Add This Not-so-Secret Ingredient to All Your Party Snacks

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Photo: Claire Lower

I love ham and roasts and all of the potatoes and pies, but December is, to me, Snack Season. It’s the time for texturally pleasing, salty bites, and the more you have, the merrier you’ll be. In addition to salt, there are two flavors that turn a good snack into a great one: Umami and tang. Worcestershire sauce has both.

“Umami & Tang” may sound like an insufferable natural wine bar, but they are important flavors that can do important things to your party spread. I’m sure I could think of a party snack that isn’t improved by Worcestershire sauce, but it would take a long time, and it’s not a particularly fun thought experiment. All of my favorites are made better by its presence, provided you get the real deal stuff with fermented anchovies and tamarind. Anchovies bring the deep savoriness and a little bit of funk, while tangy, fruity tamarind brightens and balances.

Start by adding it to a bottle of Heinz cocktail sauce (along with prepared horseradish) for a more flavorful shrimp cocktail; the funky little fish in the sauce will complement the briny shrimp while anchoring it to shore with a touch of earthiness. Next, go ahead and dash it into your deviled egg filling and give the mustard a little something to fight against, along with a touch of deep, dark sweetness by way of molasses. It’s also incredible in cheeseballs, cheese dips (both hot and cold), or the cheese filling in a savory choux puff.

Does a pot of sticky sweet party meatballs or lil’ smokies need Worcestershire sauce? Not technically, but “need” is such a nebulous concept, and it certainly would give the meat candy a more refined character (anchovies just have a way of doing that). Then there are dips—your spinach, your onion, the aforementioned cheese, your bean dips—all of them elevated by this incredible mixture of tiny fish, vinegar, alliums, tamarind, and molasses.

Dash it in to taste, stirring in between each addition until it tastes a little more savory and slightly tangy, with just a whisper of sweetness. Don’t sleep on cocktail applications either—a drop in a dirty martini is transcendent, and it belongs (without question) in a Bloody Mary.

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