My apologies that your computer doesn’t have a smell button for you to fully enjoy the aromas that are wafting through my kitchen right now. While making this infusion, my neighbor poked her head in to ask: What are you cooking that smells so delicious? Although standing directly over the skillet, I couldn’t fully appreciate the impact it was having. But judging by her inquiry, I imagine the rest of the neighborhood was probably wondering the same thing, what’s for dinner? The allure of this oil infusion is similar to those umami flavored smells that welcome you when you walk into Indonesian/Thai restaurants. I remember the first time I had Thai food, although, I couldn’t tell you the name of the dish, or what the other ingredients were, because I was too busy licking the spicy, garlicky goodness off my fingers. For all I knew, I was eating the eye of newt and frog’s toes. But garlic is only one of many flavors in Thai cuisine. It’s the aromatic undertones of ginger, lemongrass, chili, and lime, coupled with garlic that makes Thai food so deliciously addictive.
Recipe notes: What you will need: 1-qt glass Mason jar, strainer, tongs or slotted spoon, mallet, hot-pad, and cheesecloth. Active prep time 15-minutes. Infusion is made in 3- steps. Yields 1-1/2 cups. Difficulty level: Easy
FYI: When infusing oils with fresh ingredients, food safety is paramount. Unlike dry ingredients, fresh ingredients contain water, which allows bacteria to live and grow. Clostridium botulinum (C. bot) thrives in an oxygen-free environment like oil. This is why when infusing oils, certain precautions should be adhered to in preparation and storing to prevent botulism poisoning.
- 3-Tbsp minced garlic (9-cloves)
- 3-Tbsp minced ginger
- 3-Tbsp minced shallot
- 1-med fresh red chili, seeded, stemmed, ribs removed and sliced in strips
- 1-stalk lemongrass, bruised and cut into quarters
- 1-lime peeled or zested
- 8-kaffir lime leaves, cut into strips (available in Asian markets, usually in the frozen section) If unavailable, use the extra peel from two limes
- 4-arbol dry chili pods, seeded and stemmed. (Available in Hispanic food sections of most markets)
- 1-1/2-cups grapeseed oil
- 1/4-cup dry garlic minced or chopped
Note: The process for making this oil happens very quickly, so make sure your work area is set-up and utensils are within reach. A side plate for removal of lemongrass; and hot pad on a cutting board to insulate when it’s time to transfer hot skillet from the stovetop.
- On cutting board, bruise lemongrass with a mallet. If you don’t have one, perforate slits down the top of the stalk with a serrated knife. Not enough to cut all the way through, just enough to release the oils and make the lemongrass pliable for bending and breaking into thirds or quarters.
- Stack lime leaves, using kitchen scissors, cut into thin strips. In Mason jar, place lime peel/zest and kaffir lime leaves.
- Using a heat-proof measuring cup, measure 1/2 cup oil and add to large unheated skillet along with lemongrass.
- Measure the remaining cup of oil and add minced garlic, ginger, shallots, dry chiles, and fresh chiles. Set within reach for sauteing.
- Turn the burner on high and briefly saute lemongrass. When the lemongrass begins releasing its aroma, add garlic-ginger-shallot-chili-oil to skillet, reduce heat to medium, and stir oil constantly.
- Using tongs or slotted spoon, remove lemongrass from oil and set aside.
- As soon as garlic, ginger, and shallots begin turning a blonde shade, transfer skillet to cutting board.
- Continue stirring oil to move garlic from the bottom. At this point, garlic should be nutty in color. Even though the oil has been removed from direct heat, radiant heat is still frying the ingredients. If garlic, shallots, and ginger turn dark brown or burn, the oil will become bitter.
- Place sauteed lemongrass in Mason jar. Pour oil into a glass measuring cup and slowly pour the hot infused oil into the jar. Cool completely before securing the lid.
- Allow the oil to come to room temperature.
- Prepare fine mesh strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and strain oil.
- Using a fresh piece of cheesecloth, strain once more to remove any sediment or impurities.
- Add dry garlic to the desired bottle, pour in strained oil, and secure with lid.
- Keep stored in refrigerator 1-2 months. Bring to room temperature before using it.
Tip: For a spicier oil, add a couple dry chiles at this point.