We’ve all been there—you’re going through your recipe step-by-step until you realize you either skipped a step, you misread something, or you did things out of order. Either way, you’re far enough along into a recipe, and now you’re scared you have to start all over, wasting your ingredients and your time. However, there are ways to salvage certain cooking mistakes, and if you want to save yourself a headache in the future, here are a few quick fixes for common cooking mistakes.
Fixing Watery Sauce
If you have a sauce or gravy that’s not as thick as you want it, you can easily rescue it. To begin, mix in a starch—cornstarch, arrowroot, or flour—with a cool liquid that will complement the sauce, such as water, stock, or milk. Start with around one tablespoon of the starch in a dish, and then slowly add the liquid, mixing it consistently to prevent lumps from forming. Now, whisk the “slurry” into your sauce, and simmer until the sauce hits the consistency you want and the raw starch tastes have vanished. If the sauce still isn’t thick enough, repeat the process.
Keeping Pasta from Clumping
It’s pretty simple to cook pasta until it hits the sweet spot—also called “to the tooth” or “al dente.” This takes plenty of water, a little salt, and just the right time on a rapid boil. Avoid adding oil, as while this prevents clumping, oil will also cause the sauce to not stick to your pasta. All you really need is a lot of water as well as to keep the pasta moving. For those who are watching their salt intake, don’t worry. While the pasta does absorb a little salt, much of it remains in the water, which, of course, is eventually drained out.
Salvaging a Dish That’s Too Sweet
Achieving the best flavor is all about balancing your ingredients and those ingredients’ flavor components. Oftentimes, adding sweet ingredients like fruit or Manuka honey to savory dishes can bring flavors out you wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. However, if a dish becomes too sweet, you need to consider the opposite. A quick splash of something citrusy, such as lemon, orange, or grapefruit, or even vinegar can salvage the sour/sweet balance and even perk the taste up simultaneously. To begin, add small quantities (teaspoons or smaller), continuing until the taste is to your liking. Avoid salt unless you absolutely need it, as salt could bring the sweetness out in particular ingredients.
Fixing Veggies That Turned Brown
There are two reasons why poor-looking vegetables occur—you overcooked them, or they were allowed to sit in an acidic dressing or sauce for too long. Broccoli, green beans, and asparagus lose their bright color and crispness when they’re boiled for five minutes or more. To get the ultimate texture and color, cook your vegetables swiftly, drain the water off, season the veggies to taste, and then serve as soon as possible. Using a dressing or sauce containing acidic ingredients, including vinegar or lemon juice, can brown veggies if it’s lingered for too long a period. To avoid this discoloration, toss the veggies in the sauce or dressing or simply drizzle it just before serving.
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