TAMPA — Consider it a little early holiday gift from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. On Thursday in the ballroom, Food Network star Sara Moulton will demonstrate several of her "12 recipes of Christmas," giving home cooks recipes as well as tips on how to cook affordably and efficiently this holiday season. The host of the Food Network's Cooking Live, Cooking Live Primetime and Sara's Secrets, Moulton has been the executive chef of Gourmet magazine for 23 years and is the food editor of ABC's Good Morning America. She is also the author of Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals (Broadway Books, 2005) and Sara Moulton Cooks at Home (Broadway Books, 2002) and the host of the public television series Sara's Weeknight Meals. We spoke with her by phone from her office in New York.
What are you demonstrating tomorrow?
The recipes are drawn from my first book, which was more entertaining-oriented. I'm going to be demonstrating a French apple tart in the shape of a rose. It's a bit of a magic trick. Even if you don't have good knife technique, there's this cool way to slice the apples that makes you look like a culinary genius even if you're not. At these demonstrations, it's not about the recipe, it's about learning the techniques.
With your numerous books, shows and day job at Gourmet, how do you find time to travel and do demos?
I love a live audience. It's useful for me because I find out what America is doing and what is it thinking.
What is America thinking?
The economy is huge. People are thinking about how to stretch a dollar. Definitely quick and easy is popular, and comfort food is always huge. Latin cuisines are getting more popular as the population gets bigger, and people continue to be interested in Asian food and, I like to think, in Indian food. When I started at the Food Network in 1996, people didn't know what panko or chipotle in adobo were. And now that's old hat.
What do you tell cooks hoping to keep things affordable for the holidays?
What I would say is absolutely delicious and affordable is, instead of an expensive beef tenderloin, choose one of the tougher cuts of meat that braise beautifully, like short ribs or shoulder. Make a beautiful stew. The other thing that's affordable is ground meat, so think about lasagna. There are so many other cultures around the world that don't eat as much meat as we do, so you don't have to use a ton of protein. Vegetarian is great, and I think pasta is your best friend. The other thing that's fine to serve is soup, which is elegant and cozy.
Do you think people are entertaining as much in these difficult times?
I worked for Good Morning America during the stock market crash of 1987. A chef on the show said how important it is to entertain in lean times, for people to get together. Food can be nurturing; it's good for the soul.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining.