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Shelby and I sat at the dining room table (in her new home) for an entire morning. She peeling garlic, me shucking chili pepper seeds, all the while laughing about whether making homemade Chili Crisp Oil would be worth it in the end.

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She had presented me with a jar of this fiery condiment several months ago and honestly I hadn’t used it much…

…until I made sticky asian beef meatballs where the combination of sweet and heat was addicting, followed by chicken satay meatballs where I replaced sriracha with this crispy garlic oil, followed by spooning it over a simple bowl of ramen that was transformed into a flavor explosion. And that was all in a matter of three days last week. Once I started using it I couldn’t stop thinking of the next dish that would incorporate Chili Crisp Oil. That’s when I decided we needed to start making our own.

I had arrived to her house with a recipe draft chicken scratched onto a post-it and the basic ingredients in tow. Lots of garlic and shallots, a big bottle of avocado oil, and dried chili peppers from the hispanic market, which by the way is always such a treat. There are so many wonderful ingredients begging for me to discover.

I knew she would have most everything else we needed. We improvised and tweaked our recipe along the way, using this recipe and this recipe to guide the process.

Quick funny story. For most of my life I have been a spicy food wimp. I’ve come around for sure, but even still I rarely use the really hot spices, including crushed red pepper flakes. I’m certain as I browsed through others recipes that somewhere I read to “remove the seeds from the dried pods.” Since we’re making what I know to be a spicy oil I’m thinking that we’re going to use the seeds from these gorgeous dried peppers. She sheepishly admits that she collected the seeds and discarded the outer chilies. Red chilies. The chilies that give Chili Crisp Oil its signature color and crispiness. What we ended up with was a deliciously infused oil, much milder in nature but not at all true Crispy Chili Oil.

Recipe note to self: read the entire recipe before you begin.

Back to the tried and tested recipe, where you remove the seeds from the pods and discard them. Leaving you with these beautiful red chilies that get ground up in your spice grinder then rehydrated with hot garlic, shallot, cinnamon stick, and star anise infused oil that has been simmering for nearly an hour.

Not only is the oil infused but after cooling, the crispy garlic and shallot are returned to the oil at the end to bulk up the crunch factor (and flavor).

For our Chili Crisp Oil, to the ground chili pods we added smoked paprika, toasted sesame seeds, Szechuan peppercorns (another funny story…they’re not really peppers), anchovy paste, and salt.

This recipe allows you to get creative according to your taste and preference.

Oil – Starting with the oil, a nice neutral oil works well, like avocado, grape seed, vegetable, peanut.

Peppers – For the peppers, you can choose a dried variety from the hispanic market like we did (we used mostly Arbol Chili and Chile Japones, with a handful of Guajillo Chilies). Or you can use crushed red pepper flakes, fresh peppers like Serrano or a combination.

Spices – You can use smoked paprika or regular paprika or cumin or another favorite spice.

Nuts/Seeds – We chose toasted sesame seeds, but you could use peanuts or soy nuts to add additional crunch.

Szechuan Peppercorns – The Szechuan Peppercorns seemed to be included in most every recipe I read, however once I learned that they weren’t actually peppercorns we had no substitution in our first attempt. I did however locate them at Penzeys Spices – so I made the 30 minute drive this morning to pick some up. Another funny story, Penzeys is closed for in-store shopping, they only do curb-side and the website said it could take up to two days to process. So thankfully I was able to locate them at Cost Plus World Market which was nearby.

Umami – Our final ingredient is where this sauce gets its savory umami flavor, the anchovy paste. You can substitute or combine soy sauce, mushroom powder, MSG, ginger, sugar, chili powder.

The hot infused oil is poured through a mesh strainer over the chili flakes and remaining ingredients. The cinnamon sticks and star anise are discarded and the garlic and shallots are cooled, allowing them to crisp up, before returning to the oil.

I intentionally made this a big batch recipe. If you’re going to go to all this effort, make friends and share the love! I’ll be passing a jar over the fence to Ms. Pat and bringing Shelby a proper jar of red Chili Crisp Oil. You can certainly cut the recipe in half, yielding about 2 cups.

Back to the original question of whether it would be worth the work to make homemade Chili Crisp Oil. I’ve made it two days in a row. So yes, you need to make it too!

Chili Crisp Oil

Libby with Lemony Thyme
Once I started using it I couldn’t stop thinking of the next dish that would incorporate Chili Crisp Oil
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 45 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups avocado oil
  • 4 heads garlic about 40-50 cloves
  • 4 large shallot
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 star anise
  • 4 cups dried chili pods we used mostly arbol chilies and chile japones, with a handful of chile guajillo
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon anchovy paste
  • salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Peel and thinly slice the garlic and shallot. Add to a pot with the cinnamon sticks, star anise, and oil. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring ocassionally, until the ingredients become a nice deep golden brown. About 35-45 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, wearing disposible plastic gloves, remove and discard the seeds and stems from the dried chilies, some remaining seeds are fine. Grind the chili pods in a spice grinder until they are similar in size to crushed red pepper flakes. It's okay if the pieces vary in size.
  • Place the ground chilies in a heat proof or metal bowl along with remaining ingredients.
  • Once garlic and shallot are browned, pour the oil through a mesh strainer (catching the garlic and shallot) into the bowl with the chilies, stir to combine. Discard the cinnamon sticks and star anise. Allow the garlic and shallot to cool before adding in to the oil mixture.
  • Refrigerate in covered jars. Keeps up to three months.

Notes

Yields 4 cups of Chili Crisp Oil.

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