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27 posts from September 2010

09/30/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Iowa Hawkeyes ~

A#9 Flying Pig

In September of 1993, Joe and I flew to Ames, Iowa, for a long weekend to visit very close friends.  Penn State had just joined the Big Ten Conference and we were playing our first away game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.  Larry got all four of us great seats for the game, while Barb planned  a fab tailgate at the stadium and a weekend of great sightseeing.  We were all excited as we were there to watch Penn State beat  Iowa, 31-0, on that OH SO VERY GLORIOUS Saturday afternoon!  I learned two things that weekend:  the flying pig is Iowa's State Bird, and corn is their State Flower!

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010, 8:00 PM EST, Away at Kinnick Stadium

Mel's Menu:

~ Mel's Best Broiled 'n Baked "Flying Pig" Baby-Back Spareribs ~

with

~ Bacon-y Baked Baked Beans ~

and

~ Creamy "Iowan" Baked Corn Casserole ~ 

Desert Blend Ribs (Finished #1)All of this being said, while in Iowa, we visited the historic Amana Village, followed by dinner in  the Amana Colony  Restaurant, where I fell in love with a truly "sweet 'n sassy" house salad they served. Tossed with lots of chunks of  MAYTAG BLUE CHEESE and topped with the most amazing  dressing I have ever tasted, this is a recipe I simply must share with you!  Check back before the start of the game on Saturday for my recipe for ~ Sweet & Sassy Steak & Maytag Blue Salad ~, a great gameday meal all by itself.  Serve it with the above baked beans and baked corn recipes as sides, or serve the salad (without the steak) as a side to the above ribs, beans and corn menu... anyway you look at it, it is a win, win situation! 

"WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"

Cook's Note:  "You really ought to give Iowa a try", as per the song sung to the lyrics from one of my  all-time favorite musical-movies, The Music Man (1957):  Hawkeye Iowa Dubuque, Des Moines, Davenport, Marshalltown, Mason City, Keokuk, Ames, Clear Lake... "You Ought to give Iowa a try!" 

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2010)

~ Mel's Best Broiled 'n Baked Baby-Back Spareribs ~

Desert Blend Ribs (Finished #1)

Every grill master, including my husband Joe, son Jesse, cousin Victor and neighbor Bill, has his own method for cooking the perfect rack of ribs.  Each of them spends many relaxing summer afternoons tending to his customized grill and/or smoker.  Behind closed doors, they each concoct secret spice rubs and barbecue sauces.  "To marinate or not to marinate" is their burning question and spirited ongoing debate.  My following recipe likely breaks every rule in their "big barbecue book in the sky", but it produces perfect ribs each and every time!

I developed this simple oven method for preparing ribs out of desperation.  I wanted PERFECT ribs, EVERY time, ANY time of the year.  Why?  Because sometimes, while listening to the cold winter wind howl outside, with the snow falling on my back porches and watching the skiiers glide down the slopes of Tussey Mountain, I get a good, ole'-fashioned hankerin' for a rack of ribs.  Who wouldn't want to eat a great rack of ribs while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace watching the pretty snowflakes fall?  Get the picture!  I don't think I can make it any clearer!

Next folks... feel free to use your own favorite spice rub and barbecue sauce.  Whether you buy them or make them, they will work beautifully in this recipe.  I just happen to be using some products from my FAVORITE place to get THE ABSOLUTE BEST spice rubs, spice mixes, barbecue sauces, etc.:  www.applecanyon.com.  Located in Albuquerque, NM, I've gotta say Anna Herrera Shawver owns and operates a top notch company.  My "hat is off" to her.  I've been buying her products for over 6 years and each and every one is my idea of a good time!   Today, I'll be preparing my ribs with a coating of their Chile Blend, followed by their Desert Blend and sauced with their Holy Chipotle! Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.  Here we go:

Desert Blend Ribs #1 (Ingredients)~ Step 1Inside these two bottles of perfectly blended spice mixtures, you will have enough ingredients to coat 6 full racks of baby-back spareribs.

In my oven method for perfectly cooking the ribs, I only do three full racks at one time, which all fit in one pan, and feeds 6 people very nicely.  This means you'll use about half a bottle of each of these products.

Desert Blend Ribs #2 (Removing Silver Skin) ~ Step 2.  Removing the silverskin (the thin, white, silvery connective tissue on the underside of each rack).  First off, rinse your ribs under cold running water, then pat them thoroughly dry using some paper towels.

Starting at the narrow end of each rack, use the tip of a boning knife (or a very sharp paring knife) to separate a small 1/2"-3/4" piece of the silverskin from the meat.  Using your fingertips and a firm grip, pull/tear the silverskin off of the entire surface.  If it does not come off in one piece, use the knife to separate a second piece and continue.  This process works best if the ribs are at room temperature, so take them out of the refrigerator about 1-2 hours prior to cooking them.   Also, it only takes takes about 1-2 minutes per rack of ribs to accomplish this task. 

Do you have to remove the silverskin?  No, but there are two good reasons why you should:  #1) It makes the ribs easier to cut, which makes for a better presentation, and; #2) It allows the spice blend to actually flavor the meat, not just sit on the top of the skin doing absolutely nothing.  Listen to me on this one folks:  Be a pro and learn how to remove the silverskin!

Desert Blend Ribs #3 (Season with Chile Blend)~ Step 3.  Season the underside of the ribs with a light coating of Chile Blend. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Blend Ribs #4 (Season with Desert Blend) ~ Step 4.  Season the ribs with a light coating of the Desert Blend, sprinkled on top of the Chile Blend.  Allow to rest, about 15-20 minutes.

Flip the ribs over and repeat the Chile Blend and Desert Blend sprinkling process on the top sides of the ribs.  Allow to rest, about 15-20 minutes. 

If you are using your own spice blend, just remember to follow the resting process before putting the ribs in the oven to broil and bake.

Desert Blend Ribs #5 (Ready for Oven) ~ Step 5.  Place all 3 racks, underside/curved side up, slightly overlapping in a large disposable roasting pan into which a rack has been placed in the bottom.  Place in oven, about 8" under preheated broiler, until racks are golden brown, about 20-22 minutes.

Remove from oven, turn/flip ribs over and return to broiler, until topsides are golden brown, about 18-22 minutes.  Remove from oven and set oven temp to 350 degrees.

