In a thread that I cannot find a doper (I think it was Athena but since I cannot find the thread I can’t be sure) said that her homemade chicken stock is the secret ingredient that makes many of her dishes special. I, too, have secret ingredients that elevate a few of my dishes.
The first I learned from mi abuela. Recaito. Also called sofrito when cooked. This aromatic from Puerto Rico is put in a lot of stuffs. Kinda like Louisiana’s holy trinity, it goes into almost everything. The basic recaito recipe is recao (or culantro-- cilantro’s stronger tasting cousin), garlic, sweet chiles and green peppers. All of it goes into a blender. P.S., bell peppers are not the taste you’re going for in recaito. Cubanelle’s, sweet Italians, ajies dulce-- that’ll rev it up. And if you can’t find recao, cilantro will do just fine. Just add more.
My second secret ingredient is my homemade chili powder. But not any homemade chili powder. My super secret smoked homemade chili powder. Chiles guajillo, ancho and, for a bit of heat, arbol go into the cast iron skillet. Let the chiles start smoking before pulling them out. Roast some cumin and coriander seeds too. If I knew how to make my own smoked paprika, and powder my own garlic and onions, I’d try that too but since I can’t, it’s store bought. And just like mi abuela, into the pilon it goes. I like a mortar and pestle because it’s better a little bit coarse. A food processor or blender would make it too powdery for me.
I make other chili powder but this powder is the base for bbq rubs, kidney beans and, of course, chile. It goes great in curry and beef stew. I love this stuff.
Now let me steal from you. Tell me about your secret ingredient.