That moment of truth, when you’ve slaved over a new recipe for hours, spent way too long finding all the right ingredients at the store, talked it up to the family, you go to taste the finished product before you serve it, and…
“UGHHHH, what the heck?! THIS is what I spent so much time and energy on?? It tastes like the leather sole of a cattle herder’s shoe!”
How do you prevent yourself from looking like an incompetent cotton-headed ninny-muggins chef to the new in-laws and ruining all your chances of happiness for the rest of eternity??
Then there’s the other common scenario:
You wake up in the morning, and the next time you look at the clock, it’s because your stomach is eating itself, and you realize it’s 5:30 pm. You’ve just finally gotten all the baby poop out of your hair (let’s not talk about how it got there…) there’s no way that grain-free chicken pot-pie is going to make itself in half an hour, and, crap, the only other option you have is frozen hamburger patties, which doesn’t exactly sound like the most exciting thing ever. Now you will probably starve, and your milk will all dry up so your baby will starve too, and your husband will think you are a failure at life and probably go drink his sorrows away and end up beaten and wasted in some back alley, and…
STOP! Never fear! I have the solution. 3 wonderful, magical ingredients that, if you keep on hand at all times, will save ANY savory dish (99.5% guaranteed. They might not save Casu Marzu if you were thinking of serving that, so I’d steer clear).
1. Flavorful cheese. If you are a dairy-vore (cool word, right?), a good flavorful cheese can cover a multitude of sins! That yucky, boring frozen hamburger we talked about earlier? Add some spices and feta cheese and you’ve got something people will actually be excited to eat! Tired of the same old eggs every morning for breakfast? Scramble them up with some goat cheese, leek, and smoked paprika and people will think you’re freakin Emeril Lagasse! Other good options to keep on hand are brie, smoked gouda, and extra sharp cheddar.
2. Caramelized onions. These make my world go round. Seriously. There ain’t NOTHIN’ a pile of caramelized onions can’t fix. The aforementioned burger, which is now better with feta cheese? You add some caramelized onions too and you’re going places. Only have some yucky ol’ lunchmeat in the fridge? Caramelize a bunch of onions, fry up the meat, and make a panini with melted brie, and you’ll forget you are eating dregs from the refrigerator, and think you’ve traveled to Paris for lunch!
3. Bacon. Can I get an “amen?” This one is pretty much a given, but is always worth mentioning. You make a burger with feta cheese, caramelized onions, AND bacon, and – slap my grandma and call me Aunt Jemima! – you’ve got a mouth-watering gourmet burger on your hands. Getting kind of tired of the maple glazed chicken and sweet potato casserole you’ve already made 3 times this week? Crumble some bacon on top, and it’s like finding the holy grail! Your bacon not quite doing it for you? Cover it in BACON! (Ok, Jim-Gaffigan-ing it up here). Anyway, you get the point. Buy nitrate and nitrite free, uncured bacon – or, if you’re really lucky and can buy a part of a pig from a local farmer, DO IT! You can never go wrong with bacon. This is actually the one magic ingredient that is ALSO good in desserts! Dip some bacon in chocolate and it’s a done deal.
There you have it! The secret to true success in your culinary life. Keep these ingredients on hand at all times, and you need never fear having a garbage can-worthy meal again. You can thank me later. Do you have any special ingredients you love using to dress up or salvage your recipes? What are your favorite ways to use these 3 ingredients?