Perhaps as a result of culinary knowledge and interest spreading swiftly, chefs are beginning to use more and more unusual ingredients to keep dining out interesting. From creating foreign world delicacies to using local items that would not usually be considered ingredients, unusual food items are becoming more prominent on gourmet menus. Chefs have taken cooking with spices to the next level by cooking with hay and cooking with ash to add interesting flavors to their dishes.
Cooking with Ash
Burnt foods are typically left for ruined and discarded instantly. However, chefs have begun to appreciate the bitter, smoky flavor of ash. They have started experimenting with cooking with ash in their dishes. They are now deliberately burning vegetables, with spices and herbs, in the oven, to create mixtures that will enhance the flavors of their dishes, to their liking. Ash is a surprisingly versatile ingredient, gracing everything from sauces, to cooking stocks, to coating meats and cheeses. It can be added to water for boiling vegetables or sprinkled on top of a puree for creating unusual flavor combinations to surprise diners. Chefs and cooks should be careful not to overdo it when cooking with spices, especially ash, since it has an extremely strong flavor. All spices and ash should be used as seasonings, and not a main highlight of the dish. Chefs should also ensure that the use of ash is written in the menu description of the item, as some guests may be hesitant to eat a dish that is prepared by cooking with ash, due to its carcinogenic properties. Ash is not the only far-from-mainstream ingredient that has recently made an appearance on gourmet menus.
Cooking with Hay
Cooking with hay gives dishes a unique aroma. Hay can be used as a base for smoking or roasting foods, but is not usually served with the dish. By coating a pan or pot with hay, it will begin to burn and the heat will cook the protein. It will infuse the meat, fish, or poultry with a woody flavor, inspiring chefs to use cooking with hay to impart a rustic, farm-reminiscent taste to dishes. Smoking with other types of spices and wood products has been done for years, but cooking with hay uses unusual ingredients, at their best, to create unique dishes.
Cooking with unusual ingredients is interesting to customers and restaurant employees, who will enjoy the rare flavors that can be created. Unusual ingredients such as hay and ash should usually be used in moderation, like spices and herbs, and not as the prominent ingredient in the dish. With proper preparation and use, they can add delicious and intriguing unusual flavor combinations to meals. A venue that uses unusual ingredients and creates unusual flavor combinations will be interesting to diners. By rotating the unusual ingredients used, diners will be tempted to return to sample the unique items offered on the menu, and restaurant traffic is likely to increase.