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Handy to have around

I’ve got to tell you, this wedding business is making me feel kind of quiet these days. It’s a good kind of quiet, so don’t worry. I’m just a little preoccupied. I feel like I’m lining up a set of dominoes. I’m concentrating, strategizing. I’m maneuvering the pieces into their proper order. My domino set, you see, has an exceptionally large number of pieces. Some of them are human. Some of them are edible. Some of them are strapless and made of three layers of lace, with a sweet little train that swishes when I walk. Not that I’ve ever owned a set of dominoes, mind you, but you get the idea. I’m a little preoccupied.

I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking lately, to tell you the truth. When I feel busy, my interest in food – or cooking it, at least – sort of sneaks out the back door, like a burglar with a sack of loot. I’m still plenty hungry, of course. It’s just that I’d rather set the table, say, or slice lime for a gin and tonic, than stand at the stove. I feel kind of bad about it, but only a little. I know it’s temporary. And anyway, this is where Brandon comes in. Come dinnertime, he’s very handy to have around. On a whim, he’ll whip up some chickpea salad. Or he’ll snip some herbs from the pots on the patio, bring some pasta to a boil, and bang up a meal’s worth of warm, fragrant noodles. He also poaches a mean egg – be still my beating heart! – to perch atop roasted vegetables. He even grills steak, people, to a perfectly rosy shade of rare. (He’s my kind of vegetarian.)

All of which is to say that I owe him quite a debt of gratitude for keeping us flush with recipes around here. Like these vinegar-roasted shallots, for one. These days, I can’t be counted on for much more than dessert.

The idea for these shallots came last Thursday night, in Oklahoma, where we were spending a long weekend visiting my mother. These visits generally include lots of cooking and, for me, a ritual clean-out of Mom’s fridge – a sort of black hole, if you will, for foodstuffs. Mom is a wonderful cook, but she has a special talent for keeping food well past its prime. Luckily, as it should happen, I have a special talent for throwing such specimens away. Each time I visit, I do what is now called my “Fridge-Nazi Number,” wherein I hitch up the garbage bag and scour the shelves in search of shriveled asparagus, yellowed celery, and items formerly known as cheese. This time was especially fruitful. I even found a Tupperware of tomato bread pudding from our last visit, in early March. [Hi, Mom! Love you!]

Brandon also got into the spirit, which is where the shallots come in. On our second day there, he stumbled upon a plastic bag of them, waiting quietly on the second shelf. Some were a little spongy, but most were fine. He schemed silently for a minute, scratching his head, and then he set to work. First, he trimmed and peeled them and put them in a baking dish. Then he added a slip of olive oil and a good glug of vinegar. Then he covered the pan and slid it into the oven, where the heat began its work. An hour or so later – during which time he grilled some zucchini and two steaks while standing under an umbrella in a torrential downpour; I told you he was good – the shallots had softened to translucent jewels, now-pink, now-browned, and melty-soft. Sticky with cooked-down vinegar, they were almost gooey, heady with fragrance. To taste them, I would never have known that there was vinegar involved, had I not seen them in the making. It left only a faint trace, a sweetly sour wisp, making the shallots taste fuller and more like themselves. Mom and I scooped them atop our steaks, while Brandon made himself an open-face sandwich of sharp cheddar, shallot, and baguette.

Now, they’d also be delicious, I’ll bet, atop a cracker spread with fresh goat cheese, or on a hamburger, tucked under the bun. You could eat them alongside a piece of toast with sautéed mushrooms, as we did last night, or straight-up, with your fingers, while standing in the kitchen. If we ever get around to throwing a barbeque this summer, I plan to park a big pan of them on the buffet, for eating out of hand or piling onto plates. In the meantime, though, what I’d really like to do is stand them up like dominoes - the soft, purply, edible kind - and eat my way down the line.

Vinegar-Roasted Shallots

Like most roasted roots and vegetables, these are about as easy as it gets. Stick ‘em in the oven; turn once or twice with a spatula; and ta daa! They’re ready. The only thing to be finicky about is the size of the shallots. They should all be of similar size – or, if not, cut any large ones in half.

