What the Hay? Dried Grass Goes Gourmet

Kim Conte


Mmmm ... hay.

Hay is for horses -- and now humans, too!

Typically a favorite meal of grazing livestock, dried grass is now making its way onto several high-end restaurant menus across the country. Chefs say the ingredient helps to give food a certain rustic, grassy, earthy quality.

Is barnyard-flavored cuisine really that surprising? After all, we've been eating dirt for a while now.

Professional chefs buy hay fresh from their egg and meat producers; but experimental home cooks can find it at the pet store. So how do you cook with hay? Here are some suggestions from the top chefs:

Steep hay for flavoring -- like tea.

Chef Grant Achatz at Chicago's Alinea steeps hay in cream for his "hay brulee." René Redzepi at Denmark's Noma serves hay-infused whipped cream along with some of his desserts. Hey [hay], it's less boring than vanilla, right?

Smoke meats with smoldering hay -- like wood chips.

Chef Marcus Jernmark at New York's Aquavit smokes sweetbreads and other meats over hay.

Use hay to flavor food -- like you would a dried spice.

Chef Geoffrey Hopgood at The Hoof in Toronto wraps ham in wet hay then cooks them sous-vide; and Mario Batali grills veal chop, then finishes it in the oven wrapped in rosemary, thyme, and ... you guessed it, hay.

Would you ever cook with hay?


Image via ilovebutter/Flickr

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