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Cooking with cannabis: Bake, baste and blend your way to marijuana eats

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Jamie Lockwood’s espresso chocolate cheesecake.
Photo: Wade Vandervort

It’s smoked, vaped, dabbed and absorbed through the skin. But the most popular way of consuming cannabis in Las Vegas this Thanksgiving may just be to cook, baste, bake, batter and grill with the plant.

Infusing marijuana into meals at home is one of the fastest-growing ways consumers are finding use for cannabis, according to a 2017 report from Headset Inc., a research firm studying legal marijuana trends in Washington and California. In those states, as many as 15-25 percent of cannabis users incorporated the plant into meals made at home—double the percentage of users to infuse meals in 2015.

That trend could hold true for Las Vegas if current sales numbers are any indication of the industry’s growth. While no detailed studies exist on home cooking with cannabis in our area, an increase of more than 75 percent in sales from late 2017 through the summer of 2018 means more local residents than ever before will have legal marijuana in their homes this holiday season.

Local cannabis chefs Zairilla Bacon, Kristal Chamblee and Jamie Lockwood are among independent industry professionals seeing a boost in business as demand for gourmet cannabis meals increases. Specialists in a variety of weed-infused pastries, entrees, butters, oils and sauces, the Las Vegas culinary experts say bookings for private events with marijuana food catering has skyrocketed during the past year. And Thanksgiving should be no different.

“It’s a popular time of the year,” Bacon said. “No mistake about it.”

But while some will seek the services of a cannabis chef for their marijuana-infused food—which can be custom made for both medical patients and recreational users—most will use the plant to cook at home this holiday season.

Chamblee, Bacon and Lockwood shared tips and some basic recipes for making home-crafted marijuana treats.

A HOW-TO GUIDE

Cannabutter

Making a home-crafted cannabis dish is a fun yet meticulous process that requires precision and care, says chef Kristal Chamblee. Pot can’t be infused into food from its raw, flowery form. Instead, the cannabinoids and terpenes must be activated via a heating process called decarboxylation. Chamblee and two other local chefs shared their tips and tricks for preparing and cooking fats infused with cannabis.

STEP 1. COLLECT YOUR INGREDIENTS

The butter-to-marijuana ratio in cannabutter should be about 16-to-1, Chef Jamie Lockwood says, meaning every pound (16 ounces) of butter should have one ounce of decarboxylated cannabis. Most home users won’t prepare such a large amount of marijuana butter, but the 16-to-1 ratio should hold true for smaller preparations as well.

For a slightly less potent butter, leafly.com recommends 14-20 grams of marijuana to a pound of butter.

The oil-to-marijuana ratio should be about 14.5-to-1, meaning every two cups of oil should have one ounce of decarboxylated cannabis. Lockwood and Chamblee recommended using coconut oil to make cannabis oil, but said olive oil and canola oil are also feasible substitutes.

In addition to the marijuana buds, cannabinoids and terpenes can also be extracted from marijuana shake—the leftover leaves, stems and trim at the bottom of bags or containers. Different strains can be mixed together for cooking and the marijuana used need not be a premium strain.

STEP 2. DECARBOXYLATE YOUR MARIJUANA

The decarboxylation process, which chemically urges the activated cannabinoids to bind to fat in food, requires users to finely grind their raw cannabis flower and place it on a cookie sheet or, as Chamblee recommends, in a turkey bag. The cannabis should then be placed in an oven and baked for about an hour.

The THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid) in raw cannabis begins to decarboxylate at 220 degrees after about 30-45 minutes of exposure, producing edible THC. Full decarboxylation requires the entire hour.

Some chefs, such as Bacon, choose to decarboxylate cannabis at lower temperatures for a longer period of time—sometimes up to several hours—to preserve the beneficial terpenes found in each strain. At higher temperatures, volatile terpenes evaporate more easily and leave behind unwanted flavors and aromas, and strip the plant of its health benefits.

The integrity of both cannabinoids and terpenes are compromised by decarboxylating at temperatures that exceed 300 degrees, Bacon said. She sets temperatures as low as 125 degrees. “Otherwise you’re just cooking them out of there.”

STEP 3. MAKING CANNABUTTER OR CANNABIS OIL

To make cannabutter or cannabis oil, the decarboxylated plant should be mixed into a cooking pot with either butter or oil and heated on the stove.

While cannabutter can be made by stirring the butter and decarboxylated plant concoction in a pot for up to two hours on low heat, Lockwood recommends the Magical Butter Machine ($175, magicalbutter.com) designed to stir and separate the finished cannabutter from plant matter on its own.

The fat and weed mixture should be strained through a mesh filter or cheesecloth as soon as the decarboxylated marijuana is fully infused, Lockwood said. The cannabutter, when cooled, becomes a vibrant green with a similar consistency of regular butter, while the completed oil product should be a darker forest green color and resemble more of a thick liquid than the butter.

