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The Reasons Milk Makes for Great Infusions

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When milk’s involved, magic happens. We’re partnering with Milk Life to learn all about the essential role the farm-fresh beverage plays in elevating everyday recipes—and sharing recipes, tools, and tips for incorporating milk’s rich and smooth texture into wholesome at-home cooking. Read up here.

One of the lessons I’ve remembered most distinctly from Samin Nosrat’s excellent book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is this: Fat holds flavor. Not only is it an indicator of the geographic origins of what you’re cooking—for example olive oil is a very Italian oil, butter a French one, and coconut oil smacks of regions where coconuts grow—but it also literally holds flavor, taking on whatever we cook or steep or blend in it. It’s how garlic infuses olive oil, or why, as Samin writes, we “add vanilla extract or other flavorings directly into the butter or egg yolks” as we bake. These flavorings infuse the fat, which coats and lingers on our tongues.

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This is one reason dairy milk is such an excellent base for infusing: its fat content really takes on the flavors of whatever we add to it, whether fresh mint for an ice cream base or, as chef James Briscione does, fresh basil and bits of Parmesan rind for the savory Basil Parmesan Milk that goes into his Crocante Ragazza and Basil Parmesan Panna Cotta with Cherries and Tomato. The other reason milk is such an excellent base for infusions? It’s clean-tasting and just barely sweet, a blank page for other flavors to imprint on. See how James infuses milk (and uses it in two recipes) in the video below. Then, go forth!

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Basil Parmesan Panna Cotta with Cherries and Tomato

E56c06da dac4 48cf 8040 8ed011cd4cbd  avatar 540 white Food52
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Serves 4

Basil Parmesan Milk

  • 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 1 cup basil leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups parmesan rind, broken into pieces
  • 6 to 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 quart whole milk

Basil Parmesan Panna Cotta with Cherries and Tomato

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  • 4 sheets gelatin
  • 2 cups Basil Parmesan Milk
  • 1 tablespoon wildflower honey
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more as needed
  • 1 cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • pinches fine sea salt
  • pinches ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup micro (or small-leaf) basil and/or mint
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
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Crocante Ragazza

E56c06da dac4 48cf 8040 8ed011cd4cbd  avatar 540 white Food52
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Makes 4 sandwiches

Basil Parmesan Milk

  • 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
  • 1 cup basil leaves and stems, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups parmesan rind, broken into pieces
  • 6 to 8 black peppercorns
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 quart whole milk

Crocante Raggazza

  • 2 cups Basil Parmesan milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or, for gluten-free, substitute rice flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 slices white or sourdough bread (or substitute gluten-free bread)
  • 8 slices beefsteak tomato
  • 4 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 4 pieces thinly sliced Genoa salami
  • 4 pieces thinly sliced capocolla, more if they are small
  • 1/2 cup sliced pepperoncino
Go to Recipe

Make magic with milk this fall. We're partnering with Milk Life to learn all about milk and the incredible things cows can do—and arming you with recipes, tools, and tips for making use of milk’s superpowers while we’re at it. Have a look at just how essential its seat at the table is here.

Tags: milk life