~ Step 6.  Cover the pan very tightly with aluminum foil (a tight seal, with no tears in the foil is important so the ribs do  not dry out... if you see a rip or a tear in the foil, start over... do not screw this instruction up).  Return pan to oven and bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 1-1 1/2 hours, depending on your tenderness preference:  after 1 hour, ribs will be cooked through with meat clinging somewhat firmly to the bone; after 1 1/2 hours, meat will be falling off the bone.  I personally like my ribs after 1 hour, 15 minutes!

Desert Blend Ribs #6 (Finished)

To serve, remove pan from oven and carefully remove the foil (be careful because the steam generated inside can burn you).  In microwave or on stovetop heat your barbecue sauce.  Brush sauce on both sides of all three racks, or,  slice ribs, place on a large serving platter and drizzle with sauce (in either case, serve additional sauce, at tableside for dipping or drizzing)!

Mel's Best Broiled 'n Baked Baby-Back Spareribs:  Recipe yields 3 full racks of baby-back spareribs and serves 6 as a main course, or 12 as appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; 12" boning knife or sharp paring knife; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack; aluminum foil; pastry brush; cutting board; chef's knife

Cook's Note:  This method for cooking ribs works terrific if you are hosting a large gathering and are preparing several satellite dishes as well, meaning:  you simply do not have the time to tirelessly tend to your grill and/or smoker for the length of time necessary, PLUS, make all of the other food too.  You can thank me later... or mix me a drink!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

09/27/2010

~ David's Penn State Pita Pizza ~

Pita Pizza

 MOVE OVER EMERIL... THERE IS A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN!!!  His name is David and today he is sharing his recipe for his favorite lunchtime snack pizza.  David, my grandson, is almost 3 1/2 years old and is extremely well-versed in pita pizza making.  Whenever he visits his GrandMel and JoePa in Happy Valley, he eats one of his pizzas for lunch each and every day.  David's pizzas are very quick and easy to prepare and he hopes you will share his recipe with your kids and grandkids too!

Pita Pizza #1 (Tops Off) ~ Step 1.  As with all professional chefs, the first thing David does is instruct his kitchen staff to prep and have his ingredients ready for him.

David has asked staffer GrandMel to remove the tops from 2 pita pocket breads.  David recommends using a pair of kitchen shears for this task.

 

 

Pita Pizza #2 (Cheese Ready) ~ Step 2.  David also likes 2 slices of cheese on each of his pizzas.  He agrees you can use any kind of cheese you want, but he likes provolone the best because it is round and...

 

 

 

Pita Pizza #3 (Putting Cheese On)~ Step 3.  ... fits perfectly into the opened-up round tops of the pita bread!  Nice tip David! 

Since David is standing on a stepstool to make pizzas, he likes to have kitchen staffer JoePa "spotting" him from behind!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pita Pizza #5 (Putting Sauce On) ~ Step 4.  David says you can use any kind of pizza sauce you like, but he likes the kind GrandMel keeps in her pantry because it is nice and thick and does not drip all over the place.  David recommends spreading about 3 generous tablespoons of sauce evenly over the top of each pizza.

David tells kids not to worry if some drips off of the cheese onto the crust as it is easily wiped off with a paper towel.

 

 

Pita Pizza #6 (Putting on Cheese ~ Step 5.  The last step before going into the oven is shaking on the cheese.  David likes to use the kind of  Parmesan cheese that shakes very easily out of the container onto his pizza.  GrandMel keeps this cheese on hand in her refrigerator at all times for his visits to Happy Valley. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pita Pizza #7 (After 5 Minutes in Oven)

~ Step 6.  Both of the pizzas go directly onto the rack of GrandMel's toaster oven.  GrandMel pushes the "toast" setting and lets the pizzas cook for about 4-5 minutes.  The crusts will be golden brown and the cheese will be bubbly.  How easy is that!

 

 

 

  Pita Pizza #9 (Eat)    

 ~ Step 7.  EAT!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pita Pizza #10 (Share)

 ~ Step 8.  SHARE!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pita Pizza #11 (Share)

~ Step 9.  TAKE A BOW!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David's Penn State Pita Pizza's:  Recipe yields enough to make 2, personal-sized pita pizzas, one for yourself and one to share with friends!

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; kitchen shears; spoon; toaster oven; pizza cutter or knife

Cook's Note:  Not only kids like these.  Pita pizzas are a great snack for anyone, anytime.  Whenever I need a "pizza fix fast", I make one of David's Penn State Pita Pizzas!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/24/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (9/24/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

What a busy week.  Most of it (3 full 10+ hour days revolved around the cooking, writing and photos of two recipes for this weeks Penn State vs. Temple tailgate.  I put a lot of research time in each one as well, as Philly is one of my favorite cities. 

I spent a lot of time visiting there in the latter '70's and have lots great memories of the city!  So, for some great stories, not to mention these recipes, check out: 

 

~ Philly's Famous Cheese Steaks ~, found in Categories 2, 10 & 17

~ Philly's "Frog" Lemon Cheese Cake ~, found in Categories 6 & 17

Kitchen Encounters only had one question this week and it did not come from a post here or on facebook.  It came from my friend Lisa who called to ask about removing the silverskin from ribs prior to grilling them.  Lisa admits she is new to grilling and also said I could/should use this quote from her, "my recipe says to remove the silverskin and I don't even know what that is!"

A. Kitchen Encounters:  The silverskin is the thin, white, silvery looking connective tissue on the underside of every rack of ribs.  The reasons for removing it are quite simple:  it makes the ribs easier to cut/eat, and, once it is removed it allows any rub you are using to flavor/penetrate the meat.  It is quite easy to remove, if your ribs are at room temperature.

Removing Silverskin from Ribs #1 ~ Step 1.  Starting at the narrow side of each rack, using the tip of a boning knife (or a very sharp paring knife), separate a small, 1/2"-3/4" piece/strip of the silverskin from the meat.  Using your fingertips and a firm grip, pull/tear the silverskin off of the entire surface.

In most cases, it will come off in one piece with one quick tear.  If it does not, use the knife to separate another piece of silverskin and continue!

 

Have a great weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

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

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/23/2010

~ Philly's "Frog" Commissary Lemon Cheesecake ~

6a0120a8551282970b014e894e677c970d-800wiBack in the 1970's, I had occasion to be in Philadelphia often.  My fiancee's mother was from Ardmore (a suburb in the west side of Philadelphia) and his father was an alum of the Thomas Jefferson Medical College.  Besides great shopping, Philly is full of fantastic places to eat and we ate somewhere different every time we visited the City of Brotherly Love.  All of the fancy restaurants aside, my favorite place to eat was simply named "Frog" (The Frog Commissary/Delicatessen) and is to date my all-time "#1 favorite memory restaurant".  The original Frog no longer exists, but:  The Frog Commissary Catering Company, now located inside The Franklin Institute's historic building, runs all of its dining services, including onsite eateries, seasonal restaurants, in-house caterings and special events caterings.

