Ask Sara: TV Chef Answers Your Questions

Ask Chef Sara Moulton

Yukon Golds, although they look more like a boiling potato, can be used in recipes that call for baking or boiling potatoes. They are pretty all purpose.

Jan and Marilynn: I'm looking for a recipe for "Cherry Upside Down Cake." A very good friend said it looked so good and asked me to find it for her. I'm very vague about the program the chef or any details, but thought you might be able to look it up for us. Any help would be appreciated.

Sara's Answer:

Jan and Marilynn,

I'm not sure what show you saw it on; there is no cherry upside down cake on the food network website so perhaps it was on public television? But I went to one of my favorite recipe websites (because all the recipes are well tested), and found a cherry upside down cake there. The link is here.

Laura Borick: Lately, I keep reading about kale. "The most nutritional and overlooked vegetable." In the interest of eating well, any recipes and/or suggestions on how to use it/cook it would be welcome. Can kale be frozen? Used in a salad? Etc ..... Educate me about kale! Thanks.

Sara's Answer:


I love the robust flavor of kale and try to serve it as often as possible because it is so healthy. First I remove and discard the tough stems, then I soak the leaves in a large bowl of cold water, lifting them out and transferring them to a colander. If they had any sand on them, the sand will stay behind in the bowl. Depending on what I am going to do with them I either spin them dry in a colander (which gets them very dry) or just let them drain on paper towels.

Then I rip or chop them because the leaves can be quite big. I usually cook kale because it is pretty tough but I don't see why you couldn't throw it into a salad.

You can steam or boil kale and then toss it with butter. You can also saute it in a large skillet with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes until it wilts or you can braise it with bacon, vinegar or a little wine and some chicken stock. You can also bake it: Toss the well dried leaves with a little olive oil and salt and spread them in one layer in a large rimmed baking pan. Bake the leaves in a preheated 375-degree oven until they become dry and crispy but not burnt, about 10 minutes. Kale is also a great addition to any mixed vegetable soup.

It will freeze nicely if you first blanch it (boil it in plenty of boiling salted water for three minutes), drain and then shock it in a bowl of ice and cold water. Drain it again, wrap well and freeze.

Ellen Slavitz : Can you tell me how to properly caramelize onions? Whenever I try, the onions burn before they turn that nice caramel color. I've tried adding water, sugar, and turning the heat up or down but have not been successful.

Sara's Answer:


I like to follow the method that Julia Child used for French onion soup:

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

6 cups quite thinly sliced yellow onions (about 1 ½ pounds)

Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan; stir in the sliced onions. Cover the pan and cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring up occasionally, until onions are tender and translucent. Raise heat to moderately high, stir in the sugar and salt, and cook 20 to 30 minutes more, stirring frequently, until onions have turned a fine deep caramel brown.

This method comes from "Julia Child and More Company," Knopf, 2001.

I think the double step of first cooking the onions over low heat, covered and then turning up the heat and cooking them uncovered really helps to get the deep caramelization you are looking for.

Amy Ward: What advice or lesson you learned from Julia Child resonates with you most today?

Sara's Answer:


Wow, Amy, I learned so much from her. Let me see:

1. You never stop learning;

2. You must always work hard and take on new jobs (that is probably why I have had two or three jobs at a time since I worked with her);

3. It is all about excellence;

4. There is more to life than being a foodie.

For more tips from Sara Moulton check out her website.

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