I recently received a lovely carton of Shallots from UK Shallot Growers. These are seriously the nicest looking shallots I have ever seen.
With their sweet piquant flavour, shallots are a real favourite of chef's the world over, however statistics have shown that a large number of UK households just don't buy them. (A staggering 56%!) I want to prove to you just how delicious these little babies are and how very versatile! I am never without these in my larder, and I have been so enjoying these fine ones I have been sent!
Related to the onion (as opposed to being a younger version of it), shallots grow in clusters at the leaf base. Most varieties are smaller than onions, have finer layers and contain less water. The flavour of a shallot is much milder and sweeter than that of an onion, so if a recipe specifies shallots, substituting onions won't give the same results. Their lower water content means they need to be cooked more gently than onions.
HOW TO CHOOSE - Look for firm shallots, with no soft spots, damp or mouldy patches. Brown shallots are the most commonly available. Small, with a light brown skin, they have a mild flavour, and, on occasion, have more than one bulb inside. Banana shallots are the largest variety and are named for their shape and size. They have a smooth elongated shape, with a tan-coloured skin and are slightly milder than the other types. As they're larger, they're swifter to prepare than the same volume of smaller shallots. Pink shallots have a pink skin and a crisp texture and their flavour is pungent, but not harsh.
HOW TO PREPARE -Trim off the top and peel. This is a lot easier if you stand them for a minute or two in boiling water after trimming. Then slice finely or chop as you would an onion. Cut in half from top to bottom. Put the cut side down and make a number of horizontal cuts towards, but not quite reaching, the root. Then make as many vertical cuts through the shallot, again not quite reaching the root. Holding the shallot very firmly and with the knife blade at right angles to the first set of cuts that you made, slice down vertically - the shallot will fall away in small pieces as you go. Continue cutting until you reach the root, which you can then discard.
HOW TO STORE - store shallots in a cool dry and dark space, with plenty of room for the air to circulate around them. I keep mine in a basket underneath the stairs. Stored properly they will keep well for several weeks.
One of the first things I did with them, was to take advantage of the new potatoes that are in the markets at the moment along with the fresh tarragon that is growing in my herb garden. I love fresh tarragon and it goes so very well with the sweetness of shallots.
This is a very simple salad . . . you simply need some fresh new potatoes, preferably smaller in size, a bit of fresh tarragon, some seasoning, a pinch of sugar, some white wine vinegar and a bit of mayo, along with the shallots. ;With fresh clean flavours, and simply prepared ingredients, it's a fabulous potato salad! Perfect for those Al Fresco meals we are all enjoying at the moment!
*New Potato Salad with Tarragon and Shallots*
Serves 6 to 8
This is a delicious version of potato salad nicely flavoured with tarragon and shallot. Magnificent combination.
2 pounds of new potatoes, washed well and halved
3 TBS white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
3 TBS chopped fresh tarragon
freshly ground pink himalayan sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 TBS of good quality mayonnaise
Place the potatoes into a large pot of lightly salted water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender. Drain well.
While the potatoes are cooking whisk together the vinegar, sugar, shallots and some seasoning. Drop the warm potatoes into this and gently fold in the tarragon. Allow to cool.
Fold in the mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve. Delicious!
Shallots really shine in sauces and gravies. I decided to incorporate some of them into a delicious sauce to have with some really fabulous spare rib chops I found at the shops.
It's a very simple sauce with very few ingredients. This way the flavour of the shallots really shines through!
Other than the shallots and mushrooms, there are only a few other ingredients such as some mustard and chicken stock, a bit of parsley and some seasoning. I served them with some potato and celeriac mash and some thyme and honey braised carrots. It was a meal fit for company.
Sometimes it's just nice to treat yourselves don't you think?
*Pork Chops with a Sauce of Mushrooms and Shallots*
Dinner party fare, but so easy to make. Tender, juicy chops with a lovely sauce. I like to serve this with a potato and celeriac mash, and honey thyme glazed carrots. The Toddster ain't complainin!
1 tsp butter
4 bone pork chops (I like the spare rib chops), 1 inch thick
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
3 shallots, peeled and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
225ml of chicken stock (1 cup)
10 ounces of sliced closed cap white mushrooms (about 2 cups)
1 TBS Dijon mustard
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the pork all over with with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add the chops to the pan and cook them for 7 minutes on one side. Flip them over and cook for an additional 7 to 8 minutes on the other side. Place them in a warm oven to keep them warm.
Add the shallots to the pan. Cook, stirring, until softened. Add the mushrooms. Cook for several minutes longer until they begin to soften as well. Add the chicken stock, mustard, 1 TBS of the parsley and season with some freshly ground pepper to taste.. Cook for about 3 minutes. Put the chops onto a platter and pour the mushroom sauce over all. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve.
Here is another really tasty way I used some of them! They go wonderfully when mixed with other vegetables such as sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc. Here I simply pan fried them with a bit of fresh thyme from my garden, some shredded brussels sprouts and pancetta! Delicious!
*Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Shallots*
makes about 10 servings
You don't have to wait for the holidays to enjoy this delicious side dish. Crispy tender brussels sprouts sauteed with crispy bits of pancetta and shallots. Oh so tasty!
2 1/2 pounds of Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and then shredded
into thin slices with a sharp knife
1/4 pound of thick pancetta, cut into bits
a knob of butter
2 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, divided
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp lemon juice (optional)
It may seem a bit fiddly to prepare the sprouts for cooking but it really isn't. I trim off the bases and any bad looking leaves and discard. Then I take a sharp knife and just quickly cut them into 1/4 inch slices.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Throw in the pancetta. Cook, stirring until it begins to brown. Add the butter and the shallots. Cook and stir until the shallots are softened. Add the brussels sprouts, stirring to coat, along with half of the thyme leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally over medium heat, until the sprouts are crispy tender and beginning to brown a bit on the edges. Season to taste with some salt and pepper and the lemon juice if using. Add the remainder of the thyme leaves and serve.
I was also able to use some of the shallots I had been sent in this delicious hot salad of French Beans and Chorizo sausage. There are some fabulous flavours going on there. The green beans, the chorizo, toasted almonds and a delicious warm dressing.
*French Bean and Chorizo Salad*
This is lovely and light and I could eat just a plate of this and nothing else. I love the buttery crunch of the almonds against the mellow crunch of the crispy tender beans, all bathed in a warm chorizo dressing. Delicious!
2 large shallots, peeled and minced
2 TBS white balsamic vinegar
300g french haricot beans, trimmed
100g of blanched almonds
100g of chorizo sausage (the dry kind) peeled and sliced thinly
a hand ful of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put the shallots and vinegar into a small bowl and leave to soak while you cook the beans and sausage.
Steam or simmer the beans in some lightly salted water until crispy tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well and rinse under cold water. Leave to drain in the colander.
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add a knob of butter. When the butter begins to sizzle, tip in the almonds. Cook and stir until the almonds are nicely browned. Season with a bit of salt. Place the green beans on a platter and tip the browned almonds over top.
Return the pan to the heat and add the chorizo. Cook, stirring, until it begins to brown and gives off some of it's juices. Scoop out the cooked chorizo with a slotted spoon and tip the chorizo onto the beans as well. Add the shallots and vinegar, and the parsley and toss everything together.
And as they say over here in the UK . . . "That's Sha . . . llot!!! (That's your lot. Don't you like how clever that was! I know! I even impressed me!)