Food First Aid

If you live long enough (and cook enough meals ) you will undoubtedly create a kitchen disaster. It may be as small as a burned pot of rice, or as large as an inedible Thanksgiving turkey, but you can rest assured that a disaster is out there with your name on it!Although I personally have never made a kitchen blunder (Cough-cough … oh, the smoke? It’s nothing. What’s the number for 911?), I thought I’d share a few ways to bail yourself out of a kitchen catastrophe. I hope these help you when the time comes. The important thing is to remember to keep your cool – I once flamed a pan of rice with four couples over for dinner. Even though at least three people were watching me, no one knew about my goof until I confessed after the meal because I kept calm.

Problem: Too much salt in soup or stew
Add a cut-up raw potato and simmer it in the soup or stew for about 30 minutes. The potato acts as a sponge, soaking up salt. Throw the potato away and serve up the soup. If you don’t have a potato for the remedy, add more unsalted liquid (water, stock, etc.), a little tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes (or something else slightly sweet), and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to counter the saltiness.

Problem: lopsided cookies
Quickly remove fully baked cookies to cooling racks, and return under-baked ones to the oven. Time the baking carefully. Make certain that cookie sheets are staggered and not touching for best heat circulation. Best results come from heavy metal cookie sheets with shiny tops and dull undersides. And, remember, cookies are supposed to be easy!

Problem: Under-ripe fruit
To hasten ripening, if you have two or three days, place hard fruit in a brown paper bag with a ripe piece of fruit and store in a cool part of the kitchen. If you need the fruit for a dessert tonight, slice and simmer it in a favorite compatible juice, such as apple or orange. Add a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg, perhaps a bit of chopped mint and a dash of a favorite liqueur (which always makes things better), then cook until just tender. Cool the mixture, then chill. Serve with other sliced, fresh fruit, or top with a spoonful of frozen yogurt or ice cream, and no one will ever know about the problem.

Problem: overcooked, mushy vegetables
Almost any mushy veggie can be puréed in a blender, thickened with a touch of softened butter or yogurt, seasoned with herbs and deemed respectable on the plate. Another solution is to purée the veggies, and add some stock and seasoning to make a vegetable soup.

Problem: Falling cakes
If your cake falls in the oven, cut it into chunks and dip it in a chocolate fondue. The texture will be uneven, but that won’t matter. Use the cake for a custard bread/cake pudding. Another idea is to soak the sliced cake in a fruit-juice/liqueur sauce and top with fruit and ice cream for a dynamite dessert and an ingenious cover-up.

Problem: Fruit pies bubbling over
At the first sign of this problem, immediately place a cookie sheet on the rack underneath the pie to prevent the filling from spilling onto the oven bottom and burning. Next, place a funnel into the pie’s center so the fruit juices can rise into it to prevent the bubble-over. This might look odd, but it works.

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