I was twenty-two years old when I saw my first shallot. It’s small, reddish exterior sitting in small basket on the counter in a house in Lyons, France, where I was living as an exchange student. I pointed towards the small, onion-like vegetable and this lovely host mother, a handsome and lithe brunette in her forties, picked it up, and said something in her rapid-fire French.
When I didn’t understand something Jacqueline deemed important, or when she realized I was asking about something I had never seen before, she had the habit of saying, “Pauvre Mishele.” I seem to remember that whole family saying, “Pauvre Mishele.” When I put too much Nutella on the toast, or when I could choose between the Brie and the Camembert as my favorite cheese–“Pauvre Mishele.”
What is great about culinary ignorance is that once you learn something, you never again take the newfound knowledge for granted. I have had a long illustrious, personal and professional relationship with shallots.
This recipe for shallot vinaigrette has many applications. Off the top of my kitchen head, I can think of twenty different ways you use this recipe. My goal is that you’ll make the entire recipe, and see for yourself how many ways you can use this amazing vinaigrette. At the end of the recipe I will have some pictures and suggestions of various applications. I invite you to make up some applications, too.
Caramelized Shallot Vinaigrette
I am dividing the recipe into two, distinct phases. First, the shallots, which you will prepare in a large, skillet where there is plenty of room for your diced shallots to brown, cook, and caramelize. Second, there is the recipe for the vinaigrette.
5 medium shallots, or two cups finely diced shallots, or 7 ounces on my scale
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste, suggested amount 1-2 teaspoons
Slice your shallots into small dice, roughly half the size of a pea. Since shallots are onion like, with thinner layers wrapping around each other, once you slice through the top of the shallot, and then into the interior, they will kindly begin to collapse on your cutting board.
Note, while you may be tempted to do this in the food processor, I would advise against this. I feel as though once shallots, onions and garlic are shredded in a processor blade, they retain an unpleasant astringent quality.
Once your shallots are diced, heat your skillet over medium high heat, and when the oil is heated, add your shallots. They should sizzle in the pan a little, and then when you distribute them around with your heat-safe tongs, they will color. Stay here, for two to three minutes, and manipulate them around so they brown, but do not over brown. At this point, open your windows, or turn on your fan, as shallots have a strong odor. Once translucent, usually after 4-5 minutes, please turn heat down to medium. If you do not have a gas stove, take the pan off for a minute. Add the salt, to taste. Taste your shallots, they should have a vegetable sweetness beginning to arrive, and the salt, you will see, will support this in coming through. Cook a few more minutes, which will allow the shallots to really sweeten and develop depth.
Cool shallots, transfer to a bowl. Make the vinaigrette.
Note-This cooks down to about 1 1/3 cups.
Sherry Vinaigrette Base
Makes just over 1 ½ cup of dressing
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar, or you may substitute champagne or white balsamic vinegar, with a half of teaspoon of mild honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, Maille’s brand preferred
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup mild olive oil
Combine sherry vinegar, mustard and salt, and let sit for five minutes to allow salt to dissolve. Whisk in the oil. Whisk in ¾ to 1 cup of your cooled, cooked shallots. You might want to save some of your shallots for garnish, as you will see in the photographs.
Use the leftover caramelized shallots for a garnish on your dish, or you may keep them in a separate container. Or you can add the whole lot to your vinaigrette and enjoy as chunky vinaigrette for salads, bruschetta, eggs, asparagus, butternut squash, bread stuffing or any variety of savory pudding.
Blanched (as in par-boiled asparagus) with Shallot Vinaigrette and Goat Cheese
Just cook 1 pound of your trimmed asparagus in boiling salted water until doneness. Cool it down. Dress with your shallot vinaigrette and add your half cup of goat cheese across the top. May be served at room temperature. Serves six appetizer portions.
Lunch Time Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette
Serves 6 appetizer portions
1/4th pound Maytag Blue cheese, chopped
2 medium heads of Bibb lettuce, or you may use Romaine, washed and fired.
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped coarsely
1 large ripe pear, preferably Bosc, other varieties will work fine as long as they are ripe. I liked the pear in my salads sliced.
Do not toss this salad until you are prepared to sit, as the shallot dressing will weight the leaves down. Toss your leaves in a bowl. Dress your salad with the desirable amount of vinaigrette and either add all of your ingredients to the bowl, or assemble the salad on individual plates.
Lastly, below is an image of a bruschetta preparation, toasted bread, with goat cheese and caramelized shallots…