Recipe Corner Cooking Techniques

Let's Try Shallots, Shall We?

ShallotsAs the evening temps dip into the 60s (finally cool enough to wear jackets!), we're eagerly prepping our crockpots and Dutch ovens for the onslaught of seasonal recipes. At the top of our grocery list is the beautifully delicate shallot, a mild-tasting member of the onion family that lends a soft bite.

Actually, depending on whom you ask, shallot's bite more closely resembles an earthy kiss, sort of like a sweet onion that's combined with a green onion, and then given the complexity of garlic. It's no small wonder that shallots turn up in markets near and far, from Philly to Paris to Phuket. Believed to originate in the area that is now modern-day Turkey, shallots provide a flavorful backdrop to most cuisine types across continents.

In fact, shallots seem to do best in dishes that allow them to merge with other seasonings, slowly and methodically. Keep the fusion simple: just a few veggies, maybe a pinch of salt and pepper, plus fresh herbs during the last few minutes of cooking. Season conservatively; shallots are introverted members of the onion family, and you'll discover that they don't need a crowd to feel right at home.

We've enjoyed shallots in vinaigrettes, stews, roasts, soups, quiches, casseroles and omelets -- just about anything that calls for a subtly sweet onion flavor that's simultaneously elegant and approachable. It even sounds somewhat refined, providing an instant boost of confidence in the kitchen: "I'm cooking with onions," (okay) vs. "I'm cooking with shallots" (now you've got someone's attention).

The culinary confidence usually pays off. Whether we're planning a casual dinner menu, a Sunday brunch, or a homemade pizza on a rainy Friday night, shallots have always added an effortless depth to our dishes -- making us look like cooking heros.

Shall we try (more) shallots? Oh, yessiree, we shall!