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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Salts/Seasonings

TIP: Add Turmeric To Foods

Turmeric is a rhizome with edible roots that grow underground horizontally. It’s related to ginger, which it somewhat resembles in external appearance.

Most Americans know turmeric as a deep gold spice that gives its intense color to curry powder. It’s been used for millennia to impart its color to foods. In the last century, it was used to give ballpark mustard its bright yellow color.

Turmeric has a peppery, bitter flavor and a mild aroma with a hint of its cousin, ginger, a note of orange.

More recently, turmeric has been discovered to be a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancinogen. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease. Its active ingredient, curcumin, is extracted and used in clinical studies for arthritis and cancer. (More on turmeric’s health benefits.)

HOWEVER: Turmeric can stain! It is also used as a dye. Don’t get it on your clothes, and scrub pots and pans immediately after cooking with a large does of turmeric.

 

Turmeric root. Photo courtesy Malaysian Kitchen.

WAYS TO USE TURMERIC

  • Beans: Add to bean and legume dishes.
  • Butter: Add to compound butter, drawn butter or other melted butter, to use on corn, lobster, etc.
  • Dips: Add to mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt based dips.
  • Eggs: Add a dash to deviled eggs, omelets and scrambles.
  • Marinade: Combine with lemon in a chicken marinade.
  • Meat: Add to burgers, chili, meat balls, meatloaf, Sloppy Joes.
  • Rice: Add turmeric when cooking rice, or afterwards as a seasoning.
  • Salads: Mix into tuna, egg and other protein salads; into macaroni salad and potato salad; and add a pinch to salad dressing for green salads. Try a brown rice salad with raisins and cashews; season with turmeric, cumin and coriander.
  • Soups & Stews: Add to stews, lentil soup, pea soup and other hearty soups.
  • Vegetables: Delicious with sautéed kale, spinach and other greens, sautéed onions and roasted cauliflower or potatoes and mashed potatoes.
  •  

    Ground turmeric. Add it to salad dressings
    and dips for crudités. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.

     

    Turmeric Tea

    Dr. Weil made a terrific ready-to-drink turmeric tea that unfortunately didn’t catch on. But you can buy turmeric tea bags or make your own tea by simmering a teaspoon of the powder in four cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain through a very fine strainer and drink it hot or iced.

    Add some ginger root for even more flavor and health benefits. You can also buy turmeric-ginger tea bags.

    RECIPE: MOROCCAN CHICKEN SALAD

    Try this creative roasted chicken salad recipe from Woodhouse Chocolate.

    Ingredients

    For the Dressing

  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (you can substitute
    regular paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  •  
    For The Roasted Chickpeas

  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  •  
    For The Salad

  • 6 cups mixed baby greens
  • 8 Medjool dates, each cut into 8 slivers
  • 12-16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 roasted chicken
  • 6 slices cooked bacon, cut into 6 smaller pieces each
  • 16 sprigs of cilantro
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE dressing: Whisk together the ingredients. Heat the oven to 400°F.

    2. DRAIN the chickpeas and dry them on a paper towel. Discard any stray skins. In a small mixing bowl, toss the chickpeas with the olive oil until evenly coated. Lay them in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place them in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until a nice dark golden brown. While the chickpeas are roasting…

    3. COMBINE the salt, cocoa powder and paprika. When the chickpeas are done, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of this mixture evenly over the chickpeas, moving them around to coat evenly. Save the rest of the salt for the next time you roast chickpeas.

    4. REMOVE the meat from the chicken. Slice the breasts and shred the leg/thigh meat.

    5. TOSS the greens with dressing in a large bowl. Add dressing to taste. On 4 dinner plates, fan out the chicken breast slices. Drizzle a little extra dressing over the chicken. Divide the greens evenly on the plates. Artistically place the dates, bacon, tomatoes and red onion over the salad. (Add some more of the shredded chicken if you like). Sprinkle some roasted chickpeas over and around the salad and top with a few leaves of cilantro.
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Moroccan Turkey Rub

    Moroccan spices add zing to a turkey or
    chicken. Photo courtesy Spice Islands.

     

    Perhaps you’re not up for brining a turkey.

    Instead of garlic powder and pepper, expand your seasoning palette. This recipe from Spice Islands dishes up a Moroccan flair.

    The recipe is given for a 5-6 pound turkey breast; for a whole turkey, multiply the proportions accordingly.

    You can also use the recipe on a chicken or duck.

    RECIPE: MOROCCAN TURKEY RUB

    Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 (5 to 6-pound) turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE garlic, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, turmeric and sea salt in a small bowl. Mix well and reserve 1 teaspoon of seasoning.

