Tuesday, October 5, 2010

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Donnie’s Spice Mix and Louis Szathmary’s Chef’s Salt

Cooks around the world — and companies that cater to them — create seasoning mixes to speed and streamline cooking. It’s so much easier to reach for a jar or a shaker holding a mix than to try to measure a teaspoon of this and a quarter-teaspoon of that while the stove is on and the pan spattering.

Donnie's, not yet mixed
Of course, there are foreign mixes with familiar names that aren’t necessarily part of our everyday cooking. Think of France’s quatre épices, Indian garam masala, ras al hanout from North Africa, or Chinese five-spice powder. Closer to home, we have Lowry’s and Mrs. Dash with their respective seasoning salts, while Tony Chachere spices Louisiana dishes in homes far beyond his own, and it seems that California serial restaurateur Juanita Musson barely knew a dish that couldn’t benefit from a dash of Vege-Sal.

Poke around my cabinets and you’ll find a few such mixes. I’m partial to several from Penzey’s, the Midwestern spice monger. Two jars in particular I never let go empty: chef’s salt from a recipe by Hungarian chef Louis Szathmary and — a recent addition to the larder and a bigger jar — Donald Link’s mixture he calls Donnie’s Spice Mix from his book Real Cajun.

This chef’s salt is one I’m likely to use to season roast beef, to strew on hot candied pecans, or to spike potatoes roasted in duck fat or (as my great-grandmother called it) goose grease.
Louis Szathmary’s Chef’s Salt

1 cup of salt
1 Tbl Spanish paprika
1 tsp black pepper, ground
¼ tsp white pepper, ground
¼ tsp celery salt
¼ tsp garlic salt

Mix and store in a dry place. In The Chef’s Secret Cook Book (1971), Szathmary notes: “Be sure to use garlic salt, not garlic powder. If you use garlic powder, a small pinch is enough.”
Link’s seasoning mix, on the other hand, has no salt at all. It’s a more pungent mix with a warm, mellow bite. If you use it, you’ve got to add salt separately. I tend to double the recipe each time I make it and it helps my budget that I buy spices in bulk at a nearby market with a substantial Middle Eastern customer base.
Donnie’s Spice Mix

4 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Again, mix and store in a dry place. For the chili powder, I use pure ground New Mexican red chile rather than a commercial chili mix. It's your kitchen: use the powder you want. Just make sure it's long on flavor and has some oomph.
This one I use on eggs, in gumbos, in various soups, meats for the grill, and vegetable dishes. It’s the spice mix I reach for when I open the cabinet door and am not sure what I want. I’ve grilled great lamb chops by mixing this in equal measure with ground cumin then adding salt and a small dash of oil. Despite the cayenne, it’s not a blistering hot spice mix. I’m lavish with this stuff. When the paprika costs about $8 a pound, I can afford to be.

Goes well with:


Tiare said...

i live in a Tony`s family..they go faster than anything else here. But for a while now i´ve been podering mixing up my own creole spice just to see how it would turn out.

Tiare said...

Forgot to say that i`m gonna give these two spice mixes a try as well, they look good to me!

Matthew Rowley said...

I did, too, Tiare. And we can get it readily here in California. It's heavy with salt, however, which is one of the reasons I moved away from it, even though I like its taste. Give Link's recipe a try, maybe even cut it in half if you like as a sample batch. THEN experiment with adding any herbs you might like: this thing is all pepper, garlic, and chiles.

Tiare said...

I agree its salty but i have kinda gotten used to it and compared to Zatarain`s and Louisiana its not that salty..But too much salt isn`t good and that`s why i always miz the fish and shrimp fry`s with plain cornmeal to dillute the salt. I`m gonna try out these both recipes. And i need to find my own ultimate creole seasoning anyway, so i`m not getting dependent on some brand and go nuts when i`m out and can`t find it unless i mail order..

Matthew Rowley said...

Perfect! Mixing with cornmeal is a great way to boost the flavor of a fish fry, fried oysters, etc. I still like Tony Chachere's, but making a seasoning mix at home is so much cheaper. Let me know if you come up with a good variant...

Unknown said...

Thanks for your mentions of Tony Chachere's we are always happy to help supply homes with our family recipe. If salt is an issue, remember we have "More Spice" and a "Lite" Salt version as well.

Cindy Ardoin
Tony Chachere's
Food Scientist

Matthew Rowley said...

Cindy ~

Sure! I like Tony Chachere's. In fact, I had a little green canister of it before I ever stepped foot in Louisiana as a teenager. Seeing it on the shelf always evokes such great memories...

Tiare said...

Cindy, i live in Sweden and i would really love to see other versions and products from Tony`s here, even though i stock up good on spices when i go to Nola or mail order, it`s so convenient to be able to just go out and buy it.