in·fu·sion noun: a drink, remedy, or extract prepared by soaking the leaves of a plant or herb in liquid. The process of preparing an extract by soaking the leaves of a plant in liquid. Every chef, gourmet, cook, or mixologist on the planet holds great affinity for infusing—playing Food God through manipulating a canvas substance by simply introducing another element. As a young chef, I recall the first time I pressed my face into a jar of sugar and vanilla pods that had been stored in an air tight container; I was amazed at the difference this simple task made to the sugar. And now it’s a staple in my home kitchen, used for everything that includes sweetener— from my morning coffee to easy ways to flavor custards, cakes, and quick breads.
I’ve included three easy recipes for infusing salt, honey, and vodka that are sure to impress even your most discriminating dinner party guest.
My Eleven Herbs de Provence salt is perfect as a pinch of sodium-with-attitude for fish, chicken, pork, and especially lamb. It’s another staple in my home kitchen, an accoutrement that gives a fragrance of peace and tranquility throughout whatever it touches.
Next up is my rustic-chic clover honey infused with lavender and saffron; perfect for embellishing hot teas, oatmeal on these cold Ozark mornings, or as an interesting ingredient for braising liquids, glazes, and marinades for meats and veggies that might be roasted or grilled. Don’t forget to use local honey to help remedy seasonal allergies; or that lavender will be readily available this spring and summer at the Bentonville and Fayetteville Farmers’ Markets.
Finally, my Slumdog Martini, inspired from the Oscar-winning Danny Boyle film and made with saffron-infused vodka, is a wonderful apéritif for your next dinner party. Light, whimsical, and utterly delicious with just a whisper of saffron—faintly reminiscent of leather and fresh tobacco.
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Eleven Herbs de Provence Salt
Once cool, strain through a fine mesh sieve and cheese cloth, then store in an airtight container. Slumdog Martini
Technique Combine the first four ingredients in an iced steel, shake vigorously, then serve straight up in a martini glass; garnish with lemon twist wrapped around blood orange wedge.