Growing and cooking onions are treasured around the world for their pungent flavor and versatility in many dishes.
There are two main classifications of onion – green onions, aka scallions, and dry onions, which are mature onions with a juicy flesh covered with dry, papery skin.
There are dozens of dry onion varieties – way too many to go into for this post; however, we will concentrate on the stronger flavored, globe onion, which is what I used for the smothered pork steak recipe below.
Globe onions can be yellow, red or white and range from 1-inch diameter, up to 4-inches.
Rich in flavor and mildly pungent, these made a great ingredient for the recipe.
If globe onions are not available, you can use yellow or sweet onions typically found in most supermarkets.
Ideally, I would use Vidalia Onions, which are strictly grown in Vidalia, Georgia, my home state!
These large, pale, yellow onions are exceedingly sweet and juicy; however, they are usually only available from May through July.
Onions are among the easiest of all vegetables to grow in your backyard or container garden.
You can raise them from seeds or buy “baby onions” called sets. Sets are ideal for beginner and container gardeners.
My globe onions were purchased as sets and I planted them in my raised bed area.
They really did not require much attention other than weeding. Just make sure to not over water them. Onions do not like the soil to be very moist.
Do not plant onions in the same place year after year, or you will increase the chance of disease.
I have been told, planting carrots next to your onions is beneficial. Apparently, the smell of the onions deters the carrot fly.
It is best to plant seeds or sets, in full sun, during spring, for a late summer harvest.
Onions are ready to harvest when their leaves topple over and turn yellow or brown.
Honestly, home grown onions, unlike tomatoes, are not that much different than supermarket onions and are less expensive.
Health Benefits of Onions
Like garlic, shallots and leeks – onions are members of the Allium family.
Onions are rich in the mineral chromium, which helps cells respond to insulin, making them especially good for diabetics.
Other benefits are:
- lowering of blood sugar
- reduce heart disease risk
- lower the risk of cancer
- improve bone health
- promote gut health
Other FOODS to Promote a Healthy Gut:
Onions in the Kitchen
Whether growing your own, or buying at the supermarket, I store all my onions the same way; inside a brown paper bag, in a cool, dry, dark space in my pantry.
I keep garlic, shallots, and onions all in separate brown bags.
Most should keep for 3 – 4 weeks. Supposedly, a large harvest of onions can be stored in old pantyhose.
Place an onion in the foot. Tie a knot around the onion. Place another onion in the leg and tie another knot, till you have filled the leg of the pantyhose. Keep them, in the hanging position, in a cellar or dark basement; however, this has never worked for me – as the onions rotted within two weeks. Has this ever worked for you?
For onions – chopping, pounding in a mortar, and pureeing in a food processor all give distinctive results.
Chopped onions can be eaten raw, as a garnish or in an uncooked sauce. I highly recommend rinsing the chopped onions for any of these applications before using them, to remove all the sulfur compounds, which cause a harsh flavor.
When onions are heated, sulfur compounds react with other substances to produce a wide range of flavors.
Both your cooking method and temperature, can strongly affect the flavor balance.
The sugar content of onions is responsible for their ability to brown when sautèd or fried, as well as the caramel note in the cooked flavor.
Pork Steaks Smothered With Onions
Because I do not eat liver – you will never see a recipe for liver and onions on my blog; however, I do enjoy caramelized onions.
When I saw this Cook’s Country recipe for smothered onions with pork, I had to try it. I only changed a few things to accommodate a meal for two.
- 2 - boneless, 1" thick pork steaks, trimmed
- FOR THE RUB:
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- FOR THE PORK:
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 small onions from my garden; sliced on a mandolin and rings separated
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 ground thyme
- 1 cup beef broth + 1 Tablespoon divided
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- Preheat oven to 350º. Verify rack is in the middle position of the oven.
- In a small bowl, combine rub ingredients.
- Pat dry pork steaks with a paper towel and apply rub on both sides of the steaks. Press in the rub. Allow steaks to acclimate for 20 minutes.
- Heat a 12", oven safe skillet to medium heat - I used a cast iron skillet.
- Add oil.
- When oil is hot, brown pork steaks, so they are brown on both sides, but not cooked through, about 7 minutes per side.
- Remove pork from skillet and place on a plate to collect residual juices.
- With the remnants of the pork, now in the skillet, add the butter.
- Once butter is melted, add the onions and cook until they are brown, turning occasionally.
- Stir in garlic and thyme. Cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add beef broth and bay leaf. Stir onions, scraping up any brown bits in skillet and return to a boil.
- Return pork steaks to skillet, along with any accumulated juices.
- Cover with a lid - or aluminium foil and place in the oven.
- Cook for 45 - 60 minutes, till steaks reach an internal temperature of 165º.
- Remove from oven and return to cook top.
- Remove pork steaks from skillet and place on a plate. Cover with foil to keep warm.
- Using a strainer and fat separator, reserve onions and pour sauce in separator in order to remove fat.
- Skim off any residual fat.
- Pour sauce back into skillet and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer. Mix 1 Tablespoon of beef broth and the cornstarch in a small bowl till combined, then whisk into skillet.
- Stir in reserved onions and vinegar.
- Serve ideally with mashed potatoes.