6. Too salty
Problem: I was overenthusiastic with the salt shaker when making my sweet potatoes and my green beans.
Quick fixes: Depending on how much you’ve over salted, you may or may not be able to salvage the dish. If the salt is mildly out of balance, you can sometimes fix things by adding an acidic ingredient: lemon juice, vinegar, wine. This trick doesn’t exactly rectify the situation, but the acid distracts your taste buds from the salt. To actually fix an oversalted dish, you could double the recipe, adding more of all the other ingredients, except salt, and hope that does the trick. Or, if it’s an easy recipe, such as a salad dressing, and you have the ingredients on hand, the obvious thing to do is start over. As for that old saw about adding slices of peeled potato to the dish and cooking for 10 minutes (the idea being that the potato will absorb the excess salt): it hasn’t been proven to work.
7. Lumpy gravy
Problem: My gravy tastes great but it’s got small whitish lumps in it.
Quick fix: Those little lumps of undissolved starch are easy to get rid of. Simply strain the gravy through a fine sieve. If the strained gravy is thick enough to use, go ahead and serve it. If the gravy is too thin, return it to the stove and let it cook down to the consistency you desire. Or, you can quickly thicken the gravy by adding extra starch: thoroughly dissolve a teaspoon of flour or cornstarch in a little cool liquid, and then whisk it into the gravy and cook, stirring, until thickened.
Avoiding the problem: Next time, you can avoid lumps by whisking your roux vigorously as you slowly pour the cool broth into the pan.
8. Gluey mashed potatoes
Problem: I’ve always mashed my potatoes by hand and the results are slightly lumpy. I don’t mind that, actually, but some members of my family tease me about the lumps, so this year I decided -- disastrously -- to whip the potatoes smooth with my electric mixer. Instead of the velvety purée I’d hoped for, I created a gluey mess.
Quick fix: If you don’t have the time or ingredients to start over, make the best of what you’ve got. Spread the potatoes in a fairly thin layer in a shallow baking dish, top with plenty of coarse breadcrumbs and maybe a little grated Parmigiano, dot with butter, and pop in the oven to bake until the crumbs are golden brown and crisp. If you’re lucky, the crunchy crumbs will be so yummy that no one will even notice the texture of the potatoes.
Avoiding the problem: Next year, go back to making your mashed potatoes by hand. If you use a potato ricer or food mill instead of your wire masher, you should get the lump-free results your guests desire.