Shallots are rugged in appearance, dynamic in flavor, but often overlooked in favor of its better known, more ubiquitous cousins in the aromatics family (aka: the onion).
Even more overlooked is the difference between a seed-grown shallot and a traditional shallot. Admittedly we were not in the know ourselves.
Whereas the mass-market shallot is actually a hybrid product sowed like an onion, Traditional shallots from France, or “chalotes Traditionnelles,” are the real deal – planted and harvested by hand and, according to Échalotes Traditionnelles, boasting a finer, more nuanced flavor that holds up better in cooking and recipe preparation.
How to tell the difference:
• Traditional shallots are oblong and often asymmetrical; Seed-grown shallots are round and plump, like an onion.
• Traditional shallots have a hard stump, or “scar” at the base; Seed-grown shallots have stringy, root-like whiskers.
• Once cut in half, Traditional shallots are made up of an outer circle with at least two to three inner circles of thicker scales; the seed-grown shallot’s cut is made up of concentric circles like an onion.
Easily sold on all things authentic, we opted not to do a comparative tasting and instead headed straight to the kitchen (and wine fridge).
Few things liven up a vinaigrette better than minced shallots. And there is no better way to elevate a basic burger to gastropub status than by topping it with crispy fried shallots. However, to truly explore the real potential of this simple ingredient, we made it center stage by preparing a rustic shallot tarte-tatin, by starting with a translated version of this easy recipe. We then spiced it up by adding cherry tomatoes and topping it with dollops of goat cheese that turned into oozy blobs of molten goodness right out of the oven.
This tarte tatin makes a great starter or a perfect entrée for an elegant brunch or lunch, served alongside a salad (with shallot vinaigrette, naturally) and a bottle of:
Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava NV, Penedes, SP ($12) – The perfect, palate-cleansing aperitif to accompany this gooey, savory tarte.
Madroña Vineyards Signature Collection Dry Riesling 2014, El Dorado, CA ($18) – While technically dry, this Riesling offers the impression of sweetness backed by a racy acidity, which will play off of the sweetness of the caramelized shallots.
Adelaida Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Paso Robles, CA ($25) – A ripe, juicy, yet wonderfully elegant Pinot that would be right at home next to the richness of this tarte tatin served as an entrée course.
Photo Credit: Tim Sackton