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What's your "secret ingredient?"

We all have something we add to one recipe or another that lifts it way out of the ordinary.

For me, whenever I make most types of chicken soup, I add a TBS or so of Peanut Butter. It gives it a velvety texture and a strange little taste that few folks can guess but all seem to like.

What's yours?

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    1. re: chez cherie

      me too, and also Aleppo chile (discovered through chowhound, actually)

      1. re: chez cherie

        Spanish smoked paprika rules, but I've also been using some applewood smoked salt when appropriate. It is an amazing substitute that can be used in sauces to simulate wood-fired barbecue (alder smoked salt is similar).

      2. lavendar salt. great with pretty much any meat, fish or veggie.

        1. aleppo peppers; a very good chicken bullion (spoonable, and not too salty), lots of butter.

            1. re: diablo

              Ditto the Old Bay. Also bacon fat, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce.

              1. re: oldbaycupcake

                I made this tonight, and bot was it delicious. Kept number of shrimp the same but doubled the sauce. A great "secret ingredient" use of Old bay. Lets give a see if this link works....
                http://the pioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/11/spicy-orange-garlic-shrimp/

                1. re: diablo

                  try this: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

                  the link reads the same, but yours didn't work for me. i like pioneer woman, and think her new design for her blog is very pretty.

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Thanks alkapal. I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were great. Appreciate the help!

              2. re: diablo

                Old bay, for me too!!!
                and allspice - just a pinch

                1. re: diablo

                  Ditto the Old Bay and smoked paprika.

                  Another special ingredient of mine is New England portuguese chouriço.

                  1. re: BabsW

                    Love smoked paprika! I put a lot of it in my chili and my red beans and rice.

                    Also, in savory soups and stews (like a nice beef stew), I tend to use either minced anchovy fillets (they dissolve in the liquid) or thai fish sauce a lot. Nobody can tell it's in there (and plenty would probably run screaming if I told them) but it's a great way to add umami.

                    1. re: Lady_Tenar

                      Allergy to anchovies is relatively common and can be very serious. Anchovies are also used in a variety of sauces including Caesar salad dressing sauce, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Sure to ask your guests if they have *any* food allergies. Having a guest on the floor gasping can be a real downer to any party.

                      1. re: Richard 16

                        "Anchovies are also used in a variety of sauces including Caesar salad dressing"
                        ~~~~~~
                        and if there's no anchovy in the dressing (or on the salad), there's really no point in ordering/eating it ;)

                        seriously though, you make a good point - i warn people all the time about using potential allergens as "secret" or "hidden" ingredients. it's an innocent but potentially very dangerous tactic, and those who have never dealt with food allergies sometime just don't think about the ramifications.

                        1. re: Richard 16

                          Always do ask for allergies, and for their dislikes too. Makes dinner parties easier!

                          My secret ingredient is allspice, especially for lamb!

                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                            I never thought about anchovies as being an allergen but that definitely makes sense since it is seafood.

                          2. re: Richard 16

                            "Secret ingredients" scare me as well. My son had an anaphylactic reaction when someone added peanut butter to their chili. (Life threatening)

                    2. I like to add cajun spice blend or jamaican jerk paste (my favorite Walkerswood) to many soups and other savory dishes, including eggs. I often add a small amount so it's not obvious, but it provides a certain "brightness" to the flavors.

                        1. re: Brandon Nelson

                          Im curious. I have a batch i made but have not really been using.

                        2. Like Chez Cherie, smoked paprika (pimentón). And in chilis, a dollop of cocoa powder for a deep colour and more complex flavour.

                          1. Chiles de arbol add a little heat to any dish if you add it to the oil while it is heating up, letting it sizzle. Of course, also anchovies which improves many boring dishes. My favorite way to prepare green beans is to blanch them and cool them off then stir fry them in evoo which has a chile de arbol cooking in it, add a couple cloves of chopped garlic and a couple filets of anchovies smashed and let it brown and dissolve. Add the green beans and cook until heated through. I like to top it off with some fresh bread crumbs that have been toasted in olive oil. Those 2 ingredients work well with any vegetable really.

                            1 Reply
                                1. re: dani_k

                                  Third on the fish sauce.

                                  Also sherry vinegar.

                                  1. re: mlgb

                                    What you said, mlgb, in reverse order.

                                2. re: Quine

                                  HEY! How can fish sauce be MY secret when you are all using it as well? Looks like I'm in good company ; ) Lots of inspiration here!

                                  1. re: ajcraig

                                    I use fish sauce to make a Vietnamese dipping sauce... am obviously in the dark as to other uses. Would you mind enlightening me??? (I have a LOT of fish sauce)

                                    1. re: ideabaker

                                      i used fish sauce yesterday to bump up the flavor in some crabcakes i made.

                                      i think there was a fish sauce thread not too long ago: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/526806

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        Thanks for that reference alkapal!

                                        1. re: ideabaker

                                          hi ideabaker! have you ever made the thai/laotian dish "som tum" -- green papaya salad? fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar (or thai sugar -- palm sugar), dried shrimp, green chillies and garlic blenderized and poured onto shredded/julienned green papaya, tomato and green bean that have been "beaten" to soften in a big mortar and pestle, or smashed with a mallet or rolling pin in a plastic bag. that dressing is drinkably-delicious!!!!!!

                                          http://www.thaitable.com/Thai/recipes...

                                          i'm a som tum cheerleader!!!!

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Alkapal, I think I slept three hours last night, awakening to the delight of your message this morning. That som tum (especially with the salted crab) sounds just incredible. I just have to figure out what "salted crab" is at my local Asian Marketplace, since almost all the workers are Chinese and don't speak many words of English... any tips, pics, etc.?? I have a habit of showing up at home with the wrong ingredients (which actually helps create new recipes, necessity being the mother of invention and all...).

                                            Happy New Year! Thanks for steering me in the right direction right off the bat!

                                            1. re: ideabaker

                                              i use the dried shrimp that comes in a plastic bag from shopper's food warehouse here in d.c. -northern va. 'burbs (large asian population).

                                              it looks like this: http://www.amazon.com/Importfood-com-...

                                              i've heard the thai-origin shrimp are better than the chinese. i can't recall where mine are from. i store in a glass jar in the freezer -- but they can also be stored in a glass jar on the shelf ('cause i just made some dressing down in florida, and used some shrimp i had taken down from my "stock" earlier in the year).

                                              some places add fresh chopped roasted peanuts (unsalted), but don't let that hold you up!

                                              a nice video how-to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCgN7j...

                                              i don't use the fermented fish or eggplant as in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXabvu...

                                              worth watching JUST for the "play that funky music white boy" sung in thai (?): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_suAD...

                                              for the dressing, just "doctor" it till you get the flavor you crave! and if you can't get the green papaya, try making it with shredded cabbage. really, it is the dressing that drives me crazy-yummy-wacky!

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                I will look for those shrimp when I next go to the Asian Market (just went about a week ago to stock up for winter, but their baby bok choy, tender fresh basil, and fresh mung bean sprouts keep me popping in every other week or so). Didn't have a new year's resolution until right now... to make Som Tum. Am already trying to think of a good wine pairing with the sauce, which I'd likely use on fish or chicken... how do you use it?

                                              2. re: ideabaker

                                                salted crab seems like it is just dried, salted crab. the crab paste seems like it would be a substiute where the texture of the crab itself is not paramount. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-crab-...

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  I think I might even prefer the salted crab, again I just don't know what it looks like. Thanks for the link to that helpful site. I'll look for others maybe with a pic I could show to one of the workers at the Asian Market. (Because from experience, it can take hours to try to explain something if you don't speak the language!) A pic would certainly help in this case...

                                                  1. re: ideabaker

                                                    here is another recipe, with video, and an additional idea for papaya and noodle salad (with rice noodles). sounds so good! : http://thai-laos-food.blogspot.com/20...

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      The use of vermicelli noodles with green papaya is a typical Lao thing to do when eating Lao papaya salad so it's actually not a secret or an uncommon thing to do. Noodles are kind of like a substitute for Lao sticky rice. If not noodles, then sliced raw cabbage or raw leafy veggies like morning glory are also used. All of those items help to tone down the heat from the papaya salad. You're making me drool just thinking about spicy Lao papaya salad. =)

                                                      1. re: yummyrice

                                                        yes, yummyrice, i'm an addict of the stuff. but, i now have to go to my thai places alone, as mr. alka says he can't handle the heat anymore. (but i did pick him up a takeout cashew chicken curry when i ate thai yesterday).

                                                        when you say vermicelli noodles, are you talking about rice "vermicelli"? i just always associate vermicelli with italian flour pasta noodles.

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          LOL! Yes, rice vermicelli because Italian flour pasta noodles would not go well with spicy Lao papaya salad. I can't speak for other countries, but in Laos our rice vermicelli noodles are usually handmade at least the ones who live out in the villages. The ones in the cities will typically use store bought rice vermicelli.

