Trendy faux-dive bars are all about the pickleback, but back in my day, I had to sneak sips of the salty brine because it was “weird” and “the pickles were starting to dry out.” But pickle juice is more than a cucumber-preserving liquid, and I’m glad the world is starting to appreciate its broader culinary uses.
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I love a bit of pickle brine in a martini, but I have recently been splashing it into hot, sputtering pans of buttery vegetables with great success. Rather than tasting aggressive and sour, the vinegar reduces to a slightly sweeter form of itself while cutting through some of the butter’s richness. There’s also no need to raid your spice rack, as the seasonings within brine do all the work in that department. I particularly enjoy a garlicky Clausen brine with crispy, buttery baby shiitakes. The meatiness of the mushroom greatly benefits from the whisper of acid, and the pickling spices flavor without overwhelming. Add a tablespoon of brine just before you take your veggies off the heat, let it reduce for a mere minute or two, and serve as usual. (Other vegetables are good too, but try it with mushrooms first; you will not regret your choices.)