Your dirty little secrets, please.


Ok, Foodists, time to tell all. Time to lift the veil, pull back the curtain and open the kimono. What’s your favorite secret cheat in the kitchen? What’s that little product or technique that you worry would expose you as a fraud to all your sophisticated foodie friends, but you just can’t do without (and likely don’t want to)? What small deviant utensil in your otherwise authentic toolbox literally lets you have your cake and eat it too?

In light of the great tradition of showing one’s own before being shown, I’ll tell you my one cheat that I refuse to do without. I always have three jars of this stuff on hand, and using it just makes people happy. I don’t use it often, but when I do I do so with confidence and no regrets.

I use it when I am in a serious hurry, or if something has gone terribly wrong with my fond, my pan drippings, or my seasoning, and my window of happy-making is rapidly closing. I use it when I forget to thaw the stock, or forget to buy it. I use it when in spite of all my creativity and planning things are looking a little naked or dry and I remember the French insight that “it’s all in the sauce”.

What is it? Well, it is a little line of products called “Better than Bouillon” by Superior Touch. These bases are very, very tasty and concentrated. One tablespoon goes a long way in making a gravy, soup stock, sauce or seasoning a dish that just didn’t get enough time browning or caramelizing.

Superior offers the standards of all bouillon manufacturers including beef, chicken and veg (the veg is awesome), as well as clam and even lobster. No MSG. Gluten-free. Organic versions are available. 1/3 less salt than other bouillons is claimed. Sadly, the provenance of the beasties turned into paste in the processing is unknown, but the plant is in Ontario, California.

Sooo there it is. I’ll take the heat. I encourage you to try these if you haven’t. There’s no excuse for not doing things right when you can, but when you can’t or when you have a fail on your hands, these little miracles can save your, uh, sauce.

Now its your turn. Tell us your cheat. Reveal all in the comments below and we’ll see who has the best work-around, shortcut or outright cheat for saving time and reputation in the increasingly demanding kitchens of today.

The confessional is open.


7 Responses to “Your dirty little secrets, please.”

  1. Posted on November 17th, 2009

    I have a similar confession- I use Major stock bases a lot when I don’t have stock in the freezer. One tub goes a long way.

    My biggest kitchen guilt is just not cooking as much as I should. For which I am truly sorry.

  2. Posted on November 17th, 2009

    Yeah, same for me. I often use McCormick All-Vegetable Bouillon as my stock substitute.

    I also love instant ramen, sometimes using it in place other noodles. Of course, I rinse it liberally after cooking to get rid of the excess fat.

  3. Posted on November 17th, 2009

    I used to think making stock was a big deal and my gosh you have to go look for a place to buy bones and cut up all those mirepoix vegetables. Until I learned how to debone a chicken! Not only is this much more economical, you also get a chicken carcass for your stock, which is also economical and free of strange sounding ingredients.

    Do this a few times and you’ll collect enough wings for the next time you are watching the game with the boys, and enough tenders for the kids’ breaded chicken tenders.

    As for mirepoix, every time you cook with onion, carrots and celery (or any other vegetables you want to add) save all the trim or cut up a little extra and collect them throughout the week for your stock. Remember the vegetables don’t need to be fresh for stock making!

  4. Posted on November 17th, 2009

    Pailin I agree. My good friend showed me ten years ago and I can break them down pretty fast now. I buy whole chickens three at a time and make stock after butchering. Saves a bunch of money as well. Like you say you get enough for a wings feast plus all the parts. I also separate the remaining meat after making stock and use it in soups. Alas, the stock runs out…

  5. Posted on November 21st, 2009

    I wouldn’t share this with just anyone, but for the foodists I’ll dish.

    My dirty little kitchen secret is: frozen pie crusts. Frozen tarts shells to be more specific.

    I make kick-ass pastry, from the practically no-fail recipe on the Tenderflake Lard box. However, I am willing to get a little help when I’m whipping up food for a crowd. And 100 mini quiche or lemon tarts are just the thing for quick finger foods.

    The frozen Tenderflake tart shells’ ingredient list reads the same as the recipe and they always turn out beautifully whether I’m baking filled or blind. And I don’t have to find little tiny tart tins. (say that 5 times fast)

  6. Posted on December 1st, 2009

    Some packaged pre-cut vegetables such as chopped onions do not make sense but I purchase pre-peeled garlic in a tub at H Mart. It’s cheaper than buying the whole bulbs and I sometimes can’t be bothered to peel them, especially if I need 5 heads to make garlic confit.

    Other cheats: pre-peeled taro root, ginko nuts, chestnuts and bamboo shoots.

  7. Posted on December 13th, 2009

    I love short-cuts too, but to add rich flavour to sauces, I had a bag of frozen ice-cube tray-sized demi-glace (glace de viande) that I made months ago. Sure, it took patience to make from roasted bones in the first place, but it sure is convenient now. Maybe that’s more planning ahead that a cheat.

    OK, how about this for a cheat: my brûlée torch.

    Sometimes when I’m in a rush and a dish is mostly done at the bottom or within, but the top needs that perfect golden crust? Without a salamander or time to fire up the oven’s broiler, I break out my handy-dandy little torch and caramelize my heart out. It always makes the dish look like I’m some kind of wunderkind in the kitchen. Ha-ha! I cheated!

Leave a Reply

If so desired you may use HTML in your comments. Links, bold/strong and emphasis/italics tags are all accepted! However more than one link will flag you as spam so write carefully!

Our Sponsors

These are our friends, neighbours and some of the best food resources around. They support us. We support them. You should too.