                                        2. re: ideabaker

                                          I'm not allowed to use fish sauce. I made one recipe that included a teaspoon of it -- ONE TEASPOON -- and my wife hated the flavor.

                                      2. re: Quine

                                        How do you use fish sauce? Like in what kinds of dishes? Do you substitute it for something else?

                                      3. Chile oil (not the sesame kind) to mix with olive oil and bathe meat, fish or fowl in prior to cooking. Anchovy paste: adds depth to both beef and fish casserole-y things (beef stew, pot roast, tuna-noodle casserole, tuna salad), and to mix with oil when braising broccoli or broccolini. Smoked sea salt on sliced tomatoes.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          Hey will! Chile oil is mine, too. Just a touch adds a warm chile flavor and none of the heat. Great minds and all that...

                                        2. Chinese 5 spice (in moderation).

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: mpalmer6c

                                            I second this - and for my rubs I use Maple Sugar

                                            1. re: mpalmer6c

                                              me too. I use it in place of cinnamon in all things baked.

                                            2. Depending on what I'm making:
                                              1. Red pepper flakes
                                              2. Chilis in adobo sauce
                                              3. A few minced anchovies in oil

                                              The secret is moderation and just enough to kick up the flavor.

                                              1. Lately, it has been smoked paprika.

                                                1. cayenne
                                                  anchovies
                                                  grey salt
                                                  red pepper flakes
                                                  smoked paprika

                                                  I can't pick just one!

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: IndyGirl

                                                    I can't pick one either. I would say:

                                                    Garlic
                                                    smoked paprika
                                                    ginger
                                                    soy sauce

                                                  2. A little cumin gives some nice round flavor, even in things like artichoke dip where you wouldn't expect it. Just a bit though or it starts to taste like Indian food. (I love Indian food, but not in my artichoke dip.)

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Emmmily

                                                      A pinch of cumin also adds a great, subtle smokiness to guacamole

                                                    2. Granulated garlic and soy sauce ( I think I add those things to just about everything!)

                                                      Also dried mint.

                                                      12 Replies
                                                      1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                        is granulated garlic different from garlic powder?

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          yes. granulated is dried garlic but more around the size of grains of salt (though containing no salt)...i find it shakes on things more evenly instead of poofing all over like powder does.

                                                          1. re: dani_k

                                                            It tastes much more lke garlic than powder... don't know why.

                                                        2. re: BamiaWruz

                                                          I recently bought some granulated garlic on the basis of eveyrthing I've read here and have fallen in love with it. It really has more oomph than garlic powder.

                                                          1. re: BabsW

                                                            I have recently fallen head over heals in love with FREEZE DRIED GARLIC. It's different than any other type of dried garlic I've ever tasted (whether granulated, powdered, salted, etc.) and you would SWEAR it's fresh! That's how great it is!! I use it for EVERYTHING now! I personally love garlic salt as a finishing salt for many things and now I make my own. So many of us have salt grinders/mills ... try this! 1/3 large crystal sea salt to 2/3 FD garlic. I add a generous amount of dried parsley to the mix.. but use to taste. Mix it up and pour into the salt mill. You will not believe how much better it is over the pre-mixed store bought types. TOO GOOD!!

                                                            1. re: LAfoodie72

                                                              Awesome! Thanks for the tip. I am always excited to hear of food types! :)

                                                              1. re: LAfoodie72

                                                                i've never seen it. is this freeze dried garlic only at specialty shops?

                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                  I* haven't seen it yet at my locla Supermarket (Giants) but I have seen it in my Penzey's catalog

                                                                  1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                    i need to make it over to penzey's, as there is one not too far at all from me -- in falls church, va. i think i should go without my credit card, though ;-)).

                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                      I made that mistake once, alka! I lived about 3 blocks from that Penzey's and I spent wayyyyy too much money there!!

                                                                      1. re: kubasd23

                                                                        were you still living on that area when mad fox opened?

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          Sorry for the late reply, I just saw this. I don't think I was... at least I dont' remember a mad fox.

                                                          2. in my house the expression "Secret Ingredient" is code for nutmeg. Spinach bland? Add some "Secret Ingredient".

                                                            Bacon fat makes everything taste good.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: lulubelle

                                                              I LOVE nutmeg with cooked spinach!!! But I forget about it...

                                                              1. re: scuzzo

                                                                a small amount of nutmeg with mushrooms is good too

                                                                1. re: budlit

                                                                  I'll bet you're right! I'll try it.

                                                                  And while I sometimes use garlic powder, I would never use anything but fresh grated nutmeg. A thousand percent better!!!

                                                                2. re: scuzzo

                                                                  Nutmeg is a wonderful addition to alfredo sauce too!

                                                                1. pecan smoked salt, maple syrup. toasted fennel seed

                                                                  1. Thyme. There are very few dishes that aren't improved by a pinch of thyme.

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                      yes! thyme can really elevate so many things, and it's become indispensable in most of my savory recipes that involve cooked tomatoes.

                                                                      i have so many "secret" ingredients - it depends on the dish. for various savory recipes: smoked paprika, cumin, anchovies, fish sauce, chipotles in adobo, the oaking liquid from dried mushrooms or sun-dried tomatoes, liquid smoke, capers, miso, tamarind paste or concentrate, nutmeg, bragg's aminos, dried chipotle flakes, fire-roasted tomato flakes

                                                                      and in chocolate desserts...coffee or espresso.

                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                        ghg, tell us about bragg's aminos, please! flavor, texture, uses, function.....?

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          it's a liquid, actually a non-fermented soybean extract.

                                                                          interestingly, although i can't eat whole soy foods or straight soy protein [for health reasons], i don't have an issue with this particular form of soy...and a little goes a long way. it's very salty, even though it's much lower in sodium than traditional soy sauce - it contains 220 mg sodium per tsp, which is pretty comparable to low-sodium soy.

                                                                          it's got a great salty, umami flavor, sort of like a mellow soy sauce...or miso, almost.

                                                                          you can find it at WFM or any natural food store, and it comes in either a large pourable bottle with a spout, or a small spray bottle. i keep the spray bottle in the cabinet & refill it from a large bottle when it runs low. it's super-convenient for spritzing on popcorn, steamed veggies, salad, etc.

                                                                          btw, this also got me thinking about another of my "secret" ingredients that i left off the list..nutritional yeast flakes.

                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                            wow if you hadn't ended the post with nutritional yeast I would have posted "what about nutritional yeast" A little and you have cheese a lot and you have chicken. Leeks are good for a butter flavor if you want to eliminate butter. Cashew cream is also very nice.

                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                              Yes, Bragg's aminos are great. They have a slightly different flavor than soy, more fermented and vaguely miso-esque, as noted above. They're a god send for those of us with high blood pressure who love salt. I find that I use much, much less than even low sodium soy sauce or salt.

                                                                              1. re: Hunicsz

                                                                                I too always have Braggs in my cabinet. I love sauted vegies in it (mix of cabbage, broccoli, cauliflour, carrots slices), over a nice brown rice and shredded cheese on top. One of the dishes at the healthfood counter I ran many moons ago.

                                                                                Also a fantastic mushroom burger (sliced mushroom quick saute with Braggs) then layer mushrooms, cheese (melted under broiler), guacomole, shredded carrots, sprouts, spike seasoning, cayenne and garlic powder - alll on a really nice whole grain bun.

                                                                                1. re: lexpatti

                                                                                  Bragg's is my secret ingredient too! I find it really adds an umami flavour to a lot of vegetarian dishes.

                                                                      2. Anchovies were already mentioned ... for me they're less secret than ubiquitous. Almost anytime I make mushrooms, I reconstitute some ancho, mince it, and use the broth in the prep. Not too much, but its earthiness plays so well with mushrooms.

                                                                        1. Sriracha, chilis in adobo, Worcestershire sauce, cumin...

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: CeeBee

                                                                            You sound like my kind of cook! Those are some of my faves.

                                                                          2. I like using vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract in baking recipes. While the taste isn't dramatically different it is deeper and more intense.

                                                                            1. A good quality Truffle Butter in mashed potato, polenta, on grilled meat, or on pasta.

                                                                              1. Shallots that have been carmelized and fresh lemon juice.

                                                                                1. nutmeg... in savory dishes. It makes cream and butter sing

                                                                                  1. Lately I'm really into:

                                                                                    * frying in grapeseed oil (WF store brand!)
                                                                                    * fish sauce
                                                                                    * the end of the jar of fruit butter, jelly or jam as a base for (savory) marinade... fig preserves, peach butter, apple butter, quince jelly, orange marmalade, etc.
                                                                                    * or molasses in marinades
                                                                                    * dry mustard powder
                                                                                    * Pernod
                                                                                    * already mentioned, but bears repeating: anchovy paste
                                                                                    * Marsala - lasts a long time once it's open and you can use it in lieu of wine in many recipes
                                                                                    * chicken stock
                                                                                    * herbed butter, especially thyme butter
                                                                                    * rendered duck fat
                                                                                    * Herbes de Provence or the variation Paula Wolfert describes
                                                                                    * potato starch - as a thickener, generally, totally different taste & texture than flour or cornstarch, and kosher, too (I think)
                                                                                    * lemon peel
                                                                                    * pomegranite syrup (globe-trotting friend spoils me)
                                                                                    * Plugra
                                                                                    * cultured butter
                                                                                    * raw milk, fresh or soured

                                                                                    1. Chimmichurri. Spozed to be served as a condiment with meats, but I find it adds a nice little oomph to lots of dishes. (Haven't been able to convince myself that it would work with anything sweet.)

