Apr 30, 2015

Bring on the Flavor



Last week we discussed using oils and fats in our diets and the fact that fat imparts flavor to every dish. At the same time we all want to keep fat to a minimum while adding as much flavor as possible. One delicious way of doing that is by flavoring your oil.
Add extra flavor and aroma to cooking oils with herbs, spices, citrus, nuts, and aromatics. With just a few ingredients, you can create delicious flavored oils that are bursting with color, taste terrific, and have amazing aromas. Not only are these infused oils quick and easy to make, they're perfect for jazzing up salad dressings, drizzling over pasta and seafood, dipping bread into, stir-frying, sautéing, and so much more.
Olive oil is a natural choice, given that it's most likely in your kitchen already. Use light olive oil so that the added flavor characteristics will come through in the final product.  You will need about 2 tablespoons of flavoring per cup of oil.
Always keep flavored oils refrigerated. Infused oils last about 1 month when stored properly.  Allow flavored oils to sit out at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes before each use. Don't use flavored oils for deep-frying—leftover particles will burn.
To prepare infused oil, heat in a medium saucepan with the whole spices, washed and dried fresh herbs or sliced aromatics like shallots or garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly bubbling. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely and strain into a bottle.
To prevent any cloudiness, take care when straining the infused oil.  Be aware that if you put herbs into the bottle with the cooled oil for a pretty presentation, it will result in slightly cloudier oil.
Combining herbs and spices in the infused oil results in complex flavors that will enhance many dishes.

1/2 cups fresh parsley, checked
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, checked
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, checked
Zest of half an orange
1 whole dried chile pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
2 cups canola oil
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place herbs, zest and peppers into a medium sauce pan. Add oils and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 6-7 minutes and remove from heat. Allow to cool and strain through cheesecloth into a pretty jar or bottle. Store oil in the refrigerator for up to one month. Allow oil to come to room temperature before using.

Another flavorful cooking method which uses oil for maximum flavor is poaching. Intrepid chefs have hove come up with this technique recently and it has become wildly popular. Put simply, this method involves submerging a piece of fish in warm olive oil and then cooking it in the oven at a low temperature to perfect doneness. The fish emerges with an incredibly tender, silky texture and pure flavor that’s hard to achieve with any other cooking method.

3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small bunch fresh dill
1 lemon, sliced in half circles
½ teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 quart light olive oil
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin removed
Kosher salt

Place the garlic, dill, lemon slices, rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaves in cheesecloth or mesh bag. Tie closes. Add the oil to a large straight-sided sauté pan and toss in the sachet. Bring the pan to a medium heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Let the salmon come to room temperature and season generously with salt. Add the salmon fillets to the pan with the olive oil. Cook the fish in the oil for 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from the oil with a fish spatula to a plate before serving.

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