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High Stepping into March!

It’s time to Celebrate Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day! Fat Tuesday, the climax of Mardi Gras, falls on March 5th this year. Traditionally a time for zaniness, a reason to party, and often an excuse to imbibe to excess. We suggest you plan ahead with a spectacularly simple Shrimp Creole dinner. Here’s how:

Our Easy Shrimp Creole for 2
INGREDIENTS
1 lb. Shrimp (peeled and deveined)
1 can 14 oz. Diced Tomatoes
2 tbsp. VSpicery’s Creole Seasoning
2 tsp. VSpicery’s Gumbo Filé

DIRECTIONS
Put diced tomatoes into 10” skillet.  Cook on medium heat until liquid starts to reduce. Stir in Creole Seasoning and Gumbo Filé. Cook so flavors concentrate, and create a sauce (about 5 minutes). When the sauce has thickened, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp have turned a pretty pink. Serve over rice or accompanied by crusty French bread with a nice salad. Laissez les bon temps roule! Yes, flavor can be that easy with VSpicery’s blends.

Next we are rolling along into St. Patrick’s Day.

Many Americans only know Irish dishes such as potatoes, corned beef and cabbage. If you want to cure your own beef, as several of our customers do, we have the spices that you need. Just let us know and we’ll put them together for you. Beyond the delicious home cured corned beef, when it comes to Irish food, there is much more to consider. Spices such as bay leaves, spearmint, thyme, parsley, rosemary, black pepper and caraway seeds are primary seasonings found in Irish cuisine.

Speaking of caraway seeds, many of us don’t know much about caraway, but it has been an international player on the spice scene since ancient Rome. Caraway seeds can be used in a variety of ways. They have a pungent aroma that, like the flavor, is warm and bittersweet, sharply spicy, with a note of dried orange peel and a slight lingering hint of anise. Commonly used in Asian and northern and central Europe, the Romans used caraway in vegetables and fish. Caraway seeds are often found in eastern European Jewish staples such as rye breads, sausages, cabbage, soups, and stews. Caraway seeds go well with apples, duck, goose, noodles, onions, pork, potatoes, and other root vegetables, and interestingly, tomatoes.

Back to the Irish food – if you are in the mood for something a bit off the well worn path, give this recipe a try:

Beef in Ale with Cheese Cobbler
INGREDIENTS

Casserole
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons VSpicery’s Herbal Crust Seasoning
1 1/2 pounds beef brisket, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups premium ale
1 cup homemade beef stock or low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Cobbler
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 to 2/3 cups water
1 tablespoon milk for brushing tops

DIRECTIONS
This beef casserole dish is best when made with premium Irish ale. Topped with a cheesy Cheddar cobbler, the dish can be prepared in advance, with the cobbler added just before serving time. To make the casserole: In a large bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine the flour and VSpicery’s Herbal Crust Seasoning. Dredge the beef in the flour mixture and set aside. Lightly grease a 3-quart casserole dish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft, but not browned. Add the beef and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until browned on all sides. Add the carrots and celery and stir to coat. Stir in the ale, broth, tomato purée, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the meat and vegetables are tender and the sauce starts to thicken. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish.

To make the cobbler: Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Sift the flour and mustard into a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter, and pulse 4 to 5 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the cheese, Tabasco, and 1/2 cup water. Process for 8 to 10 seconds, or until a soft dough forms. Add more water, if necessary.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Roll it out to 1/2-inch thickness. With a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Arrange the rounds on top of the meat mixture, overlapping in a decorative pattern. Brush the tops of the cobbler with the milk. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and the mixture is heated through. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.
Sláinte!

We hope that you enjoyed this post and try the recipes. If you do, send us an email about your experience to val@vspicery.com. We like pictures too! Love hearing from our customers. Next time we’ll spotlight some of the products that we carry that in our opinion are top-kotch! 
Stay tune for our next cooking class.  We’re working on a nice one.

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/12/11 – Steak

We will be discussing flavors this month in our “30 Days of Flavor” blog series. Every day this month, VSpicery will select a spice, seasoning, salt, etc., as the flavor of the day, giving you it’s history, flavor profile, and uses. We hope you enjoy these flavors and their unique stories.

Yep, you heard me right: Steak. Grilling season is fast approaching, and VSpicery has some amazing steak rubs that are perfect for the grill, and also pretty darn awesome for baked or sautéed steaks. If you’re a grill lovin’ carnivore like we are, there is nothing like a juicy grilled steak. It is a simple technique, with little clean-up, and the flavor is unforgettable.

Beef is labeled using a grading system determined by the quantity of visible fat (“marbling”) throughout the muscle tissue. The more marbling, the more flavorful, tender and juicy your steak will be, since the fat in between the muscles constantly bastes the meat as it melts during cooking. You don’t want large strips of fat, but evenly distributed strands throughout the meat. The superior grade is “Prime”, and this indicates a well marbled steak that will be tender and juicy. “Choice” is the second best grade, and can still deliver a pretty great steak. The final grade is “Select”, but isn’t recommended for steaks, since this will be a tougher and less flavorful piece of meat, much better for stews and soups.

When grilling your steaks, it’s best to flip them only once so that the caramelization process is not disrupted, which gives the steak a nice crust. It’s also best to use tongs or something that you can handle the steaks with that will not pierce the meat; if you use a fork, the steak will lose juice and dry out more easily. Also, allow the steaks to rest for 5 – 10 minutes before serving or cutting, this helps keep the steak tender and juicy.

Now that we’ve gone over some tips for selecting and cooking steaks, let’s talk rubs! All three VSpicery steak rubs are very popular with our customers, most buying in bulk because they use it so fast.

Our first flavorful rub is called Java Jo Steak Seasoning. This a perfect blend of paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper with a hint of coffee, that comes through more in the aroma than flavor, but acts as a natural tenderizer and flavor enhancer to the other ingredients and the steak. Used to season steak or mixed into ground meat for burgers, this blend really brings out the natural flavor in the meat and gives a nice spice punch without heat.

Savory Steak Seasoning is a more traditional blend, that incorporates garlic, ginger, mustard, two different peppercorns, Worcestershire powder and salt in a balanced taste sensation that will soon become a family favorite for seasoning steaks, burgers, roast beef, and cheese-steak sandwiches. Savory Steak also makes a fantastic seasoning for sautéed mushrooms and onions as a condiment for steaks, burgers or sandwiches.

VSpicery’s third blend for steak is Soulful Seasons, and this rub makes the best steak we have ever grilled. There is a little bit of heat to this blend, but is balanced with garlic, salt, pepper, coriander, paprika, and a touch of caraway. This rub is great on steaks, burgers, chicken, pork, and vegetables, it is a nice all-around blend that is one of our newest creations, but is quickly becoming a best-seller.

All three of these rubs give food fantastic flavor, with no chemicals, no preservatives, and definitely no MSG. Just loads of natural herbs and spices blended by hand at our shop to bring you simple ways to create big flavor every day at your table. Last tip for your next incredible steak, cooking time can make all the difference in flavor, and we suggest serving medium rare to medium temperature steaks to ensure the best flavor. For medium rare steaks like sirloin, ribeye, porterhouse or t-bone, it should take 7 – 9 minutes per side for an inch thickness, and 9 – 10 minutes per side for medium. If you like it well done, just leave it on a little longer until the meat feels really firm.

For the steak lover in your life, we also have a Rub Sampler available, just choose the “Steak Rub Sampler” option button to order.