Ingredients that caused revelations

this post is going to make all the judgmental trolls leap - so forgive me for not cooking every type of cuisine and using every ingredient of every culture in my home cooking . . . .

So in my decades of cooking, there have been a few times when an ingredient has really made me stop and rethink what I want to cook at home. Sometimes these have been things that I just hadn’t eaten before, other times they are ingredients from other cultures that, while I may have had “unknowingly” at a restaurant, I just never used in my home cooking.

Some that come to mind -

Morel mushrooms - there is nothing quite like a morel. I love them and use them when I can find them. I even love dried morels. I should have been cooking with them longer.

Pesto - I think pesto is magical and it was a revelation when I first made my own pesto (long long ago). I never knew those ingredients could be combined to make something that good and that versatile.

Gremolata - another combination that I just think is amazing.

Anyway - the impetus behind the post . . . . I recently used an ingredient for the first time at home and am blown away that I haven’t been using this before. I’ve had Korean BBQ out at restaurants before and I love it but I’ve never made it at home. For some reason I decided to explore this flavor at home this week and used Gochujang for the first time. Why haven’t I been using this before? It was insanely simple and insanely good. My mission is now to find new ways of using it. Here was the recipe I used (though I didn’t do chicken wings) for reference.

Are there any ingredients that you have discovered that just really through you on your heels and made you rethink what you want to be cooking at home?

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Growing up vinegars (white or cider) were for salad dressings and anchovies came with Greek Salad. I was cooking for a while before I realized there was a world of vinegars out there and salad dressing was just the beginning. Anchovies took a little longer to discover their magic.

Tea comes to mind. It was simply a large beverage category until a conversation with a chef for a fancy meditation retreat mentioned he used the leftover tea to make rice daily. That was the lightbulb and I started experimenting with teas as flavoring agents in compotes, soups, etc.

Dried mushroom powder was a “duh” moment when I was out of porcini’s so used the remaining powder from the empty package.
After that I began making mushroom powder as needed and loved the results. Once the term umami entered my vocabulary it made perfect sense!

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Courtesy of Kenji’s influence, I keep miso and/or fish sauce on hand to add umami to all sorts of dishes, Asian or non-Asian. i get miso in the bulk section, so they are also very economical – – cheaper than aged cheeses, and don’t require an entire can of anchovies to be opened.

Gremolata is great. Going one step back, lemon juice has been a revelation for me— keeping at least a lemon always on hand has saved several flat recipes.

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How do you deal with the astringency factor?

I’m also going to add pomegranate molasses to my list. It is such a complicated flavor and such a versatile ingredient - from salad dressings to a quick pan sauce for duck …

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I do always have fish sauce, I should experiment more with miso. Thanks

Actually just listening to milk street where they suggested making a miso butter (5 Tbs miso with 4Tbs butter mixed with fork) as a finish to noodles to grilled meats. May have to try that.

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I’m waiting for a stuffed round steak to be liberated from the crock pot tonight. Base seasoning is mushroom powder.

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I seldom use a dark tea except lapsang souchong for smokiness. Green teas work well with bland ingredients like rice. Herbal teas are quite nice with fruit. Tannin in tea can work well in pickles. David Lee has a a nice pickled fruit which uses jasmine tea iirc in Smoke and Pickles. (I like the recipe better subbing Asian pears.)

Most times I’m using small amounts to build layers except in compotes.

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Miso butter is a great combo. I like to add lemon, especially with fish.

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Thanks for this thread!
Smoked Spanish paprika. Going through a phase. I use it in dredges or rubs. Eggs.
Longstanding love affair with fresh grated nutmeg. Is it kind of a drug?
Preserved lemon.

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What do you do with preserved lemon?
Asking for a friend. :sunglasses:

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Miso has been a big one for me- not just for soup kids! I keep a dark miso that i like for broths and miso soup and a mild white miso for marinades, salad dressing, sauces, and broiled tofu

Once i learned how to use a spicy dijon mustard as an ingredient and not just as is as a condiment that also opened a lot of doors to experiments and can give a ho-hum dish what it’s missing

+1 for dried mushrooms, i stockpile the packets of dried wild mushrooms trader joe’s sells around the holidays since they can be expensive elsewhere

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Mine has always been . Agostino Recca anchovies packed in salt .

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It’s used a lot in Moroccan cuisine. I usually chop it finely for a sauce (finely chopped parsley, garlic, capers, olive oil, sometimes even anchovies). Goes well with fish and BBQ’ed meats.


Mix mushroom powder and some (flake) salt for a quick steak seasoning. I sprinkle this mixture on my steak sometimes (on the plate, not before cooking the meat). Instant umami.

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Got involved w/preserved lemon after a friend sent me Mourad’s New Moroccan cookbook.
I use it most often with the sweets - onions/shallots/garlic/Parsnip. Last week I sautéed same w
chicken thighs & thyme. Tossed in the pot w/diced celery & an inch of stock. Turned on the gas in the thermowell of my Chambers for five minutes. Gas off, let the stew cook slowly for an hour. Delish, but very sweet. Ladled over wild rice mix. Tossed in some slivers of preserved lemon and italian parsley. Oh yum. Lemon juice would have soaked into the starch but the bursts of salty lemon stay distinct . Haven’t used it on fish because I just like the taste of brown butter. Have a suspicion it would finish off a tomato-based sauce the way capers do? Saying that because I like carrots and parsnips in my red sauce and there you go. Sorry for the long answer. Fools in love like to tell about it. :wink:

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To bbqboy,

preserved lemons and limes can be used in many ways. They add a perfumed flavor of citrus in soups and stew. I’ve used both preserved lemons and limes sliced thin on a bagel with lox and cream cheese. The flavors of the preserved citrus really made it pop with flavor. They can be used in many different kinds of salads and relishes

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Thank you to all. Now I’m enthused.
Off to find some. :sunny:

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If I were to roast parsnips, how would you suggest flavoring it up with preserved lemons (in the pan, as a dressing after?), and would you just use the rind, or chop up the flesh too?

Reading this thread makes we want to try the mushroom powder. I am a life long mushroom hater, but now I wonder if it’s more about the texture v. the flavor if the flavor was used as you all have discussed. Hmmm…maybe an upcoming weekend test project is in order.

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Hyperbowler, I use preserved lemons as a condiment rather than an infuser, I guess you could say. Mostly I start with something more or less like a tagine recipe = chopped up veg & small amount of protein, seasoned and cooked over very gentle heat & then the lemon goes on top of the serving. I slice thin strips of rind off and leave the rest, although truthfully the rest is very good and somehow along the way it ends up in my mouth during the final prep. :wink: There’s a thread about making your own somewhere in HO. I make my own, it’s easy. But I think you can find some at Whole Foods. Thinking about using it over roasted parsnips. Hm. Let us know how it goes. I was thinking it would be good on a tuna fish sandwich or a tuna melt.

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