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April 17, 2008

Montreal steak seasoning (Recipe: grilled tofu wraps) {vegetarian}

Montreal

Sometimes I spend hours researching an ingredient in my pantry, reading about food history or science or legend or nutrition.

Montreal steak seasoning should have been easier.

Tehhhhhhhhhd, what's Montreal steak seasoning?

That should have done it, one holler up the stairs, from my desk to the desk of my Montreal-born husband.

Huhhhhh?

Maybe he didn't hear me.

Montreal steak seasoningggggg? I tried again.

Never heard of it.

So much for shortcuts.

Montreal steak seasoning first caught my eye at the small grocery store in our town, but soon I started to see it and hear of it everywhere. I assumed it originated in Montreal, and it did, at Schwartz's, the smoked-meat emporium that opened its doors on Boulevard St. Laurent in 1928.

Nobody knows the exact formulation of the original Montreal Steak Seasoning (available by mail from Schwartz's), but every clone adds to a foundation of salt, paprika, and garlic a proprietary mix of spices that might include black pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, ground coriander, dill or fennel seeds, granulated onion, and rosemary.

In the photo above, the Montreal steak seasoning on the left came from my local grocery store, which buys it from a packer in Connecticut; you can identify dill seeds, red pepper, and caraway. On the right, Rod's Rub Steak Out! has similar ingredients, a more uniform texture, and whole leaves that look like thyme. (Thanks to the folks at Rod's for sending samples of their five spice blends.) Both are all-natural products with no additives or preservatives.

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning, first marketed in the mid-1990s and found in every supermarket in a spiffy grinder jar, has an overwhelmingly green and herby appearance, but it contains partially hydrogenated soybean oil and natural flavor, whatever that is.

Montreal steak seasoning enhances the flavor of flank steak or corned beef, pork chops, chili, and chicken burgers. Use it as a rub; mix it with oil to make a paste for grilled salmon; or substitute it in recipes, like meatloaf, that call for pepper and paprika.

Grilled tofu wraps

Improvise to your heart's content! Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 package extra-firm tofu
2 Tbsp Montreal steak seasoning
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1 red bell pepper, core and seeds removed, sliced into thick pieces
4 burrito-size (large) flour tortillas
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
A drizzle of your favorite honey mustard

Directions

Drain the tofu, and place in a colander set over a bowl. Put a small, heavy plate on top of the tofu to weight it down, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your grill, or grill pan, or broiler.

In a bowl, combine seasoning, canola oil, and cayenne. Slice tofu into 1-inch slices, and paint each gently on all sides with the seasoning paste. Place on the grill. Toss onion and bell pepper in remaining spice paste, and grill until nicely charred. Cook tofu for 4-5 minutes, until it has nice grill marks and is heated through. Heat tortillas on the grill for 20-30 seconds. Place tortillas on individual plates, top with tofu, vegetables and avocado, drizzle with honey mustard, and wrap.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Teriyaki tofu wraps
Spicy peanut sauce
Pan-roasted glazed salmon
Bulgogi

Comments

sounds great. not the tofu, though. every tofu experience I´ve ever had has been a disaster.

For me, Montreal steak spice is the ultimate seasoning for steaks...bar none!

Never heard of it. But that's because I have not explored enough. The next time I see it, I will know...it's kinda ultimate in steak seasoning? Am I right ?

I love the sound of this Montreal masala :) I'll have to look for it. Using it in spicy tofu wraps is such a great idea!

Hum?! Never heard of it either, I will as my husband (he's from Quebec as well)

That's very interesting -- I have not seen that one out here in Michigan. I wonder if Penzey's steak seasoning is similar?

I bet the "natural" flavor is MSG! A recent NYT article (pub. Mar 5) on MSG said: "Since the 1970s, MSG has sidled back onto American supermarket shelves, under assumed names: hydrolyzed proteins, yeast extracts, protein concentrates and other additives that are not labeled as MSG but, according to nutritionists and the United States Department of Agriculture, are essentially the same thing: synthetically produced glutamates."

My favorite place was Ben's on the corner of Metcalfe and de Maisonneuve. I ordered a smoked meat sandwich almost every time I went. People would go to Ben's or Schwartz's, but not both, and I was a Ben's fan, so I never knew about Schwartz' steak seasoning.

I hope everyone has noticed that Les Canadiens are doing well in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs! Here's a question. What is hockey food?

I have a jar of the McCormick variety in my pantry and don't really care for it. It makes everything REALLY salty tasting. I will have to look for other varieties to see if I like those better.

I've tasted this seasoning during my visit to Montreal, I can say it was very tasty & I loved it.
Thanks for your interesting recipe Lydia, it never hurts to replace meat by tofu!

I had no idea, unitl recently that it was that popular and that well-known (except for you know who)
I've never tried it, but, now that you're got me started with the ingredients, I just might try to make some - Or I can order it from Penzeys...Did you know that they ship to France????

