Cooking

Sean Telo's Secret Weapon

Brooklyn chef Sean Telo's Portuguese allspice blend makes everything extra fancy
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Portuguese Allspice

Chef Sean Telo of Brooklyn's Extra Fancy grew up cooking alongside his grandmother in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a Portuguese hub in New England. In her kitchen, the Portuguese allspice blend of cinnamon, allspice, anise, orange zest and pepper went regularly into classic rice dishes. When Telo went pro, he took the blend to new heights.

You can buy premade Portuguese allspice in some specialty stores, but Telo prefers the control he has when he makes it in-house (see the recipe). Rather than being super spicy, his version plays up the warmth of the cinnamon and paprika, making it more apt for dishes that lean toward the sweet. Use it "anywhere you would think to use a sweet paprika blend," he says, or in one of his three favorite applications.

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Portuguese tomato rice: "Portuguese cuisine is very simple and delicious, but for some reason, it's never become as popular in the United States as Spanish cuisine," Telo says. "This dish kills saffron in flavor, because the nutmeg, cinnamon and paprika blow it away."

Grill a whole tomato until it's really charred, then chop it up with a knife. "Don't purée it, as it's not as nice texturally. You want those chunks of roasted tomato for a really cold-weather feel." In a large pot, toast one cup of rice (Telo uses Anson Mills) on medium heat until fragrant, then add two cups of chicken stock, two teaspoons of Portuguese allspice and the tomato. Bring to a simmer, cover, then cook for half an hour until thick and cooked just through. Serve along seafood or grilled meats.

Deviled eggs: Instead of sprinkling cayenne pepper directly on top of your deviled eggs, use the Portuguese allspice blend in the filling. For a dozen egg yolks, fold in just enough crème fraîche and mustard to make the filling smooth. Then add one teaspoon of the spice blend, salt and pepper to taste, and as many fresh herbs as you like, such as chives, parsley, and chervil. "It's really powerful and something that you want to be in the back of a flavor profile, so even a teaspoon will come through."

Parsnip cake: For a super-spicy cake, take any carrot cake recipe and replace the carrots with parsnips. "It will have a different color, obviously, but their water content and textures are similar, and it gives a really nice alternate flavor that pulls in spices really well." Then either swap the spice blend detailed in the recipe with the allspice for a subtle shift, or keep the traditional spices the same and sprinkle a heavy dose of Portuguese allspice on top of the prepared batter before baking. "The cinnamon, paprika and cloves get pulled out by the sweetness of the parsnips for a cake that's both pungently spicy yet still sweet." Frost with cream cheese frosting for a fun take on a classic.

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