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Favorite "secret ingredient"?

Boston_Otter Apr 11, 2010 06:10 PM

Wondering if anyone has any favorite go-to ingredients that seem to add something special to virtually anything they're cooking.

My dad snuck a little Lawry's Seasoned Salt into everything, and it's a kitchen standby to this day for me, too... but only in small quantities :)

Me, I have a couple of favorite secret ingredients:

• Bragg's Liquid Aminos. The amazing product with the unappetizing name. All it is is unfermented soy sauce, but it adds a wonderful hit of umami richness without the telltale "asian" soy-sauce flavor.

• Bacon Salt. It's kosher & vegetarian, but has a rich smokiness that resembles bacon. A little dash to savory foods adds a great smoky note without tasting like bacon.

• Tajin Seasoning. I found this stuff accidentally (at Epcot Center of all places!); it's a mixture of dried chili peppers, salt, and dehydrated lime. It's marketed as "fruit seasoning", but it's great for adding a spicy citrus tang to pretty much anything. Great on grilled veggies, fish, etc.

  1. mrbigshotno.1 Apr 12, 2010 06:02 AM

    This stuff here is pretty amazing, I've used it for over 20 years. Especially on a baked potato, you will have to have it for evermore.( I'm talking about the original product "all purpose") Really works great on beef roasts & steaks prior to cooking also.


    1. k
      karykat Apr 11, 2010 08:03 PM

      What do you put the Bragg's in? I've seen it at the deli area of our coop and wondered about it.

      Does it have a taste you can pinpoint?

      1 Reply
      1. re: karykat
        Boston_Otter Apr 12, 2010 04:47 AM

        I use Bragg's in pretty much any savory dish where I'd use salt. It's essentially soy sauce, but since it's not fermented or mixed with grain, it doesn't have the same dark, rich, characteristically "Asian" flavor as tamari or soy sauce. It has the same salty umami flavor as something like Marmite. On its own, it's salty and a bit sour/fermenty. But its flavor disappears into whatever you add it to and gives it a general flavor boost.

      2. o
        Obessed Apr 11, 2010 07:45 PM

        Fresh lemon juice -- not sure how "special" this is, but it perks up almost anything.

        1. Shugga Brown Apr 11, 2010 07:42 PM

          fish sauce for savoury dishes, and scraped vanilla beans for desserts.

          1. b
            brooklynkoshereater Apr 11, 2010 07:25 PM

            Truffle oil. Dried porcinis. Hot sauce.

            1 Reply
            1. re: brooklynkoshereater
              Boston_Otter Apr 12, 2010 04:50 AM

              Truffle oil is tricky stuff. It tends to overwhelm whatever I use it in and give it that lingering truffle flavor. Kind of amazing stuff, though.

              For hot sauce, I used to collect dozens of bottles, but now I'm down to three standbys: Frank's Red Hot (for all purpose spice), Tabasco Chipotle (for smoky spice), and Sriracha (for anything Asian).

            2. Caitlin McGrath Apr 11, 2010 06:35 PM

              This thread ought to give you some ideas (has over 300 replies): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560001

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                Boston_Otter Apr 11, 2010 07:12 PM

                Whoops! Thanks folks. That thread didn't come up when I searched the board for "secret ingredient", sadly. Ah well!

              2. Cherylptw Apr 11, 2010 06:34 PM

                Mine is ancho chile powder...there are a few threads with similar topic:


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