Cooking and Baking

Dinner Triage: Fixing "finished" dishes

I cook mostly by instinct, rather than recipes, but even when I'm cooking by recipe I run across this problem:

I finish a dish, and it should be ready to serve, but it's just...lacking something. But, technically it's ready to serve and time to eat, and there's no time to fix it.

Prime example: Chili, which we had tonight. I've learned over time that if the meat too lean that the flavors fall flat. Adding a bit of bacon fat or even some butter, the entire flavor profile changes, and it becomes delicious. That's what I did tonight. It's an instant fix.

If I'm making [[your protein here]] and vegetables and gravy/sauce, and it turns out bland, I can add some roasted-granulated-garlic (one of my fave corrective seasonings), magi or Worcestershire (carefully, as they can overpower), a touch of balsamic...or sometimes it's the fat thing again. If it's REALLY bland, and has no an ethnic slant (not Italian or Chinese, etc.) a little curry powder or appropriate spices in butter or oil, deglaze the pan, and add to the mix might help.

None of these things require an extra 15-30 minutes cooking, which would kill the texture of the vegetables and/or the meat.

In some cases, changing the substrate (e.g. from jasmine rice to spaetzle) helps, but that requires a bit more foreknowledge.

A little wine or vermouth can help. Cheese can help. It depends.

If it's an omelet that didn't work...I eat what I can and give the rest to the dogs. If it's an oriental stirfry, I eat what I can and hope for inspirational stir-fry-helper the next day. I have a list of "not quite there" dishes, that I couldn't figure out an instant fix for.

So gimme some ideas! What techniques do you do to save a "lost" dish, just before eating?

I need more ammuntion. :


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