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
Patricia Malave: Whenever I make mac and cheese, the cheese always looks curdled. I know cheese is a finished product, so I take the roux off the heat, add my cheeses and cover until it melts. But it always has that small curdled look, not that silky texture. It still tastes good but what am I doing wrong?
Heating cheese is tricky. I reached to two of my favorite sources, Harold McGee and Shirely Corriher, to find out how to avoid the curdling problem.
Here is what they said:
Avoid using a stringy cheese. Moist or well-aged grating cheeses blend better Make sure that you grate the cheese finely so it disperses evenly in the sauce Try not to heat the dish much after you have added the cheese. Make the sauce, let it cool a little and then add the cheese.
Don't stir too much after you add the cheese, it can become stringy
Make sure there is starch (flour, cornstarch, arrowroot) in the sauce, they are stabilizers
If it works for the dish add a little acid – a little lemon juice or wine when you add the cheese
Audrey Cameron: I have never heard of "EVOO". What is it, and why is it used in a recipe.? A. Cameron
EVOO is an abbreviation for extra virgin olive oil. I think the reason it got shortened to that (and I believe it was Rachel Ray who really popularized it on her Food Network show, "30 Minute Meals") is because it's just too much of a mouthful when you are explaining what kind of oil to use. "Olive oil" won't do because it is not the same quality as extra-virgin but extra-virgin olive oil takes too long to say - hence EVOO.
Michelle Holloway: Is there a rhyme or reason to proper organization of your food pantry? I have a smallish corner step in the pantry and am overwhelmed by not really knowing what I have when I need it, I also have six school-age kids who destroy the pantry making lunches. Help please. (O.K., things also get lost and begin to smell ... that's the real reason I need help!)
I think you need to spend some time in the Container Store, which is one of my favorite stores to frequent (other women go to the shoe store). They have all sorts of affordable solutions to pantry clutter. I especially like their adjustable minishelves with different heights.
If you can't see it, you can't find it. You need to be able to open the pantry door and see everything right away. I would also recommend assigning a part of the pantry just for the kids and make them responsible for keeping it neat.
Homemade pie crusts or frozen pie crusts pull away from the pie pan. What causes this & how can this be prevented?
There is always going to be a tiny bit shrinkage in a pie dough but there is much you can do when you are preparing it to prevent major retractions. The reason dough shrinks is because the gluten in the dough needs to relax. Once you combine flour with a liquid and mix it, the gluten (aka protein) in the flour starts to develop and get elastic. This is fine in bread, where you need that gluten to hold the bread together (trap the CO2 that is given off from the yeast) when it rises, but not good in a pastry dough that you want to be tender.