Welcome to the first installment of my new Meet the Spice Blend series, where I'll be sharing the inspiration for, back stories of, and uses for my ever-expanding collection of small batch, handcrafted spice blends. First up, let's meet Avalon Bay!!
Named in honor of my hometown of Avalon, California on Santa Catalina Island, just off the coast of Los Angeles, Avalon Bay is a fragrant and flavorful combination of California bay leaves, celery seed, brown mustard seed, black pepper, Spanish paprika, nutmeg, ginger, California chile, cloves, mace, cardamom, allspice and kosher salt. It is an excellent choice for enhancing the flavors of seafood, meats, and even snacks like potato chips and popcorn.
The Inspiration - Old Bay
Old Bay is undeniably one of America's iconic spice blends, with a history that goes back to 1939, when it was created by a German immigrant named Gustav Brunn, who settled in Baltimore, Maryland. Originally, the blend was intended to season crabs, but its popularity quickly spread beyond the local seafood scene. Named after a steamship line that traveled the Chesapeake Bay, Old Bay became synonymous with the vibrant culinary culture of the region.
I, like many Americans, have almost reflexively reached for a can of Old Bay when preparing certain dishes (e.g., Seafood Boils). Part of the reason I started making my own spice blends, however, was that I was disappointed by the fact that a lot of the spice blends you find in grocery stores aren't exactly transparent about their ingredients (or include lots of preservatives and fillers). Now, to be fair, Old Bay's recipe is undoubtedly a trade secret, which is part of how they get away with saying only that it contains "Celery Salt (Salt, Celery Seed), Spices (Including Red Pepper and Black Pepper), and Paprika." Here at A Bite of Good, however, I want you to know exactly what is in your food, so while I'm never going to publish my Avalon Bay recipe, I'm sure as heck going to tell you that it contains California bay leaves, celery seed, brown mustard seed, black pepper, Spanish paprika, nutmeg, ginger, California chile, cloves, mace, cardamom, allspice and kosher salt.
The Flavor Profile of Avalon Bay
The flavor profile of Avalon Bay is bold, savory, and slightly herbaceous with a kick from a little bit of dried California chile. The combination of aromatic spices and herbs delivers a well-balanced blend with hints of warmth, tanginess, and a subtle touch of sweetness, making it a super versatile seasoning for everything from seafood to meat to chicken to potato chips.
Versatility in the Kitchen - How to Use Avalon Bay
While Avalon Bay will always hold a special place in my heart whenever I'm making crab, there are so many other ways to use it as well, such as:
1. Seafood: Sprinkle Avalon Bay on shrimp, lobster, or fish fillets before grilling, baking, or frying to add depth and complexity to your seafood dishes.
2. Poultry and Meats: Elevate the flavor of chicken, turkey, or beef by incorporating Avalon Bay into marinades, rubs, or simply as a finishing touch.
3. Snacks and Appetizers: Sprinkle some Avalon Bay on popcorn, potato chips, or homemade fries for an addictive twist. It also pairs exceptionally well with deviled eggs and Bloody Mary cocktails.
4. Vegetarian and Vegan Options: Even without meat or seafood, Avalon Bay can be a game-changer. Use it to season roasted vegetables, tofu, or create flavorful plant-based dips.
A Bite of Good Recipes that use Avalon Bay
Looking for some more concrete guidance on how to use Avalon Bay? Check out these A Bite of Good recipes!
Seafood Boil - There's nothing like a good seafood boil with its fun mix of shellfish, sausage, potatoes, corn, onions, and, of course, seasonings. And it couldn't be easier with my Seafood Boil recipe, so roll up your sleeves and grab a loaf of crusty bread because you're about to get messy!
One-Pot Shrimp Orzotto - This quick and easy pasta dish gives off some serious risotto vibes but requires a fraction of the stirring, making it an excellent choice for everything from weeknight dinner to date night meal.
In short, whether you're indulging in a classic crab feast or exploring the boundaries of culinary creativity, Avalon Bay is sure to find a special place in your heart and on your spice rack.
Ready to get your own jar of Avalon Bay? Get it here.