Don’t let allspice’s name fool you — it’s just one spice

  • By Daniel Neman St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • Thursday, April 16, 2015 5:32pm
  • Life

Allspice is a victim of its own name.

You can’t blame someone for seeing the word “allspice” and thinking that it is a blend of many spices — or even all spices. It’s a natural assumption.

But allspice is just one spice, a dried berry from a broadleaf evergreen tree that grows primarily on the islands of the Caribbean Sea and Central America. It got its English name, according to a book published in 1736, because it tastes like “all the other spices.”

Usually when people today try to describe the taste, they limit the mixture of spices it resembles to cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Sometimes they also add juniper, ginger and black pepper.

What this means to the home cook is that allspice can be counted on to add an extra kick to practically everything. Whatever tastes good with cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg tastes even better (or at least just as good) with allspice. And it is great in the sort of things you don’t necessarily associate with cloves or cinnamon too, such as soups and stews and vegetables.

I decided to use it as part of a flavorful rub on roast chicken. Cumin and paprika are also major parts of this dish, but the spice that you smell is allspice. And it is sublime.

The dish is easy to make, too. Combine the spices (including garlic and onion powders and salt and pepper) with just enough olive oil to make a wet paste. This you rub all over the chicken and then roast it in the oven.

You don’t even have to wait. With most rubs, you want to let the spices sit on the meat for a while to let the flavors permeate the food. But this dish cooks so slowly that the meat has the chance to absorb the flavor from the spices while it cooks. It only roasts at 375 degrees, rather than the 425 degrees or so usually used to cook chicken, and the chicken winds up being surprisingly tender and moist, redolent of all the good things smeared on it.

Roast chicken with cumin, paprika and allspice

1 6 to 6 1/2-pound chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large lemon, halved

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse chicken; pat dry. Place chicken on rack in large roasting pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the oil, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, allspice, paprika, salt and pepper to form a paste. Rub spice paste all over chicken.

Roast chicken 1 hour. Squeeze juice from lemon halves over chicken; place lemon halves inside main cavity. Continue to roast until chicken is cooked through and thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180 degrees, from 30 to 60 more minutes. Transfer to platter; let stand 15 minutes.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Per serving (based on 6): 609 calories; 37 g fat; 10 g saturated fat; 206 mg cholesterol; 64 g protein; 2 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 1 g fiber; 387 mg sodium; 44 mg calcium.

Recipe from Bon Appetit.

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