SOME THINGS TO KNOW

Will my recipe taste like marijuana?

Chef Zairilla Bacon said when marijuana is infused properly and carefully, its skunky pot flavor isn't distinguishable. She aims to infuse marijuana in a way that allows consumers to taste only the sweetness of a sativa-dominant strain or the salty flavor of an indica. Cannabis infusers at home can do the same.

Cannabutter or infused oils?

Bacon advised first-time home chefs to use cannabutter instead of cannabis-infused oils for preparing their meals, because cannabutter is easier to infuse.

But chef Jamie Lockwood said oils can be just as convenient because they are available for sale at dispensaries. “I buy a half-gram syringe of distillate at the dispensary if I want to bake with oil.”

Edibles, which are digested, absorbed and metabolized through the stomach, small intestine and liver, can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours for consumers to feel the full effects, depending on the size and weight of users, as well as how much food is in their stomach, said Dr. William Troutt, a renowned Arizona naturopathic doctor. Smaller, lighter-weight edible users with empty stomachs typically digest and absorb cannabis properties faster than taller, heavier-set users who eat a meal before taking a marijuana edible.

Cannabinoids

The most active ingredients in marijuana, cannabinoids like Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) provide users with a range of effects, from head highs to pain relief and sleep aid. Less common cannabinoids like Cannabinol (CBN) and Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCv) help reduce anxiety and suppress appetite.

Commercial edibles and cannabis dosing

Per Nevada law, THC content in marijuana edibles cannot reach more than 100 milligrams per package, and an individual serving cannot exceed 10 milligrams of THC. That means a chocolate bar with 12 squares will have anywhere from about 6 to 8 milligrams of THC per square.

Al Bronstein, medical director of the Denver-based Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, recommends first-time edible pot users start with no more than 5 milligrams of THC—one-half of a gummy puck or three-quarters of one square of a chocolate bar—to reach a desired high.

Beginning with small doses is the safest and most enjoyable way to consume edibles, Bronstein said. If the small dose isn’t enough after a couple hours of allowing the cannabis edible to digest, Bronstein recommended consuming a second dose. But eating too much too soon can produce irreversible effects that leave consumers stoned on the ground for up to 10 hours.

“It’s about pacing yourself and going slow,” he said.

Terpenes

Terpenes are found in lesser quantities in marijuana. Together, terpenes and cannabinoids produce an “entourage effect,” working together to produce and enhance various aspects of the plant’s psychoactive effects.

Will my home smell like pot?

While the smell of fresh marijuana can be strong, getting the odor out of your home during or after cooking with the plant is relatively simple, Lockwood said. Open windows, a running fan and Febreze are the most standard ways to rid a home of pot odor, but more advanced methods, such as the use of Nag Champa incense and Patchouli Oil, can help mask overwhelming scents.

Three vegas chefs share their recipes

JAMIE LOCKWOOD

Lockwood

Born and raised in Oregon, Lockwood brought her passion for baking with marijuana to Las Vegas after studying at Massachusetts’ Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. An almost three-year employee of Evergreen Organix, Lockwood formulated the original recipes for cannabis-infused baked goods at Nevada’s largest marijuana edible production facility.

Since leaving the company in October, Lockwood, 44, has focused on creating new and creative recipes of her own. A specialist in croissants and Danish pastries, she said she has a “heart for people,” and infuses cannabis as a labor of love.

“It’s really an honor and a privilege to work with cannabis and mix recipes,” Lockwood said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about, and I love connecting the community with the plant.”

ESPRESSO CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE (Courtesy of Jamie Lockwood)

16 servings

Made with a half-gram cannabis oil syringe. Cut the cheesecake into 16 pieces for the correct dose.

Crust ingredients:

1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs

1/4 cup sugar

4 tbsp melted butter

Pinch of salt

Crust directions:

1. Line the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan with

parchment and coat the sides with pan spray.

2. Mix the crust ingredients and then pack tightly into the bottom of the pan.

Note: Lockwood uses the base of a glass cup for packing.

3. Bake for 10 minutes

Filling ingredients:

1/2 gram cannabis oil concentrate in a syringe

1 tbsp butter

1 shot of espresso

2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate melted

12 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg + 1 egg yolk, whisked

2 tsp vanilla

Filling directions:

1. Add cannabis oil to melted butter in a small bowl.

2. Combine melted butter/cannabis oil mixture with espresso and melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly. Set aside.

3. In a mixer using a paddle attachment, mix cream cheese until smooth with no lumps. Then add sour cream.

4. Switch to whisk attachment. Add sugar and mix until no lumps.

5. Add eggs and vanilla.

6. Add the chocolate/cannabis mixture and mix until smooth and homogenous.

Note: Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula in between adding each ingredient to ensure even distribution of THC.

