Five Fail-Safe Food Add-Ons

While dining at Catalan a few weeks ago, I was heartened to see the following note on their menu: "Add seared Foie gras (to anything, and we do mean anything) $9."

Foie gras is what I like to call a Fail-Safe Food Add-On because its presence virtually always improves the dish. In fact, it's number five on my list of favorite food adds:

5. Foie gras Foie gras, aka "meat butter," increases a food's richness factor by a power of ten. I suggest adding a slab to a rare Kobe beef burger, layering thin slices with brie and crackers, or weaving chunks into an omelet. Just a little goes a long way: a good thing considering those fowl livers tiny and rather pricey.

4. Cheese If you haven't already heard, cheese makes everything better. With so many different kinds, it's difficult not to find the perfect complement to that sandwich, casserole or pasta. Even pie benefits from a good old slice of cheddar.

3. Nuts. If you or your child has a severe peanut allergy, stop reading. Everyone else, consider how much depth and variety nuts add to a dish. Think brownies with walnuts, chicken salad with almonds, grilled salmon with a pecan crust. A handful, dash, or even sprinkle of nuts transforms heretofore homely fare into something sophisticated.

2. Avocado Sliced, diced or mashed (as in guacamole), avocado provides filling creaminess to burritos, wraps and salads. And with such much "good" fat, avocado is a terrific substitute for other artery-clogging spreads like mayonnaise, butter and cream cheese.

1. Fried Egg Dump one on steamed spinach, a barbecued chicken sandwich, spaghetti marinara, etc., etc., etc., and watch the ovum do its magic. That wonderful runny yolk seeps into a dish's every nook and cranny, infusing all components with a salty butteriness that emboldens all other flavors.

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Joanna O'Leary