I Love Boosters (Helping mikey)

I’d been wanting to do this entry for awhile, but I’d forgotten about it. I wanted to talk about my favorite, easy flavor-boosters. Things I use–time and again–to add that finishing touch to the food I make. These are not fancy ingredients and you can find them in even your humblest Piggly Wiggly. All of them should be in your pantry at pretty much all times. For some people this list may be interesting and useful. For others it may read like “Remedial Cooking for Dumbshits.” Fair warning.

   
1.) Red pepper flakes. They add oomph, but not overwhelming heat. I love to use these in Asian-influenced dressings and Italian-influenced dishes like my Sausage and Fennel pasta sauce.
2.) Parmesan cheese. Whole. Good quality. The nutty, salty, buttery, complexity of this miracle cheese can be used in SOOOOOOOOOOOOO many ways. Use the rind in a Meditarrean-influenced stew. Grate some over pasta (hell just pasta, garlic, olive oil and Parm is heaven) OR–and I freakin’ love this–use a kitchen peeler to create big shavings over a romaine lettuce salad with a simple balsamic or lemon vinaigrette. I love Parmesan so much I eat little chunks of it right off the wedge. I am a naughty cheese eater.
3.) Sugar (Brown or White, depending on the dish). Just a pinch. A. PINCH. The American palate likes even savory things entirely too sweet, but I find a niggardly sprinkling here and there can really add depth to–and take the acidic edge off–pasta sauces and salad dressings.
4.) Italian (Flat Leaf) Parsley (or really any fresh herb, although I find parsely to be so multi-purpose and easily available to everyone.) Pretty much every pan sauce should be finished with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and they are divine in homemade Ranch dressings and potato smashes.
5.) Fresh lemon or lime juice.  As the finishing touch to a pan sauce or just sprinkled over some fried fish, homemade tacos or avocado wedges, citrus’ ability to add brightness and a huge flavor punch right to the taste buds just cannot be matched.
6.) Vinegar (Balsamic, especially). You might be surprised to learn that just a teeny hint of Balsamic vinegar in Mediterranean-influenced red sauces and stews (like Ratatouille), and rich low-and slow-cooked things like braised short ribs can add so much depth and flavor and piquancy, added towards the end of the cooking process.
7.) Honey. A great, subtle sweetener for things like dressings, say for instance Mexican-influenced cole slaw (for topping fish tacos).  I also use it in Asian-inspired marinades.
8.) Jalapeno peppers. Remove the seeds if you’re heat-wary and you can use these to add a fresh, green heat to both Mexican and Asian-influenced dishes. I use them in this wonderful soup if I don’t have Thai chiles on hand, which is most of the time.
9.) Basil. I consider basil the King of Herbs, because its aroma is so heady and intense. To me it smells like this weird but wonderful combination of pepper and flowers. Obviously, it’s amazing for finishing Thai and Italian dishes…but try adding it to an uncooked pasta sauce of olive oil-packed tuna, olive oil, sliced olives, diced tomatoes, fresh garlic, Italian parsely, freshly-grated Parm,  and you will NOT be sorry.
10.) Lardon (tiny strips or squares of bacon you cut yourself. Pancetta is great too). For adding meaty depth and richness to hearty stews and braises it can’t be beat. But have you ever tried using it to start a simple squash and onion saute?




See, mikey? Lists focus me so I can write about stuff I love. 





BTW, if any of you are interested in my recipes for Mexican-style Cole Slaw or my Sausage and Fennel Pasta Sauce, please let me know in the comments.  I will update this entry so everyone can see it. 

PS–not all of my entries will be in list form, because I think that has the potential to be annoying. It’s just occasionally, they really help me organize my thoughts, as I said in my last entry. 

Advertisements

51 thoughts on “I Love Boosters (Helping mikey)

  1. Good advice! I went through a phase where "everything" got a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a couple of shakes of red pepper flakes. I don't add lardons to many things, but one of my standard go-to recipes involves sauteeing tiny bits of salt pork in olive oil, then adding tomato paste, fresh thyme and half-cooked pigeon peas, frying it all up for a good ten minutes, then adding rice, stirring to coat everything, then adding water to cover. Cheap, filling, awesome. One of my favorite summertime dishes is potatoes and fresh string beans boiled up, then dressed with a ton of fresh garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. Simple, yet effective.

  2. OMGYou would NOT believe the delicious thing I just came up with. So, anyway, I just took a small container of cherry tomatoes. Roasted them 450 for 15 minutes. (I put them on a sheet pan with chopped fresh garlic and a buttload of olive oil plus S&P)THEN, when they were done cooking…this is the good part… I added a container of oil-cured bocconcini and fresh Italian parsley. I cannot express to you how yummers it is. I am a genius.

