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Banana shallots are large bulbs, averaging 10 to 18 centimeters in length, and have an elongated shape with tapered, pointed ends. The bulb is encased in a papery, outer layer that is smooth and ranges in color from tan, light pink, to grey-brown. Once the brittle layer is removed, the surface of the bulb is firm, and there may be multiple cloves fused together, tinged with purple or green hues depending on the specific variety. Within the cloves, the flesh is ivory to white, crisp, and multi-layered. Banana shallots have a flavor reminiscent of both onions and garlic, but the taste is much milder with subtle sweet notes.
Banana shallots are available year-round.
Banana shallots, botanically classified as Allium cepa, are a cross between an onion and a shallot, belonging to the Amaryllidaceae family. Also known as an Echalion shallot, the term Banana shallot is a general descriptor used for multiple varieties that are large in size and have an elongated shape. The name Banana shallot is rumored to have been derived from the shallot’s curved, torpedo-like shape, and the elongated bulbs are highly favored by European chefs for their easy-to-peel skin, faster cooking time, and sweet flavor. Despite their larger size, Banana shallots are some of the mildest flavored shallot varieties and are used to add subtle nuances to sauces, meats, and soups. The shallots are also a popular home gardening cultivar throughout Europe with the common varieties including Jermor, Cuisses de Poulet du Poitou, Zebrunne, Eschalote Grise, and Long Red Florence.
Banana shallots are a good source of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that increases collagen production within the body and boosts the immune system. The shallots also contain fiber, which stimulates the digestive tract and provide smaller amounts of calcium, potassium, copper, iron, and vitamin A.
Banana Shallots are best suited for both raw and cooked applications such as roasting, sautéing, frying, stewing, and braising. When raw, the cloves can be finely chopped and tossed into salads or blended into oil-based dressings. Banana shallots can also be cooked and lightly caramelized to add sweet and subtle flavors to soups, curries, and stews, minced and cooked into sauces, lightly sautéed in vegetable stir-fries, or braised with cooked meats. In addition to cooked preparations, the shallots can be pickled whole for extended use. Banana shallots pair well with meats such as poultry, ham, and pork, seafood, carrots, parsnips, green beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, radishes, beets, bell peppers, potatoes, herbs such as thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, basil, and coriander, olives, raisins, and cheeses such as swiss, gruyere, parmesan, and goat. The fresh bulbs will keep up to two months when stored whole and uncut in a cool, dry, and dark place.
In France, Banana shallots are one of the most popular aromatics used in the traditional French bearnaise sauce. The word bearnaise translates from French to mean “from Bearn,” which is a town in France, and the sauce was named after the town in honor of its creator, chef Jules Colette. The creamy sauce is a variation of the famous hollandaise sauce, which is considered to be one of the five “mother sauces” of French cuisine, and chef Colette took the base hollandaise ingredients of butter and egg yolks and combined them with tarragon, shallots, peppercorns, and white wine vinegar to create the new sauce. Legend has it that chef Colette debuted the bearnaise sauce at the opening of his Paris restaurant in 1836, and the sauce was met with great enthusiasm, popularizing it into the beloved sauce that is still used today. Bearnaise sauce is traditionally served on roasted meats, especially steak, and is also commonly paired with seafood and eggs.
Banana shallots are native to France and were believed to have been naturally developed from original shallot varieties introduced from the Middle East during the 11th century. Once naturalized in France, shallots were highly cultivated in home gardens and were also commonly sold in local markets. Over time, growers developed many different elongated varieties in northern France and began to sell them in local markets sometime during the 17th century. Today Banana shallots are cultivated in Brittany and the Loire Valley of France and are exported to other countries throughout Europe and the United States. The shallots are also grown in Belgium and in the eastern counties of Britain and are widely available through local markets, specialty grocers, and in home gardens.
Recipes that include Banana Shallots. One is easiest, three is harder.
|BBC Food||Stuffed Banana Shallots|