Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chinese Five-Spice...Four Ways

About three weeks ago, I made a Spiced Brisket with Shallots and Tangerines, and the recipe called for a seasoning I'd never used before (seen, yes...used, no) - Chinese Five Spice.  The ingredient label lists the five spices as Cinnamon, Anise, Fennel, Black Pepper, and Cloves - all of which I like on their own...and also, you know, I'm trying to open the horizons a bit more...so I throw the bottle into my cart and stroll on.

(I realize I've just made it sound like I deliberated over whether to purchase the spice or not...the recipe called for it, there was no questioning it, the spice was going into my shopping cart whether I wanted it or not!)

And you all know how it is when you buy an unique 2 oz. bottle of seasoning...you use two teaspoons for the recipe you bought it for, and then it sits, lonely, in your pantry.  So every now and then, because you feel sorry for it, you open it and smell it.  It smells amazing, and you are taken back to memories of you-don't-really-know-what.  And you want to use that sad little spice so bad...but the ideas are just not there.

Until this week.  On four separate occasions.  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures, so my descriptions below will just have to suffice.

Use #1: The Spiced Brisket (the actual recipe at the link included).  The juice-sauce was amazing, but the brisket was dry.  Not because of the recipe, but because the person in charge let the meat cook too long.  The recipe will be tried again.  Oh yes, it will.

Use #2: Chinese Five-Spice Cookies.  The almond flavor wins out in these cookies, but I barely tasted the 1/4 tsp of CFS at all.  Still, these nibbles were a lovely, crisp, shortbread-ish delight, and next time, I will reduce the almond extract to 1 tsp and amp the CFS to 1/2 tsp (maybe even more).  Here's the lesson I've learned...taste everything, and at all times.  If I'd tasted the batter before baking, I'd have caught this and corrected the seasoning.

Use #3: Liven up a cheap, bland cup of coffee.  Normally, I like to buy the fancy, flavored, ground coffees and have a cup with just a little cream.  But, I do also have some Folger's plain jane in my stores, and there is no better way to buck Folger's up than with a sprinkle of...you guessed it...CFS in with the coffee grounds.  Makes it a little more exotic.  Almost like you're in India or Singapore or Myanmar...someplace safe for Americans to visit, anyway.

Use #4: Healthy Crockpot Apple Crisp.  Honestly, the author tries to make it healthy by substituting apple butter in, but there are still 4 1/2 tablespoons of butter elsewhere.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not railing against butter...heck, I love the animal fat myself...but let's just all be clear about what we're getting into here, okay?  The recipe calls for 2 tbsp of apple pie spice, which I did have once, but no longer...so guess what I substituted?  YES - Chinese Five Spice.  And it was delicious!  However, because it's a more potent spice, it's best to cut the CFS back to maybe 1 tbsp.  My youngest son complained of it being too "black licorice" (but like that stopped him from eating his whole serving), and even I (yes, I) felt it was a little too spicy.  But like that stopped me from licking my empty bowl!

The great news here is that I still have three-fourths of a bottle left.  That means I've got several more chances to experiment with it.  Glorious!


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