Big Little Recipes

February 6, 2021

How to Make Savory-Sweet Shallot Jam With 3 Ingredients

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week, we’re making a savory jam to smear on everything. On a good day, jam refers to “a food made by boiling fruit and sugar to a thick consistency.” Or on a bad one, “a crowded mass that impedes or blocks movement.” This three-ingredient jam is neither. Yes, we will be boiling. Yes, there will be sugar. But fruit? Not a strawberry or peach or even tomato in sight. Instead: shallots. Lots and lots of shallots. Sure, jam is best known as a way to stretch summer’s bounty, to make fragile berries that would’ve gone moldy in days last for weeks or months. But just as jam need not be limited to fruits—hi bacon, hello red peppers—it need not be limited to warm weather either. Come colder, clouder, gustier months, there are plenty of ingredients that would love to be stirred with sugar and simmered, simmered, simmered into oblivion. Especially alliums. Maybe you’ve already heard of onion jam, on ricotta-dolloped biscuit bites or goat cheese crostini. I like to think of shallot jam as the ultimate onion jam—what an onion dreams of becoming after it falls asleep. “Shallots are one of the things—a basic prep item in every mise-en-place—that make restaurant food taste different from your food,” Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential. “You should always have some around for sauces, dressings, and sauté items.” Photo by Ty Mecham. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. And jam. Score a couple pounds and you’re halfway to this high-impact spread that your fridge will be thrilled (chuffed!) to have around. Here’s the cheat sheet: Dice shallots and sauté until transparent-ish, like stained glass. Treat to sugar, which will encourage deeper, darker caramelization. Then wake things up with a hefty pour of vinegar. The last ingredient depends on you—or, more specifically, what you already have around. My vote is for malt vinegar, widely known as the finishing touch on fish-and-chips, but it's a wonder-ingredient in countless other places, too. In this case, it gives shallot jam a roasty, toasty—and, yeah, malty—flavor. Feel free to swap in other vinegars like white wine, red wine, rice, or any of those mixed with balsamic or black. Once you have shallot jam around, the world is yours, as far as your eyes can see. Try it with: Buttered toast Triscuits and Gouda Pork chops with sautéed peppers Crispy sausage and scrambled eggs Chopped liver (or liver mousse) toasts Penne with butter and Parmesan Roast chicken and any vegetables Oil and vinegar as a vinaigrette Rice-and-beans burrito Fettuccine with Greek yogurt Quesadilla or grilled cheese I won’t try to hide it—the last one is my favorite. On a bad day, I’ll sandwich seedy bread, sharp cheddar, and shallot jam, griddle it until crispy outside, melty inside, then take a bite while it’s still too hot. Just like that, the bad day becomes a little better. Shallot Jam View Recipe Ingredients Neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed 2 pounds shallots, peeled and chopped 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 cup granulated sugar 6 tablespoons malt vinegar (or another variety), divided Neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed 2 pounds shallots, peeled and chopped 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 cup granulated sugar 6 tablespoons malt vinegar (or another variety), divided From Our Shop our line! Five Two Essential Sauté Pan $119 our line! Five Two Wooden Spoons $25–$99 More Styles our line! Five Two Essential Kitchen Towels $35–$95 More Options How will you use shallot jam? Let us know in the comments!
December 9, 2020

The Mysterious Origins of Grandma's Mushroom Puffs

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer—not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week, we’re baking up a family favorite. When I asked my grandma when she started making her family-famous mushroom puffs, she started counting backward by husbands. In total, there were three, all of whom have been dead for years. She didn’t make them for Jerry and probably not Bob, but definitely Arnie, which shakes out to (give or take) 30 years. Grandma knows she stumbled on the recipe in a magazine and first tried it as a Thanksgiving appetizer. But the publication, let alone the year and issue, are long gone: “No idea!” Still, this fact, that the recipe came from somewhere, means that as it traveled to her home in New Jersey, it also ventured to many other homes in many other states, where toddlers like myself ate mushroom puffs by the fistful and eventually had trouble recognizing a family gathering without them. There is comfort in knowing that a tradition is as unique as it is universal—that this recipe is just as cherished by people I’ve never met. Photo by James Ransom. Prop Stylist: Megan Hedgpeth. Food Stylist: Sam Seneviratne. If I Google “mushroom puffs,” one of the top results is a doppelganger of my mom’s scribbled recipe card. The photo is uncanny. Every ingredient is the same. Even some of the instructions. Except for one. Grandma included the lemon juice (a measly half-teaspoon, barely a squeeze) for years. Eventually, though, she ditched it. “Supposedly lemon juice brings out the flavor in something. But these have enough flavor without it.” Indeed, mushroom puffs are just what they sound like: a shattering bite of puff pastry, giving way to a filling that can only be described as cream of mushroom soup-but-not-soup. It’s suspiciously simple—just diced mushroom and onion, sauteed in a lot of butter, thickened with flour, simmered with cream—and impossible to eat just one. Because I write and edit recipes for a living, I couldn’t help but change a couple things. (“You better not!” Grandma warned. But I hope she’ll forgive me.) I increased the small onion to medium for surplus savoriness. And I swapped in louder baby bellas, instead of soft-spoken buttons. Otherwise, these are indistinguishable from the mushroom puffs that my grandma has made for Thanksgivings and Hanukkahs and Sunday suppers for decades. Who knows, maybe your grandma has too. Grandma's Mushroom Puffs View Recipe Ingredients 1/4 cup unsalted butter 1 medium (or 2 small) yellow onion, finely diced 12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, finely diced (stems included!) 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 cup heavy cream Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 1 (17.3-oz / 490-gram) package puff pastry, thawed but still cold 1/4 cup unsalted butter 1 medium (or 2 small) yellow onion, finely diced 12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, finely diced (stems included!) 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 cup heavy cream Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 1 (17.3-oz / 490-gram) package puff pastry, thawed but still cold From Our Shop our line! Five Two Essential Sauté Pan $119 Silpat Reusable Silicone Baking Molds $60 More Options our line! Five Two Adjustable Rolling Pin $39