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Fixing mistakes: can this dish be saved?

28 Jul
cooking disaster in the making - or can food be salvaged

Is dinner ruined? Maybe you can salvage it. (photo: andydr)

Ever had a cooking disaster?  Food ruined  – or so you thought – and thrown out, leaving you with no dinner?  Don’t be shy about admitting disasters – it’s all in how you recover from them. Ever heard about the time Julia Childs dropped a potato pancake on TV? (Maybe you heard the apocryphal version and thought the story involved a turkey? It was only a potato pancake and it didn’t land on the floor, but I still love the image.)

Let’s talk about how to salvage a near disaster and enjoy the result.  If your first reaction is to throw it all in the trash and go out, think again. You may have other options.

Two questions to ask after you realize that a disaster is in the making determine whether you can move to plan B.

1) Did the food spoil in any way that would make it unsafe to eat? If you left the mayonnaise-based potato salad on the counter for two days, don’t even think about saving it, the dish is most likely so bacteria-laden at this point, it’s only good for weighing down your trash can.

2) Did the disaster so ruin the taste of the ingredients that anything you make with them will only make you and your guests grimace?

Here are a couple of alternative scenarios to the old heave ho that won’t get you in trouble with either food-safety or the taste police:

  • If you burn rice, scrape out the rice that wasn’t burned – all except the bottom of the pan – and make fried rice.
  • If you overcook a hamburger, chop it up and use it as a base for chili.
  • If you steam veggies too long and they go limp, then add them to a soup – either a vegetable broth or chicken soup like the kind sold in boxes  – maybe with cooked rice or noodles.