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Marcus Samuelsson, Berbere spice blend
The Ethiopian-born chef (and owner of Red Rooster Harlem) relies on his homeland?s signature flavor for many of his dishes--most notably his famous Fried Yardbird. Use the spice as a rub for meats or as a slightly hot booster for stews.
Dominique Ansel, Maldon sea salt
You know him from the Cronut, but equally as heavenly are his doughy, caramelized pastries called DKAs (“Dominique’s Kouign Amann”). His secret ingredient for that crunchy crust: Maldon flaked sea salt from England. A light dusting will transform even chocolate-chip cookies scooped from the tube.
Find it at many specialty grocers or Whole Foods stores throughout NYC
Lisa Geffen, Verjus
We can?t get enough of Williamsburg?s French Quarter-inspired oyster bar Maison Premiere. And the lady behind the seafood trays tipped us off to verjus, a pressed juice from un-ripened wine grapes. It?s like vinegar but less harsh and a bit sweeter. Substitute it for balsamic in your vinaigrettes for a fresh, springlike flavor.
Order online from Long Island?s Wölffer Estate
Marc Murphy, Agar-agar
Vegetarians, this one’s for you: Whenever a recipe calls for gelatin or other firming agents, swap in this Japanese, algae-based powder. Murphy mixes it in the tomato jam that he serves with toasted focaccia at Kingside, his new restaurant inside The Viceroy hotel.
Find it online or at Sunrise Mart locations throughout NYC
Glenn Harris, Burrata
The brains behind hot spots like Jane and The Smith loves a good cheese. (Who doesn?t?) But it?s this creamy cousin of mozzarella that he makes himself and uses the most--in dishes like Sicilian Baked Eggs or spread atop Artichoke Flatbread. Though, if you can dream it, you can add a dollop of burrata to it.
Find it at any specialty grocer, deli or cheese shop
Danny Amend, Fennel pollen
Have you tried out Marco’s yet (the Italian sister spot to Franny’s pizza in Brooklyn)? If not, finish this story later--go now. And what you’ll find across the menu--from the roasted chicken to the wood-grilled olives--is fennel pollen, a summery, almost citrusy ingredient commonly used around Lazio and southern Italy. Dust a few pinches atop your poultry, pork or fish before popping it in the oven.
Geoffrey Zakarian, Lebanese pine nuts
You throw ’em on greens and toss ’em in pastas, but not all pine nuts are created equal. The Chopped judge (and chef of The Lambs Club and The National) uses only the “real deal”--imported nuts from the Middle East--which have a richer taste and buttery texture.
Find it at Kalustyan’s, 123 Lexington Ave. (at E. 28th St.); 212-685-3451 or kalustyans.com
Elise Kornack, Trickling Springs butter
There’s a beautiful little concept happening in Carroll Gardens: Take Root, a 12-seat restaurant where a singular chef (that’d be Kornack) prepares seasonal tasting menus once nightly. The key is in the menu’s simplicity (say, scallops over beets and greens) and the quality of ingredients. So when it comes to butter, Kornack trusts only Trickling Springs, made from local dairy farms’ cream.
Find it at Whole Foods and Union Market stores throughout NYC
Akhtar Nawab, Tamarind paste
Over at La Cenita (the Meatpacking District’s popular new Mexican-inspired spot), expect a nontraditional spin on your favorite below-the-border dishes. Nawab, a La Esquina vet, mixes tamarind paste with chipotle and honey in his crispy shrimp tacos. You can also imitate his lamb-glaze recipe by combining the paste with a touch of maple syrup, ancho-chile pepper and agave.
Keavy Blueher and Allison Kave, Moho Chocolate
The boozy bakers of Butter & Scotch (a Smorgasburg favorite and forthcoming cocktail-dessert bar) swear by this direct-trade chocolate from Belize. Taste it for yourself in their Hot Chocolate Pudding or just buy a few bars to nibble as you will.
Find it at Roni-Sue’s Chocolate Shoppe, 148 Forsyth St. (at Rivington St.); 212-677-1216 or roni-sue.com
Sure, on Sunday nights you make a mean fried chicken. But sorry, Marcus Samuelsson’s still got you beat. How? Well, for one, he is a James Beard-award-winning chef. But he also uses a secret Ethiopian spice.
We picked the brains (and grocery carts) of some of New York’s hottest chefs to help up your culinary game.
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