Nearly as often as we ask you to mince your garlic into paste, we instruct you to transfer your minced shallot to a small bowl with some vinegar. After that, as you get back to cooking your steak or your chopped apple salad or your farro. Meanwhile, the vinegar gets to work on the shallot. It’s amazing how much better your meal will be just because you left the shallots alone!
Raw shallots (and, for that matter, onions) add an irresistible crunch to sandwiches and flavor to salad dressings. The only problem is the lingering aftertaste, which can be sour and bitter and generally unpleasant. It comes from the same compounds in onions that will make you cry when you chop them.
When you leave the shallots to soak in vinegar, the bad-aftertaste compounds leave through the cut surface of the vegetable. They diffuse into the vinegar and sort of “cure,” so that they’re not so irksome anymore. Plus, the vinegar in turn infuses the shallow with flavor as a bonus. (You can also get rid of the strong taste by soaking sliced onions or shallots in ice water.)
Instead of tearing up as you eat and breathing fire breath for hours afterwards, try this trick, as we do in most of our salad dressings. You’ll get the extra texture and taste from the shallots but won’t suffer the less-than-optimal side effects.
HERE’S HOW is a series where we share the best useful tips from our cooking adventures. We’ll answer questions before you have them and illuminate food mysteries with a blend of science and legend.