Smoky Chipotle Spice Rub

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Now that grill season is in full swing I like to make new spice rub combinations to flavor my food. Salt, pepper and the taste from a well seasoned grill is actually pretty good on its own, but the right combination of flavors in a spice rub can take food to another level of delicious or even transport a meal to different regions of the world.

I build my spice rubs much like I do a soup or a sauce. I start with base flavors like onion and garlic in their powder form, and salt and pepper is always present to enhance other flavors. Once I have the base I move onto the spices that will be more prominent and work together, like rosemary and thyme for example.

For this recipe, I have an onion and garlic base and use Chipotle chili powder as the star with cumin and oregano as compliments. Chipotle is much hotter than regular chili powder so brown sugar is added to balance the heat. In the end, this rub will add a spicy, smoky Mexican flavor to anything cooked over a fire.

A lettuce wrap disaster photo!

I used this recipe for my print column but it is only part of what I intended the recipe to be. The rub was used on chicken tenders that I grilled, topped with sauteed onions and red pepper then drizzled with a creamy lime sauce. I wrapped everything in a lettuce leaf and it tasted great. I was really happy with the results.

The only problem was the pictures.

The lettuce was out of control! I tried everything to get a good shot that looked like a delicious lettuce wrap. It’s just that the lettuce was like curly hair on a humid day. I just wasn't able to get it to look the way I wanted it. It ended up being a good learning experience. I went to plan B and made a salad-looking dish with all the ingredients, which turned out ok, but in the end, the best overall shots were focused on the rub.

I have found that lettuce is one of the hardest things to get right when styling food and photographing it. I’m sure there are many stylist and photographers that would agree. Thank god I took a few styled shots of the rub, otherwise, I might not have even had this to publish!

Eat well, cook often ...

Smoky Chipotle Spice Rub

Makes 1/2 cup; 5 minutes
2 Tbs Chipotle chili powder
2 Tbs Brown sugar
1 Tbs + 1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbs Salt
1 Tbs Pepper
2 tsp Onion powder
2 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Oregano

Make rub
In a bowl mix together chipotle powder, brown sugar, oregano, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Liberally sprinkle on meat and rub in with fingers before grilling. Store in a tightly sealed jar.

Replace the chipotle powder with regular chili powder for a less spicy and smoky rub that tastes more like a traditional Mexican seasoning.

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