When you’ve spent hours preparing a dish only to have it turn on you like an evil beast, what do you do? While there’s something satisfyingly maudlin about throwing everything in the trash/compost bin and starting over (or just ordering in), nothing beats the pure glee of stripping the dish for parts and creating something unique. The eponymous host of Stephencooks.com recently wrote an engaging blog post about his latest phoenix-from-the-ashes experience: turning hopelessly burned oven-dried tomatoes into divine-sounding charred tomato pesto.

Food blogs are great resources for these sorts of tips, which mainstream magazines and papers tend to shy away from (it’s not pretty or lovely to talk about burned, broken, or botched food, after all). A few weeks ago Adam at the Amateur Gourmet posted a cute and instructive poem to help people deal with shattered dreams of flaky pastry:

When your pie crust won’t roll out/ and your dreams and hopes start to tumble/ Throw those shreds right in the trash/ and make yourself a crumble.

I had a failed-pie episode of my own last week, though I went forward with the baking of the crust before finally admitting it was a lost cause. After the monstrous thing cooled (there was no filling —I had been baking it solo for use in a savory pie), I calmed myself down by reciting Adam’s poem in my head. But the contrarian in me couldn’t bring myself to follow his dictum to the letter: I ended up saving the crust, crumbling it up and sticking it in a jar once it had cooled. A few days later, I subbed those bits for half of the bread crumbs in James Beard’s yummy apple brown betty recipe, and the result was a nice brown-buttery flavor that was ever so slightly reminiscent of these fantastic spoon cookies.

Have you had any luck with “salvage food?” What new recipes have you concocted after botching a dish (or seen described in blogsville)?

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