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Ingredient(s) of the Year 2020?

Ingredient(s) of the Year 2020?
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  • Ingredient(s) of the Year 2020?

    Post #1 - December 14th, 2020, 12:48 am
    Post #1 - December 14th, 2020, 12:48 am Post #1 - December 14th, 2020, 12:48 am
    Most of us have done a lot more cooking this year than we normally do and, in the process, have discovered and re-discovered all sorts of useful, delicious, versatile, convenient and fun ingredients. What were your highlight ingredients for the year? The ones that expanded your horizons? The ones that you relied upon? The ones that will remain a part of your kitchen lexicon in the future? The ones that changed your routines, upped your game, improved the quality of your dishes or just made you say aha!?

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #2 - December 14th, 2020, 8:01 am
    Post #2 - December 14th, 2020, 8:01 am Post #2 - December 14th, 2020, 8:01 am
    For me, this year reinforced how much homemade chicken stock is like a cheat code in dishes. Whether it was in a pot of white rice, split pea soup or gravy, it makes everything taste so much better.

    In previous years I would take a mental note to make more once my last frozen quart was used up. But I was more proactive this year since I had tons more time at home.
  • Post #3 - December 14th, 2020, 8:53 am
    Post #3 - December 14th, 2020, 8:53 am Post #3 - December 14th, 2020, 8:53 am
    Lizard fish !
  • Post #4 - December 14th, 2020, 9:06 am
    Post #4 - December 14th, 2020, 9:06 am Post #4 - December 14th, 2020, 9:06 am
    Way behind the trend curve, but I've been using more pimentón. That kick of smoke and deep flavor is a secret weapon for many, many dishes. The jar I bought in The Bouqueria market in Barcelona two Decembers ago is running low (and probably should be replaced by now anyway). Milk Street had a recipe for shrimp with a ton of smoked paprika that I've made once, and I'm jonesing for it again.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #5 - December 14th, 2020, 10:14 am
    Post #5 - December 14th, 2020, 10:14 am Post #5 - December 14th, 2020, 10:14 am
    I may be late to the party on this one but for me it was shio koji. It makes a delicious savory crust when rubbed onto chicken/steak/pork chops a few days before roasting/grilling. Super easy to make from koji rice--I've been maintaining a jar of this in the fridge all year.
  • Post #6 - December 14th, 2020, 10:31 am
    Post #6 - December 14th, 2020, 10:31 am Post #6 - December 14th, 2020, 10:31 am
    JoelF wrote:Way behind the trend curve, but I've been using more pimentón. That kick of smoke and deep flavor is a secret weapon for many, many dishes. The jar I bought in The Bouqueria market in Barcelona two Decembers ago is running low (and probably should be replaced by now anyway). Milk Street had a recipe for shrimp with a ton of smoked paprika that I've made once, and I'm jonesing for it again.

    I recently bought smoke paprika at Costco. I am still out of regular paprika.

    Just a little bit of smoked paprika in a dish really takes over. As much as I like it, I cannot wait to get some plain.

    Regards,
    Cathy2
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - December 14th, 2020, 10:55 am
    Post #7 - December 14th, 2020, 10:55 am Post #7 - December 14th, 2020, 10:55 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Just a little bit of smoked paprika in a dish really takes over. As much as I like it, I cannot wait to get some plain.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    Shakshuka is not the same without it. The proper level of smoked paprika and cumin in this dish is "too much."
  • Post #8 - December 15th, 2020, 10:27 am
    Post #8 - December 15th, 2020, 10:27 am Post #8 - December 15th, 2020, 10:27 am
    Cathy2 wrote:Just a little bit of smoked paprika in a dish really takes over. As much as I like it, I cannot wait to get some plain.


    Yeah, the smoked paprikas I've bought -- and maybe I just haven't come across a good one -- are just SMOKE! Intense. And I love smoke, too.
  • Post #9 - December 15th, 2020, 3:57 pm
    Post #9 - December 15th, 2020, 3:57 pm Post #9 - December 15th, 2020, 3:57 pm
    For me, it has been coconut milk. I have gone from never using the product to going through about a case of it. Here are some of the dishes:

    Mango with Sticky Rice
    Coconut rice pudding
    Green Thai curry
    Coconut curried lentils over rice
  • Post #10 - December 31st, 2020, 1:06 am
    Post #10 - December 31st, 2020, 1:06 am Post #10 - December 31st, 2020, 1:06 am
    jlawrence01 wrote:For me, it has been coconut milk. I have gone from never using the product to going through about a case of it . . .

    Yes. Back to this in a moment.

    Homemade stocks, especially a la Instant Pot (thanks, boudreaulicious!) have figured prominently in my cooking this year. I don't know if I have the wherewithall to produce my own koji but I just sourced some and I'm excited to get into it.

