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Herb-infused Greek feta in oil with confit shallots and their reduction.

Joann Pai

Real Greek feta is one of my favourite cheeses, so it's a pity that it isn't more popular here in France where I live. A brined cheese that is traditionally made from a combination of sheep and goat milks, feta is often seen used in salads and pastries. Sliced, cubed or crumbled, it is deliciously tangy and a simple way to add saltiness to any recipe that calls for cheese.

Here, it is marinated in a rich, easy-to-make, herb-infused oil, which not only flavours the cheese, but is perfect for dipping a good crusty bread into.

Marinated feta can be an excellent addition to any cheese board or picnic basket, but a smaller portion can even work well as the centrepiece for a more decadent packed lunch, as it can be prepared in advance and stores easily for a couple weeks in the refrigerator.

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For best results, ensure the feta is well-submerged in the oil. Always allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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Servings: Makes six small jars

Herb-Infused Olive Oil

2 cups vegetable oil

2 sprigs fresh tarragon

2 sprigs fresh oregano

5 sprigs fresh thyme

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 cups extra virgin Greek olive oil

Confit shallots and reduction

12 small shallots, peeled, whole

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup mirin

3/4 cup honey

1/2 cup water

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Feta prep

6 8-ounce wide-mouth jelly jars with lids

600-800 grams block of Greek feta

Herb-infused oil (recipe above)

12 green kalamata olives

6 small sprigs each fresh thyme and

rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh black peppercorns

1 teaspoon Espelette pepper

Method

Herb-infused olive oil:

Combine the fresh herbs, garlic and vegetable oil in a small pot. Heat gently over medium-low heat until it begins to bubble and reaches a temperature of 180 F. Remove from the heat and allow to sit at room temperature for one day. Strain the oil into a medium-sized bowl. Discard the cooked herbs and garlic. Finish by adding the Greek olive oil and stir to combine.

Confit shallots and reduction:

Add all ingredients to a small pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and allow to cook gently over medium-low heat until soft, but not falling apart. Around 30 minutes. Strain the shallots from the liquid before cutting each shallot in half lengthwise. Store in a covered container in the fridge with 1/4 of the cooking liquid to just cover. Reduce the remaining liquid by half in small pot over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. The resulting reduction will be syrupy and should coat the back of a spoon. Store in a covered container in the fridge until ready to use. If for some reason the reduction ends up being too thick after it has cooled, simply stir in a little warm water until you reach a thick, yet more spoonable consistency.

Feta prep and assembly:

Fold a clean dish towel around the black peppercorns and place on the counter. Using the back of a small pot, roughly crush the black peppercorns. Set aside. Using a hot knife, cut the feta into 6 evenly sized slabs. Each slab should fit snugly into one of the jam jars. Distribute the feta amongst the jars, and add 2 olives, a sprig of thyme and a sprig of rosemary to each. Distribute the crushed peppercorns and Espelette pepper evenly across all jars. Add approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of a cup herb-infused oil to each jar, ensuring the contents are well-submerged. Cover tightly with lids and store in the fridge until ready to use. For best results, prepare a couple of days in advance so everything has time to infuse.

Putting it all together:

Remove a jar of feta and the shallot reduction from the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before serving. Once ready to serve, heat a small, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2-3 pieces of confit shallot, cut-side down, on the hot skillet and allow to cook until caramelized. Add the caramelized shallot pieces to the top of the jar of marinated feta. Drizzle with some of the shallot reduction. Enjoy with loads of fresh, crusty bread.

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