This means I'm seldom a fan of things like spice blends. For, although they have the potential to make my life easier, they also require me to confine myself to the nuances of someone else's palate...
Maybe that makes me a food snob. But, I hope I can redeem myself by admitting that -- although I don't regularly use pre-made spice blends -- I'm always a big fan of supporting local businesses. And that's why, when one of the owners of Char Crust, a Chicago-based company, wrote to us and asked if we'd like to sample their seasoning blends, we decided to give them a try.
The flavors provided to us included:
All American Barbeque
Original Hickory Grilled
Roasted Garlic Peppercorn
Smoky Spicy Southwest
Since 1998 Bernard Silver and his wife Susan Eriksen have marketed the Char Crust line -- a collection of dry spice rubs based on the classic flavors made popular by the legendary Al Farber's Steak Room in Chicago. Farber's was famous for "Eye of Prime Rib" and unique charcrust steaks. The popular restaurant, which faced Lincoln Park, was the recipient of many top honors including The Perfect Steak Award, the Epicurean Award, and the Gourmet Society Merit Award. Although the restaurant closed in the 1977, the legacy of the famous steaks remained, embodied in Char Crust® and Roto Roast dry rub seasonings, which were marketed and sold to other restaurants in Chicago. These days, the line has been expanded to include nine rubs which are available to consumers at a variety of small, independently-owned businesses: butcher shops, gourmet stores, grocers, and even hardware stores. Read more at Charcrust.com
I'll should admit to being quite curious about their products, which are marketed heavily for use with meat and fish -- and which promise to "seal in the juices". That said, I decided that, for the purpose of our review, we'd branch out a bit. So, we decided to try the rubs strictly on vegetables. We tested out all but one of the seasonings (the Roasted Garlic Peppercorn), which we figured would be easy to pair with just about anything.
Overall, we were quite pleased with what we discovered. The blends, which are some of the few certified kosher spice blends on the market, were unique -- some delicate, some more assertive. And every single variety surprised us with one stunning feature -- unlike many seasoning blends, they are remarkably low in sodium. In fact, we found that every one benefited from the addition of a bit of salt to pull out some of the more subtle nuances of flavor. So, the seasonings would be excellent options for anyone watching his/her sodium intake.
One caveat for our gluten free readers: all the blends we tried did contain some element of wheat, and so they would not be safe for consumption among consumers suffering from gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.
That said, here's what we found during our weekend of recipe testing! We tried out four vegetables/legumes: chickpeas, sweet potatoes, blue potatoes, and cauliflower. And every single one turned out pretty darned good.
First up: All American Barbeque Roasted Chickpeas
Technique: Rinse & drain chickpeas. Dry them off and spread them on a baking pan. Bake them at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until quite dry. Toss hot chickpeas with a bit of olive oil and about a tablespoon of barbeque seasoning. Continue baking for 15-20 minutes or until crisp and browned (watch closely to prevent burning).
Our verdict: TOTALLY addictive. These chickpeas would make the perfect snack to serve to company during cocktail hour or at a casual gathering. The seasoning is pleasantly sweet, with a hint of tomato and lots of great garlic & onion flavor. In addition to using it for chickpeas, it would be great worked into meat for burgers, or slathered on ribs or barbequed chicken.
Next: Ginger Teriyaki Sweet Potato Fries
Our verdict: These potatoes were genuinely delicious. The spice blend is a nice balance of soy, ginger, and a hint of orange -- all of which really complement the sweetness of the potatoes. This would make an excellent seasoning for salmon, chicken, or even roasted broccoli. Flavor might be overpowered if used for grilling.
Then: Original Hickory Grilled Roasted Potatoes
The verdict: These potatoes had a delightfully subtle smoke flavor that made them taste as if they'd been grilled. Great for the middle of winter when the snow is flying and you don't want to haul out the barbeque! This seasoning would be awesome for making burgers or steak indoors.
And finally: Smoky Spicy Southwest Roasted Cauliflower
The verdict: We really liked the smoky flavor of the chipotle in this Southwest inspired seasoning. Not particularly spicy, this blend would appeal to a broad range of palates, including children. Would be a nice seasoning for chicken, white fleshed fish, or pork. I think we'd also like this added to roasted potatoes.
And now... the best part.
First, ALL of our readers qualify to receive FREE SHIPPING on all products ordered on the Char Crust site between November 19 - December 19, 2010 (savings of $7 or more). To receive free shipping, simply use the code BURP!121910 at checkout.
In addition, Char Crust gave us enough seasoning blends to share the wealth! Enter to win and we'll send one lucky reader a package filled with FIVE full sized packages of Char Crust Seasonings.
For your chance to win, please read the instructions below. Be sure to leave a comment for each entry (and leave your email address if you don't have it listed on your blog/contact info). Please note that this contest is limited to readers in the United States & Canada. Contest ends 12/1/10 at NOON (CST).
Mandatory entry (must be completed or no other entries will count):
Extra entries – please leave a comment for each additional entry, letting us know you completed it
- Give us a "like" on Facebook!
- Follow @Burp_blog on twitter
- Use the following text to tweet about this giveaway (please leave a link to your tweet in the comments for credit):
- Char Crust Dry Rubs - #win five varieties @Burp_blog: Ends 12/1 #giveaway
NOTE: The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Facebook before the end of the week (12/3). The winner will be emailed separately to arrange for mailing of the prize pack.
Full Disclosure: Although we were given Char Crust products free of charge for the purpose of this review and giveaway, all opinions expressed in this review are our own.
©BURP! Where Food Happens