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Most recipes call for minced shallot in a basic vinegarette. However, whenever I use it, the taste of shallot overpowers everything else in the dressing, leaving an aftertaste that usually lasts through to the next day.

I've tried reducing the amount of shallot, but no matter how little of it I add, it always takes over. The problem is, I like the taste of shallots, and I think they taste great with greens. I just want to eat a salad that tastes of things besides shallot.

So, is there a way to keep the taste of shallots in my dressing without it being the main course?

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    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. Surely there's an amount of shallots added that large enough to be tasted but small enough to be overpowering (unless you believe in homeopathy...) – Daniel Griscom Feb 3 '17 at 1:50
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I always rinsed onions and shallots, to remove the compounds released when slicing through the cell walls. Since reading the following article in Cook's Illustrated March 2011 edition, I prefer its baking soda method.

Toning Down Raw Onion’s Bite

We’ve often heard the claim that soaking sliced or chopped raw onions in liquid can mellow their harsh taste by drawing out the pungent sulfur compounds known as thiosulfinates that are produced when the onion is cut.

But what kind of liquid and how long of a soak? We tested three of the most commonly recommended liquids—water, milk, and vinegar—by soaking the cut onions in each for 5 and 15 minutes. We found that 15 minutes was necessary for any of the treatments to be effective.

The vinegar soak did rid the onions of much of their burn, but it was replaced by an equally strong sour taste, even after thorough rinsing. Milk was also very effective at removing the sulfur compounds, but it left the onions tasting washed-out.

The best method—better than even plain water—was our own: a baking-soda solution (1 tablespoon per cup of water). Unlike the other methods, which merely do their best to leach away the offending sulfur compounds, the alkaline baking soda neutralizes sulfenic acid, the immediate precursor to the harsh-tasting thiosulfinates, and prevents them from forming in the first place.

Just be sure to rinse the onions thoroughly before using to remove any soapy baking-soda taste.

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  • Dorothy do you have any info on the age of shallots and their pungency? – dougal 5.0.0 Feb 3 '17 at 5:41
  • @dougal2.0.0 I don't, but I do keep them in the frig crisper bin (shame on me) along with the onions, so that I always have them at hand and so they don't sprout. – Giorgio Feb 3 '17 at 14:15
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There should definitely be an amount small enough to suit you. The tricky bit is that if you don't get it evenly distributed, you'll still have bites where you get a piece of shallot and it's too much.

A couple ideas to fix that:

  • puree your shallots, so you can thoroughly mix in a small amount that suits your tastes
  • let the dressing rest for a day or two before using, so the flavors meld better
  • simmer or heat the dressing, if the other ingredients can take it, to speed along the melding

If you get that taken care of, you should be able to then reduce the amount and find what you want.

You can definitely also temper the flavor as Dorothy suggests, but if it's the general flavor (not just the harsh notes) that's giving you issues, all that'll do is increase the size of the small amount that suits you.

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Sounds to me like bad shallots. If shallots taste anywhere near as pungent as onions, then they're of low quality and shouldn't be used (at least not in anything raw or delicate). Always taste shallots before use.

You may also be particularly sensitive to some of the shallot's flavors. There's nothing wrong with using less in your vinaigrette. It's there not just for flavor, but for its emulsifying compounds. All members of the allium family have these; you can use garlic or scallions or chives and all will help make an emulsion. They all work in very small quantities.

The other suggestion is that maybe you don't like shallots at all. You can use something else. If not a different allium, then there's mustard (the most traditional), egg yolk (the Caesar's solution), or tomato paste. I've used mango chutney (it's got cooked onion and who-knows-what-else).

Re: the Cook's Illustrated solution, I'd be very wary. I've never heard of a chef doing this, even at the most cutting edge restaurants. It seems like a solution in search of a problem. I've found the palates of this magazine's testers to be extremely unreliable over the years. Caveat emptor.

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    I was surprised to read your first paragraph, in my experience shallots are more pungent than onions. – rumtscho Feb 4 '17 at 9:41

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