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Bake While Baked With Bong Appetit, MUNCHIES’ Cannabis Cookbook

A follow-up to the Viceland web series, Bong Appetit gathers dozens of chefs’ recipes for cooking with cannabis at home.

The 1968 Peter Sellers freakout I Love You, Alice B. Toklas is a rom-com about a straitlaced lawyer who accidentally feeds pot brownies to his family. It credits the San Francisco-born wife of Gertrude Stein because Toklas’ 1954 cookbook included a recipe for “Haschich fudge.” Curious misspelling notwithstanding, that deceptively fiendish recipe has been the basis of many dorm disasters, as undergrads overdo it on infusing the butter, impatiently eat a third brownie, then spend three days in the stratosphere. 

California, like other enlightened states, now has all the legal edibles anyone could want, with the THC content marked on the packaging. But the allure of cooking with cannabis at home has never dimmed, and who else to rescue us from Toklas’ clutches but the team at MUNCHIES? After months of sourcing recipes from chefs across the U.S. and thoroughly retesting them, the result is Bong Appetit: Mastering the Art of Cooking with Weed (Ten Speed Press), which came out Oct. 2. It was rigorous work.

“Every infusion that we did got lab-tested so we could do our dosing properly,” MUNCHIES culinary director Farideh Sadeghin tells SF Evergreen. “But all the equipment you should have in your ‘personal kitchen lab.’ ”

Thumbing through Bong Appetit, you come away with two distinct impressions. One is obvious: This cookbook is full of delicious recipes (hello, confit octopus and Bananas Foster!). The second is a bit more surprising, however: Instead of discovering clever methods to mask the taste and aroma of cannabis, the MUNCHIES team opted to find ways to pair it. They like the smell of terpenes and they want you to appreciate it, too — a secondary consequence of marijuana having become so much better than it used to be.

“When I was in college, cooking with weed and making brownies and stuff, it tasted terrible,” Sadeghin says. “You can go to dispensaries and talk to your weedtender and ask for advice about what a strain tastes like and pair it with a dish you’re cooking. I think it’s an exciting ingredient to work with.”

Bong Appetit is aimed at the moderately experienced home cook — so if you blanch at terms like “decarboxylated,” then you need to get over it quickly because that’s the only way you’re going to get high from these recipes. (The term refers to extracting THC from the flower.) However, Sadeghin states, everything was tested separately without cannabis, so she can vouch for every dish’s inherent deliciousness (in the event you like to get baked first, then cook).

Overall, the science is helpful and not overwhelming, geared toward building people’s instincts. Cooking low-and-slow, aka “sous weed,” is a much better bet than baking at a high heat, as THC boils off at 314 degrees. Among the recipes for nachos and pork wontons are more advanced dishes like swordfish teriyaki and rib eye with weed chimichurri. There are explanations of myrcene versus linalool, along with more practical hints. (Got a little too high? Chew black peppercorns.)

An outgrowth of the MUNCHIES’ test kitchen policy of reducing waste whenever feasible, the book has a “projects” section that goes in-depth on things that Sadeghin says take “a little more time and love,” like a cannabis pesto, a “ganja gravlax,” or a pot pepperoni. Sadeghin says she was surprised how versatile cannabis leaves can be, lack of psychoactive compounds be damned.

“They’re not going to get you messed up, but just taking the leaves and using the whole plant was really interesting and really valuable — a no-waste product,” she says. “They do have a taste to them, and they’re decorative — like on the top of the focaccia. They’re so beautiful the way they stand out — and in kimchi. You don’t need to just use it in oils and infusions to get you stoned. You can use the leaves as you would kale or whatever.”

Marijuana kimchi sounds like piling funkiness on funkiness, but the recipe from Holden Jagger of L.A.’s culinary collective Altered Plates makes a compelling case (although you do need an entire pound of leaves). Of course, in a book that charts new culinary territory — and which encourages its readers to play around with ideas of their own — it’s also important to acknowledge what doesn’t work. There was really only one fail.

“We messed around with infused sugar, but we couldn’t get that right,” Sadeghin says. “But the cool thing is there’s many different ways” of getting cannabis into food.

For instance, with pappardelle bolognese you can infuse the sauce or cook the onions in infused butter. With celebration cake, you can infuse the butter-cream frosting or the olive oil that goes into the cake itself.

“It’s almost a choose-your-own-adventure,” Sadeghin adds.

Many of the chefs she and the team worked with had appeared on Viceland in some capacity. Some have their own edible lines, while others — surprisingly — had never cooked with cannabis before. Among the James Beard winners and Michelin-starred champs are figures like Don Lee, a bartender’s bartender and toast of PUNCH magazine whose “nitrous green dragon” forms the basis for many of Bong Appetit’s infused cocktails. San Francisco’s own Deuki Hong, of Sunday Bird, submitted a recipe for Korean fried chicken that Sadeghin says is one of her favorites (along with the North African broccoli salad).

“I think broccoli is an underrated vegetable in general, and I love dates,” she says. “I’m making a bunch of recipes from the book next week in celebration, like the Korean fried chicken — and also nachos.”

The classics are classics for a reason, apparently.