                                                                                      1. Similar threads, each with over 100 responses:

                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/492125 --Weird or Secret Ingredients?
                                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/338509 --What's Your Secret Ingredient?

                                                                                        1. I put grated citrus zests and a tiny bit of mace in crab cakes

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: budlit

                                                                                            i would LOVE that recipe...if you care to share. :)

                                                                                          2. hot paprika - in my house, it's the "homefries spice".

                                                                                            also, split pea soup must always have curry powder.

                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: missfunkysoul

                                                                                              I use curry powder in turkey and chicken broth soups, makes a wonderful difference. Never have used it in split pea, though, and I happen to have some in the freezer. I'll have try that soon. Thanks for the idea!

                                                                                              1. re: fern

                                                                                                My mother uses turmeric actually, she says it takes away from the fatty chicken "smell". It's nice, just a dash.

                                                                                                1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                                                  My mom always put turmeric on meat too. She said it killed germs. Who knows.

                                                                                                  1. re: fallingup

                                                                                                    I once asked my mother what spices she used in a meat dish that she made. She looked at me like I was crazy, and said, "Meat spices". When I asked her to elaborate, she said, "Cumin, turmeric, and ground cloves". I now use that combination very often.

                                                                                                    I love to use pancetta when cooking. Gives a lovely flavour.

                                                                                                    1. re: souschef

                                                                                                      If I may ask, where is your mother from? Cooking background? It's an interesting combination (and sounds good).

                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                        My late mother was from Goa, so her cooking was from that region (Portuguese-influenced and lots of fish), plus we lived in Africa. She was a great cook.

                                                                                                        1. re: souschef

                                                                                                          I should have known from the cloves. Lucky you! (My mother's idea of meat spices was salt and pepper.)

                                                                                              2. re: missfunkysoul

                                                                                                I love Split Pea Soup with curry. Here is a great recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network.

                                                                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

                                                                                                It's a great and simple recipe. I bet you have most of the ingredients on hand right now.

                                                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                  I agree, this recipe is great!

                                                                                                2. Equal amounts of salt and sugar. Fabulous on vegs, but I've even used it on meat. Gooses the food's natural flavor.

                                                                                                  1. When i was in Mexico a few years back, I had a shrimp dish with veggies that was cooked in a chicken broth type sauce. There was a slight hint of "something else" besides garlic, onion, hot sauce, etc. I asked, but I'm not sure we could make it through the translation stage. It was superb!

                                                                                                    Later on, thinking about it, I realized it must have been a slight amout of caramel or butterscotch sauce. Sounds weird, biut it tasted heavenly. I've now made a similar type dish several times for guests and everyone raves.

                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                      sherry or vermouth
                                                                                                      smoked salt
                                                                                                      unsweetened chocolate
                                                                                                      cayenne
                                                                                                      preserved lemons

                                                                                                      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                        hey there fried clam fanatic, would you please give more details? i'm intrigued!

                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                          It was definitely a chicken broth base. What i do is for 4 people, I mix up some green peppers (or red), some onions, and maybe some slivered baby carots.

                                                                                                          These are all sauteed for about 6-8 minutes (if I use cooked, shelled shrimp, I add them for the last 2-3 minutes). Then a pre-mixed sauce that is about a cup of chicken broth, to which is added a bit of turmeric, a tsp of minced garlic,about a tsp or 2 of caramel sauce, and a little tarragon. I usually add 1/4 cup of Marsala, but not always.

                                                                                                          This gets "splashed" in the pan until frothy.about another 2-3 minutes. Then serve it over rice or pasta, maybe sprinkling a little parsley on top

                                                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                            so the caramel sauce is made by you? or whom? like ice cream topping "caramel sauce"?

                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                              I just go to Giants and buy "someone's" caramel sauce...yep, the ice cream topping kind

                                                                                                            2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                              Dang that sounds good! But how sweet does it turn out? Would a little spice "heat" complement the flavors?

                                                                                                          2. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                            It could have been cajeta, a Mexican carmel type sauce that I think is made from goat or sheep's milk. It is available at most Mexican markets and in stores that have a good variety of ethnic foods.

                                                                                                              1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                                Wow thanks.tried it over the weekend and it was GOOD!

                                                                                                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                                                  i'm not a huge fan of sweet entrees, but when i read that recipe for some reason i immediately thought of serving the shrimp with a tart & spicy tamarind sauce. adding that to my list of recipes in development - thanks for the link!

                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                    This is my very favorite Vietnamese dish. They used to have a great version in a clay pot at Miss Saigon in DC (http://www.ms-saigonus.com/index.htm). Attempts to recreate it were less successful, and my roommate threatened to move out unless I promised never to use fish sauce again...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Anonimo

                                                                                                                    Most likely that is what it is! Thanks for the reference! I make dulche de leche a lot with condensed milk and may try that in th future.

                                                                                                                2. A tablespoon or so of Penzey's Raspberry Enlightenment adds a depth of flavor to soups, stews and chile.

                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: wolive

                                                                                                                    Penzey's also got an English Rib Rub. All beef - especially grilled - benefit with this spice. Awesome on tenderloin or a burger - with just a bit of sea salt.

                                                                                                                    1. re: BurgJoy

                                                                                                                      Speaking the of Spices - The Spice House's Back of the Yards Rub is my go to spice for BBQ followed by their Gateway to the North rub -

                                                                                                                      1. re: BurgJoy

                                                                                                                        Penzey's makes some really wonderful blends; I also buy the single spices and make my own crazy concoctions. Love their Shallot Pepper, Ozark, and Jamaican Jerk. Bacon fat makes it all good--mushrooms, scallops, eggs, potatoes--just a little bit. Try this-Scallops pan-seared in bacon fat with shallot pepper...mmmmm.
                                                                                                                        Also love hugarian paprika, both hot and mild, and pasilla peppers.

                                                                                                                    2. chocolate in chili or any mexican red sauce..and cayenne in everything

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: jinet12

                                                                                                                        Also for Mexican red sauces, a little bit of ground cloves adds a certain zip.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Neta

                                                                                                                          i noticed (on a recent "diners, drive-ins and dives", mexican place* in chicago) that cloves are a lot more prevalent in some mexican cooking than i ever thought!

                                                                                                                          * cemita's sandwiches. man, their homemade chipotle in adobo looked great! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ce...

                                                                                                                      2. Truffle oil ... just a little bit makes all the difference

                                                                                                                        1. Bragg's Amino Acids. love 'em.

                                                                                                                          1. Hot paprika
                                                                                                                            Smoked paprika
                                                                                                                            Chipotle Tabasco
                                                                                                                            truffle salt
                                                                                                                            dark soy sauce or mushroom soy sauce

                                                                                                                            1. Oh, yeah: in chocolate recipes, some instant espresso powder. Gives it some attitude, a nice tannic bite.

                                                                                                                              1. Great ideas here. My favorites:
                                                                                                                                Nutmeg in savory --especially on pasta
                                                                                                                                Olive oil in sweet
                                                                                                                                Cayenne in sweet
                                                                                                                                Lemon rind in everything
                                                                                                                                Fresh mint in everything

                                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                                  that's funny.. almost all the things on your list are instant turnoffs to me in a dish... my palate recognizes even a hint of nutmeg, lemon rind or mint. and for some reason i don't like olive oil at all, and spicy and i don't get along well. im so weird.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                    Same here on the nutmeg. The tiniest amount is instantly recognizable since my palate registers nutmeg as metallic, almost like tinfoil on a metal filling. Not such a secret ingredient then, is it?

                                                                                                                                    1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                                                      That's how I taste nutmeg too! Wild!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Vetter

                                                                                                                                        That is so interesting, like the way some people experience the taste of cilantro as "soapy". Thank you for posting about that!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                                                          that's me - cilantro and ginger esp taste like soap

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                            I love rosemary but my wife says it tastes like soap.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                                              we went a little overboard with rosemary once in a beef stew. it was virtually inedible from the strong, resin-y presence of rosemary. nowadays, we don't grow any, and use veeeery little.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                              mee tooooo
                                                                                                                                              Cilantro and ginger and curry

                                                                                                                                            3. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                                                              I absolutely love rosemary, although maybe it's pine-like aroma makes people equate it with certain brands of soap. For me any dessert containing lavender instantly makes my taste buds scream "soap!"

