Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

PHOTO: Pie in ovenPhotographers Choice/Getty Images
Sara Moulton offers tips on how to evenly bake a pie.

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

Jill Tolleson: Can you help me understand what heavy cream is? I find recipes that state heavy cream and then say to whip it. I have bought half and half AND whipping cream. Half and half will not whip. I'm always buying the wrong thing. How do I know how/when to used these two products?

Sara's Answer:


I don't blame you, it is confusing. Heavy cream, also known as heavy whipping cream has a higher fat content than any other cream – at least 36 percent, while whipping cream (without that word "heavy" in there) has a butterfat content of 30- 36 percent. Both of them can be whipped but heavy cream will whip up much faster and to a firmer consistency that plain old whipping cream.

Meanwhile, light cream with 18-30 percent fat and half and half with 10-18 percent cannot be whipped.

It is important when you are whipping cream to make sure that it is very cold before you start beating it.

Shirley Jones: Is it safe to boil eggs ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use within a few days? Peeled or in shells?

Sara's Answer:


I got this right off "The Incredible Egg" website, which is the very useful website of the egg board:

"As soon as you've cooled them, refrigerate hard-boiled eggs in their shells and use them within one week."

Denny Schultz: Dear SARA: I recently bought 1/4 of a cow and three friends took a quarter each. Well, I got the BEEF TONGUE! I know they did this as a joke. Well, not to be out done, I said, "no problem, I'll cook it and share the finished product with you." Well, guess what. I WAS BLUFFING! Worst yet, I can't even find a recipe that's not South American. How do you cook a beef tongue and what would go with it. Keeping in mind that this is Chattanooga,Tennessee, (Southern Cooking and Grilling), nothing too exotic please. Help from a big FAN. Thanks, Denny Schultz

Sara's Answer:


You are in luck. I just happen to be reviewing a cookbook in advance of publication, "The Great Meat Book," by a highly qualified meat specialist Bruce Aidells. It is going to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 2 of this year. Bruce just happens to have a recipe for pickled tongue in this tome and he has offered to share it with you.

Here you go! (By the way, I did not ask for info about Insta-Cure No. 1 since I doubt you are smoking the tongue):

Pickled Beef Tongue
Beef tongue should be well washed before pickling. A beef tongue weighs around 2 to 3 pounds and can be pickled using the same recipe as the kosher-style corned beef or the recipe below. 1 gallon of Basic Wet-Brine should be enough for 2 to 4 tongues, a half gallon being enough for 1 or 2 tongues.
1 or 2 whole beef tongue, well washed and scrubbed
1/2 recipe Basic Wet-Brine (see below)
Insta-Cure No. 1 (optional)
1/4 cup pickling spice store bought or homemade (see recipe below)

Combine the Basic Wet-Brine and pickling spices and cure tongues for 5 days for smaller 2 pound tongues and 6 days for larger 3 pound tongues. After 2 days remove tongue, stir brine and replace tongues. When finished curing, wash tongue well and wrap in plastic wrap or store in a zipper-lock bag in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Pickled tongue will keep for 2 to 3 days.

Cook's Notes: To cook pickled beef tongue, cover in water and bring to a boil. If you wish, add 1/4 cup pickling spices. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours or until the tongue is fork tender. When cool enough to handle, peel the skin. Slice thin crosswise and serve warm or chill overnight and use cold in sandwiches or salads. You can also gently warm sliced tongue in a little water in a covered pan or microwave and use for warm tongue sandwiches.

Kosher Style Pickling Spice Makes 1/2 cup
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, cracked
2 teaspoon dill seeds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
8 bay leaves, broken into pieces
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 2 to 3 inch pieces cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
Combine all spices until well mixed. Store in a tightly sealed container. Keeps 2 to 3 months.

Basic Wet-Brine
This is the basic brine that I use for bacon, corned beef, pickled tongue, ham, smoked pork loin and Petit Salé Pork. The method for brining is the same. The only variations in each recipe are the addition of spices, herbs and other flavorings and the time each piece of meat spend in the brine. So, consult the individual recipes for details.

1 gallon cold water
1 pound salt (3 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt)
1/2 pound light brown sugar (1 cup)
3 tablespoons Insta-Cure No. 1 (optional if meat is not smoked, required if meat is smoked)

Pour water into a non-reactive container such as a plastic storage tub or stainless steel bowl large enough to hold the water and the meat you wish to cure. Stir in salt, sugar and optional cure. Continue stirring until all the salts and sugar are completely dissolved. Submerge meat in the brine and weight the meat down with a plate so it is completely submerged. Place into the refrigerator for the time recommended in each recipe.

Cook's Notes:
If you prefer a sweeter flavor to your cured meats, increase the sugar in 2-ounce increments each time you cure something and determine what sweetness level you prefer. If the basic cure is too sweet, then reduce the sugar in 2 ounce increments. You may use other sweet ingredients to replace some of the sugar. Some examples are dark brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, agave syrup, treacle syrup, white sugar, turbinado sugar, honey or malt syrup. Be sure to take notes each time you cure something so you remember where you left off with your sweetness levels, salt levels and curing time. You may also replace some of the water with other liquids such as beer, sweet or hard cider, or red or white wine (take care since wine is acidic) and booze such as rum, bourbon, scotch, brandy, drambuie, or Irish whiskey.

Nancy Shultz: What can you substitute for goat cheese in a recipe if you don't care for goat cheese ?

Sara's Answer:


If the recipes calls for soft goat cheese you can use cream cheese. If the recipe calls for aged goat cheese, ricotta salata (aged ricotta which is crumbly and dry) is a good stand in.

MeloDee Miller: When I bake a pie, no matter what I do, put aluminum foil around it, on it I watch it closely but it always burns or gets really dark before the pie is completely done. Is there any other secret to do so this does not happen.

Sara's Answer:


I am not sure what part of the pie is burning before the rest of it gets done. If it is the top of the pie that is getting too dark while the bottom crust is coming out anemic, you might want to switch to a glass pie plate which is a terrific even conductor of heat, better than the classic aluminum pie plate. And it has the added bonus that you can simply lift up a glass pie plate with the pie in it and look at the bottom crust to see if it has properly browned.

How a pie browns also has to do with where you put it in the oven. If you want it to brown evenly all over you should put it on the middle shelf. If you want to make sure the bottom crust gets really brown you should put the pie on the lower shelf. If you put the pie on the upper shelf of the oven the top crust might burn before the bottom crust is properly brown and cooked through.

Lou Fung: What is the procedure for substituting applesauce for oil in baking? Thanks!

Sara's Answer:


I looked back into one of my old "Eating Well" Magazine cookbooks, called "Secrets of Low-Fat Cooking" and what they recommended was using fruit purees such as apple butter, prune puree or mashed bananas to replace three fourths of the fat in quick bread recipes.

Candy Wilke: I want to try your Korean-Style Grilled Flank Steak, but I'd rather not use sugar. Do you think a sugar substitute would work okay?

Sara's Answer:


I think you are referring to the one I demo'ed on GMA a few weeks ago. That recipe actually came from a new book out by Gourmet Magazine, sort of a "best of" called, "Gourmet Weekday."

I think a sugar substitute would work, just start with a little bit though, those substitutes tend to be very sweet and sometimes have an off taste.

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