Coming soon to a plate near you: trends seen at January's Madrid Fusion conference
Having a hard time adapting to the recent ban on cigarettes in Chicago restaurants? Perhaps a new dining trend from Spain can offer some relief. At Madrid Fusion, a culinary conference held in Madrid in late January, several Spanish chefs incorporated smoke into their dishes. Not just smoke as a flavor, but actual plumes of the white stuff presented tableside. Case in point: Chef Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, who creates smoky dishes with a simple pipe, essential oils, spices and aromatic wood.
Chicago’s own Charlie Trotter and Homaro Cantu of Moto held their own at the conference (see sidebar), discussing Spanish ingredients, dishes, techniques and styles of eating that have been popping up all over Chicago faster than you can say “avant-garde.” If you’ve experienced a dish with foam—and chances are you have if you’ve eaten in any number of Chicago’s upscale restaurants over the last few years—you can thank Spanish superstar chef Ferran Adrià of El Bulli restaurant, who has since moved way beyond foam (think powdered foie gras, hot jellies, savory caramels and creamless creams).
In addition to Trotter, Cantu and top chefs from Spain, the fourth annual Madrid Fusion included demos from innovative chefs such as Thomas Keller and Wylie Dufresne, as well as a tribute to the “Founders of the New American Cuisine”: Alice Waters, Norman Van Aken, Paul Prudhomme and Mark Miller. This offers proof, Trotter says, that American cuisine is no longer considered the laughingstock of the culinary world.
Here’s a preview of what may be appearing soon on a plate near you.Give it a shot Injections are no longer limited to the doctor’s office. Chef Eneko Atxa of Basque restaurant Azurmendi uses a syringe-like instrument to inject lamb-based broth into lamb gizzards. “Tastes like you’re eating the whole lamb,” he says. Jordi Herrera, owner of Barcelona’s Maniaro, cooks meat and fish on a bed of red-hot nails, introducing heat quickly and directly into the center. He’s still perfecting his point-by-point cooking unit, which uses a probe to inject hot water and broth into raw products.
The de rigueur equipment: the blowtorch. Some chefs use it to cook meat and add smoky flavors, but Adrià uses it to make savory candies (“With a blowtorch, you can candy anything,” he says).
One word: plastics
Sous vide—the process of putting food in a plastic bag, sucking out the air, sealing it and slow-cooking the contents in hot water—is here to stay. Keller’s sous vide watermelon, pineapple, bananas and celery is just one example.
Waste not, want not
At Arzak in San Sebastian, Spain, chefs Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena are fanatics about not wasting anything in their kitchen. So they freeze-dry monkfish scraps and use them to reinforce the flavor of—what else?—monkfish. Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz of Basque restaurant Mugaritz makes “pretend” skin out of cod tripe and attaches it to fish lacking flavorful skin.
Aloe vera and gold dust and
beeswax, oh, my Chef Enrique Dacosta of Spain’s El Poblet likes aloe vera not only for its medicinal qualities but for its culinary ones as well. He uses it in rice dishes for its herbaceous flavor and in oyster dishes for its creamy texture. For his golden egg dish, Adrià incorporates powdered gold to glamorous effects. The Arzaks add wax from beehives to ice cream, which imparts subtle flavors of honey and pollen.
Mom wouldn’t approve
Prefer to have your dessert before your main course? No problem, Adrià says, who officially declared the boundaries between sweet and savory no longer exist. Chef Frédéric Bau of France’s Valrhona chocolate seconds that motion with his chocolate-dipped guinea fowl bonbon.
Science tastes good
Roca worked with a scientist to create a distilling machine that obtains essential oils from ingredients such as strawberries, snails, shrimp, oysters and even dirt (“I want to get another dimension out of products,” he says). He then uses the colorless oils to add unexpected flavors to dishes both savory and sweet, such as an entirely white dessert packed with the essences of cinnamon, coffee and saffron. Cantu cites professor Stephen Hawking, industrial designers and even the military (the creators of the high-powered laser he’s tinkering with as a cooking tool) as inspirations. Dufresne of New York’s wd-50 and David Arnold, director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute, unveiled their extrusion machine, which allows a liquid to be put inside another liquid. Their first creation, coffee wrapped around milk, is not expected to be available at Starbucks any time soon.Experience the new cuisine of Spain Tuesday 7 at Butter (130 S Green St between Adams and Monroe Sts, 312-666-9813, $40), where chef Ryan Poli will team up with author Anya Von Bremzen to cook a meal from her new book, The New Spanish Table.
Experience the new cuisine of Spain Tuesday 7 at Butter (130 S Green St between Adams and Monroe Sts, 312-666-9813, $40), where chef Ryan Poli will team up with author Anya Von Bremzen to cook a meal from her new book, The New Spanish Table.