    2. RUB remaining seasoning over turkey breast. Roast according to turkey breast package directions.

    3. COMBINE reserved seasoning with honey and butter; mix well. Brush over turkey last 30 minutes of baking time.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Flavored Turkey Brine

    You may be wedded to your preparation of the Thanksgiving turkey. But if you’d like to try something new this year, try brining with a flavored turkey brine.

    Brining is a culinary technique that is regaining popularity because it produces a more moist, juicy, tender and flavorful turkey. Brining locks in the natural moisture of the meat, while infusing mild flavors into it. It also reduces cooking time.

    Some people use a basic salt brine, but spice companies have developed brines infused with fruit, herbs and savory spice flavors. So go for it this year, and see how you like the transformation of your turkey into something more gourmet.

    Marinate time 10 to 16 hours, cook time 3 to 5 hours, rest time 20 to 30 minutes.
     

    RECIPE: VANILLA BRINED TURKEY

    Ingredients

     

    Brine your turkey for more moisture and flavor. Photo courtesy Butterball.

  • 1 whole turkey (16 to 20 pounds), giblets removed, cleaned and patted dry
     
    For The Brine
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup hickory smoked salt
  • 2 tablespoons white pepper, ground
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom, ground
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1/2 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1/3 cup vanilla extract
  • 1/2 gallon heavily iced water
  •  

    You can also buy a pre-mixed brine. Photo
    courtesy Spice Islands.

     

    Vanilla Bourbon Butter

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons Spice Islands Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tablespoons sweet bourbon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  
    Aromatics

  • 1 green apple, halved
  • 1 yellow onion, halved
  • 1/2 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1/2 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 cinnamon sticks
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F. Place the first 8 ingredients of the brine in a large pot and simmer until the spices dissolve. Allow to cool completely. Pour the cooled stock mixture into a large container (bucket) and stir in vanilla and ice water. Completely submerge the turkey into the liquid, breast side down, and brine for 10 to 16 hours, refrigerated. While the turkey is in the brine…

    2. MAKE the vanilla bourbon butter. Place the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until completely combined. Set aside.

    3. REMOVE the turkey from the brine when ready to roast, and pat dry. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with aromatics and rub the skin, both under and over, with the vanilla bourbon butter. Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together tightly, tuck the wings under the back, and transfer the bird to a roasting pan. Place the turkey into the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, allowing the skin to brown. Remove the turkey from the oven and cover the breast with aluminum foil to prevent burning.

    4. REDUCE the oven temperature to 350°F and continue to roast the turkey for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, basting every 30 minutes. 30 minutes before the turkey is ready to come out of the oven…

    5. REMOVE foil from the breast and continue to roast until an instant read thermometer reads 161°F. Remove the turkey from the oven, loosely covered with foil and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.
      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Oregano Indio From Mexico

    If you’ve traveled to Mexico and enjoyed the cuisine, you can find most of the ingredients you need to recreate the recipes back home.

    But there’s often a certain something that’s missing. Steve Sando, proprietor of Rancho Gordo specialty foods, believes it’s the different oreganos of Mexico. “Each one seems a little different,” says Steve, “but they all seem a little earthier than their European [counterparts].”

    Rancho Gordo now imports Oregano Indio, also known as Oreja de Raton, or Mouse’s Ear. It is grown by the Oregano Caxtle Cooperative in Tlahuitelpa as part of the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project that helps small farmers in Mexico to continue to grow their indigenous foods.

     

    Treat yourself to more exciting oregano. Photo courtesy Rancho Gordo.

     
    “It’s less citrussy than the standard Mexican oregano,” says Steve, “but there’s an indescribable [difference] that makes it infectious. I just can’t stop using it on almost everything.”

    Customers agree, with comments like “amazing stuff” and “very complex flavor.”

    Steve advises to leave a bowl out for inspiration in the kitchen: Rub it into any meat or fish; add it to salsas, marinades, salsas, soups and stews; add to eggs, beans, Greek yogurt and of course, to Mexican recipes.

    In addition to perking up “all sorts of salsas,” Steve mixes the oregano with garlic and olive oil as a rub over pork tenderloin. “The flavor of the oregano is strong but not overpowering,” he explains, “and permeates the whole loin.” He also adds it to a salad dressing of olive oil and pear vinegar; you can also use pear balsamic vinegar.

    At $3.95 for a half-ounce glass jar or a two-ounce plastic bag, Oregano Indio is easily affordable. Consider the jars as stocking stuffers or party favors. They’ll be appreciated by both people who like to cook and people who order a lot of pizza.

    Get yours at RanchoGordo.com.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 10 Things To Do With Extra Herbs

    There’s nothing better than fresh herbs to add flavor to your cooking—and herbs are virtually calorie-free. They enable you can use less salt, too.

