Sometimes food — what we like and what we don’t, what to serve when company comes to dinner, the old versus the new ways of doing things — is a hotly debated topic of conversation among my family and friends. Recipes, how to make them, what to do and what not to do all come into play as subjects for discussion.
Ingredients for the same dishes vary almost as widely as cooking times, what you grew up with (depending on whether your mom was a good cook or not-so-good) and the people discussing them.
It’s not all serious talk, and never life or death. Most of us who cook have at least our roots in our own “Wonder Years” when we grew up surrounded by family (or at least watched it on TV) and nourished by food prepared by someone who cared about us.
Our moms weren’t born with a whisk in hand and recipes in their heads. Somebody taught them the good stuff and put up with their culinary messes as they learned.
Make no mistake everything is a learning process. Everybody who cooks messes up at one time or another. Either we get distracted and burn the candied bacon or take it out of the oven in time but leave it on the cooking rack too long and have to chip it off with a metal spatula.
Relax there’s a fix for most things. No, there’s nothing to be done for black bacon, except to start over. As for the stuck-on version, Jenny decided to scatter the chips over a green salad. You can use candied bacon for a garnish or last-minute addition anywhere you’d use nuts.
Even if you fall asleep with a turkey in the oven, with plans to take it out, all brown and perfect, when the alarm goes off just before bedtime and at 6 a.m. you realize you slept through the night there may still be something you can do. (No, Beth, turkey jerky is not an option in this situation.) Unless it’s scorched into a shriveled, nasty-tasting black lump, you can put it into a big pot, cover with water and simmer it low and slow for three or four hours. Voila! Turkey broth for soups and sauces.
How about a fix for what started out to be a succulent stew or clam chowder that somehow turned out to be a pot of briny liquid? Too much salt? Not a problem as long as you have some potatoes in the house. (This fix has saved me several times over the years.) Just peel a few, dice them, and put them in the pot to cook until they’re tender. They’ll soak up the excess salt and balance will be restored. You can add more of the other ingredients or take the potatoes out as you choose.
What other “fixes” do you depend on? Tell me your little culinary hints, and I’ll pass them on to help more cooks.
Meanwhile, reaching way back into my beginning years in the kitchen, here’s a recipe that’s still a favorite in my family. This one is perfect every time. It never needs a “fix.” The original recipe was published ages ago by the manufacturers of Philadelphia Cream Cheese as a way to push sales of their products. It’s quick and easy and perfect for Valentine’s Day.
CHERRY BREEZE PIE
1 ready-made graham cracker crust
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup lemon juice, fresh or bottled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can cherry pie filling
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually stir in Eagle milk and mix thoroughly. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla.
Spread in crust. Refrigerate three hours or more.
Spread cherry pie filling over top and serve.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.