Bread and butter is really a lot more elegant than we treat it as, kids. It’s a fine marriage between savory, sweet, crusty, doughy, chewy, pliable goodness. It comes in infinite permutations, such as a few of my favorites – poblano cheddar bread (from Best Buns in Arlington, VA) with Normandy beurre, or a crusty baguette with a slathering of lavender infused oil and butter. Both are divine, but require a trip to DC or Marseille (the restaurant in NYC, not the city, although I wouldn’t mind…) For my money, and for the sheer ease to reward ratio, I’m a fan of the infused oil with whatever artisan bread I can get my hands on easily.
Infused oils aren’t complicated – cheap oil works and just about any dry herb or spice can be used. Just make sure to follow a few rules. One – really and truly don’t include garlic in making your homemade oils unless you are going to consume them immediately. Garlic, being a lovely root that grows in the earth, harbors tons of bacteria that would love to thrive in a bath of olive oil. And voilá, you’ve got some botulism on your hands. No es frio. Some folks say that if you acidulate the oil and refrigerate it, you are in business. I don’t leave my tummy up to fate. If you want your oil to be garlicky, try muddling your finished oil with fresh or roasted garlic before serving. Or, for the true infused garlic oil experience, just buy some from a licensed supplier who will guarantee you a botulism-free experience. This is just a reminder that all cooking is chemistry, and while most chemistry mistakes in the kitchen will result in bad tasting food, some will actually result in illness. Improperly infused garlic oil is one of those mistakes.
Secondly, as much as it looks gorgeous to store your oil on the counter, I’d advise you to keep it in the fridge. It’ll last longer, stay fresher, and again, no risk of contaminants.
Lastly, I call for thai chilies in this recipe, that when you grind them, create a bit of pepper dust. This in turn, if inhaled, will give you a few coughs. Be careful with that. Don’t breath in too much when you are transferring the pepper to the oil. If you want to play it safe, use a milder chili like an ancho or pasilla. Or use pre-crushed red pepper and avoid the dust altogether. Likewise, you can go hotter as well – habanero or ghost chilies even. Just be careful as you work with them, because they can be vicious.
This oil is lovely as the preface for a rustic italian meal – mix a few tablespoons of oil with a pinch of kosher salt and some chopped garlic and use it as a dip for focaccia or ciabatta. You can also use a few tablespoons as the basis for sauces and dressings.
Rosemary Chili Oil
16.9 oz. bottle of olive oil
1/3 c. of thai chilies
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 sprig of thyme
In a spice grinder or food processor, grind chilies and herbs together. I like to use a food processor so that everything gets a rather rough chop. Using a cooking thermometer, heat oil in a heavy pan until 200°. Carefully pour the chilies into the oil and let cook at 200° for 4-5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the herbs and chilies continue to infuse the oil as it cools to room temperature.
Pour into a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to a week.