We should be more interested in chopping onions and garlic than teary eyes or bad breath, as different shapes and pieces affect the taste.
We all know that both onions and garlic, the ingredients and basis of many dishes, become less sharp and sweeter during roasting or sautéing. We pay too little attention to them on the cutting board. Why, you ask?
Both belong to the genus Allium, which also includes leeks, shallots and chives, while other ingredients with a strong taste (eg fresh basil), they are characterized by the fact that they smell only when they damage their tissue. In our terminology, this means by cutting. Imagine that in a whole onion or garlic amino acids and enzymes float one by one, but when cut, both acids and enzymes react to form new compounds.
When garlic is cut, allicin is released, which is known mainly as an extremely healing compound. It is also responsible for the characteristic garlic flavor and strong perceptible aroma. The more garlic is cut, the more enzymes are released, producing more allicin and producing even more flavor.
This is the reason why garlic on a board is sometimes crushed, and some recipes require you to add garlic in flakes. But we must be careful not to cut the garlic in advance, but just before adding it to the dish. This is because allicin is still being formed in the cut pod, which means that the taste of garlic is already too strong and will predominate in the dish.
When cut into onions, volatile and irritating sulfur compounds are formed, which are also responsible for the character and taste, including those that make us cry.
Control over strong taste
From all of the above, it is clear that the way we cut is the one we will be able to use to control the taste of the final dish. In The Science of Good Cooking, a New York Times bestseller, they note that it is very important to cut the onion lengthwise, through its root, rather than across it, as it will be less spicy, less pronounced, and not so very smelly. We chop it when its plow has to be evenly distributed over the dish, and for the onion soup we just cut it into leaves so that the taste is not too strong. Imagine onion soup for which this main ingredient would be mixed before processing. You better not think about something like that anymore, right? And how it would smell even more all over the apartment…
It’s the same with garlic. Cutting is a technique to sharpen or soften its taste. Have you ever wondered why Italians, when preparing tomato sauce, first fry a whole clove of garlic and not the pieces? Now you know. But what will you do with it if you crave your favorite pasta with garlic and oil where garlic is a star? You will squeeze it through a press or crush it and chop it very finely on a cutting board, then fry two-thirds of the amount to almost stick to the bottom of the pan, set aside, add another third of garlic, parsley, lemon juice, pepper and a little pasta water.