  3. Hello??Cilantro?And Rosemary. That's gotta be my go-to herb.And run, do not walk, to your nearest little family operated Indian market and let the nice ladies (yeah, it's always ladies, that's just the way it is) make you up a batch of their own family recipe Garam Masala. Keep it in a decent air tight container. Typically, they'll also sell you a bottle of Ghee, to which you will become immediately addicted. You can make your own, but theirs is better.Seasoned flour – this is why tupperware was invented. Start with a base of equal amounts of AP Flour and corn meal. Add lots of salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder,and cayenne pepper. Don't add dried herbs yet – you can do it when you dump a buncha this into a bag and shake chicken, pork, turkey, fish, just about anything you want to cook either on the stovetop or in the oven…

  4. mikey, maybe your list goes to 11, but I am NOT THAT ROCK 'N' ROLL!It goes without saying a.) cilantro is awesome and b.) I love it. I like Garam Masala, but I like just plain old Curry Powder betta.

  5. Delicious suggestions. (Although I'm not the world's biggest parsley fan for some reason–I know that's weird. Lardons make *everything* good, and i've been known to eat hunks of parm, myself.I fucking love fish sauce and that Thai chili garlic paste with the rooster (not Sriracha, although that shit is good, too). Simple veggie stir fry can be punched up easily with that stuff. (Soy sauce, too, but that goes without saying). I am obsessed with Tapatio right now, too.Duck fat is always awesome. I also am a boogan and save back my bacon fat and use it pretty often. (I keep it in the fridge, not in a tin on the stovetop like my grandma, though). I'm also one of those food fascists who tells people they must use FRESHLY GROUND PEPPER, not that crap that's already been processed. It tastes *so* much better, and it's really good in dishes that you're adding heat to with chilies or chili sauces. And, of course, I am also garlic's bitch. And MSG's, but I like to keep that on the dl.

  6. (I put them on a sheet pan with chopped fresh garlic and a buttload of olive oil plus S&P)Sausage & Peppers? Standard & Poors? (not Sriracha, although that shit is good, too)The non-sweet kind, right? Another go-to dish for me is thinly sliced beef stir-fried with firm tofu, soy sauce, sesame oil, greens (napa, bok choy) and garlic, ginger, and the like.

  7. I don't add lardons to many things, but one of my standard go-to recipes involves sauteeing tiny bits of salt pork in olive oil, then adding tomato paste, fresh thyme and half-cooked pigeon peas, frying it all up for a good ten minutes, then adding rice, stirring to coat everything, then adding water to cover. Cheap, filling, awesome. That sounds delicious. T&U, I've just gotten into Sambal Oelek. Holy crap, that stuff is awesome. I was actually trying to think of flavors that work in lots of different dishes and trans-nationally to create my list. I reckon you can actually use fish sauce and Sriracha in different stuff, but I've only used it for Thai/Asian stuff…so far. I've actually never cooked with duck fat just on its own (though I think I've cooked duck breasts) but now I want to try it. They actually sell at my store. I just keep a bowl of coarse-ground pepper by the stove, but you're right–fresh ground is best. As for garlic, I'm one of those disgusting people for whom there really cannot be TOO MUCH garlic in a dish. I joke that I could eat a clove of garlic raw and say "Needs more garlic."

  8. Another go-to dish for me is thinly sliced beef stir-fried with firm tofu, soy sauce, sesame oil, greens (napa, bok choy) and garlic, ginger, and the like.All righty then. This thread is officially making me hungry.

  9. Love recipes. Love food.Do your own confit de canard one of these days: stick duck legs in a big bowl with sugar, kosher salt, crushed juniper, grated orange rind, chopped shallots, grated ginger, cinnamon and crushed star anis pressed into the flesh. Rinse or brush that lot off after 24 hours and cook them, veeery slowly for about 4 hours, turning from time to time: you may want to stick the suckers in another pan on high heat, skin side down, just before eating so it goes crispy. Do NOT throw out the orange/spice duck fat. Fry things in it. But not potatoes.

  10. Do none of you people actually WATCH the movies? Because you're not operating within the canon. You do NOT want them to bite you.You DO want to shoot them in the head.I'm sorry if this is distressing to one of our good pals, but rules is rules. And they ain't rocket science…

  11. Love recipes. Love food.Photographs of Trevor are available (for a small bribe) to show the effects that a lifetime of epicurean excess has had upon his physique, i.e. none.

