Ask Sara: TV Chef Answers Your 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 want to do in the kitchen, and she responded.

Sara Moulton Answers Your Questions

William Roberts: How do you get the hard-boiled egg to get the yoke to center in the white. I am making deviled eggs. I have tried spinning prior to dropping them in the hot water. What do you suggest?

Sara's Answer:


I reached out to my friend Howard Hellmer at the Egg Board for help on this one and here is what he said:

"That's a tough one because what I'm suggesting doesn't always work. Try this. The day before hard cooking the egg, invert it in the carton. Eggs are always packed and stored with the large end up to facilitate the air cell. Inverting the egg overnight has been known to work, but no guarantees."

Astrid Stennes: Substituting cake flour for plain flour; what is the ratio? and will the cake flour produce a "lighter" cake? cookie? Thank you.

Sara's Answer:


I asked the King Arthur Flour Baking Hotline for help with your question. Here is their answer:

"When using cake flour in place of all purpose, you may want to decrease the amount by 1 tablespoon. Because the starches in bleached cake flour are damaged, they can hold more moisture than all-purpose flour. You may notice a lighter crumb in many styles of cake when using cake flour, except in the case of a high ratio cake (lots of sugar and fat in proportion to the flour) when you would actually notice that the cake is more moist and dense. An all-purpose flour does not have the capacity to hold as much moisture, and thus you would need to add about 1 tablespoon more of AP flour (to absorb more liquid) when using it in a recipe that calls for cake flour. In this case you would note a slightly heavier cake just because there is more flour.

For cookies, the cake flour will produce a crisper cookie, but not necessarily a lighter one."

Warren Newcomb: I use Idaho potatoes and that's it. I grew up on them. I use them for mashed, fried, baked, potato pancakes just about everything. Someone threw a wrench into my thinking and stated that different potatoes have different ways for using them. Most of them where not Idaho. Can you explain what potato goes for what dish. Thanks in advance.

Sara's Answer:


There are two basic kinds of potatoes; baking and boiling. Baking potatoes, also known as russets (the most famous of which is the Idaho) have a mealy fluffy texture when cooked and are high in starch. Boiling potatoes (examples are round whites, long whites, red bliss) have a firm waxy texture and are not as high in starch.

You should reach for a baking potato when you are looking for a fluffy texture (such as in mashed potatoes) or when you need the starch they provide (such as in a potato pancake; that starch holds the pancake together).

You should reach for a boiling potato when you need a potato that will holds its shape after cooking. This is especially important for a potato salad. (An Idaho falls apart after you boil it.) The other strong point of boiling potatoes is that they are thin skinned. Their skins are tender enough that you don't need to peel them. In fact, that is an easy way to tell baking and boiling potatoes apart. If the potato has a thick tough skin it is a baking potato and if it has a thin skin it is a boiling potato.

Ask Chef Sara Moulton

Yukon Golds, although they look more like a boiling potato, can be used in recipes that call for baking or boiling potatoes. They are pretty all purpose.

Jan and Marilynn: I'm looking for a recipe for "Cherry Upside Down Cake." A very good friend said it looked so good and asked me to find it for her. I'm very vague about the program the chef or any details, but thought you might be able to look it up for us. Any help would be appreciated.

Sara's Answer:

Jan and Marilynn,

I'm not sure what show you saw it on; there is no cherry upside down cake on the food network website so perhaps it was on public television? But I went to one of my favorite recipe websites (because all the recipes are well tested), and found a cherry upside down cake there. The link is here.

Laura Borick: Lately, I keep reading about kale. "The most nutritional and overlooked vegetable." In the interest of eating well, any recipes and/or suggestions on how to use it/cook it would be welcome. Can kale be frozen? Used in a salad? Etc ..... Educate me about kale! Thanks.

Sara's Answer:


I love the robust flavor of kale and try to serve it as often as possible because it is so healthy. First I remove and discard the tough stems, then I soak the leaves in a large bowl of cold water, lifting them out and transferring them to a colander. If they had any sand on them, the sand will stay behind in the bowl. Depending on what I am going to do with them I either spin them dry in a colander (which gets them very dry) or just let them drain on paper towels.

Then I rip or chop them because the leaves can be quite big. I usually cook kale because it is pretty tough but I don't see why you couldn't throw it into a salad.

You can steam or boil kale and then toss it with butter. You can also saute it in a large skillet with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes until it wilts or you can braise it with bacon, vinegar or a little wine and some chicken stock. You can also bake it: Toss the well dried leaves with a little olive oil and salt and spread them in one layer in a large rimmed baking pan. Bake the leaves in a preheated 375-degree oven until they become dry and crispy but not burnt, about 10 minutes. Kale is also a great addition to any mixed vegetable soup.

It will freeze nicely if you first blanch it (boil it in plenty of boiling salted water for three minutes), drain and then shock it in a bowl of ice and cold water. Drain it again, wrap well and freeze.

Ellen Slavitz : Can you tell me how to properly caramelize onions? Whenever I try, the onions burn before they turn that nice caramel color. I've tried adding water, sugar, and turning the heat up or down but have not been successful.

Sara's Answer:


I like to follow the method that Julia Child used for French onion soup:

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

6 cups quite thinly sliced yellow onions (about 1 ½ pounds)

Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan; stir in the sliced onions. Cover the pan and cook slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring up occasionally, until onions are tender and translucent. Raise heat to moderately high, stir in the sugar and salt, and cook 20 to 30 minutes more, stirring frequently, until onions have turned a fine deep caramel brown.

This method comes from "Julia Child and More Company," Knopf, 2001.

I think the double step of first cooking the onions over low heat, covered and then turning up the heat and cooking them uncovered really helps to get the deep caramelization you are looking for.

Amy Ward: What advice or lesson you learned from Julia Child resonates with you most today?

Sara's Answer:


Wow, Amy, I learned so much from her. Let me see:

1. You never stop learning;

2. You must always work hard and take on new jobs (that is probably why I have had two or three jobs at a time since I worked with her);

3. It is all about excellence;

4. There is more to life than being a foodie.

For more tips from Sara Moulton check out her website.