We all have that one thing in the kitchen that trips us up, a cooking conundrum whose answer we're not quite sure of. Should I toss out this cheese rind? Can I sub baking powder for my baking soda? How the heck do I boil a successful bowl of rice?
We get it. The kitchen can be a daunting place. There’s lots of know-how and insider knowledge and tips and tricks to learn, yet mastery isn’t always the hardest part. Sometimes just asking a question, reaching out for help, can feel close to impossible.
This weekend, cookbook author Chrissy Teigen seemed to be in that camp (stars, they’re just like us!), when she voiced hesitation on Twitter about asking the masses a question. She launched a Twitter poll that read: “I have a question I am ashamed to ask. Also I’ll get so many different answers I don’t even know if it’s worth it. DO I ASK.”
The responses were overwhelmingly positive and urged her to go ahead and let that question loose. She followed up with her query and, obviously, it was food related. She wanted to know how to prepare the fresh lasagna sheets she’d acquired from Eataly. Essentially, to boil or not to boil? See for yourself:
Answers poured in, and because we humans are varied and unreliable, so too were the responses. Some people advised boiling the sheets then transferring them to cold water. Others suggested skipping boiling altogether and layering the uncooked sheets directly into the lasagna. The sauce, some said, will cook the sheets in the pan. It seemed consensus was far from attainable. Until, that is, Eataly weighed in.
The Italian grocers threw their hat in the ring and shut down the conversation with their recommendation: to boil fresh pasta dough for just a minute, then toss it into an ice-cold bath.
Teigen sided with their advice. It makes sense: Boiling cooks the dough just the slightest bit, and the ice bath keeps the pasta from going too far, stopping it from becoming soft and gummy.
The whole saga prompted a train of thought. How do we learn in the kitchen if we’re too afraid to ask? So much of what I don’t know, I’m embarrassed by. Luckily, I work in a place where people are willing—eager, even—to chat cooking techniques, explain foreign terms, debate food pairings. But not everyone can say the same.
Like I said, the kitchen with its bells and whistles and ingredients and tools ad infinitum can seem impossible to master. And it is! But that’s fine. Besides, knowing everything already would be boooooring. It’s the constant discovery, the potential for success (or mishap) that keeps me coming back. Where, then, is one supposed to ask questions?
Well, our hotline, for starters, is a pretty great resource. Toss in a question, no matter how strange (trust me, it won’t be the strangest), and see what kind of answers you get. Or, as they used to say, phone a friend. I’m constantly calling my dad, uncle, friend, cousin, person I met on that trip like two years ago, to follow up on a recipe. What was in that sauce? How long was I supposed to cook that? Can I just cut the fenugreek? It’s embarrassing, for sure, but I’d rather risk a few minutes of looking like a dolt than eating something funny tasting. And if that’s not motivation enough, then I don’t know what is.
What’s a cooking question you’re too embarrassed to ask? Share it in the comments. You might even get a response!