How to Dice an Onion With a Box Grater

My confession of the hour is that I almost never dice onions. I know how to dice an onion, and I have a sharp knife that’ll get the job done, but I find it…pretty tedious? Mind-numbingly boring? A hard-to-justify time suck? Oh, I’m being dramatic? Maybe so, but the closest I get to “dicing” is roughly chopping.

But as much as it pains me to admit it, there are times when roughly chopping just won’t do. If you’re looking for super-tender bits that melt away into the sauce for shrimp scampi pasta or disintegrate into soffritto for minestrone—it is important that the onion be in tiny pieces that will cook quickly, evenly, and all the way through.

So I was thrilled to see that Sohla El-Waylly understood—and accommodated—my laziness. In her new recipe for Fideos With Chicken Thighs and Kale, she doesn’t ask you to dice an onion (hoorah!): Instead, she has you shred it to bits on a box grater. In a mere matter of seconds, the large holes of the grater turn an intact onion half into a pile of scraps. The pieces are a little uneven, sure, but it’s nothing a quick run-through with your knife won’t fix. The box grater strikes again, as if we didn’t already know that the trusty old tool isn’t a one-trick pony.

This technique (permission to call it a “hack” please???) is game-changing. Not only is it much faster than dicing, but it also goes one step further in breaking down the onion and exposing its watery insides, meaning that it will get even jammier and softer as it cooks.

So the next time a recipe calls for dicing an onion (or even a shallot!), put down your knife and try your box grater instead. Your stuffing, collard greens (can you tell I’m in the Thanksgiving mindset?), and dal will not suffer—and you will surely benefit.

Okay, this is the part of the story where I say something about how great graters are, I think. But instead, I’m just going to leave you with this recipe:

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Fideos With Chicken Thighs and Kale

With a crispy top hiding a layer of jammy, tomato-y noodles, this one-skillet meal is anything but one-note. There’s flavor at every stage. After you’ve rendered the fat from the chicken thighs, you’ll use that schmaltz to sauté the fideos (that’s Spanish for “noodles”). This technique not only gives the pieces of thin, broken pasta a nutty taste, but it also crisps them up so that they’re able to withstand the heat of the oven and absorb the slow-cooked onion, garlic, and tomato paste mixture (a.k.a. your soffritto). The not-so-secret secret ingredient is the anchovies: You won’t be able to pick them out of the crowd, but if you skip them, you’ll miss the salt and umami. 

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