I’d never heard of shallots until I went to cooking school. I’d passed them in the grocery store, but never gave them a second thought. A few weeks in, shallots had become the center of my universe because we used them in just about everything. Apparently the French have a penchant for les échalotes. In fact, there was almost a riot when we ran out of shallots in the middle of a practical exam, but that’s another story.
Shallots are part of the onion family. They’re small, bulbous and are covered with the same thin, papery skin you find on onions. Inside, shallots are usually separated into individual cloves much like garlic. Their flavor is often described as a cross between onions and garlic. They’re used frequently in vinaigrettes and sauces and can be caramelized and roasted, just like onions. If you don’t have shallots, onions are an acceptable substitute.