His method seemed thorough enough, so I did the same.
I wasn’t wearing waterproof mascara that day. Neither was I prepared for what happened when my knife made that first slice. I was blinded. Teaspoons of water started gushing from my eyes and nose, making it impossible to continue chopping. I stumbled blindly to the washroom to wipe my eyes. I should have thought to wash my hands first, because the contact between my eyes and oniony fingers was unbearable. I composed myself, put on my glasses for protection, and forged on, chopping madly just to get the job done.
The next time I cut an onion, I wore a pair of those huge sunglasses, the kind Jackie Kennedy used to wear. I looked bizarre, but it made the task slightly less painful.
When I was getting ready to make this dish, I remembered hearing that water prevents the onion particles from dispersing into your eyes. Rather than cut the onion under water as is recommended, I rinsed my knife under the tap before cutting. While it didn’t stop me from crying, it did make cutting onions much more enjoyable.
2 tablespoons cooking oil (I prefer olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
6-10 potatoes, depending on the need
2-6 pork chops, depending on the need
dash of salt and pepper
2 packets beef stock
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup milk
1 tablespoon margarine
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons margarine
Fill medium saucepan half way and bring to boil with teaspoon of salt. Peel potatoes and add to water, simmering over medium heat until tender (about 30 minutes).
Remove onions from frying pan and set aside in a separate bowl. Add remaining tablespoon of oil to frying pan and add chops. Season each side with salt and pepper. Cook each side for 3-4 minutes, until browned.
In a small bowl, combine beef stock and flour. Slowly add water, mixing thoroughly with a fork until mixture forms a paste. Add mixture to frying pan with chops and stir well. Add half of the previously cooked onions to the pan and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat.
Drain potatoes. Mash until smooth, stirring in 1/3 cup of milk and tablespoon of margarine (add more milk and margarine if desired). Set aside.
Add 1/2 cup milk and 2 tablespoons of margarine to frying pan and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until mixture starts to boil. Stir in remaining cooked onions.
To serve, place a pork chop and scoop of mashed potatoes on a plate and drizzle with the gravy.