Thursday, March 13, 2014

Waxing Delicious

Beeswax Pastilles Fertilizing a Pool of Honey
Photograph by A. Schloss
Did I dream it? The lip slick was sticky - consomme gone too far. It's a smoked beet, right? I know the waiter said "beet and wax," I think he did. No way! The flavor is a waft of honey and something vaguely buttery. The blanket draping my tongue is silk, at least as light and warm as silk. 

Bitterman and I were eating at Atera, and he agrees it was a beet. But now as I look back at the menu we were handed after the meal (21 courses, 29 dishes, 5 hours in the saddle) I can find no mention of beets. I suspect we ate mere words - "beeswax" turned into "beets and wax" in our addled gustatory brains. But that's how the whole meal went. We hardly knew what we ate as we dined on pure sensation.

So I attribute my new fascination with cooking with beeswax to Matthew Lightner, the chef and conductor at Atera, but I don't really know whether it was his doing or not. At any rate beeswax is very cool food.

It turns out organic beeswax is 100% safe to eat. Wax is a particularly dense lipid, akin to animal fat, butter fat, and cholesterol. Like those other fats it is loaded with calories, 12.7 kcal per gram (as compared to beef tallow at 9 kcal per gram). But unlike tallow, and all those other fattening fats, beeswax provides us with nada nutrition, including calories. 

Beeswax is indigestible by humans. What goes in, comes out. Glaze a steamed carrot with a shimmer of beeswax and it turns into one of the most exquisitely rich morsels you have ever eaten, and you have consumed nothing more caloric than a steamed carrot. 

One concern: I suspect like most indigestible ingredients eating too much beeswax might give you indigestion, so I suggest small portions. And from what I have cooked a little bit (a gram or two) is all you need. In fact beeswax is so rich  I think any more would be distasteful. So far I have tried it on roasted chicken, broiled pork tenderloin, and poached carrots - always as a glaze brushed on at the end or immediately after cooking. 

Teaming it with honey for this post seemed inevitable and proved utterly delicious. I can't believe I haven't tried it on beets yet. 

Pork (and Carrots) Glazed with Beeswax and Honey

Beeswax and Honey Glazed Pork Loin and Carrots
Photograph by A. Schloss
Makes 6 Servings

Melted Beeswax
Photograph by A. Schloss
1 1/2 tsp decorticated coriander, cracked
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 pork tenderloins, weighing about 12 oz/340 g each

1 1/2 tsp decorticated coriander, cracked
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
3 cups/710 ml water
12 thin carrots, peeled

4 g organic beeswax pastilles
2 tbsp honey

For the pork, mix the coriander, salt, pepper and thyme together and rub all over the pork. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the broiler to 500°F/260 C.

For the carrots, put the coriander, salt, pepper, thyme, and water in a large skillet and bring to a simmer.

Put the pork on a broiler pan and broil about 4 inches from the heat until browned on all sides, turning 3 times, and the internal temperature registers 150°F/65 C, about 20 minutes.

Put the carrots in the simmering water, cover and simmer until barely fork tender, about 12 minutes. Drain.

For the beeswax, put a small iron skillet over low heat and warm for 2 minutes. Add the beeswax and melt, stirring as needed. This will only take a minute. Stir in the honey until it melts, and keep warm. 

When the pork is done remove from the broiler and brush with a thin glaze of the beeswax-honey mixture all of the way around. Rest for 2 minutes and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices. Serve with carrots brushed with a glaze of beeswax and honey. Serve garnished with a thyme sprig. As the beeswax-honey mixture cools it will solidify. Rewarm until it is fluid before using.

Broiled Pork Loin Glazed with Beeswax and Honey
Photograph by A. Schloss

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