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Monday, May 01, 2006

Spice Rub, Part II

These make everything taste better

Jen here. Gilly was sick yesterday, and he's bushed today, so I took over the duty of making spice rub for the BBQ that we're going to tomorrow. This was a first effort, but I think it came out pretty good. I have two almost-full little supermarket spice jars full of the fruits of my effort--Gilly is getting one tomorrow, and I will probably use up the other one at the BBQ, so I wanted to write this all down before I forgot what I put in.

Herewith I present to you a very loosely-written recipe for what I shall call:

South by Southeast Spice Rub

Black peppercorns (whole)
Black cardamom pods
Green cardamom pods
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Cumin seed

Whole fennell seed
Coriander seed
Whole fenugreek
Caraway seed
Sweet paprika
Hot paprika
Chipolte peppers (whole)
Pequin peppers (whole, dried)
Espresso or dark roasted coffee beans (whole)
Sumac powder

To start: Make sure you have a good large spice grinder or small food processor. I have one of those Cuisinart mini-countertop things that only has two speeds (chop and grind) and a very strong engine. Or you can use a blender; just make sure you don’t burn the motor out.

This makes about a cup and a quarter of rub.

Start by throwing in several whole black cardamom pods and many green cardamom pods—again use the whole pod. Also put in at least a big palmfull of whole black peppercorn. Throw in three or four whole dried chipotles. Then also throw in at least six or seven tiny dried pequin peppers (the really tiny, really hot ones). Now pulse/grind until it’s a coarse powder. At this point you add the Secret Ingredient—about 5 whole espresso beans. Grind again Now put in the seeds—the whole caraway, cumin, coriander, fennell, and fenugreek. Once everything is ground, put in a good deal of garlic powder, and less but still a good amount of onion powder. Again, grind. Now put in sweet and hot paprikas (I use the Szeged stuff from Hungary) and the sumac powder—at least a teaspoon of each paprika and a tablespoon or so of sumac. Grind again. Add at least a palmful of salt and pulse/grind in intervals until you have a decent coarse powder. Taste with a damp fingertip and correct accordingly.

Put into very dry storage jars of some sort—I had two leftover ones from when Gilly made me spice rub. I also have an empty cumin jar which I can use.

Use on everything that would need a spice rub or seasoning powder. On the hot side and very aromatic, but this could be adjusted by laying off the pequins and some of the hot paprika, but then that would make this recipe something else. I suppose you could toast the spices first but I wanted to keep it simple.

Think of this as a jumping-off point; try your own variations and have fun.

NOTE RE spice sourcing: Unfortunatley, I can't recommend anything other than mail order if you can't get these things locally. I am very fortunate to have a huge Mexican community and a huge Egyptian community within walking distance of my apartment. I got most of the spices except for the chipoltes at the Egyptian market; the cardamoms came from an Indian deli. All were purchased from places that had brisk business and refreshed stock frequently.

NOTE #2 forgot the fennell seed in the first post ten minutes ago. Correct your records accordingly!



I just tried this on a shell steak, which I panfried in a cast-iron pan with a bit of goose fat for the fat.


This is definitley a rub/spice mix for things that you are going to cook--its character was totally changed by the flame. It has heat, but also a deep resonance to it. I bet this would be amazing on lamb and especially game. Ditto for strong-flavored fish. I also dipped bread in the pan drippings and from what I tasted, it would be great with a roasted garlic spread or other roasted veggies. I am dying to try this on oven-roasted potato slices or gratins.

Ok, I know people have been waiting for this, but I've been relaxing all day.

First, when I met Jen, she handed me a bottle of the spice rub. As we sat down , waiting for our ride, she shoved her container under my nose and it was incredible, it had such a nice aromatic smell. She had marinated the steaks in the rub for a couple of hours. And was as excited as a 10 year old going to a baseball game about it.

For some reason, I wore my Carlos Beltran Mets shirt, well the reason was that Jen had never been to a place with someone who would wear a sports T-shirt of such loudness.

When we got to the barbeque, we were hoping we didn't bring too much food. Our tendancy is, since we rarely have the chance to cook for others, to overdue things. So we brought steak, as mentioned, greek sweet sausage, turkey kielbasa, pineapple and pears, as well as greek pastries and my garlic butter with red peppers.

Our hosts had planned turkey burgers, hot dogs (which we never got around to) , smoked salmon, salmon burgers, chicken, along with artichoke hearts and marinated mushrooms, tortellini salad and bread. Costco is an amazing place, they said.

I also brought a bottle of shiraz and a reisling, as well as a six pack of Brooklyn Pennant Ale. Jen brought a magnum of red.

I've liked reislings since college. They're perfect for things like grilled meats and pizza. Now, given my druthers we would have had beer and more beer, using Garrett Oliver as a guide. But when you attend parties with adults, wine is essential. You can't just offer up a pint of Newcastle and say be happy. And I like to leave the Jack and Coke at home when kids are around.

Normally, I have dim hopes for turkey burgers , but these were amazing. I ate mine as I made the garlic toast in the broiler. The grill was busy. So Jen had brought fresh bread and I sliced it thin and spread my garlic butter mix on it.

I used a container of whipped butter, roasted some peeled garlic, a whole head might be easier, and marinated red peppers. When grilled, the red peppers stood out against the toast. I only toasted one side to make the bread kinda warm and chewy.

We then got to the sausages. Jen, when cooking, can be a force of nature. She tends to like to cook. I think she would pout if there was an open flame and she had no part in it. But then, she told me she used to grill at her mother's place. I grew up in a Manhattan apartment. The kielbasa, Hillshire Farms, grilled up nice. So did the Greek sausage.

Her spice rub was amazing on the quickly cooked steaks. It was spicy without being too hot. It was a wonderful mix for the chicken and beef without being overwhelming or one note. We also grilled peppers and vidalia onions which were incredibly sweet when cooked.

Other people brought other things, like artisinal cheese and this potent brew called fire water, which reminded me of college, mostly for the Everclear (commercial grain alcohol) and citrus. Not the kind of thing to drink too much of. The last time I encountered a everclear-based drink I woke up at10 AM at my friends fraternity. I remember parts of getting there. Parts.

We had all manner of desserts. Greek pasteries , panettone (which makes a great French Toast), a marvelous home made strawberry shortcake, with fresh shortbread, fresh strawberries and fresh whipped cream.

Jen and I had planned on grilled fruit. In mid summer we like grilled peaches, but we did grilled pears and pineapples. I had planned on using port, but instead I made a bourbon syrup with vanilla, apple juice and cinnamon in a simple syrup. Oh my god, what a nice fragrant flavor and smell. They were an incredible hit.

Finally, we went home, full and tired.

The best thing about it was the simple nature of what we had cooked. Making a simple syrup is easy enough, boil water and sugar. Just wait until the fire is off to add alcohol. Then cook it off. Bourbon works especially well with sugar.

posted by Jenonymous @ 4:23:00 PM

4:23:00 PM

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