The Culinary Institute of America opened last night what they call the most comprehensive conference on Spanish food and wine ever, marshalling dozens of Spanish chefs and food experts in the awesome Greystone campus in the Napa Valley. It’s headlined by Ferran Adria, the father of the so-called avant garde cuisine, and opening festivities were lead by Jose Andres, who has the manic energy of a Borscht Belt comic on speed. Both chefs are known for their imagination and innovative technique and experimentation, and yes there was a demo of liquid nitrogen freezing an emulsion of tomato water and olive oil. This has been Spain’s claim to fame.

It was ironic then that the most interesting technique demoed, in my opinion, was very likely an old one. Salt cod was slowly and gently cooked in a high-sided pot as olive oil was added drop by drop and the chef continuously swirled the pot, gently creating a thick creamy sauce. “An emulsified sauce,” Andres told the crowd of some two hundred, “without egg yolk, without blending, without…liquid nitrogen–amazing.”

Andres then brought up Harold McGee, food science high priest, who explained that the juices of the cod and the melting gelatin were serving as the emulsifying agent. An amazing technique and sauce.

Harold McGee has begun to blog, a delightful surprise for all foodies (thanks for this info, Tana). What’s great about McGee is that he not only informs, he puts that information in perspective. Note his comments on the Omega 3 fats in grass-fed beef. Yes, this beef has them. Is this significant for us? Not really. We can get more from eating walnuts and oysters.

The foie battle tooks something of a bitter turn between Megnut and Amateur Gourmet. The latter produced a very nice torchon. The former’s however appears to be exquisite. Judge for yourself, not to mention AG’s reaction.


6 Wonderful responses to “Spanish Food Conference”

  • Veron

    Glad that you have your own blog. Love your book,Charcuterie! As for the foie gras , I still like to slice up the whole lobe and pan fry it briefly…it’s funny how it disappears quickly. I have not tried the torchon but has seen it I think in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry which I might try. Congrats on being featured in typepad!

  • Bux

    Regarding Hal’s note that one can get more omega-3 fats from a bite of salmon or oyster than from an entire grass-fed beefsteak, I’d like more clarification, especially as to whether we are speaking of wild salmon or farm raised salmon.

    Pollan, in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” mentioned that our impression of salmon as superior to beef as a source of omega 3 fatty acids was based on measurements taken at the time in which we first became conscious of omega 3s. That was when most available beef was corn fed and most salmon was wild. Pollan further claims that grass fed beef is a better source omega 3s than farmed salmon, which is what most consumers eat now.

  • Bux

    It’s time for me to check what I recall as Pollan’s assertion that grass fed beef is a better source of omega 3s than farmed salmon. What he actually said (on p. 269) is “… if the steer is fattened on grass and the salmon crill-fed, we might actually be better off eating the beef.” Big “if” and “might.”

    McGee, in an e-mail reply to my query, said “Farmed salmon are raised primarily on fish meal (which is problematic in its own way)…” I expect him to make more of a statement on his blog regarding this issue, but he also noted that farm salmon probably have a significantly omega-3 level than wild, because they have significantly higher levels of all fats.

  • Bux

    McGee’s Monday post “Grass-Fed Beef vs. Farmed Salmon” is a follow up to his Friday post “Good Fats In Grass-Fed Beef?” as well as a response to what he refers to as a “skeptical response from Robert Buxbaum.”

    It’s a good post and sheds a good deal more light on the subject. It’s as thorough a reply as one would hope to get from him.