Many chefs have a signature spice mix, a blend that is a kind of trademark. Paul Prudhomme had his spice mixture (now on grocery shelves across the country) and at the Four Seasons, Seppi Renggli’s featured many aromatics like mace and star anise, nice complements to fish.
This is a mixture I’ve come up with. But don’t feel bound by this mixture — play with the proportions.
Consider this Town Hall Spice Mixture a starting point for your own.
- 2 tablespoons cayenne
- 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
Spice cabinet shortcut speeds up this Kurdish braise
The elaborate pilafs, roasts and other celebratory dishes of the Middle East often take time that home cooks don&rsquot have. But they still can provide ample fodder for inspiration.
At Milk Street, we&rsquove found ways to streamline these traditions into weeknight-friendly meals.
One such dish is koresh-e tareh-ye kordi, a popular Kurdish braise of chives, white beans, and lamb or chicken. Usually, it comes loaded with a dozen or more spices, including cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, dried rose petals, coriander, turmeric, dried limes, cloves and more.
For this version from our book &ldquoMilk Street Tuesday Nights,&rdquo which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we rely on a spice-cabinet shortcut, the Indian spice mix garam masala, which already includes several of the spices on that list. And since the finished dish tends to play up the cardamom and turmeric, we added a bit more of each.
Other simplifications included swapping canned white beans for dried and substituting easy-to-find ingredients for more traditional ones (such as fresh lime zest for dried Persian limes). Besides saving time, canned beans also include starchy liquid that we treat like a separate ingredient it adds both body and flavor to the dish.
Every bit of this hearty braise is infused with allium pungency thanks to four whole bunches of scallions. That may seem like a lot, but they give the braise flavor and a vibrant color. Just remember to keep the green parts separate from the white parts they&rsquore added at different times. Serve with rice, roasted potatoes or warmed flatbread.
CARDAMOM-LIME CHICKEN AND WHITE BEANS
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons salted butter
4 bunches scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts reserved separately
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This jambalaya recipe is a classic Southern rice dish with chicken, sausage, ham, and spices. With loads of spices and the Southern “holy trinity” of onions, celery, and green bell peppers as its base, this classic Cajun dish is comforting and satisfying. Sautéing sausage and tasso ham together with onions, peppers, and spices starts building the flavor. Then add chicken, tomatoes, chicken stock, and rice and bake in the oven slowly so the bold, smoky flavors meld and the rice forms a crispy layer on the bottom of the pot. This version of jambalaya from San Francisco’s Town Hall restaurant takes a bit of prep, but it’s worth it when you need a filling dish for a crowd.
What to buy: Andouille is a smoked pork sausage that can be found in many gourmet markets or online.
Tasso is cured pork, usually shoulder, that’s rubbed with a mixture of filé (dried, ground sassafras leaves) and other spices, then smoked. It’s a Cajun specialty that adds another layer of flavor to this dish, but if you have a hard time finding it, you can substitute a different variety of smoked ham.
Game plan: The spice mix can be prepared up to 1 week ahead and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The meats and vegetables can be cut up, placed in separate airtight containers, and stored in the refrigerator up to 1 day ahead.
Store-bought chicken stock would work fine in this recipe, or you could make your own.
What can I use Greek Seasoning on?
- Steak and chicken dry rub
- Mix with vinegar and olive oil for a dressing or bread dip
- Mix with Greek yogurt for a marinade or dip for veggies and crackers
- Sprinkle on veggies for a flavorful side dish
- Sprinkle on potatoes for yummy French fries or baked potatoes
- Season your gyros and these Gyro Nachos
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This Greek Seasoning Mix will take you on a vacation to the Mediterranean with all the flavors of oregano, thyme, and especially marjoram!
Marjoram is included in every spice jar/spice rack that I buy.
I see marjoram in the aisle at the store and never really knew what it tasted like so I had to buy some. Oregano is closely related to marjoram so I wondered why we use both in a lot of spice mixes.