                                                                                                                                              1. re: NoAddedSweetener

                                                                                                                                                For me, Gewurztraminer=soap.
                                                                                                                                                But I love cilantro, even cream of cilantro soup--the ultimate in soap for some people, an herbal delight for me!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: jezebeljones

                                                                                                                                                  Ok. You eat cilantro. I'll drink the Gewurtz. We'll both avoid soap.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                          oh lord i hate nutmeg too. i can smell it from a mile away and any food with nutmeg in it just tastes like nutmeg to me.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                          OK, you got me on that one! What is it?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                            Dark dried Turkish pepper flakes. Spicy, with a complex, somewhat fruity flavor. I put a pinch in just about everything. (You can order it from kalustyans.com.)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                                                                                Urfa are great, they are smoked, aleppo that someone mentioned are great as well, not smoked. Also
                                                                                                                                                use Thai chicken chili sauce, add a glop to many things, both sweet and hot

                                                                                                                                          2. soy sauce! it makes everything better.

                                                                                                                                            1. Sherry. A little splash in just about anything adds a great dimension of flavor. Also, sherry vinegar for a finishing touch is great.

                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: Shane Greenwood

                                                                                                                                                Interesting! I used to use a lot of Sherry, but I find now, I"m using Marsala more often. It's a little sweeter.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                  definitely check out the sherry vinegar then. It has a nice sweetness to it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Shane Greenwood

                                                                                                                                                    i love sherry vinegar splashed on cuban black bean soup! with some nice finely chopped onions on top, too!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                      Gotta agree, sherry vinegar is perfect i black bean soup. And a splash of sherry or sherry vinegar also really rounds out lentil soup like nothing else.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Shane Greenwood

                                                                                                                                                      I made a recipe last night (in anticipation of Thxgiving) for Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Chestnuts and the sherry vinegar was the STAR !

                                                                                                                                                2. Lime juice.

                                                                                                                                                  I use it instead of lemon juice in a lot of recipes. Everyone always wonders what that secret something is.

                                                                                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                                                                                                    Same here, personally I never knew there was a flavour difference, limes were cheaper and we'd buy them instead of lemons, but my friend started pointing out and asking why I always used limes, she bought lemons. I told her I thought there was no difference, both add acidity and that's all I cared about in my salad/food... but I know now that people "do" notice it and that's why some recipes require lemons or limes depending on the flavour it adds and complements the dish.

                                                                                                                                                    It's cool that you use limes, I do too because that's mostly what I buy. My SO mixes both lime and lemon juice and brushes puff pastry them spreads the cinnamon sugar on, it tastes amazing! (interesting flavours) I think we had a beaver tail the other day with cinnamon and lemon, I told him his idea was brilliant and tasted better.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                                                                                                      bamiawruz, i've never heard of eating beaver tail! what does it taste like? texture? do you eat all of the animal? i'm very intrigued!

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                        I think BamiaWruz is referring to Beavertail pastry - not actual beaver tail.

                                                                                                                                                        http://www.ottawa-information-guide.c...

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                                          Yup Beavertails (the pastry, savory or sweet with a lot of delicious options) are a fixture o my youh and on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa during the winter months and if memory serves there are one or two places open year round.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: maplesugar

                                                                                                                                                            A pastry yes!! I'm so sorry for not being clear, hehe. The sweet is a canadian recipe I believe and it's very popular here.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                          However, as a regular at the annual church game supper in Bradford VT, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I can answer Alkapal's question: gamy to the point of outright funkiness, rather stringy, and unpleasantly greasy. It's similar to bear, although bear is generally a lot milder and leaner.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                                                            wow! thanks all! i laughed when i realized that bamia's beaver tail was a pastry, then was slightly unsettled by barmy's info about the "real" beaver tail!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                              As was I! I do believe an "ewww" escaped my lips.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                                                                                                Oh my!! I just saw your post. That's rather interesting. Thanks for sharing!

                                                                                                                                                        3. Jalapeno powder - I buy the dried jalapeno bits at Costco in the spice isle, then run them in my coffee (spice) grinder until they are a fine powder. Be careful not to breathe in the powder.
                                                                                                                                                          It replaced the shot of cumin to finish of my chili.

                                                                                                                                                          1. lime juice and zest
                                                                                                                                                            maple syrup
                                                                                                                                                            sherry
                                                                                                                                                            sherry vinegar
                                                                                                                                                            pomegranate molasses

                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sheiladeedee

                                                                                                                                                              Lime zest - oooh, I've never done that. Must try it!

                                                                                                                                                              And I've never heard of pomegranate molasses... that sounds nifty. I wonder if it's anything like the pomegranate syrup I have from Turkey?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Mawrter

                                                                                                                                                                I suspect the pomegranate molasses is like the syrup, nice and thick. Wonderful glaze for chicken and so on.

                                                                                                                                                                I like lemons too, but that would be like saying my secret ingredient is salt. And I do use lime more than lemon these days. For one thing, they're smaller, and you don't end up with the half-a-lemon quandary. And somehow it tastes deeper than lemon.

                                                                                                                                                            2. i just tried gooseberry's suggestion of a little sprinkle of sugar with salt on my fresh tomato sandwich....

                                                                                                                                                              i use fish sauce
                                                                                                                                                              anchovies
                                                                                                                                                              sherry vinegar
                                                                                                                                                              nutmeg in savory
                                                                                                                                                              cinnamon and coffee in chili
                                                                                                                                                              cumin in spaghetti sauce
                                                                                                                                                              panko
                                                                                                                                                              sumac

                                                                                                                                                              just had the other day, but want to make myself: very finely minced mint on top of a delicious persian eggplant dip: http://jugalbandi.info/2008/09/kashk-...

                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                sumac? I only know of this as the poisonous itchy plant in the woods... do enlighten me, please

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: oryza

                                                                                                                                                                  the spice sumac: http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/su...

                                                                                                                                                                  my husband likes it on cooked calves' liver. a lebanese friend introduced the spice and that dish to us.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: oryza

                                                                                                                                                                    Oryza, you are talking about poison sumac. I think it has a whitish berry? The edible one has a red furry cluster of berries. My parents have them growing wild on their property. We made jelly from them one year, but wild, they are difficult to use, because the berry cluster can be full of bugs. We had to tear apart each cluster to look.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: oryza

                                                                                                                                                                      Much used in Lebanese cooking, it is a dry red spice in small flakes with a fragrant smell. It is great on salad, and have seen it on chicken.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                      cumin in spaghetti sauce? yum yum! i will keep that in mind next time i make pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                    3. Krazy Jane's Mixed Up Salt, and Mixed Up Pepper, maple syrup, thyme.......

                                                                                                                                                                      1. A lot of what's already been posted (smoked paprika, fish sauce, shoyu or tamari, a number of different vinegars, etc..).

                                                                                                                                                                        Paprika in/on chowders and home fries.
                                                                                                                                                                        Good quality mirin (like Mintoku's)
                                                                                                                                                                        Peanut butter in pancakes or waffles
                                                                                                                                                                        Lots of eggs in pancakes (like okonomiyaki.)
                                                                                                                                                                        Sake for cooking (and for me!) - cleaner tasting than wine. Nothin' wrong with wine, though...
                                                                                                                                                                        Shiso
                                                                                                                                                                        Toasting grains before cooking. (O.K., technique, not ingredient.)

                                                                                                                                                                        There''s more, but time....)

                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Richard 16

                                                                                                                                                                          I like to use Mirin in a lot of things too, especially dipping sauces or with fish

                                                                                                                                                                        2. sugar. i will even put a pinch in the boiling water for veggies if they don't seem perfectly fresh.

                                                                                                                                                                          by the same token, salt in sweet things.

                                                                                                                                                                          butter, in general.

                                                                                                                                                                          and cayenne. a pinch will liven up many things without anyone knowing the wiser, or thinking "spicy."

                                                                                                                                                                          i'm definitely with the rest of the crowd too on anchovies and nutmeg, lemon and sherry.

                                                                                                                                                                          i used to manage a kitchen where there were recipes that would say in the ingredient list, "a secret ingredient amount of cayenne" as an actual quantity, like, the teensiest, most imperceptible amount.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Secret ingredient schmicret ingredient salt, spice, sweet, acid, alcohol, aeromatics. That's it. ok and some fat too. Most things can be punched up with lemon juice. Also fortified wine, tobasco, cayenne, butter, liquor, non-iodized salt, fish sauce, anchovies, capers, sherry vinegar, good evoo, honey, molasses, syrup, herbs and spices. Gray Kuntz narrowed it down to 14 elements of taste. Pretty smart guy if you ask me.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. I save the confit jelly left over after making duck confit and freeze it. I use it whenever a recipe calls for chicken stock. Adds a depth and flavor that can't be beat.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. cardamom seeds
                                                                                                                                                                                for sweet and black cardamom pods for savory

                                                                                                                                                                                so wickedly delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lollya

                                                                                                                                                                                  love the way cardamom smells one of my favorites.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: keith2000

                                                                                                                                                                                      After returning from Israel some years ago, I started spiking my morning coffee with som cardamom; interesting combo...

