How To Stock Your Pantry Like An Adult

Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Arm yourselves with the building blocks of great cooking. Stock your pantry well with interesting staples, and cook like a pro.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Sriracha
If you haven't been turned on to the use-it-on-everything pleasures of Sriracha it's likely you've been living under a rock. And, if you'd like to make that rock taste better, put a little sriracha on it. The spicy red chile sauce has its origins in various Thai condiments and is made from a paste of chile peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.

We like to put it on sandwiches, mix it into mayo for a spicy dip, use it in pickling mixes, and add it to Bloody Marys for an extra kick.
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Compound Butter
Butter is an excellent delivery mechanism: Soften it, mix in ridiculously delicious things, and then keep it at the ready to slather on anything from steaks to pan-roasted vegetables.

And, butter mashed up with colorful herbs is just plain beautiful. Making your own compound version is beyond easy and will keep well in the freezer. Feel free to improvise, but definitely try this anchovy butter!
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Finishing Salts
Kosher or sea salt is essential for building flavor while cooking, but when it comes to adding a final burst of flavor or crunch, finishing salts are handy to have around. They're typically flakier or denser than cooking salts for the very reason that you want them to create texture — a light dusting administered at the last minute can completely change the profile of your dish.

Related: Insanely Good Banana Bread
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Preserved Lemon
Salty-tangy preserved lemons are, next to baby human beings, the most amazing thing you can make at home with little skill. Exaggeration? Perhaps. But they are incredibly versatile, deeply lemony, beautiful to behold — and they last forever and are dead-easy to make.

You don't even really need a proper recipe to make this wonder condiment, which originated in Morocco but is useful in everything from vinaigrettes to stews and wherever you want a bit of mellow acid: Just quarter a bunch of lemons, rub the insides with kosher salt and smush them into a large jar, adding more salt and lemon juice to cover as you stack.
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Yogurt
Yes, you have to keep yogurt in the fridge, but trust us: It's a pantry staple. Real-deal yogurt — the kind that's strained, using time and gravity, from whole milk and nothing else — is a beautiful thing, and versatile, too.

Think beyond breakfast. Stir it into soups and salad dressings and marinades. Gently spoon it upon a platter of seared vegetables or roasted meats, or to strain into thick, spreadable labneh dip. The word dollop was invented for yogurt, and the more you practice deploying it in savory environments, the more you'll come to rely on having real yogurt around.
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Dijon Mustard
Piquant French-style Dijon mustard made up of brown or black mustard seeds was originally made with verjus, the juice of unripened grapes. The verjus may have been replaced with vinegar but Dijon retains its tangy, spicy bite that makes it an ideal condiment for patés or as an emulsifier to vinaigrettes. Its tanginess and complex, lingering spice can be the highlight of a sandwich or a slow-cooked chicken with mustard sauce or leek vinaigrette.

Related: Tomatoes And Garlic The Way You Dreamed Of Them
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Miso
Brownish, salty, and with a texture like Play-Doh, miso is an ancient Japanese mash of fermented soybean with moldy rice known as koji. Sounding delicious yet? Keep reading. It ferments for as long as three years or as short as three days, depending on the kind of miso you're getting.

The only thing you need to know: Miso is good in everything. Make miso butter and slather it on corn or steaks. Stir a bit of miso into soup or spread it on fish for a marinade.
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Infused Vinegar
Store-bought vinegars are great, but infusing your own offers the double benefit of creating interesting flavor combinations as well as making something lasting and useful out of assorted leafy scraps that might otherwise go in the trash. Start with a quality white wine vinegar or white distilled vinegar, which absorb flavor well. Warm the base vinegar and add whatever herbs or stems or curious spices you've got on hand. Bottle it up and wait a week before using so that the flavors have time to meld and become pronounced. Be creative.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Whole Dried Chiles
Beyond mere heat, dried peppers bring a deep, rich flavor to whatever they touch. Drop them whole into slow-cooked beans for an understated effect or split the chile in half to unleash its fire.

We like to keep a mix of dried chiles and chile flakes. Add them by the pinch to pastas or wherever a touch of spice is required.

Related: How To Make Squid Ink Pasta — Thank Heavens

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Photo: Courtesy of Tasting Table.
Maple Syrup
The words maple flavored have no place in your kitchen. Quietly dispose of any fake maple products in your pantry. Deny any involvement in their purchase or use. Now go out and buy yourself some 100% pure maple syrup, the kind that comes out of big, old, pretty maple trees in cold places like Vermont and upstate New York.

Sure, you can put this fancy syrup on breakfast, but you can also bake with it, mix it into vinaigrettes and marinades, drizzle it over root vegetables before roasting, pour it into cocktails and more. It is a flexible and fascinating sweetener and worth every penny.

See everything else Tasting Table recommends you stock up on here.
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