The epicure's onion

Cooks must often wonder when and how to use the various members of the onion family most effectively. In some instances one type can satisfactorily be substituted for the other but when possible it is advisable to follow the recipe direction, as in the case of shallots, sometimes referred to as ''the onion of the epicure,'' probably because chefs constantly indicate them in their recipes.

There has been confusion about the shallot. Many cooks have believed that it is the same as the baby onion, which it definitely is not. Its flavor is more like garlic than onion, yet has greater delicacy. However, it must still be used with discretion.

The shallot is also called ''the queen of the sauce onions,'' ideal for delicate blendings but not best where more vigorous flavor is required.

When sauteeing, mince fine so they will not be subjected to too much heat and never let them brown or they will become bitter. Three or four shallots may be substituted for one medium-sized onion.

The bulbs grow in clusters and each section is like a small onion set. Therefore, they are sometimes called ''potato onions,'' or ''multipliers.'' They are never marketed in their green state except for use as a substitute for scallions. When purchasing, look for small dry rose-pink bulbs quite uniform in size.

Shallots are excellent for flavoring broilers or young chickens that are to be roasted. Make a mixture of the following: Shallot Flavoring for Poultry 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley 1 tablespoon minced shallot 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil Rosemary (optional) Chives (to taste) Push this mixture beneath the skin on both sides of the breastbone, over the breast and down the sides, without breaking the skin. This blend will cook through the bird. Shallot Butter 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature 3 shallots, minced 1 to 2 teaspoons dried, finely crumbled tarragon Salt and freshly ground pepper Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Dot butter over cooked steaks or pass separately. Makes about 1/2 cup. Swiss-Style Veal 1 pound veal, cut into very thin strips 3 cups sliced mushrooms, cut into very thin strips 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil 2 tablespoons butter Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 tablespoons chopped shallots 1 cup chicken broth 2 cups sour cream 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon

Prepare veal and mushrooms and set aside in separate dishes. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet and add the veal. Cook, stirring and shaking the skillet until veal loses its pink color. Drain in a sieve but save drippings for later use.

To the skillet add 1 more tablespoon oil and cook the mushrooms, stirring and shaking the skillet until their moisture is absorbed. Add mushrooms to meat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Heat butter in skillet and add shallots. Cook until wilted and add the chicken broth. Add drippings from meat. Cook down to about one-third and add sour cream. Stir without boiling. Add meat, salt, pepper, chives, parsley and tarragon. Heat until hot but do not boil as cream might curdle. Serve very hot with buttered noodles or roasted potatoes. Serves 4. Omelet for an Epicure 6 eggs 3/4 teaspoon salt Dash pepper 2 tablespoons butter

Beat eggs just enough to mix whites and yolks. Add salt and pepper. Heat butter in a skillet. Pour a little of it into the beaten eggs and reheat remainder. Turn eggs into pan and as mixture cooks on bottom and sides, prick it with a fork so the egg on top will penetrate the cooked surface and run under the sides. When the eggs are thickened, fill with the following: Filling: 2 tablespoons chopped shallots 1 tablespoon butter 3 tablespoons chopped mushrooms 3 tablespoons chopped smoked oysters 2 tablespoons chopped tomato 1 tablespoon chopped parsley 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice Salt and pepper Sour cream, chopped chives, and diced tomatoes (garnish)

Saute shallots in butter until soft. Add mushrooms and mix well. Turn off heat. Mix in remaining ingredients except garnish. Place filling in center of omelet and fold in thirds. Remove to warm plate. Garnish with sour cream, chives , and tomatoes. Serves 2 to 3.

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