Sizzling Shallots Are Less Pungent and Sweeter
Shallots are part of many European cuisines, but it is a famous part of French cooking. Part of the Allium family of vegetables, they are relative to onions, garlic, and leeks. They look like a hybrid of onion and garlic, like little garlic-shaped bulbs, but with a flattened onion interior, as if they were onions that grew too closely together. They have a pinkish or yellow skin. They offer a milder onion and garlic hybrid flavor that softens well into sauces and vinaigrette. They give a more sophisticated delivery of that flavor than any onion could manage, and have a lovely pink color besides.
Shallots can be used to replace onion in a mirepoix, that ubiquitous combination of onions, celery, and carrot that form the base of so many French dishes, and of the cuisines of many other cultures. They make a fantastic substitution for onion in dishes like guacamole, where the raw onion flavor can be overpowering and off-putting. They can be very gently sauteed in good olive oil over very low heat to provide a garlicky, onion-y infused oil that can be used as a dip, a finishing sauce, or as the oil for a salad dressing.
Shallots have a delicate sweetness, are full of fiber, and contain vitamin B6, C and manganese. Their real nutritional punch comes from flavonols and polyphenolic compounds, their antioxidant compounds, which work to ward off inflammation and infection similar to the way that garlic works.
Shallots are widely available in supermarkets and farmers markets around the US, but are often overlooked. They are absolutely worthy of examination, they add a level of culinary sophistication that isn't pricey, keeps well, and is easy to prepare.
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