Saturday, November 21, 2009

Seasons to Taste

So many of us are readying ourselves to spend a day or two preparing a meal that is about gathering everyone and anyone to give thanks. Yes, this is my favorite meal to present as it is steeped in gratitude. There are no overt religious overtones dividing us, just in its essence, the pure joy of the bounty of the land, and the assembly of people to share that blessing.

This is also the holiday when we reach not just into our recipe files to present those dishes that represents our individual cultural and personal tastes, but reach into the spice cupboard to pull out some of those spices we have not seem since last time these dishes have been prepared. Now, there could be a slight problem with this infrequent visit.

Spices, defined as the root, stem, bark or seed of a plant offers up its fragrance by releasing their volatile oils when exposed to heat and light. If your spices are pre-ground and stored in a clear container most of their potency has already been wasted. I endeavor to always buy spices whole, and have bought a small coffee grinder that is dedicated to crushing up those aromatic plant parts. This keeps their redolent potential secured until I am ready to release them. To further trap their promise I store the majority of my spices in the freezer – a cool, dark spot is the optimum condition for preserving their continued offering.

In the spirit of serving the best, you may want to take an assessment of those seasoning notes, and if need be replace them. I also source my spices from either a focused spice shop or an Indian spice shop. Try or for your refurbishment needs, and a happy carving to all.

Cocoa Spice Rub
2 ancho chilies
2 dried New Mexican chilies
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground clove
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound butter - at room temperature

Heat a skillet to very hot over a high heat. Toast the chilies for 30 to 60 seconds in the pan turning them frequently. You must make sure not to burn the chilies and cause them to turn bitter. Let the chilies cool for a moment and then remove the seeds and membrane and discard them. Ground the chilies in a spice grinder.

In the same skillet toast the cumin,fennel, celery seed, clove, nutmeg, coriander for about 30 seconds, keeping the pan moving constantly. Immediately get the spices out of the skillet into a bowl. Mix into the bowl the ground chilies, dried oregano. cocoa powder, tomato paste, cider vinegar oil and butter, and mix all the ingredients to completely combine.

Place the rub under the skin of the turkey before roasting.

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