“Shallot Tears” and other short stories.

Holy badword! The Menu For Hope III raffle campaign has already raised more than $14,000 and is less than $3,000 away from exceeding last year’s total! There’s still time to get in on the action, and Bon Appegeek’s donated pasta maker package is still just as shiny and pasta makeriffic as ever.

Shallot in glassIn the meantime, here’s a story about how I twice betrayed the faithful onion for an exotic purple beauty beloved in France. I couldn’t help it. Shallots have romance. Nobody deep fries and dips shallots into ketchup. Southwestern Asia, for instance, stops at the deep frying. Oh, who am I kidding. Someone somewhere has deep fried shallot rings and dipped them into ketchup. If you search for anything, anything at all, someone somewhere has deep fried it and dipped it into ketchup—Snickers, raccoon pelts, chess bishops, you name it. My point is that you can’t buy fried shallots at Burger King, and, if memory serves, you can’t buy onion rings with visible onion in them there either.

So when I started buying shallots regularly years ago I was smitten. I peeled back the papery skins and exposed varying pale purple hues so pretty that even in their looks they seemed to capture the whole of their own complex flavor, melting texture, and culinary reputation. Unlike stinky onions, something so pretty could never let me down and make me cry. Then I’d mince them and they’d make me cry. So much for that theory.

Haricot vert with scandalous shallotsEventually I returned to the humble onion. The shallot is an enjoyable waltz with Europe, but I prefer to swing dance with India and do the macarena with Korea. (People still do the macarena, right?) The shallot faded away to make rare appearances only in vinaigrettes or sautés. My habit of buying cured onions 25 pounds at a time might have played a part in that decision. But they’re still awfully attractive, those shallots. When I recently picked up a rare package of haricot vert, a recipe on the package, of all places, caught my eye because it called for a scandalous quantity of shallots. I shoved my onions aside to adore shallots again.

The recipe needed tinkering, but the end result pleased me. My tears were worth it. All the same, next time I’ll put on swim goggles before I start chopping. Sometimes I never learn.

Adapted from a recipe taken off the package
Serves 4 as a side dish

· 1/2 pound (225 grams) whole haricot vert or green beans
· 1-2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
· 3/4 cup sliced shallots
· salt
· 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
· 1 teaspoon brown sugar

1) Cook the green beans by plunging them into salted boiling water until tender but still quite crisp, keeping in mind that they’ll cook a little bit more from residual heat. Haricot vert will take 2-3 minutes, regular green beans will take 4-7 minutes. Frozen beans will take much longer. Immediately drain the cooked beans.

2) In the meantime, melt the butter in a medium skillet and add the shallots. Sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and sweat the scandalous shallots over medium heat until soft and reduced to a pious mass. Raise the heat to medium high and add the brown sugar and mustard. Cook until the shallots and sugar start to caramelize.

3) Add the cooked green beans to the shallots and stir thoroughly. Cook until beans are heated through and flavors meld.

4) Adjust salt to taste. Serve warm.