Introduction: BBQ Magic Rub Dust – Italian Style
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Hi everybody, dear friends!
I’m Filippo from Bologna, Italy.
As all of the world know, Italy has the most fantastic, popular and diversified cooking tradition of the planet. The great thing about Italy is that you find a particular cooking style in the center-north part of the country, like pasta, cheese, cold cuts… then you have to travel only 100km to reach the sea and find completely different meals, based on fish&meat. I think that this is the real “power” of the beloved Italian cuisine.
But, after this patriotic interlude, I have to admit that we are a little poor in BBQ.
Don’t misunderstand me, we have great raw materials to work with, but, mostly, we lit a fire, put the meat on the grill with some rosemary and that’s all.
When I was a kid, I’ve travelled from Nevada to New York, and I’ve found that, differently from what most of Italians think, American cuisine is incredibly various and interesting, especially about meat and BBQs.
American BBQ use a lot of sauces, rub and spices that we ignore.
For example, paprika: I think that paprika is the PERFECT base for meats’ spicy mixes, but in Italy it’s uncommon. We can find it easily at the supermarket, but it’s not often found in Italian kitchens.
So, my aim is to create a Magic Dust Rub for our BBQ, taking inspirations from American style but with the touch of Italy’s tradition! :D
Making the Magic Rub Dust is very simple. We only have to find the best ingredients and mix everything together.
Here’s the list of what you need:
- 140gr (5.00oz) of paprika
- 50gr (1.76oz) of fine salt. I prefer not to add a lot of salt, because salt is not ideal BEFORE cooking. Also, people have a different taste about salt, so I let everyone add it at will after cooking.
- 20gr (0.71oz) of grinded black pepper. The best choice is to have fresh black pepper to grind at the moment.
- 3 spoon of whole brown sugar
- 10-20gr (0.35-0.70oz) of hot pepper. I love spicy foods. Adjust the amount of hot pepper depending on your taste.
- 40gr (1.40oz) of freeze-dried garlic. The fresh garlic is too “wet”. For better result you can fine-chop fresh garlic and let it dry at direct sunlight.
- FRESH Rosemary, as much as you want
You will also need some basic kitchen tool:
- a digital scale
- a bowl
- a sharp knife and a spoon
This are the quantities for a small amount of Magic Rub Dust, that will serve you for 8-9 family BBQs.
If you want more, just double the numbers!
Step 1: The Base? Paprika!
As I said, I think that paprika is perfect for making meat spicy-mixes!
So, it will be the base of our mix. Because of that, try to find the best quality paprika available.
Here in Italy, in markets, there are this little bags of spices that are really really good. (look at the photo)
Here is almost impossible to find fresh paprika, so I have to use a market product. But, if you have someone who can provide you fresh spices, don’t hesitate!
Step 2: Sugar? Pay Attention
The main difference between American’s and Italian’s spice mixes is sugar.
Americans tend to use a lot of brown sugar to obtain a caramelized effect on the meat mixed with more classical flavors. I like it, but it’s not very popular in Italy. Italians prefer the raw flavor of the meat, which becomes covered if we use sauces rich in sugar.
So, since we are making the dust more Ital-esque, I’m putting only 3 spoon of whole brown sugar.
It’s a particular quality that I’ve found in markets. It feels “wet” at the touch and has a pasty consistency.
The flavor is more rustic and less sweet, and have an aftertaste of wood and smoke.
It’s PERFECT for the BBQ.
Step 3: Let’s Put the Italian Touch!
The real Italian side of this recipe? ROSEMARY!
Rosemary is one of the most common spice in Italy. Here you can’t say meat without saying rosemary.
Due to our climate and weather, Rosemary grows literally everywhere!!!
We can find it wild in fields, long the roads and even in the city centre on the sidewalk! I’m not joking And another good point is that Rosemary is almost immortal.
It survives cold and dryness, and pass winter with ease. I have several plants in my balcony. I remember that one time I forgot about one little plant of rosemary that I had left in the garage during winter (below 0°c temperatures). For two months it remained without water or sunlight. Alone in the shadow, poor thing.
After some time I found it again and it was more luxuriant than ever! With a lot of new leaves and twigs.
And this is because Italians use rosemary everywhere, especially on meat.
“Grandma, what we use on the meat?”
“Go take some rosemary, honey. It’s over there!”
This is a very common situation here XD
So, take your fresh rosemary and chop it very very finely.
Use only the leaves! Throw away the stem since it’s not good for cooking.
If you want, you can let it dry at the sunlight, but I suggest to put it in the mix right after the chop-session, to preserve a more strong and intense flavor.
You can add the quantity you prefer, there is no particular indication.
After grilling, rosemary chopped leaves will become dark and crunchy. Da-yum!
Step 4: Mix Everything
Now the fun part.
Add all of the other ingredient of the list in a well cleaned and dried bowl.
A wet bowl will make the dust to accumulate in little lumps, we don’t want that!
Mix everything with a big spoon until the color of the dust is homogeneous.
And we’re done, the Magic Dust is ready! :D
Step 5: How to Use It - It's Cooking Time
This mix is fantastic with every kind of meat: chicken, pork, cow, rabbit or lamb.
It’s very good also as simple seasoning for grilled vegetables.
Try to add it to grilled onions, you’ll touch the heaven!
I’ve also tried it with a dish of whole rice and canned tuna, and it add a new level of taste!
Since it’s a rub, we have to get our hands dirty!
The best ways to use it is to first massage the meat with some crude olive oil.
As Italian I’m very lucky, in south Italy you can find the best olive oil of the world, often sold in tin cans of 5 liters (about 1.3 gallons). It’s relatively cheap: about 3-4€ per liters, very little if we take into account the quality.
After the olive oil, we have to rub all of the surface of the meat and make it red!
Then, It’s cooking time!
Since I live in a condominium, I’m forced to use a gas BBQ (I have a fantastic Weber Spirit E310), but the result is always a success. The classic grill is too smoky for a condo. :(
But the best come if you use a smoker or a wood BBQ: the smoke will help to create a “spicy-crust” around the meat that will drive you crazy!
Another alternative for chicken is to put the rubbed meat inside a silicon pan with some red onions (the Tropea quality is the most appreciated in Italy), a drizzle of olive oil, then cook it for 15 minutes at 800W in a microwave.
The microwave may not sounds very tasty, but the vapor-cooking, mixed with the magic dust, the juice of the meat and the sweet flavor of the onions creates a wonderful gravy that dress the chicken, even in this dietetic cooking.
Last but not least, you can add this magic powder in your marinade to create a unique, special nectar that will turn your BBQ in a great sensory experience.
America and Italy combined together to create a great cuisine!
Rock on, dear friends, and prepare your forks :D