Montreal steak seasoning (Recipe: grilled tofu wraps)
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.
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.
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
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.