How to Rebound from a Cooking Disaster--Fast

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockBy Lynn Andriani

Your Vegetables Have Turned to Baby Food

It's not that roasting vegetables is such a difficult task, but we've all been there: You put the carrots, potatoes and parsnips in the oven, step out to walk the dog or go upstairs to fold laundry, and next thing you know, an hour's gone by and you suddenly remember, "The vegetables!" If they've gone to mush, there are a few ways to save them. Jenn Beisser, CEO of ChefsLine, a service that puts home cooks in touch with pros around the country to solve cooking emergencies, says moving the veggies into a baking dish, sprinkling them with cheese and browning the top under the broiler is one way to turn a soggy mess into a crowd-pleasing side. Another idea: Puree the ingredients with an immersion blender and add stock little by little to make a soup. Ted Lahey, executive chef of Table & Main restaurant in Atlanta, says the situation calls for butter and a potato masher; within minutes you'll have a smooth vegetable mash.

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A Charred Roasting Pan

Whether you're making prime rib, chicken or turkey, the gravy you build from the meat's juices is what many people love most about roasts. But if you open the oven to find that the pan has dried out and the bottom is blackened, you can still make some sort of topping to go over the meat. Lahey has been in this situation himself and remedied it by making a tomato-butter sauce using a can of V8 he found in his fridge; you can also use chicken, beef or vegetable stock or even a packet of soup mix stirred into water, he says. Remove the meat to a plate and cover it with foil. Then pour whichever liquid you're using into the original pan and let it sit for 15 minutes to absorb whatever flavor it can. Simmer it to reduce, and add water, salt and other seasonings to taste.

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Drunk Chicken

When it comes to wine and cooking, you actually can have too much of a good thing. If the finished dish--whether it's beef Bourguignonne or roasted chicken--tastes overwhelmingly alcoholic, what to do? Lahey's advice is to remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon, reduce the sauce and add an ingredient that will tone down the boozy flavor. The acidity in tomato paste will help balance out the wine's intensity, but chicken or beef broth works too. You might be straying from tradition (as far as we know, Julia Child didn't include a spoonful of red sauce in her Boeuf Bourguignon), but the food will still taste good. (And always follow Beisser's rule of thumb when it comes to fixing screwed-up food: Do it in stages. Put a portion of the sauce in a separate bowl, doctor it up and, it if works, then apply the method to the rest of the sauce.)

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Slip 'n' Slide Lasagna

We know that letting a dish of lasagna sit for 15 minutes or a half hour will help it firm up (and it'll also prevent diners from scorching the roofs of their mouths), but if you've taken that step and the cut lasagna is still runny, with all the layers sliding apart, it's time to rethink your presentation. Put each serving in a bowl and call it a "free-form" lasagna, says Lahey. You can melt some cheese on top to give it a finished look or, as Beisser suggests, slice it into strips so it looks more like tagliatelle. (And tell everyone at dinner that this was intentional, of course.)

KEEP READING: 3 More Ways to Rebound from a Cooking Disaster -- Fast

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