Caramel-Braised Shallots with Black Pepper
Why This Recipe Works
Caramel strikes fear even in experienced cooks. Why? It's notorious for burning, turning gritty, or simply cooking unevenly. We worked through every variable and question we had to come up with an easy method that anyone can master. The highlights: We cook the sugar with water and corn syrup, which helps the sugar dissolve and melt evenly and prevents crystallization, respectively. We use two heat levels, starting the sugar mixture over medium-high heat so that it melts quickly and then reducing the heat to low to provide a wider window for nailing the temperature. And we use two basic but key pieces of equipment: a heavy skillet, which cooks the sugar evenly, and an instant-read thermometer, which is the fastest and most reliable way to assess the caramel's doneness. Once the caramel reaches between 365 and 375 degrees, we stir in chicken broth and butter to create a sweet-savory braising liquid for the shallots. We season the shallots with pepper, thyme, and a splash of red wine vinegar, which brightens the sauce.