Let’s keep the meat dialogue rolling, shall we? Probably my favourite way to season meat is with a dry rub. You can get right in there with the mortar and pestle and release the flavour of many gorgeous spices, cover the meat generously, and then let the cooking take care of the rest. You can customize your blends to what your family like, or, you know, buy them. Not to lace my blog with advertisements or anything, but if you want to buy a rub, make it organic and make it good. Organic fair (www.organicfair.com) does a fantastic BBQ rub called “Ultimate ‘que” that is my personal favourite rub to purchase- it really enhances the flavour of meat without overpowering it, which is a fantastic quality for a rub to have. They also have an Herbes de Provence which, as Sebastien will testify to, is a favourite of the Frenchies, and a Mole rub that brings some nice authentic Mexican punch with it. I recently received a Southwestern Chipotle rub as a Christmas present, so I’ll try it out, and if it’s anything significant you may hear about it in the future!
Okay, back on track! There are a lot of great rubs out there for purchase, but they really are very easy to make yourself. Using herbs and spices that you grind yourself really is the kicker, because freshly exposing those volatile essential oils gives the strongest, most well rounded smell and flavour. For that, you may need a bit of equipment. Yes, I will admit to spending evenings smashing pepper with a mallet and crunching cumin in cups with a wooden spoon, but if you are serious about getting a good quantity of spice, and aren’t totally fanatical, those methods are less than ideal. A mortar and pestle is one way to sweat for your food, and they really are multi purpose. By that I don’t mean they have a lot of different functions- they are pretty much exclusively for smashing things-but that you will be surprised at the wide variety of things there are to smash! Garlic cloves and butter, fresh herbs, nuts, bananas, coffee beans…the list continues. At the very least, they have a nice shape, so use them as a decoration and for spice rubs. Another option for breaking apart your spices is a coffee grinder, though it is recommended that its not the one that you actually use for coffee. Unless you like a little pork seasoning in your cup of joe or have always wanted to try a cumin flavoured expresso. Whichever you choose to purchase, buy it knowing that your future will be succulently spiced!
So, here’s the recipe for a couple of rubs! The lamb rub really is tailored to the lamb meat, because a primary herb in it is thyme. The principle flavour molecule in thyme is a little something called “thymol” which happens to be something found in lamb, which makes this a natural couple. Another herb used in this rub that really compliments lamb is rosemary (a nice Mediterranean “terpene”). The so called “All-Purpose Pork Rub” that I’ve posted here is more of a name than anything. Doesn’t it sound nice? Really, it is a compilation of classic spices used in many pork dishes, but I have been known to toss it on beef and into meatball mixtures without a pause.
1/4 c. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. sea salt
1) Place the cumin and coriander seeds in a large pan and heat to medium heat. When you can smell the spices (they become “fragrant”) and have darkened slightly in colour (they have “toasted”) pull them off the heat and let them cool a bit.
2) Mix all the spices together and grind in small batches to a desired consistency (course if you like bursts in your mouth, finer if you want an even coat, or somewhere in between). Store in a jar or sealed plastic bag and use soon for maximum flavour.
To Use: If you are coating something like a roast, dry the roast with paper towels first. Then evaluate- spices don’t stick very well to hardened fat, so if there is a lot of marbled fat on the surface or a good strip on the top, rub the whole thing with a little oil, or target the fat strip with oil. Then coat generously. Try to get the rub onto the meat an hour or so before you plan on cooking it- even fifteen minutes will make a difference. Then cook as you would normally. If you are doing an individual cut, like a chop, coat well but maybe don’t go to town quite as much as something large like a roast. Get a nice single layer on, then shake off the excess spice before cooking.
3 Tbsp. dried thyme leaves
2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
2 Tbsp. black peppercorns
2 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1) Mix together black peppercorns and coriander seeds. Grind to desired consistency. If you think you rosemary is on the large side, give it a quick smash too.
2) Combine all in a bowl. Store in a jar or in a sealed plastic bag, and use quickly for maximum flavour.
To Use: Same as with the pork- coat generously, use oil if there’s a lot of fat on the surface. For a lamb chop, apply the rub with greater reserve, but by no means skimp.