Ever have a kitchen disaster? I once ruined an entire pot of pasta because I was not paying attention. By the time I realized it, the pasta had cooked way beyond done and all the way to total mush. I had to dump the whole thing down the disposal, but there was no way to undue that damage. Thankfully, that’s not true for other kitchen problems. This is a list you’re going to want to keep handy just in case somethis messes up.
TOO MUCH SALT. If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup, peel and cut a raw potato into two or three pieces and add it to the pot. By the time the pieces of potato become translucent they will have absorbed a lot of the excess salt. Be sure to throw them away before serving. Another trick is to add a bit more unsalted water to the mix, provided this will not also dilute the flavor.
OVERCOOKED VEGETABLES. If you’ve overcooked the broccoli, asparagus or similar vegetables don’t despair. Just tweak your menu a bit to include a lovely creamed vegetable soup. Place the mushy vegetables in the food processor, add hot chicken broth or stock, spices and fresh cream. Process until smooth. Chopped vegetables could also be combined with chicken, butter and cornstarch (and a few other ingredients—use your favorite recipe) and placed in a prepared pie shell for a pot pie. If it’s carrots or sweet potatoes you need to rescue, whip them together with raw eggs and pumpkin pie spices to create a soufflé.
UNDERCOOKED CAKES. The first sign of a cake that’s not done is that sink hole in the middle. But once cooled you cannot re-bake it. But don’t worry. You can break the cake into pieces (even those parts that are under cooked) and combine them with whipped cream and fresh fruit to make dessert parfaits or one large trifle.
BURNT OR CREAM-BASED 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 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, and keep cooking.
OVERSPICED FOOD. If taking a taste of the chili, stew or soup sends you running for a glass of anything that will put out the fire, try adding more of every other ingredient except the spices. A raw potato might absorb some of the heat, but don’t expect miracles. Adding hot water is also a technique that may bring down the temperature.
THIN SAUCES. 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 them 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 and add it to the boiling liquid a little at a time while stirring. Some cooks use dried potato flakes as an emergency thickener.
ACIDIC FOODS. Sometimes a tomato-based sauce will become too acidic for guests. When dealing with an acid, the neutralizing agent should be a base. Try adding a teaspoon of baking soda at a time to the sauce to reduce acidity. Some cooks prefer to add sugar for the same reason. Sugar can also reduce the acidity of tomatoes used in salads.
FORGET THE FOOD, RESCUE THE POT. Sometimes a burned-on mess cannot be saved. But the pot or pan can be. Try this: Add hot water and a capful or two of fabric softener. Allow the pan to sit undisturbed for a few hours. The fabric softener should loosen most of the burnt food and allow you to remove it with a spatula.