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Oct 10, 2012 03:04 AM

Messed up in the kitchen? Just rename the dish

Sez Melissa Clark in today's NY Times.

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  1. It can be really surprising how well this works.

    For a while I've hosted and competed in local small-time cooking contests. Having my food scored after it's eaten has provided me with some surprising insights. For one, not only is visual presentation important - it is extremely important. This doesn't mean food has to look like abstract art, towering high and awkwardly on the plate along with brush-stroked sauces and the like - but everything should look clean and precise, with bright colors and contrast. Plates that look good have reliably outscored plates that IMO tasted better or displayed more of the technical ability of the cook - and not just in the 'presentation' scoring category but across the board. This seems to apply to non-foodie judges, all the way up to fairly skilled professional cooks working at good restaurants (we've had a wide range of judges).

    The other surprising insight - exactly how you describe a dish upon presenting it seems to have a huge effect on the overall score of said dish. If there is some discrepancy in the description, it's sure to show up in the comments on the dish, and the score is sure to be marked down as a result. But if the dish doesn't turn out perfectly and you just rename it and change the description a bit, the scores are usually high in spite of the errors. This was very handy at times - early on, I was pretty bad at making dessert, and often the challenge was to turn a non-dessert ingredient into something appealing. The best solution at times was to just start cooking with only a vague idea of what I would produce, and only name the dish once it was finished.

    1. I have lots of recipes that I've renamed because they didn't turn out right.
      The names are similar, all start with "Mistake", followed by a number. (e.g. Mistake #1, Mistake #2)

      1 Reply
      1. re: todao

        But why show your hand? How about Fluff #1? (Fluff means mistake.)

      2. Now I know how to repurpose leftover overcooked/overseasoned veg.

        1. Supposedly, Julia Child did this at a dinner party when her ice cream did not set up. She called it "Floating Ice Cream" or something like that.

          1. That's what my blender is for.