When is food just weird?

October 16, 2010

I am noticing the trend to make food a science project as of late…more and more shows on the cooking channels are promoting dry ice and foods that look like other foods (think food jammers, foodcrafters, and others). While the scientist in me is intrigued, and part of me wish I knew more food science, I also have to stop and ask myself – but how does it taste??
We have one camp for Frankenstews trying to create bizarre foods to serve – because they have figured out how to make leftover potato skins look like a fried egg, or drinks that smoke upon arrival, food that is foam or is it foam that is food? In the other (yes much farther corner) is the slow food movement, where the return to the idea of simplicity rules – grow locally, using organic methods and animal friendly techniques, and eating locally and in season. The idea that simpler methods produce more nutritious delicious produce has some merit. Though a smoking drink is pretty cool – especially in this Halloween season. In a society that is both unhealthier and fatter than our ancestors and granted most of the free world – which camp do you fall into? Are you intrigued by the bizarre or comfortable with tradition? When it comes to your last meal – which will you choose – drama or dear to the heart?
As a chef, I am always looking for the next best thing” but I must confess, my attention has been pulled to the farms….where there are amazing things to discover, in produce, heirloom crops, grass fed animals and edible flowers. I like to recognize my food. I like my food to taste like it should – but it is pretty cool to see what can be done in science….but once it is done – please bring me a medium rare steak, roasted delicata squash and a nice full bodied red wine.

Bon Appetit.

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Ghost chilis – is this a Halloween joke? Something scary to worry about in the kitchen? Well, yes it certainly can be! Bhut Jolokia, often referred to as the Ghost Chili by Western media is most commonly found in India and is actually a hybrid breed of pepper. In February 2007, Guinness World Records published that the bhut jolokia was the hottest chili pepper ever submitted for judgment.
So how hot is the Ghost Pepper? For comparison, Tabasco red pepper sauce rates at 2,500–5,000 on the Scoville scale. A serrano is 10,000-23,000, Habanero is 580,000, Thai hot chili is 60,000 and a Jalepeno is 2,500-8,000 on the Scoville scale.
The ghost chili has been ranked at 1,041,427 using HPLC back in 2004. The only thing hotter is law enforcement pepper spray which comes in at 5,300,000. Ouch….

In India Bhut jolokia is used as a cure for stomach ailments, a remedy to summer heat (as it induces heavy perspiration) and is a quick acting laxative. In northeastern India the peppers are smeared on fences or used in smoke bombs to keep wild elephants at a distance. The Indian Army is considering putting them in grenades for none lethal crowd control.

Here in Boston, you can try them out at Hell Night dinners at the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, MA. Check out the menu at http://www.eastcoastgrill.net/main/hellnight.htm and try it if you dare……

Happy Halloween to all and keep the milk handy to scare off the heat of the ghost chili.