Vinegar, finally Victorious.
In keeping with the “cooking honest” theme, top chefs at the 9th Annual International StarChef Congress confessed that vinegar, a longtime kitchen staple, has moved from the back of the pantry to the front, with many using a variety of flavorings to add spark and balance to a dish.
Katie Button of Asheville, N.C.’s Spanish tapas restaurant Curate, spoke of her indebtedness to sherry vinegar and served not one but several seafood dishes which featured the “noble condiment.” One standout: A Mussels Vinaigrette, which workshop participants happily scarfed down at 10 o’clock in the morning. Jamie Bissonnette of Boston’s Toro was also a loud and proud fan of 10 year-aged sherry vinegar.
The real king of sherry vinegar, however, was César Saldaña of the Regulating Council who spoke passionately about the history of the ancient liquid. To produce it: Sugar ferments and turns to alcohol, and then, into acetic acid. How tasty it is depends on the quality of the grapes used and the length of time it ages. Some Grand Reserves can be expensive, but the good news is, “you don’t have to use a lot,” says Saldaña. Another little known sherry vinegar fact: Prestigious winemakers of old never wanted to admit they also made vinegar.
And by the way, who’s heard of White Chocolate Mousse with Moscatel Sherry Vinegar? This was just one of the many decadent desert recipes shared by Saldaña in the book, The 50 Best Sauces with Sherry Vinegar.
But it wasn’t just sherry vinegar that passed the lips of the top chefs: Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Chicago’s Japonais mentioned rice vinegar which he uses with sushi and wasabi while Gunnar Karl Gíslason of Reykjavík, Iceland’s Dill, pickles seaweed in a house made vinegar featuring white ale.
Chef Brad Smoliak of Edmonton’s Kitchen by Brad says he’s using a variety of vinegars in the cooking classes he runs, including mustard, rhubarb, red wine, white wine, balsamic and apple cider, but is particularly intrigued with fruit-based vinegars. “If I can take something seasonal and use it, I will,” he said. “That’s what’s fun about vinegar. You can literally create whatever you want.”