    As for coconut milk, it's definitely in my top tier for 2020. Like jlawrence, I'd never used it before 2020 and now I go through it rapidly. The entire world of Thai-style curries has been a revelation for me (quick, pantry-friendly, potent with flavor and very filling), and coconut milk is a key component in many of them. Can't be without it.

    Somewhat relatedly, mushrooms and tofu have also been 2020 All-Stars in our kitchen. I've used them both in several curries but also in a wide variety of other dishes, as well as on their own. They're both excellent carriers of other flavors, which make them ideal and versatile. Mushrooms, which have always been a staple in our house -- and to which I had unprecedented access this year -- have been front and center on our table in 2020.

    But as much as I have enjoyed tofu through the years, it wasn't until this year that I really began cooking with it at home. So often when I was conceiving a dish, it was tofu that was the missing link. When I thought about what in my prospective plan was missing, tofu filled the gap perfectly. I make sure that I always have both mushrooms and tofu, in at least one form, in the house at all times. I now consider them essentials.

    I can't highlight my year in cooking without mentioning two ingredients that have always been favorites around here and remained so in 2020: dried beans and chicken thighs. We always have a pot of beans in the house. I make a fresh one about every 10 days. While the type of bean continually changes, the prep rarely does. I like to keep the cooking as neutral as possible to maximize their versatility. Almost always vegan with a bit of garlic, some onion and a couple of whole, slitted chiles. Other components can be effectively added later. I eat them on their own, as a side dish, under eggs, in soups, etc.

    As for chicken thighs, they were clearly our Protein Of The Year. I haven't bothered to count up the number of times I made them but it was a lot. Usually bone-in, skin-on but occasionally boneless, skinless, too. Whole thighs are great on the grill but simmered on the stove top and broiled in the oven are great, too and all these preps are a blank canvas. Fun to cook, delicious and as versatile as it gets.

    The last ingredient of 2020 that comes to mind (at least for now) is absolutely the simplest one of all. It's one that, to some extent, I've avoided using in the past, always worrying that it would diminish the dish in which it's included. But the more time I spent in the kitchen this year, the more I began to understand its power and versatility. The more I came to rely and depend on it. In fact, thinking about how much of an impact it had on my cooking was the reason I started this thread. That ingredient is . . . water!

    Yes, I know it sounds silly. How can an ingredient that delivers essentially no flavor of its own -- and can actually dilute others -- be an ingredient of the year? Aside from its obvious uses as a cooking medium for items like beans, pasta and steamed foods, it's also a powerful catalyst. I've found that water, when used judiciously in braises, soups, stews, etcetera, coaxes flavors out of other ingredients like nothing else. Clean flavors. I'm not saying there aren't situations where something other than water makes the most sense but as a devotee of using broth, stock, wine, cognac, vermouth, beer, etcetera in many applications, I've become a convert.

    After having seen/read about so many accomplished chefs and cooks using water in applications where I would have used something with more "flavor," I decided that I owed it to myself to try water in some of them. And with hundreds of dishes cooked this year, there was ample opportunity for experimentation. Time and time again, as I used water in my cooking, the results spoke for themselves.

    Beyond what I've already mentioned, emulsifying pasta sauce (e.g. cacio e pepe) was a major eye-opener. In that dish, water, plus the starch in the pasta cooking water, was enough to produce a sauce so creamy, it was hard to believe there was actually no cream in it. Even with something as fundamental as slightly softening/deglazing sauteed vegetables, a teaspoon or two of water had a profound effect. And the list goes on and on.

    The value and power of this flavorless and virtually free ingredient have changed my understanding of -- and appreciation for -- cooking. I love that it's cheap, always available and highly effective. In many ways, it was the key that unlocked the door to some of the best cooking I've ever done at home. When I think about my 2020 in cooking, water will be at the very top of my Ingredients Of The Year.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #11 - December 31st, 2020, 12:06 pm
    Post #11 - December 31st, 2020, 12:06 pm Post #11 - December 31st, 2020, 12:06 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:As for coconut milk, it's definitely in my top tier for 2020. Like jlawrence, I'd never used it before 2020 and now I go through it rapidly.
    =R=

    I find there are huge variations in quality of coconut milk and that those quality differences really affect the final dish. I saw this brand highly recommended on a food blog: https://www.amazon.com/100-Coconut-Milk ... 213&sr=8-3 and I got some. It comes in shelf stable cardboard boxes and does not need refrigeration until opened. I really like it. The blogger mentioned that many brands have additives that hurt the quality. This is 100% coconut milk with no additives.
  • Post #12 - December 31st, 2020, 12:12 pm
    Post #12 - December 31st, 2020, 12:12 pm Post #12 - December 31st, 2020, 12:12 pm
    I love the almost “retro” and, certainly, essential nature of the items in this thread. It’s like somehow this crazy year made us look inward to what we could really rely on—things that inspired but also comforted.

