Don’t miss the ultimate foodie event, The Baltimore Sun's Secret Supper

Doubling up: Fried shallots and shallot oil

James P. DeWan
Chicago Tribune
How to fry shallots, then use the aromatic oil to flavor dishes and the crispy pieces for flavor and crunch.

Fess up: When was the last time you used a shallot? Ever? Well, unless you're Asian or French, or just particularly adventurous or well-versed in the kitchen, you may not have used them at all. If that's the case, you're not alone. Shallots have never been a "must-have" ingredient in most American kitchens. Maybe today we can change that.

Why you need to learn this

Shallots are sweet and mild and easy to use. Plus, today's method of crisping them gives you a terrific little kitchen trick that's easy to pull off, with results that can lend a fairly classy touch to everything from burgers to grilled steaks and chops, chicken and fish to steamed vegetables and salads. On top of that, you're going to end up with a pile of aromatic shallot oil that you can use for whipping up vinaigrettes or drizzling over cooked meats and vegetables for a simple and tasty sauce.

The steps you take

Shallots are part of the same genus (Allium) as onions, garlic and leek, which means they've got a little bit of a bite and also that they're good for you — plenty of antioxidants.

Although shallots come in a number of colors, the typical variety we find in stores has light brown skin. Similar to a head of garlic, which contains multiple cloves, one shallot is composed of (typically) two individually wrapped pieces.

In general, you can use shallots the same way you would other onions, usually in somewhat smaller quantities. In some places, people don't even bother making the distinction between the two, using them rather interchangeably. Get a couple next time you're out and try them in stir-fries, sauces, soups and salad dressings.

One of my favorite things to do with shallots is the following, easy preparation that gives you not one but two completely separate products. Let me explain:

Generally speaking, when you heat something in a liquid, (at least) two things are going to happen. First, that something inside the liquid is going to cook, thereby changing its flavor, texture and taste. Second, the essence of that something is going to infuse the liquid.

That's the basic idea behind stock, for example. Stock, as regular Prep Schooltariats will recall, is simply a flavorful liquid made from cold water simmered with bones and aromatic vegetables. The water leaches the flavor from the bones and vegetables, turning into flavorful, rich stock.

When stock is finished, we toss the solid ingredients and keep only the liquid.

Today, though, when we cook shallots in a bunch of oil, we're keeping both, one solid and one liquid: crispy shallots and rich, delicious shallot oil.

Both will keep for several days refrigerated in a covered container.

One last note before we begin: You'll notice that there are no amounts given below. That's because, for one thing, it's not rocket science. (That's why I'm not a baker, by the way; baking is rocket science, actually, and I simply don't have the patience.)

The more shallots you use, the stronger the flavor of the oil will be. I'd recommend starting with, say, two to four shallots, enough to produce about a cup-ish of crispy pieces. Do more, if you want. That's because the other thing is, no matter what use you have in mind, once the shallots are crispy, you're going to find yourself snacking on them. It's like vegan bacon.

Here's what you do:

1. Slice the stem end from your shallots, pull apart the individual cloves and remove the brown peel. Slice them into thin slices, about one-eighth of an inch thick.

2. Place your shallot slices in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan and add enough neutral oil (such as canola or grape seed) to cover them by a half-inch or so. Again, we're not bakers; we won't obsess about exact amounts.

3. Place the pan over medium-high heat and stir occasionally to keep the shallots from sticking. In a few minutes, the shallots are going to start bubbling. This means the temperature of the oil is passing 212 degrees, and the water in the shallots is evaporating. Let it go another 30 seconds, then reduce the heat to medium. When they're a beautiful golden brown, after maybe 10 to 15 minutes, they're done.

4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the shallots to a sheet tray covered in paper towels. Alternately, place a fine-mesh strainer over a clean bowl and pour the entire contents of the pan into it. Reserve the oil and spread the shallots on the paper towels to cool and dry. They'll crisp up as they cool. Season them with salt (or seasoned salt if you want to get all KRAZY) and try not to eat them all at once.

James P. DeWan is a culinary instructor at Kendall College in Chicago.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad