Walk through the grocery store and you will see an abundance of oils, vinegars and even alcohol infused with herbs and vegetables. Included in this vast selection of flavored liquids for food, are vegetable oils infused with a variety of chilies (hot peppers). The combinations are definitely enticing, but the price can be expensive. Honestly, I do not use vinegar and oil infusions that often to fill my pantry and refrigerator with numerous bottles of flavors that may be used at best a few times a year.
Recently at a restaurant on the table, there was a bottle of olive oil infused with chili flakes. I was looking to add a little flavor to the meal I was eating and was impressed with the warm heat provided by the chili oil. The effect of the chili infused olive oil was the subtle flavor and heat of the chilies without the sometimes overpowering result of using a hot sauce, Tabasco; a chili paste, Sambal, or too much vinegar flavor with Tapatio or Louisiana Hot Sauce.
Recently, I was attempting to replicate the meal that I had eaten and knew that I wanted to include the chili infused olive oil with the meal. Since the molecule capsaicin is the active ingredient in chilies / hot peppers and is soluble in oil, vinegar and alcohol; I was curious on whether or not I could quickly make a small batch of chili oil for the meal that I was preparing?
Fortunately, I still have chili peppers growing in the garden so I picked the peppers that were red knowing that I would not use all of them for the chili oil. Those that I did not use were placed in the freezer for future use. If you do not grow your own chili peppers, then there is typically some variety of chili pepper available at the grocery store.
I selected about nine chili peppers (they were small, so you might want to consider using less if you are using larger chili peppers).
With a knife, I chopped them small; flesh, skin and membrane with only the tops being discarded.
In a small bowl I added the chopped chili peppers to about ½ Cup of Olive Oil (any vegetable oil would be fine) and then stirred the chopped chili peppers to speed up the process of infusion. I did not add salt, but I cannot think of a reason why you could not add some salt to expand upon the flavor.
The infusion of olive oil and chopped chili peppers steeped for an hour with me occasionally stirring the mixture. Right before I was ready to use the chili oil with the meal, I strained the chopped chilies with a small wire strainer. The olive oil was infused with the heat and flavor of the chilies without being too overpowering, hot or spicy.
The success of this last minute creation of chili oil is that the effort of adding additional flavor to a meal does not require a kitchen full of purchased unique and special infusions of herbs, spices and vegetables in oil, vinegar or alcohol. Instead, with some planning, you can create the intended flavor and experience that you desire without spending a lot of money on specialty products.
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