    My 2020 key ingredient list includes :

    1) rice—regular old Nishiki medium grain. I always liked rice but this year it seemed to become indispensable.

    2) Kevin B’s friend’s eggs (and a socially distant chance to see mbh when collecting them was a big bonus).

    3) Instant pot chicken stock. In the early pandemic days when world and work stress threatened to overwhelm, even just drinking a mug of it helped to calm jangled nerves. And the rice I made with it may have added a few pandemic pounds but was my most effective comfort food ingredient/dish.

    4) Asian greens, cilantro, onion & ginger —always loved all greens but from early in the summer, I had a huge supply of Napa, Bok Choy, multiple mustard greens, Gai lan, etc. in my garden and am still working through the final harvest—at the beginning of each week, I chop up a fresh bag, add a generous amount of chopped ginger, cilantro, and whatever onions or leeks I have on hand. Grabbing a handful to throw into everything from a bowl of chicken rice to eggs to a pan of fish probably kept the scurvy away.

    5) Lao Ganma spicy chili crisp and fried chili in oil (combined)—definitely my most-used condiment this year.

    6) Herdez Guacamole Salsa—no matter how hard I try, I can’t make anything close. Kid #1 and I were probably going through a couple of jars a week most of the year (I use it in soooo many sauces, marinades, dressings, etc—I think he drinks it :)!!)

    7) Sitka Salmon Shares—saved the best for (almost) last. SSS was a godsend this year—I’ve been a member for a long time but they added some wonderful extra sales (New England scallops!! Gulf snapper, grouper and shrimp!!!). And not having to leave the house but still having an abundant supply of gorgeous seafood to make an everyday dinner something special was a wonderful thing.

    8. Valpo Beef Mart Tomahawk chops—obviously, time with friends was very, very limited but the few times I was able to see my besties we celebrated with these super fab steaks from my fave Region family market.

    Wishing you all a HEALTHFUL, happy New Year and 2021!!!
    Last edited by boudreaulicious on December 31st, 2020, 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #13 - December 31st, 2020, 12:49 pm
    Post #13 - December 31st, 2020, 12:49 pm Post #13 - December 31st, 2020, 12:49 pm
    lougord99 wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:As for coconut milk, it's definitely in my top tier for 2020. Like jlawrence, I'd never used it before 2020 and now I go through it rapidly.
    =R=

    I find there are huge variations in quality of coconut milk and that those quality differences really affect the final dish. I saw this brand highly recommended on a food blog: https://www.amazon.com/100-Coconut-Milk ... 213&sr=8-3 and I got some. It comes in shelf stable cardboard boxes and does not need refrigeration until opened. I really like it. The blogger mentioned that many brands have additives that hurt the quality. This is 100% coconut milk with no additives.

    Agree on most all of this. I have come to prefer the Aroy D to which you linked. But it does contain an emulsifier, so it's not additive-free. Additionally, aseptic packaging brings its own set of limitations and can adversely affect product in its own way. Nonetheless, the Aroy D is definitely the best of the brands I've tried so far.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #14 - December 31st, 2020, 1:32 pm
    Post #14 - December 31st, 2020, 1:32 pm Post #14 - December 31st, 2020, 1:32 pm
    My ingredients o' The Year are simplicity itself: two 'seasonings' that I've learned to use liberally--finally!--enough that they enhance most everything the touch.

    First: Penzy's "Sunny Paris" blend of aliums--garlic, chives, onions, etc.--that really comes through with flavour and, even more importantly, aroma. Added late in the prep, with just enough time to hydrate and warm up, they add an unmistakable pop to omelettes, stews, salads, just about anything.

    Second: MSG. Don't laugh. I bought a bottle from Fiesta when I replenished a bunch of other stuff, just on a whim, and haven't looked back. It really does make a difference. It adds much more of a muchness to your eats. Won't ever be without it henceforth.

    BTW, if you don't know Fiesta spice blends, you really should take a look. Long ago, when I was a pup in grad school in California, we always used their chile powder and other blends. They're genuine Cal-Mex, traditional dating back generations.

    Happy New Year, pals! It's a joy being a member of this community!

