Kitchen Essentials: Sauces and Condiments

For the hopeful home-chefs out there, I wanted to share some of the core staple sauces I keep in my kitchen.  If you’re starting out, this is a great opportunity to setup a base of sauces that you can intermingle and experience new flavours and cuisines.

  1. Low-sodium soy: for pretty much anything Chinese, or goes really well with honey and balsamic in salad dressings
  2. Oyster: I use it over blanched bok-choy or gai-lan Chinese vegetables; great mixing with the other Asian sauces for stir-frys and fried noodles as well
  3. Black bean (preferably the paste) – I use this over a family recipe of tofu and ground pork (tofu never tasted this good)
  4. Teriyaki – standard fare for wings or stir-frys
  5. Tabasco – morning hangover Caesars or for a punch over scrambled eggs
  6. Sriracha (thai hot sauce) – you see a variation of this sauce at pretty much every Vietnamese Pho restaurant; try it with eggs, it’s unbelievable
  7. Vinegars: if you like fruity vegetable dressings, then the world is your oyster here – you can find various fruit vinegars, but I primarily just get a good bottle of balsamic.
  8. Oil: I have 3 different oils I keep handy for different purposes: 1) extra virgin olive oil – for salad dressings and flavour over finished dishes; 2) regular olive oil – for medium heat and the majority of my cooking; and 3) Canola oil – for browning/searing meats and fish.  This has to do with the different smoking points of oil where it becomes unhealthy.  Canola can withstand higher temperatures which makes it ideal for searing.
  9. Worcestershire: in your Caesar, meat marinades or salad dressings
  10. Sesame oil: a great finishing oil for chicken-cashew or other asian dishes
  11. Dijon mustard: a must-have for salad dressings and as a substitute for mayo
  12. Salsa: I love salsa…the dancing part and the condiment.  #1 condiment in North America for a reason.
  13. Others: olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes and artichokes (for anything Mediterranean, I like to always replenish this list of ingredients)

There you go.  With this stash of sauces in your fridge, you’re on your way to a ton of healthy and flavourful meals.

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Eh Mon! Pass the Jerk Chicken!

For those of you who have been to the Reef on Commercial Drive, or the Caribbean festival at Lonsdale Quay, you know how good Jerk Chicken is!  So to satisfy my craving this week for something island-spicy, I managed to find some jerk seasoning at Market Meats – my favorite butcher shop on 4th avenue.

Jerk seasoning usually includes ingredients like allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, and garlic.  You could make it yourself or buy something off the shelf like one I found called “Walkerswood”.

Usually I would marinade something like this overnight, but due to some bad prep on my part, I only had 2 hours to slap on the amazing rub on some free-range chicken thighs (score the chicken with a knife) that I purchased.  In the fridge for 2 hours, onto a baking pan covered with foil, and then into a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  Turn the oven over to broil on high for the final 15 minutes of baking to get a nice browning of chicken skin.

As for side dishes, I had boiled some beats (45 minutes in boiling water) and chopped up some yams (seasoned and in the oven at the same time as the chicken).

Heat tip: If you have a lower tolerance for spice, turn down the heat of the jerk spice by mixing with some brown sugar or honey.

Difficulty Rating: 2 out of 5