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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

08/17/2018

~ My Maryland Crabcake, Tomato & Mayo Sandwich ~

IMG_1696When I'm in Maine, you'll find me eating a lobster roll with potato chips.  When I'm in Florida, I'll be ordering a blackened mahi-mahi sammie topped with mango salsa.  When I'm at home here in Happy Valley, I'm feasting on Pennsylvania sweet corn, Jersey tomatoes and Maryland crab cakes.  When I enter my kitchen carrying a few fresh-from-the-vine tomatoes, the first thing I do is grab the Hellman's, get out the Sunbeam and make a good old-fashioned tomato and mayo sandwich.  As much as I adore this down-home Summer indulgence, there is one thing I like more:  a tomato-and-mayo sandwich with a big, fat, freshly-fried Maryland-style crab cake on it. Serve it up with a cob of in-season Pennsylvania sweet corn -- baby, I'm in foodie heaven.

If you've ever traveled to the areas in and around the Chesapeake Bay (Annapolis and/or Baltimore, Maryland, or, the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area in general),  even if you are not a foodie, from white-linen restaurants to roadside stands, crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches are everywhere.  Not only that, if you ask any of the locals where to find the best crab cake or crab cake sandwich, you'll find they are fiercely loyal to their favorite place (and be prepared to listen, because they are going to tell you why), and, you'll rarely get the same answer twice.

IMG_1698I've eaten many crab cakes and crab cake sandwiches in Maryland. I've never encountered one I didn't like.  While all a bit different, it was their  similarities that struck me:  lots of sweet, jumbo lump crabmeat with little filler (saltine crackers, not breadcrumbs), a bit of mayo, dry mustard, Worcestershire and Frank's RedHot pepper sauce, and, an egg or two to bind it all together. All contain parsley, none contain celery onion or bell pepper -- zero. Most are pan-fried, some are broiled, and they're served on everything from sliced white bread to grilled chiabatta, with soft lettuce, tomato and a mayo-based sauce.

6a0120a8551282970b017d3c043c34970cFaidley's is a seafood restaurant in Baltimore's Lexington Market.  This still-family run business was founded by John Faidley, Sr. in 1886, making it one of the oldest in the Chesapeake Bay region.  Via a tip from a local, Joe and I wandered in there in 1996.  I ordered the crab cake sandwich and it was love at first bite -- the best one I'd ever tasted.  Imagine my glee when I found out that if you ask, they'll give you a copy of the recipe (nowadays, it's on the internet).  It seems their crab cakes are so popular, to prevent copycats from sharing inferior versions, they simply hand out their real-deal recipe.

For four big, fat, freshly-fried Maryland-style crab cakes:

IMG_1592For the crab cakes:

1  large egg, at room temperature

1-2  teaspoons Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce, to taste

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand

 1  teaspoon Colman's dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1  tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup crushed saltine crackers, crushed not crumbs, about 24 saltines

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, the best available

corn or peanut oil oil, for frying crab cakes

IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641 IMG_1641~Step 1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, RedHot cayenne pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  Whisk in the mayonnaise, followed by the Colman's mustard, Old Bay, parsley flakes sugar and salt.  A creamy and tangy mayonnaise-based sauce will have formed.  FYI:  Incorporate 1/2 cup more mayo and this mix is a great seafood-sandwich topper.

IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632 IMG_1632~Step 2.  Place  saltines in a food storage bag and seal.  Use your fingertips to break crackers into chunky pieces, then, using a rolling pin, process until crushed into small pieces. When making crab cakes, fine crumbs aren't desirable, so don't be inclined to use a food processor.

IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653 IMG_1653~Step 3.  Fold the crackers into the mayo mixture. Add and gently fold the crabmeat into the cracker mixture until thoroughly combined, doing your best not to mash the lumps out of the crabmeat.  Set crab cake mixture aside to rest,15-20 minutes.

Note:  This rest period gives the crackers time to absorb moisture and soften, which is "the glue" that holds the crab cakes together.  You will have about 1 1/2 pounds of total crab cake mixture.

