Molly Baz’s 4-Step Checklist for Saving a Mediocre Meal

Here is an example. In the book there is a recipe for coconut prawns with chickpeas and basil. The first version I made in developing this recipe was overly greasy and rich (coconut milk will do that) and the final dish tasted bland. To fix the problem, I toasted the sambal and added honey to balance some fat and spice with sweetness. A big splash of lime brought out all the existing flavors even more.

3. Check the texture

Taste is not one-dimensional – it’s not just about how something tastes, but also about the mouthfeel and the eating experience in general. When adding ingredients to make a dish taste better, consider what they bring to the table in terms of texture, not just taste.

Ask yourself: Does the dish feel unistructural? Could it use a little contrast? What quick fix items do you have on hand that might add a dimension? Open up your pantry and look for nuts, seeds, croutons, breadcrumbs, crackers, french fries, and other highly textured sprinkles that often solve the problem (this is where all of the sprinkles in my book come in). Texture doesn’t just mean adding crunch, but also slippery and tough things, or something delicate and soft. Maybe your soup needs a silky soft-boiled egg or your salad needs a squeaky cheese like halloumi.

Soft lenses, meet fried bread.

Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

4. Get a second opinion (if you can), make adjustments, and move on

It also helps to have a soundboard. Having a second opinion (my husband) who can step out of the dish and eat it without emotional attachment is incredibly valuable. If you’re not sure if a dish needs more salt, more honey, some texture, or whatever, ask who you’re cooking for! I am sure you have thoughts …

When all else fails, the condiments I most turn to right now are sour cream (it’s greasy and very hot at the same time – people don’t give it enough credit) and the perfect chili that is crispy The spicy mums. I put it on every rice bowl, egg dish, and veggie and just call it a day. Add enough of this to your accidentally dried out salmon fillet and no one will be the smarter.

Get the book!

Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Review Recipes

Adapted from Cook This Book. Copyright © 2021 by Molly Baz. Published by Clarkson Potter, from Random House.

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