Many recipes from the relatively recent past can seem very dated today and only the most original have stood the test of time. One of my favorite recipes, created three decades ago at the legendary Miller Howe restaurant in Cumbria, England, is centered around the highly dramatic idea of baking a leg of lamb, covered with hay, in a completely closed metal casserole at very high temperatures. The successful TV chef at the heart of the restaurant at that time, John Tovey, had morphed from a career in the theater into cooking, so the theatrical aspect of many of his dishes was an inevitable part of Miller Howe’s attraction. The hay smoldered, but did not burn, and the lamb became transformed by a delicious combination of delicate smokiness underpinned by a strong infusion of sweet hay. This dish isn’t something to cook every day, perhaps, although it is delicious. The magical effect of the sweet hay note is not exactly limited to lamb; that note, represented by quite a large number of flavor chemicals, is very widespread in nature. Even when it is not naturally present, it can often be a delicious addition to a flavor profile, providing attractive depth and succulence. γ-Hexalactone (FEMA# 2556, CAS# 695-06-7) is, in my opinion, one of the most useful hay notes. It is free from the regulatory challenges of the coumarin family and has a very clean odor profile that can be used successfully in an extremely wide range of flavors.

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