When placed in an oven for a long period of time with moderate heat, roast shallots caramelize and start to break down, turning them into a sweet, tender food. The basic method used to roast shallots is to toss them in olive oil and then bake them for some time, usually about an hour, although this can take more or less time depending on the size of the shallots. Some recipes add different types of vinegar and fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme, and then finish the roast shallots with a sprinkling of salt just before serving. If the shallots that are used are very fresh, and with the appropriate amount of oil and baking time, the thin skins will crisp up and actually can be eaten along with the inner flesh, although thick skins or older bulbs will not bear the same results. The finished shallots can be eaten as a snack or side dish, included in a larger recipe for roast meats, or placed in a food processor to make a roasted shallot spread.
The process of making simple roast shallots is similar to making roasted garlic, although the inner texture of the shallots does not yield quite the same paste-like texture when done. First, the root ends of the shallots are removed, along with all the skin, if desired. The cleaned shallots are then placed in a bowl and coated with olive oil that will help them to caramelize when cooking in the oven. If any other ingredients are being added, such as balsamic vinegar or rosemary, then they also are placed in the bowl so they can coat all the shallots evenly.
The shallots are then spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish. The dish is placed in an oven on moderate heat and allowed to cook for some time. Halfway through cooking, the shallots can be turned or stirred to allow all surfaces to be exposed to the heat. During the cooking time, which can be an hour or more, the sugars in the shallots brown and the structure of the flesh starts to break down and become very soft.
When completed, roast shallots can be removed from the oven and allowed to cool before being served or used in another recipe. For a balanced-tasting side dish, balsamic vinegar or sherry vinegar, black pepper and some salt can be added just before the shallots are served. In larger recipes, roast shallots can easily be chopped or incorporated in a pan sauce or mashed potatoes or served like caramelized onions over steak.