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Basil Infused Oil


k43
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I love the basil-infused olive oil from Olivier & Cie. in the NYC Grand Central Market, but their prices are beyond outrageous.

I've tried infusing LOTS of fresh basil (crused and uncrushed, with and without stems) in good quality EVOO, but I never get the same intensity.

Does anyone know the secret?

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there are a few things you can try - blanch the basil for about 10 seconds, shock it in ice water, wring it dry and make sure that it's very dry, add the oil and whizz the hell out of it in a blender and then you can strain it if you want. the product will be as good as your herb/oil but that's a solid technique for intense flavour extraction.

"There never was an apple, according to Adam, that wasn't worth the trouble you got into for eating it"

-Neil Gaiman

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I agree... the best way is to blanche your basil first. Also, if you do not wish to blend it (if you do, blend at high speed for at least two minutes) remember that it will take longer for the flavors to combine with each other. Even for "blended" infused oil, it's good to let it rest a whole day before you use it. If you do not blend it, only after a week you will notice a difference between pure oil and basil-infused-oil

Also, remember that if you want a deeper basil flavor, avoid using a highly aromatic oil (like really good olive oil) and stick to canola. You might not want flavors competing.

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I watched a chef prepare basil oil for garnishing a fish dish when I was younger and making some extra money working as a lackey for a caterer, and he deep-fried the basil leaves and then he put the drained and crispy leaves in a robot coupe with a little olive oil (food service grade -- nothing too fancy) and made a thick emulsion. He strained it through a chinois, put it in a squeeze bottle, and used it as a garnish. It was VERY thick and intense, more like puréed basil, and I still make basil oil that way.

Oh, and I know he did not use the stems or even the spine of the leaves, because I was the one who did the destemming on pounds of basil. It was NOT fun.

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takomabaker -

What did your chef emulsify the oil with? Does olive oil + basil emulsify with itself and thicken up? Or is there perhaps a bit of water, as in a beurre monté?

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I don't remember him adding anything to the robot coupe but enough olive oil to make an emulsion. He only deep-fried the basil leaves for a second or two -- it was a quick "in and out" of the fryer -- so there was moisture in the basil that I am certain contributed to the emulsification. He also drained them very well before he put them into the Robot Coupe.

I've done this at home a few times and have found that although I can do it with a degree of success, I cannot get my oil at a high enough temperature at home to get that fast crispiness of the basil while retaining the moisture. The basil tends to "spit" no matter how dry I think it is, hence I think it is losing the moisture it needs for a good emulsification. I believe that this is due to the fact that I cannot duplicate the higher heat of a professional kitchen's fryer. Also, my Cuisinart does not do as good a job at emulsifying as the Robot Coupe had done. Now that you brought it up, I might add a drop or two of water to the Cuisinart and I might get better results. It's still very good, but not as good as I remember.

The dish that this technique was used to finish is still a dinner party stand-by for me. The Chef poached rockfish until slightly underdone. He made the basil oil as I described and spread the larger bits of basil left in the chinois on the rockfish. He eventually (right before serving) finished the rockfish off under a broiler for a minute or two. He made a beurre monté (some people are discussing this technique elsewhere and calling it beurre fondue -- is this the same thing?) with some of the rockfish poaching liquid and poached some spring veggies in it. (I think we had some fresh peas, asparagus, baby carrots, etc. I vary my veggies with what is in season and available when I recreate this.) He served the veggies in a shallow bowl with just a little bit of the liquid that he had reduced and finished with a white wine that I don't remember -- I've tried sauvignon blanc with success, plated the rockfish on top of the veggies and garnished it with a few sprigs of fried basil and drizzed the thick basil oil around the whole thing. The final basil oil was about the same consistency as a nice vinaigrette -- not watery but not a mayonnaise consistency either.

takomabaker -

What did your chef emulsify the oil with?  Does olive oil + basil emulsify with itself and thicken up?  Or is there perhaps a bit of water, as in a beurre monté?

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I think the "butter fondue" is done with beurre monté. My source is a very good article from the LA Times, article link., which is now in their for-pay archives. (I saved the article, but I got spanked for posting something similar -- too many words -- so I'll have to keep it to myself. The trick is to keep meats warm in a bath of beurre monté, to use it for poaching and to drizzle it over meats and vegetables.)

Thomas Keller apparently invented the idea of poaching lobster in beurre monté. See recipe.

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  • 6 years later...

A potted basil plant was in serious need of a haircut as it was getting leggy. I tossed the trimmings into a pan and poured over some olive oil. I put it into a cold oven and set to 225 - pulled it out when I could smell basil. After cooling and removing the spent herbage I had a lovely amount of fragrant oil. My first use was a bare drizzle over a lovely ripe heirloom tomato from the garden (Berkeley Tie Dye).

DSCN1122.JPG

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