Infamous Onions

Colette Ernst

Onions have an interesting reputation in movies and literature: from making Esquivel cry in Like Water for Chocolate, to being compared to Ogres in Shrek, to it’s strong smell protecting Stanley and Zero in the movie Holes.

Onions are cheap, available all year and extremely versatile in cooking, making them an ingredient that is used as seasoning or flavouring component in dishes in almost every culture. As a kid I remember mom making boiled pearl onions in cheese sauce as a special treat for holidays. My step-father-in-law used to eat raw onions in sandwiches, often alone with just a little mayo. A week ago I threw onions into perogies, and while my kids normally react to strong flavours, these were sautéed until they were tender.

One of my families favourite recipes uses a non traditional onion: the leek. While not always as cheap or available, it is one of my favourite for soups. We have feasted on Cock-a-Leeky soup for weeks when I cook up a large batch using up some of my excess vegetables to make a soup that is never the same twice. This Scottish recipe consists of sliced leeks and chicken with either barley, rice or potato as the starch, and while bacon, prunes, lemon peel and brown sugar can be used, My recipe is family friendly and simple.


1.5 cups leeks

2.5 pound stewing chicken (cut into pieces)

4 cups water

1/2 cup cooked barley

2 tsp chicken bouillon

2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 bay leaf

2 cups of veggies (celery, potato, peas)

Directions: Sliced and cleaned leek whites and greens very well. Heat all ingredients except leeks to boiling in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes.

Add leeks. Bring back to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until thickest pieces of chicken are done, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and cool slightly; remove chicken from bones and skin. Skim fat from both and remove bay leaf. Cut chicken into 1 inch pieces and return to broth. Heat about 5 minutes; serve.