I Love This Spice Mix So Much I Travel With It
Always trust bean people when it comes to spices.
In the past few years, I’ve become a spice snob. One you get introduced to the world of high quality spices, it’s hard to go back, if only because fresher spices mean way more flavor in every application. Thanks to companies like Burlap & Barrel and Diaspora & Co., I have much more access to whole spices that are consistently better than what I used to pick up at the grocery store, and now I don't want to compromise.
But as much as I love making my own spice blends from whole spices, sometimes I don’t have the strength to bother. In fact, much of the time, my grand intentions for dinner start collapsing at around 8 p.m. and I end up fixing something much more simple, like a bowl of buttered noodles with roasted vegetables, or rice with a fried egg on it, plus Old El Paso Taco Seasoning. These days, as a bean enthusiast, I try to cook a big batch early in the week so I can have them for the I-can't-deal-with-it meals. A friend of a friend is a fellow bean enthusiast, and they couldn’t stop raving over a spice mix that they stir into their pot of beans pretty much every time they make them.
The mix is from The Spice Guy, a Colorado-based company I’d never heard of, and it was called Midnight Toker. As in, yes, the Steve Miller Band song “The Joker.” I am not a huge Steve Miller Band fan, but I trust a bean person, so I ordered some. It arrived in a screw-top jar—already a point in their favor, since the impossible tiny plastic screens that come in most spice jars drive me nuts. I tested it out on a pot of Rancho Gordo cranberry beans that I had added nothing to but a little salt, bay leaf, and sauteed onion, and was immediately impressed. Midnight Toker brought all the things that I usually add to my pot of beans—a little heat, a little smokiness, a little sweetness—all in one shot.
When I looked at the ingredients, it made sense. Midnight Toker’s mixture included Aleppo pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder. It was sort of like a powdered, condensed version of red chile sauce.When I can’t deal with putting together the more fulsome version of the chile sauce, I end up reaching for Midnight Toker. It’s a great bean addition, but it’s also welcome on sauteed vegetables, or on a fried egg, or sprinkled on fish or chicken. This summer, when I took a long, fraught road trip with quarantines on either end to see my new little nephew, I brought along my jar of Midnight Toker along with my pinch-tin of Maldon salt. I ended up filling my brother and sister-in-law’s freezer with breakfast burritos seasoned with Midnight Toker. It’s great, it’s easy, and it’ll also immediately get a Steve Miller Band song stuck in your head. What else can you ask for in a spice mix?