Growing up, my family was at once both adventurous and entirely provincial when it came to food. Living in Southern California meant we regularly ate avocados from a neighbor's yard, guavas from the tree out front, and steamed artichokes dipped in melted butter (they weren't from anyone we knew, my mom just liked them).
Still, most of what we ate came from Safeway or Trader Joe's, purchased for its durability and value. Potatoes came in a ten-pound bag, romaine was the house lettuce and the only onions in the pantry were yellow and designed for storage.
Once I moved out on my own, there was a great deal of room for me to discover new foods. With the help of a variety of cookbooks and television shows, I taught myself how to make a basic vinaigrette without the help of a seasoning packet, tried purple and red potatoes for the first time, and learned that there was more to the allium family than just yellow onions.
Shallots were one of the first onion alternatives I tried and we've been conducting a full-on love affair now for more than ten years. One shallot application that I fell particularly hard for was the Shallot-Cassis Marmalade from Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte. Served with creamy goat cheese, it was a recipe that I trotted out regularly in my early twenties when I wanted to be fancy.
This pickle is inspired by that marmalade. It starts similarly, by deeply caramelizing a mess of chopped shallots in a bit of butter. Once the shallots are sweet and yielding, you add a generous amount of balsamic vinegar and simmer until the vinegar thickens and transforms into a sticky glaze.
Much like Hesser's marmalade, it is good with goat cheese. It also works wonderfully on homemade pizza or as a burger or sausage topper. It's one you'll want in regular rotation when grilling season comes around.
Before You Get Started
No need to be absolutely precise when chopping your shallots. Slices of roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch will do you just fine.
Be patient with the caramelization step. The more time you invest in cooking the shallots until brown and tender, the better the final product will be.
Don't use your best, barrel-aged balsamic vinegar in this recipe. Choose an inexpensive (but good-tasting) grocery store brand for this one.
This pickle freezes really well. Dish it out into a cookie sheet in little 1/2 cup mounds and pop in the freezer until solid. Store in a plastic bag until you're ready to use them.