Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Penzey's Spices

I recently had the good fortune to find myself in a Penzey's Spice store. My first impression was the delightful smell that met my nose when I walked in. My second was surprise the the entire section dedicated to Saffron.

Really if you are looking for a good collection of spices, dried herbs, and various mixes I say that Penzey's is the place to be. Here are some things that you might want to know before you enter your local Penzey's though:
  1. Everything is alphabetical, even the mixes. You will need to browse the store to find all that is available.
  2. Try out the glass "smell" jars. Each spice, herb or mixture is bottled up in a glass jar (at least the one I found had this). You can pop the top off that jar and get a hint at what you're buying. Good news - no more guessing at what you're getting.
  3. Everything is very informative. They actually described the difference between types of peppercorns - black peppercorns that is. I didn't know there was a difference! I guess they are like a fine wine though, location and harvesting are critical to the taste of the pepper. There goes my pepper vine in the back yard!
  4. Pick up the store recipes. Different mixes have recipes that Penzey's chefs (I'm assuming) have put together. I'm looking forward particularly to the taco mix and taco salad recipe we got.
  5. They are not about the salt. Although Penzey's has started to move into the gourmet salt market, they emphasis saltless mixes. It seems like their take on it is that food can taste good without a sodium base. I tend to agree and here is a story about that...
I picked up the Chicago steak seasoning and tried it on a ribeye. Apart from letting the meat overcook on the grill (still getting back into the swing of things), the taste was wonderful. I bought the mix based on its smoky smell (reminded me of Swiss Landjaegers). I took a very simple approach to the meat so I could really tell the taste of the mix. Here is what I did:
  1. Preheat a grill to high.
  2. In the meantime apply 1-2tsp. of mix per lb of meat. Spread mix on both sides of meat and rub in. Cover and set aside to come to room temperature (or as close as possible).
  3. Oil your grill - so important, but often missed!
  4. Place the meat on the grill over the fire (direct grilling).
  5. Cook till done (I use, or should have used :), the poke test. This takes some time, but eventually you can feel the difference between rare, medium rare, medium and well done - more on this later).
This made a delicious steak. The only thing better would be to season it a little ahead of time. This would taste great on lamb or chicken too. So for any dry rub marinated piece of meat, I whole-heartedly recommend Chicago Steak Seasoning by Penzey's Spices.

Menu Options
  1. Ribeyes with Chicago Steak Seasoning (steaks about 1" thick)
  2. Sweet Potato Fries
  3. Roasted Corn on the Cob with Herb Butter
  4. Paired with Marechal Foch from WineHaven.

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