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Top This: Hot Oil

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The Colony Grill's hot oil pizza inspired my own foray into preparing and using this condiment. [Photograph: Adam Kuban]

I first had hot oil on pizza at the Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut, and I loved the stuff. Less a true "topping" than a condiment, it nevertheless has the power to transform a plain pizza into a just-spicy-enough affair. Its slow burn is satisfying on an, ahem, chilly day but not overpowering enough to keep you from tasting the rest of your slice.

After the jump, a quick take on making a quick chile-infused oil.

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Simply take 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper and gently heat it on low in a small pan until the temperature reaches 180°F, about 2.5 minutes. Remove the oil from the heat and let it cool to room temperature, about an hour.

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From left: Fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, shaved Parmesan, and hot oil. Fresh mozzarella, low-moisture ("regular") mozzarella, tomato sauce, shaved Parm, sweet Italian sausage, and hot oil. You can see the dark-brown pockmarks of cheese where I've drizzled the oil.

Drizzle a little on pre- or post-oven. I usually oil my pies pre-bake (as I did above), since it seems to help brown the cheese just so. But if you have family or friends over who don't like it quite so hot, leave it off until you serve the pies, and your guests can control their heat level or omit it completely.

At Colony Grill, the classic combo seems to be hot oil and Italian sausage. And there seems to be something just right about that. Let me specify something here, though: When I know I'm going to be using hot oil, I like to pair it with sweet Italian sausage for a little contrast.

If you make the hot oil as specified above, seal it tightly in a small jar. It keeps, in the refrigerator, for up to one month.

Outro: Top That

Because hot oil also reminds me of medieval castle defense, here's the World of Warcraft "Top That" spoof.

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