Food & Drinks

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

Here’s an example. In the book, there’s a recipe for Coconut Shrimp with Chickpeas and Basil. The first version I made, when developing this recipe was overly fatty and rich (coconut milk will do that) and the final dish tasted bland. To fix it, I bumped up the sambal and added honey to balance out some of the fat and spice with sweetness. A big squeeze of lime brought out all of the already-present flavors even more.

3. Assess for texture

Flavor is not one-dimensional—it’s not just about how something tastes but also about mouthfeel and the eating experience at large. When you’re adding ingredients to make a dish taste better, consider what they’re bringing to the table texturally, and not just flavor-wise.

Ask yourself: Is the dish feeling uni-textural? Could it use a little contrast? What quick-fix items do you have on hand that might add some dimension? Crack open your pantry and search for nuts, seeds, croutons, breadcrumbs, crackers, chips, and other highly textural sprinkly things that often solve the prob (that’s where all the sprinkle-y bits in my book come in). But texture doesn’t just mean adding crunch, it can also mean slippery things and chewy things, or something tender and soft. Maybe your soup needs a silky soft-boiled egg, or your salad a squeaky cheese like halloumi.

Soft lentils, meet fried bread.

Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich

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

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

When all else fails, the condiments I’m turning to the most right now are sour cream (it’s fatty and really tangy at the same time—people don’t give it enough credit) and the perfect chile crisp by The Spicy Mommas. I put it on every rice bowl, egg dish, and vegetable and just call it a day. Add enough of that to your accidentally dried-out filet of salmon and no one will be the wiser.

Get the book!

Cook This Book: Techniques That Teach and Recipes to Repeat

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

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