I have discovered a new cooking weapon that has potential to be one of the most powerful in my arsenal. It is impossibly easy to make, just as easy to customize, and criminal how we underutilize this element in home cooking.
But let’s back up. At the recommendation of a friend, I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s highly entertaining Kitchen Confidential. Having never really watched his Food Network programming, I had no idea what a pretentious rapscallion is Bourdain, and I found myself frequently rolling my eyes. This is not to say that I wouldn’t eat anything he made for me, of course!
In one of the first few chapters, Bourdain takes the time to list some things that we, the not-chef proletariat, can adopt from the pros to make our cooking easier, tastier, and more professional-looking. (Spoiler: he spends more than 2 pages extolling the virtues of garnishing). He convinced me I should finally try roasting garlic, and it really does make all the world of difference. It’s so mellow and it spreads like soft butter… my mouth is watering just thinking about it. But this is not the weapon.
Another item he suggests obliquely is infused or herbed oil. He planted the seed in my mind so that when I ran across numerous locro recipes including it, I decided to take the plunge. I still cannot believe I had never done this before. I must have thought that it took exotic kitchen magic to make, but Bourdain sweetly informed me this is not the case.
Chili Garlic Oil
Prep time: about 1 minute
oil (I use olive)
There are two steps:
1) Scoop a teaspoon of chili flakes into a small sauce dish. Peel a garlic clove and toss it in. Spoon 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil over the top.
2) Wait 3 hours. Give it a little side-to-side shake when you think of it.
After the time is up, use a spoon to drizzle this oil over your bowl of locro (or tomato soup) (or any other soup), and be amazed at the punch of flavor that it adds. Or use it to dip bread, or flavor your homemade hummus, or give your salad a fresh bite, or add a kick to your tortillas… Anywhere you ever use oil and would like some extra spice. You’ll notice that it takes on a nice orange tone that is decorative in addition to being tasty. If you decide to make it in bulk, it only gets stronger overnight and lasts for at least a week. You could also add paprika and still be in authentically Argentine territory.
Since it takes virtually no prep time and only minimal forethought, there’s really no excuse not to try this. Your dinner guests will be so impressed with your fancy oil drizzling, they will think you the consummate gourmet
I have grand plans for infusing oil with other flavors. Bourdain suggests blending up some basil and olive oil for a wonderful flavored garnish. I also imagine trying it with some lemon zest. Have other ideas? I’d love to hear them down below!