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Old 02-16-2009, 10:04 AM   #1
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Shallots? Why? When? Etc....

I tried shallots one time and I did not understand the appeal but I see so many recipes using them lately. I stay away because of my first experience (a dressing with raw shallots and sherry vinegar). Am I missing something? This bulb seems to be a true chef favorite but I have yet to find its appeal.

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Old 02-16-2009, 11:01 AM   #2
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Taste it side by side with some onion to get a first-hand taste difference. In most cases, using onion in place of shallots won't ruin a dish. They are very similar.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:20 AM   #3
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It also depends on the type of shallot you get I believe. One ones I have had I would say are milder than a white onion and have a hint of garlic taste. I have heard other people in different parts of the country describe them as stronger tasting than onions. I can only assume there are different types that taste differently.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:46 AM   #4
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I agree with GB - shallots, like onions, can differ widely in taste. And while there are different varieties, it doesn't come close to the different varieties of onions out there. Plus - just like with onions, it also depends on where & how the shallot was grown.

I cook with them often, but if using them raw, I always taste a little piece first before deciding how much to add to the recipe. Sometimes a minced sweet onion like a Vidalia is better suited to a raw recipe than a shallot, even though shallots are nearly always touted as "milder" than onions.

One thing I do like about cooking with shallots, is that they seem to "meld & melt" into recipes better than onions - leaving their flavor behind as they almost seem to disappear into the dish.

But don't feel you HAVE to use shallots in any recipe if you find you don't care for them. It's never written in stone.
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Old 02-16-2009, 11:56 AM   #5
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An example of shallot use is my citrus sauce I made yesterday to go with halibut. I sweat shallots in butter and deglazed and reduced with white wine, added my citrus juice (fresh lemon, lime and orange, boiled it up, strained the shallots and pulp out and thickened with corn starch. I have made this same sauce with both white and red onions at different times and I find that the milder flavour of the shallots compliments the citrus and the delicate flavour of the fish better.

I have also added shallots in with my onions for my rustic onion tart and comparing it to the same tart without them, they do add a nice tone to the flavour.
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Old 02-16-2009, 06:30 PM   #6
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Eshallots/Shallots have their respective place in my inventory. I use them along with onion and/or garlic, and with my favorite, Leeks, as I like the sweetness they offer, especially when sweating down or caramelizing.

Raw, every one is different, just like onions you have pungent ones and more mellow ones, won't really know until you get into it. Sounds like your first experience with it might have just been strong. Don't count them out, there is a reason they have been used for centuries.
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Old 02-18-2009, 07:25 AM   #7
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In general, the younger and smaller the shallot, the milder the flavor. Like Tattrat, I use them frequently in combination with garlic and onion, mostly in sauces and reductions. There are some recipes I wouldn't bother making if I didn't have them available - for example, bearnaise sauce. Also, my scampi sauce, posted on this board under seafoods, wouldn't be the same without shallots.
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Old 02-18-2009, 09:49 AM   #8
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Bearnaise Sauce, Beurre Blanc, and almost any time I want onions with fish/seafood. Last night I made my "famous" Chicken with Red Wine Vinegar Sauce which requires them also. Once I subbed out red onion for them when I was out of shallots, and I was surprised by the major alteration in the flavor profile of the dish. The flavor is much milder than onions.
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Old 02-18-2009, 10:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefJune View Post
Bearnaise Sauce, Beurre Blanc, and almost any time I want onions with fish/seafood. Last night I made my "famous" Chicken with Red Wine Vinegar Sauce which requires them also. Once I subbed out red onion for them when I was out of shallots, and I was surprised by the major alteration in the flavor profile of the dish. The flavor is much milder than onions.
Care to share the recipe?
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Old 02-18-2009, 12:46 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyema View Post
Care to share the recipe?
Your wish is my command! (It's okay, I hold the copyright).

Chicken in Red Wine Vinegar Sauce
I include this divine Lyonnaise dish in a class I have taught many times featuring four (and sometimes five!) chicken dishes from different parts of France. Many of my students are put off by the title of the recipe, but when the class is over, they almost unanimously declare this dish to be their favorite!
makes 6 servings
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
one whole chicken (about 4 pounds) cut into 10 pieces—you could use all breasts or all leg portions if you prefer)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup top quality red wine vinegar
1 cup crème fraîche (or heavy cream, preferably not ultrapasteurized)
finely chopped fresh (flat-leaf) parsley for garnish

1. Mix salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Split each chicken breast in half, then halve each piece again.
2. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a deep-sided 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. (If your pan isn’t large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer, use 2 smaller pans, and put half the chicken, oil, and butter in each one.) Rub the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper mixture. When the oil is hot but not smoking, use tongs to add the chicken, skin side down. Brown on both sides until the skin becomes beautifully golden brown, and the chicken is thoroughly cooked, about 12 minutes on each side.

3. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Pour off about one-half the fat in the pan. Add the shallots to the remaining oil and brown over medium high heat. Slowly add the vinegar to the skillet and boil until reduced by half. (The fumes will definitely clear your sinuses—great for a cold!!) Add the crème fraîche and cook until the mixture is well blended and has turned a nutty brown color, about 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan to coat thoroughly and heat briefly in the sauce.

4. Return to the platter, garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.
If there is extra sauce, pass it in a small bowl.
Teacher’s Tips: 1.Be sure the vinegar has boiled down enough before you add the crème fraîche or you’ll end up with a beige, watery sauce.
2. Pork chops also work admirably in this preparation. Brown Chinese vinegar makes a tasty substitution for the red wine vinegar, as well.
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