Creating a Symphony of Different Notes with Oils
“Oils have the purpose of transmitting heat to achieve cooking of food, enhancing textural attributes of a dish, and most importantly, as a median to absorb and transmit the "volatile oils" from spices, herbs, and aromatics into your dish,” explains restaurateur, food scientist, and three-time James Beard recipient Jimmy Schmidt. He tells us that each individual oil has a “unique flavor and component profile to take into consideration” when deciding which oil is best for which purpose.
To select the right oil, Schmidt recommends choosing “an oil that has the flavor profile that is complementary to your other ingredients. For example, select a green olive oil for dishes with green flavor ingredients such as basil, rapini, asparagus…while a golden olive oil will pair better with tan flavors of wild mushrooms. Grapeseed oil, which is very neutral, is great with either very delicate foods or very strong spices, both where their particular flavor profiles are best uninfluenced by the oil.”
One of Schmidt’s favorite oils to use is red palm fruit oil “due to high temperature stability as well as a bright red/orange color from its beta carotene content. The flavor profile is amazing with smoked paprika, chiles, and even garlic.”
From sautéing to frying, Schmidt tells us that the above mentioned oils “can handle the heat.” Infused oils can be a magical addition to any dish with overlapping and complex flavors that, when drizzled over a dish, tie all the ingredients together.
“Heat the selected complimentary oil to around 140 degrees Fahrenheit,” Schmidt instructs us. “Add the spices cooking slightly to release the volatiles spice oils into the cooking oil. Use [infused oils] in low temperature cooking, dressings, emulsions, garnish drizzles, and such for all the flavor of the oil and the spices.”
Schmidt is currently the executive chef creating contemporary American cuisine at Morgan’s in the desert, the signature restaurant at the legendary La Quinta Resort & Club. Schmidt has authored and co-authored several cookbooks including Cooking for All Seasons, Jimmy Schmidt’s Cooking Class, and Heart Healthy Cooking for All Seasons.