Nashville Hot Chicken
8 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic powder
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Vegetable shortening or peanut oil, for frying
5 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
To make the flour: In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until well combined. Pour the flour mixture into a heavy duty brown paper bag and reserve for frying.
To make the chicken: In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce. Add the chicken and submerge in the buttermilk mixture. Transfer to the refrigerator and marinate for 4 hours.
When ready to fry, remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture, allowing any excess to drain off. Place the chicken in the bag with the flour. Clasp the bag at the top and vigorously shake to completely coat chicken with flour. Remove chicken from the bag, tap off excess flour, and transfer to a baking sheet lined with a wire rack. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
As the chicken is resting, fill a large cast iron skillet one-third of the way up the sides with melted shortening or peanut oil. Heat the oil to 340 degrees.
When the oil is hot, add the legs and the thighs first, placing them around the sides of the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes before adding the breasts and wings. Use a wire splatter screen to prevent excess grease from adhering to your kitchen surfaces. Cook until the chicken is golden brown and crisp on both sides and the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean baking sheet lined with a clean wire rack. Reserve 1 cup of the frying oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cayenne, brown sugar, paprika, chili powder and garlic powder. Carefully whisk in the reserved frying oil until a loose paste has formed. With a pastry brush, coat the surface of the fried chicken chicken with the sauce and serve hot.
Photo Credit: Ideabar Austin
The Chick-fil-A recipe seemed more manageable
Right away, this Chick-fil-A dupe recipe I found on the cooking blog My Forking Life already felt much more manageable and intriguing than the Popeyes-inspired one. All I needed to do to start was cut the chicken and place it in a bag with pickle juice.
The brine smelled excellent, and it seemed like something I'd be willing to make again.
I had much higher hopes for the cooking process, too. The recipe called for 12 minutes at 360 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by two minutes at 400.
Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix
Yield: 3 Tablespoons (about 2 packets)
A simple recipe for homemade ranch seasoning mix, perfect for recipes, or for homemade ranch dressing.
2 Tbs. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried dill
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried chives
Small pinch of salt
Mix all together and store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
To make ranch dressing: mix 1 tablespoon of the mix with 1/3 cup mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt) and 1/4 cup milk and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
One recipe of this seasoning mix equals about two packets of store-bought seasoning mix.
Za'atar Middle Eastern Spice Mixture
When it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine, many dishes wouldn't be complete without the spice mix called za'atar. Just like salt brings out the flavor of foods, so does za'atar, and there are very few savory dishes that could not be improved with a dash of this versatile mixture.
Variations of this herb and spice blend go back to medieval times, and it's a common ingredient in all of the countries of the Middle East. Typically, za'atar is a blend of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and salt, but as with any spice blend that is ancient, there are many variations—and plenty of opinions about which is the right proportion for each ingredient.
While you can purchase premade za'atar, you can also easily make your own at home. You may be amazed at how such a simple mixture is packed with big flavors: The sumac brings a citrus taste, oregano a slight bitterness, and marjoram a hint of sweetness overall, za'atar has a tangy and toasty essence. The benefit of homemade is that you can experiment with different proportions until you find your perfect "house" blend. Once you have a batch, sprinkle it on bread, dips, meat, vegetables, rice, potatoes, pasta, soups, and dressings. You'll be hard-pressed to meet a savory food that doesn't benefit from some za'atar.
The Louisiana Spice Blend That's a Pantry Essential
Last week I found myself running all over New York looking for a particular spice blend: Tony Chachere's. I tried to dispatch the person who lives with me, who was in Michigan at the time, to look for it in the local grocery stores, but I had a hard time explaining myself on the phone. I wasn't saying the name right, he wasn't understanding it. Several days later I found success (confidential to New Yorkers: Zabar's, toward the back, near the coffee) and, triumphant, texted him a picture of my quarry.
