Skinning a Pearl Onion

Pearl onions—also known as creamers in the United States—have long been prized for their sweet flavor and dainty teardrop shape. Along with lardons and mushrooms, these onions belong to the French trinity of ingredients that garnishes such classics as Coq Au Vin, the sumptuous braise of chicken in red wine. They aren't exactly the friendliest onions to work with, though: because they are the most appealing when their shape is preserved, they shouldn't be randomly tossed into the pot, where they inevitably fall apart, but rather sauteed to the proper degree of doneness and then added to dishes right before serving. They also have stubborn skins that are hard to remove without damage to the onions themselves. Some cooks advise making an X mark at their tip with a knife, boiling them, then peeling away their skins before cooking them further. But we prefer the easier method that James Peterson advocates in Essentials of Cooking (Artisan, 1999). Place the onions in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover them. Set them aside for a minute, then drain the onions and rinse them in cold water. Trim the root ends. Starting from the onions' tops, simply peel away their skins with your fingers. It's as easy as that.