Cheese Cake #18 (Sliced with Warm Berry SauceEverything edible in "the Frog" was so incredible.  I never tasted anything I did not absolutely adore.  From their appetizers to desserts, Frog served impeccably prepared and presented food.  One item on their dessert menu was a must have for me every time I ate there:  Lemon Cheesecake... lovely, light, creamy, not too sweet and an ideal foil for fresh fruit.  Here I am, 30+ years later, going on and on about Frog with the same enthusiasm I had back in the '70's.

6a0120a8551282970b0168eb4674b5970cMy love affair with my beloved Frog continues.  In 1985, The Commissary Inc., published The Frog Comissary Cookbook, written by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller, with all the charming hand-drawn illustrations by Becky Roller.  It's my favorite cookbook.  

Those of you who know me have a copy of this book because I gave it to you as a gift.  Over the years, I have bought at least 100 copies of it.  I give it to new friends, old friends, new brides, people who know how to cook and people who want to learn how to cook.  As a matter of fact, I have 8 copies of it on hand right now in my cookbook library.  Each and every recipe in this book is fabulously delicious and each recipe comes with spot-on directions for complete success. Move over New York Cheesecake, here is Ann Clark's Philly's "Frog" Lemon Cheesecake!

For the crust:

2/3  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

3  tablespoons sugar

4  tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1  tablespoon fresh lemon zest, from 1 lemon (below)

For the filling:

2  pounds Philadelphia brand cream cheese, at room temperature

1  cup sugar

4  large eggs, at room temperature

1  cup sour cream

4  teaspoons pure vanilla extract, not imitation

1/4  teaspoon salt

8  tablespoons (1/2 cup) fresh lemon juice, from 2 large, fresh lemons

1  tablespoon fresh lemon zest, from 1 lemon (above)

For the sour cream topping:

1 1/4  cups sour cream

2  tablespoons sugar

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

Cheese Cake #2 (Crust #1)

~ Step 1.  To prepare the crust, in food processor fitted with steel blade, place the flour, sugar, butter and lemon zest.

 

 

 

Cheese Cake #3 (Crust #2)

~ Step 2.  Using a series of 20-25 rapid on-off pulses, process the crust ingredients to very fine crumbs.

 

 

 

Cheese Cake #4 (Crumbs in Pan) ~ Step 3.  Transfer/place the loose crumbs into the bottom of a 9" x 3 1/2" cake pan with a removable bottom.  The size and the type of pan is very important here.

 

 

Cheese Cake #5 (Pat Crumbs Down) ~ Step 4.  Using your fingertips, pat and press the crumbs to form a thin even layer (crust), with no visible holes, on the bottom of pan.

 

 

Cheese Cake #6 (Crust After Baking) ~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven 15-18 minutes, until it's golden brown or "done".  Cool completely about 45 minutes.  While crust is cooling, prepare the filling according to the following directions:

 

 

Cheese Cake #9 (Add Eggs) ~ Step 6.  Using an electric mixer, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until very smooth.  Add the sugar and beat until well-blended, stopping every once in a while to scrape the sides of the bowl using a large rubber spatula.  Add and beat in the four eggs, one at a time.

Cheese Cake #10 (Stir By Hand)

 

 

 

~ Step 7.  Using spatula, fold in sour cream, vanilla extract, salt, lemon juice and lemon zest.  Mix until just combined.  Mixture will be smooth and easy to pour into cake pan. 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheese Cake #12 (Coming out of Oven)

~ Step 8.  Bake on center rack of preheated 275 degree oven for 2 hours & 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Center will not look done but it will firm up as it chills.  Run a knife around the edge of pan, to a depth of 1/2 inch.  This will help to prevent cracking.  Place on cooling rack to completely cool, 3-3 1/2 hours.  When the cake is cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, flush against the top of the cheesecake and refrigerate overnight (or at least 6-8 hours).

Cheese Cake #15 (Topping out of Oven)~ Step 9.  To prepare the topping, whisk together sour cream, sugar and vanilla.  With spatula, spread to within 1/4" of perimeter of  the top.  Bake on center rack of preheated 450 degree oven for about 6-8 minutes, watching carefully so that the sour cream does not brown at all (tiny bubbles will appear all over the surface).  Cool 2-3 hours before serving.  If the cake is to be kept longer, cover it tightly, but not flush, with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Cheese Cake #16 (Unsliced & Unadorned

 

Philly's "Frog" Commissary Lemon Cheesecake:  Recipe yields 10-12 slices.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; microplane grater (for zesting lemons); electric stand mixer or electric hand mixer; large rubber spatula; 9" x 3 1/2" cake pan w/removable bottom; cooling rack; whisk; plastic wrap

Cook's Note:  For perfect looking slices, wipe the knife with a wet cloth between each cut.  A cheesecake WITHOUT topping on it can be made and refrigerated up to 48 hours prior serving as is (or topping and proceeding with recipe).  A cheesecake WITHOUT topping also freezes quite nicely.  Remember:  a cheesecake always tastes best at room temperature!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Temple University Owls ~

PICT2218 Penn State is playing Temple at home this Saturday.  As everyone knows, Temple University is located in Philadelphia proper.  In my "younger days", I spent a lot of time in "Philly" and I just love this city!

A lot of things bring back memories but two that vividly stand out are:  A cheese steak sandwich from Pat's King of Steaks and a slice of lemon cheese cake from my favorite Philly eatery, The Frog Commissary. 

Saturday, September 25th, 2010, 3:30 PM EST, Home at Beaver Stadium

Mel's Menu:

A Philly Cheese Steak & A Philly Cheese Cake!

~ Philly's Famous Cheese Steaks ~

and

~ Philly's "Frog" Lemon Cheesecake ~

"WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"  

Note from Mel:  The cheese steak recipe, as you can see, is posted.  The cheese cake recipe will be posted later today... I just baked it this morning (my kitchen smells heavenly) but it has to chill for a few hours before I can cut it and take pictures, so... stayed tuned!