    Beyond what is called for in recipes, we add them to every meal of the day, from breakfast eggs and grits to salads (snip fresh herbs onto the greens or into egg salad, tuna salad, etc.), to yogurt (including dips and salad dressings) to grains and potatoes.

    You’d be surprised how much better your favorite sandwich or burger tastes with fresh basil leaves, chives and/or other favorite herbs. We grow a pot of basil, our favorite go-to herb, on the kitchen windowsill.

    But what if you end up with more herbs than you can use before they fade? Here are 10 of our favorite ways to use those extra herbs.

    EVERYDAY COOKING

    1. Infuse honey, maple syrup, salad oil, vinegar. If you have more than one herb on hand, you can mixed them.

     

    Add rosemary, basil or whatever you’ve got to olive oil or other cooking oil. Photo courtesy FlavorYourLife.com.

     
    Use your freshly herbed condiments on salads, as a bread dip, on pasta and rice, etc. Consider homemade basil honey, tarragon vinegar and rosemary oil. NOTE: Use these infused condiments within five days (put a “use by” label on the jar) because bacteria can multiply. Commercial infused oils sterilize the herbs to prevent this.

    2. Make herb butter. Stir chopped herbs into softened butter. You can keep it in the fridge for several weeks to enjoy as a bread spread and for cooking. Or freeze the butter for future use. One trick is to place the butter in plastic wrap and roll into a sausage shape. Freeze until it starts to firm; then cut into tablespoon-size slices and return to the freezer. Remove slices for as you need them for sauteéeing, to melt atop potatoes, rice and vegetables, etc.

    Herb butter is one type of compound butter. Check out these compound butter recipes.

    3. Amp up conventional condiments. Add chopped herbs to mayonnaise for a more flavorful sandwich spread. Similarly, add them to ketchup and mustard.

    4. Make herb ice cubes for cooking. Add the herbs to an ice cube tray and fill the tray with olive oil, stock or white wine. They’ll be at the ready to pop into sauces, soups, stews, stir-frys, etc.

    5. Make pesto. Basil is a traditional pesto base, but anything can be made into pesto, and you can blend different herbs, along with arugula or spinach. Store the pesto topped with a thin layer of olive oil, in an airtight jar; it will keep for months. Homemade pesto recipe.

     

    The old-fashioned way to dry herbs. Photo
    © Michaela | The Gardener’s Eden.

     

    BEVERAGES

    6. Make herb ice cubes for drinks. Add herbs, chopped as finely or coarsely as you like, to the compartments of an ice cube tray and fill with water. Once frozen, you can pop them out and store them in a freezer bag.

    7. Infuse vodka or other spirit. While there are endless fruit-flavored vodkas on the market, delicious herb- and spice-infused vodkas, which are popular in Russia, haven’t taken off with American consumers.

    Toss your herbs into a bottle of vodka and enjoy the infused vodka in shots or savory cocktails, like Bloody Marys and Martinis. Infuse chiles, cilantro, rosemary, sage, thyme: The alcohol kills bacteria growth, so you don’t have to remove the herbs (just be sure they are completely covered by the spirit when you infuse them).

     

    The method is easy: Crush the herbs in your hand to help release the oils and add the herbs to a bottle of vodka (you’ll have to consume some of the vodka if the bottle is full). Don’t use a bargain brand: The higher the quality of the vodka, the smoother and more flavorful the infusion. Place the bottle in a dark place and infuse for at least three days and up to two weeks.

    Look at other alcohol-herb pairings: bourbon with mint or basil, Limoncello with thyme or whatever inspires you.

    BAKING

    8. Add to breads, muffins and biscuits. Chop the herbs finely, and don’t hesitate to combine fresh or dried fruit with the herbs. Our favorite combinations: blueberry-rosemary muffins and cheddar chive muffins.

    9. Make pie crusts. From quiche to fruit pie, a little basil, thyme or rosemary in the crust can be a most welcome surprise. Use sweeter herbs with fruit pies. For savory pies, add whatever herbs appeal to you: chives, dill, oregano, etc.

    10. Dehydrate the herbs. You don’t need an electric dehydrator. The photo above shows what everyone did in the days before dehydrators: Tie the stems with a string (or elastic band) and hang upside down to dry for a few days. You can hang the bunches on pegs, on a makeshift string or rope line, even clothespin-clipped to a hanger.

    When dry, remove the stems and store in an airtight container. If you like, you can grind them with a mortar and pestle before storing.

    What’s your favorite way to use extra herbs? Let us know.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Hot Chili Pepper Seasoning

    Shake it, shake it baby! Photo by Elvira
    Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Jilli Pepper is an Albuquerque-based company known locally for its Red Chile Pineapple Salsa, Green Chile Salsa, Red Chile Salsa Mix and Hot Fiesta Pepper.

