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
Debra Griffin: Often when I try to make English toffee, I fail. Just as the mixture of 2 C sugar and 2 C butter reaches the temperature of 300 degrees, the butter separates from the sugar. What am I doing wrong?
I am not quite sure what went wrong so I reached for a recipe from one of my most reliable sources, my mentor and friend, Jean Anderson, who has written over 30 cookbooks, the most recent being "Falling Off the Bone," John Wiley and Sons. The following is a recipe from "The Doubleday Cookbook," which Jean co-authored.
Old English Toffee
Yields: 1 pound
1 cup butter (no substitute)
¼ cup light cream or evaporated milk
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat; mix in cream and sugar, insert candy thermometer, and heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, uncovered, moving a wooden spoon across bottom of pan occasionally (but not actually stirring) until thermometer reaches 280°F. or a little mixture dropped in ice water separates into firm but not brittle strands. Remove from heat, let bubbling subside, add vanilla, and stir only to blend. Pour into a well buttered 8" x 8" x 2" pan and cool 10 minutes – candy should be hardening but still plastic. Turn onto a foil lined board and score in 1" squares. Cool to room temperature, break into squares, and wrap each in foil, cellophane, or wax paper. Store airtight.
June Oppenheim: I am looking for large leaves to put under a fresh fruit platter. What can I use and where would I purchase them?
If you want to go with fresh leaves you should make friends with a local florist and ask them if they have UNSPRAYED lemon, fig, chestnut or grape leaves. I have used fresh bay leaves as the base of a cheese platter and you can find those at many supermarkets and hopefully at your local farmer's market when it is the season. If you want to go "faux" Williams Sonoma has some nice looking paper leaves which you can find on their website under the category "Decorative Cheese Leaves."
Tamara Shaw: How long should I let a roast (either beef, pork, or poultry) that has been rolled and tied with kitchen string rest after removing it from the oven before removing the string and slicing? Thanks! Tammy
The larger the roast, the longer the time you should give it to rest. I let a pork tenderloin roast rest about 10 minutes, covered loosely with foil. I let a standing rib roast rest about 20 to 25 minutes and I let a 16-pound turkey rest 30 minutes.
ChrisTina Birt: I am having trouble making sugar-free buttercream frosting -- it does well until I add the vanilla. After that it looks like cottage cheese. I am a diabetic so I cannot use the usual recipe that you use with all the powdered sugar. Please help me.
I am not an expert at sugar-free baking but I think I might still be able to help you here. It sounds like the vanilla made the frosting curdle because the vanilla extract added too much liquid to the mix. Why don't you try substituting the extract with a fresh vanilla bean (many supermarkets sell them in a thin glass or plastic tube). Cut the bean in half lengthwise, from top to bottom and scrape the seeds using the tip of a paring knife into the frosting and gently beat until they are incorporated. The only downside is that you will see tiny black flecks in the frosting but the upside is that the seeds will contribute terrific flavor and the frosting won't curdle.
Pat Traficante : What is your favorite way to prepare lamb. I love chops, but I don't like leg of lamb. My problem is when preparing food. I don't like butter, mayo or raw onions.
Rather than give you a specific recipe I am going to recommend some ingredients to pair with lamb chops (that aren't butter, mayo or raw onion): olive oil, garlic (cooked), olives, tomatoes, mint, lemon, red wine, rosemary, basil, mint.
Laura Glanger: Is it my imagination, or do crockpots tend to give a certain off flavor to meat dishes? Thank you.
I have not experienced that problem. I think you end up with more intense flavor when you cook in a crockpot because all of those ingredients are hanging out together for such a long time. Perhaps that intensity is getting to you?
Carla Schneidewind : I am deathly allergic to lemon and so many recipes calls for lemon. Orange and lime work sometimes but, it changes and at times ruins the original flavor of the dish. Is there anything else that I can use in place of the lemon? Thanks!
What a bummer!! Citrus is in everything. Sometimes lemon is added solely for its lemon flavor and that you cannot replicate – unless you are okay with lemon herbs like lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon thyme and lemon verbena. If you are okay with those herbs, then you can chop them up very fine and add them for their lemony flavor.
If the lemon is added to a recipe for its acidity you can substitute any acidic ingredient – wine, vinegar, tomatoes, etc, although not in exactly the same amounts. You could start by adding a little of one of those ingredients and tasting. Add more if you think the dish needs more acid.