The Joy of Cooking (While Really Stoned)
Cooking while stoned requires skill both in the kitchen and in handling your herb. But there are a couple tricks, humbly compiled by The Weed Eater over the course of many years, to help make everything go smoothly.
Photos courtesy of David Bienenstock
To fully experience the joy of cooking while really stoned, you must first attain basic proficiency in both of those disciplines separately before ever attempting to combine them. Because if you can't fry an egg without burning it, getting high will only make matters worse. And if you can't handle your herb, you've got no place in a room full of sharp knives and burning hot surfaces. That said, one needn't be a top chef or a pot head to have a wonderful time preparing (and consuming) a high-end meal while under the influence. Just start by familiarizing yourself with the following simple guidelines, humbly compiled by The Weed Eater over the course of many years.
Cook With Your Head, Not Over It A highly ambitious meal plan combined with blazing massive amounts of highly potent cannabis may sound like a recipe for success at the outset, but things will quickly turn sour if and when something goes awry. So if you want to get really high, it's probably better to elevate a familiar dish rather than trying to boldly cook what you've never cooked before.
Limit Multitasking Get stoned enough and something as simple as stirring risotto can become hypnotic—not for a long time, but for just long enough to put you irrevocably in the weeds if you're also supposed to be chopping garlic, sautéing an onion, and basting a roast. The solution, however, isn't to prohibit occasional bouts of spacing out, but to embrace them as a welcomed part of the experience. You need a strategy that begins with doing as much planning and prep work as possible before you start cooking.
Always Use Timers Science has proven that marijuana stimulates your appetite, enhances your sense of taste and smell, and even helps you think more creatively—all highly useful attributes in the kitchen. But pot also tends to mess up your perception of time. So use a damn timer.
Cook What You Want to Eat (Not What You Want to Cook) All too frequently, harried home cooks see food preparation as a chore instead of a great privilege and therefore settle for whatever sounds quick and easy. Of course, with most of us trapped inside the spinning hamster wheel of pre-collapse capitalism, that ever-present desire for instant gratification is often understandable, but it's also exactly the wrong way to approach stoned cookery. Because while cannabis can certainly help us better endure the sometimes unavoidable drudgeries of life, we actually use the herb best as a way to enhance what's already wonderful.
So think of your high times in the kitchen not as a regrettable task or the means to an end, but rather as a vibrant, fragrant oasis away from the banal grey world of responsibilities and obligations—a place set aside to embrace possibilities, indulge senses, and satisfy desires.
Mood Music Absolutely no TV. No laptop. No phone. Just really good tunes, preferably loud as FUCK.
Use the Buddy System Whenever Possible There's nothing wrong with being a loner stoner in the kitchen, but when it comes to cannabis cuisine, two heads are usually better than one.
Keeping that last guideline in mind, The Weed Eater decided to reach out to chef Gabriel Reeves. A ten-year veteran of fine dining kitchens who now works at Elemental Wellness Center—one of California's top medical cannabis dispensaries—he teaches a popular weekly pot cooking class, prepares daily healthy non-medicated lunches for the staff of forty, and advises patients on using medical marijuana effectively.
We meet at a discreet location just outside the Santa Cruz farmer's market and get acquainted over a bowl (or two) of Elemental's award-winning Tangie herb topped with Star Dawg hash. Gabe shares that he first learned to cook professionally while working at a late-night dining hall "snack bar" called—believe it or not—Munchies. So what was the takeaway for a young, thoroughly baked cook working at a late-night café catering almost exclusively to equally baked college kids?
"I learned three things about stoned diners: ranch dressing, Tabasco sauce, and gravy. When you've got the munchies, ketchup, mustard, and mayo are all eh. But if I serve you an empty clam shell full of broken glass covered in a nicely made gravy, with Tabasco and ranch on the side, that's game over. And every cuisine has some version of that, whether it's the classic French sauces, fish sauce, or curry."
A decade later, Gabe was cooking for Google at the tech giant's flagship corporate cafeteria when a doctor diagnosed him with testicular cancer. It inspired him to quit his day job and start Green Gourmet, a small-batch edibles company. "I'm so much happier doing this than I was dealing with stressed out executive chefs," he says. "Now, I not only feed people: I make food that heals people."
Phish Fry A note about this evening's menu:
A few months ago, The Weed Eater's friendly neighbors turned him on to Local Catch Monterey Bay, a community supported fishery that functions much like a CSA, only for sustainable seafood. So now, once a week, some new delicacy arrives fresh from the ocean—everything from rockfish, sablefish, rosefish, and sand dabs, to oysters, dungeness crab, and even abalone.