    The company sent us some of its Scovie Award-winning* Hot Fiesta Pepper, which we find to be a delightful alternative to cracked red pepper or other heat.

    The recipe is a mix of red chili powder, crushed pequin chiles, dried onions, cilantro, garlic and salt—a complex layering of flavors. An all-purpose dry spice, you can use it instead of salt on any number of foods.

    Shake it onto pizza, pasta or rice. Season your eggs. Sprinkle it onto fish, meat or poultry in it prior to cooking. Mix it into dips. Make an olive oil bread dipper or spicy butter or cream cheese spread. Use it to make salsa hotter.

    We enjoyed it on everything from cucumber slices to cottage cheese and yogurt.

     

    Hot Fiesta Pepper is available online by the case of 12 four-ounce shakers. We like them for small gifting, party favors and stocking stuffers. Get yours at JilliPepper.com.

    This $4.00 gift packs a lot of heat!

     

    *Hot Fiesta Pepper is a 2010 Scovie Winner in the hot and spice condiments category. The Scovie Awards are given annually to hot and spicy in a wide variety of categories, from barbecue sauce an salsa to beverages and snacke. the name is derived from the Scoville Scale, long used to measure the heat levels of chiles.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ingredients For Dazzling Desserts

    Dessert lovers: This one’s for you. Today’s tip is adapted from an article by Ann Pietrangel on Care2.com. To get recipes attached to the tips, see the original article.

    Pietrangel interviewed Chicago-based pastry chef and restauranteur Malika Ameen, a Top Chef Just Desserts contestant and proprietor of By M Desserts.

    Ameen recommends five ingredients that she always has on hand to give her desserts that extra something special. They happen to be popular with us as well:

    1. Candied Citrus Peel

    Candied citrus peel—grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange—adds brightness, freshness and texture to cakes and cookies. The peel of the fruit is julienned and boiled in sugar syrup, which preserves it. Here’s a recipe (along with a delicious lemon chiffon cake).

  • Chop and mix candied peel into baked goods: muffins, sweet breads, cakes, sugar cookie dough, shortbread, etc.
  •  

    Candied red grapefruit peel, served with a mascarpone dip. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

  • Garnish sorbet, ice cream, lemon meringue pie, even chocolate mousse and chocolate tarts.
  • Garnish citrus-based cocktails.
  • For a simple yet elegant dessert or tea-time treat, serve the peel with a chocolate dip or some lightly sweetened mascarpone (see photo above).
  • As the finale to a fine dinner, serve candied peel with coffee or tea.
  •  
    2. Dried Lavender

    “Used sparingly, dried lavender enhances food with a mysterious and distinctive flavor,” says Ameen. She steeps it in cream to pair with berries, makes lavender-infused simple syrup syrup for lemonade and iced tea, and combines it with a crunchy sanding sugar to garnish cookies and pound cake. Here’s our recipe for lavender whipped cream.

    If you’re buying lavender outside of a food store (at a farmers market or general merchandise store, for example), be sure that it is organic. Lavender that is grown for ornamental display or potpourri can be coated with chemical pesticides. You want culinary lavender.

     

    A vanilla-cardamom-filled whoopie pie.
    Here’s the recipe. Photo courtesy
    McCormick.com.

     

    3. Ground Cardamom

    This aromatic and slightly sweet spice, a relative of ginger, is one of Ameen’s favorites. While it is known for its use in Indian cooking, it is a popular addition to Scandinavian breads and breakfast pastries, as well as to Middle Eastern desserts.

    Cardamom pairs beautifully with chocolate: Use it to accent anything from chocolate pudding to brownie batter; add a dash or two to a chocolate milkshake. You can use cardamom pods to brew a delicious cardamom tea.

    Cardamom plants grow wild in the monsoon forests of southern India. They had been gathered and traded for 1,000 years until the British began to cultivate it in the 19th century. Cardamom was called the Queen of Spices. Black pepper, also Indian in origin, was the King of Spices.

     
    4. Vanilla Sugar

    Vanilla beans are expensive, but they have a second life. Used vanilla beans can (and should) be used to make vanilla sugar.

    Use vanilla sugar instead of plain table sugar to add a lift of flavor as an ingredient or a topping. Try it with baked goods, berries, beverages, cereal and grapefruit, for example.

    To repurpose vanilla beans, simply place one in a sealed pound canister of granulated sugar for at least week. It can remain there infinitely; just shake the jar occasionally. You can add more used pods and can give containers of your artisan vanilla sugar as gifts.

    If you don’t use vanilla pods, you can buy ready-made vanilla sugar as a gift for your favorite baker.

