I have known Laura Kliebert for a lot longer than either of us probably want to admit. She started working at my law firm before I did, and she’s seen me turn from a callow youth to a slightly less callow middle-aged person without ever saying anything like, “You are so callow,” or “Why are you so callow?”
She has discretion, is what I’m saying, and that is likely why I did not learn from her until recently that she and her husband John are producing a spice mixture they call “Klee Bear Ass Seasoning.” Yes, it is a silly name, but then again this blog is called “Haute Plates,” so I have no room to judge, do I?
Anyway, my friend Laura has a spice mixture, and when I found out I wanted to try it. Then she gave me some and as she handed it to me I thought “Oh shit, what if it sucks?” It’s not like I promised to write about it, and it’s not as though Laura has some expectation that I would promote her product if I didn’t like it. She knows me better than to think I’d do that, and I know her better than to think she’d think I’d do that or something.
Awkwardness avoided, because the stuff is pretty damn good.
It’s also fairly simple; a mix of dehydrated vegetables, sugars, salt and peppers in a small plastic bottle topped with a grinder. If you’ve noticed the difference between pepper from a mill and the stuff you get in a can, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that other things also benefit from the “freshly ground” treatment. The extra 30 seconds it takes to grind the stuff is well worth it, and a side benefit is that the spices will last a lot longer than would be the case with a pre-ground mix.
Salt is essential to cooking, but it’s easy to use too much. What I want from a seasoning blend is flavor; I’ll add the salt myself. When I see salt at or near the top of the ingredients list of a spice blend, I wonder why anyone would bother. How much seasoning are you going to get from the small percentage of the stuff that’s not just salt before you end up with something inedible? Bear Ass has a little salt, but it’s so far down on the flavor profile of the stuff that you might not notice it.
Laura told me that the idea for the stuff came from a year when she and her husband had a much larger garden than they usually planted. They had so many vegetables that they couldn’t give stuff away fast enough. They ended up putting a lot of the produce into a dehydrator, and thus was born the first batch of Bear Ass seasoning.
I decided to test the seasoning out on some baked turkey thighs. Turkey is a fairly bland meat, which I thought would let the flavor of the seasoning come through. It worked, and it was very simple. All I did was to rub a generous amount of the freshly-ground seasoning onto and under the skin of the thighs along with a little salt. I put the thighs skin-side up into a roasting pan and topped each one with a few thin slices of butter. I added some chopped garlic cloves and water to the roasting pan, then started the turkey in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes before dropping the heat to 350 fro another 30 minutes or so.
It worked out very well, though next time I may add some acid in the form of lemon juice or sherry vinegar.
At the moment you can’t buy Bear Ass in most markets, as the Klieberts are working on obtaining a sku (“an sku”?), but you can usually find Laura, John and whichever other family members they can corral at the Ponchatoula Antique Trade Days Art and Crafts Fair on the weekends, and a few local shops are selling the stuff as well.
I hope I’ve been clear that Laura and her husband are friends, because that’s true and it’s a conflict of interest. That’s not new here; I’ve written before about friends and I’ve disclosed it; I hope that if you follow this column you know I don’t offer opinions I don’t believe. I’m not saying that Klee Bear Ass seasoning is the second coming of Paul Prudhomme’s “blackened” seasoning mixes, or even that you’ll like it, necessarily, but I enjoyed it and since what I do here is share things I enjoy…