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Musing on Cooking with Coffee

February 05, 2012


http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7162/6830325309_37d7575850_m.jpg" alt="cooking with coffee" height="219" hspace="10px" vspace="10px" width="240" align="left" />I went looking this morning for a good cookbook of recipes using coffee. What I found was kind of discouraging... lots and lots of books on making coffee drinks and coffee beverages. Lots of books that include recipes for sweets using coffee -- especially with chocolate. Books about actually cooking with coffee... not so much. 


I'm a big foodie TV fan. I love watching all the chef show on the Food Network and other stations that air them. My brother, who has been a professional chef for nearly 30 years now, scoffs at me -- and at the shows -- because, he rightly points out -- that's not what cooking is about. Well, to be fair, he said that about Top Chef, which is more about the backbiting than it is about the food. I think he might feel differently if he watched some of the other shows. However-- to get back on track -- one of my favorite shows ever in the genre was Battle Coffee. Here's a Boston Globe review of the show -- but since I don't expect anyone to go read the whole thing, here's a couple of salient paragraphs:



An egg soft-cooked in a
computer-controlled 145-degree water bath that was gently cracked over
coffee-infused trumpet royale mushrooms and a parsley root purée, and
topped with a Spanish jamon-flavored foam. A dollop of Périgord black
truffle vinaigrette and caramelized Indian-spiced brioche dusted with
ground coffee completed the breakfast theme.




"All I need now is the morning paper," quipped guest judge Ted Allen.





In
globe-trotting another dish, a Mexican mole of raw coffee and pumpkin
seeds was paired with a venison loin cooked slowly in espresso oil in
the manner of a French confit, and served with a fragrant Japanese
cypress box filled with matsutake mushroom and coffee consommé.




Boston chef Ken Oringer (Clio, Comm Ave) faced off against Cat Kora and won the battle by 4 points. Oringer had me right from the start when he started talking about the flavors IN the coffee, and choosing the right coffee to complement the other ingredients in the dish. I had been thinking along those lines myself for a while, but hadn't quite formulated it enough to put it into words. For an example of what I'm talking about, check out this discussion about the Battle Coffee episode at coffeed.com. Here's a little snippet of that conversation that got me thinking:



They did not go crazy in depth about the coffee but they did talk about
what a dynamic ingredient it could be depending on roast level and
variety and that is a huge step. I have often dreamt of a Kenya
accented buere blanc with a little orange zest and clove, or a yirgy
marinated fillet of sole with a little meyer lemon and jasmine flower
garnish.(Chirstopher Schooley, coffeeshrub.com)



Oringer deserved to win by a much larger margin. He actually took the
FLAVOR of the coffees and used them as flavors. Cat Cora seemed to just
think hmmm.. I know coffee flavor. ...I
have been working on this concept for the last two years as far as using
FLAVORS of unique coffees as flavors not as coffee in cooking. We have a
few restaurants about to bust it out soon in the bay area. I hope this
is a portend of things to come in food. (Andy Newbom, Barefoot Coffee)



Sadly, when I go looking for coffee recipes, most of them call for "strong, brewed black coffee" at best, or worse, instant espresso powder or instant coffee. So far, I have not found a single recipe that I couldn't adapt and make even better by using actual real coffee... and choosing a specific coffee to accent the dish.



In fact, I'd go even further. You may have noticed that when I post a recipe, I'll often specify a particular coffee or blend that I like, and sometimes specify the way to brew it. This obviously isn't important if you're doing a coffee rub or using straight coffee beans in your recipe -- though the roast level certainly is -- but if you're using brewed coffee, I think it's essential to know exactly what you're talking about. How often do you read a review by a blogger here that notes how different the coffee tasted when dripped as opposed to made as espresso? To me, the difference between espresso and auto drip coffee is as profound as the difference between skim milk and heavy cream.



Obviously,  the distinction won't make matter much to most people -- people who think of coffee as a flavor as opposed to an entire class of flavors. But to me, when a recipe calls for "two tablespoons of brewed coffee", it's not much different than a recipe calling for "two tablespoons of wine". 



What do you think? Am I overthinking this or does it make any sort of sense at all?






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