    NOTE: Vanilla powder is not the same as vanilla sugar. Vanilla powder is a combination of sugar and ground vanilla that is used in recipes where a dry ingredient is preferred, instead of vanilla extract. More about the different types of vanilla.

    5. Fleur De Sel

    Sweet and salty has emerged as a flavor hit (although everything old is new again). Salt helps to lift the flavor of other ingredients. That’s why cookies, cakes and other sweets all have a pinch of salt in the recipe.

    Fleur de sel (“flower of the sea”), a fine French sea salt is simply delicious with chocolate. That’s why there are so many artisan brownies, chocolate bars and chocolate chip cookies garnished with it.

    Sprinkle a few crystals of fleur de sel sprinkled over any chocolate dessert to add a burst of flavor and crunchy texture.

    Here’s more about fleur de sel in our Artisan Salts Glossary. Who knew there were so many wonderful salts?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Garnish With Dried Herbs & Spices

    A sprinkle of parsley adds garnish glamour to
    this plate of pasta. Photo courtesy Galli
    Restaurant | New York
    City.

     

    We love garnishing dishes with fresh herbs: We snip them onto everything from breakfast eggs to soup, salad and sandwiches to main courses and sides. But what if you don’t have any on hand? Reach for the dried herbs and spices.

    If you frequent finer restaurants, you may notice that the chef sometimes sprinkles dried herbs or spices as a garnish around the rim of the plate or bowl.

    Why? It ads artistry and color as well as flavor; you can dip forkfuls of food into the garnish.

    You can use fresh or dried herbs or spices, chopped nuts or seeds. How many of the following do you already have in your pantry?

     

    TAKE YOUR PICK

  • Basil, Caraway, Cardamom
  • Celery seed, Chili Flakes, Chili Powder
  • Chives, Cilantro, Cinnamon
  • Cracked pepper, Pink or Green Peppercorns, Cumin
  • Dill, Fennel, Garlic Chips
  • Lavender, Marjoram
  • Nuts: any chopped nuts; pistachios have the best color
  • Oregano, Paprika, Parsley
  • Rosemary, Sage
  • Seeds: Poppy, Pumpkin (Pepita), Sunflower, Sesame
  • Tarragon, Thyme. Za’atar
  •  

    Tomato soup with a very light rim garnish, and more garnish glamour in the center. Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     
    A side benefit of garnishing with herbs and spices: You use them up more quickly, so the flavor doesn’t fade on the shelf.

    FOOD 101: GARNISH

    To garnish means to provide something ornamental; to adorn or decorate.* With food, it means something that adds flavor or decorative color. One of the classic food garnishes in America: boiled potatoes garnished with chopped parsley.

    MORE WAYS TO GARNISH EVERYTHING

    See our article, Garnish Glamour, for many ways to garnish both savory and sweet foods.

    *In the law, garnish means to attach money due or property belonging to a debtor.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Ways To Season Chicken

    You don’t want a bland chicken, so dig out
    the spices and season away! Photo courtesy Butterball.

     

    Barbecue sauce is the number one food that THE NIBBLE receives over the transom (and old publishing expression that means unsolicited). Barbecue sauce is expensive and totally unnecessary. Our mother rotisseried a wonderfully delicious, plump bird several times a week, using only garlic salt, onion salt and pepper. No bottle of barbecue sauce ever crossed her threshold.

    Of course, there are many options between those two extremes: numerous different ways to season a chicken, drawing from just about every cultural influence. It can be as simple as trussing the bird, then sprinkling or basting with your favorite flavors. Or, you can be as imaginative as you like. Here are some suggestions that leave out the sugar, so you can enjoy a broiled, grilled or roasted chicken as the lower-calorie protein it is.

    Here are tips from Chef Johnny Gnall, starting with a…

     

  • Basic Roast Chicken. If you prefer a simple bird, just sprinkle salt and pepper over it. But not your mother’s S&P: Use sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, with one of these varietal peppercorns. Basting the chicken with melted butter during roasting will also add a lot of flavor; and drizzle some fresh lemon juice on the cooked bird to add a bit of freshness and lightness (and counterbalance the rich butter. For added flavor, stuffing the cavity with half a peeled onion and a lemon that has been cut in half. (You can use this trick for any roast chicken recipe.)
  • Asian Seasoning. Stuff the inside cavity of the bird with a half a head of peeled garlic and a 1-inch knob of ginger. Baste the skin with your favorite Asian marinade or dressing (we like the Palcha line of Thai-fusion dressings), or make your own with this easy recipe.
  •  

  • Southwestern Seasoning. Take 4 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue rub (here are 10 barbecue rub recipes) and mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. The ground coffee flavor will not be prominent; in fact, few people will know it’s there. Yet, it will enhance the other flavors while adding a delightful earthiness, as it does in a good chili recipe.
  • Spicy Seasoning. If you enjoy your foods heavily spiced, simply add some dried herbs along with your favorite spice combinations. For example, mix equal parts (or your preferred proportions) of chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, dried thyme and paprika. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can blend in a stick of melted butter or oil to create a wet rub and basting paste.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN SPICE RUB

    If you want to use a spice rub but don’t have one on hand, it’s easy—and far more economical—to create your own out of the spices you have in your pantry. You can use a simple ratio of two parts salt to one part each of any other spice(s). Johnny’s favorite is two parts salt to one part each of chipotle chili powder, coriander, cumin and light brown sugar.