2 lbs. shallots, trimmed and peeled
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
Sea salt, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the shallots in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. [I like to use a ceramic 9" x 13" from Williams-Sonoma, but Pyrex would work nicely too.] Add the oil and vinegar, and toss well with your hands to coat. Cover the pan tightly with a sheet of aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes; then remove the pan from the oven and gently flip the shallots with a spatula. They should be beginning to soften nicely and starting to brown. Cover the pan again, and return it to the oven for another 15 to 45 minutes, checking occasionally, until the shallots are very soft and well caramelized. Don’t be afraid to let them brown in spots. They should bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours in total.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with salt, if you like – though I find that these don’t even need it.

Note: You could use any number of vinegars here; sherry isn’t essential. Brandon also suggests, in particular, balsamic or vinaigre de Banyuls.


Blogger foodette said...

What a great idea - I would have never thought to do this. I especially am craving them on a burger after reading this post. Thanks for the tip!

2:42 PM, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous DC Sarah said...

Not sure why, but lately I've been craving onions and cheese. Time to go to the store, but some shallots, cheddar, and crackers, and have myself a meal! Sounds like a perfect antidote to a 95 degree day in DC!

3:11 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Tea said...

Sadly, I tend to be a bit more like your mom than I care to admit (note the expired quinoa from my post today--sigh). But thanks to you and B, I now know what to do with the clutch of shallots that are about to sprout in the basket on my kitchen shelf. And vinegar, well, let's just say that I'm there. Thanks!

3:26 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Kim said...

That's the first thing I do when I house-sit for my rich friends--the big fridge clean-out. You'd be amazed at the colorful mold I find! It was during one of these cleaning frenzies that I discovered that Kraft Mac & Cheese cultures a lovely reddish-pink mold.

I also find exotic cheeses so moldy that I can't figure out what they started life as.

3:48 PM, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous Mary said...

Your mom sounds like mine, I play fridge nazi at her house, too. I'd like one of those shallots right now, straight-up, with my fingers, but I suppose I'll have to wait until I go to the store and get some shallots. The vinaigre de Banyuls I have already (thanks for reminding me).


4:27 PM, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous Pam said...

I had to laugh when I read about your Mom's habit of keeping foods too long. I used to clean out my mother's fridge whenever I went home to Hawaii - I'm sure I discarded a cure for many a dread disease in the science experiments I excavated from her fridge! I had to do it on the sly, too, as she would exclaim about wasting food if she caught me (yeah, like anyone was going to eat that stuff! yikes!), so I invented the "two-a-day rule" into the trash and she never knew!
:-) Or at least she never let on... here's to Moms, bless their frugal little hearts!

4:27 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger shari said...

what? no dominoes molly? it's the perfect summer lazy day porch activity. t and i love our domino set. seems like a domino game would go nicely with one of brandon's open faced sandwiches (brilliant by the way). he's a keeper alright. ;) xox

6:38 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Mercedes said...

Seriously, be still my heart, I adore roasted shallots. Back when I was little, and shallots were still an unheard of luxury item, my mom used to make this dish of roasted salmon in maple syrup with shallots. We made it so often mainly because we loved the shallots, and ever since then I've collected roast shallot recipes. (I still make the salmon too, b/c it's a winner). In college, I made a salad of balsamic roast shallots with arugula and shaved cave-aged-gruyere nearly every week. Anyway, I look forward to trying this one!

As for the dominoes, after all the loving things you've written here, I say proceed with confidence!

6:46 PM, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a delish idea -- I've been on a carmelized onion kick since spring break. Shallots -- why not!
I made the banana bread w/choco chips and cinnimon today. It was a huge hit with my husband. I found it quite tasty as well. I shared a loaf with the cross-the-street neighbor who moved in today, giving your blog credit for the recipe idea.

8:53 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Ales said...

After you married Brandon, can I marry him too and bring him home with me...pleeease (I'll send you my husband if you want...)

10:45 PM, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Pille said...

I do a very similar Fridge-Nazi Number at my mum's kitchen, whenever I'm there, too. Things you could find there!?
Balsamic-roasted shallots? Mmmmmm. Sound good to me!