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2010)

09/20/2010

~ Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe ~

PICT0009 When I want to have a slice of toast in the morning or eat a sandwich for lunch, I want it to be on "real" bread and in my mind:  brioche is the best bread known to womankind for these simple, guilty pleasures.  I have always had a knack for bread baking.  As hard as I try, I can't remember ever having a bad bread baking experience or disaster.  Some might say certain talents "come naturally", or, "she was born with it".  In my case this is partially true because my grandmother was a marvelous bread baker, but there is a bit more to the story:

6a0120a8551282970b01538f61d247970b-800wiMy grandmother was at her best in the kitchen and she loved to be there.  Everything she did pretty much revolved around food:  her backyard vegetable garden and many fruit trees; her volunteer activities at the church; she even owned and operated a "mom and pop", in-home, neighborhood grocery store.  As the oldest granddaughter (we lived about 9 miles from her), I spent countless hours each week with her.  What I considered to be "playtime" actually turned out to be hands-on culinary training.  No exaggeration here:  by the age of five I knew how to knead and when to punch down a yeast dough.  Pictured here:  My brioche, mozzarella, basil and tomato grilled cheese sandwich!

IMG_5539Those were the good old days.  In today's world, even I (who possesses the skill and desire) no longer have the time to devote the better part of one day each week to baking bread for my family.  About three years ago, this bothered me enough to buck-up, break-down and buy a bread machine. On sheer principle alone (for me who could bake bread beautifully), I almost hoped I would hate the machine.  My wish almost came true.  The first few recipes I tried out of the instruction manual, while adequate, were, let us just say, not up to my standards.  After a period of a few months, I took the machine back out of the box, gave it a permanent spot in my kitchen (where we had to maintain eye-to-eye contact with each other) and started adapting my own and my grandmother's bread recipes to the bread machine.  Brioche was first.  Without further adieu:

IMG_5526Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine. 

What is wrong with that?  Nothing.  Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.

To make a 1- or 2-pound loaf of brioche you'll need:

IMG_6896For a 1-pound loaf:

1/2  cup whole milk

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, preferably at room temperature

2  tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  extra-large egg, preferably at room temperature, lightly beaten

2  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1/2 packet)

For a 2-pound loaf:

1  cup whole milk

6  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, preferably at room temperature

5  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2  extra-large eggs, preferably at room temperature, lightly beaten

4  1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1 packet)

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #1~ Step 1.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the kneading) has been inserted into it.  The instruction manual said to always insert the paddle in this position before adding any ingredients, so I do.

 

 

 

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #2 ~ Step 2.  As directed, cut the butter into pieces.  In all of the following "process pictures", I'll be using the quantity listed for a 2-pound loaf of brioche.  This is 6 tablespoons of cubed butter.

 

 

 

 

 

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #3 ~ Step 3.  In a 1-cup measuring container, heat milk until steaming.  This is quickly and easily done in the microwave oven.

 

 

 

 

 

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #4 ~ Step 4.  Add the sugar, salt and butter to the milk.  Set aside until the butter has melted or is almost melted.  If the milk is steaming and the butter is at room temperature, this will only take about 2 minutes. 

As you can see in this picture, the melted butter is floating on the top, the milk is in the center and the sugar and salt have settled on the bottom.  Using a fork, briefly whisk these wet ingredients together, so they are uniform in color and add them to the bread pan.

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #6 ~ Step 5.  In the same measuring container and using the same fork, lightly beat the eggs.  Add/pour the beaten eggs to the wet ingredients already in bread pan. 

Always remember:  when you are making bread in a bread machine:  always add the wet ingredients first!

 

 

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #7

~ Step 6.  Add/shake the flour into the bread pan on top of the wet ingredients.  Do not mix or stir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread Machine Brioche (Process) #8 ~ Step 7.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation on top of the dry ingredients (but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer).  Add the yeast to the indentation.

Note:  It is important to keep the dry yeast away from the wet ingredients until it is time for machine to knead them together, because the liquid ingredients will prematurely activate the yeast.

IMG_8027~ Step 8.  Insert bread pan into bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely into place.  Close the lid and plug the machine in.  Press "select" choose "white bread".  Press the "loaf size" button to select "2-pound loaf".  Press the "crust control" button and select "light crust".  Press "start".  Depending on the make and model of your bread machine, and the size of loaf you are making, the entire baking process will take about 2 1/2-3 hours. 

Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the process.  The moment the bread is done:

PICT2706 Carefully open the lid of the bread machine.  Using pot holders or oven mitts, remove the bread pan from the machine, using its handle to lift it from the machine.  Turn the bread pan at about a 30-45 degree angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn the loaf upright and place it on a cooling rack to cool completely.  If the kneading paddle remains in the loaf after it is removed from the pan, I find it best to cool the loaf completely before removing it.

PICT2713 This picture is of a 2-pound loaf of my brioche the moment it has been removed from the machine.  I know, I know... at first glimpse it is a bit overwhelming, but I assure you, you are going to fall in love with this bread!

Once a loaf this size has cooled:  starting at the top, slice the loaf in half to form 2 smaller loaves, about the size of 2, 1-pound loaves.  Two for one... eat one, freeze one!

If you want to serve your family the best bread on the planet, at half the cost of store-bought bread, with no more than 5-10 minutes of your time invested in the process: 

BUY A BREAD MACHINE -- You can thank me later!

6a0120a8551282970b019b00bc244f970dA bit about brioche:  Brioche is a soft, light-textured, sweetened, yeast bread enriched with milk, butter and eggs.  This French classic is traditionally baked in a deep, round, fluted tin that is smaller at the flat base and wider at its top, which encourages the dough to rise.  All brioche takes time to prepare, requiring three, rather than two, risings.  Brioche is usually a delicacy served warm at breakfast or teatime.  There are as many versions of brioche as there are countries, but the French brought brioche to the world's stage at Court in Paris in the 17th century when Queen Marie Antoinette (upon being told the poor people of France were rioting in the streets because they had no bread) made the infamous statement, "Qu 'ils mangent de la brioche." ("Let them eat cake."). 

Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe:  Recipe yields 1, 1-pound loaf of brioche or 1, 2-pound loaf of brioche.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine; paring knife; 1-cup measuring container; pot holders or oven mitts; cooling rack

PICT5041 Cook's Note:  I developed this bread machine recipe for brioche to take, literally, all of the work out of making it.  The loaf shape, instead of the traditional fluted round shape, makes it simple to slice, thick or thin, for your morning tea and toast or your luncheon soda and sandwich.  My brioche makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches and 3-4-day old brioche makes fabulous French toast. 

