Decca's Annie Pettry Explains How to Perfectly Pair Wood with Food

Chandra Ram

You think about the drinks you pair with your food, the fat you pair with your food, the serviceware you use for your food, so why not the wood you use to cook your food? At Louisville’s Decca, Chef/Owner Annie Pettry considers the flavor in the wood and smoke and what they impart to the ingredients on the grill before she lights the fire. Here are a few of her food and wood pairings:

The dish: Grilled diver scallop carpaccio with pickled pear, sunchoke and vanilla

The wood: Pear wood imparts subtle smoke and fruitiness to the scallop, and the sweet smoke brings out the sweetness in the sunchokes and the spice in the vanilla.

The dish: Wood-grilled broccoli with toasted almonds and anchovy vinaigrette

The wood: The tannins in hickory give the broccoli intense smoke and tang, and lend it the aroma of smoked meat. It also intensifies the flavor of the anchovy, while the lemon in the vinaigrette cuts through the smoke to balance out the dish.

The dish: Smoked mussels with wood-grilled pork belly, parsnip and honey

The wood: The sweetness in the smoke from applewood pairs well with the pork belly and is subtle enough to use to smoke the mussels without overpowering them.

The dish: Wood-grilled N.Y. steak with charred bread, celery root, cured butter, soy-pickled cherries

The wood: Black cherry and oak work really well together here; the balance of sweetness from the cherry and tang from the oak complements the sweetness in the steak, while the char from the bread matches perfectly with the sweet-and-sour pickled cherries.

The dish: Wood-grilled asparagus with lemon mousseline and Calabrian chilies

The wood: Maple is sweet and just strong enough to stand up to asparagus, but mild enough not to overpower it.

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