To get in the mood for fish night, The Weed Eater—who loves a good pun—invariably rolls up something special and plays a live Phish show from start to finish. Typically, two sets and an encore roughly covers prep, cooking, eating, and doing the dishes. This week, we got a beautiful fillet of Chinook salmon, which covers our protein. We figure we'll just improvise the rest based on what looks good in the market.
In most places, walking around in public stinking like chronic while wearing a "Dabs Cure Cancer" T-shirt will get you dirty looks or worse, but as we flaneur through the Santa Cruz farmer's market, my new friend encounters only appreciative smiles. Home sweet home. And this is not just one of the most herb-friendly towns in America, it's also something of a foodie paradise, with amazing produce, fresh seafood, high-end local wineries, artisanal you-name-it, and a well-rooted back-to-the-land ethos.
"Should we grab a few of these artichokes for a starter?" Gabe asks, a mischievous grin slowly overtaking his features. "I could make a quick hashish-infused savory butter for dipping, with garlic, fresh herbs, and a mild dose of THC to work up our appetites."
Can't argue with that.
Getting High: There's an App for That Upon arrival at The Weed Eater's humble abode among the redwoods, we decide to prepare and consume the appetizers prior to starting on the main course. But first, we smoke a bunch more weed. Gabe explains the difference between playing ganja gourmet at home versus earning a paycheck at a restaurant: "In a fine dining kitchen, I always had to hit it and quit it. While at home, I tend to get way more baked when I'm cooking and look for a goofy, relaxing, creative kind of high because I'm not under pressure to perform."
To make the infused butter, Gabe starts by putting a gram of Chem OG bubble hash in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, thus inducing decarboxylation, a chemical reaction that converts THC from an acidic precursor found in the raw plant (THC-A) into its psychoactive form. Then he blends the "activated," oven-warm hash into melted butter flavored with garlic, lemongrass, and Old Bay.
We know from the label that the gram of hash was originally 45.6% THC-A before heating (or 456 total milligrams). Decarboxylation, however, results in a roughly 30% loss rate, bringing overall THC levels down to around 320 milligrams by the time it's activated. Which is still way, way more than we need for two mild doses, but the butter keeps for up to three months when stored properly in the fridge, so why not?
Gabe recommends ten milligrams of THC for moderate users, 40 milligrams for daily users, and 100 milligrams or more for those seeking profound therapeutic effects. He also suggests infusing toppings and sauces as a way to maintain strict portion control.
"You want to put it on the mashed potatoes, not in the mashed potatoes. Because that way, you can keep a very accurate tally of how much THC you're ingesting. Remember, the first rule of edibles is to do no harm."
Boiled until the leaves peel away easily, the artichokes come to life once salted and lightly dipped in the hashish-garlic-lemongrass butter. Gabe then stuffs squash blossoms with goat cheese, coats them in panko breadcrumbs, and pan fries them until they're golden brown; it's a crunchy, cheesy bite of fresh vegetation that also tastes amazing when dipped in the hash butter. As does my finger, at which point, Gabe offers a warning against going overboard. Warm hash butter hits you quick on an empty stomach, after all, and we still have to cook dinner.
Fortunately, we've had the foresight to keep things simple and let the pure flavors of our local bounty shine through. Gabe pan sears the salmon while maintaining a near sushi softness underneath. Then he tops it with a goat yogurt-lemon-garlic-dill sauce, sliced avocado, and a dusting of spices. On the side, there's roasted purple potatoes and a slaw of sautéed fennel and spinach seasoned with cumin and deglazed with white wine and lemon."People think stoners just want salty and sweet flavors, or maybe spicy," Gabe says, "but sometimes you need that acid to really break through."
"Wait, you just dosed me with acid?"
He laughs, the rare native Californian with a fluent grasp of sarcasm.
"Oh shit," The Weed Eater exclaims, shattering the moment's mellow vibration. "I totally forgot to get cream for the ganja-infused mint chocolate chip ice cream we talked about."
No worries, brother. Chef Gabe simply goes with the flow by whipping up a goat yogurt Elvis-inspired parfait with bananas, peanut butter, chocolate chips, and a healthy drizzle of the hash-infused honey he happens to keep close at hand for just such emergencies. The finished product is nothing fancy, but it's sweet, cold, well-balanced, and pleasantly familiar, with a nice tang of goat to keep it from being cloying. It's also totally born of the moment, and that, my friends, is the true essence of stoned cooking.
Spoon in next month for The Weed Eater's ongoing adventures at the intersection of cannabis and cuisine, and keep sending those Twitter tips to @pot_handbook.