This month finishes up our "Fats & Oils" series of articles. Last month, I wrote in-depth on how to choose what fats and oils you will be wanting to use (link below). The month before that, Diane Boone explained all about olive oils (link below). And finally, this month I'll be talking about what you can do with these fats and oils now that you know all about them. We'll be discussing how to make your own flavored oils, a few of the numerous uses for butter, and more.
Starting off with most peoples' favorite, because it's so versatile, we will talk about butter. Butter can obviously be very useful on its own, but after playing with it a little, you will discover a multitude of uses for it:
-To increase the smoking point of butter (which will allow you to cook foods in it at a higher temperature), you can make clarified butter. To make this, first melt, then SLOWLY cook the butter in a saucepan until the butter becomes extremely clear as the milk solids drop to the bottom of the pan. As the butter clarifies, skim the foam off the top. After it's clarified, ladel out the clarified butter, discarding the milk solids.
-Beurre noisette, being translated from French to "brown butter", is butter that's cooked to a light hazelnut color and smell. This can be used to flavor different dishes, such as sauteing a little orzo pasta in it for some added flavoring to a plate's starch. This also makes a great roux, a dark roux being a very important ingredient in many cajun and creole dishes.
-Cooking the butter a little past the "noisette" stage, you'll come to the point of beurre noir, being French for "black butter", which refers to a dark brown color, not black. There aren't a great multitude of uses for this, but one excellent way to prepare it is to flavor it with lemon juice, capers, and parsley, and serve it with eggs, fish, and some vegetables.
-Without even cooking the butter, you can make a product called compound butter, which is made by creaming butter with your choice of flavoring ingredients. A few ideas for flavoring ingredients are fresh herbs, garlic, caramelized shallots, and/or a little wine. After mixing the butter (as well as tasting it to see if it's properly seasoned), you'll want to shape it into a cylinder and freeze or refrigerate it. Compound butter is excellent served on poached or baked fish or poultry, and by the time the plate reaches the table, the slice of butter should have halfway melted from the heat of the food.
-These are just a few, but many other sauces can also be made with butter. A few of the butter sauces can be made more nutritionally acceptable, but most of these sauces just plain can't be tinkered with. For example, it would be impossible to make a hollandaise sauce (recipe below) without egg yolks and butter, and a pale imitation of a bearnaise sauce would not be well received.
Moving on, we will now discuss how to make flavored oils. If you're looking for something new to use with marinades or to brighten your sauces, then this is for you. As we've been doing recently in the restaurant I work at, you might also replace the plain butter with flavored oil to have with the bread on the center of your tables. Just make sure the waitstaff doesn't drop a jar of garlic oil on the carpet (we've learned the hard way that the smell is extremely difficult to remove). Although these oils are extremely easy and affordable to make with your personal touch, you can also purchase pre-flavored oils at a variety of stores and through many purveyors. The great thing about these oils is that there's no set way for you to make them. If you like, you can steep a spice, herb, or citrus fruit in barely warm oil for awhile, then put the oil away, allowing it to continue to steep during refrigeration. With this method, you can just strain the oil whenever you need it and leave the rest for later. Another method is to make a sort of puree-oil by slowly cooking a vegetable in the oil to release the flavor, such as celery, later pureeing the vegetable with the oil. A third way is to cook ingredients like lobster shells, shrimp shells, garlic skins, etc. in the oil, later straining them out before using that oil. Because it's probably the most popular, we've included a recipe for roasted garlic oil below. Other ideas for ingredients for you to play with would be to use cloves, cumin, chili, ginger, tomato, saffron, mint, oregano, or even horseradish.
As mentioned in last month's article, we also have provided a couple of charts on our website regarding fats and oils (link below). The first chart has the descriptions of various different fats and oils and whether they're best for salad dressings, pan frying, wok cooking, or something else. The second chart shows the smoking points of various fats and oils, giving you an idea of how hot a cooking method each one can handle.
If you have any questions about things mentioned in this article, anything else regarding fats and oils, or any other questions regarding a culinary or Christian subject, we welcome you to post it in our fairly new and easy to use message boards (link below). Please feel free to submit replies to others' questions as well as to assist in everybody's learning experience here. God bless and happy cooking!!!