How to Rescue Culinary Mishaps

When you’re living on a tight budget, you can’t toss a kitchen experiment out if it doesn’t come right. Instead, you have to get creative. You have to find a way to take the unpalatable and make it edible.

Here’s a run down of the quick fixes that I have employed to turn a kitchen nightmare into something that resembles dinner:

what to do if its…

  • too salty?
    • Method 1: Drain half of the gravy/sauce/broth etc into a contain. Add the same amout of water as the liquid you just drained off. Taste. If it’s still too salty, drain some more off and add more water.  Reserve the liquid you poured off and reuse it.
    • Method 2: if your recipe is dry, remove the food to a large container with plenty of space. Add water. Straight form the tap is fine unless your water is undrinkable. Put a lid on it. Shake it up.  Drain half the water into a container. Taste. Repeat as necessary until you’re satisfied with the level of salt. Reserve the liquid you poured off and reuse it.
    • Method 3: combine half of the too salty dish with half of another recipe that is bland. The resulting combo will be right. This works especially well when there are strong flavors present along with the excess salt.
  • too sweet?
    •  Method 1 (savory dishes): add green onions also known as scallions. Believe it or not, their unique flavor competes with the sweetness. Three of them saved a plum bbq dish from becoming a complete disaster. You can also add tomato products depending on the dish.
    • Method 3: you can decant the liquid off and replace half of it with water or if the dish is a dry one, you can dump it into a container, add water, shake it up and then drain off half the liquid.
    • Method 2 (for deserts): add cocoa powder and/or powdered peanut butter. Powdered peanut butter is fantastic. It’s 45 calories for 2 tablespoons and it turns into peanut butter when mixed with water. It never fails to cut the sweetness down to size while also adding 5 grams of protein.
    • Method 3: combine half of the too sweet dish with another recipe that needs sweetening.
  • too acidic?
    • Add carrots and simmer. This works especially well for tomato sauce. You don’t need to add sugar to tomato sauce. Just carrots. You can also float an onion half while the sauce is cooking. My mother does both and her sauce is divine.
    • You can also dilute the acidity with water or broth
    • Add a base, ie, any dairy product. Milk, yogurt, cheese, etc are all basic and they react to acids by balancing the ph.
    • Baking soda is also a base and it’s purpose is to lower the acidity of a recipe so that it will bake properly. If you go this route, be very careful how much you add because it tends to cause your recipe to froth and it will affect the flavor. There’s a great blog post explaining when and how to use baking soda here.
  • too bitter?
    • Add sweetener of your choice. If it’s a savory dish, honey, molasses or bbq sauce works well.
    • If you notice the bitterness before you start cooking, there’s a couple things you can do to get rid of it. You can take the offending fruit and drop it into a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil. Turn it off. Drain the water out. Add cold water. Return to stove and repeat until the bitterness is gone. For a something as bitter as a grapefruit, that could take five or six repetitions. Once you have banished the bitterness, boil the fruit in a sugar syrup (sugar or honey + water). You can half the sugar/honey with a lower calorie sweetener of your choice. Just make sure that you leave some sugar so that it can carmelize (replace the water in the fruit).
  • What if it’s just not good?
    •  You can always rinse off the meat, starch and potatoes with water. Cook up a different sauce or dump it into broth. I’ve never encountered a situation where that didn’t allow me to salvage something.
    • If it’s a baked good, you can cut off the burnt parts and make bread pudding out of it or cook up a sauce that makes up for its lack of flavor and douse the offending item in it.

Where there is a will, there is a way.

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