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Any French cookbook, or for that matter any serious gastronomic cookbook, recommends using shallots for salad dressings, sauces, stews, even in roasts. The shallot is the unsung hero of many a chef’s fine creation.
France is a large producer of shallots, but Quebec and Ontario in Canada, New Jersey, and New Hampshire in the U S A and even Chile produce substantial quantities. But, for the connoisseur shallots “come” from Brittany, the spiritual home of this flavourful ingredient French chefs so admire.
Originally from Asia Minor, the shallot was brought to France by the participants of the last Crusade. Researchers have been able to trace its origins to the village of Ascalom.
In Brittany where two principal varieties are cultivated (pink, are be the best and can be long or semi-long. White are mostly semi-long and less flavourful).
Some say that a peeled clove of garlic held under hot water for a minute can taste as fine as shallots, but the claim is unsubstantiated and should be ignored
Shallots are in season June to July. Dry shallots are available throughout the year and much of the crop is exported to the U K and the U S A. Canada imports come, but most shallots are shipped from Quebec to other provinces and the U SA.
Shallots come in three sizes – small, medium and jumbo, the last being the most labour saving but also the least tasty.
Shallots can be used in salad dressings, in making shallot vinegar, and compound butter, to saute green beans, on baked oysters, in beurre blanc, in classic sauces such as Perigeux, Bordelaise, Marchant de Vin, Moutarde and lentil stews.
Shallots have a faint garlic smell and taste, but possess a more intriguing and deeper flavour.
Try them once, you will always want to use them.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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