You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn how to do in the kitchen, and she has responded.
Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions
Irene Hass: When "making a mistake" with ingredients and something is either too strong, or too harsh, or too "biting", how to correct it? I know if it's too salty I can put a peeled potato into it and the potato should absorb the salt but what if onions or garlic or other seasoning is just too harsh and sort of bitter. I know I can go double or triple the recipe and leave out the seasonings to weaken it but 10 gallons of something is a little much.
Here are my tried and true solutions –
If it is too salty – the only thing you can do is add more water to dilute the salinity (I used to think that if you added a starch it would suck out the salt but that is not true). A little acid helps to balance too much salt too
If it is too acidic, add sugar
If it is too sweet, add acid or if it is a savory dish and you think this would work add chiles (yes, chiles and sugar do a happy dance, they balance each other)
If it is too spicy from chiles add sugar or dairy
Harsh or bitter – try a little sugar
Hope that helps!
Don Harris: How do you boil a chicken and have it come out tender? Quickly? Slowly? High temp? Low temp? It seems that however I do it, it comes out tough.
No protein likes to be boiled. Boiling makes protein tough. So gentle poaching is the way to go, especially with chicken, which is lean and dries out quickly. And poach it just until it is done, which would be a reading of 165 – 170 in the meat of the leg thigh joint.
Ginger Thorton : Sara - Why is it that I can brown my boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my non-stick skillet and can NOT get a nice browning on fish fillets in that same pan? Thanks for all your wonderful help over the years, both on TV and in print!
My guess is that chicken has more natural sugar in it than fish. And it certainly has more fat. Both fat and sugar help an item to brown in the pan. Why don't you try dipping the fish lightly in flour first before you sauté it? The natural sugar in the flour will help the fish to brown.
Maureen Pomrink: When I cook Marinara sauce it appears to be thick in the pot, but when I serve it there is always water in the bottom of the pasta dish. can you please let me know what i might not be doing correctly?
I think it must be residual water from the drained pasta. Here is what I recommend you try the next time: undercook the pasta slightly and then drain it and add it to the sauce (make sure the sauce is in a skillet or pot large enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta) and finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Not only will any excess water reduce away but also the pasta will absorb the sauce, and bind with it and you will have a much tastier end result.
Toni Hayes: Sara, What is a good resource to improve my knife skills? I'm a regular 50+ working, cooking Mom.
The answer is - a sharp knife and the old boring adage, "practice, practice, practice." Vegetables are a great place to start so plan on making huge platters of crudités or huge vats of vegetable soup.
For more tips from Sara Moulton check out her website. Hope that helps!