sharpening and caring for your kitchen knives

Shallot Confit — Flavor-Up Your Kitchen

shallots_1
I’m a huge fan of shallots and I’m also a huge fan of cooking simple but tasty. And I’m learning one of the secrets of cooking simple-but-tasty is having a battery of condiments or garnishes or whatever-you-want-to-call in your pantry to flavor-up simple dishes. So when I got a post from Tasting Table about shallot confit that revelled in how you could pre-prep a stash and then use it later to dress up future recipes, I was intrigued.

WHAT’S A SHALLOT? Shallots are in the onion family and look like giant, reddish cloves of garlic. But they taste sweeter than, and not as acidic as, most garlic and onion—sort of a gentle blend of both. Shallots are used a lot in classic French cuisine and extensively throughout Asia, India, and the Middle East.

The Concept

The word confit (pronounced con-fee) is most often used in traditional French cooking for duck legs that have been salted, slow-cooked in their own fat (we’re talking 170 to 275 degrees for four to ten hours), stored in that same fat, and then warmed-up and finished at a later date. Salting and storing the slow-cooked meat (submerged in its own fat in a cool place) was one of the earliest methods of preservation in olden days, and the word confit actually means preserved in French. If you’ve ever had duck confit salad at a stylish French bistro, your mouth will water from now until eternity when anybody utters the word confit. Yes, it’s that good. But I digress. . .

So a similar concept holds for shallot confit. You submerge the shallot cloves in oil, roast them at a low heat for a few hours, store them in the oil you roasted them in, and then pluck them out at a later date to enrich a recipe. The shallots get sweet and succulent from the slow-roasting (just like roasted garlic), so much so, you can simply mush them up and smear them on a slice of baguette and they will taste delicious.

How to Use Shallot Confit

  • Roasted or pan-fried meats like pork chops, lamb roast, steak: Warm-up a clove of two and serve whole on the side; or dice up, sauté until golden brown, mix with the pan drippings, and sprinkle on top. Or, sauté with some other element like I did with mushrooms (see below).
  • Pizza: Cut them up, sauté them, and sprinkle on top.
  • Sandwiches: Mush into a spread—even a standard fried-egg sandwich gets new meaning.
  • shallots_how-to-use

  • Salads: Chop up and mix into the dressing—or sauté until carmel-colored and toss into the greens.
  • Soup: Dice and/or mush up and add to your soup base.
  • Shallot oil: After you’ve used up the shallots, save that infused oil. It’s gold, baby, gold. Use it in salad dressing, for sautéing other veggies, drizzling into your stir-fry—you name it.

NOTE: More often than not, you’re going to want to sauté the confit at a later date to finish it off, before adding to a dish.

Shallot Confit Recipe

It ain’t rocket science, but here’s a road map. . .

Ingredients
1 pound shallots (around 12–14 small), peeled
1 1/2 cups olive oil (or more)
Some sprigs of thyme (optional, I did without)

Directions
1) Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2) Pack the shallots tightly, one layer deep, in a small, ovenproof dish. Pour enough oil to submerge most of the cloves and cover dish with foil. [For what it’s worth, I roasted 18–20 shallots, well over a pound, and used 1 3/4 cups of oil and it seemed like too much. I’ll try less oil next time around.]
3) Roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours—until shallots turn pale gold and are soft.

Serve warm, or slice up and sauté on medium heat. Make ahead of time and store in their own oil. You should be able to be keep them up to 3 weeks—in the fridge, in an airtight container.

shallot-prep_montage


VMatter Knives

I’m using a VMatter paring knife which I’ve been testing out as of late. VMatter is a space-age material that combines the best qualities of ceramic and metal—it could be the future of knives. This paring knife could have come from the factory sharper, but the edge has been holding up very well so far. If you’re a passionate early-adopter, you can pony up for VMatter knives on Amazon or the VMatter website.

Vmatter-paring-knife

Pork-Chops with Shallot Confit and Mushrooms

This is the first dish I’ve flavored-up with my pre-prepped shallot confit:

– I sliced up a bunch of the shallot cloves confit and sautéed them in their own oil until they turned dark gold.
– Added thick-sliced baby portobello mushrooms and sautéed some more.
– Quick-fried thin pork chops brushed with olive-oil and salt and pepper and piled the shallot/mushroom mélange on top.

Simple but tasty! (Though I should have cooked the pork chops even less. Darn!)

shallot-mushroom_porkchops

Try making some shallot confit yourself and tell me what you think! And please share more ways to use it :)

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Other Resources

An Edge in the Kitchen
by Chad Ward

Mastering Knife Skills
by Norman Weinstein

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