“Don’t be too daring in the kitchen. For example, don’t suddenly get involved with shallots. Later, when you are no longer a Lonely Guy, you can do shallots. Not now. If you know coriander, stay with coriander and don’t fool around. Even with coriander you’re on thin ice, but at least you’ve got a shot, because it’s familiar. Stay with safe things, like pepper.”
Bruce Jay Friedman (1930- )
‘The Lonely Guy Cookbook’ (1976)
In my estimation, shallots and garlic make everything better. Shallots have to be one of the most underrated cooking items. And yet they work so well in soups, sauces, and stews. They have the flavor of a sweet onion combined with subtile garlic. It’s no wonder that one of my favorite chefs, Anthony Bourdain, has this to say about using shallots, “You almost never see this item in a home kitchen, but out in the world they’re an essential ingredient. Shallots are one of the things — a basic prep item in every miss-en-place — that make restaurant food taste different from your food. In my kitchen, we use nearly twenty pounds a day.” (My emphasis added).
They are easy to use. Remove the papery skin. Place a shallot on cutting board. Holding utility knife horizontally, make cuts in shallot parallel to board, almost to root end. Cut shallot vertically into thin slices, holding it with fingers to keep its shape. Turn shallot and cut crosswise to root end. (The closer the cuts are spaced, the finer the shallot will be chopped.) That’s it. And you’re ready to cook. Remember not to overdo it. One or two shallots is plenty to lend a sweet flavor to the dish. Cook on lower heat. And remember that the shallot’s bestest buddies that it likes to play with are garlic, butter, oil, white wine, and cream.
Having said this, I must disagree with Mr Friedman above. Go buy some shallots… And above all…BE DARING IN THE KITCHEN.