"Oh, you just meant Cajun seasoning," he said. "I didn't know it had another name."
Remembering the Man Who Popularized Cajun Cooking
That's how synonymous Tony Chachere ("sash-uh-ree," "sa-shur-ee," and/or "sash-er-ee," all according to the manufacturer) is with his most famous product, a Louisiana-style blend of black and red peppers, chile powder, and garlic that counts legions of fans who sprinkle it on gumbo, on red beans and rice, on anything involving seafood. (Package instructions: "Use it like salt. When it is salty enough, it's seasoned to perfection.") It's here for crawfish boils, jambalayas, étouffée. It's here for more prosaic purposes too: Until it ran out, we had a package weɽ always take with us camping, which is but one venue where a solid spice blend really comes in handy. Plus, it's great on popcorn. As American regional seasonings go, Tony Chachere is right up there with Old Bay.
Tony Chachere—the man, not the spice mix—was from Opelousas, a little town in Cajun Louisiana where he was born in 1905. Before he was developing flavors, he was developing elixirs Chachere's career was in the drug business, first as a traveling salesman and then as a wholesaler. According to a biography of Chachere in a reissue of his 1972 Cajun Country Cookbook, he "formulated over 100 products back in the 1930s and ❀s, most famous of which are his elixir 'Mamou Cough Syrup' and insect spray ɻon Soir Bug.'"
Spicy Cajun Crab and Greens Soup
He kept a passion for food, and wrote Cajun Country Cookbook upon his retirement, drawing on meals heɽ had during his travels and a period in the 1950s when he was a member of a men's cooking fraternity in Opelousas. The book features dishes made with an impressive number of small game—rabbit, nutria, armadillo, squirrel—plus the usual larger creatures, seafood and vegetables, and an array of traditional Creole and Cajun preparations. Plus some of Chachere's own creations: crawfish egg rolls, for instance. Chachere also seems to have been an early adopter of the deep-fried turkey.
The book "came about at a time when people in this area refrained from calling themselves Cajuns, as the term back then had the connotation of 𧮬kward' or ɼountrified,'" that biography notes. "Tony had unknowingly made a bold statement about his culture, a whole decade before ⟊jun' was a hot national phenomenon," substantially popularized by chef Paul Prudhomme. Soon after the publication of the cookbook Chachere started selling his spice blend, these days marketed as "Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning."
Red Beans and Rice
(Of the difference between "Cajun" and "Creole," there are many opinions. "Cajun is very old, French country cooking," Prudhomme wrote. Creole "began in New Orleans and is a mixture of the traditions of French, Spanish, Italian, American Indian, African and other ethnic groups"—city cooking, he thought. In her 2003 book Beyond Gumbo, cookbook author and food historian Jessica B. Harris writes that Creole, beyond its associations with New Orleans, encompasses "the food of the southern Atlantic rim," and in fact Beyond Gumbo includes recipes not only from the Southern United States but from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and elsewhere. It's food from a profusion of cultures intermingling—"the world's original fusion food," she writes. But that's a story for another day.)
Tony Chachere died in 1995, shy of his 90th birthday and just a week after becoming the first inductee into the Louisiana Chefs' Hall of Fame. His famous seasoning mix remains available. well, at many places, if not exactly everywhere. But it's definitely worth searching out.
- 1 ½ cups allspice
- 8 cups salt
- 5 ½ cups garlic powder
- 4 cups white sugar
- 1 cup chipotle chile powder
- ½ cup ground cloves
- 2 cups dried thyme leaves
- 2 cups ground black pepper
- 4 cups cayenne pepper
- 1 cup ground cinnamon
Place allspice, salt, garlic powder, sugar, chipotle powder, cloves, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon into a very large bowl. Mix together until well blended. Store in airtight containers.
To use, rub spice mix onto the meat of your choice, about 1 1/2 teaspoons per serving. For best results, marinate for at least an hour to allow the flavors of the rub to penetrate the meat.