Every house needs one and this is mine.

Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with adorning any naked leaf with just the sacred pairing of tangy lemon and some good, fruity green olive oil but for me, my fridge feels unloved when it doesn’t contain a bottle of my house dressing.

It feels superfluous to peel, slice and cook a whole bunch of shallots for the sake of a salad dressing but for me, it does double… no, triple duty in that not only does this recipe provide me with the oil I need to give my dressing the most interesting twist, but it also gives me extra shallot oil to use as I please plus a batch of sweet, crispy onions to adorn a surplus of other kitchen outcomes.

We start the recipe off with shallots being cooked in a batch of flavourless oil, and starting them in the cold oil means the shallots have more time to gently permeate the oil with their sweet roundness. It also means we’re not dealing with that nerve-inducing process of tipping things into hot oils.

This isn’t a Saw trap. It’s frying onions.

We use way more oil than we need just for the dressing because I love having shallot oil around the kitchen as a base to almost everything like adding extra alium notes when frying onions at the start of a curry, soup, stew, or risotto, for frying eggs, for covering meat or fish before roasting – basically anywhere you’d use oil, this shallot oil is a fantastic replacement.

And the crispy shallots are just a little burst of crunchy flavour wherever you need them. Think scattered in salads, on top of soups, smuggled into sandwiches, on top of a blue cheese dip or hummus, on top of pasta, on top of hot dogsthe possibilities are endless.

However, do I sometimes just reach in and eat them with my hands like crisps?

Yes. Yes I do.

As for the dressing? My kingdom for this dressing.

There’s so many wonderful things at play here – the almost garlicky sweetness of the shallot oil and the perfumed sweetness of the honey is countered headily with the sharpness of the red wine vinegar. Meanwhile, the Dijon mustard provides a creamy, piquant body to the dressing, so that everything is emulsified and smooth, perfect for any salad.

Yes, you can make this dressing without the shallot oil and just opt for a very good extra virgin olive oil in it’s stead but I have to admit, it tastes nothing like my house dressing and suffers for it. It’s still very good, don’t get me wrong but it’s just different.

It’s stronger, pepperier, deeper. Not unpleasant, it’s actually very good, but it just lacks a little… something. So for the sake of frying some shallots, I would just go for it.

Plus then, like I said, you get a batch of crispy shallots and a whole bottle of shallot oil to use at your own leisure!

I mean c’mon now.

Makes 400ml shallot oil and 150ml dressing

For the crispy shallots

6 shallots

600ml flavourless oil (like vegetable)

For the dressing

2 tbs Dijon mustard

2 tbs red wine vinegar

1 tbs runny honey

6 tbs shallot oil

  1. Peel the shallots and slice them into thin rounds, roughly the thickness of pound coins.
  2. In a large, deep pan (a saucepan would be fine, but I always use my wok) pour in the oil and add the sliced shallots to it.
  3. Turn the heat to medium and bring the oil to a gentle bubble. Keep the shallots on a bubbling medium heat, continuing to stir now and then until they become golden brown, roughly 30 – 35 minutes.
  4. To drain the onions, this is what I do. Put a sieve snugly into a jug and then carefully pour the shallots and oil into it, so that the jug catches the oil and the sieve catches the shallots, then tip the shallots to a chopping board lined with baking paper and spread them out into an thin, even layer so that they have the chance to cool and crisp up. NOTE – I only do this because I have a sieve that fits perfectly into a big jug of mine which means I’m not at risk of any hot oils escaping! If you aren’t lucky enough to have a sieve and jug fit for this purpose, just use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the shallots from the pan to the baking paper.
  5. Salt the crispy shallots generously on the board, and store in an airtight container.
  6. Decant the shallot oil into a bottle to cool. When it’s cool, it’s ready to use.
  7. For the dressing, it’s as simple as combining the mustard, vinegar, honey, and shallot oil in a small bowl with a whisk or fork or better still, into a jar with a tight fitting lid, closing the jar, and shaking vigorously until everything is combined.
  8. This dressing can be made in advance and kept in the fridge, giving it another whisk or shake before using so that it can emulsify properly again. The health conscious person in me will say to use within 3 – 4 days but like… I’ve had it in my fridge for more than a week or so before now and I’m still alive and the dressing still tasted just as good.

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