China Moon Infusion

In the course of looking for ever more flavor in our cooking, we latched onto the habit of infusing our double stocks by simmering them a further time with another layer of aromatics. At first, it was a bit cuckoo and we’d conjure a different infusion for every dish: Roasted duck bones went into an infusion for a hot and sour soup with shredded duck; basil stems and roasted garlic went into an infusion for a garlicky beef and basil stir-fry sauce; pounded ginger and lemongrass were added to infuse a base for a lemony ginger chicken. Pretty soon the stovetop was chockablock with pots and we were awash in infusions!

The fascinating experiment came to a happy end with this recipe for a single infusion that satisfied most all of our dishes. Tinged with the flavors of roasted garlic, fresh lemongrass, fresh ginger, and serrano chili, it is also perfumed with the sweetness of onion. There is nothing to replace it in our kitchen, and it is a key element in our cooking.

I have taught infusions to home cooks and the response is overwhelming. I thought it would be too much, this third step in stock-making; but we apparently need some special sustenance and this bowlful provides it.

Infusion is very simple to make, even for a novice. Even without the lemongrass and serrano chili—things that might be hard to get in your neighborhood—the infusion will be delicious. Once strained and cooled, it can be refrigerated or frozen.

Read more

Ingredients

  • 3 large, rock-hard heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small green serrano chili, tipped and cut lengthwise in half
  • 8 quarter-size coins fresh ginger, smashed
  • 12 cups China Moon Double Stock or unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, pounded well, then chopped into finger lengths
  • Kosher salt
  • Roasted Szechwan Pepper-Salt

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Move a rack to the middle position.
  2. Roast the garlic on a baking sheet until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. A bit of black ooze may bubble from the top; don’t worry. Smash the heads to break up the cloves.
  3. Add the oil to the bottom of a non-aluminum, heavy 4-quart stockpot and swirl to glaze the bottom of the pot. Heat over low heat until a slice of onion sizzles gently upon contact with the oil. Add the onion slices, chili, ginger, and roasted garlic, stirring to combine. Cover the pot and, keeping the heat very low, sweat the vegetables until the onion turns translucent and the mixture is soupy, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the vegetables from sticking to the bottom of the pot. This sweating step is crucial to the success of the flavors, so don’t rush it.
  4. Add the chicken stock, raise the heat to moderate, and bring the mixture to a near boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and simmer for 1 hour. Add the lemongrass during the last 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat. Let the infusion steep, uncovered and undisturbed, for 1 hour.
  6. Strain the infusion through a fine-mesh sieve lined with several layers of dampened cheesecloth. Spoon off any excess oil lingering on the surface.
  7. If using immediately, season the infusion with enough kosher salt to bring out the garlic flavor, then end with roasted pepper-salt to taste. For future use, refrigerate the infusion for up to a week or freeze for up to a month. If storing freshly made infusion (like any stock), allow it first to cool, uncovered, in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature before sealing for storage.

Loading
Loading
Loading