Shallots widely vary in size from small to large, depending on the variety, and have an elongated, oblong shape with a rounded center, tapering to a point at both ends. The bulbs are encased in a dry and papery, thin skin that flakes when touched and ranges in color from copper, gold, pale pink, to red. When the papery layers are removed, multiple clusters of cloves are found divided into individually wrapped segments similar to garlic. Small Shallot varieties average 2 to 3 cloves, and larger varieties typically contain 3 to 6 cloves. The firm, dense, and semi-dry flesh is off-white to translucent with light purple or red rings. Shallots are aromatic with a complex blend of spicy, sweet, and pungent flavors. When raw, the cloves are crisp and astringent, and when cooked, they develop a delicate, sweet, and savory taste with flavors reminiscent of garlic.
Shallots, botanically classified Allium cepa, are multi-cloved bulbs belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family along with onions, garlic, and leeks. There are many different varieties of Shallots, and approximately thirteen varieties are commercially cultivated around the world in the modern-day. Within these varieties, there are two subgroups, Western Shallots and Eastern Shallots, that vary slightly in appearance and flavor. Shallots are an ancient crop that has been used for thousands of years in culinary and medicinal applications. The name Shallot was derived from Ascalon, which is an ancient city in Israel situated along the coast of the Mediterranean. Ascalon was the first city to introduce the pungent bulbs to Greece through trade, resulting in the Greeks referring to Shallots as the “Onion of Ascalon.” Over time through loose translations, the name Shallot was created and used to describe the variety. Shallots are highly favored by chefs for their aromatic, sweet, and complex, but not overpowering flavor and are used globally to flavor a wide variety of cuisines.
Shallots are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as roasting, sautéing, and grilling. When raw, the bulbs can be chopped and mixed into salads, topped on bruschetta, blended into sauces such as Béarnaise, minced into guacamole, and stirred into vinaigrettes. Shallots can often be substituted in recipes calling for onions and garlic and have a slightly milder and sweeter flavor profile. In addition to raw preparations, Shallots can be sautéed with meats or cooked vegetables, stirred into lentil-based stews, blended into curries, baked into casseroles, stir-fried with rice, or tossed with pasta. They can also be roasted and dipped in a mixture of Greek yogurt and olive oil. Shallots pair well with beets, tomatoes, mushrooms, green beans, spinach, garlic, capers, meats such as poultry, beef, and pork, fish, baked oysters, cheeses such as parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, and manchego, herbs such as parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, and mint, and beer. The bulbs will keep up to one month when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Shallot is available year-round.