“Let me stand next to your fire”
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I’m not a big Red Hot Chili Peppers (or RHCP if you will) fan, but I do have an affection for their first few releases. I definitely blame them for the explosion of ’90s white boy rap-rock, but I also cannot deny their place as innovators in the pop music timeline. That debut album was like nothing I had ever heard before. Some weird blend of punk, rap, funk, and rock all filtered through California “dude” culture. Perhaps they were the West Coast Beastie Boys. Perhaps not. In any case, over the years, I feel RHCP has become less and less interesting. The album this theme song comes from, in my opinion, was the last true RHCP release. While I’ll admit Blood Sugar Sex Magik is a great rock album, it also marks their pivot into downward-facing boredom. As this recipe is a bit of a cover version, it seemed only appropriate to use the messy sloppy punk RCHP cover of a Jimi Hendrix classic as a theme.
Pandemic 2020 got me in a “Bucket List” mode going through a variety of projects I had always planned but never executed. Much of those projects revolved around a deeper dive into Asian cooking. As I had already made Chili Crisp and Five Spice Powder, making a chili oil seemed like the logical next project. A bit of YouTube and Google searching lead me to create what is a solid cover version, using items in my pantry, of a Sichuan style chili oil.
The major difference between this recipe and a traditional Sichuan chili oil is the chili flakes. As I did not have Sichuan chili flakes, so I decided to make my own blend using dried chilies I had leftover from making chili crisp. I could have also used gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) but decided to save those for other projects. If you have ready access to Sichuan chili flakes by all means use them, otherwise, try a bit of chile freestyling.
Perhaps the biggest time suck here is tending to the aromatics infusing the oil. This is a bit of a balancing act as you do not want to fry the spices or burn the oil. You’ll definitely be spending a bit of time focused on keeping the temperature low and the spices happy.
This recipe recommends storing in the fridge and I’ll stick with that for safety concerns. There is nothing in this recipe that will spoil so one could just as easily keep it on the counter. If you do go for the fridge, you will find the oil will set up a bit. You’ll need to let it warm up a bit before using it.
RED HOT CHILI OIL
Sichuan style chili oil
Makes about 12 ounces
2 cups neutral oil (I used vegetable oil)
5 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons cloves
finishing the oil
3/4 cup chili flakes (I combined & ground dried Japanese chiles, Kashmiri chiles, & Chile d.Arbol)
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon MSG
Gather all the aromatics you plan to use. Place oil and selected aromatics into a pot with at least two inches of clearance between the oil and the rim of the pot.
Set it over medium heat to start, then progressively lower it to medium-low or low heat as the oil comes to temperature. The oil should be at about 225° F and causing small bubbles to slowly rise from the aromatics. If you notice the spices sizzling more vigorously than that or turning dark too quickly, take it off the heat until it cools down. If you are not achieving small bubbles, you can slowly move the temperature to 250° F, but 200-225° F is safest to prevent burning. Infuse the aromatics this way for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour for the best results.
While the oil is infusing, prepare your chili flakes by grinding your dried chilies and placing them in a heatproof bowl. Generally, the oil should be between 225-250° F when pouring over the chili flakes. If you like a darker color, opt for 250°. If your chili flakes are already super roasted, you may want to be closer to 225° F. Carefully pour the hot oil through a strainer onto the chili flakes. Stir to evenly distribute the heat of the oil.
Stir in the salt & MSG, and allow the chili oil to cool. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.