On your table, everything counts. Even the small things should contribute to the meal, and those “small things” can have big effects. Adding contrast in colors and flavors is a world-wide strategy that all cultures embrace.
Mexican cuisine is especially adept at making the most of additions to the table. Think of salsas, guacamole, … You may have enjoyed a side dish of Mexican pickled onions and wondered at the complexity of flavors you tasted. This recipe, from Culinary Mexico by Daniel Hoyer, offers an explanation that tasty barrage. The careful addition of properly prepared spices elevates the onions to a focal point for your plate.
These pickled onions will keep for months in your refrigerator, ready to brighten many a meal. As a side dish, or as an adornment for say a great steak, nothing can top this tangy addition.
Pickled Red Onions
1 cup vinegar (apple cider, rice, or pineapple)
½ cup water
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon whole allspice, toasted
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, toasted
4 whole cloves
1 2-inch piece canela
4 bay leaves, toasted
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and/or marjoram
1 habanero chili, lightly charred (optional)
2 tablespoons piloncillo or raw sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tangerine or orange, unpeeled
3 large red onions, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch thick rounds or strips
Place everything except the onions in a nonreactive sauce. Bring to a boil and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the orange and reserve.
Put the onions in a bowl. Pour the hot mixture over the onions and stir well.
Juice the orange and add the juice to the bowl of onions. Stir again to ensure that the onions are completely submerged. Stirring several more times, cool to room temperature. Refrigerate.
[If canning, add the orange juice, skip the cooling, pour into the canning jars, and follow canning instructions for heating and sealing].
Before serving, allow the onion to warm to room temperature. They will taste better.
Source: Culinary Mexico by Daniel Hoyer