The above picture is one of my favorite Summer sandwiches:  Lettuce, Tomato, Onion & Guacamole on Brioche!

Turkey Sandwich #2-a (The Evan Royster) Extra Cook's Note:  Each year when Thanksgiving rolls around, I always make 2-3, 2-pound loaves, 2-3 days prior to the holiday, to cube and use in some of my stuffing recipes.  On Thanksgiving morning, I make a a fresh, 2-pound loaf to  serve with our traditional evening feast, as well as have on hand for the best hot or cold turkey sandwiches at midnight or the next day.  This is a picture of a classic turkey club on toasted brioche... gobble, gobble!!! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/17/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (9/17/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

Once again, it has been another busy week in Melanie's Kitchen.  Things got a bit tense for me this week, as a copper water pipe in the ceiling above my formal living room sprung a leak... the day before my ~Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday~ post was due!  I did get the post out in time, the ceiling repairs are well underway and my sanity is slowly being restored!

I told you there would be "Kitchen Therapy Too"!!!

Kitchen Enounters didn't have any questions asked this week, but we did receive 2 comments regarding 2 of last week's questions and 1 comment regarding this weeks recipes:

C.  Victor says:  I read Jeanne's question about marinating salmon.  Her recipe said to do it for 6 hours.  That is WAY TOO LONG for salmon and fish in general.  I am a fresh water and deep-sea fisherman.  The advice you gave her to limit the marinating time to 1 hour is correct.  My maximum marinating time for almost any kind of fish is 2 hours.

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Thanks for the comment Vic.  I've had the pleasure of eating your "catch of the day" on more than one occasion.  I'm glad you're in agreement with my advice!

C.  Jill, The Veggie Queen jill@theveggiequeen.com says:  I read your Q&A regarding the use of a pressure cooker.  Your comments about the pressure cooker are right on except that most cut-up root vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash, sweet potatoes, parsnips, etc. will only take 3-4 minutes to cook under pressure.  You must use liquid in the pressure cooker and the new ones are quite safe.  They make fantastic beans from presoaked or dry very quickly, as in less than 30 minutes.  I have a pressure cooking DVD, Pressure Cooking:  A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes that helps alleviate the fear of using a pressure cooker.  You can find it at http://www.pressurecookingonline.com .  You can also see me with the pressure cooker in action on You Tube at http://www.youtube.com/TheVQ .  Thanks a bunch Mel, for recommending pressure cooking - it can change your life!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Great to hear from you Jill!  I'm happy to know you're checking in on my blog!  Let me know when your new pressure cooking book is published and on sale and I'll announce it here for my readers!  Trust me folks, Jill knows her stuff!!!

C.  Jeanne says:  Mel, I am on my way to the store right now to get all of the right ingredients for these fabulous tailgate recipes.  I especially can't wait to make the crustless quiche!  Thanks so much for all of the detailed steps and great photographs, as they really make a difference when trying out a new recipe!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Jeanne, I LOVE having you as one of my "regulars" here at KE!  The pictures are a time-consuming part of writing my blog and it is nice to know they are helpful and appreciated.

To all of my readers, please know that every recipe I post is being cooked "live", meaning:  I am cooking, taking pictures and writing that post as I go.  What that means for you is:  if you follow along step-by-step, you'll cook it every bit as good as I do!  I started this blog in the middle of August, which meant we cooked our way though some great summer vegetables; we are now in the midst of college football season, which means I have a lot of requests for tailgate posts; the Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays will be upon us sooner than we know, which means my posts will be geared towards them.  If you have any special requests, please let me know!!!

To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away!

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

09/16/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Kent State Golden Flashes ~

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche (Finished) #1 Penn State is back home from a LONG trip to 'Bama last Saturday.  It's not my job to critique the game or the team's performance, as I'm just here for the food!!!

This being said, after watching last week's game on television, with my kitchen full of Penn State fans, it did not take me a long time to decide what I would be serving up for this week's tailgate:

 

Saturday, September 18th, 2010, Noon, Home at Beaver Stadium

Mel's Menu:

The Wakeup Call!

~ Creamy "Golden" Crabmeat Quiche ~

or

~ "Golden" Bacon & Crabmeat Croissant Sandwiches ~

with

~ Mel's Classic Bacon & Egg Spinach Salad w/My French Dressing ~

(Serve w/~ Stan's Hail Mary, Born Again, Bloody Mary's ~, found in Categories 9, 16 & 17)

(My ~ Crispy "Golden" Oven-Roasted Bacon ~, Category 15, rocks this menu!)

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche (Croissant Finished) #1

 "WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!" 

 (Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

 

09/15/2010

~ Creamy Crabmeat Quiche or Crabmeat Croissant ~

PICT4957Quiche originated in northeastern France, in the region of Alsace-Lorraine.  It consists of a pastry shell filled with a savory custard made of eggs, cream, seasonings and various other ingredients such as onions, mushrooms, ham, shellfish or herbs.  The most notable of these savory pies is the famous Quiche-Lorraine, which has crisp bacon bits and Gruyere cheese added to the custard filling.  Quiches can be served as a lunch, brunch or dinner entree, as well as a first course or an hors d'oeuvre!

I developed this recipe for my cousin Victor.  Vic lives in New Jersey, not too far from the shore.  He spends his spare time deep-sea fishing and crabbing.  All summer long, freshly steamed crabs are one of his specialties.  Victor asked me to develop a recipe for the mounds of fresh, sweet crabmeat that are often found in his refrigerator (not to mention the bags of flash-frozen crabmeat that adorn his freezer).  I like to serve this quiche accompanied by my recipe for ~ Mel's Classic Bacon & Egg Spinach Salad ~, found in Categories 2, 9 & 17.  Served with a glass of champagne at an elegant occasion, or a frosty mug of beer at a casual tailgate, this is a recipe I know you're going to make often... and for the record:  real men do eat crab quiche!

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche (Ingredients) #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1  7 1/2-ounce boxed, refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature, fitted into a 9" quiche dish and decoratively edged

1  pound jumbo lump crabmeat, the best available, undrained

4  ounces diced shallots or sweet onion

8  ounces grated Gruyere cheese

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3  jumbo eggs

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  teaspoon lemon juice, preferably fresh, or quality bottled concentrate

1  teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, more or less, to taste

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

additional Wondra flour, for preparing quiche dish 

PICT4823~ Step 1.  Place the shallots (or onion), cheese and flour in mixing bowl.