     

    There’s need to buy spice rub: It’s a combination of the spices you probably have in the cabinet. Photo by Elena Elisseeva | IST.

     

    WE’RE NOT ANTI BARBECUE SAUCE, by the way. Find our favorite barbecue sauces and rubs in our Rubs, Marinades, Sauces & Glazes Section.
     

    HOW MANY PARTS OF THE CHICKEN CAN YOU NAME?

    Check out our Chicken Glossary, which covers the different parts of chicken, the history of chicken and much more.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cooking With Black Garlic

    Chef Johnny Gnall takes on a relatively new ingredient, black garlic, which originated in Korea. It’s a fermented…If you have questions or suggestions for tips, email Chef Johnny.

    Sometimes you can dramatically alter the flavor profile of an ingredient simply by leaving it alone; such is the case with my new favorite ingredient, black garlic. By letting raw garlic ferment for a month at high heat under specific conditions, it can be transformed into what appears to be something completely new and unique. Think of the process of caramelizing onions: the flavor, color, and texture of the onion are changed so dramatically by the end that if you didn’t know better, you might think you were dealing with a completely different ingredient.

    Since garlic is even sharper and more acrid than onion when raw, the resulting metamorphosis is that much more dramatic and contrasting. Cloves of black garlic have a rich black hue and are soft enough to squish between your fingers. Tiny pockmarks and imperfections across its otherwise sleek, black surface give it the appearance of freshly laid tar on a blacktop. Its flavor, however, is where you can really taste the magic. With notes of dark beer, caramel, molasses, fig, and balsamic vinegar and an umami similar to that which you taste in soy sauce, black garlic could not taste more different than its raw garlic origin.

     

    As with roasted garlic, you can spread the cloves on bread. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Where before there was acrid bite, there is now sweetness; the soft fruitiness is a sharp contrast to raw garlic’s pungent, often unpleasant odor. In essence, all the work of “taming” raw garlic has been done for you, so there is no need to roast, or sweat, or sauté, or blanch, or whatever other method you might choose to soften the potentially overpowering flavor of garlic. Make no mistake, however: garlic, when cooked and applied properly, is pure heaven (I think most people would agree). In fact, the makers of Black Garlic go out of their way to make it clear that they do, indeed, love regular garlic; they just also love black garlic. I can’t say I blame them.

    When I recently got my hands on some black garlic (which comes in the form of whole heads, peeled cloves, and paste), I was excited to experiment. Having eaten it before, but never cooked with it, I wanted to try a variety of cooking methods across a number of different ingredients, both to test its versatility as an ingredient, and also to find the dishes and techniques that best showcased its unique and delicious flavor.

    COOKING CHICKEN WITH BLACK GARLIC

    I got myself a whole chicken and rooted around for a few other odds and ends (some stock scraps, butternut squash, and farro, among others), broke the chicken down into all its parts, and spent the next 6 hours in the kitchen, up to my elbows in black garlic. What follows is a chronicle of my findings as I cooked and ate my way through the discovery process:

    Chicken Wings: Starting with the wings, I seasoned them with salt and pepper and shallow fried them in oil as I melted some butter and whisked in a couple of tablespoons of the black garlic paste. It was challenging to properly emulsify the butter and the all-natural paste, since “all-natural” means it contains nothing but finely smashed black garlic cloves. This is good for whole food purists, but bad for emulsifying.

    Had I deep-fried the wings, it probably would have helped the butter mixture stick better, as would a light dredge in flour prior to the shallow fry. At any rate, I tossed the wings in the butter and drizzled the remainder over the top, then let them rest for a couple of minutes. Sure enough, the flavor got in there, even if the butter’s broken texture wasn’t exactly what you’d want on your wings. As far as the flavor, the black garlic was sweet, sticky, and rich in umami, which is exactly what you want on your wings.

    It’s worth mentioning that you should use restraint with the salt, as you really want to let the black garlic flavor to come through, and chicken wings can get salty very quickly if you’re heavy handed when you season. All in all, they were super tasty; feel free to rub them with the paste and marinate them overnight to really let that flavor sink in.

