You might have enjoyed an incredible meal at a restaurant and thought to yourself; I need to recreate this, and wow my friends. Only, upon trying to recreate the dish, you come up with nothing but a pale version of what you enjoyed and it seems to be somewhat lacking in something. Once again, you’re struck by the thought that it almost seems like professional chefs wield some sort of mystical culinary magic.
This is partly true. Though, it’s not that chefs wield mysterious kitchen magic, but rather that it is common in the world of food creation to find, and keep secret, a special ingredient. Why, you’re asking? Because why would you eat out at all, if it was simple to create restaurant grade food in your own kitchen? Sneaky.
But now some chefs are coming forward to reveal their secret ingredients. The popular Q and A website Quora has been asking chefs how they make such incredible food, and a few answers have been given. Though, if this really is their secret ingredient is very much up for debate. Still, an interesting read regardless. Let’ see what some of those culinary wizards say the secret to taste sensations and decadent delectable dishes are.
Acclaimed chef Jordi Bross may have been cheating a little when he simply stated that his secret ingredient is cooking stock. He explained that a good stock is the secret to many of his greatest and most beloved dishes, and is essential for making sauces that wow guests. He didn’t go into detail as to how he creates his cooking stock, which would have been where the real secret lies. Though, he finished off his answer by advising that good chefs should always have pre-prepared stock in their kitchen at all times.
Now if only we could steal a bit of his stock, put it under a microscope and try figure out how it is created.
Ralph Oei, on the other hand, pointed to mayonnaise to really bring a dish to its full potential. He said that it adds a great deal of what is required to make a dish exceptional, including acidity, saltiness, and sweetness, all without being too obvious that it has even been added at all.
In a rather bold and somewhat controversial move, Natt Soini revealed his secret ingredient to be none other than monosodium glutamate, otherwise referred to as MSG. Many will likely recognise the name as the food ingredient that has become controversial, due to apparent links to chest pains and other symptoms.
Soini was quick to explain that the reports are nothing short of fiction, and that he always adds a half a teaspoon to his dishes. He went on to state that adding MSG will do a great deal more to bring out the umami flavours in a good creation than any other ingredient. It need not be pointed out that, of course, the Food and Drug Administration classifies MSG as “recognised as safe.”
A far less controversial answer came from Chelsea Westmorland, who declared that when a dish needs a certain something and salt wont fix the problem, that vinegar is where she turns her attention. She explained that it often isn’t salt that a dish needs, but a little dash of acidity. Interesting.
Take Your Pick
Naturally a good chef knows that it is rarely just one special ingredient for all cases. Dishes are like snowflakes, after all, and each can benefit greatly from the right ingredient, at the right time. So you might just experiment with all the above secrets ingredients and find the right one for what you’re trying to create in your kitchen.
Good luck and remember the golden rule; add your secret ingredients a little at a time, and have a taste test before you throw in more. Ruining a dish is as easy as being a little too liberal with that “little something extra.”