The Richmond Register

April 30, 2013

How to repair food disasters

Table Talk

By Arritta Morris
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — I thought this week I would talk to you about a subject that I am always needing help on. How do I rescue something I have made mistakes in.

Burned food ... my favorite pastime!

When food burns during cooking, do three things:

1. Stop the food from cooking.

2. Separate the unburned parts from the burned.

3. Treat the unburned parts, if necessary, to prevent a burned taste.

Here is how to do each most effectively:

1. Remove the pot or pan from the heat at once. Fill a container bigger than the pot (use the sink if necessary) with cold water, and put the burned container in the cold water. Speed is of the essence. Just removing a pot from the flame doesn’t stop the cooking; the cold-water plunge does.

2. Using a wooden spoon, remove all ingredients that don’t cling, and transfer to another similar container. Be sure you don’t scrape or forcibly remove anything – take only what comes easily.

3. Taste the food. It is unlikely that it will have a burned taste, but if does, cover the pot with a damp cloth and let it stand for about 1/2 hour. Taste it again. If the taste is still unpleasantly burned or smoky, your food is probably beyond repair – unless you can take advantage of the smoky taste by adding barbecue sauce and renaming it “country style” whatever it was.

I told you one week about a lady who worked in the bakery at EKU for many years by the name of Ms. Cobb. She is an expert at recovering cakes. This is a method I still use today.

Take a sheet cake and cut into squares. Place the two squares on top of each other with a mixture of vanilla pudding that has cut up canned peaches in it between the layers. Then pour some more of this pudding mixture over the top of these two layers. This makes one individual serving. She did this when cakes would bake unevenly in a sheet pan. This was a popular dessert on the serving lines. I went to her 90’s birthday party a few months ago. What a gracious lady she still is. I know she thought I would never make a baker.

Here are some more helpful ideas in dealing with products we use in our kitchens:

Yeast: Old yeast won’t rise. If in doubt, check the expiration date on the package and, if still unsure, “proof” it by adding a little to warm water with 1/2 tsp of sugar. If it bubbles, it’s still good. 2 tablespoons of dry yeast are equal to a 2/3 oz. cake of compressed yeast.

Whipped cream: If you want whipped cream to look right for a long time, as on a dessert or cake that must sit a while, dissolve 1 teaspoon of gelatin in hot milk and beat it into a cup of already whipped cream.

Tomatoes: Green tomatoes will ripen off the vine when wrapped in newspaper and stored in a cool place. They will ripen fairly slowly, however, at least 4 days from green to red. Tomatoes that are slightly red will also ripen faster in a closed brown bag in direct sunlight.

Clogged salt shakers: When the salt becomes clogged, overcome this problem by putting 1/2 teaspoon of raw rice or a tiny bit of blotter paper into the salt shaker. Or mix about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into a normal-sized box of salt. It will pour freely.

I guess the hardest problem I have in cooking is with salt mistakes. The only certain way to decrease saltiness is to increase quantity. A few pinches of brown sugar often have the effect of overcoming saltiness without sweetening. Or, for minor over-salting, cut up a raw potato into thin slices and cook them in the product until they become translucent.

A piece of potato will also make your frying oil in a deep fat fryer last longer.

I have to confess a thing I did when I was in college at EKU about repairing a project in Martha Davis’s cooking class. We had a project to make jelly and jams. Of course, my lab partner and I over did ours and it would not set. So that evening I was on campus and saw the housekeeper in the building and told her I had left a notebook in the classroom, could I go and get it. She was so kind not knowing my little recovery plan. I went into the lab and added a entire box of corn starch to the stuff. The next day we had the best jars in the class. The only thing that saved us was that no one tasted the stuff ... oh, another thing St. Peter is going to have to mark in his book.

Hope I have given you some ideas to help in your everyday adventures in the kitchen. Till next time you drop in ...

Arritta Morris is a graduate of EKU in Nutrition and a Master’s degree in Counseling.She is a Certified Food Specialist by the School and Nutrition Association.