    Geo

    https://www.fiestaspices.com/
    Sooo, you like wine and are looking for something good to read? Maybe *this* will do the trick! :)
  • Post #15 - December 31st, 2020, 1:47 pm
    Post #15 - December 31st, 2020, 1:47 pm Post #15 - December 31st, 2020, 1:47 pm
    Geo wrote:
    Second: MSG. Don't laugh. I bought a bottle from Fiesta when I replenished a bunch of other stuff, just on a whim, and haven't looked back. It really does make a difference. It adds much more of a muchness to your eats. Won't ever be without it henceforth.
    https://www.fiestaspices.com/


    It's fantastic. Salt, pepper and a dash of msg goes into almost everything I cook.
  • Post #16 - December 31st, 2020, 2:11 pm
    Post #16 - December 31st, 2020, 2:11 pm Post #16 - December 31st, 2020, 2:11 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote:
    lougord99 wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote:As for coconut milk, it's definitely in my top tier for 2020. Like jlawrence, I'd never used it before 2020 and now I go through it rapidly.
    =R=

    I find there are huge variations in quality of coconut milk and that those quality differences really affect the final dish. I saw this brand highly recommended on a food blog: https://www.amazon.com/100-Coconut-Milk ... 213&sr=8-3 and I got some. It comes in shelf stable cardboard boxes and does not need refrigeration until opened. I really like it. The blogger mentioned that many brands have additives that hurt the quality. This is 100% coconut milk with no additives.

    Agree on most all of this. I have come to prefer the Aroy D to which you linked. But it does contain an emulsifier, so it's not additive-free. Additionally, aseptic packaging brings its own set of limitations and can adversely affect product in its own way. Nonetheless, the Aroy D is definitely the best of the brands I've tried so far.

    =R=



    I would agree with you that Aroy D in the aseptic carton is by far the best of the coconut milks that I have tried. However, it is about 50% more expensive and is generally unavailable here in Tucson. When I head to Phoenix, I buy some and generally use it for desserts like mango sticky rice. The one issue with the product is that you need to use the entire package within five days of opening so I have to plan multiple meals to use up a liter of coconut milk.

    My normal cooking coconut milk is Chaokoh. It works very well as long as you take the time to shake it up prior to use. Arun G in a can is also very good.

    Pailin Chongchitnant did a video on coconut milk. To summarize the video, use a coconut milk with few ingredients. the best ones include coconut milk, citric acid, and a preservative. Some of the ones that are in the markets have 10-12 ingredients.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXzELWH ... 27sKitchen

    Pailin is a Vancouver based YouTuber who has been a Thai chef for several years. She covers mostly Thai cooking but occasionally will create fusion cuisine. Her Coconut pork adobo is a Thai influenced rework of the traditional Filipino dish.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEYkAVC ... 27sKitchen
  • Post #17 - December 31st, 2020, 2:17 pm
    Post #17 - December 31st, 2020, 2:17 pm Post #17 - December 31st, 2020, 2:17 pm
    Geo wrote:My ingredients o' The Year are simplicity itself: two 'seasonings' that I've learned to use liberally--finally!--enough that they enhance most everything the touch.


    Second: MSG. Don't laugh. I bought a bottle from Fiesta when I replenished a bunch of other stuff, just on a whim, and haven't looked back. It really does make a difference. It adds much more of a muchness to your eats. Won't ever be without it henceforth.


    Geo

    https://www.fiestaspices.com/




    Over Labor Day, My wife and I made our first trip to a real supermarket in six months. We went to Winco Foods. As we wanted to minimize out time in the store, she shopped for the staples and I shopped the bulk foods.

    I asked her to buy me some chicken soup base. Instead, she bought the Winco Foods "Chicken Flavor Crystals." Initially, I was pretty ticked ... until I tried it. It made excellent bouillon. I looked at the ingredients and #2 was MSG. I will be buying some MSG in the near future.
  • Post #18 - December 31st, 2020, 3:13 pm
    Post #18 - December 31st, 2020, 3:13 pm Post #18 - December 31st, 2020, 3:13 pm
    ronnie_suburban wrote: But it does contain an emulsifier, so it's not additive-free.
    =R=

    ImageDon't they have to list emulsifiers on the ingredients list ?
  • Post #19 - December 31st, 2020, 3:28 pm
    Post #19 - December 31st, 2020, 3:28 pm Post #19 - December 31st, 2020, 3:28 pm
    lougord99 wrote:
    ronnie_suburban wrote: But it does contain an emulsifier, so it's not additive-free.

    ImageDon't they have to list emulsifiers on the ingredients list ?

    Interesting. The labeling requirement and/or formulation must vary, depending the market in which the product is sold. Here's a screenshot of the product I think I bought via Amazon . . .

    Image

    But the ingredient declaration on the boxes I have here at home matches the one you posted, Lou. I know that in some cases, if an additive is considered a processing aid, it doesn't necessarily need to be declared on the label.

    =R=
    By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. --Kambei Shimada

    Every human interaction is an opportunity for disappointment --RS

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

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