Last Sunday, I made beef and noodles. This isn't anything that unusual for me: cut a cheap cut of beef into stew-size chunks, throw them in the slow cooker with some soy sauce, cook all day, ladle the broth into a pot, add water so you have a few quarts, cook a package of egg noodles until al dente, season, thicken broth, add vegetables (frozen vegetables cooked during other steps are fine), add enough beef (usually as much as the pot will hold), mix well.
I botched it, though; the egg noodles came off with a very wrong texture, from being overcooked. I cook the store brand egg noodles 4 minutes- the package says 8 to 10- to get al dente, because package directions come off massively overcooked. I did that, but underestimated how long it'd take me to get the broth to thicken correctly. The result is that the noodles were in steaming water for several minutes longer, I had to boil the thickened broth/gravy for a few minutes to get its texture right, and the result was a very bad texture.
It was worse when microwaved for leftovers, which is Bad given that I was plan on using this for an array of dinner across the week. It made an already-soft texture distinctly slimy.
Today, I tried pan-frying it, with a bit of oregano and soy sauce.
Somehow, it actually worked. Apparently, a lot of the bad texture was due to just plain too much gravy, and pan-frying it reduces it significantly, while drying out the dish as a whole- and that, plus the texture change of a pan fry itself (I tried to get it crispy, but couldn't; it came out more like standard chow mein) did wonderful things to fix it. It wasn't spectacular in and of itself, but compared to what I started out with, it was excellent. It was a decent-quality, edible meal, which absolutely can't be said for any of its previous forms.
Trying to salvage a bad or ruined dish (difference: a bad dish is built on fundamentally unsound ideas and cannot be good if executed well; a ruined dish is good in concept but bad execution resulted in bad food) seems like it should be the concept of the next cooking competition show. I'm serious. I've watched shows of cooks deal with all sorts of weird ingredients and strange constraints, but "start with this bad dish and a very limited set of random stuff in a pantry" would be a fascinating premise- especially if it featured both professional chefs and stay-at-home housewives much more likely to be experienced with this sort of salvage.
Anybody want to share stories of their own culinary salvages?
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