11:31 PM, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Ooooh, onions and vinegar, a match made in heaven! Lucky that Brandon is such a cook. When I'm busy and can't cook, all we face is takeout or cereal for dinner! (Ben's mother is a similar hoarder when it comes to Very Much Expired Food - kind of terrifying sometimes, the stuff we find in her fridge.)

2:54 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger dc365 said...

Hey Molly -

No need to post this for the public, but I gave you multiple shot outs in my latest entry:


Not that you need any more popularity, but if I can encourage even one person to eat that spring salad, I'll be pretty happy.

6:49 AM, June 20, 2007  
Anonymous Meryl said...

mmm - I love this idea. One of my favorite side dishes is a recipe I found for roasted onions (thank you Barefoot Contessa!). I thought it would be weird to eat just onions with nothing else but oh my gosh are they addictive! Can't wait to try the shallot version! thanks Molly :-)

6:55 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger hannah said...

that brandon IS such a gem. tucking this one in the back of my brain for the next get together. oh molly, two nights ago i had a dream about your wedding. it was great fun, as i am sure the real thing will be. where the cicadas singing yet in god's country?

6:59 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

Could always carmelize them then finish with vinegar (and...some sorta yummy cheese like Blue)

7:26 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger light-bulb said...

we did these at restaurant where i worked as part of a potato-chip "salad:" freshly fried blue potato chips (crisp roasted potatoes are good too!), watercress, and caramelized shallots tossed with blue cheese butter. a better side for a roast chicken i don't know.

9:32 AM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Patricia said...

I have been a long-time reader of your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts. This entry made me chuckle along with all the other comments about being a "fridge-Nazi" b/c I do the same thing. What is it about daughters cleaning out refrigerators for their mothers? That shallot recipe sounds really good and so versatile!

4:49 PM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

It's my pleasure, foodette!

DC Sarah, I hear you. I love the combination of cheese and onions - pickled onions, roasted onions, caramelized onions, these shallots, you name it. A-men!

Have you roasted those shallots yet, dear Tea? I expect a full report on Friday. xo

Kraft Mac & Cheese grows reddish-pink mold, Kim? EEEEK! I always knew there was a reason why I avoided that stuff.

I hope you enjoy the shallots, Mary. They should be terrific with the Banyuls vinegar...

I love it, Pam! The "two-a-day rule" - that's too cute! Luckily, in my case, Mom doesn't put up much of a fight. She just sort of sighs and accepts her fate - and occasionally we both get a good chuckle out of it too. xo!

Shari, you've piqued my interest! I never thought of dominoes that way, but hmmm, they might have to be our next summertime purchase... xo

Mercedes, that salmon dish sounds terrific. I love the thought of it sparking your love for shallots - what a sweet story! Might you be willing to share the recipe?

Anonymous, I'm so glad to hear that the banana bread was a success! Hip, hip!

Ales, hmm, that's a pretty good offer, but you know, I have to pass. I think I want to keep Brandon all to myself. Selfish, I know. ;)

Pille, our mothers are lucky to have us, don't you think? I mean, somebody's got to clean the fridge...

Ah, but Luisa, you're lucky in your own right. You've got that dreamy Ben - and you live in the Land of Takeout, lady! You can step out your door and get all manner of delicious things! I can't do that here, in my little residential corner of Seattle. Sniff, sniff.

Thanks for the shout-outs, dc365! So sweet.

I'll have to look up that Barefoot Contessa recipe, Meryl. Which book is it in? Brandon and I love to roast onions, too, and I'm curious to see what Ina does with 'em.

Hannah, you had a dream about my wedding? I love it! That makes me so happy. And I'm glad it was a good dream. The only dreams I've had so far about the wedding have been nightmares. Both have involved me realizing at the last minute that I had no dress to wear. In one incarnation of the dream, I scrounged around and found a red silk slip of sorts(?) and wore it with red heels. In another, I wore cut-offs(!!!!) and a t-shirt. GAH! The terror! It was awful.

That would be a great variation, wheresmymind! Absolutely.

That salad sounds amazing, light-bulb. Totally amazing. Brandon, in particular, would be all over that.

Maybe we've hit on some little-understood facet of the mother-daughter relationship here, Patricia! We should consult a sociologist...

9:57 PM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Monkey Wrangler said...

