From East to West, the onion is the cornerstone of nearly every savory dish. Its use in various cuisines has been documented as early as 5000 B.C. and the seemingly supernatural bulb has been known to have healthful properties.
What is more is the versatility of onions and their ability to enhance and layer flavors. They're used as a base in sauces, stews and soups, and when cooking meat or fish. After testing several combinations, I opt for the magic trio every time– cipollini, shallot, and sweet onion.
Below are a few of my kitchen staples, and how I use them.
Cipollini: The miniature, sweet Italian bulb is nutty and robust, perfect for roasting and braising. I love it, anytime.
Shallot: Delicate, mild, garlicky, and sweet, shallots pair well with shellfish and are used extensively in Southeast Asian dishes. I sauté them with 2-3 crushed cardamom pods for my omelets (removing the cardamom pods before adding the other ingredients, of course). It's also perfectly mellow in risotto.
Sweet Onion/ Vidalia: Versatile, large, and sweet, this onion is great for everyday use. I use this onion as a substitute for yellow or white onions whenever possible, and add a coarsely chopped vidalia when roasting meats, fish, or chopped as the flavor- base for making curries.
Red Onion: I use this almost exclusively for cold dishes, thinly sliced with lemon and chaat masala, or grilled. I find this pungent, violet bulb is best when slivered and used intentionally.
Note: I've updated this post, originally drafted in August 2016, to reflect my current thoughts on the topic.