The Culinary Institute of America opened last night what they call the most comprehensive conference on Spanish food and wine ever, marshalling dozens of Spanish chefs and food experts in the awesome Greystone campus in the Napa Valley. It’s headlined by Ferran Adria, the father of the so-called avant garde cuisine, and opening festivities were lead by Jose Andres, who has the manic energy of a Borscht Belt comic on speed. Both chefs are known for their imagination and innovative technique and experimentation, and yes there was a demo of liquid nitrogen freezing an emulsion of tomato water and olive oil. This has been Spain’s claim to fame.

It was ironic then that the most interesting technique demoed, in my opinion, was very likely an old one. Salt cod was slowly and gently cooked in a high-sided pot as olive oil was added drop by drop and the chef continuously swirled the pot, gently creating a thick creamy sauce. “An emulsified sauce,” Andres told the crowd of some two hundred, “without egg yolk, without blending, without…liquid nitrogen–amazing.”

Andres then brought up Harold McGee, food science high priest, who explained that the juices of the cod and the melting gelatin were serving as the emulsifying agent. An amazing technique and sauce.

Sidenote:
Harold McGee has begun to blog, a delightful surprise for all foodies (thanks for this info, Tana). What’s great about McGee is that he not only informs, he puts that information in perspective. Note his comments on the Omega 3 fats in grass-fed beef. Yes, this beef has them. Is this significant for us? Not really. We can get more from eating walnuts and oysters.

The foie battle tooks something of a bitter turn between Megnut and Amateur Gourmet. The latter produced a very nice torchon. The former’s however appears to be exquisite. Judge for yourself, not to mention AG’s reaction.