Home Grown Chef: The Spice of Life

written by Thor Erickson | photography by Charlotte Dupont

My wife’s brother-in-law is a great cook. He has no formal training in the culinary arts, yet Kelley is one of the best cooks I know. Not only does he have the right instincts for flavor and texture, he practices great technique, has a mind for weight and volume conversion, and keeps a seriously clean kitchen. I know that his upbringing as the second youngest son of six kids in 1960s, pre-Disney-World Orlando played into this. When he was not horrifying his mother by repairing motorcycles in the living room while blasting Lynyrd Skynyrd, he was helping her make supper.

A decade ago, well after Kelley had moved to Tigard, he gave me a Christmas present—a quart-sized Mason jar of what his homemade label declared “Three Jackass Rub.” He and a couple of neighborhood buddies had made the spice blend, primarily of their home-grown hot peppers, dried and ground into a coarse powder the color of a rusted Harley-Davidson tailpipe. “It’s a secret recipe,” Kelley said, puffing up his barrel chest and inviting me to smoke a cigar on the back deck.

The rub was magical. The flavor of the dried peppers popped with dried fruit, smoke and tobacco. I used it in many ways, spicing meat, fish and fowl— grilled ribs, salmon and roasted chicken were obvious choices. Then I went off-road, lacing it on dirty rice, scrambled eggs, aioli—reveling in maverick uses for a rub such as this.

I spent years trying to nail exactly what was in the mysterious mix conjured by this suburban trio of self-proclaimed jackasses. Here is my educated guess, along with a recipe for using it in “Street Survivors” grilled pork chops. Blast Skynryd’s “Second Helping,” and have one, too.

Three Jackass Rub
Thor Erickson

4 ounces fresh red jalapeño peppers or 1 ounce, dried
8 ounces fresh poblano peppers or 2 ounces, dried
6 ounces fresh banana hot peppers or 1.5 ounces, dried
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon granulated salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Wash and slice the peppers into 1⁄4-inch slices. Lay them out onto dehydrator trays and dry for 8 to 10 hours at 125 degrees, or until they are completely dried through. They should crack when you bend them.
Blend the peppers in a spice grinder or food processor until they are as smooth as possible. Sift out the larger chunks and process those until you’ve broken down the pods as much as possible. Combine the chili powder with the garlic, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Use as you would any chili rub or seasoning blend.

Street Survivors Spice-Rubbed Grilled Pork Chops
Thor Erickson

6 bone-in pork chops, about 1-inch thick (10 ounces each)
1⁄3 cup spice rub (recipe above)
Salt and pepper

Pat pork chops dry, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, add the rub and rub it in. Let the chops sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, pre-heat grill to high heat. Grill the pork chops until, by using a meat thermometer, you see they’ve reached 125 degrees internal temperature. Let them rest for about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve with your favorite slaw.

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