Chef Sara Moulton Answers Your Cooking Questions

PHOTO: Chef Sara Moulton explains the easiest way to cut an onion.Getty Images
Chef Sara Moulton explains the easiest way to cut an onion.

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

Hugh Pritchett, Sr.: What's the easiest way to peel a vidalia onion?

Sara's Answer:


I imagine you asked this question because vidalias are sweet (not like regular storing) onions which means they have thin skins that are hard to peel. Even though that is true, I peel them the same way I peel any onion. If I am going to chop an onion I cut off the stem end. Then I cut it in half from top to bottom through the root end, peel it and chop it leaving it attached at the root end so it doesn't fall apart while I am chopping it.

If I am going to slice an onion, I cut off both the stem and the root end, cut it in half and then peel it.

It is easier to peel any onion if you cut it in half first, especially vidalias or any other sweet onion like walla wallas, Mauis or Texas sweets.

Ruthie Karr: Why do baking recipes call for unsalted butter instead of salted?

Sara's Answer:


There are several reasons. First of all you are adding salt to your recipe when you add salted butter, maybe you don't want to add that salt or perhaps you want to control that salt by adding it separately in a measured amount. Salt is added to butter not just for flavor reasons but also for preservation reasons which means that salted butter can keep longer. The salt also serves to mask rancidity – it is harder to tell that the butter is not fresh if the salt is added. If you are going to add unsalted butter to your baking recipe, you can taste the butter first and discern quickly whether it's fresh. It is not so easy to tell with salted butter.

Sheila Hightower : The difference between a brown egg and a white egg?

Sara's Answer:


There is no difference in nutrition between a brown and white egg, it is just a difference in the breed of the mother. Some breeds of hen lay white eggs, other breeds lay brown eggs. They are all good eggs.

Nancy Stachowiak: What is savory? What does it mean? I hear it over and over and over and over. I've asked multiple people, including cooks, and they look at me with the 'deer in the headlights' look. Please help. Is it vinegary? Is it anything that isn't sweet?

Sara's Answer:


I know how I always use that term which is to mean something that is not sweet but I went to the dictionary just to be sure and here are some definitions that I found:

pungently flavorful without sweetness

Piquant, pungent, or salty to the taste; not sweet.

pleasing to the sense of taste especially by reason of effective seasoning

Appetizing to the taste or smell: a savory stew.

So it appears that it can not only mean "not sweet" but also suggest "well-seasoned" and "appetizing."

Lena Voss: My man says I make the worst mashed potatoes...please help me thank you.

Sara's Answer:


Here you go:

Start with either Russet potatoes (aka baking, the most famous of which is the Idaho) or Yukon Gold potatoes. Peel them and put them whole in a deep saucepan. Cover them with cold water by several inches and a hefty pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, turn it down to a simmer and simmer the potatoes, adding more water if necessary to keep them covered, until they are very tender when you stick them with a knife.

While they are cooking, take out several tablespoons of butter (about a tablespoon per potato) and let them come to room temperature and heat up some milk, whole or low fat (or half and half or cream, if you feel like splurging, but I don't think you need the extra fat for mashed potatoes). You will need about ½ cup for 4 potatoes, depending on how loose you want the mash.

Drain the potatoes, put them back in the pot and cook them over low heat for a few minutes to get rid of any residual moisture. Let them cool a tiny bit so you can handle them, then put them through a food mill or a ricer (looks like a giant garlic press) or, if you don't mind lumps, just mash them with a hand held potato masher. Stir in the butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Add more heated milk if you like a looser texture.

Betsy Aashley-Jones: Sara, what is Almond meal, and where to purchase it?

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.

Almond meal (and almond flour) are nothing more than ground almonds. Almond meal can be made from blanched or un-blanched almonds, almond flour is made from blanched almonds. The two can be used interchangeably.

King Arthur Flour and Bob's Red Mill are two popular brands that you can buy on line and Trader Joes sells its own brand in its stores.

Or, you can make your own by grinding small amounts of almonds in a clean coffee grinder. Pulse them until they are just finely ground and then sift the mixture into a bowl or jar and add the coarse bits in the strainer back to the coffee grinder for the next batch. If you grind them too long you will end up with almond butter.

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