A few posts back, I shared with y’all 6 swap-outs that will save you in a pinch. You know, that make or break moment when dinner is in full swing and you realize you’re out of poultry seasoning? How about getting your favorite biscuit recipe going and staring down an empty bag of self-rising flour? Luckily, disaster can be avoided! Stash these kitchen pinch hitters away in your culinary memory bank and the kitchen safety net is all yours.
Curry powder can be a funny thing. In my house, we can’t get enough of it (which makes me feel a bit like I’ll never dig out from the army of yellow jars that line my spice shelf). But, if you’re just getting into experimenting with it and can’t find it, or perhaps don’t want to commit to the whole jar just yet, mix together equal parts ground coriander, cumin, and ginger with a pinch of cayenne. While they’re not essential, If you’ve got them around, add more authentic flavor with some ground cardamom (for a beautiful floral freshness) and ground turmeric (for the trademark yellow color) as well.
Anyone who cooks along with Rachael Ray knows that poultry seasoning is a must in her cupboard. If you find yourself fresh out – or perhaps are questioning just how well last Thanksgiving’s jar is faring after taking the year off – mix up your own at home. In a small bowl, stir together 3 parts dried sage, 1 part dried thyme, and a dash of ground cloves and apply liberally.
Rach may not be much of a baker, but I love it (and did a lot of it when I was at her show). Many recipes out there call for self-rising flour, which I only end up using on occasion. For just such occasions, it’s easier for me to just whip up some of my own. For every 1 cup of self-rising flour a recipe calls for, whisk together 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and use as directed.
Many supermarkets today have really beautiful specialty cheese counters, which is usually where you’ll find creme fraiche (if you’re unfamiliar with it, creme fraiche is a delicious, fancied up version of sour cream that is higher in fat and much more indulgent). If your grocery store isn’t stocking creme fraiche, you can make your own at home by combining 2/3 cup sour cream with 1/3 cup heavy cream. Beat the mixture together with a whisk and whip it for about 30 seconds until the mixture starts to thicken up. Use it immediately or store it in the refrigerator and use it up in a day or so.
I know this one may sound like a no-brainer, but trust me – in moments of culinary panic, it’s often the simplest solutions that are first to escape us. Next time you’re making up a recipe that calls for vinegar (say a vinaigrette, for instance), remember that its most active property is its level of acidity. If you’re out of whatever vinegar the recipe calls for, reach for any other type of vinegar or even the juice of a lemon or lime. The flavor of the finished product will be a bit different depending on what you add, but the acidity in all of these options will get the job done.
Rach is a big fan of watercress. I like it too, don’t get me wrong, but it can be tricky to find great looking watercress in some markets and if you don’t eat it up very shortly after buying it, this peppery green can go south in the refrigerator very quickly. If your market is short on watercress, reach for the arugula, mustard greens, or even an “Asian Mix” of bagged salad greens. Each greens option has the same sharp, spicy bite that watercress provides and will stand up to any of the same preparations.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has. Probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary team on Rachael’s daytime talk show, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day, and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest twEATs on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.