A shallot is just an onion that thinks it is better than you. There is no need to be intimidated. It is every bit as accessible as an onion, but is often overlooked for some reason. It has a slightly more concentrated flavor than the onion and less moisture content, so it seems to caramelize better. It is stronger, which allows you to use less of it to accomplish the same density of flavors. It really shines when you put it next to one of its three best friends; bacon, butter, and white wine.
Shallots will make you cry about twice as much as an onion. One way to minimize this is to toss it in the freezer for a few minutes before you cut it up. Then work quickly. Other than being momentarily blind, I love everything about cooking with shallots. They cook up quickly and don’t generate a ton of liquid. They develop a nice color and sweetness, with similarities to both sautéed onions and sautéed garlic. They are sticky, so they hang onto fish or shellfish well. I use them almost every time I sauté a fish or prepare a sauce for steamed mussels.
A shallot will keep for a long time, so you can keep them on hand all the time. If you have tried shallots in your seafood meals, pick up a couple next time you visit your local market. You’ll find they fill a niche when an onion is just not quite the right answer and just like adding new species of fish, you can use them to inject a little variety into your diet.