by Jackie Carioscia, tuttifoodist in food science
We love a good, controlled burn.
We often forget what a critical part wood plays in the flavor of wine, but the toasting of the barrel prior to storage and aging of the wine is an indispensible component of the final product.
What would seemingly be a black art, does include a scientific edge. The temperature of the toasting (usually 550-750 degrees F) evokes different flavors, ranging from coconutty and vanilla-like, to buttery, smoky, or spicy as the temperature increases and the wood component are broken down to release the aromatics associated with our glass of vino.
Instead of toasting the inside of a wine barrel (hello, zoning board infraction), we decided to practice with plank cooking, which uses the same flavor-enhancing principles. We picked a red oak and grilled a pork loin enrobed beforehand with grapeseed oil, then rubbed with a smidge of tarragon, sea salt, and ground black pepper. The result: as the plank smoldered, we salivated. The smoke bath imbued a sweet smokiness to the succulent roast, which got only better with a dip in our cherry-balsamic reduction.
Wanna play toast-master? 1) Pick a hardwood—choices range from sugary, fruit varieties to the hearty mesquite. 2) Soak. Singe. Scarf. 3) Repeat, experimenting with cooking time and temperature to maximize smokiness.
Your grill awaits.