Deliberate care is taken when I’m manhandling the onions. This is not a euphemism. I’m actually talking about onions, not man apples. Just now I was attempting to chop three large sweet onions into a uniform dice, perfect cubes, as if they were made of sugar and offered as "lumps" for your tea. And as I attempted to peel back the papery outer layer I saw myself in an infomercial, with my eyes too wide, saying this exact sentence, "Cutting onions used to be my most dreaded task in the kitchen, but not anymore, now that there’s…" But I couldn’t finish the sentence. Because there’s nothing.
I know Sur La Table sells onion goggles, but I just don’t believe it. I’ve even tried cutting them while wearing a snorkling mask. Oh, yes, I really have. No luck. Ina (of Barefoot Contessa fame) suggested cutting them over the sink, with water running, and that too, I’m sad to declare, left me weeping. Chew gum! I’ve heard people swear. Nope. Not workin’. And I really need to stay a while when I’m working with an onion, dissatisfied with a quick-dash slop job.
I once took a Knife Skills Intensive class, where I learned about the make of knives, focused on the way a cooks knife balanced in my hand, the rock of it as it pushed forward on a wooden board. I can tell you when to use a boning knife, a Santoko, and I can spot a tomato knife in a crowd. Serated knives, for example, are to be used when you’re cutting something with an exterior harder than its interior. If the center is softer than the outside (bread, tomatoes, melons, certain cheeses), hit up the serrated knife. For apples, forget the slap-dash corer; it’s a whore. For elegant apple slices, or pears for that matter, it’s all about the pairing knife and a melon baller (to scoop out the hard center).
Knife Skills taught me to make roses out of tomatoes, ribbed cucumber cups, and of course, I learned the proper technique for cutting an onion, with the stem in tact, pulling toward me, then a fine dice. But there must be a drama-free way to dice an onion. No tears, no sting, effortless.
I know Williams-Sonoma now has the dicing mandoline (sumbitch!), but I can’t go there. I already have the Matfer Mandoline, with which I’ve had a long torrid love affair.
So as I type, my 11-cup (from way back when) food processor is sitting on the kitchen island, useless. How is it possible that even a food processor, you know, known for chopping shit, can’t actually dice? Can it? Am I missing something? Is there a blade for a food processor that will dice into perfect, neat, uniform cubes? Anyone? Anything? Fuck.
I’m now going in with a sharpened 12-inch cooks knife, ready to sob. The Chicken with Dates recipe from Savoy Restaurant in NYC is so damn worth it. As much as I bitch, oh I how I adore making dinner. So love hate love. Layers of an onion, I tell ya.