I LOVE Swartz's!!!!!

I had an amazing dinner there, all by myself, on a business trip.
Wow, some of the best smoked meat I've ever had.

I actually blogged about it when I got back:
http://whenindoubtreboot.blogspot.com/search?q=schwartz%27s+deli

Yum. Makes me want to make a trip just to go there!!!!

Hah, I like your steak seasoning on tofu- just in time for Earth Day!

I've always been curious about this. I'll probably buy some eventually but right now I'm trying to cut down on pantry items! All my cupboards, drawers, and shelves are overflowing with stuff!

Lobstersquad, go right ahead and make this with chicken or steak instead.

Peter, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Yes, it's wonderful on steaks, especially cooked on the grill.

Tigerfish, it's definitely great for steak -- and each company has its own blend, so you have to taste a few to find one you like. (Of course that's the fun part!)

Nupur, I love the name "Montreal masala" -- now why didn't McCormick think of that?

Babeth, maybe you'll have more luck with your "research" than I did!

Mae, I'm guessing that Penzeys steak seasoning will be some variation on this theme. And as for the "natural flavoring" -- how awful to think it could be MSG and not be labeled. I'm one of those people who reacts badly to MSG, and I try not to purchase any products that have it. I will write to McCormick and ask them about it.

Rupert, I never know about the Ben's vs. Schwartz's thing! And hockey food? Maybe poutine? Or smoked meat sandwiches?

Sarah, if it's too salty, I doubt there's any help for it, so I'd throw it away and try another brand. Some of the all-natural brands, like Rod's, might be more pleasing for you.

Stella, sometimes I think that seasoning tofu like you would season steak really does make it taste "meatier". And I'm one of those people who actually likes tofu!

Katie, I'm so glad to know that Penzeys will ship to you directly -- lots of readers outside the US will be interested to know, too.

Sharon, thanks for sharing the link to your post. My husband tells me that Ben's closed recently, just shy of its 100th birthday, so I guess we'll be going to Schwartz's on our next visit to Montreal.

Callipygia, I hadn't even connected this post with Earth Day, so thank you for reminding me!

Kalyn, this is definitely a convenience food, as any spice blend is something you can make yourself from spices you probably already have in the pantry.

I see it every time I wander down the spice aisle but have never tried it.

Now that I know about Schwartz's, I might try and get some in....

j

You can imagine I first tried it when I moved here and I am a fervent user now, love it on steaks or grilled veggies!
BTW, the house next door to us is for sale:)

I buy McCormack,Canada's brand ClubHouse which has no MSG and is the nearest in taste of the original that we can buy here in Montreal.

This sounds really good, I am always at a loss on how to appropriately season tofu, and I think this would be perfect. I also love grilled veggies, so I will have to give this a try.

Ack! Once again I learn something from you! I've never heard of this. I'm going to look for it though. I love almost any new seasoning.

Jasmine, if you do get some of the original, I'd love to know how it compares to some of the versions I can buy in the store. You know that the next time we're driving through Montreal, we'll be stopping at Schwartz's.

Tartelette, it's really delicious on steak, no question about it. And I hope whoever buys the house next door finds his/her way to your kitchen....

Kirin, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Will have to check out the Club House brand next time I'm up north.

Jason, the beauty of tofu is that it will take to any kind of seasoning, especially aggressive seasoning, because it really has no flavor of its own.

Sher, I might even sneak some in with a bit of Mor-sels in a package....

How do you come up with all this stuff I've not seen before? And when I go look, I'm sure it'll be right there! Must try this with tofu, it's so good with spicy!

Lydia,
Sounds like the perfect tofu grilling spice!!

And because I can't find you email ...today is my blog birthday … I invite you for cake (or a look at a cake)!

I’ve listed your blog as on of my FAVORITES this year and I’m adding you to my new blog roll side bar. Thanks for all your great posts!

Cheers :-)

Hi everyone! Montreal Steak Spice in our house is a staples. Yes there are many kinds of steak spice and this one has salt and likely MSG (let us know what McCormick's said, Lydia) but I think the word "Steak" deters many from using it creatively, as Lydia's tofu recipe just did. I use it for fried onions, potato salad, omelettes, Caesars (both salads and cocktails), oven roasted veggies, hashbrowns, burgers and of course when we can afford it -- steak! Hope you all try it sometime! Can't wait to try the tofu...

MyKitchen, I was introduced to this seasoning by a friend, but once I started to look for it, I saw it everywhere.

Meg, thanks so much! I left some blogiversary cheer for you.

Arlo, you have so many great ideas for ways to use Montreal steak seasoning -- now I'm even more inspired. Egg salad? Baked potato? Endless possibilities....

Seems almost sacreligious to use Montreal Steak seasoning on tofu, but I'll bet this tastes great!

Deborah, once you have this in your pantry, you'll find a million ways to use it (but it's pretty darned good on steak, too).

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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