Bold, robust and iconic, Mario Bianco's chestnut honey or Miele de Castagno is a stunning example of the varietal. Boasting complexity with its signature bitter finish, this honey is collected from the local chestnut trees that dot the base of Gran Paradiso near Pont St. Martin. With layers of licorice and smoke, we delight in incorporating this honey into marinades for lamb and other richly flavored meats such as venison or bison. It also serves as a marvelous talking point when included on a cheese board, a conversation-starter in itself for its bombastic presence. This holiday season, we invite you to play around with honey by cooking up Neal's take on hot honey.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: CHESTNUT HONEY
Place three of more full tablespoons of any flower-specific honey (depending on the taste profile you desire for the moment … the more aggressive honeys like chestnut or rhododendron handle the cayenne very well but trust me each of these honeys will be a fine companion) in a small pot on a burner on the top of the stove. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of ground Cayenne Pepper over the honey as it spreads across the bottom of the pot. I would recommend a honey with a more taffy-like texture as it will warm more slowly giving the combination of sweet honey and piquant cayenne a chance to absorb and exchange each other’s flavors. Heat over a very low flame. Keep an eye on the mixture and occasionally stir. When the honey has reduced to a viscous liquid and the cayenne has merged with the honey slightly coloring the mixture and while still slightly hot, use as a sauce to pour over the protein of the day, whether it be a hunk of salmon (simply grilled or baked and treated with just salt and pepper … that is my personal favorite!), a rack of lamb, grilled magret duck … you get the idea. This is as simple as it gets but it is powerfully flavorful and will be appreciated in many iterations. Any leftover sauce can be scraped up and saved for another day.