Ever since Chef Tarver King at the Ashby Inn & Restaurant in Paris, Virginia, said he uses star anise to bring out the taste of meat - “Star anise has the most amazing effect on browned meat by intensifying the flavor, making it 10 times stronger,” is raised the question, what other spices can transform meat?
Sometimes, we rely on salt and pepper, and get satisfactory results, but raiding the herb garden or the spice cabinet can turn an ordinary cut of meat into something special.
Rosemary. Venison tastes a bit like the wild where it comes from, so it is perfect paired with earthy rosemary. Top a venison loin searing in butter with a sprig of fresh rosemary, tossing the butter over the top to flavor the entire cut of meat, or add dried rosemary to softened butter and mix well, making a compound butter to top the venison with while cooking.
Cayenne or spicy chili powder. While mint is a traditional herb pairing with lamb (think the uber-popular mint jelly), lamb tends to be a fattier meat, so a spice mixture that packs some heat will enhance the flavor, cut through the fattiness and amplify the flavor. Try rubbing a mixture of salt, black pepper and a generous pinch of cayenne on lamp chops before roasting.
Herbs de Provence. This French spice mixture is great on veggies, but is also wonderful on chicken, beef, pork or fish, making it a versatile and delicious blend. Making your own will yield particularly tasty results.
Herbs de Provence
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
- 2 tablespoons dried savory
- 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons dried flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried tarragon
Toast the fennel seeds in a dry cast-iron skillet until fragrant. When cool, grind the fennel along with the rosemary in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Mix with the remaining ingredients and store in an airtight container.
Caraway seeds. Pork pairs beautifully with sauerkraut, so it only makes sense that caraway seeds can turn certain cuts of pork – especially lean pork loin – into a deliciously flavorful dish. To take advantage of the flavor profile, pop a pork loin rubbed with salt and black pepper into a slow cooker, surrounding it with sauerkraut, baby carrots and sliced onions. Top with 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds. Turn it on before work, and when you come home, your home will not only smell amazing, but a cut of pork that generally has little flavor will be packed with it.
Ground mustard seeds. Beef tends to be a bit on the heavy side, but bright, sharp mustard cuts through the meat beautifully. Add mustard to a rub for roast or brisket. It will create a flavor-packed crust that will seal in juices.
Paprika. This delicious spice made from a blend of dried chiles is perfect to add color and spice to fish filets. Sprinkle it on whitefish, cod, perch, whiting or flounder before baking to add a touch of spice that won’t overpower the delicate flavor of the fish.