One of the smallest varieties of the onion family, this vegetable has a pear-shaped bulb that separates into 2 or 3 bulblets (or cloves). The Shallot has a purplish white flesh that provides a mild flavor, which is often considered a to taste like a combination of a sweet onion with a garlic overtone. Since the mild flavor will not overpower other ingredients, the Shallot is commonly used to flavor meats, stews, soups, and sauces. When used raw for salads and vinaigrettes, it provides a subtle yet distinct flavor with only a slight amount of heat, not equaled by an onion. In comparison, an onion's presence is more noticeable and requires a greater amount of cooking time to mellow the intensity of the flavor.
When preparing, grating a Shallot instead of mincing or finely dicing allows a greater amount of the essence to be released into the food while requiring only half of the amount of minced Shallot required for a recipe. When a recipe requires one Shallot, it usually refers to a whole bulb. A medium sized Shallot will typically provide 3 tablespoons of minced Shallot. Shallots are available throughout the year. To select, choose those that have well formed heads and avoid those that have started to sprout. When storing, shallots can be kept for up to a month in a cool dry area.