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November 24, 2009

Spike seasoning (Recipe: Spiked Cornish game hens)

Not Quite Turkey Week, Day Two: An updated post from the archives, with new photos, links, and printer-friendly recipe.

Cornish game hen, a perfect meal for one or two.

Helmut Eugen Benjamin Gellert Hauser must have had the world's most perfect pantry.

How else could he have concocted his famous Spike seasoning, which combines 39 ingredients (Really. 39. Can you count them in the photograph?):

Spike seasoning

Salt and sea salt crystals, special high potency non-active nutritional yeast grown on beet molasses, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (the box says NO ADDED MSG, but we'll come back to this), mellow toasted onion, onion powder, orange powder, soy flour, celery leaf powder, celery root powder, garlic powder, dill, kelp, Indian curry, horseradish, ripe white pepper, orange and lemon peel, summer savory, mustard flower, sweet green and red peppers, parsley flakes, tarragon, rosehips, saffron, mushroom powder, parsley powder, spinach powder, tomato powder, sweet Hungarian paprika, celery powder, cayenne pepper, Greek oregano, French sweet basil, French marjoram, French rosemary, and Spanish thyme.

Gayelord Hauser, as he was known, was a German-born naturopath, nutritionist to the stars, and, it's rumored, more-than-a-friend of Greta Garbo.

As a teenager, he moved to the United States, and shortly afterwards contracted tuberculosis. Sent to Sweden to be treated by a monk who used herbal and dietary cures, Hauser made a full recovery, and upon his return to the US, embarked on the study of "food science." He's best known as the author of Look Younger; Live Longer, published in 1950 way ahead of the eat-to-live curve. Though he died in 1984, Hauser's seasonings have been manufactured in Wisconsin by Modern Products Inc. for more than 50 years.

Available in supermarkets and online, Spike comes in salt-free and flavored blends -- garlic, lemon pepper, hot and spicy -- and adds instant umami to cottage cheese and egg breakfast muffins, turkey meatloaf, poutine, garlic shrimp stir fry and spicy chickpeas, beef and cilantro.

Though the package says NO ADDED MSG, Spike does contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which is a form of glutamic acid, or monosodium glutamate. (To learn more, read this article and this one and this one.)

I am one of those people who turns beet red in Chinese restaurants that cook with MSG, but I love Spike, and I haven't had an MSG reaction when I've used it. Doesn't mean the MSG isn't there, just that the amount of it used at any one time is miniscule and doesn't seem to affect me.

What does affect me is flavor, and the flavor is great. Thanks to Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen for introducing Spike to my pantry. 

Spiked Cornish game hen

 Spiked Cornish game hens

Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best, and this is one of those times. You can make this with chicken leg quarters, too. Serves 2.

Ingredients

2 Cornish game hens, approximately 1-1/4 lbs each, or 2 chicken leg quarters
2 Tbsp Spike seasoning
3 Tbsp olive oil
Zest of one lemon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Remove each hen from its wrapper; be sure to take the packet with the neck and innards out, and discard or save for another use. Dry the hen with a paper towel.

In a small bowl, stir together Spike seasoning, olive oil and lemon zest, to form a paste.

Prepare your hen. You can spatchcock (butterfly) it, so it lays flat in the oven or on the grill, or cook it as is. Never spatchcocked a bird? Here's how to do it (a Cornish game hen is just a tiny version of a chicken):

Rub the bird all over with the seasoning paste, and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the second bird.

Place the baking sheet in the upper third of the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Let the game hen rest for 5 minutes before serving.

If you are cooking the bird without spatchcocking it, increase the baking time to 1 hour.


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Grilled chicken salad
Turkey escarole soup
Panko and mustard crusted fish

Comments

I've seen SPIKE at the store and never purchased it. Now, I've added it to next week's list!

I've read about Spike for years on Kalyn's site and have always wondered what it was. Thanks for demystifying it! Now, I might have to look for it (although the MSG aspect makes me a tad nervous, since I have a slight allergy too.

I love adding spice blends to pasta and rice dishes. I'll have to give this one a try!

This sounds like such a simple and delicious idea! So glad you're enjoying your Spike. There are so many recipes that I think are just not the same without it.

Since I wrote that piece for BlogHer, I've been more aware of MSG being added to foods, but it's never bothered me in anything and I think I'm on the side of those who think it's safe for most people.

I've never tried Spike - sounds really good, I will pick some up next time I see it. Thank you!

Wow,39 of them! After reading this recipe, even though I think I may have only around 1/3rd of the ingredients in the spike seasoning, it would still come out great. Thanks for sharing :-)

Spike had a "spike" in sales when Oprah's personal chef came out with a cookbook using a lot of Spike. See how much good she has done!

Spike is one of the original "hippie" seasonings that has been on my pantry shelves since the early 1970s. I would never be without it. Great post, Lydia!

So I ran out in search of this famous spike stuff and could only find the salt free version. I bought it anyway. I hope it tastes as good as the 'real' stuff does. Dinner should be very tasty tonight!!!

This recipe looks amazing. I'm going to try it.

Sarah, I'm pretty sensitive to MSG and have not had a problem with Spike. But of course that's no guarantee. My MSG reactions are uncomfortable, but not otherwise troublesome. If you are allergic, probably best to be cautious with Spike.

Pam, Janel, Natashya, Milton: I probably wouldn't have tried this if Kalyn hadn't sent me some, but now I can't imagine my pantry without it.

Kalyn, MSG makes my face turn beet red (you should see me when I accidentally get something with MSG at a Chinese restaurant!), and I've no such reaction when I cook with Spike.

Sri, I do think 39 spices is excessive -- after all, how many can the average person's taste buds isolate? But even 13 spices blended together would be wonderful!

Susan, who knew? If it's good enough for Oprah....

Christine, I was around in the early 1970s, but I never heard of Spike. Wonder if it was a regional thing?

I have always seen this on the grocery store shelf - I never stopped to look a it, assuming it was a salt-laden crappy spice blend. But my eyes have been opened to the quality product that it really is.
Unfortunately I have an odd allergy to "bakers yeast" and even after reading about the differences.(inactive vs active) I don't think I will try it. Unfortunately there is not a lot of info out there on yeast allergies that I can find. if anyone has some please point me in the right direction.

I used chicken thighs for this. the Spike made for a nice change from the plain salt and pepper version I normally use.

happy thanksgiving everyone

I made this again using the 'real' spike instead of the salt free version. Huge difference. thanks again for the introduction to such a tasty spice

Okay, now that I've looked at the recipes, I
know what spike is. I used it when I worked as
a line chef in a few restaurants. Spike is a
great ingredient.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • 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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