In Praise of Shallots
Sensually elegant with an understated confidence. Its variegated hues of violet bespeak a disposition as coy and flirty as its shape. From a distinctive circle of well-known relatives, this member of the family often sits on the sidelines until those in the know with a discerning palate whisk her into their kitchen for a delectable feast.
I am singing the praises of an often overlooked and rarely understood ingredient, the shallot.
The shallot is a humble sister within the allium family and, seemingly, satisfied with its place in the heady world of flavor.
Shallots often turn up in the most sophisticated of kitchens under the deft hands of well-known chefs or culinary devotees.
It is subtle, yet distinctive. It provides a delicate undertone of flavor that is often used as a condiment with dishes as well. It may end up in dressings or marinades, sauces or soups. Any way it starts or ends up, it is sure to lend a deliciously understated flavor that will enhance most any dish.
I use shallots in my vinaigrettes, as a flavorful addition to delicate sauces or cararmelized gently as a jammy, sweet condiment for meat.
Here is a delicious recipe for caramelized shallots.
CIPOLLE PICCOLI MARMELLATA
1 pound of shallots
2 Tablespoons sweet unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Pinch sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 Tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
Cut the ends off of the shallot. Peel the shallot and slice into 1/4 inch pieces.
In a large saute pan, heat the butter and oil over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the sliced shallots, a pinch of salt and pepper. Stirring often, cook the shallots until they are soft and translucent. A light caramelization is fine, but if they start to turn brown, turn down the heat. This will take about 10-12 minutes Add the vinegars. Cook the shallot mixture down until the excess liquid is reduced and shallots are sweet and almost creamy in texture. Adjust seasoning as needed. Adding more salt will temper the vinegar, but be careful to not oversalt.
Serve warm or at room temperature with meats, cheeses or foie gras.
Refrigerate for up to three days.
Copyright Alisa Barry 2007