The shallot is a member of the lily family and closely related to the onion. Their small bulbs usually sport a papery, reddish-brown skin and a white interior flesh that has a sweeter flavor than even mild onions.
Usually imported from France, shallots sold in the United States are often significantly more expensive than onions, adding a gourmet flare to special dishes.
The Latin name for shallot is Allium ascalonicum, a derivative of the city name Ashkelon in ancient Canaan. It is believed that crusaders traveling to Palestine spread the shallot throughout Europe, where it eventually took on its present-day name and forms.
Several hundred shallot varieties exist throughout the world, with color and shape differences of varying significance.
The most common shallots in the U.S. are the round, ruddy-red variety, while the lighter, more-elongated bulb is more common elsewhere.
When shallot-shopping, seek out the firmest, evenly-shaped bulbs. If they are sprouting, they may be past their prime.
While the shelf-life of shallots is shorter than that of most other onion varieties, they can survive in a cool, dry place for up to a month.
Shallots make an excellent addition to salad dressing, sauces and pasta dishes, and require little cooking time.
Shallots make a nice onion-substitute, particularly when served raw where they can showcase their mild sweetness. Additional perks include their greater digestibility and lesser breath impact than the traditional onion.
When preparing shallots, also prepare to get a little weepy over it. As with other onions, the chemicals released by sliced raw shallots can irritate the eyes.
Tips for peeling, mincing or chopping:
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