So, I’ve been reading alot of food writing in the name of “research for my blog.”
I’m choosing not to call it an unhealthy obsession with food, but you can call it whatever you want. I certainly won’t blame you!
Anyways, in reading Jeffrey Steingarten’s It Must Have Been Something I Ate, I came across a chapter dealing soley with turducken; that six-layered, super-stuffed Franken-fowl of the culinary world…and regardless of the fact that I don’t eat duck (yet) my mouth began to water. It was that sausage cornbread stuffing and the descriptions of golden, crispy skin and generous amounts of juices to be reduced and turned into gravy that got me.
Following turducken was an entire chapter about boudain noir, a traditional French blood sausage. Never fear, my loves, I would never attempt to feed you (or eat personally, for that matter) French blood sausage. Not yet anyways.
Back to the story. The blood sausage that left Mr. Steingarten pining long after the last tin had been consumed was spiced with a traditional French combination of spices called quatre epices –meaning (you guessed it!) “four spices.” The four spices used to copiously season Steingarten’s blood sausage were black pepper, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. He also listed the spicy Basque espelette red chili, but bein’ as that wasn’t available to me (and anyways that’s five spices, not four!) I went ahead and didn’t use it in the recipe I’m about to share with you here!
Further research on reliable fact-checking sources such as Wikipedia revealed that quatre epices in France is most commonly a combination of just about equal parts white or black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger or cinnamon. Sometimes the spice mix includes both of the latter two. A little more clicking on the interwebs and I found that this spice mix is also commonly found in Middle Eastern fare which
a) makes perfect sense when you get a good whiff and taste of this stuff
b) got me to thinking about couscous with apricots and almonds.
I’m hopeless. My food obsession is nearing on terminal.
For my quatre epices I combined about 2 1/2 tablespoons of freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons each freshly grated nutmeg, and cinnamon, and about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cloves (cloves have a very strong flavor and I didn’t want them to over power the flavors of the other spices). The mixture is warm, rich, exotic and delicious. I also went ahead and added about 1 tsp of salt into the mix so I could use it as a spice rub. Go ahead and go do this. I’ll be here when you get back!
Done? Good. Take a whiff of it! (But don’t inhale too enthusiastically–I feel like this stuff wouldn’t be fun to have up the nose!) Divine, yes? This spice mix + caramelized onion + large amounts of garlic=seasoning to take the edge off the scariest ingredients (i.e. blood), or just a delicious rub for any old meat you plan on grilling up, or a really heavenly addition to a boudain noir/turducken inspired stuffed chicken breast (recipe to follow soon!)
I thought the idea of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg with meat sounded a little weird at first, but when you get the flavors of garlic and onion in there it is an oddly balanced and savory mix which pairs perfectly with pork and chicken, and I can’t help but imagine it would go beautifully with beef, turkey, lamb (not that I could speak to that, really. I just hear they eat alot of it in the Middle East…) or just about any other meat or fowl (I don’t know about fish. I can’t even speculate about that one at this point.)
I also think throwing some ginger in there and using it for your next batch of molasses cookies would probably be just about out of this world. The spices here lend themselves to sweet, comfort food treats anyways, and that black pepper adds a subtle heat that would be soooo good on a cold night. Like that hit of cayenne with cinnamon I like to throw into my hot cocoa…
..But that is a whole different post. One probably best left until it is not 85 degrees outside.
P.S. Tomorrow is the last day to sign up for Buffalo Day! There’s plenty o’ room at the table!
2 1/2 tbs. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tbs. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tbs. ground cloves
Mix together. Store in an airtight container. If desired, add in 1 tsp. salt to make a spice rub. Use generously on meats, in cookies or however else your fancy strikes. Eat and be happy!