Family of N

Secret Ingredients

Posted in Food by Laura on February 6, 2010

Sometimes I have a recipe that is good enough on its own, but the addition of one special ingredient really completes it. I’ve recently made some improvements to two of the recipes posted here, and wow, those “secret” ingredients really make such a difference! While I’m updating those recipes, I thought now would be a great time to do a run-down of ingredients that I have found to take a dish from everyday to holiday special. These tweaks apply to most any version of the dish — so if you have a favorite rendition of one of the dishes listed here, see if the “secret” ingredient improves it!

1) We have always used buttermilk to make the dumplings for our Chicken ‘n Dumplings, but the last couple of times, we also added a splash of it to the filling. It is amazing the difference this makes! I would venture to say that a splash of buttermilk would improve any chicken stew based dish. (Soup, chicken pot pie, chicken casserole, etc.)

2) Bay leaves are a great addition to chilli. We have started putting them in with the beans while they are cooking, and adding some of the bean broth to the chilli pot. The fact that these stiff, green laurels add something special shouldn’t be a surprise to any seasoned cook — it’s always a good idea to add a bay leaf or two to any soup or stew.

3) Take your favorite rice pudding recipe, and strip it down to the bare essentials — usually this means leaving out the cinnamon and raisins. (But keep the sugar and vanilla.) Now add in some orange zest — say, a half teaspoon or so. Comforting and satisfying; clean and elegant.

4) We don’t put our green beans in a casserole at Thanksgiving anymore — we just toss them with sauteed garlic and olive oil, and top them with our secret ingredient: fried shallots. Slice them thin, bread them in salted flour, then fry them in a shallow pan of oil. These would probably work well in almost any casserole, but be sure not to get them too dark if they still have to go in the oven. If you can afford them (or grow them!), shallots have a magnificently rich flavor that can replace onions anytime.


One Response

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  1. Luther A. Knight said, on February 12, 2013 at 4:44 am

    Oh, I have to give this a try. Hard boiled eggs? I’m all over that! My special secret coleslaw ingredient is sunflower seeds, roasted and lightly salted. The crunch and the saltiness play so well with the sweet factor in coleslaw.

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