Great analogy with the dominoes. You know what it's called when they have fallen all on themselves? Imbricated. It's what came to mind when you first talked about it in terms of the wedding. It made me reflect on my wedding and how it was one of those moments in life when you see your dominoes, the way they stack against each other. Thanks!

If ever the right time for the first flick of the finger......a wedding.

Oh, and way to go Brandon. Nice sounding shallots.

10:46 PM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Pink said...

Shallots are one of my favorites (I've been sticking them in all my salads of late) and these look really wonderful.

8:25 AM, June 21, 2007  
Anonymous The State of New Jersey said...

You linked to the wikipedia entry for "Dominoes." Amazing.

9:29 AM, June 21, 2007  
Blogger nosheteria said...

I think it must be mom thing. Mine is the same way. Are you sure that you ate all the shallots? They could be in the frige next time you head to Oklahoma. The recipe sounds delicious though.

3:22 PM, June 21, 2007  
Blogger Mercedes said...

Maple-Glazed Salmon

2 tbl grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup rice wine or white wine vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 (2 1/2 lb) salmon fillet
6 shallots, halved
bit of salt, pepper
3 tbl maple syrup

1. Combine first three ingredients in a wide dish. Add the salmon, skin-side up, and marinate in the fridge 20-30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 450. Place a baking sheet or roasting pan in the oven for 5 minutes to preheat.
3. Remove salmon from marinade, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place salmon on baking sheet and nestle shallots around it. Drizzle a bit of the marinade over the shallots (discard remaining marinade). Brush the salmon with 1 tbl of maple syrup. Place pan in the oven.
4. Roast the salmon, basting the fish every five minutes with some of the maple syrup, for a total of about 17 minutes, or until fish flakes easily.

My notes:
1. Use a small roasting pan that will just fit the fish, otherwise the syrup will run off to the edge of the pan and burn.
2. The more maple syrup brushed on, the better, that way it will form a nice thick layer on top.
3. The more shallots the merrier.
4. If you're in a pinch, using 1 tsp of dried ginger in place of fresh is fine.
5. Use good maple syrup.


7:50 PM, June 21, 2007  
Blogger candy said...

i just found your blog and, let me tell ya, i bookmarked the sucker. i love to cook & am always looking for new recipes. i just started a restaurant & recipe review website i'm hoping will take off. it's eatheregetgas.bravejournal.com. hope you'll stop by!

9:20 PM, June 21, 2007  
Anonymous Planethalder said...

Delicious. They, serve just this dish at the Turkish restaurant I regularly frequent in London.

11:43 PM, June 21, 2007  
Anonymous joey said...

I find the most amazing dishes here! You and Brandon are an awesome team :) I'm a big fan of the chickpea salad and have pledged lifelong devotion to the cream braised brussel sprouts :) Keep them coming!

1:21 AM, June 22, 2007  
Anonymous Erika said...

I too just discovered your blog, it is full or charm, and your love of cooking and good food really comes across. After the wedding I am sure they won't be able to hold you back from the kitchen! Onions are a favourite in my family, and my aunt especially will adore this recipe. Thanks!

7:29 AM, June 22, 2007  
Blogger Michelle said...

Hey Molly,
Looks like you visited Oklahoma during our monsoon season. Your guy is a trooper, standing underneath an umbrella grilling in the rain ... I've found myself doing that several times this season. Great burgers! But I was a little soggy. Thanks for the shallot recipe. I'm trying it out this weekend. Hopefully, things will be dryer the next time you visit, or else I'm moving the family to Seattle to dry out.

6:14 PM, June 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly, you've just made my day! I plan to do the roasted shallots for my extended family the next time we gather. It's sure to become a favorite family recipe. My thanks to both you and Brandon.

I'm a member of the Fridge-Nazi Brigade. My mother lives with us, so we have to do search and destroy missions on our own refrigerator now and then. *G* It's nice to know we have company.

I wish you the best of luck the next few weeks, pulling everything together for your wedding.


9:05 AM, June 24, 2007  
Anonymous dave said...

Hey Molly,

Sorry, off topic. I just saw your foodtv vid. Sooo cool!