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: lollya

                                                                                                                                                                                      did you see the cardamom threads a while back?

                                                                                                                                                                                      http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

                                                                                                                                                                                      i love cardamom in my sour cream pound cake, among other spices and chocolate!
                                                                                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4771...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                        no! i didn't thank you so much for sharing. Oh my gosh, so go check out the variety at Penzeys. That's where I get mine from.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lollya

                                                                                                                                                                                          i get mine at the local indian shop.

                                                                                                                                                                                          and...you are very welcome! ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Lime. A little squeeze in a pot full of chili, a grilled chicken marinade, a sugar cookie batter, or a cold beverage brightens everything up.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I think I've found a new one! But I haven't tried it yet

                                                                                                                                                                                        http://www.baconsalt.com/

                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                                          bacon salt has been around for a while, and i know there have been some discussions in the boards about it - you might want to do a search.

                                                                                                                                                                                          the three original flavors contain all sorts of ingredients i'd rather not [or can't] consume, like MSG, corn syrup, maltodextrin, partially hydrogenated oil, and wheat flour. but they did finally come out with a "natural" version that doesn't contain any of the nasty stuff, so even i'd consider trying that one.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                                            i just bought some a while back. sprinkled a little on a tomato sandwich. a little goes a long way. i wasn't over the moon. maybe tonight i'll try it on some canned white acre peas -- along with my texas pete pepper sauce! http://www.texaspete.com/product_pepp...

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: CoconutMilk

                                                                                                                                                                                              CM~
                                                                                                                                                                                              how do you use it? I bought some and have never used it yet.............

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: dockhl

                                                                                                                                                                                                My absolute favorite way to use kecap manis is drizzled over fried rice with a fried egg on top. Its awesome. It's also great in asian-type marinades to add body, sweetness, and depth. A good all-purpose dipping sauce for dumplings, spring rolls, etc ( you can use it as is or liven it up with chilies/ginger/lime juice or whatever...). If you cook alot of spicy stir fries (which I do) and the results are sometimes overwhelmingly hot and pungent, a little kecap manis will round out the flavors really nicely. Or just eat it with plain rice, its that good.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: CoconutMilk

                                                                                                                                                                                                CM - I wondered about the kecap manis....sounds kind of like a thick oyster sauce....is it sweet? Salty? I'll have to get a little bottle to play with this weekend!

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: smalt

                                                                                                                                                                                                  i think it is sweet. it is useful in the kitchen in stir-fries, in soups, dipping sauces. i've only found it in a (quite) large bottle. one size fits all? here is an idea about its flavor profile: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/equivale...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  or look, here is a recipe to make your own! http://www.melroseflowers.com/mkic/in...

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Thanks, Alkapal! By the look of the two websites you referenced, it's sounding similar to what I use to make my soy sauce chicken - which does concentrate down to a thicker consistency.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll plan on snagging a bottle this weekend and playing! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: smalt

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Kecap manis is a sweet Indonesian style soy sauce. kecap = soy sauce, manis = sweet. It's still a little salty. You can more or less turn regular Chinese soy sauce into kecap manis by adding a lot of palm sugar. My dad makes his own that way, since he doesn't like any of the bottled ones he's found in stores around here. He also adds some star anise. You can use brown sugar instead of palm sugar, but don't use a Japanese soy sauce as those are fermented longer and won't taste right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    You can use it for pretty much anything, but my favourite is satay ayam (chicken satay). Skewer chicken, dip in kecap manis and grill. Then eat with peanut sauce -- smash & fry some coriander seeds, shallots. Get some good peanut butter (this is key), add a little water to loosen it up, and some more kecap manis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mogo

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks, mogo! I did look for a small bottle at the local Asian grocery store and only saw large ones, t'is true. With a diabetic in the house, perhaps I'd need to limit it to my own food instead of a group meal....sounds like fun to play with, though!

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. lime juice on chicken, some Tablespoons of grated beet on any chocolate bake, Epazote on quesadillas, vegetable stew, & beans. Salsa negra, salsa chiltipín, salsa macha on any pasta, meat, bread, meatballs etc..Sea salt instead of regular reg salt, Vodka with fish. Avocado leaf in tamales. i use cumin in only 2 or 3 sacred dishes. Dijon mustard in vinagrettes. Wolter Cocoa powder from Tabasco. Some honey, mollasses or dark sugar instead of just white sugar. Milk infused with mint leaves or anise seeds and then used on any dessert recipe. Tamarind syrup, little blue cheese, very little cognac, Scotish butter, good quality whole cream, the one used to make whipped cream, anytime cream is required, home made tart yogurt instead of buttermilk......

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Tahini
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bragg's and Nutritional Yeast and Marmite
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Smoked salt or pimenton
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sauerkraut juice or olive brine
                                                                                                                                                                                                    A modest glug of liqueurs- Cynar, for example
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bitters
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Vanilla in rich, dark sauces
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Nut milks
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ground, dried porcini
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ume vinegar
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Seaweed
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Dried fruit in savory dishes
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Strong distinct teas (like lapsang)
                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cloves or anise, when unexpected

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: gwendolynmarie

                                                                                                                                                                                                      i'd like to try cynar -- it is artichoke, right? does it have a pronounced flavor of artichoke? would you add it to soup, sauce, what? would you add a splash into the recipe for a hot artichoke dip concoction?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      just wiki'd it: i see it is an herbal-driven aperitif with predominant artichoke notes. is it thus similar to a dry or sweet vermouth (minus the artichoke, of course)?

                                                                                                                                                                                                      i think you hounds may enjoy this italian cynar commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_2Duf...

                                                                                                                                                                                                      and its predecessor from the sixties: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_ouhq...

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The flavor of artichokes, I find, is not so pronounced, and not what comes to mind when taken strait- just the bitter, the sweet, and a somewhat earthy/vegetal complexity. It's closer to Campari, although it does not taste like Campari, than vermouth, and it would be sweet vermouth. It's in the family of all those bitter aperitifs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've added it to soups, stews, marinades, salad dressings, and used it for enhancing sauces, when caramelizing, in sabayon, while pickling, and in lemon-lime sorbet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Here are some of my staples:

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Spicy chili sesame oil for anything stir-fried (a little goes a looooong way)
                                                                                                                                                                                                      White Truffle oil lends an unsurpassed richness to many foods
                                                                                                                                                                                                      A dash of cinnamon in pretty much any dessert

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Add some brandy, red wine, or sherry to pomodoro sauce and cook until it thickens. Everyone seems to love it, and it's amazing how different (but awesome) the sauce turns out, depending on which one you use.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Al_Pal

                                                                                                                                                                                                          i don't use sherry, but i do add sherry vinegar to my tomato sauce...it really rounds out the flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Al_Pal

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I add a squeeze of fresh orange to my tomato sauce at the end of cooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: budlit

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting! What type of sauce do you make? I would think many tomato sauces would overpower the orange

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Saute onion then garlic (in evoo) add tomato (summer, fresh through a mill, winter, d.o.p. san marzanos) couple branches of thyme, s & p, cook for a while, add fresh chopped parsley and basil add a squeeze of orange or tangerine. Optional, I swirl in a bit of butter at the end too. The orange really brings out the tomato flavor in a very subtle way. Try it, and let me know how you like it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: budlit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  the orange sounds like a great idea but the part I love is the finish it with butter. Your tomato sauce sounds deliscious. What about deglazing the onions and garlic with a little fortified wine like Marsala. Just a thought.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: budlit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    You're on! The next batch, however won't be for a while since I just made about 20 containers worth due to the end of summer harvest. Half of those will get "stolen" by adult kids visiting on weekends, so it might not be too long

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Chicken broth and cumin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I add dry sherry to my stroganoff. And extra splashes of Worchestershire. Yummmy! A bit of nutmeg really punches up soups and sauces. And my three-day spaghetti sauce, which I make in a huge electric Dutch oven and freeze for later use, always requires a tablespoon or two of sugar to cut the acidity of the tomato paste/sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Always a bit of chocolate in my beef chili along with the chipoltes and grape jelly with the chili sauce for the topping of my meatloaf...Of course I add a bit of chipolte steak sauce and Tabasco as well...but the grape jelly just makes the difference...always has!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I'm into baking.....I've gotten addicted to slipping in some Godiva chocolate liquer into the chocolatey things....Always have been known for chocolate cheesecake, but apparently the liquer elevated it to new heights - since I don't eat cheesecake, however, perhaps they were just being polite. Also customized a brownie recipe this year that has been termed "wicked evil good"....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Not so secret, but Garam Masala in lentil vegetable soup, or a bit of flavor in other foods, could be an interesting addition to this worthy list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Maggi seasoning sauce (curious if you guys in the south west/so-cal use this a lot)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          my savings of bacon or duck fat I keep in the freezer

