In restaurants and at my home we generally don’t bother with just the dried skin of an onion or a shallot. The process of getting just the papery skins off is far too fussy and time consuming.
Here’s how the pros do it..
First off, the onions live in the veggie drawer in my fridge. This chills the onions, keeps them from sprouting, and most importantly shrinks the cells of the onion so it sprays less onion juice into the air..
No more tears!
Next, we take a SHARP knife (meaning sharp enough to cut just by pushing down on the blade a bit) and run it over the steel to make sure of the edge. Note that the sharp edge of the knife, at rest, is always placed AWAY from the body working with the knife. This is so that when you go to scrape the chopped ingredients off the cutting board, you don’t accidentally slice your hand.
Anywho.. we take that sharp knife and cut the top off the onion.
Then we take the root off
Then we set the onion on its nose and whack it in half
Next we slide a thumb between the first full layer of skin and the rest of the onion and pop it off.
Now.. why the first FULL layer?
See that thin spot in the edge of that layer closest to the camera? That is starting to dry out, turning into a layer of onion skin, and it will be bitter. It will also burn if sautéed making it more bitter. This is a Bad Bad Thing. Lose it.
Here’s our onion ready to chop, mince, or slice..
With a good sharp knife, a bit of practice, a prep bin, and a handy trash can, I can prepare a 50 pound sack of onions to this stage inside of an hour. Easily.
If you’re slicing onion as for rings, instead of cutting it in half you simply score that first full layer and peel it off in one piece.
For shreds or wedges of onion (which is what I’ll be using for stir fry this evening)
The halves go on the nose again and get sliced tail to nose..
Were I not blagging along writing and taking pictures, the entire process might take a whole 20 seconds start to shreds. Dice might take an extra 5 to 8 seconds. Mince might take an extra 10 seconds.. if that.
For garlic cloves:
Break it off, slice the root end off, ser the flat of the knife on the clove and whack it with your other hand.
Then grab the skin by the nose end and shake out the peeled clove.
3 seconds total.