Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Disasters in the Kitchen

Usually they’re my fault—dropping a hot turkey on the floor, miscounting the cups of flour, not realizing my oven was overheating, forgetting to add something important, misreading the directions. 

Once in a while I’m over-hopeful about a new recipe. Pizza baked on a grill sounded delicious to me, but it was my biggest disaster ever.  I stepped away from the grill for 30 seconds and returned to a charcoal crust.

There was no way to save that pizza.  In other instances, though, I’ve been able to turn a disaster into something edible—and sometimes something good.

When clumps of cake fell out of the angel food cake pan I had set upside down on a large soda bottle to cool—I misread the directions—I invented a new dessert.  I put chunks of cake in small bowls, added a scoop of ice cream and chocolate sauce and popped the bowls in the freezer until serving time.  I called it Sundae Cake.

When I burned the rice, I scraped out the non-burned part and put it in a new pot.  I knew that if I added water, all the rice would taste burned.  I’ve also burned potatoes and managed to salvage some of them in the same way.  Now when I leave the kitchen, I carry the timer with me.

Here are some ways to rescue potential disasters:

Undercooking meat is far preferable to overcooking it.  You can cook it longer but you can’t un-cook it.  If the meat is too rare, slice it and put the slices under a hot broiler for 15 seconds.  If you’ve overcooked it, shred it, add BBQ sauce and serve it in a bun.

What I just said is not true for poultry.  Err on the side of over-cooking to prevent salmonella poisoning.  If chicken is undercooked, put it back in the pan or oven or grill and keep cooking until it has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer—good advice from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

If you’ve put too much salt in soup, remove 1 cup of the broth, if possible, and add 1 cup water. Or you can add more ingredients to dilute the saltiness: 1-2 diced potatoes, a handful of dry noodles, 1/2 cup rice or some dried lentils plus 1 cup water.  Heat for another 10-15 minutes, until your additions are fully cooked.

No matter what occurred in the privacy of your kitchen, don’t tell anyone at the table about your disaster.  Just say it’s a new recipe.

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