If you follow me on Twitter you probably already know that a) I tend to tweet when I'm hungry, and b) the husband is the chef in our house. Sometimes I tell you what's for dinner as the aroma is filling the house. Today the husband is here to talk about one of the ways to create this aroma: he uses several Aftelier Chef's Essences, created by perfumer Mandy Aftel:
Mandy Aftel’s essences are great for adding flavor and aroma where the raw ingredients are not available or not appropriate to use in the dish because of texture (drinks are a good example, but also desserts and soup). They smell lively and realistic. It's obvious that the raw materials, the essential oils used to create the Chef's Essences, are of an incredible quality. The essences come in two formats: concentrated small bottle with a dropper as well as sprays which I prefer as they give better control of the quantity used. Getting a single drop out of a bottle is sometimes challenging. Yes, these are so potent that one drop is usually all you need; more than that can overpower the dish.
I mostly use the drop bottle Chef Essences in cakes and desserts where a drop of the right flavor goes a very long way. My favorites are Wild Sweet Orange, Fresh Ginger, and Lavender. They can be combined if desired. [Wife/Editor note: add them to your favorite Madeleine cookies recipe]. The luxury of Aftelier can be used in simple comfort food such as my French toast. Here's how:
Start a batch of egg and milk mixture with a drop of Wild Sweet Orange (or Blood Orange). Use this for the first two slices, then add some Aftelier Chef's Essence in Ginger to the liquid for the next two toasts and finish with a drop of Lavender for the very last bit. It works the same way for pancakes (this is my go to recipe).I've found that I don't use the essences much for savory dishes. Most of the pastas sauces I make are quick blends of roasted vegetables, so fresh or even dried herbs are more appropriate and go better with the chunky texture. Soups are a different story, though, and I love to experiment by adding the Chef's Essences during different stages of the recipe for various effects. Using the Essences earlier affects the taste, but for maximum aroma they should be added by the end of cooking. My quick lentil soup is a great example. It is a bit thick and chunky with vegetables and pasta and usually serves as a whole meal in a soup bowl. Perfect for fall and winter nights:Ingredients:· 4 cups of vegetable stock· 1 can of organic lentils, strained and washed (or if you can find, Melissa’s pre-cooked lentils. I buy them at Whole Foods)· Diced vegetables - 1 zucchini + 2 carrots (or whatever other soup-friendly veggies you have)· Seasoning- any combination of the following: Ras El Hanout mix, crushed chili peppers to taste, Cumin, celery seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, anise seeds, ground thyme and rosemary.
Aftelier Cumin Chef's Essence(spray) and Coriander Leaf (drops).· 1 cup tiny pasta shells (or any other noodles of similar size and texture)· Grated Parmesan cheese to taste· Extra Virgin olive oil.· ½ cup white wine
To prepare:Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium size soup pot on a medium high heat. Add the diced vegetables and sauté for about 5 minutes until they start to brown. Add the Chili flakes and your ground spices. Mix well. Add a spritz (or 1 drop) of cumin essence and coriander leaf essence. Deglaze with the white wine, add stock and lentils. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and lower the heat to a simmer.When the pasta is ready, add salt and pepper to taste, another spritz of cumin and the cheese. Mix well and serve.
Aftelier Chef's Essences (drops, a 5ml bottle) come in over 50 flavors and are priced between $12-$65, depending on the essential oil used. The sprays (30ml) are available in 14 flavors from $16 to $22. A couple of the essences we have were sent by the perfumer while the rest were purchased by me from aftelier.com.