Whenever another pot cookbook lands on our desk, as The Official High Official Times Cannabis Cookbook recently did, we try to look at it from an unbiased reviewer's perspective -- but usually decide the publisher was likely stoned when they accepted the book proposal.
The recipes tend to be eerily identical (boring, basic) to those in every other pot book (marijuana mac n' cheese, the requisite brownies) with few truly useful tips on how to fine tune your cannabis cooking approach as one would find in, say, a book on ice cream.
"Who cares if it's Baker's or Valhrona chocolate in those brownies and chocolate cupcakes? Well, we do. Which gets us to the possibility that a pot cookbook on a whole new level could be just one yes-box away... You know, one written by cookbook authors who aren't simply pot fanatics, but actually enjoy cooking and baking (and the fascinating culinary kitchen experiments that go with it), cannabis-tinged or not. The sort of professional folks who in blind test kitchen tastings might shed some light on cannabis flavor profiles and not just how quickly to get high (America's Test Kitchen, we're talking about you). Now that would be an interesting book."
Fine, this book isn't from America's Test Kitchen. But when the book is from High Times magazine, self-described as "the world's most trusted name in getting stoned," those who prefer their marijuana for dinner might have a potato-wild mushroom ragu (p.76) chance for a tasty supper.
The author is High Times art director Elise McDonough, who has been with the magazine for ten years. The recipes are both hers and a compilation of those from magazine colleagues, chefs, and sure, the ubiquitous celebrity.
What's interesting here, regardless of whether you cook with these kinds of weeds or more accessible market varieties, is that McDonough talks about the different flavor profiles of various strains of cannabis. Now we're tom yum soup (p.63) talking.
For those less concerned with culinary pedigrees, McDonough also promises to offer up recipes "for all you freegan stoners who abhor wasting any part of the plant" by including recipes that use the stems, leaf trimmings and even, as she says, "scraped-out pipe resin (gross!)." There are also a handful of recipe tributes to vegan stoners (vegan cannabis carrot muffins) and health nuts (a juice made of apples, carrots, Asian pears and marijuana leaves/buds).
But it's the recipes like a farmer's market-inspired risotto and curried tilapia-kale samosas that actually look like they have enough recipe merit to make with, or without, the pot in the pot, so to speak. And that recipe for fried shrimp spring rolls with mango sauce (p. 47) looks so fresh and tasty thanks to photographer Sara Remington (that must have been a fun shoot), we're jealous of the magazine's staff lunches for non pot-related reasons ("Pot corn" inventor "Chef Bliss" made the dish for a staff tasting, we are told).
Sure, there are the usual silly pot nomenclature annoyances (psychedelic spanakopita; phatty financiers) and the obligatory celebrity pothead overkill here and there. But overall, this is the first pot cookbook we've seen that reads like a modern cookbook, meaning one that relies on fresh ingredients and seems to care more, actually, about flavor than getting you high. And yeah, we're even sort of curious about that Cheetos-crusted fried chicken recipe from New York chef Eddie Huang. We might just have to make it this weekend because, well, it's Eddie Huang. Sans the pot (we're on the record here), of course.
As for why so many cannabis cookbooks fall short on flavor, McDonough sheds some light on the realities of bad brownies versus pot-enhanced salted caramels (p. 139) in that recipe's Introduction. "Since there is a lot of 'cannabutter' involved, [the caramels] can really pack a wallop. Be careful though -- unlike marijuana, this confection can prove to be addictive!"
Point taken. And so we leave you with this recipe for an "Almond Joy" after-dinner drink. Because where else are you going to find a pot recipe referencing a bouquet garni?
From: The High Times Cannabis Cookbook by Elise McDonough.
Note: McDonough calls this a "dessert cocktail" that "packs a punch without alcohol, but if you want to add some liquor to the mix, Kahlua or Amaretto would match the flavor profile."
2 grams cannabis shake or bud, finely ground
7 fluid ounces coconut cream
¼ cup chocolate syrup
1 pint almond milk
Whipped cream, mint, strawberries for garnish (optional)
1. Infuse the coconut cream. You'll need to make what the French call a "bouquet garni," or an herb bundle, but in this case "bouquet ganja," would be the appropriate term. Grind your herb and wrap it in cheesecloth, tying the bundle closed so you have a "tea bag." Make sure the string is long enough to tie to the pan's handle so you can retrieve the "bouquet ganja" later. Cook it slowly with the coconut cream in a small saucepan over a very low flame for at least 2 hours, and up to 4 hours if you have the time. After the infusion is complete, remove the "bouquet ganja" and discard.
2. Combine the coconut cream with the chocolate syrup and almond milk. Shake in a shaker with ice. Strain and garnish with whipped cream, mint, and strawberries, if desired.