Good luck on the wedding. My wife and I just did our vows together and invited a million friends over for a party and when they got to the party, we told them we got married. Very stressless. Each their own.


3:48 PM, June 24, 2007  
Blogger Miss13 said...

I made the shallots this weekend with black fig vinegar and they were heavenly!
Once again thank you for the wonderful recipe's and Best Wishes for your wedding!
Mine is in November and I am running around like crazy trying to make the magic happen :)

6:04 AM, June 25, 2007  
Anonymous jennbecluv said...

I think I'm just going to have to make a quick alteration to the recipe I was planning to make tonight just for these shallots. I think they will make a great complement to carmalized onions. Thanks for the idea! As for taking it easy on the blogging these days, I think it's entirely justified. Afterall, one can't cook in a wedding dress! :)

8:15 AM, June 25, 2007  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Hilarious... I can't believe all these crazy mothers! Mine is just the same. And you should see her pantry! It's impossible to cook at her place ... you see the spices are all there, then you go to use them and realise they're fossilized!
I think with her, it's a combination of obssessive compulsive behaviour, obsessive hording, and frugality — when I try and throw something out she'll say something like 'you didn't grow up during the depression!"... Neither did she, but it doesn't stop her fighting me when I try and discard ancient foodstuffs. But maybe there's a grain of truth there. Maybe our generation has had it too easy.

5:41 PM, June 25, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Imbricated, huh? I like that, Monkey Wrangler.

They are pretty wonderful, Pink! Hope you enjoy them.

Yup, State of New Jersey, I certainly did.

Nosheteria, I had a good chuckle at your comment! Fortunately, I'm pretty sure that we ate all the shallots. Next time we're in Oklahoma, though, I'll keep an eye out for them...

Oh, thank you, Mercedes! You're wonderful. Eeeep! Thank you!

Good luck with your new site, Candy! I wish you all the best.

Does this restaurant serve the shallots alongside something else, Planethalder, or alone, as a dish in and of themselves? I'd love to know how what else they might pair them with...

Thanks, Joey! We'll see what we can do...

You're most certainly welcome, Erika. My pleasure!

Michelle, it really is some sort of monsoon season, isn't it? I was talking with my mom yesterday, and she said it was raining AGAIN. Geez.

Thanks, Buffy! Here's to the Fridge-Nazi Brigade.

Dave, I love the way you and your wife chose to do your wedding. That's so lovely and romantic - and MUCH easier, I imagine. Brandon and I want our wedding to be a big party with all our family and friends, but as it turns out, that adds up to a lot of people. Eeek. A lot of work, too, but so very worth it!

Good luck with your wedding planning, Miss13! Very exciting.

I hope you enjoyed them, jennbecluv! And as for cooking in my wedding dress, you know, I just might have to try it - after July 29, of course.

I love it, Stephanie. Fossilized spices?! Hilarious. (Unless, of course, you have to cook with them, which is not so funny.)

8:17 AM, June 26, 2007  
Anonymous Meryl said...


the roasted onion recipe is in Barefoot Contessa At Home and it is absolutely delicious. well-worth trying :-)

2:47 PM, June 26, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, Meryl!

11:49 AM, June 29, 2007  
Blogger christine said...

I'm addicted to shallots. Sometimes I fry up a whole bunch (either leave it to a nice soft caramelized state or fry them to a crisp depending on what I'll be adding them to) and add it to anything and everything I'm eating. Brandon's way is genius! I've never baked them with olive oil and vinegar before.

10:38 AM, July 08, 2007  
Anonymous wedgeoli said...

I also have to admit a shameful tendency of letting foods age past their prime while in my care. Shallots are a paticular problem, but hopefully with this recipe, they'll be put to better use!


9:44 PM, August 19, 2007  
Blogger Pille said...

Molly, I must thank you again for an excellent recipe. I made these on Wednesday, using ordinary small onions (shallots are prohibitingly expensive here and hard to find anyway). 500 grams of onions (halved or quartered) for your amounts of oil and sherry vinegar, and you know what, they were absolutely delicious. K. was especially keen on them:) And they're lovely cold, too - I had some on toasted and buttered rye bread this morning for breakfast:)
So, THANK YOU! You're a star!

3:15 AM, March 01, 2008  

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