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Unexpected Ingredient(s) That Made Your Recipe Rock!

I was making a roasted onion chicken gravy for some mashed potatoes when I ran up short on chicken stock; thinking I had pork stock in the freezer, I realized when I defrosted it that it was actually a homemade dashi (bonito, konbu, and shitake).

Wow, did that ever add a fabulous element to the dish! Earthy and complex.

Anyone else had a similar moment that you hoped for, but didn't really expect?

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  1. Cacao nibs in many things, sweet and savory. See, https://www.theochocolate.com/store/p...

    1. I like to add a little bit of coffee when I'm making a meat based stew. It just adds something to it, like a smoky warm depth of flavour or something.

      1. I add a bit of balsamic vinegar to the strawberring when I make a strawberry shortcake. It seems to give the berries a bit of extra zing.

        1. Booze! Almost everything can be improved with a little booze of one kind or another. True! I'm not kidding around. But I probably wouldn't add it to mashed potatoes. On the other hand, I've never tried. Pernod mashed potatoes with fried oysters might be interesting. Sort of like oysters Rockefeller without the rock! '-)

          6 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            Yes, ma'am. I discovered the usefulness of booze when I left the vodka out of penne alla vodka and got a very dull dish. (I just assumed that the vodka was a gimmick.) I tried the same dish again with the vodka, and realized that it really did contribute something. After that, it was brandy in the pot roast, rum in the butternut squash, etc. I draw the line at tequila, though, because I just cannot make myself like it.

            1. re: Caroline1

              Oh, I love the idea of Pernod mashed. You could even take it a step further in the Rockefeller direction and do the mash with steamed, chopped buttered spinach added in; sort of a noveau bubble-and-squeak.

              1. re: mamachef

                Good thinking, mammachef! I like your style.

                1. re: Caroline1

                  Alcohol and fats are know "flavor carriers." I love Jack Daniels with my fruit pies and even on my sticky buns. I'm allergic to alcohol (lots of vomiting from even one tiny sip of champagne), but for some reason can have hard liquor, even if it's not cooked off, in my desserts. I can't have it in regular entrees. I get sick, sick, sick. I love sitting in my underwear and just eating a big old hunk of tiramisu. I don't know why I can have booze with dessert, but not anything else. I'm told I have alcohol flush syndrome, but the doctors can't explain why I can have booze in dessert form. Maybe it's mind over matter. I really love dessert.

                  1. re: jindomommy

                    Jindomommy: isn't alcohol flush syndrome particularly prevalent in the Asian population? I think I've heard of it before. So does that mean that you can't cook with wine of any kind or hard liquor of any kind, or both? Fascinating that you can tolerate it in certain ways. I wonder if the amount of sugar in the base of the dessert somehow neutralizes the effects of sugar in the alcohol. Who knows? Still, glad you're able to cook/eat well. And I really love dessert too.

                2. I made split pea soup and at the end decided to add tabasco, just enough to catch on the back of the mouth. It was great.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    And that is the only way I'll eat split pea soup! I've never cared for it much the way most people make it, but if you throw in some tabasco, wow, it's a different soup!