The Art of the Quick Pickle

I love pickled onions. They are the perfect bright spot in a meal. They provide the subtle depth of sautéed onions, but they’re tart and acidic rather than sweet. The more I eat, the more I prize the presence of acidity in food — salt and fat without acidity is like Monet without color.

Many of my favorite sandwiches have been adorned with gorgeous pink pickled onions. I am ashamed to say that while I loved these onions, I never pondered the origin. When my culinary sensei Pam Saindon started regularly pulling  jars of this marvelous allium out of her fridge, I knew I had to make some of my own.

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Photo credit: Pinterest (sorry I forgot to take a picture of my onions)

As it turns out. These onions are made in a process called the quick pickle (a hilarious name, I know). They are incredibly easy to make — so much simpler than I imagined. Also they look awesome in a jar — top notch Pinterest material.

How do you make quick pickled onions?

  1. Slice a red onion super thin. Put it in a mason jar.
  2. Pour apple cider vinegar into a sauce pan. Add salt and your choice of seasonings. Bring to a boil.
  3. Pour the boiling mixture into the jar. Cover the onions completely with the liquid. Let your onions sit for a while. Cover and refrigerate for 24-48 hours.

THAT’S IT. The resulting onions are delicious and flavorful. I was preparing my onions for a taco bar, so I seasoned them with cumin, oregano and peppercorns for that authentic mexican flavor.

Here is the full recipe I used as a guide:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-quickpickled-red-onions-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-193247

So go make yourself some quick pickled onions and thank me later.

(PS Always wear eye protection than chopping onions, if for no other reason than the thrill of being impervious to tears. I keep pair of old swim goggles in my pantry for exactly this purpose.)

Pit Stop: Hyde House’s Turkey Bahn Mi

The Turkey Bahn Mi at Hyde House might be my favorite sandwich in Boise right now. It’s a brilliant creation that I have eaten twice in the last month. It’s on the pricey side as sandwiches go ($12) but I’ve been able to justify it to myself, mostly because the lime mayo makes me so happy.

Everyone knows that the success of a sandwich relies on it’s bread. Hyde House hits it out of the park here: their baguette is simultaneously light, soft and crunchy. Amen.

The turkey is equally well executed, with thick slices that really transcend the ordinary deli meat experience.

The pickled red onion is, as always, magic. (Most amazing bites of food I eat involve a sweet or acidic onion.) The jalapeño relish delivers a strong performance and adds much needed heat. And the lime-spiked mayo… shall I compare thee to a summer day?

I recommend making your way to Hyde House soon, just in case this delightful item is tragically removed from their seasonal menu. I always get their iceberg laden house salad on the side, but the choice of side is, as ever, a personal matter.

 

Superbowl Nachos

Last week I had to face the sad fact that the Patriots were once again in the Super Bowl. This meant that I would once again have to see Bill Belichik’s rumpled visage transformed by it’s biannual grin. (Bill Belichik can only be happy for the first six seconds when he’s holding the Lombardi trophy. By the time the players start giving victory speeches he’s already planning who he’ll cut for next season.)

Between the Patriots and my guilt from enjoying the product of a morally destitute league,  I doubted my ability derive any joy from this game. I decided, instead, to focus my efforts on Superbowl foods.

For too many Superbowls, I have greatly expanded my hors d’oeuvres variety at the expense of quality. Guac, salsa, and potato chips, that’s well and good. Adding hummus and a crudite, that’s pushing it. A cheese plate, smoked meats and corn muffins — now none of these foods go together and I’ll have to lock myself in the bathroom during the third quarter.

This year I knew I couldn’t allow myself the excesses to which I am naturally inclined. I would choose one and only one snackable dish, and I would execute it at the highest level. My choice was nachos.

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First things first, if you aren’t making your nachos on a baking sheet, get with the times. Baking sheets provide great surface area and they are the best platform for sensible chip engineering. Additionally, making them on parchment paper makes cleanup easy, and transfer to another plate effortless.

I’ll make this simple and digestible by describing my nachos in terms of layers (but you should understand that these ingredients were repeated at various points based on chef’s intuitution):

Layer 1: Refried Beans (thinned out with water until they take on a mexican restaurant consistency)
Layer 2: Corn chips
Layer 3: Tomatillo chicken thighs (slow cooked for eight hours using this fine recipe)
Layer 4: Black beans
Layer 5: Delicious, delicious homemade nacho cheese

With the base fully realized, I piled on guacamole, homemade pico de gallo, and pre-shredded mexican cheese (I thought it would melt well, but in retrospect I should have shredded my own).

The final touches? Why not some pickled jalapeños, radishes, black olives, cilantro, crumbled cotija cheese, annnnddddd sour cream from a fun squirt bottle.

They almost made up for that comeback.