Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Now that you've mastered chopping onions, here's how to mince a shallot.
Now I'm going to demonstrate how to mince its sweet, punchy little cousin: the shallot. The process is very similar, just done in miniature. If you know how to cut up one, you can probably do the other -- but there are a few things to keep in mind.
What exactly do you mean by shallot?
Each whole shallot contains multiple lobes that can be all sorts of different sizes -- just like garlic cloves. Some recipe writers explain that they mean a single lobe, or better still describe the amount they're looking for in tablespoons or ounces. Most don't. This is where you have to get smart.
Think about your end result, then wing it.
I don't care if you went to cooking school -- everyone's "finely chopped" is a little different; as is their medium dice, their mince, their thinly sliced.
What you can always do is think about what the end product will be, and make plans for the shallot you want to be eating. If your minced shallot will go raw into a salad dressing, you might want to mince it a little finer and use a smaller lobe. If you plan to sauté it in butter till it's mellow and rich for succotash or risotto, a larger cut is probably fine, and you can throw in a lot more.
Without further ado: How to Mince a Shallot, Step by Step
Grab a sharp paring knife. To mince that shallot, first trim off the root end.
Then slice in half length-wise.
The skins should roll away easily now, though every once in awhile, you'll get a stubborn papery skin (if you know a good trick for those, let us know in the comments!). Trim that dried out tip while you're at it.
Lay it flat and (carefully!) make even horizontal cuts in your shallot, leaving the root end intact to hold it all together.
It should look like a relatively even stack.
Next up: a row of vertical slits, again leaving the root intact.
Almost there! Know where we're going next?
The last official cut: chop it off in even rows, vertically again, but at a 90 degree angle from your last cut, moving toward the root.
Then you can leave them as is, in neat 1/4-inch bits. Or for raw preparations like salad dressing or salsa verde, I like to run the knife through a few more times, to mince them to "smithereen" stage.
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."