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Shallots - Flavor That's All In The Family

Updated on July 30, 2010

No family has contributed more to food than the Allium family. If you haven't yet met, allow me to introduce them - leeks, scallions, garlic, onions, chives, and shallots.

Of the many Allium relatives, the haughty chef favorite shallots may be the least familiar. They look like small, irregularly shaped onions, but they have a taste all their own, without the onion's underlying sweetness. They pack heat like onions, but they have the pungency of garlic and the green, fresh taste of scallions. In fact, they taste a lot like scallions, only more so.

The only downside of shallots is the peel. Getting it off can be a hassle, but you'll find the process easier if you cut off the tops and bottoms first; if the peel is particularly sticky, slit the shallot down the side. If you can, farm the task out to children, guests, or anyone else within corralling distance. Once the shallots are peeled, it's downhill from there.

Choose shallots the same way you choose onions - they should be firm and sprout-free. Don't be fooled into thinking that large ones will cut down on peeling time. They often grow in segments, and once you remove the outer layer, you may find that your one large shallot is actually several smaller ones, all of which require peeling.

  • Use chopped shallots in vinaigrette for salad or steamed vegetables.
  • Make a sauce by reducing shallots and herbs in wine and chicken broth.
  • Cook shallots briefly in butter (with an herb, if you like); use shallot butter to brush on grilled fish or to accompany lobster or steamed clams.
  • Flavor olive oil by steeping shallots, rosemary, and peppercorns in it (make sure to keep it refrigerated).
  • Pan-fry diced shallots in olive oil until crispy, and sprinkle over salad, vegetables, or grilled meats.
  • Add chopped shallots to a chutney, relish, or salsa.
  • Sauté some minced shallots in the pot before you make polenta, and mix in some crumbled blue cheese at the very end.
  • Add peeled whole shallots to a root roast.
  • Include finely chopped shallots in almost any vegetable or chip dip - particularly those that are sour cream- or yogurt-based. Refrigerate the dip overnight so the flavors meld.

Roasted Potatoes & Shallots

When roasted, Yukon Golds get a crispy crust on the outside yet stay creamy on the inside. Roasting them with shallots just adds another delicious layer of flavor to one of my favorite side dishes. A little salt and pepper is all that's needed for flavoring, but feel free to add some fresh herbs or top these tasty taters with a spoonful of gravy. Yum!

5 large shallots, peeled and halved
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces

Preheat the oven to 400°F with the rack at the bottom.

1. Toss the shallots in a bowl with 1 Tbsp of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in one layer on a 9x13 sheet pan and roast, turning occasionally, until golden brown. About 25-20 minutes.

2. Season the potatoes the same way; oil, salt and pepper, and add to the pan with the shallots. Continue roasting until the shallots are tender and the potatoes are crusty, about 45 minutes.

This is the perfect side dish to serve with chicken or a nice, big, grilled steak!

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