Working with chefs and food personalities, the spice company develops a list of flavor combinations that seem relevant and promising. (FYI, there was a blogger on this year's list of culinary personages — Steamy Kitchen's Jaden Hair.)
Every year's list has a few you're already doing: In 2007 it was chile and chocolate, in 2008 it was Thai basil and watermelon. This year it's Herbes de Provence and popcorn.
Others just sound like a really good idea, like roasted curry powder and wild mushrooms, and the revival of the bistro taste synergy mustard seed-vermouth, which is beautiful on steaks and chops.
The company's print version of the forecast offers easy suggestions for trying the combination without committing to a recipe. Roasted curry powder and wild mushroom does sound good in risotto or a quesadilla. And so does chicken baked in a crust of Herbes de Provence and crushed popcorn. There are actual recipes at mccormick.com
Not surprisingly, some of the more, erm, adventurous pairings are destined for cocktails or the desserts. Hibiscus and ancho chile are said to make an an "explosively delicious sangria or margarita," while the combination of thyme and stone fruits is best exemplified in a peach gin cocktail.
Each year, some pairings seem unpromising at best, unpleasant at worst, but either way, you probably had to be there for the original dish to see how exciting the pairing is. That trend hit its peak with the 2009 list, which included rosemary plus fruit preserves, and cayenne paired with tart cherry. Last year it was caraway and bitter greens, and in 2007, wasabi and maple, which seems like an awful thing to do to both wasabi and maple.
This year's "thanks but no thanks" award goes to the first pairing on McCormick's list: fennel and peri-peri sauce, the Afro-Spanish-Moroccan hot sauce. Why does everyone want to hot-up perfectly good flavors? Last year's ale and almond and caraway and bitter greens were also on the naughty list. But caramelized honey and adzuki red beans, hmm, maybe in a few years ...
Here's the list:
Fennel & Peri-Peri sauce
Pickling Spice & Rice Vinegar
Roasted Curry Powder & Wild Mushrooms
Caramelized Honey & Adzuki Red Beans
Ancho Chile Pepper & Hibiscus
Thyme & Stone Fruits
Mustard Seed & Vermouth
Cilantro & Nut Butters
Herbes de Provence & Popcorn
Green Peppercorn & Goat's Milk