7. Add to pan with baked crust and spread evenly.

Cooking instructions:

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Wrap foil around base of pan to prevent water from leaking through and place pan in a hot water bath. (Lockwood uses a 9x13-inch pan filled halfway with boiling water.)

3. Place pans in oven and turn down to 250 degrees.

4. Bake for 2 hours.

Ganache ingredients:

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 tbsp butter

Ganache directions:

1. Bring heavy cream to a boil, pour over chips and butter in a bowl. Mix until smooth.

ZAIRILLA BACON

Bacon

A Chicago native who moved to Las Vegas in 2012, Bacon has quickly become a celebrity cannabis chef, cooking for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, 2 Chainz and Waka Flocka Flame, among dozens of other stars. A popular social media figure, Bacon has homemade recipes that include pot-infused crab legs, chicken wings, sweet beverages and “gooey bar” desserts.

Bacon, 38, owned a catering company before finding her passion in marijuana. Her cannabis cooking gigs regularly take her from Las Vegas to LA, Boston and New York.

Bacon, who consumes the plant regularly for creative inspiration, said she’s always thinking of new ideas to add to her culinary arsenal.

“I always want to do something different,” Bacon said. “My mentality is that you can infuse anything.”

FRIED CHICKEN WINGS (Courtesy of Zairilla Bacon)

For 10 wings

Ingredients:

1/4 tsp seasoning salt

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Your favorite wing sauce

Directions:

1. Mix dry ingredients in small bowl.

2. Add wings to bowl and cover with the breading. Place bowl in fridge.

3. Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375 degrees (190 degrees C). There should be just enough oil to cover the wings.

4. Place wings in fryer. Once golden brown, remove and place on cooling rack or paper towel.

5. In a bowl, toss warm wings with favorite wing sauce.

Shortcut: Buy your sauce. Zairilla Bacon’s infused “ZeeWee” wing sauce will be on sale in Las Vegas in 2019.

FOR A CLASSIC HOT WING SAUCE

Ingredients:

Frank's RedHot

1/4 cup butter (plus 1 tsp of cannabutter)

Worcestershire sauce

Garlic to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

There’s a bit of trial and error here, depending on your personal preferences, but start by melting butter on low in a medium saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of Frank’s RedHot, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, garlic and cayenne pepper. Taste. Add additional seasoning to suit your flavor preferences. Toss 10-12 wings in sauce and enjoy.

KRISTAL CHAMBLEE

Chamblee

The 25-year-old Las Vegan cut her teeth at Le Cordon Bleu and started in baking and pastries before moving to cannabis cooking. Now, the former Silver State Wellness employee cooks and bakes privately for groups and conventions on the Strip, clients in the adult film industry and cancer patients seeking meals to aid with treating their illness.

While Chamblee specializes in marijuana-infused chocolate and dessert foods, she also makes a variety of dinner entrees, such as turkey and chicken with marijuana-infused gravy, as well as cannabis butters and oils.

Chamblee proudly displays a tattoo of THC’s molecular component on her left shoulder, a symbol she had designed to demonstrate her affinity for the cannabis plant.

“I wanted to infuse myself for life,” Chamblee said. “I’m super passionate about providing patients with medical dosing as well as regular cannabis users looking for something unique.”

APPLE PIE CARAMEL (Courtesy of Kristal Chamblee)

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 cup heavy cream

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp infused butter or oil

1/2 tbsp vanilla bean or

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Tip: use real vanilla bean if possible

1/2 tbsp apple pie spice

1/2 tbsp salt

Directions:

1. Heat sugar and water in a medium- size pan on medium heat, leaving space for boil up when adding heavy cream.

2. Do not step away from the pan once you start cooking the sugar.

3. When sugar reaches amber color, add heavy cream and wait for steam to calm. Stir with whisk. Continue to stir even if sugar gets clumpy.

4. Once sauce is back to a boil, turn off the heat.

5. Add infused butter, vanilla, apple pie spice and salt.

6. Mix well. Let cool, then pour in a glass jar for storage.

Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes with THC gravy.

THC GRAVY (Courtesy of Kristal Chamblee)

Ingredients:

1 cup turkey drippings

2 cups turkey or chicken stock

1 stick butter

2 tbsp cannabutter

1/4 cup flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

1/2 tbsp rosemary

1/2 tbsp thyme

Directions:

1. Mix turkey drippings and stock.

2. Melt butter and cannabutter in a saucepan over medium heat with rosemary and thyme.

3. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 5-8 minutes or until smooth and light brown. Mixture should be the color of peanut butter.

4. Gradually whisk in drippings mixture. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until thickened. Season to taste.

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Chris Kudialis started at the Las Vegas Sun in 2015 after a year with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A graduate ...

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