IMG_1668 IMG_1668 IMG_1668 IMG_1668~Step 4.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment. Divide crab mixture into four parts. Using a kitchen scale, they'll be 6-ounces each. Form crab cakes by hand, into 3/1/2-4"-round discs, by gently but firmly compressing them between palms of hands.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight.  Do not remove from refrigerator prior to frying.  Just prior to frying the crab cakes (as directed in the next step), prep the garnishes (as listed below).

IMG_1682 IMG_1682 IMG_1682 IMG_1682~Step 5.  Place 1/8" of corn or peanut oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the crab cakes and fry, until golden brown on both sides, turning only once, about 3-3 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and rest, about 3-4 minutes prior to serving hot.

For four crab cake sandwiches & the assembly: 

IMG_1596For the crab cake sandwiches:

8  slices Wonder-type sandwich bread, super fresh, 2 per sandwich

8  large, soft Bibb lettuce leaves, 2 per sandwich

4-8  large, thick, slices of garden-fresh tomatoes, 1-2 per sandwich depending upon the size of the tomato

4  large, 3 1/2"-4"-round crab cakes, from above recipe, 1 per sandwich

mayonnaise, for drizzling, dolloping or slathering, your favorite brand

4  sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish

4  lemon wedges, for garnish and a spritz of lemon juice

sweet corn, for a highly-recommended accompaniment (optional)

~ Step 1.  In the order listed, assemble the sandwiches and serve accompanied by sweet corn.

Nothing fancy.  Just fantastic.

IMG_1700Here's lookin' at 'cha:

IMG_1719Mel's Crab Cake, Tomato & Mayonnaise Sandwich:  4 large Maryland-style crab cake sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  wire whisk; large rubber spatula; 1-gallon food storage bag; rolling pin; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; plastic wrap; 12" nonstick skillet; spatula; paper towels; cutting board; serrated tomato knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d297c03f970cCook's Note:  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase big jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day. There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayo-based tartar and remoulade sauces, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise.  I know my mayo: ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread:  Hellman's vs Duke's ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/15/2018

~My Texican Huevos Rancheros Taco Boat Breakfast~

IMG_1517Classically, soft-yolked fried eggs, served atop a lightly-fried corn tortilla, accompanied by a scoop of creamy refried beans, then drizzled with a cooked tomato-and-chile-pepper sauce (not fresh salsa), is known as: huevos rancheros.  Simple, straightforward and scrumptious, ranch eggs, rancher's eggs or ranch-style eggs was the typical big, bold stick-to-the-ribs start to the long, laborious dawn-to-dusk workdays of cattle ranchers and ranch hands throughout the wide-open cattle-grazing spaces of Mexico and the American Southwest.  It wasn't fancy, it was filling.

Huevos Rancheros = ingredients on-hand in a ranch kitchen.

IMG_1505As long as one can cook an egg, this dish is easy, as, sans the eggs, everything can be made ahead.  If you're Texican or cook Tex-Mex fare consistently, all the components are already in your kitchen.  The eggs are typically fried, sunny-side-up or over-easy, but poached are dreamy too.  Why? When you cut into breakfast, the yolk flows like lava into the rest of the meal.  If yolk lava doesn't float your boat, request or order Huevos Mexicana and "Cookie"* (see note below) will substitute scrambled eggs.

IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578 IMG_1578Corn tortillas are classic, but flour tortillas are popular too (especially with me), and, I'm using recently-invented stand-and-stuff flour tortilla boats today -- past adorable, they're practical (the boat/bowl-shape holds everything together), and, they're convenient (easy to portion and serve).  That said, when using taco boats, because of their compact size, I fry my eggs in ring molds, in order to corral them (to prevent them from spreading out across the skillet).  Spray the skillet and the inside of the rings with no-stick cooking spray, crack 1 large egg into each ring, then fry to desired degree of doneness.  Remove rings and season with sea salt and sriracha seasoning. Serve ASAP.