PICT4827

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 2.  Using two forks, toss, as you would a salad, until shallots and cheese are evenly coated in the flour.

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~ Step 3.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the crabmeat, just enough to evenly incorporate it into the cheese mixture.  You don't want to break up or mash the big lumps of crabmeat.

PICT4849

 

 

 

 

~ Step 4.  Sprinkle a light coating of flour evenly over bottom of prepared pastry shell.

Gently spoon the crabmeat mixture into shell.  Distribute the mixture evenly, mounding it slightly towards the center, but do not compress the mixture or press down.  You want it to remain light and airy.

PICT4858

 

 

~ Step 5.  In a 1-quart measuring container, whisk together the eggs, cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper sauce, nutmeg and white pepper.

Slowly drizzle the cream mixture over and around the top surface of the crab mixture.  Go very slowly, so as to give the liquid all the time it needs tto drizzle down into the cracks and crevasses of the light and airy crab mixture.

PICT4867

 

 

Step 6.  The quiche is now ready to bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. 

Quiche will be golden brown, puffed throughout and a knife inserted into the center will come out clean.

Remove from oven and cool on rack, about 30-60 minutes, prior to slicing and serving warm or at room temperature.

Just beautiful:

PICT4907 

Now... look at the next picture and see if you notice the difference between my two "quiches"!

Creamy Crabmeat Quiche (the Swap to Croissant) #1Both were baked identically, at the same time, in the same oven.  Give up?  The "quiche" to the back of the picture is not baked in a pie pastry!  Why not?  Well, that's my surprise.  Sometimes I like to bake a crustless quiche.  Instead of slicing with a knife and serving, I scoop with a spoon onto croissants (which have a few slices of bacon on them) and serve my: 

 Bacon & Crabmeat Quiche Croissant Sandwiches 

6a0120a8551282970b01538f17ea56970b-800wiCreamy Crabmeat Quiche:  Recipe yields 8 servings of quiche or 16 of my Bacon & Crabmeat Croissant Sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  9" quiche dish; cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; 2 forks; large rubber spatula; 1-quart measuring container; whisk; cooling rack

Cook's Note:  While all of the ingredient prep can be done a day in  advance, nothing should be mixed together until just before you're actually going to bake the quiche.  If you want to make your quiche in advance, bake it a day ahead -- it reheats beautifully in the microwave!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

~ Mel's Classic Bacon & Egg Spinach Salad ~

Classic Spinach Salad #1

Mel's classic spinach salad:  baby spinach leaves, diced red onion, sliced button mushroom caps, crisply fried & coarsely chopped bacon, hard-cooked egg wedges and fresh garden tomato chunks!  Served with my recipe for ~ My  Homemade French Salad Dressing ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 8 & 17:  I have to tell you, this is one of my all-time favorite salads.  The exact amount of ingredients you'll need is "more or less" up to you, but to make a salad the size of the one pictured above, which will serve 8, you'll need:

Classic Spinach Salad (Ingredients) #1 1  12-ounce box baby spinach leaves, stems removed from leaves

2  cups diced red onion

1  pound white button mushrooms, stems removed, caps wiped clean and thinly sliced

1  pound thick-sliced bacon, crisply fried and coarsely chopped

1  dozen extra large eggs, hard-cooked, each egg cut into 6 wedges, each wedge cut in half

4  cups chunked garden tomatoes

freshly ground peppercorn blend, for topping finished salad

Classic Spinach Salad (Prep Spinach) #1 ~ Prepping the spinach.  I like to use a pair of kitchen shears to quickly snip the stringy stems from the baby spinach leaves.  While the stems are certainly edible, I personally prefer just the soft, tender leaves when eating my salad.

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Prep Mushrooms) #4 ~ Prepping the mushrooms.  For this salad, I like to purchase small, 1"-1 1/2" round musrooms.  Using your fingertips, pull/pop the stems out of the caps.  Wipe the caps clean in a dry or barely moist paper towel.  Do NOT rinse caps in water or they will get spongy.  Thinly slice the caps.

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Prep Bacon) #2

~ Prepping the bacon.  You can pan-fry your bacon if you want, but, my method and recipe for ~ Crispy Oven-Roasted Bacon ~, found in Categories 9, 15 & 20 is guaranteed to make you very, very happy, as it: produces perfectly cooked bacon strips without any spattering or mess!!!

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Prep Egg) #3 ~ Prepping the eggs.  If you have followed my recipe for ~ A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs ~, found in Category 15, you have perfectly cooked eggs with none of those unappetizing greenish-gray halos around the yolks.  Cut each peeled egg into 6 wedges and cut each wedge half.  I have nifty kitchen gadet called an egg wedger which does this perfectly!

Now that all of our prep work is done, it's time to assemble and plate our salad.  Yes, I said "plate" our salad.  I almost NEVER use a bowl to serve a salad anymore and I almost NEVER toss a salad anymore either.  On a very large plate or platter I make a bed of greens and layer my ingredients on top.  Why?  Simple:  when it comes time to portion and serve, in each and every scoop, each and every person gets the same amount of great goodies!  Have you ever been near the end of a buffet line only to find the salad bowl a mess with all the good stuff gone?  Not on my watch!  Ok, lets assemble and layer this fabulous salad:

Classic Spinach Salad (Layering) #1 ~ Step 1.  Make a bed of greens! 

 

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Layering) #2

~ Step 2.  Distribute the onions evenly over the greens!

 

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Layering) #3

~ Step 3.  Distribute the mushrooms evenly over the onions!

 

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Layering) #4 ~ Step 4.  Distribute the bacon evenly over the mushrooms!

 

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Layering) #5 ~ Step 5.  Distribute the eggs over the bacon!

 

 

Classic Spinach Salad (Layering) #6 ~ Step 6.  Distribute the tomatoes over the eggs!

 

 

Classic Spinach Salad & Dressing

 

Top salad with a generous grind of peppercorn blend and serve drizzled with my recipe for:        ~ My Homemade French Salad Dressing ~, found in Categories 8, 9 & 17!

Mel's Classic Bacon & Egg Spinach Salad:  Recipe yields 8 generous servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; paring knife; egg wedger (optional); paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b0162fd6850c1970d-800wiCook's Note:  I especially like to serve this salad as an accompaniment to my recipe for:  ~ Creamy Crabmeat Quiche ~, recipe found in Categories 2,9, 14 & 17!

