THE secret ingredient?
This is mostly for you restaurant pros out there. Is it fat? liberal usage of oil, butter and lard? Fess up now! I've seen what those jokers on the food network call a "tablespoon." It's not supposed to me enough to cover the table.
In the places I worked (back in the early 90's) it was butter and salt.
One place was a steak house, and the steaks were cooked in cast iron frying pans -- you'd salt and pepper the steak thickly on each side then throw about half a stick of butter(or margarine if the owner was on a cost control binge) into the frying pan and as soon as it started changing color (a few seconds - those pans stayed *hot*), in went the steak. A couple of minutes a side for rare, and then out of the pan and into the oven for a bit if they wanted well done.
They were good tasting steaks, but even butter lover that I am, the amount of it we used scared me sometimes.
I agree completely. 1. Salt - most people don't salt enough or salt too much. 2 - GOOD butter - unsalted. Why use salted butter when you're adding salt to the food already. 3 - GOOD olive oil. It really does uplift certain foods. In fact, the best "secret ingredient" is to try to use the best quality ingredients you can afford to use.
And, as a pastry chef, I'll add the following - when I do something chocolate, I will add a little bit of coffee. Not enough to flavor the food, but just enough to enhance the chocolate flavor.
re: Sugar Jones
Agreed-- adding enough salt before you start cooking, and then as you cook, is key. Salt in your vegetable water. Salt on your meat. Salt in your sautes. And using enough of the right fat. I find that the key to my chocolate successes (strictly amateur) is adding a bit more salt than the recipe calls for.
Lots of good butter mounted into a sauce is key. With things like pasta and risotto a very liberal amount of butter and EVOO make the dish and of course seasoning. But not just salt. A pinch of fresh chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, and parsley) added to a dish at the end will help to really bring it all together.
With the sweets especially chocolate a small amount of salt brings out the flavor of the sweet very nicely.
The secret is....wine.
If they drink enough wine, no one gives a darn what they're eating. If you drink enough wine, you won't give a darn what you're serving.
(apologies for my irreverence, it's Sunday morning and we had a nice bottle last night)