By Mike Thayer
Most everybody has at least a bottle of ketchup, a jar of jam and some sort of salad dressing in their fridge. After all, you need ketchup for those fries, some kind of jam for toast in the morning and ranch dressing (salad dressing for men) for that dinner salad. In addition to that sparsely stocked, condiment decorated fridge, the typical bachelor also has an assortment of condiment packages from fast food restaurants tucked away somewhere.
Don't be typical. Having a refrigerator that's well stocked with an assortment of condiments isn't just handy for the obvious uses like mentioned above, but having a good variety of them helps you to create more layers of great flavor and impromptu dressings, sauces and marinades!
Below are some classic, trendy and much-more-versatile-than-you-thought condiment choices that make up a well stocked fridge. I've listed the obvious use for each, plus some alternative uses that are all another dose of YUM!
Jellies/jams: Traditional use is on toast, but try a dollop of grape jelly in chili. Yes, it's a secret ingredient for many competitive chili cooks. Grape jelly or jam is also great paired with chili sauce to make a sauce for meatballs. Buy some ready made meatballs and put them in the crock pot with a dollop of grape jam and a generous dose of chili sauce, you'll love it!
Ketchup: Yes, ketchup is THE pairing with french fries and is quite often used to top burgers. But ketchup is also great on so many other things, a ketchup glaze on meatloaf; the base ingredient to make Sloppy Joes; a key ingredient to a good sweet and sour sauce; an add to BBQ sauce; if you don't like Sriracha flavor as is, cut it with some ketchup; then there's the classic home made Thousand Island, combining ketchup, mayo and a bit of relish....
Mustard: The classic use is on a hot dog. Keep a variety on hand, yellow, brown, Dijon, the brown and Dijon are nice changes of pace and it all keeps well. Mustard is a GREAT marinade ingredient and mixed with some mayo and a little, garlic, seasoning salt or dry rub it makes a really nice impromptu aioli. Mustard is also a great binder for BBQ, applying it to that pork shoulder or whatever you're preparing to put on the smoker before putting on the dry rub.
Mayonnaise: It's typically used to dress a sandwich, but there's SO much you can do with mayo! There's the aforementioned aoili; it's a base ingredient in egg salad, tuna salad, chicken salad, etc.; it's a base ingredient for coleslaw and salad dressings; it's better than butter for a grilled cheese!
Ranch Dressing: Ask a man what kind of dressing he wants on his salad and this is THE most popular choice. It's a great impromptu dip for chips and veggies, it's a nice alternative on a burger and it's a super add to many recipes using ground beef like meatloaf, meatballs and burgers. It's an excellent add to Mexican fare and it's even good in a white lasagna! Ranch paired with Srirachi is an EXCELLENT combo!
Italian Dressing: A popular ladies choice salad dressing, the only reason I have Italian dressing in my fridge is because it makes for a pretty darn good marinade when you're too lazy to create one from scratch. It's excellent with grilled or crock pot chicken or pork. And sure, if I'm cooking for company, there's that for the lady salads.....
Pickles, relish: A classic burger or hot dog topping, you really can't make a good tuna salad, chicken salad, or egg salad without them and even if you don't like pickles or relish, just a hint of pickle juice can go a long way to flavor so many dishes! It's a great add to a Bloody Mary (that's a dish, right?), Mac & Cheese (yes, really!), tenderizes meat well, kicks ordinary bottled BBQ sauce up another notch.
BBQ sauce: I prefer to make my own, but hey, sometimes you need a "quickie". BBQ sauce is the classic glaze for ribs, a dressing for pulled pork and paired with bacon turns an ordinary burger into something special. I've already mentioned kicking ordinary BBQ sauce up a notch by using pickle juice, bourbon is another great add. BBQ sauce also lends itself well to oriental cuisine and leftovers like pork fried rice. Throw in some soy, some Sriracha and you've got a great sauce!
Steak sauce: It's not just for steak my friends. While the popular brands such as A-1 or Heinz 57 are also great on a burger, this stuff is excellent in a whole bunch of foods! It adds body to soups or stews, is awesome as a convenient marinade for any kind of meat/veggie combo kabob and fish tacos are stellar with this as an added ingredient!
Worcestershire sauce: Packing a savory punch Worcestershire sauce is probably one of THE most versatile condiments you can have in your fridge. The beauty of Worcestershire is that it compliments ANY kind of meat or fish and marries well with a variety of other ingredients. Use it as is on prepared meats, use it in the preparation of raw meats for the grill, oven or frying pan - it's a FANTASTIC marinade; It's good in soups, salads, casseroles, grilled fare..... when you can't figure out what flavor is missing in whatever sauce, marinade or dip you just made, splash in some Worcestershire and it makes it all better! Worcestershire is the Duct Tape of the culinary world.
Louisiana Hot Sauce: I love a few splashes on my scrambled eggs or an omelette. Louisiana Hot Sauce is also my go-to base ingredient for hot wings. Some hot sauce, butter and Parmesan cheese makes a great impromptu pan sauce for just about any kind of meat or fish.
Sriracha: Classic uses are to kick oriental dishes up a notch. But it's great on so many other things if you're looking for a little heat. Excellent on burgers (mix it with your ketchup); it compliments sweet potato fries SO nicely; mix it with sour cream for a spicy potato chip dip; add it to just about any kind of soup for a little punch of extra flavor!
Soy or Teriyaki sauce: If you couldn't already tell, a quick stir fry or fried rice combining some leftovers is a go-to meal for me. Soy and Teriyaki aren't just for oriental dishes. Either sauce is a fantastic base in creating a marinade for any cut of beef, pork, or chicken and yes, is excellent with grilled fish as well. Either sauce lends itself well to putting a twist on BBQ. And yes, it can even add a new depth of flavor to a good old fashioned plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Butter and Soy or Teriyaki, along with a little minced garlic can also make veggies sing!
Chili sauce: When you think of shrimp cocktail, you think chili sauce. I've already mentioned how paired up with grape jelly it makes a great sauce for meatballs, but chili sauce is quite good as a change of pace ingredient in just about any kind of stir fry.
The key thing to remember with any of these, have FUN with it! If you're in a flavor rut for example, try some new flavor combinations on a burger or a sandwich and if you find something you like, expand on other dishes from there. If you've never tried a particular flavor before, combine it something you know you like to create a slightly different flavor profile. If you're like, "Hey, not bad!" then you're on to something, use it in other dishes. It's all about layers of flavor, right from the convenience of your fridge. You didn't know it had so much potential, did you?
When I'm looking for a change of pace for my popcorn, I reach for the condiment packets in my fridge. Arby's Sauce is a great add to melted butter, so is honey for a little sweet! I recently tried BBQ sauce and it ROCKED! Honey from Chick Fillet or KFC is also a great add to stir fry or in creating a better than ordinary glaze for BBQ. And at the very least, if you don't have a bottle of something mentioned above, packets from a fast food restaurant is a GREAT way to sample something. Maybe you don't like a particular ingredient so much by itself, but combined with another flavor or two, well, it might turn out to be another dose of YUM! Grab that packet from the restaurant, it's a far cheaper way to explore some new flavors than buying a full bottle of whatever at the grocery store.
$pend Wisely My Friends...