It’s not that I’m losing interest in herbs; I’m not. I still regularly go to my freezer for a cube or two of basil, oregano, chives or thyme. I just find that, at this time of year, it’s a bit of a challenge to focus on them. What died back last fall in my garden is just starting to show signs of life and what lived through the winter has now been cut back to nothing. It’s an herbal Dead Zone.
Besides, there are lots of other interesting things in our kitchens, why not salute a few other staples?
So, today I salute the shallot! (To see what every else is doing check out Anna’s Cool Finds, our illustrious host for the weekend.)
Along with garlic and onion, there are always shallots in my ‘basket’ in the pantry. I use them, by choice, when I make vinaigrette’s for salads in the summer. (We do not have 5 aisles of salad dressings available to us….and what is the difference between light, light done right and free? And do I want to eat the
crap ingredients that makes something that is supposed to have good olive oil in it free of fat? Or is it free of flavor. Oops, I digress… – back to shallots!)
I put them in with root vegetables and roast them in the oven in winter and on the barbecue in summer. They’re very handy if you want just a bit of onion – they’re just the right size and no waste. The taste is a bit milder with a hint of garlic, so I prefer them to pearl onions for soups and stews. Plus they’re easier to peel then pearl onions (even after blanching – which you don’t have to do to shallots).
I even grow them but have never managed to keep them through the winter. They’re so tasty right after they’re pulled they go right into the salad -thinly sliced, raw.
So, you are wondering, did she actually cook anything with them? Yes, I did:
1 1/2 lb beef for suitable for braising or stewing leftovers are intentional
1 bouquet garni
1 bottle robust red wine preferably a Bourguignon
1 tbs red wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic
1 tbs olive oil
3 – 4 strips bacon or 3 oz (100gr)
2 tbs olive oil
8 – 10 shallots
4 oz mushrooms
1 tbs cocoa
3 tbs cornstarch (maizena) dissolved in 3 tbs water
Earlier in the day: Trim beef and cut into 2 inch (5 cm) cubes. Put into a small, deep bowl or sauce pan. Peel the carrot and cut in half. Peel the garlic. Add the carrot, garlic and bouquet garni to the beef. Add the red wine and the vinegar, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. If short of time you can just let it marinate at room temperature for an hour.
Late afternoon/Early evening: Take the meat out of the marinade and let drain, reserving all of the marinade. Heat oil in small stock pot or Dutch Oven. Add beef and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Pour the reserved marinade over the beef, along with the carrot, garlic and bouquet garni. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 3 hours.
45 minutes before you’re ready to eat: Clean mushrooms and shallots. Cut mushrooms in half or quarters if large. In nonstick skillet sauté bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble (don’t eat!) Add mushrooms and shallots to skillet and sauté over medium heat until nicely browned, about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms, shallots and bacon to beef. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Finishing: With slotted spoon take everything out of the sauce (don’t worry about the bacon) and put on a small platter. Discard bouquet garni and carrot. Keep warm in the oven while you finish the sauce. Bring sauce to a boil over medium – high heat. Whisk in cocoa and let reduce for 5 minutes. Slowly whisk in cornstarch mixture to thicken. You probably won’t need all of it so stop periodically and let it cook to test consistency. It clears as it cooks and thickens. Spoon some sauce over the beef, shallots and mushrooms and serve, remaining sauce on the side.
Leftovers can be tossed with pasta, served over Mashed Potato Patties or Polenta, or eaten standing in the refrigerator door – so many choices!
For all of the wonderful recipes check with Anna’s Cool Finds on Monday