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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 chouri├žo.

                  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.