The best uses for leftover giardiniera oil, ranked on the Farina Scale

Left: Chicago legend Dennis Farina. Right: A giardiniera grilled cheese worthy of his name.
Left: Chicago legend Dennis Farina. Right: A giardiniera grilled cheese worthy of his name.
Photo: Michael Loccisano/FilmMagic (Getty Images), John Carruthers (Getty Images)

Adaptability is the mark of a great home cook. When I’ve got too much of something, one of my favorite things to do is read Twitter/Reddit/Facebook threads about creative ways to use it up. And we’ve all run into it at some point: Chicken people tend to have a lot of eggs. Gardeners often find themselves awash in late-season tomatoes with limited lifespan alongside powerful canning fatigue. Me, I live in a household that generates giardiniera oil in the top 1% of the nation (I have my reasons). So I figured I’d put together a guide for the proper care and use of this wondrous byproduct.

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There’s a lot of enjoyable culinary re-use to be had with giardiniera oil, several ounces of which are left behind in each jar of hot giardiniera once you’ve scooped up every last pickled carrot and sport pepper for use on pizzas and Italian beefs. Though it can be found elsewhere, it’s a quintessentially Chicago condiment. Thus, all of the uses below have been taste-tested and rated on a scale of quality named for one of my favorite Chicago entertainers: native son, Cubs fan, and acclaimed character actor Dennis Farina. You may know him as the cop with the mustache in that one show. Or the mobster with the mustache in that one movie. Or many, many variations on those two things. He got done dirty by the Oscars In Memoriam, so we remember him here as Hollywood’s version of giardiniera oil: a singular presence from which we all benefit. Now, let’s get oily.


Prep bowl full of Aiol-G
Photo: John Carruthers

Aiol-G 

We’ll start with the basics. Those of us fussy enough to whip up homemade mayo at all have the recipe that we swear by. If you’d like mine, it’s:

  • Egg yolks
  • Giardiniera oil
  • Dijon mustard
  • MSG
  • Rice vinegar

The result here is a solid, undeniable showcase for the featured ingredient. And maybe, if we’re being honest, just a touch too aggressive for the taste you had in mind. (Feel free to cut the giardiniera oil with grapeseed if it’s a touch too hot). Rating: Farina in “Unsolved Mysteries”

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Eggs 

Instead of just the butter, use a 1:1 mix of butter to giardiniera oil for your big buttery scrambled eggs. The richness of these super-damn-French eggs dashes against the bracing rocks of spicy infused oil and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Like a damn ’90s cologne commercial. Rating: Farina in “Out of Sight” 

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Grilled Cheese 

People, we are building a damn movement here. Generously oil a griddle or cast iron pan with equal portions of butter and giardiniera oil to get some good grilled cheeses going. And right before placing the bread in the pan, spread the outer sides of each slice of bread with the Aiol-G mentioned above. This is, scientifically speaking, tremendous. This sandwich would make Nancy Reagan wish she had a medical card. Hell, make some bacon. Watch ’80s Magnum, P.I. for seven hours while you don’t realize your garage door is open. This, friends, is the life we’ve always wanted. Rating: Farina in “Get Shorty”

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Francy Shrimps

Being born and raised so far from the ocean, shrimp were by default both defrosted and fancy. I am of A Certain Age. Shrimp at a party was the mark of We’re Trying! Defrosted shrimp tended to mostly taste like, well, defrosted shrimp, until someone opened the jar of cocktail sauce. This is how we did seafood in the Midwest in the ’80s and early ’90s.

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But man, a little poach in oil does the trick in revivifying some good party shrimp. And in Chicago, giardiniera oil makes it OURS. Plus it’s quite delicious. Serve it with some giardiniera aioli because, again, we set out to address a very specific supply issue here. You wouldn’t believe how much oil is left behind in the jar. Rating: Farina in “Bottle Shock”


Circle of Life (aka Pizza Dough)

My surplus of giardiniera oil largely comes from an untreated pizza fixation. So why not bring things back home? Take my pizza dough recipe and replace the olive oil with giardiniera oil. Treat it the same way. Except! You can also take two of the dough balls and make garlic knots, like so:

  1. Divide the dough into 70(ish) gram balls. Lightly oil a 9" or 10" cast iron skillet.
  2. Roll out into 10" lengths, then gently tie into knots. Lay across the bottom of the pan, cover loosely, and let rise for an hour while you preheat the oven to 400.
  3. Bake about half an hour, until the tops are golden brown.
  4. Remove, brush with some melted butter, and add salt or seasonings.

Not that you’re going to get sick of pizza, but it’s nice to have another use for the dough. Rating: Farina in “Snatch” 

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Giardinatkes?

Despite all my hopes and talent (or at least hopes), I was not able to succeed in making latkes fried in giardiniera oil. The relatively low smoke point of the oil makes it a bridge too far. Portmanteaus fail me. This particular recipe also fails me, to remain only a dream. It shall receive the lowest rating on the Farina scale. Rating: Farina in “The Mod Squad”

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BUT WAIT: Giardinatkes, Take 2

I’m not just a writer on this fine site, I’m also a reader. And The Takeout has sold me on the magic of the air fryer. While you can’t fry up a latke in giardiniera oil on the stove, you can certainly reheat one in an air fryer, complete with lots of oil to revive it. And this is where the oil shines: crispy, bright, and complete with a vibrant giardiniera bouquet that doesn’t overpower the potato magic. It shall receive a rating that only the best recipes deserve. Rating: Farina in “Thief”

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Quasi-legal popup operator, beer writer by day (and also night), author of two cookbooks. Third one's on the way, and it's nothing but pizza.

DISCUSSION

mrgoodbeer
mrgoodbeer

Not from Chicago and don’t do giardiniera much, but when I do see it an have purchased it’s always been in vinegar, not oil. I’ll see if I can find the oil ones.

Anyway, not giardiniera, but this stuff has gotten me through the year on almost every sandwich: