12 Secret Supermarket Helpers of Valley Chefs and Restaurateurs
Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vintage supermarket ad from the 1940s.
Think chefs don't rely on a little help from the neighborhood supermarket to kick up dishes both at home and in the restaurant? Think again.
I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs their favorite secret supermarket helpers and got a shopping list of products that range from the familiar to the surprising. And because they translate so easily to dishes you'd make at home, these 12 "secrets" can be yours, too.
See also: What Is the Future of Meat?
Bill Sandweg Owner, Copper Star Coffee
Vegemite/Marmite. Awesome substitute to make soups and stews richer for vegetarians (versus beef broth).
Michael O'Dowd Chef and Owner, Renegade by MOD, Wicked Six Bar & Grill by MOD
Nori seaweed. It helps with stocks, rolling sushi, and also, when ground up, in seasoning edibles. It's very versatile and has a unique flavor profile especially when toasted.
Cullen Campbell Chef and Owner, Crudo
I don't think many people know you can get marrow bones at Safeway. Anytime I want to do something fun at home, I get them because they have so many uses. I've turned them into vinaigrettes, smoked them, and made butter or just a roast served with bread and roasted garlic.
Aaron May, Chef and Restaurateur
I'm not afraid of the chip aisle. We use Cheetos in the man 'n' cheese at The Lodge and have always added some ground Funyons to our breading mix.
Aaron Eckburg Owner, Go Lb. Salt
Dijon mustard and sriracha. Both go great in Hollandaise, gastriques, coulis, and reductions. Just an eighth to quarter teaspoon will add the right amount of vinegar bite, spicy heat, sweetness, or umami note to your dish.
Chef Maurice Gordon, The Westin Phoenix Downtown
My supermarket helper is beer. I love to grill and barbecue, so the beer is great to pour over a steak or burgers when you're grilling to add flavor. Plus an ice cold beer also makes a great refreshment while you are cooking over the hot grill.
DJ Fernandes Owner, Tuck Shop, Vovomeena, Astor House
Ponzu. Way better than soy. Good for marinades, dressings, and straight up. Nobuo [Fukuda] makes his own, but that guy is a stud.
Joe Johnston, Restaurateur
Frozen shrimp. It's a fast-cooking, healthy, and flexible protein. We'll make shrimp cocktail for a light dinner, then use the extra cooked shrimp for salads. Mexican-style shrimp cocktail with avocado, chiles, tomatoes, etc. is another favorite use. We also do stir-fry, simmer sauces, and grilled shrimp.
Chef Massimo De Francesca, Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, Kimpton Hotel
Coconut milk in a can. I use it in soups, sauces, and even in morning smoothies with berries.
Michael Rusconi, Chef and Owner, Rusconi's American Kitchen
For the home, I will occasionally buy a whole roasted chicken from Costco. We usually eat some of it roasted, then turn some of it into enchiladas and make stock with the bones.
Gary Lasko Proprietor, The Stockyards
Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze. It's great on grilled vegetables -- especially mushroom caps, asparagus, and eggplant -- also sausages, etc. It's versatile and a great way to add depth and high tones to a variety of dishes.
Farah Khalid Chef and Owner, Curry Corner
Jalapeño peppers. Chopping them up and adding them to sauces, pasta, and even rice adds a kick, which when added with different flavors, tickles the taste buds.
Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Phoenix® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.