The Spicy Life—A Full Experience for a Tennessee Fall  (or Winter)

When a recipe is rigidly scripted and blindly followed, it negates the cookâ€TMs own creative instincts and good judgement—not to mention much of the pleasure of truly “being” in the moment. —The Flavor Bible

By Roben Mounger

Someone that I love told me that they missed the full experience of having a particular grandmother in their life. She had left the earth before they could cozy into wiser conversations say, over her favorite meal: fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad and tomato aspic. 

 My logic says that such insights do not always come in traditional ways.

 The full experience of the family kitchen can be altered by death or plain spanking fear, the kind that involves trying out new flavors, but thankfully, as Sanford I. Weill once declared, “Details do create the big picture.”  

Like the way that I can curiously bear witness to that particular grandmotherâ€TMs meals; her food always presented notes of paprika and celery salt. And along the way she, a self-taught culinarian, did indeed open my subsequent worlds to spice, albeit it a tame entry.

She commandeered a tiny cabinet above a 1970 electric oven. The jars, few in number, were important to her. Even so, the cook said, “Use those spices sparingly—a pinch at most.”  

Our taste buds were timid in those days.

Still, I became gripped by the zesty smells of spice and kitchen duty was never the same, just like time at the swimming pool after I learned to do a back flip off the board.

The Department of Agriculture testifies that my journey reflects spicy gains the culture as a whole experienced at mealtime. Since the 1970s, we have consumed 600 percent more chili pepper, 300 percent more cumin and brace your gizzard—1600 percent more ginger.

These sorts of statistics can bring relief for the under-confident spice wielder and the answers today are closer and shrewder than a grandmotherâ€TMs insight.

Amanda and John Brantley – Lagniappe Spice Company, LLC

The Brantleys have day disguises in the realm of government contracts and drug testing, but Amanda and John also dwell in the land of spices and their cover is The Lagniappe Spice Company, headquartered in Cookeville and sold at the Nashville Farmersâ€TM Market. The company name is a reflection of their intentions—lagniappe (an extra blessing)—high quality at reasonable prices.  

John first encountered spice in Germany. As one of six offspring of a military person, he was treated to a cup of french fries and spice by his father. “I never forgot that experience,” he said, and he savored the combination by mixing for family and friends. Today the results present as Ally Rooâ€TMs BBQ French Fry Seasoning.

Johnâ€TMs earliest impressions gave way to 18 years in food research and product development and as an auditor of suppliers. This journey delivered maturity by way of relationships with chefs and restaurants. During that time, the Brantleys traveled with regularity to New Orleans. 

A favored souvenir was a spice blend that John wanted to tweak: “Itâ€TMs too hot,” he would rail. Amanda insisted that he create his own, and that was the origin of Lagniappe Spice Companyâ€TMs New Orleans-Style Booyah BBQ Shrimp Seasoning.

With a stint in their personal kitchen, and after state certification and a newer and larger space from which to operate, John said, “I began to use the techniques of processing spices which I had learned in my earlier work life.” 

For quality and control, he still holds to batches in the amount of 50 pounds. Most ingredients come from all around the world. The climate in the U.S. is not conducive to the flavors of spice blends that most Americans have come to crave. 

Selling at the Nashville Farmersâ€TM Market, John says that he and Amanda have found their true vocation—loving the conversations that they have with people about food. 

It turns out that for the Brantleys, the perk of Nashville is the international conversation. In turn, they “are inspired to sit down every night at the table and share what they have learned from talk about food.”  

The Brantleysâ€TM Fave: BBQ Shrimp

1 pound shrimp (peeled or unpeeled)
3 sticks melted butter
1/3 cup Booyah BBQ Shrimp Seasoning
1 loaf French bread, sliced (about 1-inch thick) and toasted

Mix melted butter and seasoning 30 minutes prior to making recipe. Place shrimp (peeled or unpeeled) in an iron skillet. Pour butter and spice over shrimp.
Place in preheated 450-degree oven until pink, but do not overcook. Enjoy French bread to sop up the sauce and shrimp. Can be also used over pasta or rice.

