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Lessons from the Test Kitchen: Shallots

Rosanne Toroian, Food Editor

When I tell people my job title for Schnucks, I usually get mixed reactions from envy or awe to curiosity and confusion. “What’s a food editor?” they ask. I wear many [chef’s] hats from recipe development, testing and writing to helping shape the content of this magazine.

Our Food Education Team tests each recipe at least three times to ensure it comes out perfectly every time. And yes, taste testing is happily a major part of our jobs. The best part of my job is sharing all of my culinary knowledge with you. I hope you enjoy this new column where I strive to answer your cooking questions. I will demystify ingredients featured in our recipes or introduce a product that is either new or new to you. Look for guidance on cooking techniques; some may be accompanied by an online video available at schnuckscooks.com.

My first column features an ingredient essential to most world cuisines that is relatively underutilized by most home cooks in America: shallots. A member of the same Allium species as onion and garlic, they have a distinctively complex flavor characterized by an intense sharpness when raw, contrasted with a mellow, delicate flavor when cooked.

Bronze colored on the outside and light purple to pink on the inside, shallots are sectioned into large cloves similar to garlic. Like garlic, shallots vary in size. For those times when a recipe calls for a small amount of onion, substitute shallots. An average shallot yields about 1/4 cup chopped. Shallots may cost a bit more per pound than onions, but their thin skin yields little waste. Plus, only a small amount is typically purchased and utilized for a recipe, making the added cost well worth it. Available year-round, shallots enjoy a long shelf life when kept in a cool, dark place.

Shallots are commonly added raw to vinaigrettes where onions may overpower. Because of their tender, thin layers, shallots are also well suited for salads, from tossed lettuce salads to mayonnaise-based chicken, crab and tuna salads. Chefs appreciate how shallots melt into sauces and stocks to deliver a unique and subtle flavor not provided by onions. Cooking shallots brings out their mild, rounded sweet flavor that won’t overwhelm a sauce. Try preparing whole shallots in the same manner as pearl onions, either creamed or roasted until soft and browned, or caramelized. Enjoy shallots in this quick red wine sauce below, or flip through this magazine for several recipes utilizing this versatile culinary treasure.