Local chefs preserve summer memories with smoke

Blue Duck Tavern\'s Executive Pastry Chef Naomi Gallego smokes yogurt for the restaurant\'s peaches and cream dessert. Local chefs are preserving the flavors and memories of summer with smoked foods. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — One flight down from Blue Duck Tavern’s contemporary American- style dining room, executive pastry chef Naomi Gallego opens the steel door to one of the kitchen’s many appliances. She wrinkles her face, shoos away some smoke and places a two-inch-deep hotel pan filled with yogurt into the smoker.

“I just need to set my timer for 15 minutes,” says Gallego, who has been the pastry chef at the 24th and M Street Northwest restaurant for a year. After 15 minutes, Gallego checks on the yogurt and sees a yellowing on the skin — that’s how she knows it’s working.

Gallego is smoking yogurt to make a smoked yogurt pudding for Blue Duck’s peaches and cream dessert. Smoking desserts is not something Gallego does often; for her, it’s seasonal.

“I associate it in my mind as a thing you do in the summer. When it’s nicer out, you’re going to be out smoking things; you’re going to be grilling things. And you grill things that you normally wouldn’t grill right now, like peaches,” she says.

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Pastry chef Naomi Gallego cold smokes yogurt for one of the restaurant’s desserts. (WTOP/Rachel)

Labor Day marks the end of summer, but several local chefs are preserving the flavors of the season by taking diners’ minds off premature pumpkin-spice lattes and keeping them on summer beach bonfires.

Gallego’s smoked yogurt — or as she likes to call it, “smogurt” — is one way to keep her diners present in the last days of summer. She cold smokes it for 30 minutes over smoldering wood chips and ice to keep the dairy from curdling.

With delicate foods such as yogurt, one can’t be too aggressive with the smoking. “You want it to be a nuance; you want it to enhance.


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