Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

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

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?

Sara's Answer:


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

Sara's Answer:


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!)

Sara's Answer:


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.

Pat Brown: Homemade pie crusts or frozen pie crusts pull away from the pie pan. What causes this & how can this be prevented?

Sara's Answer:


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.

Here are some tips: 1. When you mix your dough, make sure all your ingredients are cold. 2. Don't mix in the butter until it is fully incorporated; you want to see pea-size lumps. 3. Try to add just enough water to hold the dough together and mix it in rather quickly. 4. After you mix the dough, put it in the fridge for at least an hour, which allows the gluten that is all tight after mixing to relax. 5. When you roll out the dough, do it quickly; don't work the dough too much. 6. When you put the rolled-out dough into a pie plate, don't stretch it to fit. Ease it in, fitting it gently into the corners. Stretching it will make it shrink back later when you bake it. 7. Chill it again, for an hour after you roll it out, before you bake it.

All of these things should help!

Cheryl Rasmussen: Hi Sara, I have always wondered what types of fish have eatable skin?

Sara's Answer:


I realized that I hadn't really thought about this. I did a little research and there was no big list of edible fish skins to be found. However here are the some of the fish skins my fish experts recommended:
artic char
sea bass
striped bass

and here are some fish skins they did not recommend
black fish

Marje Strickland: Sara, How can I make pesto without nuts? I have an allergy to nuts. Please help me. Love your shows, Marje

Sara's Answer:


The nuts are there for flavor, body and mouth feel. If you want to replicate those three things, replace the nuts with either sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or legumes such as white beans. Or, leave the nuts out altogether – you will still have a wonderfully fragrant herb sauce.

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