*Note:  The ranch's kitchen manager and/or mobile chuck-wagon cook was usually nicknamed “Cookie”. He was almost always a he, as he performed multiple heavy-duty tasks to meet the everyday needs of the ranch and/or its camp site du jour.  Additionally, he was second or third in command of the outfit, behind the ranch owner or his trail boss.  Due to his importance, the cook was paid about $45 - $50 per month -- the wranglers and cow punchers received $25 - $30 while on the trail, and much less (sometimes half pay) when working the ranch between cattle drives.

IMG_1531Huevos Rancheros = tortillas, eggs, refritos, chili sauce.

Back then, electricity and refrigeration hadn't been invented, and even afterward, it took years for either to reach remote locals.  Staples common to a well-stocked ranch kitchen and chuck wagon were limited to items that stored and traveled well -- in both cases, for long periods of time in a harsh environment.  Larders contained cured meats (bacon and ham), lard, onions and potatoes, dried beans, corn, peppers and fruit, uncooked rice and masa harina (corn flour), coffee beans, vinegar, and, sugar, salt and pepper.  As for the incredible, edible, protein-packed egg: chickens wandered around on every ranch -- and Cookie took his best laying hens along on every journey.

IMG_1554I like salsa fresca (uncooked salsa) as much as the next person, but, when I'm making huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) for breakfast or brunch, or, a Mexican-style drowned torta (a sandwich drenched in sauce) for lunch or dinner, I make an all-purpose Mexican-style sauce with a thick, semi-chunky consistency and a smokey, spicy, complex flavor, meaning: a cooked tomato & chile chili sauce that can be served hot or warm.  It's also a 15-20 minute quick-to-make sauce using pantry and refrigerator staples.

IMG_7888Refried beans are required.  I use my recipe for Creamy, Cheesy & E-Z Chile-Lime Refried Bean Dip. Mixed with a can of diced green chiles, salsa verde, lime juice, Mexican crema, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper Jack cheese, canned refried beans never tasted so good.  Prepare them as I direct, reheat them gently in the microwave, then dollop them on the huevos rancheros at serving time. These couldn't be any easier.

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200cFancy fresh garnishes or perishable appointments are not required. Cooking, in the days prior to electricity and refrigeration, was indeed a sport.  All the yummy stuff we can load atop our huevos rancheros today (grated cheese, guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce, minced cilantro, lime wedges and freshly-diced avocado and tomatoes, etc.), even if available to them, was impossible to store or transport.  That said Mexican-Style Adobo Rice is a fine addition to this manly breakfast -- it too loves to be bathed in egg yolk and a drizzle of tomato-chile sauce.

On each plate, in the following order, decoratively arrange:

IMG_1500corn or flour tortillas, or, individual-sized taco boats/bowls, 1 tortilla or 2 mini-sized boats/bowls per serving

soft-yolked fried or over-easy eggs, hot out of the skillet, 1-2 eggs per serving

Mexican-style refried beans, ready and warm, from above recipe, 1/4-1/2-3/4 cups per serving

Mexican-style adobo rice, ready and warm, from above recipe, for accompaniment, 1/4-1/2-3/4 cup per serving (optional)

Mexican-style tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce, ready and warm, from above recipe, for drizzling or dipping, 2-4 tablespoons per serving

Bibb lettuce leaves, avocado and tomato slices, lime wedges and minced cilantro, because they look pretty and taste great with this mouth-watering breakfast 

"Come & get it while it's hot, then break an egg...

IMG_1540... & pass the spicy tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce."

IMG_1563My Mexican Huevos Rancheros Taco Boat Breakfast:  Recipe yields instructions to prepare 12 servings tortilla-sized huevos rancheros, or, 12 servings of mini-taco bowl/boats.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; appropriately-sized skillet or saucepan for frying, poaching or scrambling eggs

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1870f13970cCook's Note:  If you were a cowboy on a cattle drive, whatever you ate for breakfast had to be substantial and the Denver omelette is another protein-packed morning meal.  For a home-home-on-the-range, more-modern-day breakfast, ~ My Kinda Cowboy Breakfast:   The Denver Omelette ~, is a must-try.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