"If you feed them, they will come." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

~ My Homemade Tomato French Salad Dressing ~

IMG_1572The technical definition for French dressing/salad dressing is:  1) a simple oil-and-vinegar combination, seasoned with salt, pepper and various herbs, or, 2) a commercial American dressing that is creamy, tartly sweet and red-orange in color.  The latter is the dressing that captivated my younger brother David during his early teen years.  His favorite brand was (and still is) manufactered by Kraft Foods and is named Catalina.  David would cover (drench) very large chunks of iceberg lettuce with this tangy, orange dressing.  In my adult years, I too found myself using copius amounts of it to dress on of my favorites:  the classic spinach salad. 

The next step for me was to create my own "tangier" version of this beloved bottled dressing.  After several attempts and experiments (using "tomato-y" ingredients such as ketchup, chili sauce, tomato paste and even one try with tomato puree), this simple version using canned, condensed tomato soup produced what I consider to be perfection!

My Homemade French Salad Dressing #1 (Ingredients)1  10 3/4-ounce can condensed tomato soup

1/2  cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon white pepper

1/2  cup vegetable oil

My Homemade French Salad Dressing #2 (Begin Whisking Ingredients) ~ Step 1.  In medium mixing bowl, whisk together the soup, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  

6a0120a8551282970b0133f444260c970b-320wi

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 2.  Gradually, and in a thin steady stream, vigorously whisk in the oil.  Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth, thickened, satiny and emulsified.  This process will only take about 1 minute.

 

 

 

 

 

My Homemade French Salad Dressing #4 (Done) ~ Step 3.  Use immediately or transfer to a food storage container (preferably a glass one, as a plastic one will be permanently stained).

Cover and refrigerate.  Return to room temperature and gently shake or stir briefly, just prior to using.

 

 

 

 

 

My Homemade Tomato French Salad Dressing:  Recipe yields 3 cups of salad dressing.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; 3-4-cup food storage container (preferably glass) w/tight fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b0133f443db05970b-500wiCook's Note:  This dressing keeps very nicely in the refrigerator for several weeks.  Once it is whisked together, it really never separates, which makes it great to serve on a buffet table or at a gathering where repeatedly shaking or stirring a salad dressing can be a nuisance.  Because it contains no mayonnaise, it's great for taking to outdoor picnics and tailgates!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/14/2010

~Crispy Oven-Roasted Bacon (No Spatter or Mess!)~

PICT1604 "Good mornin', good mornin', good mornin', good mornin' to you!"  Song sung to the lyrics of  'Good Morning', from the 1952 Oscar nominated movie-musical Singing in the Rain.  Sung by  cast members Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, this is my favorite morning song (and that is saying something since everyone and anyone who knows Mel, knows she is not a morning person).  "Oh how I hate to get up on the morning", is a better theme song for me!

IMG_1706When I think of morning/breakfast food in general, bacon immediately comes to mind, and as my son Jess says, "everything tastes better with bacon!"  My oven-roasting method produces perfectly cooked bacon strips without any of the pan-frying method's spattering or mess.  My method also frees your hands to do other tasks, like frying eggs and making toast, while the bacon cooks itself!  

This method is also quite versatile:  #1) You can prepare it ahead of time (up to one week ahead if kept stored in the refrigerator) and reheat or recrisp it in a non-stick skillet, a few slices at a time, whenever you want to serve or use it; #2) You can roast several pans of it at one time, to have on hand for a large get-together (I always make it ahead of time when I'm getting guests for the weekend); and, #3)  Since bacon even comes "flavored" (apple, hickory, maple, pepper, etc.), you can prepare it to please any palate or complement any recipe you are making! 

I've taught a lot of cooking classes and I always try to work this simple technique for cooking perfect bacon every time into the class agenda.  I've lost count of the number of return students who come back and say to me, "I'll never cook bacon any other way again!", or,  when I run into a student a month or two later who says, "I'm still cooking bacon the way you taught me to!". 

Wait until you see how easy this is: 

Pan-Roasted Bacon #2 ~ Step 1.  Place one pound of thick-sliced bacon (8-10 slices), slightly overlapping is  fine, in a disposable aluminum broiler pan (the kind with the corrugated bottom).

Place on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, 20-25 minutes, or until bacon is golden brown, crispy and desired degree of doneness is reached.  There is no reason to turn bacon over.  I think bacon to be the best after 22 minutes in the oven! 

 

~ Step 2.  Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and cool just slightly or to room temperature.  It is easy to drain and reserve bacon fat from the pan to use in specific recipes (or just discard it).  I like to keep a small, 1-cup size container of bacon fat in my freezer at all times for those special occasions when "nothing will do but a tablespoon or two" of bacon fat!  How easy and simple was that!!!

PICT1603 Crispy Oven-Roasted Bacon (No Spatter or Mess!):  Recipe yields instructions to make as many pieces or pans of oven-roasted bacon as you want to make!

Special Equipment List:  11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom; paper towels

Cook's Note:  I always keep 2-4 of these disposable aluminum broiler pans in my cabinet, set aside exclusively for oven-roasting bacon.  I rinse any excess fat out of them, run them through the dishwasher or wash them in hot, soapy water.  I like to reuse them at least 3-4 times before discarding them.  That being said:  Any pan with even the slightest, smallest cut or prick in it, even as small as a pinhole, must be discarded immediately.  The fat from the bacon will drip through even the smallest hole onto the bottom of your oven... what a mess!

Crispy Pan-Roasted Bacon #2 (Precooked)

Extra Cook's Note:  Occasionally, I use or one of my recipes directs to use:  partially-cooked bacon.  This picture illustrates partially-cooked bacon which has been cooked at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes.  It is very lightly browned, yet still very soft and pliable.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/10/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (9/10/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

For all of you "regulars", you know it has been a busy week in Melanie's Kitchen.  We cooked and posted a lot of great recipes here on Kitchen Encounters and received four great questions for our weekly Friday Culinary Q&A today!

For all "newcomers", welcome!  To leave comments or ask questions, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly! 

PICT0787Q.  Jeanne asks:  Hi Mel!  I marinated a salmon fillet in brown sugar, wine and lemon juice.  The recipe calls to marinate for 6 hours.  The question I have is, do I cook the salmon in the marinade or do I remove it from the marinade and just cook the salmon?

