I know I promised some kitchen tips for meals-gone-wrong in a previous post, but I was distracted by St. Patty’s Day, so I had to give my two cents' worth on Irish Cuisine. Many of you enjoyed the post and even commented on it. However, I cross-posted it to another foodie site where it raised some hackles.
It appears some folks were offended that I would dare address the shortcomings of Irish Cuisine (I did dare), some asked if I’d ever really been to Ireland (no, but it’s on my bucket list), and one went ballistic over my use of Irish stereotypes -- drinking, dancing, etc. (as if that’s never been done before).
Well, to all those whose sense of humor has gone down the drain like a pint of flat Guinness I have this to say: Póg mo thóin (which as many of you already know is Irish for ‘thanks for your suggestions’).
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s move on.
I mentioned in a previous post that some meals, like some blog posts, need to be ditched because some disasters just cannot be fixed.
When I was a freshman in college our school hosted weekend events to attract new students. At one such event I was seated next to a gorgeous high school senior during dinner. How gorgeous? My goodness, her skin was radiant, her blonde hair gave the sun a run for its money, and her eyes danced a like an Irish maid after two shots of Jameson’s.
I was smitten.
During the course of our conversation and laughter, she asked me if I knew So-and-so, the head of our choral music department. In my rush to be witty and oh-so-impressive I replied, “You mean Old Leather Lungs?” (Our pet name for her.)
Her dancing eyes turned dark and her face froze.
“That’s my grandmother,” she spat.
I couldn’t fix that.
Didn’t even try.
But here are some kitchen disasters that you could fix:
Salty Soup, Stew, or Gravy
I've seen more than my share of books and websites suggesting that you put some sliced potatoes into the dish and continue to cook it so that the potatoes can absorb the salt. Sorry, but that won't work. The only way to reduce the saltiness of a sauce or soup? Dilute it by adding more broth or other liquid.
Over-cooked, Dried-Out Meat
We've all made steak, chops or chicken breasts that were overcooked and dry. How can we remedy it so our dinner guests do not spend the rest of the evening gnawing and gnashing on tough-as-leather meat? Here's one ploy I've used with great success: Pour any drippings into a saucepan, add (depending on how much meat you've made) one to four cups of beef or chicken stock and a tablespoon or two of wine and bring to a boil. Slice the meat, place it in a roasting pan or casserole dish, and pour the stock mixture over it. Cover with foil and place it in a warm oven for five minutes. The meat will not only be edible, but also will actually taste good. And it beats feeding it all to the dog.
Burned Soup or Stew
How many of us have labored over a great soup or stew only to have it burn when our backs are turned? I had a friend who had a knack for creating a delicious Caribbean Stew who, after setting it on the stove to simmer one Sunday afternoon, decided it was a good time to down a couple of jumbo margaritas to while away the time. He woke up on Tuesday. The whole thing had to be ditched because the stew and the metal of the pan fused to create a new alloy.
However, if you limit your margarita imbibing and catch your stew before it has a chance to burn too much, hold back the urge to stir it, then ladle (don’t pour) it into a new pot. Be sure you start ladling from the top, tasting each ladleful until it starts to taste burnt. Ditch the rest.
Hot/Spicy Sauce, Dressing or Soup
Not everyone shares my proclivity toward spicy foods and even I sometimes overdo it. So how can you tame the heat once it’s lit? You can lower the temp a bit by adding a touch of sweetness via some tomatoes (good) or a squirt or two of ketchup (better) or sweet fruit (mangoes, peaches, etc) depending on the make-up of your sauce. You can also turn it down a notch with the addition of a glop or two of plain yogurt (pretty effective in curries), cream or even milk. If you have the time and ingredients, you might want to create another batch without the hot stuff then combine the two.
I like my potatoes smashed as opposed to mashed. I like to bite into bits of potatoes in my mashed potatoes but I don’t like to bite into bits of flour in my gravy. Here’s a remedy for that: Pour the gravy into a blender (but not more than halfway or you will have a mess on your hands) and process until the gravy is smooth. This should take around 30 seconds or so. Pour the gravy through a wire-mesh strainer into another pan and reheat.
With the exception of more than a few cafeteria cooks, no one really likes to serve up mushy vegetables. Here’s a quick and cute way to redeem them: Melt a tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan then add 1 tablespoon flour. Cook and stir for a few minutes until smooth. Slowly add 1/3-cup milk and stir over medium-low heat until thickened. Add 2 cups of veggies then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and/or a pinch of herb or spice of choice (thyme, tarragon, parsley, nutmeg, etc) to taste. Heat through and voilá - creamed veggies! (Or as I like to call them: Légumes à la Crème.)
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I smell something burning. Hold my margarita, will ya?