Spice Rack Secret Weapons

I've seen so many posts from other food blogs and magazines talking about their spice rack secrets, and they're just as dumb as the sex tips Cosmo gives you. White pepper isn't a secret, and neither is za'atar. Those are normal, everyday spices. My secret weapons leave my diners wondering how. Where's the truffle flavor coming from? Why does this taste like bleu cheese?

Here are my five main secret weapons.


Bourbon Smoked Paprika

Besides salt and pepper, paprika is most used seasoning—by far. I love the sweet and sometimes smoky flavor that it brings to dishes. When I was introduced to bourbon smoked paprika, I knew I'd found something special. It was just like the first time Noah sees Allie in The Notebook. Love at first sight.

You can use it on snacks, like popcorn or Mexican street corn, but it is a total stunner when used on meat. For those of you who don't eat bacon, this can give soups that smoky, meaty flavor that will trick your brain into think it's there.

It can be purchased at Bourbon Barrel Foods or locally at Larder & Cupboard.


Porcini Powder

Porcini powder isn't a complicated ingredient: it's literally just porcini mushrooms in powder form. You could even make it yourself at home if you have dried ones and a Vitamix or food processor. Whatever you have to do, get some. Add it soup or stock to give it an extra umami hit; rub your next steak with it for a crust that will make your toes curl; mix it into a risotto for a subtle earthiness. Your friends will want to know your secret—tell them nothing.

Ozark Forest Mushrooms Porcini Powder can be found at Larder & Cupboard. Amazon has a number of options.


Shichimi Togarashi

If you're anything like me, you like a little fire in your food. You could get plain old ichimi togarashi, which is just plain Japanese red pepper flakes, but what you really should do is get the shichimi togarashi, seven-flavor chili. The tiny container contains red chili flakes, Japanese pepper, roasted orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, hemp seed, ground ginger, and small pieces of nori (seaweed).

Any time I make an Asian soup or noodle dish, it goes on. Any time I make a dish with roasted meat, it goes on. Now that I think about it, it goes in most of what I cook.

It can be found at most Asian groceries or on Amazon.



Truffle Salt

I'm no fan of fake truffle products. The chemical taste of most truffle oils is as repulsive to me as green bell peppers are. I wasn't interested when I saw that L&C had in a truffle sea salt until I looked at the ingredients: truffles, salt. I tasted it. Sweet Jesus, truffles!

If there's anything in my pantry that I hoard like Gollum, it is this. The teensiest, tiniest sprinkle changes a whole dish. Soup's too bland? TRUFFLED. Chicken breast is boring? TRUFFLED.

Mushrooms Naturally is in the process of updating their site. Follow them on Facebook, and buy their products at Larder & Cupboard.


Black and Bleu Rub

I made my way through most of Spiceologist's rubs before finally trying this one. I'm a bleu cheese lover, but the idea of a bleu cheese powder didn't do anything to excite me. Like truffle products, I expected an artificially cheesy smell and flavor. I was wrong. So wrong.

Spiceologist mixes Rogue Creamery's bleu cheese powder—made from actual bleu cheese!—with a spicy blend of Cajun seasoning. Aside from going on your next steak, it makes for amazing french fry or potato chip seasoning.

Spiceologist Black & Bleu Seasoning