  12. Whoa, it's awfully pink in here all of a sudden.Cookery ingredients tip. Chinese stir-fries are salty and sweet in about a three to one ratio. Usually using soy and sugar. I like to swap those out for hoisin and oyster sauces (although note that hoisin is slightly saltier than oyster is sweet).

  13. Uh, just to clarify – oyster sauce is the salty one and hoisin is the sweet.Other good uses for oyster sauce – straight onto boiled dark leafy greens. And moar unconvetionally – on a meatloaf sandwich. SRSLY. Two slices of bread, one slice of meatloaf and a solid hit of oyster sauce. AMAZEBALLS.

  14. Do none of you people actually WATCH the movies? Because you're not operating within the canon. Dude, I won't follow your fascist RULES for dealing with zombies. I'll deal with them in own way–seduction, if necessary!Photographs of Trevor are available (for a small bribe) to show the effects that a lifetime of epicurean excess has had upon his physique, i.e. none.Lucky bastard. Trevor is banned!Uh, just to clarify – oyster sauce is the salty one and hoisin is the sweet.I know this, silly. One cant properlyobsess over all things Asian without having them in her fridge.

  15. I know this, silly.Sure, but did you know about teh meatloaf sandwiches?Since you've got some sambal now, here's your handy tip for what to do with hoisin. Peanut butter. you can even use JIF.All three, melted together. Garlic doesn't hurt and chopped green onions is a fine garnish. What do you dip in it? Anything and everything. Grilled meats, deep fried stuff with a nice crisp batter, pizza crusts, veggie sticks. Fruit. Flavour Bits enfused Blasters.If you're a naughty cheese eater, you could make parmesan crisps. Migth be a bit oily, but I bet it would taste fuckawesome.

  16. I think you should go with more of your hot babes with swords and piles of vanquished dead guys under stormy skies. Hey, it's a gestalt that WORKS for me…

  17. "Since you've got some sambal now, here's your handy tip for what to do with hoisin. Peanut butter. you can even use JIF.All three, melted together. Garlic doesn't hurt and chopped green onions is a fine garnish. What do you dip in it? Anything and everything. Grilled meats, deep fried stuff with a nice crisp batter, pizza crusts, veggie sticks. Fruit. Flavour Bits enfused Blasters."OK, like, what ratio? I'm pretty intrigued by this combo. It's not one I would have come up with on my own. It sounds discordant. But I trust your taste.

  18. It's a basic peanut sauce. Mostly peanuts or peanut butter, and as much heat as you can take. I usually use a rounded teaspoon of sambal in a bit less than a cup of peanut butter. If you need to thin it out you can use cream or butter. If you're using real peanut butter (i.e. not loaded with sugar and sodium) you can add salt with soy and use honey for sugar. Or palm sugar if you are honey-adverse for Dudeskull's sake.Peanut sauce is really one of those basic things that can be customized to whatever you need. If you're planning to use it for satay – well I'd add a bit of lemon juice. On a baguette? Maybe some spices like nutmeg or cinnamon.Experiment with it. It's really well suited for that. What you're getting from it is a bit of sweet, a bit of hot, a bit of salt and a messload of umami. It hits almost everything in the flavour spectrum (except sour) simultaneously. So it goes with just about anything.

  19. I'm familiar with peanut sauces, just never heard of using hoisin in one. It hits almost everything in the flavour spectrum (except sour) simultaneously. I think this sort of how it is with most Asian foods…which must explain why I'm so in love with them.

  20. Just swap out whatever you normally use as sweetener. I actually forgot we were talking about hoisin sauce earlier – I blame Obama.Anyways, I usually use Skippy. The sugar level on Skippy creamy requires about a tablespoon of hoisin in that "just under a cup" of peanut butter. It's all done ad hoc though because it's really difficult to get wrnog. The only potential points of danger are overheating it when you're trying to blend the flavours (so use a low heat) and adding sambal enough to make the spice lovers happy, but a sauce inedible for anyone else. And not making enough.WV wants in on teh foodie talk, but as much as I love peanut sauce, I'm not sure how well it would work with croutin.

  21. Just swap out whatever you normally use as sweetener. I actually forgot we were talking about hoisin sauce earlier – I blame Obama.It's understandable. I get excited when I talk about Asian food, too. OK, using Hoisin sauce as the sweet element makes tons more sense…Before, i was confused as to what role it was playing.It's weird you mention Skippy 'cuz I tried to switch to it because Cooks Illustrated rated it best peanut butter…but hubby had a cow and said we "weren't savages"–LOL!–so I had to go back to Jif. (Actually we have a jar of organic, unsweetened PB in the house, which I will use for sauces in da future.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s