I'm talking about the ones that really crash and burn. You know who you are.
And you know what, that really irritates me. I'm not a cheapskate but I hate wasting ingredients. I'll pay $20 for a tiny jar with one truffle in it because, geez, it's truffles. I'll pay for the best quality ingredients. But throwing out a recipe that I've invested cream, chicken stock, wine, vegetables, protein, etc.? Grrrr!
So on to Plan B. Can the recipe be saved in any way?
Case in point--a leek and red wine soup. Sautee leeks in wine with saffron. Add chicken stock and torn up toasted bread. Blend until smooth. Add cream. Sounds lovely, yes? It came out gluey, pasty, thick, like a bad bechamel sauce. Seriously, one spoonful was too much.
I tried some fixes. First, I knew something was wrong when I tasted it even before adding the cream. So, I subbed half and half for the heavy cream. Then I tried adding more and more chicken stock to thin it out. A little more wine to cut the overbearing richness. Still inedible, at least as a soup.
Lightbulb! Could I use it as a puree? Add sliced roasted chicken on top with crispy fried leeks to garnish? I really didn't want to let this go. Sadly, this one could not be salvaged and I had to move on and kiss my investment goodbye.
The good news- many recipes can be salvaged in small ways! Try some of these fixes:
Too salty-add some acid like lemon juice, wine, tomato paste. Adding fat can help too: sour cream, creme fraiche, milk. Adding potato to a soup or stew can help soak up some of the salt as well.
Too spicy-add dairy or a little sweetness.
Too thin-keep reducing it, it will thicken the liquid and intensify the flavors. You can also add a slurry of flour/water or cornstarch/water.
Too thick-Add liquid. Stock, water, wine, juice.
Too "meh"-I am a huge fan of adding acid to most recipes. A little squeeze of lemon juice in soups, sauces, over proteins, etc. brightens the flavor and you won't even detect the citrus taste. It's like Botox for food. "Something is different but I just can't put my finger on it..."
And if all else fails, throw the recipe away and order pizza for dinner.