Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. And stuffing. Mashed potatoes. Pumpkin pie...ok, so Thanksgiving is all about the food! That much is clear. As you plan your menu, make your shopping lists, and brave the stores, we implore you to remember the unsung heros of a truly spectacular feast. Today, basic is a word that has garnered a bad reputation, but basic ingredients are the mainstays of cooking, the pillars of those complex culinary masterpieces that would be nothing without them. Imagine meals without the unami of salt, the depth of vinegar, the utter sumptuousness of a little (or a lot) butter, or that smooth finish of olives oil. These basic ingredients are anything but, often overlooked but essential to build you Thanksgiving feast. Below, a run-down of our must-haves.
From Fleur del Sel to Hawaiian Red Sea Salt, each type of salt carries its own special flavor, texture and even health benefits. How to decide? The size of flakes also helps determine where best to use them - large flakes are perfect sprinkled on fried items or chocolate, while the finer grains are used in cooking. A favorite and can't-go-wrong choice is Maldon Sea Salt, similar to kosher salt. Harvested off the coast of England, the large flakes of Maldon have a fresh and bright bite.
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Chefs know the secret of gourmet butter - Dan Barber, one of America's most renowned chefs, has been known to order pounds of French butter at Gourmet Food Store for his Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurants. Much like wine or olive oil, butter is infused with terroir - that mythical indescribably mix of the rich grasses, air and even the rain that kisses the pastures where the cattle roams. From subtly sweet to delightfully studded with sea salt flakes, from white to buttercup yellow, butter can be an amazing tool in the kitchen, and essential for a Thanksgiving menu. Kneaded into pie crusts, basted into you your turkey, blended into your mashed potatoes, a great butter is key to Thanksgiving.
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Another understated ingredient worthy of some love and investment, a good quality olive oil not only adds flavor, but also great health benefits. It is imperative to know the origin of your oil, guaranteeing its quality. If you plan to serve a salad or grilled vegetables, make sure to have a good olive oil on hand. A drizzle of truffle oil will take your regular Thanksgiving stuffing or mashed potatoes from great to grand, or add it to a simple toasted baguette with chopped heirloom tomatoes for fantastic crostini appetizer. - a little goes a long way.
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Vinegar is used in a variety of dishes, from salads to meats, and can be often overlooked as a staple. But if you use one of quality, vinegars can easily be a transformative ingredient, adding a sour-sweet taste and gives depth and complexity to a dish. For Thanksgiving, take a good balsamic and make into a glaze or salad seasoning. We always like to have a fresh salad for Thanksgiving to round out the richer dishes, and a simple salad of fresh veggies takes center stage with the addition of Aged Balsamic Vinegar. As prized as a fine wine, this vinegar possess a depth of flavor that will delight you. The intensity (and pricing) depends on the years aged so pick according to your taste and budget.
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Alright, now that you accoutrements for your most fabulous Thanksgiving yet, it’s time to get cooking!