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Foss's Tobacco Experiment Revealed

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Apr 5, 2011 8:30PM

Phillip Foss with the tobacco plants.

Kevin's experiment with growing tobacco last summer didn't end well, since he was growing them potted on a rooftop deck. The plants he gave us that we planted on our backyard, on the other hand, took root like the weeds they were. Last October we gave Meatyballs Mobile owner/chef Phillip Foss the leaves our Chinese neighbors didn't scavenge to work with in the kitchen. Foss had contacted Art Culinaire magazine.

A few days later Foss updated us on his attempts to cook with tobacco. The two of us were nicotine high for hours after nibbling the slightest bit of the raw leaf, so the key here was to get rid of the nicotine. Foss doesn't have the cool lab toys that a Ted Breaux — the absinthe maker who's working to get his shelf stable, nicotine-free tobacco liqueur legalized in the States — does, so he had to do some outside-the-box thinking to blanch that flavor that had us choking and drooling like brahma bulls in the backyard.

Foss went back to a venison loin dish he made when he was at Lockwood in the Palmer House Hilton. He blanched the leaves, made a gastrique made from silan, a Middle Eastern date molasses, tossed the leaves with them and then steamed them. Then he dehydrated the leaves, which wound up removing the astringency from the leaves. Foss called this "tobacco leather."

The dish he tried to make with the venison and tobacco for Art Culinaire looked pretty, but Foss admitted in a recent blog post that he made a couple of errors to the preparation, and the taste also was still an issue. He's hoping that the magazine will still publish it, because of the tobacco element to the story.

If not, here's video proof that Foss managed to make tobacco edible.