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          for drinks/cocktails, recently it's been home made Falernum.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: RPMcMurphy

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I saw Maggiseasoning in a store yesterday.How do you use it? What does it taste like?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Just discovered this new product this summer.."Bacon Salt"... Great on almost anything...potatoes, vegetables. Ribs..... A nice unique flavor.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            They have a website which lists where the product is available. I bought it in Minnesota this summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I have several.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Bayou Bang
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                (it's a local Cajun Seasoning Mix- the best this N.O. native has ever tasted)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Garam Masala
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. Apple Pie Spice
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                4. Cake Spice Mix
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                5. Honey (just a tad)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                6. Bell's Poultry Seasoning
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                7. Tarragon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Isabella

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Here's a copy cat recipe that I use all the time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It tastes exactly like Bell's Poultry Seasoning.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  BELL'S POULTRY SEASONING - copy cat recipe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  4 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  4 tsp dried oregano
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 3/4 tsp dried sage
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 tsp dried marjoram
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 3/4 tsp dried thyme
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3/4 tsp ground black pepper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mix together and grind to fine powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Makes about 1/2-cup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Smoked paprika
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  red wine vinegar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  lime
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  worchestershire (esp. in tuna salad -- I consume a lot of tuna salad)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  coarse kosher salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  chicken broth

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Sauce of very finely chopped mushrooms sauteed slowly for at least 30 minutes in EVO and butter with marsala. Adds great flavor as gravy to veal or poultry scallopini.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: foodcheck

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I find I"m using Marsala more and more. Most of my recipes that called for sherry, wine or even beef broth, I'm using at least some Marsala now

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I often use some of my wife's herbal teas (in bags) to infuse stocks, braises, etc. Tonight, for example, I used a fennel tea in a cooking liquid for carrots.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Star anise in fried rice. Its a common ingredient in authentic Chinese dishes so it makes a simple fried rice taste special and "real"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Ver juice. It is made from unripened grape juice and can be used in the place of lemon juice or white wine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And homemade chicken stock...most people I know use the packs from the supermarket but nothing beats a good home made one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I can't say I've ever thought of adding peanut butter to chicken soup but I seem to be learning here that peanut butter goes with everything!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: marielee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree on the homemade stock. There is just no comparison - and you get to control the sodium factor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The trick with peanut butter is to not add too much. It keeps the folks guessing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I sometimes use it in my hummus instead of tahini,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: betsydiver

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                walnut or almond butter is also great in hummus. or baba ghanoush for that matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. use evaporated milk instead of fresh milk in cupcake recipes. cupcakes always turn out moist and flavorful!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sweethaven

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              to a boxed cake mix, add extra vanilla extract. once, i also added half-n-half instead of milk/water, and an extra egg. was like pound cake (i made triangular cupcakes in silicone molds). duncan hines super deluxe yellow cake, iirc. this one: http://www.duncanhines.com/newDuncan/...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              quite good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. As someone who is slightly allergic to peanuts (thankfully not very much - but I avoid them when I can), I would worry about adding peanut butter as a secret ingredient. This would be even more true where someone might not expect it - like chicken soup. If you know that none of your guests have allergies to peanuts that's fine. But I would never think to ask a host if chicken soup had peanuts in it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. No one's mentioned "kitchen bouquet"....? A 1/2 tsp. rubbed on a burger, or added to a brown stock or gravy=mmm. Mostly natural, I think, lots of root veggies make up the ingredients.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Frank's Hot Sauce- hot, but not insane and not too vinegary.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Garam massala
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Turmeric-a great immune system booster, apparently.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fresh as opposed to dry Bay Leaf-I've got tree's all over my neighborhood, and no-one misses a few leaves now and then....
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cinnamon- just a dash in meatballs makes 'em so-o-o good.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bragg's Aminos- see other posts...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Brown sugar- a few tablespoons in a homemade red sauce; delicious. (Unless your tomatoes are incredibly sweet...) Adam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: adamshoe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've never, ever used Kitchen Bouquet, but I do know a few folks who have used this if pressed for time in making a roux for gumbo if they feel the roux was too light. They use it as a fix after the gumbo is made.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And speaking of gumbo - your mentioning bay leaf trees all over your neighborhood makes me wonder where you live! I could be mistaken, but do you live in New Orleans?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks for mentioning Tumeric. I need to start using this in one of my spice blends that I make for people. Good Idea!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: adamshoe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How cool...it seems like we have the same tastes!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Turmeric is my most used secret cooking weapon! I often use it in conjunction with paprika and Lawrys to season fried potatoes...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I use Kitchen Bouquet to make pork chops (salt, pepper, garlic, dry mustard cooked on top of carmelized onions) and add it to beef stew (mom's secret recipe...I sure miss her cooking). Its subtle but if I dont add it, I really am not happy with the result.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Lately, lite coconut milk. Added to rice, chicken dishes, ice cream recipes, french toast, casseroles, smoothies...I'm still finding new ways to use it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Anchovy paste!!! Add it to butter and spread on your next steak after it just comes out of the oven. You will never taste anchovies, but it takes steak to another level. Add it to your vinagrette (not as much as for a ceasar salad). The flavor is amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. White truffle oil
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Vermouth instead of white wine

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Ground (dried/powdered) ginger on pork. It adds a special flavor (enhanced with S and P) that no one can seem to put their finger on, but people love it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. smoked paprika ,grains of paridise ,and juniper berries (not in the same mix thou) ketjap manis is also good as well as garum masala.imake my own smoked salt as well

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Depending on what I'm making, the secret ingredient is either a dash of Chili oil, or a splash of Sherry vinegar. Even when they're not featured in the recipe, and you might not *know* they're there, they just have a way of picking things up or rounding out the background flavor of a dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Steady Habits

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Like many of you, butter, truffle oil is awesome in certain recipes. As many of you may know, cocoa/choclate works well with chilli and stews. One of my favorite ways to braise meat such as bouef bourguignon (sp?) or short ribs is to use about a cup of brewed mild-medium coffee. Don't use too much otherwise your recipe will become too bitter. It gives it a nice smokeyness and your guests wondering why it's so different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Anchovies are a wonderful addition to stews. Either straight or in a prepared sauce like Worcesershire sauce (my mother's secret ingredient) or a southeastern Asian fish sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. With so many people having peanut allergies, you do tell them first, right?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. - Worcestershire sauce to sauteé vegetables and added to falafel, soups, burgers and many other dishes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - I have recently discovered the virtues of roasted garlic. I sometimes add it chopped, sometimes whole, depending on the dish
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          - Like others have mentioned, curry powder or garam masala to stews, soups, burgers, meatballs

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Cinnamon in tomato pasta sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Brown sugar in sauted onions
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A touch of dijon in scrambled eggs
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            and not so secret but amazingly tasty tho it sounds preposterous... peanut butter stuffed hot dogs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: louuuuu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              LOL I gotta ask about the peanut butter and hot dogs! Two of my favs but I have never combined them! You just lather some on the roll? And what else do you put on it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                my boyfriends father puts mustard and peanut butter on his hot dogs. other than him i'd never heard of it before!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: louuuuu

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cinnamon in pasta sauce, I'm trying that one. Thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MyKitchenBroke

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  it is greek (well, broader in the middle-east, but more noticeable in greek food) and thus also got into cincinnati chili (via greek immigrants there), i understand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  i use a pinch; you don't "taste" it but it gives a little depth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  you've tried adding anchovies to your pasta sauce? that's good; they "melt" but give great flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MyKitchenBroke

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I love fennel seeds in my pasta sauce now. Yum!!! It reminds me of licorice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DishDelish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i've gotta put in the fennel seeds! i put them in my spice grinder first.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I am definitely having a love affair with the fennel these days. I'll have to try the spice grinder idea. It is also delicious in homemade chicken noodle soup. A little extra comfort when your under the weather.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: DishDelish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          i love fresh fennel in stews, as well as part of the bed for roasted chicken. i love how it mellows as it cooks...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm going to try that in my next Roasted Chicken.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Emme

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              my sister makes a fabulous weight watchers italian soup with escarole and fennel. it is low calorie but is so filling and delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: DishDelish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It is great in tomato based soups as well, and fennel seems to thicken a soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. allspice - rounds out the black pepper flavour
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      nutmeg
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ancho powder

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Sriracha- It really gives another dimension to most savory dishes, even if it is just a dash for those who are sensitive to the heat. Also, cayenne pepper. When people hear that they think of steam blowing out of the ears, but I find for most savory foods even just a dash adds a whole new dynamic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Smoked sea salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Steak Dust
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Smoked Paprika
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Dried Wine powders

