Make Ahead

Escoffier’s “Spices” (Recipe 181), adapted for Today’s Home Cook

April 13, 2011
1 Rating
Author Notes

Several months ago I discovered an interesting collection of recipes compiled by a 19th century French Baron and gourmand extraordinaire, Léon Brisse. It was translated by Edith Matthew Clark and published in London in 1892. By today’s standards, the recipes are somewhat cryptic. I was fascinated to see that the recipe for duxelles calls for “a pinch of mixed spice.” This interests me because some time ago, I read (in Russ Parson’s “How to Pick a Peach”) that the French chef, Michel Richard, uses curry powder to season mushrooms in cooking. Since then, I’ve been using my own “white curry” powder in a variety of dishes I make with mushrooms, so I was curious to find out what comprised the “spice mix” in the Baron’s duxelles. I did a bit of research, going “directly to the source”(my standard procedure, learned at a young age as the child of an historian), to find this gorgeous combination of spices and herbs in Auguste Escoffier’s classic, “The Escoffier Cook Book.” I have the 1941 Crown Publishing edition (21st reprint, 1960); this is recipe number 181. I cannot know for sure if this is exactly what the Baron’s cooks used, but I have no reason to believe that it’s not close. It takes all of ten minutes, at most, to put it together, and is well worth the effort. The original recipe calls for 5 ounces of bay leaves (about enough to fill a pint jar, tightly packed), 10 ounces of peppercorns, etc. for a total of three pounds of spices used. Not needing quite that much of this spice blend in my kitchen (especially because one needs only a tiny pinch of it at a time), I adapted the recipe by maintaining the ratios, but reducing the amounts considerably. This makes about one cup of ground spice. It’s amazing. Enjoy!! ;o)

  • Makes about one cup
  • 10 grams broken dry bay leaves
  • 6 grams dry thyme leaves
  • 6 grams coriander seeds
  • 8 grams ground cinnamon
  • 12 grams whole nutmeg, broken
  • 8 grams whole cloves
  • 6 grams dried ginger root (I used “cracked ginger” from Penzeys.)
  • 6 grams whole mace
  • 10 grams white peppercorns
  • 10 grams black peppercorns
  • (2 grams cayenne . . . . it’s in the original recipe, but I don’t use it)
In This Recipe
  1. Grind all the ingredients together to a fine powder. Pass the spice through a fine sieve before using. Store in an air-tight container.
  2. Enjoy!! ;o)

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Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in Boulder County, CO, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)