It happened again; I suffered a kitchen disaster. Boy, do I hate when that happens! This time, I ruined an entire pot of pasta because I got busy and was not paying attention. By the time I realized, the pasta had cooked beyond al dente all the way to al mushe. I could barely make out the pasta shape!
It killed me to dump the whole thing and start over, but there was no way to undo that disaster — it was that far gone! Thankfully, that’s not true for every cooking mistake. Here is a list you’re going to want to keep handy just in case.
When the pasta is not totally mush but all stuck together as if by glue, drain and cool immediately. Then return the pasta to a saute pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and toss while reheating. That should take care of the stickiness, while no one is the wiser.
TOO MUCH SALT
It’s a common cooking mistake. If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup and you have enough ingredients, double the recipe or make more by half. Then mix it in with the salty batch a bit at a time until you’ve reached your desired flavor. Another trick is to add a bit more unsalted water to the mix, provided this will not also dilute the flavor.
Don’t toss it until you’ve tried this neat trick: Use your cheese grater to quickly scrape off the burned layer. Works like magic! Other options: Scrape off the worst, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and present as crostini or use for croutons.
Wet your fingers and generously flick some water on the rolls. Then wrap in foil and heat in a 250 F oven for 10 minutes.
The first sign of a cake that’s not done is that sinkhole in the middle. Once cooled, you cannot rebake it. But don’t worry; this is not a hopeless kitchen disaster. Break the cooled cake into pieces (even those parts that are undercooked) and layer them with whipped cream and fresh fruit to make dessert parfaits or one large trifle. Perfect!
If you’ve overcooked broccoli, asparagus or similar vegetables, don’t despair. Tweak your menu a bit to include creamed vegetable soup. Puree the vegetables in the blender, pour in a bit of heavy cream, check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. There! Cooking mistake averted.
You can totally spin this disaster by rubbing the beef with a mixture of garlic, ground black pepper and chili powder, presenting it as “blackened.”
Or switch things up! Cut away the over-charred portions, then slice that charred beef for stir-fry, fajitas or salad.
BURNT PUDDING, CUSTARD, SOUP
Even the most seasoned chefs have been known to burn a custard or two. If you notice that the bottom layer of custard or cream-based soup has turned dark, stop stirring immediately. You don’t want to incorporate any of the burned bottom into the unburnt portions. Pour the remaining custard, pudding or cream into a new pan, making sure you don’t scrape up any of the part that’s scorched at the bottom, then keep cooking.
There are several techniques you can try to thicken the sauce. Work some flour into small amounts of butter. Bring the sauce to boil and drop the flour-butter balls in one at a time while stirring, until the sauce is your desired thickness. Cornstarch is usually a good thickener, provided you have mixed it with cold water first. Add it to the boiling liquid a little at a time while stirring. Some cooks use dried potato flakes as an emergency thickener.
Give those greens a lovely bath in a big bowl of very, very cold water and a few ice cubes. Let this sit for 10 minutes or so. Next, gently lift the greens out of the cold water, wrap them in a damp tea towel and stick them in the refrigerator. If they’re not completely over the hill, they crisp up nicely and look equally fresh and lovely.
When it’s too far gone for even fruit salad, get out the blender to make smoothies. Prefer dessert? Add a little agave, sugar or maple syrup for a great ice cream topping.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”