Thursday, March 24, 2011

Five Kitchen Disasters and Five Easy Fixes

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.

For instance:

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.

Lumpy Gravy

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.

Overcooked Veggies

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?

Warren

44 comments:

  1. Thanks, Warren. Some great tips for salvaging dishes gone haywire. I'm sure I'll use some of them in the future, and I wish I'd had them at various times in the past.

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  2. HILARIOUS story, though I felt the mortification for your younger self! Great kitchen tips though :)

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  3. Great tips Warren. I definitely have donet he over-salting and overcooked veggies. That is a great idea to turn them into soup.

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  4. @Richard Bauman. Thanks, Richard, believe me, I've had lots of experience rectifying kitchen disasters, lol. Fortunately, I'm one to learn from my own mistakes...well, most of them. :-)

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  5. @BigAppleNosh. Glad it brought a smile, Serena. And 'mortification' is the perfect word!

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  6. @Dawn. It's amazing how one has to improvise when the meal has gone awry and there's folks waiting at the table. I've pulled the Creamed Vegetables out of my hat more than few times, lol.

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  7. @cajunlicious. Thanks for dropping by, Jessica. I try to post weekly (that's not 'weakly' although some may argue that fact) so feel free to stop by often!

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  8. I wish we could read your witty comments daily! Even better I'd love to come sit around your table and eat your un-f-k ups! Great post Warren and always a riot!

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  9. @Pretend Chef. I wish I had more time to write, Rochelle. :-) And as you know, you're more than welcome to drop by, there's always room around the table. And bring the fam! lol

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  10. Love the post! Always brings a laugh and a smile.
    Thanks again for the read, now i"m back to my Jameson and Coffee. Cheers! Kelly @
    Something Different For Dinner

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  11. @Kelly. Jameson and Coffee? Pour me a spot as well - as they say, it's the Breakfast of Champions. :-)

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  12. Great tips! We have all overcooked, over salted, burned and dried out food before. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. What timing. I ran to the grocery store yesterday leaving my black bean kale stew to build a 1 inch crust of burnt on the bottom. Coincidentally I did exactly as you recommend and gently dumped the saved stew into another pot and carried on. It worked. I was shocked. My mother however swears that adding some peanut butter to the pot is a miracle. She swears.

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  14. @Beth Michelle. Thanks for dropping by! I try to post weekly so feel free to stop in often. :-)

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  15. @Michelle. I've heard/read of the peanut butter ploy as well. For some it worked, for others it didn't. I've never tried it since ladling the soup out to another pot always seemed to do the trick for me.

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  16. This looks absolutely fantastic! Thanks for sharing!

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  17. @Carla. Thanks! I hope you can drop by again. Lots more blog buffoonery where this comes from!

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  18. I really needed those tips as i am newly married and have started with home cooking for which i am not really good at. Really find it fantastic as they are great tips to me and again thanks a lot. I will be dropping by as often as i could as i find your posts very informative to me. Again many thanks to you.

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  19. so helpful! i've wrecked up more dishes than i care to mention here, and this advice would have gone a long way toward fixing them. and sorry about your awkward moment with your irish lass...i was once trying to reassure a friend that he wasn't fat, so i pointed out the nearest large stranger and said, 'you're not fat, HE'S fat!' my friend looked at me and said 'that's my dad.'

    sigh. at least food can be fixed.

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  20. @a.maren. Sorry about the past disasters, hopefully these will help in the future. :-)

    And the faux pas with your chubby friend? Too funny! Your sense of humor fits right in here - I try to post weekly so don't be a stranger. Take care!

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  21. OMG - you speak French too ! On another foodie blog someone made 'Irish car bomb' cupcakes. You can only imagine how that title went down with her bloggy readers in the UK and Ireland - at least YOU didn't do that. :o) Oops ! I seem to have finished my margarita ...

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  22. @Dan.Eliot. Thanks for dropping by. More tips to come!

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  23. @Kooky Girl. LOL! Yes, I speak French, too. And if you slam a car door on my hand you'll also get a good dose of Brooklyn-ese.

    Believe it or not, I saw the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, too! What are the odds?

    And hey, don't worry about your empty glass, I got a pitcherful in the kitchen. :-)

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  24. Those are useful tips, really informative. Thanks for sharing. Great post!

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  25. Great tips. I'll bookmark in a new folder "How To Save My Kitchen Disasters" of which I have many! Lumpy gravy - happens to me all the time. Now I'll know what to do for a quick fix. Thanks!

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  26. Well then what are you waiting for ? Top me up ! Off to France 2moro for the weekend - can't wait - I'll get to practise a little. I can only imagine the Brooklynese. Funny. Thank you for the follow - now I got seven. I will be raising a glass of red to that. Happy days.

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  27. @Lin Ann. Glad this helps! Hey, what are the chances of you making it down to Florida next week? I'll be doing an in-home demo for your mom and a bunch of friends.

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  28. @Kooky Girl. Lemme see your glass. There you go.

    France? For the weekend? Ooh-la-la. (More French there).

    I better get a t-shirt, at least. :-)

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  29. Those are useful tips, really informative. Thanks for sharing. Great post!

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  30. Loved this post! You are a great writer. Screw the Irish, not only are they always drunk and dancing they are apparently in denial too ;) I am bookmarking this post in case I to indulge in my margarita too much while cooking. It's been know to happen!

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  31. @Dee. LOL, Dee. Bookmark away! And if you find that you made too many pitchers of Margarita's and you want to be sure not to burn anything, you know I'd love to help you finish it up - I take my margaritas on the rocks. E-mail me. :-D

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  32. That just may work as I'm an on the rocks Margarita girl myself :)

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  33. Great post. But I love mushy veggies :)

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  34. @Kim. Thanks! I do to. Sometimes. The other times I settle for Légumes à la Crème. :-)

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  35. Great tips - very humorous. Thank you for sharing!

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  36. @feistyeats. Thanks, Sarah! I hope you will drop by again.

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  37. Hi Warren, checking out your tips that bookmarked - need to offset some vinegar in a dish. Didn't see your response to my early comment, sorry! But you saw it on facebook back when anyway. When I do visit my mother-in-law (was hoping to in June, but can't work it out) I'll definitely let you know so we can plan another dinner!

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  38. Oh no! No tips about that. I know it's in a book I have somewhere. Nice visiting you anyway. Have a great day!

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  39. @Lin Ann. Thanks for dropping by again. Don't be a stranger! lol. Anyway, let me know when you're in the area, I just moved to this side of the state. Take care!

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