Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tarragon Thyme Rub

Now that water restrictions are bearing down on Californians, I look around my little garden and have to prioritize what I want to spend my limited water resources on. Ornamental flowers are pretty much out. I have mostly succulents these days. There are some vegetables and some dwarf citrus. And herbs. Oh, my, herbs--rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, oregano, chives, and tarragon. I love these herbs and rely on them in the kitchen.

About six-and-a-half years ago, I wrote about this rosemary oregano rub I learned how to make from Judy Witts Francini and David Lebowitz. It's become a staple in my pantry. I use it for pork, chicken, and turkey. I sprinkle it on eggs. I immerse it in olive oil to create a dip. And as much as I love the flavor, it's the overwhelmingly seductive aroma it creates in the kitchen that is the real impetus to making it. It makes me so happy to walk into my house when I have a batch drying on a sheet pan in my kitchen.

French tarragon
But I realized I needed to come up with a new version. I have two varieties of tarragon--French and a thicker leaf Mexican that is more heat tolerant and produces beautiful little yellow flowers in the summer. Why not create a rub with them? I combined the herbs with chives, garlic, and coarse sea salt. No chili flakes this time. I may add lemon zest next time. What resulted was a heady fragrance with an anise flavor punctuated by salt and a little garlic. Perfect for seafood and chicken.

Mexican tarragon with silver thyme
Like the other rub, this is very easy to make. You'll gather up your herbs, wash and dry them, then strip the leaves from the stems. Peel the garlic cloves.

Then gather all the ingredients together and, with a sharp chefs knife, start mincing (or put it all into a food processor).

Clockwise from the upper left photo, the chopping process
Ultimately, you want the herbs, garlic, and salt minced enough to just still have some texture but not so well ground (if using a food processor) that you've created a paste.

Spread the mixture on a sheet pan and let it air dry for about three or four days, depending on how much moisture is in the air. Everyday you'll want to mix it around to keep it from sticking to the pan, get more exposure to air, and eliminate clumping. Don't slow dry it in the oven. You'll lose those aromatic oils that create the flavor.

Once the rub is dry you can pack it in tins or glass jars. Just don't store it where it will be exposed to light. Then add it to poultry (great in chicken salad) and seafood, to a vegetable or seafood soup, or sprinkle on steamed or roasted veggies.

When my rub was ready, I put about a teaspoon in a little bowl and filled it with extra virgin olive oil. Then I let it sit for about an hour. Dunking slices of fresh baguette into this flavor-packed little bowl provided a real rush of anise and salt, with overtones of sweetness from the thyme, a bit of heat from the chives--all punctuated with a rush of garlicky goodness.

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