Resolution fail this week! Conferences, an overnight retreat, and grading have left me swamped. However, if at first you don’t succeed, beat that dead horse-of-a-goal until it’s … um, well-beaten? Back with a vengeance this week, my friends. I’ll be letting some cool cats out of some bags in the next few days!
In between the paper towels and styrofoam in that trash can, you might be able to spy the remnants of a meal. (If you can, kudos to you!). Here’s what happened:
A few weeks ago, I decided to concoct some sort of baked pasta dish using kale, tomatoes, balsamic chicken, and whole grain rigatoni. It was going to be deeelicious, and I was already in the process of typing up some notes for post. Here’s one of my in-process shots:
And, for the sole purpose of breaking my heart a little bit more, here’s another shot of the entire pan filled with everything-but-pasta-and-cheese:
But then, in a twist of fate, I bumped the casserole dish, it went tumbling to the floor, and WHOOMPH. There went my dreams of the most nutritious dish of baked pasta this kitchen had ever seen.
So, you may be wondering: Did I cry over spilled pasta? Did I whimper at the site of my dish-to-be carpeting the tile floor? Did I curl up in a ball and tell THT to order a pizza?
Actually, no — I took my cues from Maria Von Trapp and told myself that “where [the kitchen] god[s] close a door, somewhere [they] open a window.” (Yes, I took some liberties with “The Sound of Music.” Oops. It’s for a good cause!) I picked up the scraps, threw ‘em away, and just started over. Fishing through the fridge, I found enough “sustenance” to create another pasta dish with the already-boiling rigatoni. Rigs + tomatoes + cheese + herbs = a vegetarian dish that satisfied THT and I, and left us no worse for the wear.
The point? Whenever something goes “wrong” in the kitchen, keep your chin up and your senses of smell and taste raring to go. It’s rare that something is impossible to fix — and even if it is, like my epic floor spill, there’s usually some way to fix the damage. If all else fails, I’m sure there’s a pizza delivery place nearby, right?
But seriously, here are a few of my tips for fixing some basic cooking errors / disaster scenarios.
- Burned Toast? If you’ve burned something beyond the point of repair, try scraping some of the burnt bits off of the top. This works for grilled sandwiches and toasted items. If you’ve burned some cheese that you simply meant to broil in the oven, scrape it off. As the late and great Aaliyah once said, “Dust yourself (or your dinner) off and try again, try again.”
- Mushy Pasta? Overcooked your pasta to the point of mushiness? Bake it as baked ziti / a casserole rather than serving it as you were planning. Casseroles are very forgiving, and a little mushiness won’t be noticed between the cheesy gooey bits and other flavors.
- Tough Meat? Tough and overcooked steak / chicken / pork? Taking cues from Tim Ferriss’ latest book, add liquid to a pot, add the meat, and cook for an additional 2-3 hours on low / at a low temperature in the oven. You’ll end up with tender, shred-able, slow-cooked meat with a variety of uses.
- Meat Still Frozen? Quickly thaw frozen meat by plunging the package / Ziploc into a sink full of hot water, changing the water frequently. You’ll avoid half-cooking the meat (and exposing yourself to bacteria) like you sometimes can with a microwave. I’ve defrosted a pound of ground turkey in about 15 minutes using this method.
- Set Something on Fire? Be safe. Back away from the burner/stove, and don’t touch anything with your hands. And you can smother flames by dumping flour onto something, or sometimes covering it with a heavy cloth. If you set yourself on fire (I lit my hair on fire once — in my defense, I was in middle school, and those dining room candles were really tall. Oif.), smother the flame quickly with a cloth napkin or hand towel.
- Drop Your Dish On the Floor? Give it a toss — too many bacteria risks, my friends — and peek through your pantry for something else. Canned chick peas, canned tomatoes & spices make a killer quick tomato sauce; fried eggs on a mixed green salad are simple and satisfying.
- Recipe is a Totally Inedible Disaster? Hey, man. There’s always takeout. Chalk it up to being a learning experience, pour some wine, and order a pizza. If at first you don’t succeed, keep Papa John’s on speed dial.
What are the ways you’ve learned to fix your culinary mistakes? What are the most epic food “mistakes” you’ve made? Did you try to fix them, or did you let ‘em go and order a pizza? Good luck!