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General Produce Co. LP

04/22/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/22/2021 13:16

Shallot Woes

Anthony Bour­dain cov­ered a lot of ground in his book Kitchen Con­fi­den­tial.

One hot topic that res­onates with all line cooks is the Mise-​en-​place. The orga­nized work sta­tion, unique to each cook, keeps the kitchen ready for every order mov­ing smoothly through the line.

It houses all of the essen­tials- sea salt, rough-​cracked pep­per, cook­ing oil, wine, but­ter, gar­lic, pars­ley, and so on.

One item in par­tic­u­lar that Tony claimed as a Mise-​en-​Place essen­tial for all pro­fes­sional kitchens is shal­lots. His kitchen staff used about twenty pounds daily.

A 'take-​away' from Bour­dain to home cooks look­ing to ele­vate dishes, is to keep shal­lots on hand for turn­ing out tastier ver­sions of most any prepa­ra­tion.

Shal­lots are one of those fresh ingre­di­ents that we notice parked next to fresh gar­lic and the onion sec­tions at the gro­cery store. We fre­quently see them, but bypass them for reg­u­lar onion vari­eties.

Their del­i­cate, mild onion fla­vor (with a hint of sharp­ness) is pre­ferred for clas­sic dishes, vinai­grettes, sauces, soups and fry­ing when a hot­ter onion isn't the right fit.

Depend­ing on the vari­ety, shal­lots vary in size from small to large. They have an elon­gated, oblong shape with a rounded cen­ter. The bulbs taper to a point at both ends and are encased in a dry, papery, thin skin. They range in color from a coppery-​gold to a pale pink or deeper red. Mul­ti­ple clus­ters of cloves are under­neath the papery skin.

Shal­lots are aro­matic with a com­plex blend of spicy, sweet, and pun­gent fla­vors. Raw cloves are crisp and astrin­gent. When cooked, they develop a del­i­cate, sweet, and savory taste, rem­i­nis­cent of gar­lic.

Iron­i­cally, we're going through an industry-​wide sup­ply gap in shal­lot avail­abil­ity. Cal­i­for­nia grown prod­uct didn't mate­ri­al­ize as fore­casted and stor­age prod­uct didn't hold up.

Major sup­pli­ers are hav­ing to import prod­uct from Canada and The Nether­lands. Pric­ing due to imports is esca­lated as asso­ci­ated costs have increased.

We are look­ing at the short­age and higher prices to last through sum­mer when new har­vests begin. Exotic sound­ing vari­eties - French Red, Hol­land Yel­low, Pikant, Mata­dor, Ambi­tion and Saf­fron - pro­duce dis­tinc­tive col­ors and fla­vors.

Now that they are in short sup­ply, we may covet them more. Don't bypass them when found at mar­kets. Shal­lots should feel heavy for their size and firm. Avoid any that are sprouted or have soft spots, just as we do for red, yel­low and white reg­u­lar onion vari­eties.

Explore those kiss­ing cousins for other mild onion choices. Leeks, boil­ers, pearls and cip­polini onions are also good addi­tions or sub­sti­tu­tions for reg­u­lar onions.

Sim­i­lar to reg­u­lar onions, shal­lots should be stored in a cool, dry, dark, and well-​ventilated place. Lack of air cir­cu­la­tion will reduce shelf life. Store them in a mesh bag, wire bas­ket, or open bowl in pantry or counter top.