I first encountered the reference to cutting red onions into “plumas” meaning feathers in a Peruvian cookbook by Gaston Acurio. I was doing some research for Vegetarian Lomo Saltado recipe I was developing. In the moment I didn’t really understand the point of using this particular method for cutting onions. Then it came up again during a cooking class I took here in Peru and it suddenly became much clearer. So today, I’m going to share with you a little bit about what I’ve learned about how to cut red onion feathers.
Why use this cut?
The primary reason to use cut red onion feathers is simply because it creates a visually appealing and more uniform onion strip than other methods of julienne. The trick is to only use the outer leaves of the onion and to slice the onions lengthwise rather than horizontally.
Cut into thin strips to use in uncooked recipes such as salads and other cold dishes such as Vegan Mixto Ceviche. This cut variation also works great in sautéed dishes as well though I recommend cutting the onions into much thicker strips.
Other onion tips
Don’t cry over your onions
We all know that onions often make you cry when cutting them. Cut onions release a chemical which irritates the eye causing discomfort or burning and triggers the eye to release tears. But what can you do when cutting onions to reduce this effect.
- Chill your onions for 30 minutes before slicing them.
- Leave the root part of the onion intact rather than slicing it off. This part of the onion contains the most highest amount of the compounds that cause the irritation.
- If possible substitute sweet onions in your recipe as these often cause less irritation.
Choosing and storing onions
When selecting onions in the store, be sure to choose onions that are even in color and the outside skin is dry. Avoid choosing onions with dark spots or damaged skin. When storing your onions be sure to put them in a dark and dry location with lots of ventilation.
It isn’t a good idea to store onions in the refrigerator unless you have already cut them open. Be cautious about storing onions near other produce that give off lots of moisture such as potatoes as this will cause them to spoil faster.
How to cut red onion feathers
- Remove the outer peel of the onion.
- Slice onion in half lengthwise.
- Remove the core part of the onion where the layers begin to get uneven and smaller.
- Slice the remaining outer layers into strips. Thin for salads and cold dishes and wider if using in stir fries or sautéed dishes.
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In order to cut onions you need a great knife! The sharper the better so keep a sharpener handy at home so when your knife is a little dull you can bring it back to life quickly and easily. My person favorite is the second option, the honing steel but it’s also a little more dangerous since you might cut yourself more easily which is why I’ve also given you a safer option.
Check out these recipes to test out your red onion feather skills!