If you cook for long enough sooner or later something will go wrong. The Hollandaise sauce will break or the famous “Nanna candy” will break and ooze butter. The list of what can happen is almost endless.

Sometimes the weather, or some other reason (other than your own mistake) can legitimately be blamed. There’s usually a lesson to be learned, such as “Never make English toffee on a humid day.” The same edict goes for Hollandaise sauce. Don’t even try it. The oily mess is not worth the attempt, and there’s no way to adjust ingredients to account for it. Trust me these things I know through hard and costly experience!

On the other hand, sometimes you can reverse the less than tasty results. A too salty stew can be corrected by sacrificing a couple of good sized potatoes. Just peel and cut the potatoes into chunks, cook them in the stew until they’re tender, then remove them. You’ll also remove a good bit of salt that’s been absorbed by the potato pieces.

I recently had two “oops” kitchen results. A pot roast that was tough and rather stringy (the kiss of death for what should be tender and succulent) and a pan of lemon bars.

Both are beyond easy and usually turn out very well. Both were my fault.

The beef I bought with pot roast in mind was far too lean. I was seduced by a lovely, very lean piece of meat that had almost no marbling. Shame on me! I do know better, but fooled myself into believing that low and slow cooking could make a difference this time. I made the pot roast with the predictable result. One of my daughters, who is obviously smarter than I am, suggested making hash the next time around. A good suggestion, as there’s plenty left!

My lemon bars, which are usually really good, were a mess. They tasted good with enough butter and fresh lemon juice, what wouldn’t? But they weren’t firm and as pretty as lemon bars should be. What could have gone wrong? I strongly suspect it was the pan liner that I used in a vain attempt to get around prying some of them out of the edges of the pan. They achieved the desired goal of coming cleanly out of the pan with the crust risen to the top of the bars, and the lemony part stuck in a sheet of goo to the pan liner. The reason? The pan liner was two layered parchment and foil. It didn’t “breathe,” thus trapped moisture which made the shortbread crust rise to the top. A possible fix? Stir a little into vanilla ice cream and serve in bowls.

Lessons learned from my kitchen disasters? Try changes only if they’re thought out and should reasonably improve the result. Do what you know works. (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)

It’s pot roast weather. Pot roast is simple and delicious. Don’t mess with what works.


3-4 pound chuck roast, well-marbled

beef broth

chicken broth

garlic salt

12 garlic cloves

4-5 medium potatoes

1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced

small onions and mushrooms if you wish

half a cup more chicken broth


Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Over a medium high burner on the stove top, heat a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of garlic salt over both sides of the chuck roast. Place the roast into the hot pan and sear on both sides.

Add beef broth, chicken broth, half and half, along with the garlic cloves until liquid comes to the top of the roast. Place covered pot into the preheated oven.

Allow roast to cook (low and slow) for 4-5 hours until very tender.

Remove meat to a serving platter and keep warm.

Place vegetables into the remaining liquid. Simmer over medium heat until tender. Remove to the serving platter.

Stir about 1/4 cup flour into remaining chicken broth. Add to the remaining liquid and simmer until gravy is thickened to your liking. (Use more flour if needed).

Serves four to six.

I use canned consomme for my beef broth.