Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

PHOTO: Sara Moulton discusses the easiest way to cook fresh salmon fillets.

Celebrated author and TV chef Sara Moulton is the food editor at "Good Morning America."

You've written to her with questions about what you'd like to learn in the kitchen, and she has responded.

Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions

Lea Brenneman: My husband and I love salmon. I buy the frozen wild caught filets from Cosco. What is the best way to cook the filets if I want to use fresh lemon juice. They seem so soggy after I add the juice to filets.

Sara's Answer:

Lea,

That is an interesting question. I have an idea – after you defrost the filets (in the fridge) why don't you put them on a plate covered loosely with plastic and put another plate on top and a weight. Park that in the fridge for a few hours, then drain off the liquid on the plate with the salmon, pat the salmon very dry with paper towels and drizzle it first with olive oil, then with a squeeze of lemon before baking. Years ago when I worked in the test kitchen at Gourmet magazine we would do this with tofu to make it firmer and also with a fresh Indian cheese called paneer. The weight on the tofu or cheese pushed the internal water out of it and you ended up with a much firmer, drier end result.

Tom Grein: Hi, Sara: I make my own stocks, and I have tried for years to make that wonderful, absolutely clear chicken stock found in so many Asian recipes. I have tried all the tricks, from pre-boiling and then washing off the chicken pieces to remove the fat, to barely simmer for two to three hours, to using only green onions, garlic and ginger, but my stock always comes out cloudy. It still tastes great, but I'm trying to make a clear chicken stock. How do they do that? Thanks, Tom

Sara's Answer:

Tom,

It sounds like you are following most of the correct stock making procedure. Let me review the whole technique and perhaps there is something you will recognize that you are not doing right.

1. Cover the bones with cold water to cover by 2 inches and bring the water just to a boil 2. Turn down to a simmer and simmer, skimming the scum that rises to the surface (protein solids), until there is no more scum (about 20 minutes). 3. Add the cut up vegetables and herbs and bring back to a bare simmer 4. Simmer for as many hours as necessary (2 – 2 ½ for chicken, many more for beef or veal), uncovered and adding more water as necessary to keep the bones covered. 5. Strain the stock, discarding the solids. Let the stock cool and refrigerate. When ready to use scrape off the fat that collects on the top of the stock.

So here are the things that might produce a cloudy stock: Boiling it
Covering it
Stirring it
Not skimming off that scum
Pressing hard on the solids when you are straining the stock at the end.

Peggy Salmore: I've cooked my roast. It wasn't as tender as it should have been. I made sandwiches the next day. If I put it back in the oven again, can I cook it more to make it tender?

Sara's Answer:

Peggy,

Unless it was a tough cut of meat that you braised in liquid, cooking it more will not help. A tender cut of meat gets tough when it is overcooked and/or when it is sliced too soon (which makes all the juices run out of the meat before it has had time to relax and the juices have had time to redistribute). Also, it might have been a cut of meat that was marketed as appropriate for roasting but really was a tad too tough or lean to be tender if simply roasted. However, if it was a brisket or pot roast and you braised it slowly, it might become more tender with more slow covered wet cooking.

If your roast was dry roasted and you want to make it seem more tender (it won't actually be but you can fool people), slice it as thin as you can, thinner slices of meat are not that tough. Another trick is to combine it with some kind of "sauce" so lather up that mustard and mayo on the sandwich or chop up the meat and combine it with one of those condiments, or toss it with vinaigrette, or combine it with gravy and make a hot roast beef sandwich.

Shelley Sorani: I have two questions: how do you keep food from sticking to the bottom of the pan? I have fair success with cooking beef, lamb or veal on a very hot pan but fish and chicken, both delicate, are a problem. And potatoes roasting in the oven is another. Question #2, what's the best way to bread or coat anything to keep the breading, cracker crumbs, panko or anything else on when sauteeing, pan frying, roasting, etc.?

Sara's Answer:

Shelley,

Chicken and fish just do tend to stick more easily. I have several suggestions to combat that problem 1. If it seems appropriate to the recipe, lightly dust them in flour before you sauté them. 2. Make sure you don't attempt to flip the fish or chicken pieces before they are ready – how do you know they are ready? Give them a tiny nudge with a spatula to see if they are still sticking to the bottom of the pan or if they glide a bit, and if they are loosened, then go ahead and flip them. It is like steak or hamburgers, if you try to flip them before they have seared, they will stick to the bottom of the pan. It is not as obvious to see that sear on fish and chicken. This same principle applies to potatoes. Do not touch them until you see they have developed a crust on the bottom side. 3.Also make sure that the potatoes fish or chicken are very dry (not as important if you are dipping them in flour first) before you put them in the pan. Also make sure there is a light film of oil in the pan and that the pan is plenty hot (but not smoking). Finally, use the right pan. I am not a fan of nonstick so I use stick resistant pans that are non toxic. I discovered them when I was on book tour – Chantal Copper Fusion.

Regarding how to keep crumbs on an item you are about to cook, think about using the right glue. A foolproof method is something called the standard breading procedure – flour, beaten egg with a little water, and then crumbs. If you dip your item first in flour, shaking off the excess, then in egg and finally in crumbs, the crumbs will adhere. When I put a batter on something (my favorite batter is beer batter) I dip the item in flour first and then shake off the excess before dipping it in the batter. When I want crumbs to stick to a roast I make a glue out of mayonnaise and mustard or plain mustard.

Barb Bahn: Can I freeze leftover meatloaf in individual servings in plastic baggies?

Sara's Answer:

Barb,

I don't see why not, just make sure you wrap the slices well before you put them in the baggies, the enemy of frozen food is freezer burn – what that means is if an item is not well wrapped before it goes into the freezer it will lose moisture and pick up off flavors.

Deborah Landsiedel: Sara, I struggle with 2 recipes. Calzone-I always seem to end up with too much dough, or the filling lacks flavor. Do you have a good recipe? Also, Riccotta Cheese pizza- blah flavor...what's the secret? An additional fan's note: I cherish my Julia Child's cookbook that has a picture of the kitchen staff with you in it. I miss your shows but have all your books. Take care...See you on the show.

Sara's Answer:

Deborah,

I will answer your two questions at once. Here is a recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Calzones and Food Processor Pizza Dough.

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