Food First Aid - How to Fix Flops in the Kitchen .
Posted By: Lori A Date: Saturday, 26 February 2000, at 3:28 p.m.
How to Fix Flops in the Kitchen
Most cooks, from time to time, experience problems and food flops in the kitchen. The soup is too salty; the souffl* falls; the b*arnaise sauce curdles; the meringue pie topping is gummy; the cookies are unevenly baked; the fresh peaches for dessert never ripened.
Those and many more disaster scenarios are probably familiar to us all. At the moment disaster strikes -- especially if guests are expected soon -- a sense of panic can overwhelm you. Well, get a grip.
This handy cooking repair kit can help fix several common cooking blunders and offer alternative plans for magical results.
Salty soup or stew
Add a cut-up raw potato and simmer it in the soup or stew for about 30 minutes. The potato serves as a sponge, absorbing salt. Discard it, or save the potato and cook it until tender in unsalted water with other raw potatoes for a boiled potato dish. If you don't have a potato for the remedy, add more unsalted liquid (water, stock, etc.), a touch of tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes (or something slightly sweet), and a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to counter the saltiness.
Unevenly baked 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!
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.
Almost any mushy veggie can be pur*ed 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 pur*e the veggies, and add some stock and seasoning to make a vegetable soup.
If it's over-risen and falls apart when sliced, try chilling the bread first. If it still crumbles, use pieces for bread pudding or toast the crumbs. Imagination is one of the best tools.
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.
Bubbling-over fruit pie
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.
This puffy, baked egg dish waits for no one. At times it even falls upon being removed from the oven, especially if a draft hits it or if it's slightly under-cooked. When this happens, first make sure the souffl* is thoroughly cooked, and if not, put it back in the oven in its fallen condition. The flatter souffl* will taste just as good, and it can become "souffl*d broccoli" instead of "broccoli souffl*." The salvaged dish can be topped with either a quick cheese sauce or melted Mexican Chihuahua cheese. Fruit and cream sauces are also good over deflated dessert souffl*s.
Curdled sauce (Hollandaise, b*arnaise, or other butter-and-egg sauces)
Several procedures can be followed for a quick fix, and two magical methods follow. The most common method is to beat an egg yolk with a bit of dry mustard, then gradually add the curdled sauce to this yolk mixture. This results in a richer and presentable sauce, although there will be some visible curdled bits.
One of the best -- but little-known -- methods is to add arrowroot or cornstarch (use arrowroot only if the sauce will be served within minutes). Remove the curdled sauce from the heat; cool down with 1 teaspoon cold milk per cup of sauce. Blend in a pinch of arrowroot starch or cornstarch and observe a culinary miracle.
Gummy meringue pie topping
Sprinkle a little granulated sugar evenly over the meringue surface, and dip a sharp serrated knife in very cold water between slicing. Both methods help salvage the baker's reputation.
Blue cabbage (when it's supposed to be red)
Add a touch of vinegar or citrus juice, and it will revert to its original red hue. Avoid overcooking it, and don't use aluminum or iron pots to cook it.