A Simple Recipe

We here at Haute Plates strive to make your life easier. More often than not we attempt to do this by writing about restaurants and chefs, but from time to time we provide you, our dear readers, with recipes.

The recipe that follows is, in all likelihood, the least complicated you will find here. It is only slightly more complicated than the recipe for making ice, and it is damn near as useful.

The recipe is one I’ve had and made off and on for many years. I have been very, very fortunate in my life, and one of the best examples of that good fortune is that I had the chance to travel to Indonesia about 20 years ago. My friend Daniel invited me, and his parents put me up, and it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. (I should also note that Daniel’s parents hosted my family in Columbia, Tennessee after Katrina, and I will never repay them for either gift.)

While I was in Indonesia, I tasted a lot of dishes garnished with fried shallots. They were almost as ubiquitous as coconut, peanuts or chiles. Ever since, I’ve had a soft spot for thin and crispy fried onions.

But doing it right takes some time, and it takes some oil, and I have three kids and a legal practice. For a long time I went without making my own fried shallots, but then a year or so ago I bought a cookbook.

That would not, in years past, be something I’d note. I used to buy cookbooks all the time, new and used. These days I am running out of space for cookbooks and I have long since run out of money to pay for them, so it is a rarity. But Naomi Duguid’s cookbook Burma: Rivers of Flavor is worth the cost.

I take some very slight liberties with her already simple recipe for fried shallots, but only to add some salt and a bit more oil. Here’s the thing about this recipe – you’re getting two products, and to my mind the second is the more important.

One word about the main ingredient here: shallots are a smallish, red member of the onion family. I mention this only because I’ve seen the term applied to green onions, or scallions here.


Fried Shallots

2 cups thinly sliced shallots

1 and ¼ cup peanut oil

1 tsp salt


Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pan on medium heat. When the oil gets up to temperature (about 5-7 minutes) add the shallots. Stir the shallots while they fry, and lower the heat after about 5 minutes so that they just sizzle. Keep stirring the shallots occasionally, and watch for them to start to caramelize, which should happen in another 5 minutes or so. As they brown, remove the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with the salt. As soon as you have all of the shallots out of the oil (or at least as much as you can get with a spider or sieve) remove the oil from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

If you’re not going to use the fried shallots immediately, put them in an airtight container. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter.


Again, the fried shallots are delicious. When I make this recipe, I double it, and my wife and I usually end up eating about half of the fried shallots out of hand. I add them to salads or as a garnish to grilled steaks. I’ve used them in place of onions in a curry sauce (fried shallots, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, chopped cashews, cilantro leaves and stems, roasted curry paste and a little water) and it was excellent.

But the real star is the oil. It is, by itself, a perfect accompaniment for just about anything grilled, and earlier this week I used it to dress a salad of blanched green beans with nothing more than a little salt and pepper. Because you’ve used peanut oil – unless you’re using very, very expensive peanut oil – you can always sautée in it, and the resulting flavor is outstanding.

I put the oil into small squeeze bottles, so that I can portion it out effectively and so that I can squirt it on my children. “HAHA!” I say, “Father has ANNOINTED you!”

That last part isn’t actually true, but I do put the oil (and a chile oil about which I’ll write sometime in the near future) into small squeeze bottles I bought at a crafts store when I was doing research into the macramé underground. The less I say about that, the better, I think.

Try the shallot oil; trust me. You will enjoy the result.




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