A Horse, a Bucket, and a Shallot

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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