     

    Look for black garlic in sealed bags that
    protect the product. Photo by Katharine
    Pollak | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Chicken Legs: The next piece I grabbed was a leg. I wanted to braise this one with some red wine, as I imagined the wine’s fruity yet earthy flavor profile would compliment the black garlic’s, their flavors melding and concentrating as they cooked. Unfortunately, I found that while the chicken leg turned a beautiful mahogany color, the black garlic flavor was lost in the wine. The meat was, of course, succulent and juicy, but it tasted nearly all of wine and I barely got the black garlic notes.

    I had used 5 cloves of black garlic, about a cup of wine, and a cup of chicken stock; clearly I needed to up the black garlic content if I wanted to harmoniously blend these two flavors. The chicken now out of the sauce pot it was braised in; I added two heaping tablespoons of the black garlic paste and a few teaspoons of sugar, whisked it into the wine and stock, and set it to a low simmer.

    After about an hour it was reduced by about half, and I tasted it: holy moly. The flavor was absolutely outstanding, sweet and round and full of umami. It was a flavor that would go well on just about anything, a perfect blend of wine and black garlic, and just enough savory to balance the sweet.

     
    In all honesty, it tasted like a nearly indistinguishable substitute for demi-glace, and I immediately thought of French Onion Soup. If one needed a vegetarian version, this reduction, cut with a splash of vegetable stock, stock could replace beef stock and no one would miss a beat. I let mine reduce a bit more, to about a quarter of its original volume, and now I had a luscious, syrupy reduction that I honestly could drink a glass of: pure, sweet, black garlic heaven.

    Chicken Breasts: I attempted a black garlic brine for one of the chicken breasts using a quart of water, ¼ cup of salt, 5 cloves of black garlic, 1 thai chile, and a few pieces of lime peel; after brining it overnight, I seasoned, seared and roasted it. I wanted the preparation after the brine to be as simple as possible so that I could really judge how much the black garlic flavor transferred to the breast.

    In truth, there was not much infusion in the meat; while it was tender and juicy from the brine, it tasted like little more than chicken. Interestingly enough, I did notice that some of the drippings that had fallen as the breast roasted had caramelized on the roasting plan. I dipped my finger in them and tasted, and the favor explosion in my mouth caught me by surprise. Its concentration and richness were like that of the wine reduction, but this time the profile was much more savory, as it had now been combined with the flavors of well-seasoned chicken instead of sugar-rich wine. The caramel-colored goo tasted of umami, its flavors and texture akin to a rich, slightly sweet soy sauce.

    Lessons Learned: I was starting to get a sense of how to cook with the black garlic, from both my misses and successes. It made sense that a very gentle method of developing its flavor wasn’t going to do much; after all, the garlic had already been through a very gentle and mellowed fermentation process to get to its current state. To unlock something even deeper, it was going to take more intense cooking: techniques that involved direct heat might be the key to getting something entirely new out of what is already quite the unique ingredient.

    Infusing butter, brining, and braising didn’t quite work, perhaps because these are slow cooking methods deigned to gently coax the flavors out of ingredients. Roasting, on the other hand, applies direct, dry heat; harsher than a liquid simmer, that worked out much better, even in just a few drops of drippings. Reducing almost all of the water out of the black garlic and wine yielded similar, outstanding results.

    Chicken Legs, Part 2: With this in mind, I rubbed the other chicken leg all over with a paste I’m calling a “Korean Jerk,” made from a tablespoon of neutral oil, a tablespoon of black garlic paste, salt, pepper, and a ¼ of a finely minced habanero (roughly a teaspoon or less), then I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight. The rub was a bit challenging to stick, so you could probably add a bit of corn starch if you wanted, but if you spend a minute really rubbing it in, that and the time marinating in the fridge will do just fine.

    The next day I pulled the leg out and noticed the stunning change in color that it had picked up while marinating: it was now amber all over the skin, with tiny flecks of bright orange from the habanero and sexy splashes of deep black sheen from the paste. I hit it with a touch more salt and pepper and set it to roast at 350 for about 20 minutes, finishing at 450 with a drizzle of olive oil to help crisp up the skin a bit. This result was the best by far. The black garlic provided a nice, soft background for the heat of the habanero, just as you notice in traditional jerk seasoning, and it quite naturally went great with the chicken. All in all, the flavors were infused, balanced, and tasty.

    In retrospect, I probably could have seared it if I wanted to really test my theories of intense heat and get a crispier skin, but I was worried about the black garlic burning. I guess we won’t know until you try it. So try it!

    Next up were the thighs; these I was really excited about: I deboned them completely and stuffed them with a handful of cloves of black garlic and some very thin slices of lemon, rolled them up, tied them, and seared them on all sides. Then I whisked about a quarter cup of the black garlic paste into a cup of particularly earthy cocoa & coffee barbecue sauce I’d made the week prior. I placed the thighs back into the pan in which I’d seared them, added the black garlic barbecue sauce, finished with stock until the thighs were mostly submerged, then braised it, covered, at 350 for about 15 minutes.

