So you’re already foodied out right now. Between corporate parties and banquets, family and friend gatherings, and random passersby desperately trying to throw their excess chocolate fudge and spiral-cut ham at you, you’re feeling like a Burmese python with a gut full of bowling balls. Here in the States, you’re getting ready to cook up a 20-pound turkey next week while trying to find room in the refrigerator for the leftovers from the Thanksgiving one. (Either that, or you belong to a family like mine, where your grandmother is so determined to use every last scrap of turkey that she’s boiling down the bones to make Jell-O.) By December 26, you’ve not only sworn that you’re never going to eat like that again, but you’re going to spend the entire next year photosynthesizing. And if you haven’t hit that point, you’re having really disturbing dreams involving fantastical desserts that shouldn’t exist, such as when friends asked me to make Cthulhufruit vodka Jell-O shots. (No, I’m not making them out of turkey-rendered gelatin.)
Well, you say that now. Now, that last batch of oatmeal cookies brought in by well-meaning co-workers is sitting so hard on your stomach that you’re afraid to use the restroom without being nicknamed “Cannonball” afterwards. (So said “Fire In The Hole”.) By mid-January, though, you’re not just starving, but you’re starving for something besides the usual winter fare. If you’re eating soup, you want something other than chicken noodle. If nothing else, you want to turn up the heat.
This is where it gets fun. It’s time for recommendations local and otherwise, and then a recommendation for a road trip.
Let’s start with the local. For the last nearly 16 years, I’ve been making a modified tandoori turkey for friends and family, with lots of experimentation with ingredients and cooking techniques. I’ll share the recipe here one of these days, but in the early days, I used to have to depend upon bottled tandoori masala mixes for the spices. That’s before I discovered the wonderful folks at Dallas Spice Market, practically up the street from where I live these days. Four ounces of Dallas Spice Market tandoori masala mix is enough for an entire turkey, and I can state with authority that it works equally well with everything from brisket to portabella mushrooms. Do NOT get me going about their ground pepper mixes.
If you’re wanting something more specialized to hit that spice tooth, let me let you in on a little secret. I’ve been a Defcon Sauces addict for the last five years, ever since I came across their Habby Horse horseradish sauce. Everyone specializing in the extremely spicy keeps up the mantra “it’s all about the flavor, not just the heat,” but Defcon sauces and rubs follow through. If you’re sick to death of ham and turkey for Christmas dinner, try some of the Habby Horse with a fresh-smoked brisket. It’ll peel the enamel off your teeth in big floppy strips, but that’s what my little brother Eric and I call “Taco Bell mild”.
Finally, half of the fun of experimenting with spice is coming across new mixes and new concepts that wouldn’t have occurred to you otherwise. That’s why I, for one, look forward to next year’s Zest Fest at the Irving Convention Center the weekend of January 24. Acre upon acre of vendors, samples, and baskets to carry home all of your loot, and all of it the exact opposite of “bland”. Two recommendations: don’t assume that you won’t find something worth taking home, and don’t forget to bring a bag with a stout, comfortable handle to carry it away. If it has wheels, you’re definitely planning ahead.
More to follow…