When we were already getting used to matured meats, we began to find experimental maturationsnot only with pieces of veal of very different origins and ages, but also with pork and even with fish, which combine cold storage time and low humidity conditions.
All of this “thanks to state-of-the-art aging refrigerators that allow everything to be controlled to meet the food safety requirements of Health inspections”, according to Josep Sanitjas, the main champion in our country of these experimental aging meats from Sanctuary Restaurantlocated in Les Masies de Voltregà, province of Barcelona.
Far from taking credit, he recalls that “this was already done in the past to preserve meat in winter and, abroad, it is still being done, in fact, as in Catalonia we are not a country of cows, we began to look at trends in Europe”. And he has discoveredmaturations of pigeon, chicken or lambwhich they call the chocolate of meats”.
Meats in lard
His technique is to make the most of his team of specialized refrigerators to “remove the water from the piece, dry it and put it in butter so that it maintains the texture and flavor, but softens the impurities,” he argues.
As in a showcase that does not hide anything, you will find dozens of pieces, from the Txogitxu “Cheese Aged” of 65 days “dry aged” plus 10 days maturing with goat cheese, Curepipe pink pepper, strawberries and salted butter; even the pork chops 40 days “dry aged”, plus 10 days aged with ratafia liquor, which you would never guess is pork.
Going through other exquisite experiments that leave the veal tender and smooth as silk, with nuances provided by maturing in lard, either with red wine, karashi mustard, beer or salted lard and Java pepper; be it with volcanic charcoal, rum, oregano, chocolate, curry, gin berries, cayenne, basil or white chocolate.
In fish, three great chefs
The chef Ekaitz Apraiz He has been researching the maturation of tuna for years, but, he clarifies, “not to follow a fashion or competition, but as a habitual praxis that follows the method learned from our Japanese masters, as a form of maintenance that results in that maturation”. And it is curious because every day they change several wrappers to the animal, preserved inside a kind of sarcophagus in ice.
The guarantee for the diner is that, in Balfego They have decided to carry out laboratory studies of up to 35 days in which an external agency has scientifically certified that the matured tuna was “in perfect conditions to be consumed, it did not have any pathogenic or harmful agent for health”. And it could have been 60 days.
But that’s enough for that. In the Tunateca, Barcelona, the tuna loin is served in the different proposals on the menu until it reaches the tail and, as time goes by, he explains, “the meat becomes less smooth, more mellow; sweet spots appear, metallic touches disappear, as well as fibers”.
You can compare it, within the Red Gastronomic Menu, by trying the trilogy of sashimi and nigiris, star dishes of the house, between akami, chutoro and otoro (butter-level ventresca); or the tuna tenderloin, which has between eight and 12 days of maturation, and blindly could perfectly pass for veal with foie. You will see it in the powerful tuna secret carpaccio with old cow tartar with quail egg or in the original scrambled eggs with red tuna loin.
A maturing Japanese
With Apraiz he has worked and investigated Adrian Figueroawho six months ago opened his Omakase Sushi Bar in A Corunawhere it only serves medium-sized matured fish, such as lampreys, sea bass, sea bream, red pomfret, salmon and amberjack.
He usually matures them for one to two weeks, excluding bluefin tuna, where he arrives from three weeks to a month, because, he affirms, “once you know its properties matured, you don’t want to work it fresh anymore. And with the matured squid, the change is brutal, it is the one that most impacts people, because the hard texture turns into butter and gives off a brutal taste of umami”.
This chef only makes sushi and nigiris with matured fish because, according to his experience, “in Japan they really like textures, chewing; but here we like it to soften more”. And it turns out that “the collagen of the muscles is melted, especially in the hardest parts; the flavor changes because the enzymes and proteins transform it into sugars and, therefore, it loses that strong bug flavor and tastes softer, slightly sweet, even in the smell”.
Figueroa cleans the fish with the technique ike jime, eviscerate and use ozonized water until it is shiny before starting to ripen. To optimize it, its own chamber has been designed with dehumidifiers and fans to regulate constant temperature and humidity, plus some salt plates, to merge a refrigerator with a beach and dry some fish like conger eels and horse mackerel are dried in Muxia.
Grace is in the skin
He does something similar chef dani garciawho shared the presentation fish maturation in Madrid Fusion 2020 with the Australian Josh Niland, the fish chef because in sea wolf (Madrid) follows the same technique of gutting the fish and cleaning the scales, leaving the last layer of skin totally dehydrated so that it is more crispy (like suckling pig) and does not soften when cooked.
The time in the fridge depends on the weight. For example, a kilo fish can be hung for a maximum of three days between 0 and 2 degrees of temperature and at the lowest possible humidity. When the skin is dry, but the inside is soft, it is ready for the grill, from which the grouper loins with a very smooth texture and a serious and forceful flavor come out: it is logical that they call it reposado. It is juicier than sea bass, however, the best way to appreciate this crunchy-meaty game is to try the whole sea bass, but don’t remove the skin!
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