    This was another big success. The high concentration of the paste and the thick, rich sauce as a vehicle to carry its flavor meant that everything really came together; it was reminiscent of a red mole sauce, sweet and earthy as it clung to the chicken thighs. Moreover, inside the rolled thighs was another completely different flavor combination of bright lemon, sweet, rich black garlic, and savory dark meat, all keeping one another in check and adding even more overall depth to the dish. A bite containing a bit of everything together was almost indescribable: you got bright, tart, sweet, earthy, salty, tangy, and more, all hitting you at once. It was the veritable surprise party in your mouth that comes only from multiple layers of flavors and ingredients brought together with care.

    On the side I made a simple green salad and dressed it with a black garlic vinaigrette, emulsified in the blender (hyperlink to emulsified vinaigrettes article) and containing 5 cloves of black garlic, about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, some salt and pepper, and a slow stream of neutral oil (I used neutral as opposed to olive oil in order to let as much black garlic flavor come through as possible). The vinaigrette was subtle and pleasant, the black garlic adding a sweetness that was richer and more complex than if I had simply used white sugar.

    I did notice that, even in the blender, there were still small bits of black garlic that did not blend into the dressing. This was not an issue because the little morsels were delicious, but it was worth noting the continued resistance to easily break down and emulsify. That being said, I think these tiny flavor bursts in the salad were as much a flavor ‘pro’ as they were a consistency ‘con,’ but if you’re not into it, you can always strain them out.

    All the stock I used throughout the cooking process was a black garlic chicken stock I made by rubbing the chicken carcass, thighbones, and wing tips with black garlic paste before roasting them at 375 for an hour and a half; I also added a handful of cloves to the stock as it simmered. The color was absolutely gorgeous, sort of a chestnut brown; and the aroma that filled my entire house was like the combination of a magical forest and a dark chocolate sauna. It was nutty and sweet and savory and gamey, and it brought me several times to stand over the pot, inhaling deeply and smiling as its heavenly, honey perfume wafted about my head.

    Unfortunately it tasted far more like chicken and stock scraps than it did like black garlic, even after it reduced for several hours; it was perplexing to get so much by smelling and so little by tasting, but I have had the same experiences with certain wines. Whether it’s me or what I’m smelling, I think I can pick up more complexity from aroma than I can from taste. It also may have to do with my previously noted observations of gentle versus harsher cooking with this particular ingredient: simmering stock is definitely on the gentler side, and there’s a lot of water, scraps, and bones to dilute the black garlic’s flavor.

    I froze most of the stock, reserving just under a quart to keep on hand for one last use. I ended up using it to make farro the next day, and as the hearty grains of farro took their time soaking it up, the stock reduced to literally nothing, as it goes when you cook most grains. I ran my finger across the bottom of the pan after the farro came out, and when I tasted it, the sweetness was right up front, as if I had added a spoonful of caramel to the pot at some point. The hearty flavor and toothsome texture of the whole grain married with this sticky sweetness, straddling the line between sweet and savory, kind of the way a muffin sometimes does.

    From this point I could have added dried fruit and nuts or fresh herbs and feta and either would been perfect. I went with a squeeze of lemon and some thinly sliced kale, then topped it with chunks of butternut squash that had been roasted in some of the leftover black garlic barbecue sauce, then tossed with a little mascarpone cheese.

    There are literally thousands of other directions you could go with black garlic. Its flavors are very complementary and it’s hard to overdo it, which is most definitely not the case with raw garlic, as I’m sure you know. Plus it happens to be rich in antioxidants (twice the content of raw garlic) and cancer-fighting agents. Bonus!

    Try marinating some Korean style short ribs (or almost any protein) overnight in a black garlic marinade to get the most out of its flavor. Better yet, go uber-simple and serve a pile of whole cloves on a cheese plate to really blow people’s minds. You can put time and love into taking its flavor to the next level, or let let the black garlic speak for its delicious self: both will be crowd pleasers. I’m glad I finally got to know this delicious and unique ingredient. It’s time you did the same!

    THE ORIGIN OF BLACK GARLIC

    It’s one of those things that you’d guess has been around for thousands of years, fermenting in crocks. But it’s quite new, created with a high-heat fermentation process that turns regular garlic into black garlic in 30 days. While it probably developed within the last 10 years in Korea, the American product was invented by a Korean-American named Scott Kim in Southern California, who has a patent pending on the process. He is currently the only supplier in the U.S.

    MORE ABOUT BLACK GARLIC.

      

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