Flavored Oils are fabulous - they can add or improve many types of dishes (meat, fish, pasta) in a lot of different ways.
For you diet-doers - oils can add flavor to a dish without the fat, calories, etc. that are usually involved in enjoying a typical sauce with your meal. (Like the wateress puree sauce I had Friday night at City Zen - we are talking pureed watercress added to about 4 oz. of clarifed butter - AWESOME! - but not a Diet-Tiers' sauce)
If you have acid reflux or something similar a flavored oil is a great thing to mix in with your salads - therefore enjoying the 'vinaigrette-like' flavors - without the problems associated with additional acid in your diet.
Flavored oils are also a great way to inpart 'color' or 'design' into a presentation - while limiting the additional complications of the flavors of the dish. I am sure we have all eaten at a restaurant where we are served a dish that has some pretty red or green dots on it. Noticing that there are only a few dots on our plate, we dip our fork in it - taste it - and realize it is roasted pepper or basil flavored. Therefore, it is not there to be a 'sauce' per say - but sure makes your dinner look a whole lot more exciting.
Oils are super easy to make. The only problems that arise could be when making 'green colored' oils. I'll list a few different recipes for some of my favorite oils and then go into a little detail on how to make a great - and exceptionally bright and vibrant green - oil.
- Curry Powder
- Peanut & Veggie Oil
- Sweat shallots with oil until translucent.
- Add curry powder and keep at low heat until curry powder is toasted and very, very fragrant - about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Using a vita prep or food processor, place all the curry-onion mixture inside and pulse a few times to smooth it out a bit.
- On a low setting, mix curry-onion mixture, while running in/slowing pouring in a thin stream the peanut or veggie oil. You will want to add about a 3:1, Oil:Mixture - as any more than that might not let the mixture hold and therefore will not emulisfy, it will break up and look really gross.
- Remove from mixer and refrigerate for 24 hours before using to marinate and infuse the flavors.
When it comes to making parsley, chive, basil or even watercress infused oils - the process changes a little. This is simply because if you mix the oil too much - you can 'over cook' the green item being infused and your oil will be a dark, yucky green that is closer to baby poop. I don't mean to be so graphic, but frankly there is something really, really unappetizing about getting a "green" veggie on your plate and it is closer to the color of an old volvo then it is to a green veggie.
A: Heat is naturally created in motion - therefore when you 'vita prep, 'food process', 'blend' something, heat is created and therefore added and slightly cooking the item that you are mixing.
Q:How can you stop this from happening?
A: You can all a little ice cube to the process equipment to keep the natural heat from occuring too much and therefore keep your green item green.
A2:You can also blanch the item before mixing it - to help lock in the vibrant green a little better - and perhaps longer.
Since I don't cook in a restaurant anymore, where I am serving 100-400 covers from my station everynight - I don't make a liter or two of infused oils everyday in a large robocoup, vitaprep or blender. I use a coffee grinder.
It is perfect when cooking for my personal chef clients, as I can make 1-3 servings in one little coffee grinder in just a few pushes on the pulse grinder. This is also really great, because it is not a 10+ lb. robocoup, vitaprep, etc. that I have to take to lug to my clients' homes; it is easier to clean than a clients' just there for show Pink Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Kitchen Aid Sponsored Mixer. So for the bargain price of about $15-$20 bucks - I don't have to be gentle with it (as I am always pushing the limits of my equipment - a not so great habit I picked up from many a sous chef to MAKE IT HAPPEN), I prefer to use only my own equipment for everything and if this grinder breaks, it is pretty much disposable. Much, much better and entirely different than the $600+ vita prep I bought last year for my personal use, that I got on sale for $400 - it is my child, no one uses it but me - it isn't taken anywhere, but the cabinet to the countertop and back.
Chive Oil, Basil Oil, Parsley Oil:
- Chive (about 1:1, equal parts loosely packed chives to oil), Basil (about 2:1, loosely packed basil leaves to oil)Or Parsley (about 1:1, equal parts loosely packed picked parsley leaves - I prefer Italian - parsley to oil)
- 2:1 - Veggie or Peanut Oil to Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Bring a pot of salty water to a boil.
- (Ice Bath) Place a large bowl, filled half way with ice, then filled up an inch from the top with cold water to the side of the pot.
- When the pot of water is boiling, drop in your green item for about 10 seconds or less - the item turns a very vibrant green - then immediately remove and dredge into the ice bath, completely submerged until cold.
- Remove from ice bath when cooled (about 30 seconds) and place in your coffee grinder. If it is chives or basil leaves, make sure to use your kitchen shears to cut the item into smaller pieces, about 1 inch in diameter.
- Drizzle in extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper. Drop in an ice cube, then pulse the mixer a few times. Check the mixture - it should be almost finished into a puree.
- Add the veggie or peanut oil. Pulse 2-3 times again, for about 2 seconds each.
- Remove excess ice cube. Place cheese cloth over small bowl, so cloth hangs over edges and pour infused oil on top of cheesecloth, pull up the cheese cloth sides to make a bundle and carefully twist the top so that the oil slowly leaks out through the cheese cloth.
- Using a spatula, place oil in airtight, small container and keep refrigerated.