Always refers to sea salt rather than any chemical-laden so-called table salt. (The chemicals are to make it flow, I believe.) I like Malden salt so much I can eat it.
Unless otherwise stated, this refers to freshly ground black pepper.
Unless otherwise stated, this refers to unsalted butter, which makes controlling the level of seasoning easier. (I still tend to over-salt, probably because I like salt.) Salted butter has few places in cooking but it is useful for making beurre noisette, (according to my fish guru, the eminent Mr. R. Stein).
With but one exception, I always use home-made stocks. It is so important to avoid the common, always-tastes-the-same, subtle-as-an-air-raid, manufactured flavour offered by chemical-rich cubes.
There are four stocks that I like to use as follows:
- Chicken Stock
- A well-flavoured chicken stock, used as a base for sauces, risottos, etc.
- Light Chicken Stock
- A lightly flavoured chicken stock used typically as a base for soups so as not to dominate the flavour of the actual main soup ingredients.
- Brown Chicken Stock
- Made by first caramelizing the chicken and vegetables to get a rich brown stock useful for gravies and darker, more intense sauces.
- Duck Stock
- Another caramelized stock useful for a beef stock substitute (which can be something of a pain to make) and particularly good in French Onion Soup as well as for duck gravies and sauces, of course.
[Oh, OK, since you asked, the exception is soaking couscous when I don’t mind using a weakish manufactured stock.]