A French kitchen technique used by chefs to boost the flavor of sauces, soups, and stews, an Onion Piqué (or studded onion) is a nice thing to have in your culinary bag of tricks. Fortunately, it sounds fancier than it actually is, and only takes a second to make.
Level up your cooking game with a few tips from the pros! An herb-filled Bouquet Garni floats in broth for amazing soups, especially Leftover Turkey Noodle Soup. Or use a studded onion to cook your own black beans for Black Bean Salsa any day of the week. Lots more how-tos, right this way.
The amazing Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe uses a nifty trick of piercing a whole onion with a few cloves to delicately season the tomato sauce as the cabbage rolls cook. Come serving time, the onion and the cloves are easy to take out, leaving only their flavor behind.
That, dear cooks, is an onion piqué.
An Oignon Piqué, as it is known in French, is what classically trained chefs rely on when making their mother sauces, the five most fundamental sauces in French Cuisine.
A spiked onion is most commonly used in Béchamel sauce, in place of chopped onions. The onion is able to impart its flavor into the cream sauce without leaving little bits of chopped onions behind; there’s no need to strain the sauce.
Once you learn how to do it, chances are you’ll never have to look up this recipe ever again. That’s totally fine! Now go forth and flavor your food, just like a French chef.
How to pronounce Onion Piqué:
It looks harder than it is: uh’-nyon pee-kay’.
What is Onion Pique?
A whole or half onion studded with cloves and bay leaf. Technically, an onion that only has cloves in it is called an onion clouté (spiked onion), but the bayleaf is a nice addition to recipes if you want to use it.
The five mother sauces of French cuisine:
According to most trained French chefs, all other sauce recipes start with one of the original mother sauces.
So, what are the five mother sauces?
- Velouté sauce, a roux-based sauce that is made with white (chicken, fish or veal) stock.
- Béchamel sauce, a roux and cream sauce that can be turned into a cheese sauce (Mornay) if desired.
- Espagnole sauce, a dark brown sauce made with beef stock, bones, and mirepoix vegetables (celery, carrots, and onions.)
- Hollandaise sauce, the most drinkable sauce of them all, made of egg yolks, lemon juice, and butter.
- Tomato sauce, which most people already know and love.
How to make an Onion Piqué:
- Begin by peeling a yellow or white raw onion. When you peel the onion, it’s important to keep some of the root in the onion, which will help the onion hold together during cooking.
- If what you’re making is large enough to call for a whole onion, leave it whole. Otherwise, cut the onion in half.
- Place a dried bay leaf flat against the surface of the onion and hold it in place with several whole dried cloves, pressing the cloves into the flesh of the onion like thumb tacks.
- (While this may be really fun, don’t go overboard with the cloves, otherwise they could overpower your dish. Use 2 to 3 cloves for a half onion, or up to 6 for a whole onion, unless the recipe calls for another amount.)
- Alternatively, you can make a slice into the onion with a sharp knife and slide a bay leaf into the slit. Secure the bay leaf with a couple cloves to keep it in place.
- Then tuck the onion into your pot of liquid to cook.
- When the onion is soft and you’re ready to move to the next step in the recipe, you can take it out and discard it, cloves, bayleaf and all. The onion will be soft and may come apart, but that’s okay. It’s still much easier than straining it out.
Why use an Onion Piqué?
Not only does a studded onion add tremendous depth of flavor to whatever you’re cooking, it can be taken out without leaving any solids behind. When the texture of a sauce needs to be smooth, an onion studded with cloves and a bay leaf is absolutely the way to go.
Obviously recipes that call for chopped onion— like chili or stew— don’t require a clove-studded onion as well. However, broth, lentils, beans, or smooth sauces all benefit from this technique.
How to Make and Onion Pique
- 1 onion white, whole, peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 cloves whole
- Place a dried bay leaf flat against the surface of the onion and hold it in place with 2 whole dried cloves, pressing the cloves into the flesh of the onion like thumb tacks.
- Pierce up to 4 additional cloves into the onion.