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Curry Powder
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Saffron
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pernod liqueur

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'll use just a scant pinch of the first two in the most unlikely dishes -- can't tell they're there, but miss 'em if they're not.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Pernod goes very well in most creamy things, esp. Seafood in cream/garlic sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Cinnamon. A little bit totally ups the flavor of lots of savory things.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              It's good in chocolate chip cookies too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. miso - in salad dressings, meat sauce for spaghetti, taco meat mix, ground chicken for chicken burgers, mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and even the sweet miso mixed with cream cheese for a fruit dip.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                miso adds umami and rounds out the flavor of whatever dish I put it into.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Anchovy paste and coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Hawaiian rock sea salt. It is sun evaporated unlike other sea salts. It is the best. My hubby who is from Hawaii is the first to tell me it was best but I didn't fully believe him until i made some of my favorite pasta recipes and also steak and roast recipes with it and it increased the yummy factor on all my recipes. Sooooo ono! =) My brand is Hawaiian Pa'akai inc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Also I love freshly ground coriander seed (it brings out the flavor of the fresh cilantro when added), and and cumin when making fresh salsa and chili. Cumin when making my homemade hummus. The sea salt also makes a difference in these recipes. Oh yes... and I love fresh ground pepper (the one with three peppercorns).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Oyster sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Soy Sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Paprika (hungarian and spanish)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Depends on what I'm cooking:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        balsamic vinegar to anything with tomatoes including sauces
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        allspice
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        cumin
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        corriander
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        nutritional yeast
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        rapadura or sucanat in place of white sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        lavender
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ground mustard
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        fresh thyme
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        flower water
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        almond extract
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        my guy's secrets are:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        peanut butter
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        fish sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        fresh, local-made H'Mong chili paste...the best!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          MinkeyMonkey - have you ever paired sherry vinegar with tomato instead of balsamic? it's one of my favorites - try it sometime!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. -bay leaf in most sauces, soups, and stews (even good in the bechamel base of mac 'n cheese and Hollandaise)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -ditto for white pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -a pinch of sugar when searing meats/seafood and on fajita veggies (onions and peppers)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -ground coriander -- excellent on roasted/grilled asparagus and Brussels sprouts and in creamed broccoli soup
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -a splash of soy sauce or Bragg's to perk up soups/sauces
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -lemon zest (in unexpected places, like an eggplant pasta sauce or meat marinades)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -herb d'provence (just a dash)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -pinch of cayenne to brighten flavors
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -cinnamon and smoked paprika in Mexican food
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -allspice in beef vegetable soup (so good!)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          -swapping almond extract for vanilla

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Allspice, added to soups, sauces and stews.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Jalapeno juice
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Brown sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Molasses
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cayenne
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              White pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Soy sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Black cocoa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I have several:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Golden syrup, which is a British sugar syrup sort of like a light molasses. It's got a smoky flavor and balances salty or bitter flavors.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Anchovy paste, very salty and not really fishy.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                White pepper in some dishes, it's got a different profile than black pepper.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Grade B maple syrup as a generic sweetner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Now one common ingredient I don't use: I never cook in olive oil because I think cooking ruins the taste, and I've read that raising the temp of olive oil releases toxins. I use grapeseed oll instead, but I ill use high quality olive oil for dressings or dipping, or something like pesto--anything that's not cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I also use coffee as a seasoning quite a bit. It's a fine addition to lentil soup. I;m starting to use teas as well. I think that counts as a secret ingredient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MMaineroe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  How interesting. Do you just add a strong brew to your lentil soup? How much do you add? What type of recipe is it and what additional seasonings do you use with the coffee?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMaineroe

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      >>>>I never cook in olive oil because I think cooking ruins the taste, and I've read that raising the temp of olive oil releases toxins<<<<<

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      eric ripert only dresses dishes with olive oil, as he says it becomes too strong when cooked. mario batali ONLY cooks in olive oil, for sautés to deep-frying. lidia sometimes uses olive oil, but not *always*.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      but... i've never heard about olive oil releasing "toxins" at higher temperatures. do you have any more info on that?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I've heard that one before. I've heard it referenced as "going rancid" when heated. I came across this when researching coconut oil. If you do a search for coconut oil information you will get a whole list of websites that claim vegetable oil and olive oil go rancid when heated releasing toxins that harm your body.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        While I do believe that high heat can cause this effect on olive oil, I'm not yet willing to believe the claims that harmful toxins are being released when it is heated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Searching on the Internet you're going to find conflicting information, but "Angie"'s response on the following link seems very convincing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          http://72ndstcatering.com/?p=411

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I'm no scientist and have no proof one way or the other but, overall, the consensus seems to be that cooking with olive oil is fine, but deep frying with it should be avoided.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "the consensus seems to be that cooking with olive oil is fine, but deep frying with it should be avoided."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            not necessarily. it depends on the frying temperature and the purity of the oil - we had a recent discussion about this: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/708315

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Thanks for the link ghg, I missed that thread. Again, I wasn’t making any firm claims either way. For me it comes down to cost - olive oil is too expensive to use for deep frying, health benefits and flavor aside.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                cuccs! let's get us a big vat of peanut oil and start frying out in the back yard! whadya say?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sounds good to me! You bring the oil, I'll bring the turkey!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Cavender's Greek Seasoning. I put it on pork chops, chicken breast and fish. I put it in all sorts of things.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ditto Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute. A fabulous sprinkle on pork chops then grilled.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: KristieB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I love love Cavendar's Greek seasoning - it's great on everything as you mention - pork, steak, chicken, fish and it's wonderful with roasted vegetables as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Forgot to mention vodka ... that's how secret it is ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I was only half kidding though. I do put some MSG in a lot of stuff. It is funny how I have friends who swear up and down that they're ultrasensitive to MSG and can tell immediately if there's MSG in something but yet they never notice. I have two friends who don't believe me when I tell them that they've eaten things of mine that had MSG in them as they are *sure* that they'd know. Doh.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  When I was a priggish teenager (a bit on the crunchy granola side) my mother used to enjoy faking me out by putting MSG in vegetables etc. to see if I noticed. Whenever I commented something tasted especially good, she had invariably used Ac'cent in it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That's pretty much exactly how those friends who didn't believe me found out. "This tastes better than usual, what did you change?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I can imagine. Whenever food in one of the Chinese places we go to tastes especially fantastic we just look at ach other and say "MSG". The Chinese name for it is wei jing - flavor powder - and not for nothing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes MSG does make things taste better. I sneak it into some soups and other dishes. If you use too much you can certainly taste the msg but if you use a sparing amount it gives that yummy taste called umami. I recently made a caldo verde soup and added just a 1/3 tsp to a large pot of soup. I had tasted it before and after the addition of msg. With the msg the flavor was addicting. It really elevated it IMO. My guests liked it too as all thought it was fantastic and couldn't get enough. So to me this is a secret ingredient because no one wants to know it's in there and I'm not telling. There is such a negative feeling attached to those 3 letters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I understand why you would say this. Two points, though...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            People who gets migraines, if they are lucky, can identify a trigger(s).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            While some people might have similar triggers, such as a sudden bright light, everyone is nonetheless different (and this applies to most other health things, as well - such as weight loss. This is why I think most "studies" are innately flawed).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If foiegras gets migraines and his/her trigger is MSG, then this is a real thing that happens for this person. Doctors would call this "anecdotal"; I call it real.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              There are so many things wrong with simply letting some random schmo make claims like this - not the least of which is conflating causation & correlation. Until I see a double blind study that demonstrates MSG causes migraines I'm going to continue to believe that the extreme majority of those claiming to have said malady are incorrect and perpetuating dangerous false claims.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The amount of pseudoscience used to demonize MSG is astounding.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: jgg13

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My migraine specialist says to avoid MSG. He must have some reason to believe it's true. I used to get a headache on Saturdays, after eating Chinese food. I stopped eating Chinese food. No more headache.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. chocolate
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        cinnamon
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ground cayenne pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        cloves
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        good salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        good butter
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        various liquors (e.g. flavored brandies, rum, flavored vodkas)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        worcestershire sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Frank's Hot Sauce

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Please define what "good salt" is to you. =)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I received a large collection of salt-samples from a co-worker from a company called the Meadow. I like the smoked salts and the collection of "finishing salts" included. I think they are a mail-order company or something. I use David's Kosher salt or Diamond Crystal. I like the crunchy texture of Davids.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I've been using a butter from Vermont that's called Kate's. They appear to be a relatively small operation, but I'm seeing it at more and more groceries so who knows. I also use a butter made in New Zealand- my parents spend a couple of months there each year, so it's a nostalgic choice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I know. A strange thing, for sure. But unusually tasty. It's funny to watch for a person's reaction after trying it- the initial shock, the "I know this, but can't quite place it..." face. The frustration frown. And the "Oh well, it was good" smile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Definitely a "secret ingredient", although not a mainstream one. As I stated earlier, I love Frank's Hot Sauce just as much. And much more economical!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There's smoked pepper too; it's useful when you want a bit of smokiness but you've used as much smoked salt as you can w/o the dish becoming too salty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: yummyrice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    One of my favorite seasonings for popcorn is Hickory Smoked salt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Bacon grease.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Chicken bouillon.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Marie Sharp's hot sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: redwood2bay

