How I Saved a Failed Recipe

I have tried two recipes from Milk Street – the Christopher Kimball dealie. The first was a stovetop chicken and risotto dish and the second was called Red Chile Soup. The first recipe I rescued with added herbs, lots more salt and lemon juice. But the soup recipe was just NOT GOOD. I actually made it a point to follow the recipe to the letter.

Here is the sad, bland Red Chile Soup ingredients:

2 ancho chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn into a few pieces
2 chipotle chilies, stemmed, seeded and torn into a few pieces (I used a pasilla, and New Mexico chiles
Boiling water, for soaking the chilies
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 plum tomatoes, cored
1 small white onion, root end intact, halved and peeled
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled
6 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup masa harina or three 6-inch corn tortillas (I buzzed up some corn meal for this.)
1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster and shiitake, thinly sliced (I used cremini, shiitake and rehydrated dried chanterelles)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
Lime wedges, to serve

Notice ONE teaspoon of cumin and only 2 cloves garlic for a 6+ cups recipe. Yeah. There’s your first red flag. The directions are pretty straightforward. Roast the onions and tomatoes, toast and soak the dried chiles, then toss it all in the blender and puree. Cook the puree for a few minutes to reduce, add mushrooms, broth and the cup of water/masa. Season to taste. Pretty simple. And VERY VERY bland. I did not use 6 cups of chicken stock, thank the gods, I only used four, which brings us to about 7-8 cups volume all in. A lot. I added probably a Tbl of salt to this and another half pound of creminis. I did not bother with cilantro or limes, but I think both would be nice for service.

I am not at all happy with the taste of this soup, so I decide to turn it into chili. I added:

2 chubs of soyrizo (Cacique, the BEST)
3 roasted hatch chiles (I had these in the freezer)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 Tbl cumin
1 Tbl chili powder
1 Tbl ancho powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbl tomato paste
1 can black beans, partially drained
2 Tbl ketchup
2 tsp sugar

You can still taste the dried chiles (from the original recipe), which is nice and the soyrizo is up front, too. The mushrooms give nice texture – but the shiitakes have just a tish too much Asian flavor for chili. It could use more black beans, but I only had one can. The recipe almost doubled in size with all the additions I did to rescue it. It’s almost a gallon! It is a little bit looser than my usual chili, but I didn’t want to add more thickener and have to re-season.

This chili will be just great for chili cheese tots! I just had it with lime and some crema: YUM!

All in all, I’m happy that I managed to rescue the dish and make it tasty and edible. That Red Chile Soup recipe from Milk Street was straight up useless. That is two in a row that I’ve tried from that site and both were bland and called for little to no spices. So, here’s your warning: DO NOT bother with Milk Street recipes!

The thing to remember when rescuing any recipe that’s gone sideways, is to think about how to use the flavor profile you’ve got to either make something similar (soup -> chili) or amp up the lacking flavors by adding herbs and/or citrus. It’s surprising how much herbs and citrus can really make flavors pop. Being able to rescue a recipe is a handy skill to have, especially when you try out as many as I do! Just think about the flavors you have, then go from there. It takes a little practice, but it’s worth learning. I HATE wasting food, so it’s one of my prized skills to be able to use what I’ve already cooked rather than toss it. :)