As the story goes, the local inventor invited the town’s pastry makers to observe his latest invention—an automated pastry-making machine. To his dismay, the bakers deemed it unfit because it could not consistently turn out perfect pastries.
Not one to give up easily, the inventor took one of the chefs aside and asked, “What do YOU do when you make a mistake?”
“I cover it with chocolate,” he replied.
With that, the inventor went back to his workshop, made a few strategic changes to his machine and invited the testers to return. To his joy, the pastry-makers were so impressed each of them commissioned a machine for their bakery. Little did they know he programmed it so that when something went wrong it sent a signal to simply cover it with chocolate.
The moral of our little story: It’s only a cooking mistake if you can’t come up with a clever way to cover the mistake.
DRIED OUT STUFFING. If your Thanksgiving stuffing turns out dry as dust, don’t toss it out. Drizzle chicken broth over it, cover with foil and allow it to sit for several minutes. It will become soft and moist and no one will be the wiser.
RUNNY MASHED POTATOES. When making homemade mashed potatoes, if you misjudge and add too much liquid you can thicken by adding a small amount of uncooked instant potato flakes. If the mashed potatoes still seem too thin, wait a few minutes before adding more because the thickening occurs upon standing.
SALTY GRAVY. Gravy too salty? Don’t fret! If it’s only a slightly salty problem, add a pinch of brown sugar or 1/3 teaspoon white vinegar to counter the saltiness. For a more serious situation drop a peeled raw potato into the gravy and allow it to sit for a few minutes, stirring gently. The potato will absorb much of the salt leaving the gravy much improved.
SOFT FUDGE. If your homemade fudge refuses to set, put it back in the cooking pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add just enough of the liquid you used in the recipe to bring it back to a simmer. As long as you can see large bubbles, keep simmering. When the bubbles reduce in size until they are almost nonexistent the fudge will be ready to set.
MUSHY PASTA. Save overcooked pasta by heating a pan with olive oil and sautéing it until it is slightly hardened, simulating the “al dente,” or firm, texture. Sprinkle Parmesan on the top for extra flavor that will mask any mush.
OVERCOOKED CHICKEN. Serve over cooked chicken by cutting it into slices, then mixing olive oil and basil, thyme and tarragon with some salt and pepper. Dress chicken and salad greens with the sauce and serve as chicken salad.
OVERRIPE FRUIT. Peel, cut and place the well-ripened fruit in a bowl. Add a touch of vanilla extract or lemon juice. Sprinkle with sugar and a little cinnamon. Mix and serve.
BURNED CAKE. Fix a burned cake by carefully removing the burned top, sides or bottom, then thickly frosting the top and side sections before serving.
STUCK CAKE. If the cake gets stuck to the pan, turns out lopsided or too crumbly, make trifle. Place a layer of crumbled and broken pieces of cake into the bottom of a glass bowl. Cover with a layer of stewed fruit, canned pie filling or fresh fruit like strawberries or peaches that you’ve mixed with a bit of sugar to release the juice. Pour custard sauce or vanilla pudding over the fruit. Garnish with nuts and jam. Top with whipped cream and you’ll have a difficult time remembering this was not your original plan!