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Marie Sharp's is one of the best hot sauces around and is entirely underappreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Cinnamon
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Nutmeg
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Old Bay
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Hot Sauce Tabasco or Franks Red Hot
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bacon Fat
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fresh Ground Pepper(not the powdery stuff)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fresh Ground Sea Salt
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Anchovy Paste

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Shallots, sliced very thin and then deep fried. They make everything savory taste ten times better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, I deep fry the shallots in a small quantity of oil, and then use the oil in my cooking. It's infused with the shallot flavour and is absolutely delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Anything bacony, too, as many people have already mentioned: crumbled bacon, bacon fat, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Fennel pollen over roasted meats, roasted veggies and yogurt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. A pinch of Ras El Hanout improves many things well beyond North African foods I find -- a little sweet, a little spicy, warm and very subtle. I'm also seriously addicted to a pinch of chipotle powder for a little depth in nearly everything.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Brand chicken essence into any meat, just a tbsp. Taiwan rice cooking wine (michu), adds a subtle fabulous sweetness to any veggie dish. Any type of vinegar, just a little bit elevates the savory flavors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. recently, my secret ingredient in a very tasty new year's day chili was red wine! maybe it's not a secret, but it was good. i got the idea from craig claiborne's "friends/parties" cookbook, and another cookbook too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I also used tomato puree, beef broth, onion, garlic, diced pickled jalapeños, oregano, chili powder, cumin, coriander (!), a dash of cinnamon, small cubes of under blade chuck roast, kidney beans (look away, you texans), and a little flour for thickening. i cooked it for about 13 hours in the crockpot. near the end i added in a piece of smoked turkey wing, but i should've added it much sooner (but didn't have it at hand until i went to the store again!).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ooooh, I'm w/you except for the pickled jalapenos-I have an unexplained aversion to them, but I love fresh ones. Maybe I'll make chili tonite w/your recipe. Thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i probably would've used fresh jalapeños (and other kinds of chiles, dried and fresh) if they were readily available. i used the pickled diced out of convenience. i think the key flavors that made it so good were the red wine and the coriander (two things which i'd never considered in chili). the great thing about chili in a crockpot is that the flavors can evolve and be tweaked over time ;-)).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              one of the cookbooks was "a feast made for laughter" by craig claiborne. i think the other may've been the "sheraton world cookbook." (or maybe not... these are from my cookbook stash down in florida, at my mom's house).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I love that classic Claiborne book! BTW, the chili came out great. Here in CT (near Hartford) fresh chilies are available just about anywhere-as long as you can get to the store. It's one of the pleasures of living in such a diverse area! Take that book away from mom, as she has no need for an awesome chili recipe in FL, alka!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  stuck, mom doesn't use it, and i'm SURE would be thrilled to get it and its colleagues out of the house! the problem is...i have way too many here in my house. glad you had some good chili!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Coriander makes all the difference in my chili. Also putting the spices directly onto the hot oil brings out their distinct flavors even more. A tip I learned from Cooks Illustrated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Cinnamon and good unsweetened cocoa make for a great chili. I will have to try the red wine, sounds devine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I just recently started making my chili with meat chunks instead of ground meat and it is so much better that way. And I am a Texan who often puts beans in my chili.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I put strong coffee and unsweetened cocoa in my chili. Great colour and depth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Hot hungarian paprika, and the Mexican seasoning from Morton and Bassett. I looked to see what was in it and used the same seasonings in my Tex-Mex stuffed peppers and it tasted even better than when I use the Morton's.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    wonder if it has some glutamates! ;-)).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Recently, I've been "obsessed" w/Morton & Bassett- and I'd be surprised (really surprised!) if there is MSG in the mix. Don't say it's so!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        i have no idea, but the company sounds like it would **not** add msg. http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/nc...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        anyone, how does morton and bassett compare with penzey's on quality and price?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Looking at the pictured label, they claim not to use salt or msg.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            to be fair, that's just chervil, and not a blend.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            i'm not saying they add msg, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            cuccs, how do you compare their products on price and quality vis-á-vis penzey's?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Ah, blends, well, now, um, you see, I didn't realize that's what you were talking about...shucks. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Have never bought anything from M&B, but doing a web price comparison, a .28 oz jar of parsley at M&B is $4.59 and Penzey's .2 oz jar is $2.79.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cuccubear

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I always stayed away from our Penzey's store in town, and purchased M&B at my favorite local "upscale" grocery. I've got many of their spices, and have no complaints-but they are pricey. Maybe it's time to check out Penzeys.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. A container of fresh salsa in my chili. It really brightens the flavor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Riatta

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i'll use fresh pico de gallo plus some chick peas, fresh spinach, a hint of cumin and garam masala, nutmeg (optional), cinnamon stick (optional) and a little cream (or yogurt) for a delicious and satisfying quickie indian dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I also use salsa a lot - in eggs, salads, tuna, pasta... - pretty much everywhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. i make Emeril's essence spice blend in huge batches, so so good and spicy!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        also love kalustans medium spicy curry powder, great!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Blue corn meal and in this stellar cake it's unexpected "blue" color paired with a lovely homemade or (if you must canned) Dulce de Leche frosting is just a winner.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          http://foododelmundo.com/2010/01/17/b...

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: smokeandapancake

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Interesting! About what ratio of meat to ricotta?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I bought a bunch of Grains of Paradise online for a specific recipe and then had a boatload left over. It tastes peppery and is botanically related to cardamon. It's from Northern Africa and it is freakin' delicious. It was a happy accident that I had such a surfeit. It's my new secret ingredient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh, that and sambal olek.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: runwestierun

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I saw an episode of Alton Brown's show on Food Network that was about Grains of Paradise. It was very interesting and I remember thinking that I need to try it. I never did. Maybe this is the time!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                stuck in HC, I run Grains of Paradise through my pepper mill and often use it in place of black pepper. Lovely.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Interesting. Where do you buy it? I'll check out my local groceries/gourmets. I hope I don't have to order those Grains!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: stuck in Hartford County

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I do order it online & have it shipped thru Seattle's World Spice Merchants; they have a great price on GoP but you should be able to find it at a health food, spice shops that carry African foodstuffs or Whole Foods w/out a problem locally.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Minor's bases. I keep them on hand for making odd amounts of stock or broth; great for making rice, couscous, etc. I remember Tony Bourdain writing that students at the CIA used to hide them under their jackets to beef up the flavor of their sauces (no pun intended.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: junescook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I use those also, keep them in the freezer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: junescook

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was wondering about them. I have been using "better than bouillion" because it is at the store. Hard to justify the shipping charges of minors because you have to buy it online.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Are they powdered or a syrup/paste?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tonka11_99

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I forgot about those bases b/c I use them so often, I don't consider them "secret". I especially like the Better Than Bullion clam and lobster bases. I also frequently use More Than Gourmet's demi-glace (veal)- a silky, thick, concentrate that can be frozen and found at our local Super S&S. CHEAT CHEAT CHEAT to up the flavor! Nobody knows but you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Another cheaty thing I do is save bacon fat/duck fat to substitute for other fats in certain recipes. Potatoes fried in duck fat?! Amazing. And everything is better w/bacon (fat). Except for the cholesterol levels. And the waistline. They prefer olive oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh, one more thing that's kinda secret- I use Crisco to "oil a pan". No taste, easy removal from pan. Also no frying smell w/Crisco. But that's truly secret, and I keep my blue canister hidden WAAAAAY back in the pantry in case any of my friends see it. I freely admit that I have the Club Med "Hands Up" song (plus a few Barry Manilow tunes) on my iPod than to EVER using Crisco (or, gasp, LARD!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: tonka11_99

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      They are a paste--indispensible, but make sure you get the low-sodium option.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: tonka11_99

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I buy Minor's at the local BJ's club. They always have the chicken and beef in stock, so to speak.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Haha, I'm impressed! I was just kidding, I thought it'd be interesting to see how many people knew what I was talking about. I always laugh whenever I see commercials for Kikkoman raving about "umammi" and thinking about how many people who are terrified of MSG then run and go buy products with "umammi"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: lyntc10

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I find those commercials hillarious too! They should revise their commercials to state that "umami is MSG". =)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh well, I'm a fan of MSG.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Not really much of a secret ingredient, but I stick garlic in almost everything. Slice it fine enough and u can;'t even taste it but it makes everything else taste so good. And it's good for you as well http://www.womenrepublic.co.uk/diet_f... It doesn't even smell that bad.

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