Ask Ina

Ask Ina

Have a cooking or entertaining question?

From Amber - Sioux City, IA

When my cheesecake comes out of the oven, it has a light brownness on the outer edge of it. What can I do to do avoid that, or is that how all professional cheesecakes look?

Ina's Answer:

That actually is how all cheesecakes look, and I think the lightly browned edges make the cheesecake look perfectly done.

From Sandra Kretzschmar - Brighton, MI

I made your outrageous brownies- they are the best brownies I've ever eaten! Are they supposed to be kept in the refrigerator? The instructions say to refrigerate then cut.

Ina's Answer:

I keep the brownies wrapped well in the refrigerator, and then I take them out before serving at room temperature.

From Melanie Young - Oxford, MS

I want to make your recipe for Chocolate Crème Brûlée, but I don't have a kitchen blowtorch. Can I use the broiler to caramelize the tops?

Ina's Answer:

Yes, just watch them carefully and depending on the broiler, you may have to move the crème brûlées around so the sugar caramelizes evenly. 

From Darian Longmire - Chicago, IL

What kind of beverage and spirits are essential for stocking a home mini bar?

Ina's Answer:

I usually have Scotch, vodka, bourbon and gin, and it's always good to have a red and white wine on hand. For mixed drinks, I would stock tonic, club soda and ginger ale. And if you have room for more, add what you think your friends like to drink-- rum, tequila, etc.

From Kristie - Kamloops, BC, Canada

My question is regarding meringue for a Pavlova dessert. Mine have a nice texture and taste, but the colour is more beige than white. My oven is clean, and I have checked the baking temps with additional thermometers. Help!

Ina's Answer:

The problem is either that the temperature was too high or the meringue was in the oven too long. In my experience, the trick with meringues is to keep an eye on them - unfortunately they can go from perfectly baked to overdone very quickly!

From Shirley Cole - Michigan

I made your chocolate dipped strawberries for Valentine's day! They were great except they stuck to the glass plate. What did I do wrong?

Ina's Answer:

I would recommend dipping the strawberries and letting them cool on parchment or wax paper. When they're cooled and the chocolate has hardened, peel the paper off and place the strawberries onto a serving dish- that should solve the problem!

From Allie Van Dine - Washington, DC

I love how one way you show your love for Jeffrey is by cooking for him. What good recipes would you recommend I cook for my boyfriend when he is studying for his law school finals?

Ina's Answer:

What a lovely thing to do. I think he'd really appreciate the Perfect Roast Chicken from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, or the Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken from Cooking from Jeffrey.

From Katie Binzer - Cincinnati, OH

I have always loved your decor and style and was hoping to confirm if you have ever used Farrow & Ball's "Light Gray"? I'm remodeling my kitchen and family room and love the warmth of your space.

Ina's Answer:

Yes! The walls of the barn are actually Light Gray. I think it's a beautiful, rich neutral that goes with anything.

From Esther - Sunset Beach, NC

I have a question about Tate's chocolate chip cookies. Is there something special about these that would affect the Mocha Icebox Cake, or can I use any brand?

Ina's Answer:

Tate's cookies are very thin and crisp, which makes them perfect for soaking up the mocha whipped cream. However, any similarly thin and crisp chocolate chip cookie should work for the recipe.

From Pete Mapelli - Carmel, NY

Can the Decadent (Gluten-Free) Chocolate Cake be made with regular flour?

Ina's Answer:

Yes! Just substitute 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour for the gluten-free flour.

From Jennifer - Boston

I was planning on making your Winter Minestrone for a family friend who's feeling down, but I'm concerned with how the pasta will hold up if the soup is reheated or frozen.

Ina's Answer:

The soup may need a little bit of extra liquid (stock or water) when it's reheated, but otherwise it should be totally fine! 

From Katie - San Jose, CA

Can I freeze the chicken stew with biscuits?

Ina's Answer:

I would recommend freezing the Chicken Stew (wrap tightly!) - and then make the biscuits the day you want to serve the stew.

From Teresa Hughes - Westminster, MD

Do you prefer to use a charcoal or a gas grill? What are the advantages of each one? I noticed many of your recipes call for outdoor grill.

Ina's Answer:

I prefer a charcoal grill because I like the flavor, but if you prefer the ease of turning on a gas grill, that's perfectly fine, too!

From Marcia Potter - Denver, CO

How do you know which onion to use in a dish if the recipe does not specify? Red, yellow, white, sweet, green? Is there a general rule of thumb for which to use?

Ina's Answer:

Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, I would always assume it's calling for yellow onions.

From Gene Longo - Annapolis, MD

I love to bake, but I am struggling with using a pastry bag. I would love to master this skill - what advice do you have?

Ina's Answer:

The only way to learn to use a pastry bag is to practice. I would make a big bowl of whipped cream fill a pastry bag, and pipe the whipped cream onto a cutting board. When you're done, scoop it back into the bag, and try again until you have the hang of it!

From Ross - Upstate New York

I am a fan of your Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins. We have a plentiful supply of blueberries in our area and have been freezing them for years. I do understand that fresh is always best, but home-grown is right up there, too. Will frozen blueberries affect this recipe?

Ina's Answer:

I haven't tried using them, but I think frozen blueberries would work just fine for this recipe!

From Joan - Boston, MA

Can I make the Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken in my cast iron Dutch oven?

Ina's Answer:

You can, but I think the high sides might mean that the chicken will steam more than it will roast, so the chicken won't brown as well as it would in a cast-iron skillet.

From Jessica Sennett - Chicago, IL

My best girlfriend is going to be a mommy very soon. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for make-ahead freezer meals that I can make for her and her husband to have ready when they come home from the hospital.

Ina's Answer:

Soups and stews freeze very well, as well as anything that has a sauce, like beef Bourguignon, chicken pot pies, and lasagna.

From Elba I. Luna - Rockaway, NJ

Can you recommend a French red wine?

Ina's Answer:

There are a lot of great French wines. I particularly like Burgundies, which tend to be fruitier and lighter than Bordeaux. My recommendation would be to find a good wine store and ask what good Burgundies they have in your price range.

From Gregory Wojtera - Vermont

I love cauliflower but it is such a messy veggie to prep. I always end up with small pieces of cauliflower florets all over my counters and floor. Any suggestion for a better way to prep it?

Ina's Answer:

Yes! Turn the cauliflower over, florets down on the cutting board and cut out the core with a knife. Then, just cut through the stems, and then pull the florets apart. You end up with whole florets of cauliflower- and no mess!

From Alberta Robinson - Erlanger, KY

I have a question about making meringue. Every time I prepare meringue to top my pies or pudding within a few hours it starts to pull away from the sides and eventually deflates. Is this normal or am I doing something wrong?

Ina's Answer:

That's normal! That's exactly what meringue does, so it's best served right after you make it.

From Diana E Miller - The Villages, FL

Can scones be frozen.....cooked today and frozen for breakfast/brunch next week?

Ina's Answer:

They can definitely be prepared and cut out and refrigerator for a day or two, and then baked before serving, but I've never frozen them and baked a week later. When you're making scones, try freezing one and see if it works!

From Bob - New York City

I'm looking for the best shrimp scampi recipe- including the kind and size of shrimp to use.

Ina's Answer:

Here's my recipe for Linguine with Shrimp Scampi from Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I hope you enjoy it!

From Dorothy O'Neill - New City, NY

How far in advance can I make the Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake?

Ina's Answer:

You can keep the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight, but it's best served the day it's made.