My favorite recipe for deviled eggs involves finely-chopped shallots and a piping bag. It’s rather labor-intensive to chop the shallots finely enough to avoid clogging the piping tip. My knife skills are up to the challenge, but as I was doing it today I was wondering if there might be a better way. I’ve never tried grinding them with coarse salt and the side of a knife, as you can do with garlic; I suspect it wouldn’t work. Any other ideas?
Use a grater
If you use a box grater (or a microplane style grater), you can peel and grate your shallots very easily. By holding the root end, you can grate the entire shallot pretty easily and quickly.
Grated shallot won't look as pretty as a carefully cubed dice. It will have some "shaggy" edges and resemble pureed shallot. In a dish like deviled eggs, this lets the shallot show up with flavor, even though it's not seen. On the other hand, as a garnish, grated shallot won't look very good.
You can certainly do it with salt and the side of a knife, but you would have to chop rather finely first. So, maybe not worth it. Alternately, you can use a mortar, but again, this requires initial chopping.
Depending on what are the shallots mixed with, maybe you can use a stick blender? This also requires some initial chopping, but maybe blending together gets the shallot fine enough for your application. You may note that there is a flavor difference between grinding and chopping. If you go down the grinding path, you may try to use less at first to balance the flavor.
If you stick with the fine dice, a super sharp knife will make things easier. In the end though, shallots are a bit of a pain to work with given their size and shape. I find onions easier to manipulate, and can't say I really notice a flavor difference in applications where shallots are called for. Often, I just go with the onion.
An alternate solution: Use a larger tip on the piping bag.
I use a cheap mini food processor for small tasks such as this - ones where my full-size gear would just be too big & I'd either lose most of it round the edges or it would just go underneath the blades & I'd spend all my time bouncing it up & down trying to get it to work on such a small quantity.
Small batches, but you only need to rough chop initially, so time is saved overall. It will chop really finely, but doesn't go on to liquidise unless you really go overboard.
Asda, 8 quid [ten bucks or so] No clue what make it is. Plenty powerful for its size.
Hand-held so you can estimate its size.
Chopping things finely is one of the several things that a food processor does reasonably well. Stop before it's paste, or don't, as you find works better. If paste works for you, a blender could also do it. A food processor is better than a blender at "chopped but not paste."
You could also run your shallots though a mandoline first for an even thin slice crossway to the rings, then chop the result further with your knife, or food processor. Or slice them with a disc on the food processor before using the blade.