Flavoring with Cedar Paper
Chef Josh DeChellis of La Fonda del Sol – New York, NY
Adapted by StarChefs.com
The cedar tree is a member of the pine family and like its relatives – firs, hemlocks and spruce – cedar wood retains a delicate evergreen scent. While cedar planks are popular in American cooking, in Japan the planks are shaved into ultra-thin sheets, dried in the sun, and then cut into card-size portions. The transparent and pliable cedar paper is then soaked and wrapped around a hot fish or meat to gently impart its flavor, or burnt in a traditional smoking technique beneath a meat or fish. Burning cedar paper releases a multifaceted woodsy aroma reminiscent of incense and spice. Chef Josh DeChellis, who is known for finding inspiration in Japanese culinary philosophy and ingredients, literally burns the cedar paper-coated tuna cheeks directly on a hot pan. After this initial smoking, DeChellis transfers the cheeks to a Winston CVap® cook & hold Oven to control the cooking while adding nuances of flavor using a steaming bain-marie of more cedar paper in cedar-aged sake. The result is a complex layering of cedar flavor which DeChellis pairs with a cooling kohlrabi, watermelon and radish salad.
Step 1: Grind a sheet of cedar paper with other aromatics
Step 2: Coat meat in the powder
Step 3: Heat a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan
Step 4: Sear the meat in the pan, burning the layer of cedar powder
Step 5: Finish cooking in the oven above a bain-marie of liquid and cedar paper
- Uniformity in cooking
- Increased moisture retention
- Concentrated aromatic flavor retention
5 sheets nori
1 sheet cedar paper
1 Tablespoon sansho
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon shichimi togarashi
2 bluefin tuna cheeks
8 additional sheets cedar paper
2 cups cedar-aged sake
Kohlrabi, Watermelon and Radish Salad:
1 large kohlrabi, cut in 1-inch by 1-inch by ¼-inch tiles
2 cups ichiban dashi
Tamari shoyu to taste
Watermelon mirin, to taste
4 radishes, cut in 1-inch by 1-inch by ¼-inch tiles
1/8 cup firm watermelon, cut in 1-inch by 1-inch by ¼-inch tiles
4 stems mitsuba, torn
½ sage leaf, torn
Lime zest, to taste
½ Tablespoon olive oil
4 slices steamed tofu
Winston CVap® cook & hold Oven
For the Tuna Cheeks:
Grind the nori, cedar and spices to a powder. Coat the cheeks with the powder and burn them in a cast-iron pan. Remove to finish cooking in the CVap oven.
Pour the sake into the bainmarie unit of the CVap oven. Tear up the 8 cedar sheets and sprinkle over the sake. Set doneness temperature on the CVap oven to 180 degrees with browning level set to 0 and place tuna cheeks in oven and cook until softened.
If using a conventional oven, preheat to 300°F. Pour sake into a sheet pan, cover with torn pieces of cedar, and set the sheet pan under a rack. Cover the tuna cheeks with foil and place on the rack above the sheet pan of sake. Cook until tender.
For the Kohlrabi, Watermelon and Radish Salad:
Place ¼ cup of the kohlrabi in a pot with the dashi. Season liquid with shoyu and mirin to taste – it should have a balance of salty and sweet flavors. Cook on very low heat until the kohlrabi is soft. Chill the liquid and kohlrabi together. Toss kohlrabi with radish and watermelon, torn herbs, lime zest and oil.
To Assemble and Serve:
Remove the tuna cheeks from the CVap oven and serve with the salad and a slice of steamed tofu.