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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?

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4 Answers 4

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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.

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    I’ve had much success grating shallots and garlic. It seems like I get more flavor for the same amount of shallot or garlic when grating vs mincing. Jul 23 at 10:11
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    I can recommend this as well. Using a fine Microplane grater, I routinely grate garlic, shallots and even regular onions when the recipe benefits from it. It works perfectly when using for taste, not looks. Jul 23 at 12:34
  • Great idea, will give it a try! Jul 23 at 13:49
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    @ToddWilcox because you do, using a garlic press or grating destroys a lot more cell walls, resulting in more garlic flavor. That being said, it means both will lose their flavor much more quickly when cooked.
    – eps
    Jul 23 at 17:02
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    Tip: To prevent your shallot, onion, or garlic from getting "angry" when grated, grate it directly into an acidic ingredient of your recipe. Grating the shallot into the Dijon mustard or pickle relish would work for deviled eggs. Jul 24 at 15:12
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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.

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  • Well, tastes vary of course, and recipes vary. I generally prefer shallots to onions in most recipies when I can get them, but I have had one recipe where they were (surprisingly, to me) not noticeably different to my taste, so I do that one with onions now and save the shallots for where they do make a difference to my taste.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 23 at 2:15
  • @Ecnerwal of course, you are correct about taste. I purchase and use shallot from time to time, but I usually have at least two varieties of onion on hand. While I can certainly tell the difference between onion and shallot in a side-by-side comparison, for me anyway, that small difference is often offset by the convenience of onion in the vast majority of applications.
    – moscafj
    Jul 23 at 9:54
  • I have considered buying a larger star tip but I’m pretty sure the bits would still get stuck in the “points” Jul 23 at 13:50
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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.

enter image description here

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    I actually have one of these in the back of my cupboard — I haven’t used it in a while. I will pull it out and try it! Thanks for the idea! Jul 23 at 13:48
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    I actually use mine only occasionally, yet more than my full-size blender, purely on 'ease of cleaning' grounds. The blender is a total nuisance to clean & can't go in the dishwasher or be immersed in water. This can, you can drop everything bar the motor in the sink. Easy.
    – unlisted
    Jul 23 at 13:51
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    I picked up (only one of the two or three on hand that day - restraint!) a smaller Cuisinart for a similar price at the Goodwill when I wandered by and saw them. Handy to have the small one as well as a bigger one. Not going to quadruple my investment by getting the part it didn't come with I'd rarely use, though. ;^) I do like them as compared to the black & decker we gave away when the bigger one got to us, because they run much more quietly than that howling banshee did, even just spinning empty.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jul 23 at 17:40
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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.

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