Sunday, February 19, 2012

Secret Ingredient

"Chili is not so much food as a state of mind. 
Addictions to it are formed early in life and 
the victims never recover. 
On blue days in October, I get this passionate 
yearning for a bowl of chili, and I nearly 
lose my mind." by Margaret Cousins 

Throwing in a [successful] secret ingredient into a recipes makes me feel like I'm the queen of the kitchen. I get on this foodie high that is probably quite annoying. I want to feed the world! And I want them to know they are missing out, unless they eat that particular dish.

But really, chefs slip "secret ingredients" into their dishes all the time, in an effort to raise the bar, add interesting flavors, discover new pairings.

Last night I took a chance on chili. I added two tablespoons of cornmeal, and then two tablespoons of hot cocoa mix. Cooked in the slow cooker, eating the next day = divine. And it makes sense. I think about mole, the Mexican chocolate sauce. It's a tomato based sauce, with the same kind of heat, and chocolate peices thrown in for depth. The hot cocoa added the same type of depth to the chili, which was also tomato-based with heat. From what I read online adding a hershey's kiss or square of chocolate all would be adequate for this chocolately chili. As far as cornmeal goes, it is a go-to thickener for me, when flour's bland flavor isn't gonna cut it. 

But then I got to thinking. What other secret ingredients am I aware of? What do I need to try?

-A few pinches of baking soda, in sweet tea. Adds smoothness.
-About half a teaspoon of nutmeg in spaghetti sauce.
-Pepper to the egg, milk mixture used to soak bread for french toast (thanks to Papaw Boyd for that one).
-Shredded sharp cheddar to apple pie crust.
-Lemon zest to almost anything.
-Sea salt to chocolate or caramel (candies, cookies, cakes, etc.)
-Paprika to chicken, potatoes, pork, salmon... anything that needs color. You're not gonna get too much flavor but the dish will be a pretty, appetizing reddish color.
-Boiled, salted, and mashed carrots under the layer of mashed potatoes in shepherds pie.
-An entire jar of grape jelly to the BBQ sauce smokies.
-Can of tomato soup, when making ground beef tacos.
-Finely chopped pistachios to bread crumbs (for breaded chicken).
-Creamed corn to cornbread, instead of buttermilk. Still get the same creamy, moistness, but now you've got flavor too.
-Cinnamon and white sugar dusted in bread pan before pouring pumpkin or banana bread batter in.
-Vanilla pudding mix to fat free whipped cream.

-Pumpkin puree in pancake mix
-Cinnamon or curry powder in quiche crust
-Curry powder to whipped cream
-Parmesan reggiano rinds to soups
-Bacon grease (again, thanks to Papaw Boyd -- I need to start saving my bacon grease)
-Pickle juice in egg salad
-Sour cream, mascarpone, maple syrup, or chive cream cheese in scrambled eggs.
-Pesto sauce to quiche or store-bought tomato sauce.

And finally LOVE.

I want to start a tradition with B, once she is old enough to help me in the kitchen; to send off all of our meals with love and a blown kiss.

What secret ingredients do you use in your cooking?

No comments:

Post a Comment