Leftover mash leads to new dishes

Innovative chef Peter Smith at work.
From The Huffington Post's food section.

Sustainability advocates have a hard time with hard liquor. Normal liquor distillation is energy- and water-intensive, so spirits tend to be intrinsically less environment-friendly than wine or beer.

This fact has led many producers to try to find ways to produce greener liquor. They've done everything from producing locally to diverting excess water for agricultural irrigation.

But until recently, no one had come up with a good use for the solid leftovers -- the mash -- of gin production. That's where Peter Smith, the chef at PS7 restaurant in Washington, DC, comes in.

His idea, which he debuted at this year's Aspen Food and Wine Classic, is to extract flavor from the botanicals and herbs in the mash by infusing it in neutral oil.

He gets leftover mash from two local distilleries, and then uses his oil in various dishes on the PS7 menu. So far, he's added the gin mash oil to “Ginola," a gin-scented version of bresaola, and “GinBelly,” which gives analogous treatment to pancetta. He even makes the mash into a powder, which he sprinkles on halibut.

This last dish may be the first to prompt the question, "What wine goes well with gin?"

[Go here for a profile of PS7 chef/owner Peter Smith.]

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