You may be familiar with shallots from passing them in the grocery store or seeing shallot on the ingredient list of a fancy recipe. Shallots look like an onion with a papery outer layer and small, elongated shape. When peeled, shallots separate into cloves like garlic. Shallots, onions, and garlic all belong to the genus Allium, but have distinct flavor differences despite their botanical similarities.
It is likely that shallots originated in central or southeast Asia, then traveling to India and the Mediterranean. They are very common in Asian cuisine. Some regions in the Northern Hemisphere grow shallots in a long season, planting in October and harvesting in summer. Other regions plant shallots in early spring. However, shallots can be found year-round in a large grocery store. The skin of a shallot may vary in color from golden to copper to red. The flesh of the shallot is usually white, sometimes with hints of magenta. When shopping for shallots in the grocery store, look for firm, dry bulbs that do not have any green sprouts. It is also possible to find shallots freeze dried or dehydrated if you do not want or cannot find fresh shallots.
Shallots have a very distinct flavor. They have a mild onion flavor that is slightly sweeter and richer. The flavor of shallots is also very potent, so less may be used to achieve the same degree of flavor. The smaller (younger) the shallot, the milder the taste. To make a substitution with shallots in a recipe, use half the amount of shallot as you would onion. Shallots also have greater health benefits than onions, containing more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in a smaller size. Shallots are also richer in flavonoids and polyphenols, which help prevent inflammation in the body and protect cells from damage.
Shallots may be used as a substitute in dishes that require onion but will deliver a slightly different flavor. Shallots are especially good with chicken and fish. They may be mixed in to a sauce or dressing to enhance the depth and richness of flavor. To try shallots simply, Roasted Potatoes and Shallots will feature the mild, sweet flavor of the shallot. Or enjoy the depth of flavor that shallots bring in Chicken with Shallots. Many recipes can use shallots. Though it seems like a different, more exotic ingredient, shallots bring new depth and interest to a flavor you are already familiar with!
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