Nebulous and ethereal, smoke has been
bewitching our palates for hundreds of years,
and its primitive appeal keeps getting stronger.
BY ADEM TEPEDELEN
Smoke has a primal and evocative aroma. Fire brings us warmth and comfort, but smoke arouses our appetites in a way that surely goes back to the method early humans first
employed when learning how to cook and preserve
food: over an open flame. We no longer have to prepare
food this way, and yet we still do — on charcoal grills
and rustic fire pits and in backyard smokers. The craving
for that lingering aroma and rich flavor persists.
As a result, smoke has become an integral component
in foods and beverages from around the world. And in
an era of growing interest in the culinary arts, smoke has
become a prevalent seasoning — a perfect savory note —
that’s used to amplify everything from meat to tea.
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE, THERE’S FLAVOR
Smoky notes find their way into foods in two ways.
Food is either intentionally infused with smoke directly
or indirectly (think bacon or smoked Gouda cheese), or
the process of creating an ingredient or product gives it
a smoky quality (like roasting coffee beans or dark malts
for beer). While smoke has many favorable attributes, the
intensity with which it’s used is key in preventing a pleasant campfire aroma from veering into ashtray territory.
“Because smoke is very intense, it’s good to tone it
down with flavors like brown sugar, maple and butter,”
says Armand Vanderstigchel, a Long Island, NY– based
chef and author of The Adirondack Cookbook.
FOOD + DRINK
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