Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fixing Mistakes!

I made a mistake in one of my columns that provoked a huge argument with my husband. It was the recipe for what I claimed to be the “Original Salad Niçoise ”. Gerard was appalled to see that I had suggested string beans and potatoes in this salad. He claimed that they did not belong in the traditional Niçoise . I have eaten Salad Niçoise at least 50 times in the South of France, Paris or French restaurants here in the States, and there were always these two ingredients. I had confirmed my recipe before going to print with many cookbooks and proudly showed him the one from Julia Child (the master, herself!), which of course had the two ingredients in question.  She is not from Nice, I do not think”, he countered. So I went to the real expert and checked “Ma Cuisine Provençale” by “La Mere Bresson” who had a wonderful small restaurant in Nice and later in Cannes and was revered as the “Queen of Provençale Cooking”. Low and behold right there in my old yellowed book, I found the “original recipe”. No string beans! Not a single potato! Instead a green pepper and a stalk of celery were included. I had to admit he was right and that I was wrong (two separate admissions). I had to apologize, but I did not have to eat crow! “I stand corrected”, I said to him and now to you - “Mine is not the “Original Salad Niçoise recipe - but it is the much improved and most popular recipe for the famous Niçoise !”

The subject of mistakes got me to thinking about some mistakes I‘ve made in the kitchen and how I have learned to correct them. Below, I have listed a number of them. Many years ago, when I lived in Italy (Milan) and first started cooking I invited 14 Italian colleagues for an American Dinner at my house. (I was tired of them thinking that all we could make were hamburgers, hot dogs and bad pizza). I did a proper roast and veggies and redeemed our reputation. For dessert, I used a recipe of chocolate cake I found in the Joy of Cooking. Irma Rombauer’s recipe is excellent but not written for novices. She seemed to assume that the reader already knew how to bake a cake and just required the recipe for this particular one. This was not my case. This was my first cake! Elated with the lovely aroma wafting from my oven, I took it out when finished baking and immediately turned it upside down on the cake platter. Much to my horror, it literally poured out to become a mountain of fluffy chocolate crumbs. (So if you ever wondered why you are supposed to let the cake cool before taking it out of the mold - now you know why!). It was too late to make another dessert. I tasted a crumb and found it perfectly delicious.  I then placed the crumbs in my most beautiful crystal bowl and whipped up some cream which I served in another lovely bowl. When dessert time came I served it up announcing that this was a traditional American dish called “A BOWL OF CAKE”. To this day, I think there are 14 Italians who believe that we eat this crazy dessert! First Fix-it Hint: if it is not what it was meant to be, but still tastes good- just dress it up and call it something else!

Eggs: Too Old? If you are not sure your eggs are fresh, place them gently into a bowl of water. Rotten eggs will float, and the fresh ones will stay fully submerged. The fresher they are, the more quickly they will sink. Hard to peel hard boiled eggs?  Crack the eggs and place in a bowl of cool water for 5 minutes.  The water will seep into the cracks and help loosen the shell from the egg. Egg whites won’t whip? Add a bit of baking soda or salt. Separating eggs? If a bit of yolk gets into the white, take a piece of egg shell to scoop out the yolk (works better than using a spoon or your fingers).

Vegetables Overcooked? If veggies have been cooked to a mush, purée them with your favorite herbs and a bit of butter and serve as a gourmet side dish “Carrot Puree”, “Broccoli Puree”, “Cauliflower Puree”, etc. Too salty? Pour the water out, rinse them off, and return them to the stove in new boiling water for at least a minute or until they are done.
Sauces: Too thin?  One tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with two tablespoons of the liquid and then whisked back in the pot will thicken the sauce. . Too thick, too reduced or starting to curdle?  Beat in two tablespoons of boiling water. Broken hollandaise?  Take 1 egg yolk and whisk it over a water bath until it is thick and pale, the slowly add the broken hollandaise to the yolk, whisking vigorously as you go.  This will bring your sauce back together. Broken cream sauce? Take half cup of heavy cream and reduce it down to 1/3 of its original volume.  Slowly drizzle in the curdled sauce while whisking vigorously.  This should bring the sauce right back to its creamy, silky consistency. 

Stale Bread:  Sprinkle day old bread with water, wrap in foil and bake it in a 300 degree oven until warm.

Herbs : Don’t have the fresh herbs required and want to substitute the dried version? Use one third of the amount of because dry herbs are concentrated and have about three times the flavor as fresh herbs.
Underdone Cake: If it's too late to slide it back into the oven, scoop out the gooey middle and before serving fill the hole with fruit, ice cream or whipped cream.
Pie Crusts
Pie dough torn? If your pastry tears, roll a patch of dough to the same thickness and flatten the edges. Brush some lightly beaten egg white on the contact points and lightly press it onto the main shell. The whites will act as an adhesive so filling won't seep out.
Pie dough burning before pie is ready? Cover edge with aluminum foil.

Gerard’s Suggestion for Bad Wine
If the wine is bad do not serve it! Do not use it for cooking (it could ruin your dish). Don’t even use it for vinegar. Just throw it out and get a better bottle!

No comments:

Post a Comment