The Spice Rub That Cannot be Named

by Ann Nichols
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buttrub.jpgI have known my friend Vicki since we were twelve. Without being excessively specific, that’s a long, long time. I met her when I got involved with our community theater, where she was already in a play (I was, at that point, just providing a baby doll to serve as a prop) and I knew instantly that she was not only taller, but quite a lot cooler than I was. For the next seven years we were in plays, orchestras, quartets and classes together, and spent a fair amount of recreational time together, too. Her legs alone are taller than all of me, she is a math whiz, she is the only person I know who was simultaneously in band, choir and orchestra, she has a rapier-sharp wit, and (perhaps most important) she is a loyal and kind friend, and a really good mom.

We live in the same place again now, after my years of wandering, and she recently returned from a trip South with a bag of goodies for me including fig jam, barbecue sauce and the unfortunately named “Butt Rub.” (Hereinafter “Stuff.”) Since I am a delicate and ladylike person, it took me a little while to get over the shock of seeing the, um, “Stuff” on my counter. (I am one of those extraordinarily old fashioned mothers who will not allow my kids to say the word “butt,” at least not in my hearing). There is also the inevitable, and probably intentional evocation of Desitin to deal with. I am far, far too pure to live in this world of sin and crudity….

lemon_rosemary_grilled_chicken.jpgLast night I decided to get over myself and use the “Stuff” on some chicken breasts headed grillward. The mixture includes salt, pepper, onion, garlic, paprika, and smoked chipotle powder, and no sugar. The label said it was good on chicken, and so it’s presence in my kitchen dovetailed perfectly with my increasing sense of desparation about serving chicken breasts in one of my two marinades for the 300th time. I sprinkled “Stuff” on both sides of each boneless, skinless breast, Rob cooked them in the usual manner, and the post-grilling result was chicken with a complex spiciness and a beautiful brown color. It was wonderful, and elevated the lowly Lean Protein to new heights.

Whether or not one is on a diabetic or low-carb diet, it is a lovely thing to be able to add a burst of flavor to something fairly mundane. It’s easier than making a marinade, and (according to Rob) does not create the flareup of fire caused by oil-based dressings. It is very salty, and I’d probably use a little less next time, but use it I will – on pork, eggs, unbuttered popcorn, zucchini…anything that needs a little zip.  I think it is probably phenomenal as a dry rub on “real” barbecue, but I’m more likely to use it for more prosaic daily cooking.

I’m grateful for __ years of knowing Vicki, I’m grateful for the “Stuff,” and I am ridiculously pleased by the fact that someone thought about me on a trip and brought me something that is so much fun to play with. If only it was called “Spice Elegante,” or maybe “Massage de Cochon.” {Sigh.}


Ann Graham Nichols cooks and writes the Forest Street Kitchen blog in East Lansing, Michigan where she lives in a 1912 house with her husband, her son and an improbable number of animals.  

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