Malissa Lawson – East Nashville Spice Company

Seedlings of East Nashville Spice Company were born of Malissa Lawson. She is a self-proclaimed doer with early imprints from a busy kitchen. Malissa savors the memory of a vegetable beef soup laced with chili spices, which was prepared regularly in those days by her grandmother. She revels in a flashback of cool and colorful jars of spice in those kitchen cabinets. 

As frequently demonstrated in life, personal trial was the ingredient that nurtured Malissaâ€TMs imagination. She was 15 when her mother died. She responded with a life in home health physical therapy, working with many cancer patients. After seven years of devotion, she found herself not well and her musician husband, Kevin, urged her to quit her job and “get happy.”  

What transpired was a “mother blend” for the All-Purpose Original Seasoning and Rub. While taking care of herself with acupuncture and meditation and by “digging holes” for heirloom bulbs, an idea bloomed inside her to fill little mason jars of flavor for friends and family. Kevinâ€TMs hand drawings for the labels were the perfect finishing touch. 

Malissa continued to enlighten herself by acquaintances with growing seasons and regions and travels throughout Greece, Turkey and Italy.  

Good thing for all who delight in piquant flavors, because now East Nashville Spice Company offers Original, Original Heat and soon to be released Smoke in 25 local stores and all Tennessee Whole Foods.       

Malissaâ€TMs Fave: Chicken and Potatoes

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons East Nashville Spice Company Original 1/2 lemon, squeezed
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (use sweet potatoes as a mix or substitution) 4 whole chicken breasts 
2 whole tomatoes

Place olive oil, spice mix, lemon juice and minced garlic in a zip-lock bag. Add potatoes and chicken breast. Refrigerate and marinate for four-plus hours. Dump all into large dish. Slice tomatoes and place on top of chicken. Bake at 425 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes.    
Hollie Rollins – Savory Spice Shop

The owner and operator of Savory Spice Shop on Franklinâ€TMs Main Street is Hollie Rollins. She descends from a mother who cooked every day, and her earliest memory involves playing with food—that is to say “standing on a chair stirring this and measuring that.”  

A young mother herself, she began with a marketing degree and work experience in the business realm. One day her husband requested a corn beef sandwich and with the confidence of a practiced home cook, she went in search of a key ingredient: the piney and peppery juniper berry.  

To her amazement, such an exotic was not to be found in the area, a startling gap in the local market. Before she knew it, she was in deeply in love with the Savory Spice Shop, headquartered in Denver, where a bountiful array of spices are ground and blended fresh weekly. She was to be the pioneer to bring their offerings to a Tennessee spice desert.  

The company provides Hollie with information, tested recipes for her customers and marketing support. Savory Spice buyers fan out across the world, purchasing the freshest ingredients. For example, their nutmeg is only grown in Grenada.   

Each of the 33 locations has had a hand in developing signature spices reflecting culinary blends unique to the area: for Savory Franklin, the unique Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Spices and Memphis Barbecue Rub were developed.  

As a grown-up cook, Hollie finds that she stills loves playing with food—and she will never want to do it anywhere but in downtown Franklin, Tennessee. 

Hollieâ€TMs Fave: Hot Fried Chicken Tenders, Buttermilk-Style

1 cup buttermilk 2 tablespoons Cajun Cayenne Hot Sauce 2 pounds chicken tenders

For the coating:
2 1/4 quarts plus 6 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 tablespoons Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Spices, divided 2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, stir together buttermilk and hot sauce until fully blended.  Add chicken, cover and refrigerate for up to one hour. Heat six tablespoons oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat. When oil begins to shimmer, stir in two tablespoons of the spice mixture and cook for 30 to 60 seconds to bloom spices. Remove pan from heat and set aside. Thoroughly combine flour and remaining two tablespoons of spice mixture in a separate bowl. Remove chicken from marinade, dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture and place on a wire rack. Do not discard flour mixture. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  In a large Dutch oven on the stovetop, heat remaining oil to 325 degrees. Dredge each piece of chicken through flour mixture one more time, turning to coat. Carefully place half of the chicken pieces into oil and fry until deep golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place cooked chicken pieces on a clean wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and place in preheated oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken. Meanwhile, stir and reheat bloomed spices over low heat.  Brush cooked chicken on all sides with the spices just before serving.