A Little Fragrance With Your Food
By Chris Perrin
There are a million reasons to love candles. They look nice, they’re elegant, and pyros love them because they’re fire. Still, the thing we love most about candles is how they smell. Plug in air fresheners just cannot match the way a candle warms up a room and transforms it through pleasant aromas. Food can do that, too.
There is an old saying in food: “You eat with your eyes first.” However, that’s not always true. When you walk into the kitchen and the smells of baking bread or garlic or cinnamon rolls hits you, you’re eating with your nose first. The eyes come much, much later.
This is not news to professional chefs, who have been devising ways to turn meals into full sensory experiences for ages. One of the ways they have been doing this is by serving meals with scented smoke. It’s a technique that’s been used on shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef, but don’t let that fool you. Using smells in your own cooking is easy enough to do at home with nothing more than a glass or metal bowl and some plastic wrap.
(Disclaimer: Making smoke is a really cool, unexpected technique that people will love. It’s also a fire hazard if you’re not careful since we will, after all, be burning things. Before you try this, have a good kitchen-rated fire extinguisher nearby. Also, only do this if there is a window you can open lest the smoke detector crash the party.)
The Basic Technique
This is going to be simple. All you need to do is get some type of food to smolder, lay it in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. The smoke will waft from up from the smoldering item and get trapped in the bowl. All you need to do is set the bowl down in front of your diners, puncture the wrap and enjoy the aroma as you eat.
As a variation, you can use individual non-flammable (stress non-flammable) trays that have lids for each guest. Put the meal on the tray, then get individual items smoldering and drop them in glasses in each tray. Cover and the smoke will get trapped until diners remove the lid.
Okay, So What Should We Use for Smoke?
Good question. There are two things to consider when deciding what to smoke. The first is what will actually produce the smoke. Your best bet is to use either wood chips (hickory, mesquite, apple wood, etc.), nut shells (pecans, walnuts), or some herb branches (rosemary or thyme branches work well.) Things like citrus peels can work, but they take a lot of effort to get to light and they don’t often smolder, they usually catch fire.
The other thing to consider is pairing the smoldering item to the food being served. You want to add a complimentary ambiance, not an entirely new element to the meal. If your dish has rosemary, burn rosemary. If it was cooked on a cedar plank, use cedar.
At the very least, try to match the feel of the dish to the odor. For instance, rosemary and thyme work very well for earthy dishes like steaks or mushrooms. Apple wood would do very well for pork chops because it has a sweeter aroma. Play around with it and see what combinations work well for you.
There is also a third consideration. You can save yourself some extra expensive in ingredients if you have food-scented candles. For instance, serve blueberry cobbler with a blueberry candle or ice cream with a vanilla candle. If you use candles, you can choose to trap the smoke in a bowl or tray or not.
Whichever way you choose and whichever scent you use, enjoy playing with scents and your food. It’s a fun way to turn meals into a full sensory experience of your own.
Check out Blog Well Done today to get tips great tips on things like vegetarian options, $7.00 dinner challenge and cooking with your kids. I think Chris is a culinary genius and I know you will love his recipes and sense of humor as much as I do!
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