Loyal and sturdy characters, they’re bit part players, literally, chopped up finely for salad dressings, sautéed with butter to dress up all kinds of greens, used as a substitute for onion or garlic, and generally overshadowed by bolder Allium cousins, onion and garlic. Shallots rarely get the starring role.
Maybe this is my own shallot rut, but I thought I’d check around and find a way to feature them. I found some beautiful recipes and include a variation in this post. At the same time I acknowledge that people who know a lot more about cooking than I do have established shallots as an important culinary accessory. In the background, but an important layer of flavor. Humble perhaps, shallots, but not unappreciated.
Clusters of shallots are harvested in summer and can be stored for months in a cool, dry dark place, as you would onions. Refrigeration is not recommended – cold temps encourage sprouting. Their sweetly aromatic, yet pungent flavor, is a milder version of an onion, also more expensive, but shallots appear to contain more anti-oxidants than other Alliums. And, since they’re generally a farmers market staple throughout winter months, I say have at it, have your way with shallots as you never have before.
Caramelized shallots would be delicious atop buttermilk mashed potatoes, added to a bowl of steamed and buttered Brussels sprouts, in a tart with a layer of Gruyère cheese beneath, on a pizza, with the addition of a little cream a simple side dish or luscious topping for rice or pasta. Make these shallots, store a big dish of them in the fridge and use in alternative ways as needed for a week or more. Humble, hardy, handy shallots, more than subtle background seasoning, they can handle center stage some of the time.
Caramelized Balsamic Shallots Recipe
Epicurious.com inspired this version using less sugar and oil.
Ingredients: 1 # shallots, walnut or smaller sized/3 T butter/1 T sugar/3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme/1 T olive oil/1 T Balsamic vinegar/Salt & pepper
Directions: Peel and trim shallots, leaving root end in tact if possible so that shallots will more readily remain whole/ Using a large pan in order to accommodate a single layer of shallots, melt 2 T butter on low heat with 1 T sugar and allow to simmer together for just a minute until sugar is dissolved/ Add trimmed shallots, sprigs of fresh thyme, and a sprinkle of salt/Cook slowly – butter should be sizzling softly/ After 5 minutes, add 1 T olive oil and remaining 1 T butter to the mix.
With lid on, but slightly askew, continue to gently cook shallots for about 45 minutes or until tender and golden, turning shallots every 10 minutes or so/ Or instead, shallots could be transferred to the oven at this point, covered and roasted on low heat, 300º, checked periodically, for the 35 – 45 minutes/ Watch them – when shallots burn, like garlic, they become bitter/ When shallots are done, add 1 T balsamic vinegar to the pan, allow to simmer briefly and turn off heat/ Remove sprigs of thyme/ Toss gently one more time.
These caramelized, creamy soft morsels are ready. As suggested above, add them to all kinds of dishes. Eliminate balsamic vinegar, substitute a splash of cognac and finish with 1/3 – 1/2 C heavy cream for a caramelized shallot sauce. To double or triple this recipe I suggest using a large roasting pan to accommodate even cooking and browning. Whatever. Have a good time with these guys and savor the whole shallot this time.