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Secret Ingredients

Certain foods we tend to think we make better than anybody else. Sometimes we attribute the superiority of our dish to a secret ingredient. One of mine is parmesan cheese in my potato salad. Anybody else willing to share what lifts their speciality above the rest?

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  1. I put fines herbes in my Velveeta Shells and Cheese. :-D

    1. Salt. I often feel that people do not salt enough during the cooking process. I attribute a lot of the flavor of my food to the fact that I use salt effectively to carry flavors.

      8 Replies
      1. re: Andiereid

        Andiereid, Pick up a bottle of Italian truffle salt. You'll be a lost soul in no time.

        1. re: Walters

          Really? Ooo! Will have to give that a go! Thanks for the tip! Sources?

          1. re: Andiereid

            while you are at it, get the saffron salt too.

            1. re: mimolette

              I just saw saffron salt for sale for the first time. The grains were quite large. It was pretty, jewel-like, but I wasn't sure how I'd use it. How do you use yours?

              1. re: Glencora

                I sprinkle it on shrimp, lobster, monkfish and other seafood mostly. It is good with eggs too. Sometimes I mix it with a little orange flavor olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or butter to dip the bread with. you can use it in gnocchi or ravioli dishes too.

        2. re: Andiereid

          How do you feel about letting people salt their own food to taste? Or do you think that adding salt during cooking, rather than at the table, makes a big difference? After all, you can always add it, but you can't remove it once its in there. I worry about over-salting, especially for guests who are on low-salt diets. I personally am very sensitive to over-salted foods - it's the only reason I've ever sent food back in a restaurant (except to be heated) - so I tend to under-salt things habitually.

          1. re: TomOHaver

            Salting during cooking makes an ENORMOUS difference, especially when things get cooked in water. For blanched vegetables or pasta, dissolving 1 tablespoon of salt in 1 gallon of water brings out the flavors of things better than sprinkling salt on top of the finished dish.

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Interesting. I never really realized that. Guess I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place if I'm trying to prepare low-salt dishes to please myself and other salt-sensitive people, while still pleasing my salt-loving guests.

        3. I'm going to posit a theory that many secret ingredients add umami.

          1 Reply
          1. re: amkirkland

            I'm in agreement. A dash of soy in "non-asian" foods, simmering a parm rind in soup, a coupla anchovies hidden in a dish (my Hub would sooner open a vein than eat an anchovie - I'm expert at hiding them!). All of these umami flavors add the depth and savor that make us say mmmmm. BUT! you don't taste the ingredients *as themselves*.

            I'm curious to hear more about your theory of secret=umami.

          2. Inspired by the spicy Ground Nut Stew at Rosalind's, I have added peanut butter to my chili (usually Carrol Shelby's but any decent mix will do) for years. I have fed it to swarms of people, and it always gets compliments.

            1. Around our house "the secret ingredient" is code for butter or cream. Not much of a secret, but they do have a magical effect.

              1 Reply
              1. re: bill_in_dunn

                In our house, it is olive oil--same general idea. Though in Spain, this is hardly a secret...