A Horse, a Bucket, and a Shallot

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By Heidi Lewis

Are there days when you need a little Python? Monty Python, that  is. Sometimes in the face of regulatory hypocrisy, brain-numbing  bureaucracy, or infinite feedback loops, wouldn’t you like to answer your  phone with: “This is Arguments, you want Complaints next door.” Or spice  up a gloomy Monday morning elevator ride with “Nudge-nudge, wink-wink,  know what I mean?” Or maybe just a silly walk to change a mood?

Many of the absurd Python characters were knights, kings, and peasants,  as in their Holy Grail oeuvre (or, as John Cleese might say, “oooooeuvre”).  The lads seemed to enjoy a good sword fight, horseplay, and any poke at  nobles. Originally one of the group’s name ideas was: A Horse, a Bucket,  and a Spoon.

The Pythons may be glad to know that it was the crusading knights  who brought the delicate and sweet shallot back to Europe, bringing  much tenderness to sauces and easing the tearful onion eyes of kitchen  wenches throughout the land. The arrival of the shallot from the Middle  East may have indeed ushered in the Renaissance. Or perhaps not.

They may not be historically important, but they’re indispensable in the  modern kitchen. Shallots are multiplier onions, forming bulbs like garlic  cloves. They range in color from light gold to purplish. Shallots are perfect  for when you just need a little portion of allium flavor to start a sauce  or sauté. They’re typically much milder than onions and can even be  used raw in salad dressings, cooked with eggs, or as a garnish on Spam  (“Spamity-Spam, the wonderful Spam!”) Most chefs agree that shallots  should be chopped finely. So get out your best knife—but leave the  Pythonesqe swordplay outside.

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