Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caramelized Shallots

As I mentioned yesterday, root vegetables are ready for harvest now, that is, late summer into early fall.

Unlike the delicate flavor of above ground mid-summer salad vegetables like lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and corn, vegetables that grow under ground are typically denser in texture with an almost earthy flavor.

The earthiness of root veggies means they're great flavor pals to the stronger, sometimes slightly gamey flavor of meats like beef, pork, and lamb.

And as the weather transitions from hot summer days and our inclination to eat cooling, water-dense salads to much cooler early-fall evenings, the warming quality of earthy root vegetables at dinner are a natural.

Hence my reason for picking onion, beets, carrots and squash (though it's an above ground veggie) from Barbara's garden to go with lamb we barbecued last Friday for dinner.

Now, to tell you the truth, the onion I picked and caramelized isn't really a shallot, rather it's a sweet red onion. You can see it in the pic above. It has a reddish-purplish bulb with purplish-green stalk.

I cut away the stalk and peeled away the tougher outer skin to reveal the sweet inner bulb. Often there will be two or three bulbs inside the outer skin. The pic to the left shows clearly the white inner bulbs, and they do look a little like a shallot.

Sweet red onion is already sweet, though it is still pungent. Once caramelized, the pungency diminishes and the sweetness is enhanced, but the onion is still aromatic and slightly crisp.

I love caramelized onion (caramelized anything, actually) I have a wicked sweet tooth so whenever I cook steak or lamb, I love to saute sliced brown onion in butter and toss is a spoonful of brown sugar, which is the basic method for creating the side dish I'm featuring today.

Caramelized Shallots
1) Use either shallots or the sweet red onion I mention above. Peel outer skin to reveal the inner bulb.
2) Pop bulbs into a small pot with a chunk of butter.
3) Put pot on a stove and turn heat to med.
4) Allow butter to melt and coat onion bulbs. Turn heat to low, the onion will gently cook in the butter.
5) At around the 10 min mark, or as the bulbs are softening, add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the pot (about 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 tablespoon of butter). Stir with a wooden spoon to blend sugar into butter and onion juices.
6) Make sure heat is on low; cook maybe another 5 - 7 mins. You don't want the heat much above low otherwise you'll run the risk of the butter and sugar burning.
7) Pour into a serving a bowl and I think if you do a taste test, you'll find that caramelized shallots don't need seasoning, however, season if you wish.

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