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#1125 - Shallots
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March 12, 2013 #1125 Shallots
Years ago, I was taking a cooking class down at the Tilghman Island Inn, and Chef David McCallum said one of his favorite secret ingredients was a jar of minced shallots. He would throw them into nearly every savory dish he made to give it that little "professional" touch as he put it. Chef Jerry Pellegrino of The Waterfront Kitchen agrees, he may have been onto something there.
Shallots are the mildest members of the onion family. Their flavor is quite similar to an onion, but milder and sweeter. There is also a reference to the garlic bulb in their makeup. Shallots are widely available and inexpensive. The one we often see is ruddy brown in color, but there is a pink-skinned, smaller variety that is prized by cooks. In either case, the bulb, which is the same size as the giant elephant garlic bulb, is covered in papery skin. Peel that off and you find two bulbs within.
Shallots cook easily, maintain their flavor, and thus are a joy to work with. Chef McCallum would finely mince the shallots, and store them in olive oil, and keep them in the fridge. But they are fine raw, and can dress up a salad very nicely. The small circular rings of a sliced shallot are quite attractive.
Shallots really shine in sauces. The simplest, well known to oyster lovers, is the mignonette sauce: an easy to prepare blend of red wine vinegar, black pepper and minced shallots. Steak lovers know both the Béarnaise sauce and the Bordelaise sauce. Béarnaise is essentially hollandaise, acidified with a vinegar, shallot and tarragon reduction. Bordelaise sauce features cabernet sauvignon, beef stock and diced shallots. You reduce it, along with seasonings, and you have a marvelous accompaniment to roast beef.
Shallots are also a fine, and unusual side dish. One easy approach is to braise them in butter, red wine and cognac...a slow cooking adventure that yields tender, delicately flavored shallots in a caramelized glory.
Shallots are also ideal companions to other ingredients. You can mix them in with potatoes, Brussels sprouts, or a mélange of roasted root vegetables. Great idea!
It may be that shallots are a victim of their own modesty. They don't scream like garlic or make you weep like an onion. But, these well behaved little alliums clearly deserve a place in our kitchens. Here's a recipe for braised shallots.
(Adapted from Molly Stevens' "All About Braising")
12 ounces fresh shallots, all the same size
1 1/2 tbs unsalted butter
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbs Cognac
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1. Peel and trim the shallots, and divide larger bulbs into two.
2. Melt the butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Sauté them, tossing frequently until they begin to brown. Add the Cognac, and cause it to flame. Simmer until only a glaze remains on the bottom of the pan.
3. Add the wine and one teaspoon of thyme, and simmer, covering the pan. Continue until the shallots are soft, and close to falling apart, about 30 minutes. If the pan starts to dry out, add more wine.
4. When they are cooked, uncover the pan, reduce the liquid, and toss to coat the shallots. Adjust the seasoning and serve.