Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Infused Oil

I turned in my infused oil homework today. For the past week I've had several flavor mixes steeping in jars of oil: tarragon in olive oil, vanilla beans in olive oil (Steph's great idea), orange peel & chilli in canola oil, and Syrian Za'atar in olive oil. The za'atar was my trump card, of course, but I had the others as fail-safes on standby just so I'd still have something to turn in for homework in case the za'atar didn't work. But it turned out beautifully.. yay! Surprisingly, it was the orange & chilli combo that didn't come out that well (it clouded up on me)...perhaps I botched up the hot infusion? The vanilla & the tarragon were cold-infused, and the Za'atar was a blend of a hot infused batch, and a cold one.

Infused oil is the simplest thing in the world. You put the oil and your herbs or flavorings together, and you either let it steep in the ref anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks (cold infusion) or warm it up very gently for about half an hour (hot infusion). Monitor with a thermometer. Keep the oil at around 180 to 200°F.

Going into this I dug around in my old stuff & I found a catalog of Ferran Adria Aromatic Oils he'd designed for Borges. I'd picked this catalog up at a food expo years and years ago when I'd never even heard of the guy. Some great ideas there (rosemary-infused olive oil on chocolate ice cream? I must try that sometime) but I wanted to come up with my own stuff. I stumbled onto the Za'atar in my Harold McGee. Here's the recipe:

Syrian Za'tar Infused oil

1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup EVOO

I started this with a cold infusion but the night before the due date I didn't feel the flavor was strong enough, plus I only ended up with about 150mL (the assignment required at least 200mL) and so I needed 50mL of strong stuff quick so I did a hot infusion. I left the two batches to drip through a double layer of coffee filters overnight, and the next morning I had beautifully clear oil. Now I should go plan a middle eastern dinner menu to test drive the stuff.