08/12/2018

~ Mexican-Style Tomato & Chipotle-Chile Chili Sauce ~

IMG_1554I like salsa fresca (uncooked salsa) as much as the next person, but, when I'm making huevos rancheros (ranch-style eggs) for breakfast or brunch, or, a Mexican-style drowned torta (a sandwich drenched in sauce) for lunch or dinner, I make an all-purpose Mexican-style sauce with a thick, semi-chunky consistency and a smokey, spicy, complex flavor, meaning: a cooked sauce that can be served hot or warm.  My 15-20 minute quick-to-make sauce uses on-hand pantry and refrigerator staples.  Why?  Tick, tock.  The people I know wake up hungry -- they don't want to wait or watch me stand around simmering sauce, and, the same can be said for anyone looking forward to a super-special hot sandwich with plenty of "gravy" on it for lunch or dinner.

I'll point out that using dried chile powders and dried chili powders in the home kitchen, in place of fresh and/or dried chile peppers is very convenient, and, if used corrrectly, compromises much less than the chile-pepper-police want you to believe.  That said, it helps to know what you are buying, and to know that, you need to check the spelling.  Once you know what the spelling means, you'll know what it is and what is in it, and that means knowing your e's from you i's:

6a0120a8551282970b017d4140a67a970cCHILE:  Spelled with an"e" at the end, refers to the fresh or dried plant or pod or fruit of any member of the pepper family.

CHILI:  Spelled with an "i" at the end, refers to soups, stews and/or sauces made with fresh or dried chile peppers (like chili con carne).

CHILE POWDER:  When spelled with and "e" at the end, means it is a powder made from one or more dried chiles exclusively.  This is sometimes referred to or marketed as POWDERED CHILES, or CHILE BLEND (if it contains more than one kind of chile powder).

CHILI POWDER:  When spelled with an "i" at the end means it is a mixture of ground, dried spices (for example:  cumin, garlic, onion) and chile powder, meaning:  the manufacturer has added spices to the chile powder or a blend of chile powders.

Not typos:  My quick & easy tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce:

IMG_14522  tablespoons corn oil

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  teaspoon ancho chile pepper

3/4  teaspoon Mexican-style oregano

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

2  whole chipotle chile peppers packed in adobo, plus 1-2 tablespoons sauce from can, to taste

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stems are ok

IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat the corn oil over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion, pressed garlic, ancho chile pepper, Mexican-style oregano, ground cumin, sugar and salt.  Give the ingredients a thorough stir.  Adjust the heat to sauté gently, until onion is softened, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 2.  Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, two whole chipotle chiles and 1 tablespoon sauce from can of peppers.  Stir to combine and adjust heat to simmer gently and steadily, 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then taste.  For more heat, add another tablespoon sauce from chipotles.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 3.  Stir in the minced cilantro, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Turn the heat off or remove from heat completely.  With the aid of a stick blender (also called an immersion blender), process the sauce to semi-chunky texture.  If you do not have a stick blender and are using a conventional blender, cool the sauce 1 hour prior to processing.  Transfer sauce to food storage container(s) and keep stored in refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave.  Sauce freezes well.

"Break an egg, but before you do (huevos rancheros)...

IMG_1517... please pass the tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce." 

IMG_1563Mexican-Style Tomato & Chipotle-Chile Chili Sauce:  Recipe yields 3 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; 1 1/2-2 quart saucepan; hand-held stick blender or conventional blender; appropriately-sized food storage container(s).

6a0120a8551282970b0223c84786a7200cCook's Note:  In Spanish, "ahogada" means "drowned", "drenched" or "drunk".  Culinarily it refers to a super-spicy, tawny-red sauce that gets poured over Mexican-style chopped, sliced or shredded, beef, pork, chicken or shrimp "tortas" ("sandwiches").  This working-mans-lunch is served on a semi-firm bolillo roll, in a bowl, "bien ahogada", "well drowned" (immersed end-to-end). For a smooth-textured, bold-flavored Mexican-style cooked sauce specific to one torta: ~ Ahogada Sauce for Mexican Drowned Sandwiches ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)