We've got the Basques to thank for this clever, big flavoured sauce. Traditionally it's made by cooking skin-on fillets of salt cod (bacalao) in garlic-infused oil. Once the fish is removed, the milky white protein traces left behind are whisked into a sauce to emulsify them with the garlic oil.
It's a perfect fit with the no-waste philosophy of chef Alejandro Cancino of Brisbane's The Euro, who uses a couple of spoons of pil-pil to boost the likes of barramundi and snapper, and then puts the salt cod flesh to work in croquetas. The Argentinian born chef learnt how to make pil-pil at Spain's Mugaritz, and says the name comes from the "pil-pil" sound the oil makes as it bubbles up to the surface.
"You have to boil the oil very slowly until you see the bubbles and hear the sound." Cancino uses the Mugaritz method to prepare pil-pil fresh each service, and also adds three drops of habanero oil to lift the flavour further. "It's not traditional to add habanero oil, and people who have it may not notice it, but it makes a difference."