At a time when cooking approaches science and the kitchen looks more and more like a laboratory, the technique of smoking food seems to retain an air of mystery. Even when they are used with great discretion, the taste and aroma of smoked foods are profoundly evocative, reminding us of more atavistic notions of nourishment.
Can this singular flavor be achieved without a smoke house or a large barbecue? Stefano Masanti proves that there is more than one way to go about the task and examines a range of different techniques and equipment for hot, cold and semi-hot smoking. From the most basic do-it-yourself system, employing common kitchen tools, to semi-professional systems requiring dedicated equipment, he has found a method for every level of expertise and budget. In addition to supplying sound advice about choosing wood and the delicate balance between time and temperature, Masanti takes a look at the science of smoking and confronts the controversy regarding the safety of smoked foods.
Preparatory techniques such as salting, brining, marinating and rubbing, which heighten flavor and combat the desiccating effects of smoking, are treated at length. Interesting ways of combining cold smoking with traditional and modern cooking techniques are examined as well with an eye to creating surprising special effects. With recipes that range from appetizers to desserts, this chef demonstrates how the most ethereal of substances can present the palate with complex and stratified organoleptic sensations which remain, vaguely and comfortingly familiar.
A globe-trotting chef with his head in the clouds, Stefano Masanti can be found during the winter months in the kitchen of his restaurant, Il Cantinone, in Madesimo in the Italian Alps. In the summer season, he’s at the helm of gastronomic events at the VSattui Winery in St. Helena, California.