What Are Shallots?
Shallots, although they look nothing like them, are often confused with scallions. They are both a type of onion, but whereas a scallion is long and thin with green leaves and a white tip, the shallot is bulb-shaped, with copper, reddish, or gray skin. It looks rather like a small, elongated onion, but has a milder flavor with a hint of garlic.
The flavor can be described as a little sweet, with hints of garlic. Since it doesn't have the same bite as onion, shallot is ideal raw in a salad or dressing, and won't overpower more delicate dishes.
From the outside, a shallot looks a bit like a misshapen red onion, but once you peel it, you will see that instead of rings, it divides into cloves like garlic does. Small shallot bulbs will have two to three individual cloves and large shallots can have up to six cloves. Each clove is flat on one side and rounded on the other.
In some recipes, it is hard to determine whether the entire shallot bulb is needed or if the number count in the ingredient list refers to the number of shallot cloves. In general, if the recipe calls for 1 shallot, use all the cloves within that single shallot bulb.