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I recently ran into an Australian recipe for coq au vin that called for "spring onions", which (in Australia) refers unambiguously to what the French call cébette:

enter image description here

Oddly, the recipe calls for 800g of them (spring onions are sold by bunch, not weight), says you should "trim green ends, leaving about 4cm of stem attached; trim roots" (not a whole lot of spring onion left if you follow this!), and then continues with "cook onion, stirring, until browned all over", which doesn't seem like the kind of thing you'd usually do to spring onions.

So is spring onion for coq au vin an actual thing in France? Or did a clueless editor somewhere along the way confuse shallot/échalote in the original (below) with spring onions, which are also known as "eschalots" in Australia?

enter image description here

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    When faced with a recipe that seems just wrong, I tend to either fix it or find one I agree with. Having in the past ridden a few through the "but this is what the recipe says, yet it comes out wrong" I'm prone to assume errors and blindly copying without cooking as far too common in recipe sources. Also, shallots beat most other alliums on the taste front! Of course, it could be that someone had far too many green onions and opted to trim and caramelize to use some up... – Ecnerwal Sep 20 '15 at 16:30
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Australian and keen Coq au Vin maker here; I am in Sydney so my response may be subject to regional variations; Australia is a big place.

There is yet another possibility. These

Coq au Vin requires onions twice; at the start, chopped, and later on, where the recipe I use (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) calls for small onions browned and braised in stock. In Australia it isn't easy to get onions of the right size for the latter dish - even the smallish onions sold as pickling onions are IMHO too big. The bulbs of the spring onions behind the link are the right size, about an inch in diameter.

As you can see from the other products on the page, yes, we have no standard naming convention. I'm British by birth, so I'll always refer to French Shallots as Shallots, and the OP's cebette as Spring Onions.

As an aside, http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/mar/24/how-perfect-coq-au-vin is well worth consulting. In fact the whole series is well worth consulting.

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  • Extra credit for the awesome link at the end! – lambshaanxy Sep 25 '15 at 22:54
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    @JonHayward I have never come across the iconic Coq au Vin dish in France using the bulbs of spring onions for the onion-ingredient that should remain "whole" in the served dish. The correct ones compare in size with jarred cocktail onions. However, jarred cocktail onions should never be used in a classic Coq au Vin. Perish the thought! – Peter Point Sep 21 '16 at 7:27
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    As I said this is Australia - I have never seen onions the size of cocktail onions outside a jar since I emigrated from the UK nearly 30 years ago. My post was pointing out another thing that gets called Spring Onions in Australia, and that is what the author of the recipe might have thought was a reasonable compromise given the absence of really tiny onions here. I generally use pickling onions, and if they're a little big peel an outer layer or two off. I have also used shallots as in echalotes, French shallots, the proper ones, for this and for Boeuf Bourgignonne. Yum. – JonHayward Sep 23 '16 at 9:24
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The intent could be to indeed use just the "not whole lot left" - the white part and 4cm of the stem, and discard (or use otherwise) the rest. Using just this part is also common in building the aromatics set for wok dishes - just that the green parts tend to be used as garnish later.

Specifying by weight is actually more precise here, since bunch sizes can vary, and there are varieties with a straight white part (a true scallion) and others having a bulbous part almost like a white onion (a true spring onion)...

Since the white part is by far the heaviest part, it would be easiest to shop for them by laying bunches on the produce scale until you get approximately two pounds together (prices for spring onions could be very variable across the world - in some European countries they are rather cheap, eg usually around 30-40 cents a bunch in Germany).

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According to "How to cook everything" by Mark Bitman, it is "two medium onions chopped". Normal onions. They are added to the mushrooms while making the sauce. With this, I will say it is not a thing in French cuisine.

But I think your Australian recipe really want spring onion because of the technique described. It is really what I'm used to and doesn't apply to shallot nor onion.

Also, here in Québec, Canada, we call "spring onion" «échalote» and "shallot" «échalote française». Happy to not be the only one confused !

From the book, I also got the actual name of the recipe : Chicken in Red Wine Sauce.

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  • Sorry, I'm not sure I follow your logic. Are you saying that, because one American book uses standard onions, it is impossible that there is a common recipe in France which uses spring onions? – rumtscho Sep 24 '15 at 10:36
  • Not the best reference to find a trend in France, I admint. But just found one of the most famous french chef working in Quebec City, Jean Soulard, is making his Coq au Vin with «small onions». Could be pearl onions. It is also the tendency I can see on many french recipe website. – Alex Sep 25 '15 at 0:30

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