Learn how to cut shallots into slices, dices, or minced. Cook up this fragrant allium to add subtle sweet and earthy notes or a more robust acidity when used raw.
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Now’s the time to add shallots to your culinary arsenal. One little bulb has the flavor power of onion and garlic combined. The taste is more delicate that blends well into recipes just using small amounts. They are lovely whole-roasted to enhance its sweetness, sliced up and sauteed along with vegetables, pickled, or minced fine for a spicy vinaigrette. Since they are smaller in size, I like that very little goes to waste.
Once you grab a pink-ish copper allium, cutting can seem tricky as they grow in clusters instead of one large bulb. Don’t worry. Separating and removing the papery skin is similar to working on onions, just on a smaller scale. Once cut, there are endless possibilities for you to use this ingredient to enhance the flavor of savory dishes.
Trim and separate
Use a sharp chefs knife or paring knife to cut off the tip and root end of the bulb. You’ll be able to see the cluster enclosed inside the papery skin. There are typically two. Use your hands to pull them apart.
Peel the skin
To remove the papery skin, make a shallow score lengthwise down the bulb. Simply peel off the skin to remove the top layer. If desired, you can keep them whole and roast them in the oven. They get sweet and caramelized. It’s delicious!
Cut into slices
Once you peel off the skin, you can cut them into thin slivers. Slice the shallot crosswise into the desired width, typically 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick depending on the use. This size creates little rings that are great for breading and frying for a crispy texture, pickling, and sauteing with other vegetables.
Cut into dices
For a large bulb, you can slice the shallot in half lengthwise. Otherize, I like to keep the separated bulb intact, placing the flat side down on the cutting board. Make slices lengthwise about 1/4 to 1/2-inch wide, not cutting through the root end.
This technique helps hold the layers together. Make a parallel cut lengthwise in the middle, then cut crosswise to make smaller diced pieces. These are great to add flavor to soups, stews, sauce, and sauteed dishes.
Use the same technique as you would dice a shallot, but make thinner slices lengthwise, about 1/8-inch thick. Finely slice crosswise, then rock the blade of a chef’s knife back and forth to mince. Use a small amount to make vinaigrettes for salads, mix it into burger patties, or for a sweet and aromatic flavor to soups.
When selecting, ensure the shallots are not sprouting. The bulbs themselves should be firm and heavy, with no soft spots or wrinkling. Make sure they are not damp. Excess dampness may cause diseases such as bulb rot or mildew.
Any bulb or root associated with the allium family should be stored at room temperature. They require a cool, dry place to ensure long-lasting stability. If appropriately maintained, the shallot can last for up to 6 months.
However, if you need to use part, store the rest in the fridge in a sealed container or bag away from any other fruits and vegetables, so the smell doesn’t linger. If placed in the fridge, they only last for a few days.
Ways to use shallots
- Add spice to a balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- Mix into a homemade salmon burger
- Dice and saute to add sweetness to sauteed kale
- Pickle shallots instead of onions for a greek salad
- Add some to a quiche lorraine
Shallots are from the same family as onions, Allium cepa. They have similar taste profiles. However, shallots are milder with more sweetness and a hint of garlic flavor. They can be substituted for each other using the exact amounts. About three shallots are equal to one small onion.
Use white or yellow onions for a sharper flavor or red onions for a milder taste. You can also use the white parts of green onions or scallions or leeks. Combine minced garlic with onions to mimic the shallot flavor.
Why does the smell of shallots intensify once cut?
The cell walls of shallots and most allium vegetables contain organosulfur compounds. When cut, alliinase enzymes in the plant rupture, creating sulfur compounds that you can easily smell. The finer the shallot cut and the longer it sits out, the stronger the aroma. Cooking mellows out the smell as it’s very volatile and reduces when exposed to heat over time.
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How to Cut Shallots
- 1 shallot
- Use a sharp knife to cut off the tip and root end of the bulb. If there are multiple bulbs, use your hands to pull them apart and separate them.
- To remove the papery skin, make a shallow score lengthwise down the bulb, then peel.
- Slices: Slice the shallot crosswise into the desired width, about ⅛ to ¼-inch thick. This cutting method creates small rings.
- Diced: For a large shallot, cut in half lengthwise. Smaller bulbs keep whole. Place the flat side down on the cutting board. Make slices lengthwise about ¼ to ½-inch wide, not cutting through the root end. Make a parallel cut lengthwise in the middle, then cut crosswise to make smaller diced pieces.
- Mince: Use the same technique as you would dice a shallot, but make thinner slices lengthwise, about ⅛-inch thick. Finely slice crosswise, then rock the blade of a chef's knife back and forth to mince.
- Storing: Wrap peeled bulbs in foil. Store cut shallots in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
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