6 Pantry Essentials to Make Any Dish Fancier

What makes a dish gourmet? Fancy methods can take some of the credit, but if you are smart, there’s a faster and simpler way to get there: clever pantry items. Yes, I have found those flavors in a jar, bottle or packet that give you that same umami luxury, flavors that wrap around your palate leaving you feeling ‘moreish.’

Shopping List

1. Almonds

This for me is an absolute MUST. My suggestion is to go with the blanched (skinless) and sliced almonds – its growing popularity makes them available at all supermarkets in the nuts and dried fruit aisle.

Where to use:

Almond Breadcrumbs: Give your almonds a whizz in your food processor along with some breadcrumbs and sprinkle on any dish for baking.

Cream replacer? Soak them for 10 minutes and grind to a paste and then add to any sauce. Your sauce will be creamlessly creamy.

Try this: Hot sausage & sweet pepper pizza with almond pesto

2. Anchovies

Enjoying them whole in a salad may be an obvious choice (think Caesar), but for me the trick is to cook them down so they disintegrate. Adding a savory-salty kick, your guests won’t even know it’s in the dish.

Where to use:

Italian spicy sauce Puttanesca: Add them as you sauté your garlic and red pepper flakes.

Roast chicken: Mash a couple of filets into butter and rub under the chicken’s skin.

Try this: Spaghetti aglio olio 

 3. Miso

Think global! Yes, this dish can be used outside of Japanese cooking. And the best part: it comes as a paste in tubs or paper sachets in powder form. Either way, that smoky charm gets to work.

Where to use:

Soup and stews: For that added depth in flavor.

Beef burger patties: A great partnership of flavors makes these patties ‘lift-off.’

Try this: Broiled miso steak

4. Demi-Glace

That thing that French Chefs talk about all the time. Demi Glace makes sauces so velvety, complex and luxurious. But to make it from scratch is messy and time consuming. News flash: someone else just did the work for you and it can be stored in your pantry and not refrigerator. Yes, like chicken and beef stock cubes, Demi Glace now also comes in little rectangular Jello-like cubes – just pop and stir.

Where to use:

Chicken pot pie: Swirl some into this comfort classic and the dish will get even more cozy while its  flavors intensify.

Bolognese Sauce: Demi Glace totally hooks this dish up while rounding out flavors and texture. Looking for that restaurant quality Bolognese? Now you’ve found it.

Try this: Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast

 5. Sesame Oil

Sesame oil gives you the keys to the kingdom when your goal is to add mystery to a dish. Smoky, nutty and pretty intense, what dish can say no! But be careful to not overpower with too much – remember that just a little goes a long way.

Where to use:

Salad dressing: A few drops will add another dimension of flavor to your salad.

Mayo: Sesame oil will take this ingredient from street to chic.

Try this:Crisp sesame crusted brussels sprouts

6. Capers

These tangy buds are small in size but big in attitude. Throw a teaspoon full into a sauce or salad and watch that sharp, mustard-like flavor release itself into your dish. To coax its flavor, I like to sauté before adding other wet ingredients to the dish.

Where to use:

Salads: Yes, this may seem like an obvious choice but when was the last time you added them to your salad? Whilst you’re at it, don’t just throw them in. Bruise some up in the vinaigrette to lace the flavor right through.

Sauces: This one will become auto-pilot once you have done it a couple of times. Add to any range of sauces from simple butter-lemon to tomato-based.

Crunchify: Have you ever thrown one in to the deep fryer? Apart from the slightly alarming noise it makes, capers crisp up nicely and impresses the guests when used as a garnish.

Try this: Creamy pasta with spinach & fried capers

Looking for a quick & easy meal to try this out on? Check out our Quick & Easy section!

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray