I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was well into adulthood before I moved beyond a reliance on boneless, skinless chicken breasts and finally learned to tackle the whole bird. My motivation was my daughter: roast chicken was an easy dinner that provided us with plenty of leftovers to use in salads, pasta, and sandwiches.
I can clearly remember one of my first roasting attempts: I was in my kitchen staring at my open spice drawer. It was packed with bottles of all sizes, handed down, picked up, and left behind to arrive there. A mad mix of everything from the commonplace to the esoteric to the absolutely absurd—a riot of scents and colors.
I picked my way around the usual suspects and outlying oddballs, sniffing each and selecting a combination that seemed to smell like “roast chicken.” A guesstimate of relative proportions went into a bowl, a little stir, and voila, roast chicken rub.
To this day, that’s still how I prepare my roast chicken. I’ve never looked up a recipe. Instead, I just pick around the spice drawer to create a combination that “smells right.” Of course, this seat-of-your-pants approach leaves me unable to avoid occasional failures or repeat particularly delicious successes. And so I remain a spice novice.
My husband, on the other hand, in a few short years has gone from a salt-and-pepper-on-the-table kind of guy to a guy who knows the subtle differences between varieties of cinnamon, who believes that spice rubs should start with whole spices, roasted in a skillet, and then hand-ground. More than anything, he loves discovering new spices and flavors, and while some of his less successful attempts have brought us all to tears, his experiments have more often led to the creation of new family favorites.
And so, as the winter chill begins to set in, we offer you our winter “Spice” issue. With recipes from a few local culinary talents, a delicious world tour of spice mixes, and a few surprising food tales from our region, we hope to delight your senses and inspire you to take another look at your own spice rack to see how you can add a little flavor to your wintertime meals.
May the holidays and new year bring you great comfort and joy!