Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

PHOTO: Sara Moulton explains how to properly scramble an egg.

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

Beth Nelson: My pasta is always sticky and clumpy. I've tried using more water, more salt, oil, and other things I thought would keep my past smooth and edible. Suggestions would be welcome as my family loves pasta. Thanks!!

Sara's Answer:

Beth,

Here are some tips. Make sure you have a huge pot of boiling well-salted water. Add the pasta to it and stir right away and again a few minutes later to make sure the pasta does not stick together. Then, let the pasta cook at a low boil until it reaches the desired degree of doneness. Drain it and use it right away - toss it with the sauce. If you drain it and let it sit it will stick together. If you drain it and rinse it, the sauce will slither off. If you add oil to the boiling liquid, that will also prevent the sauce from sticking. Probably the two things that are causing your problem are: 1. you aren't stirring it when you put it in the pot and 2. you are not tossing it with the sauce right away and it is sitting and sticking together in the colander. The pasta should never wait for the sauce. Make the sauce first and let it wait for the pasta.

Mary Ann Bauman: Hi Sara, I watched an episode of your show where you cooked a simple and easy lasagna. I believe the pasta was really some sort of pre-made dough. And the filling was only ricotta cheese and maybe parsley. Can you please tell me a fast and good recipe for lasagna.

Sara's Answer:

Mary Ann,

Mary Ann, The dough was nothing more than wonton wrappers which are fresh pasta squares. You can find them in the frozen food section of many supermarkets or in Asian markets.

Here is the recipe I made on my show:

Quick Asparagus Lasagna

Makes 4 to 6 servings Hands-on-time: 20 minutes Total preparation time: 65 minutes

This is a recipe for spring, even though you can buy asparagus from South America out of season. Asparagus is tastier if you buy it locally and in season. All the thicknesses are fine with me; from pencil-thin spears to thick stalks. However, I recommend that if the asparagus is thicker than, say, one-third of an inch, you should peel it from right below the tip to the end of the stalk. Break off the woody section of the stems first, which usually means the bottom inch or so. By the way, there is no reason to put this recipe on the shelf when asparagus is out of season. It's just as delicious with broccoli florets or sauteed spinach.

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 pound asparagus, trimmed
1 medium onion, halved and sliced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, sliced (about 2 teaspoons)
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
18 refrigerated wonton skins
8 ounces Italian Fontina cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)

Preheat the broiler to high. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet and a lasagna pan (9-by 13-inches roughly). Combine the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Peel the lower stalks of the asparagus if they are thicker than 1/3 inch. Toss the asparagus in the oil mixture and arrange at one end of the oiled baking sheet. Toss the onion and garlic in any remaining oil in the same bowl and arrange them on the other end of the baking sheet. Broil until the edges just begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the onion and garlic with the ricotta, flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a blender; puree until smooth. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Arrange 6 wonton skins in the bottom of the pan. Top with half the asparagus, one-third of the ricotta mixture, and one-third of the Fontina. Add another 6 wonton skins, the remaining asparagus, and another third of the ricotta mixture and Fontina. Top with the remaining wonton skins, ricotta mixture, and Fontina.

Bake the lasagna in the top third of the oven, 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

Beaggetta Livingston: What's the secret to a juicy tender T-Bone or Porterhouse steak...which I love well done.

Sara's Answer:

Wow Beaggetta,

This may not be possible - well-done steaks lose all the juice. But how about you try this? About an hour before you are going to cook the steak sprinkle it lightly on both sides with a little salt and let it sit on a plate covered with plastic wrap at room temperature. Then heat your pan, pat your steak very dry and cook it over medium high heat to get a nice crust on both sides, turn the heat down and cook the steak until it is done to your likeness. Then, let it rest, covered loosely with foil, for 10 minutes. Instead of eating it whole, as a steak, slice it 1/4-inch thick, fan it on the plate and drizzle the meat juices, that hopefully have accumulated on the plate it was resting on, over it. The pre-salting is like dry brining, which will make the meat retain more juice. The resting allows whatever juices are still left in the steak to redistribute. By pouring the juices over the steak, it will appear more juicy. I hope this works!

Judi Bengtson: How do you freeze stuffed peppers and beef stew so that, when thawed, don't get all watery, and end up throwing them out? Thanks. Judi. Also, how hot should the cast iron skillet be before cooking a steak in it? Should it be smoking a lot, or just til water sizzles? Thanks again. Judi.

Sara's Answer:

Judi,

If the peppers you are freezing are raw there is nothing you can do to keep them from breaking down and becoming a flabby watery mess. Freezing breaks down the structure of raw vegetable cells. Why don't you make the filling and freeze that and then when it comes time to bake the peppers, stuff the mixture into raw peppers and proceed with the recipe?

Regarding beef stew, the thickening agent, usually flour, can break down in the freezer. Try freezing a stew that you have not thickened. Defrost it in the fridge, bring it back to a simmer and thicken in then.

Regarding the iron skillet, just until water sizzles is a good indicator of heat.

Robert Klopfenstein : What is your favorite memory of your time working with Julia Child? I miss seeing you on the Food Network and have always liked you. I grew up watching Julia and really miss her as well, I would really like to hear what you have to say about working with such a vibrant personality and how she shaped your TV personality.

Sara's Answer:

Robert,

This year, on August 15, would have been Julia's 100th birthday. Many people will be celebrating her this year.

I have so many great memories, I am not sure which to share. So perhaps I will just tell you what I learned from her:

You must always strive for excellence You never stop learning Having more than one job is a good thing It is okay to make a mistake when teaching (especially on tv, it makes people less scared of cooking) Always work with great ingredients Be demanding of your purveyors, if they don't carry something, convince them that they should Never let anything get in your way - if you really want something to happen just pursue it relentlessly Smile often on tv

She was a great lady and one of the funniest people I ever spent time with.

Ken Smith: My brother made scrambled that was cooked with cheddar cheese incorporated into the egg. The egg had the same texture as a normal scrambled egg with a great cheddar taste. I tried to make them but everything I tried gave me a very bad textured egg. He will not tell me what he did. Can you Help?

Sara's Answer:

Ken,

My guess is that your brother cooked those eggs very low and slow which is actually the proper way to scramble an egg. If you cook eggs over too high a heat the protein tightens up and liquid streams out so you end up with tight dry curds surrounded by water, not a pleasant sight or taste. So try cooking the eggs over very low heat, (adding a tablespoon of milk) stirring constantly and incorporating the cheese mid way. The slower you cook the eggs, the creamier they will be and the better the cheese will be absorbed.

For more great recipes from Sara check out her website or follow her on Twitter: @saramoulton

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