A few months ago I returned to the United States from an extended stay in Northern France. I had grown rather accustomed to the produce there: crisped Savoy cabbage is default, carrots are smooth and blunt (and basically free; the price doesn't vary much no matter how big the bag is--you're paying for the packaging), and shallots and leeks are economical essentials rather than specialty items. Well. Rather a bit of reverse culture shock there, coming back from that. You can't even make a decent celery-root remoulade here without scouting the specialty markets.
Last week I was shopping in my neighborhood's "ethnic" market, and I saw shallots. You wouldn't believe how pleased I was to see them barely more expensive than onions. I felt a warm happy feeling: I'd found a tiny piece of my Vegetable Paradise right here at home! I got a huge bag, a really irrationally large bag of them--I already had plenty of ordinary onions at home.
The shallots wouldn't fit in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator. They wouldn't fit in the crate where I keep potatoes. I put them on the kitchen floor and looked balefully at them from time to time.
Yesterday I saw one of the shallots developing a slight gray haze at the root end. "Time to do something delightful with these; it's now or never," I said to myself. I didn't know a good authentic recipe to use up a ridiculous number of shallots all at once, though, so I decided to improvise. I'm glad I did. I'm so glad, in fact, that I'm going to switch out of narrative voice and into recipe voice, in order to tell you how to make the same decisions I did.
Select 2-3 pounds of simple-bulbed shallots, or break apart complex bulbs into individual bulblets. Trim root and tip ends. Place in a large bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Let stand 2 minutes, then drain and remove skins.
In any pan large enough, melt a stick of butter over medium heat. Put in the shallots. Add about half a cup of balsamic vinegar, plenty of salt, and several twists of pepper. Put on the lid (leaving a vent) and wait until the sound changes from a "steamy" sound to a "frying" sound--the vinegar has reduced, and you need to deglaze. The butter will have separated out from the caramelized vinegar solids. I deglazed with a few tablespoons of water. (Next time I'll use broth or wine and see what happens.) Stir well to dissolve and re-emulsify the sauce, then cover again and let the water evaporate as the shallots soften.
"This isn't glaze," you'll think. "This is plain shallots bumping around in a pot of butter and black gobs of balsamic vinegar. How do I get the sauce to glaze these things?" But don't worry. After you've deglazed a third time, you'll notice the shallots are almost completely cooked, and their surfaces are becoming soft enough to cling to the sauce that's forming. Don't put on the lid, this time. Add a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary leaves along with the water, and reduce just until a velvety sauce coats the shallots. Then turn them into a serving dish and eat them. With crusty bread. Or alongside roast chicken, beef, or pork. Or atop Brie?? (That's what I'm going to do next time.)
These reheat impeccably.
I'm going to make these at Thanksgiving. You can come if you want, but if you can't make it, you can make these for yourself.