6a0120a8551282970b019103c6c5d4970cA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Jeans!  How nice to hear from you again this week!  I find it really annoying when a detail like that is left out of a recipe.  For the most part, the marinated food gets removed and cooked according to the recipe directions (grilling, broiling, baking, frying, etc.).  However,  I have a couple of marinated fish recipes in which the fish goes into a glass baking dish, the marinade gets poured over the top and the fish gets baked.  Again, I would have hoped the recipe would have given you that information!  How did the salmon turn out?  Since lemon juice was added, I'm  thinking 6 hours is probably too long to marinate, as the acidity in the fresh lemon will start to precook the fish.  Whenever I use fresh lemon, lime or orange juice, I always limit my marinating time to about 1 hour.  

Note:  Because most marinades contain acidic ingredients, marinating should be done in glass, ceramic or stainless-steel containers and NEVER aluminum.  In many cases, plastic ziptop bags are a sanitary, disposible, cleanup-free container that works great.  Food should always be covered and refrigerated while marinating.  When fruit is similarly soaked in a marinade, the term used is "macerate"!

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Q.  PSUinBOSSton:  Is it ok  if I call you jesse.'s mom?  I enjoy cooking and I'm always looking for ways to make good meals without too much planning ahead on the days when my wife works (she gets home later on those evenings).  I think one untapped answer for me is the pressure cooker.  I have never used one and am intimidated.  Do you have an opinion on the device and, if you do recommend usage, do you recommend any specific recipes?  Thanks!

A.  Kitchen Encounters (aka jessedotsmom):  Great question!  A little background info about pressure cookers:  They were our grandmothers' "answer" to the microwave (which wasn't invented yet).  Since pressure cookers can only be filled one-half or two-thirds full, I recommend you purchase an 8-quart model.  This will hold 4-quarts of ingredients, and, will be big enough to put a bowl in, if you are steaming rice or grains. 

Pretty much all recipes that involve braising or stewing are ideal for the pressure cooker.  In my experience, the foods that you want to look brown at the end of the cooking process should be browned or seared before they go into the pressure cooker.  One thing a pressure cooker is particularly good at doing is:  taking tough, inexpensive cuts of meat and turning them into fork-tender delicacies.  Root vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and beets, can and will cook in a little as 10-20 minutes!

51ch5IfpipL._SY300_I will tell you:  don't be intimidated.  Today's pressure cookers are not only extremely safe and easy to use, they are a great way to relax and watch your favorite team play football while your dinner cooks expeditiously.  Read your instruction manual thoroughly as pressure cookers do require a bit of maintenance. 

I recommend picking up a book on pressure cooking.  The one I like the best is:  The Ultimate Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Tom Lacalamita ($21.95).

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IMG_8753Q.  Abby:  Mel, I was wondering if you could explain to me what yellow curry is and how it differs from say, red or green.  Thanks!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Abby, I've been wanting to answer this question for a long time!  Thai food is a passion of mine!!!  In Thai cuisine, there are three major kinds of curries, each one identified by its color:  Green, Red and Yellow!  They have a soupy consistency and are served with rice or rice noodles.  They contain various ingredients:  Thai eggplant (not our American eggplant), chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and duck.  Vegetarian versions contain ingredients like:  Thai eggplant, pumpkin, squash and tofu.

They differ in:  their balance of hot, sour, sweet and salty.  Hot, of course, comes from chile peppers; sour comes from kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and/or lime zest; sweet comes from palm sugar, coconut milk and/or coconut cream; salty comes from fish sauce and shrimp paste.        

Thai Green Curry:  can be and tends to be just as hot as red curry, except green chiles are used in the preparation of the curry paste instead of red chiles.  However, green curry, regardless of the heat, has a definite sweetness to it not associated with red curries, which comes from the addition of palm sugar.

Thai Red Curry:  is made from a spicy blend of pulverized red chiles, garlic, shallots, the root galangal and shrimp paste.  The red curry paste is made using the same ingredients as the green curry paste, with the exception of the red chiles. 

Thai Yellow Curry:  is richer, creamier and less spicy than the other Thai curries.  In addition to the coconut milk, coconut cream is added to tone down the spiciness.  It has a slight hint of sweetness and subtle spice, from the additions of palm sugar and cinnamon.  Its lovely yellow color comes from using yellow chiles in the curry paste and the vibrant yellow spice turmeric.

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Q.  Charlotte:  Where in the world can I find pumpkin in cans?  And, if you can't help me, please let me know how I can make my own pumpkin puree and can I freeze it?  I use tons of it for the upcoming holidays and someone told me there is a shortage!  I look forward to your advice.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #1 (Pumpkins with Cans)A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Wow Charlotte.  It's hard to believe you cannot find pumpkin puree anywhere and I wasn't aware of any shortage.  That being said, I have been making my own Roasted Pumpkin Puree for years, so I don't ordinarily keep a look out for it.  It is quite easy to make, freezes beautifully and once you make your own you will NEVER go back to the canned stuff!  As per your personal request, I have e-mailed you my recipe.  For the rest of you folks, I promise to do a blog about preparing Roasted Pumpkin puree and my uses for it as soon as my pumpkins (out in Joe's garden) are full grown and ripe!

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, simply click on the blue title of any post, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #8: Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork BBQ/Sandwiches ~

6a0120a8551282970b0154326847dd970c-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork BBQ/Sandwiches ~.  You can find my authentic version of this mouthwatering Carolina classic, along with all of my detailed instructions and step-by-step photos in Categories 2, 10 or 17!

If you'd like to watch my Kitchen Encounters TV segment, just click on the following link:

Carolina-Style Pulled-Pork BBQ/Sandwiches

To watch all of my other Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV cooking segments, go to the listing found on the left side of the home page of this blog, and, click on the blue title of any one, or:

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30 AM on local Comcast channel 14!

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

(Recipe, Commentary, Photo & Video courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

09/09/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Alabama Crimson Tide ~

Bear Bryant

Penn Staters are on the road this Saturday, into the deep south, all the way to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Crimson Tide.  Joseph and I traveled to a Penn State game in Tuscaloosa back in 1986 and I'm going to say this:  a nicer bunch of tailgaters I never met!

Their tailgating scene is different than ours is.  We tailgate in parking lots and cow pastures while they tailgate in community streets and alleys.  If you can imagine tailgate setups in downtown State College proper, then you've got the picture!

I've decided to serve up some real southern-style BBQ, in honor of our 'Bama friends, here in front of our TV's this week.  Please join Joe and myself for:  THE BLUEPLATE SPECIAL...  PSU 'BAMA BBQ!!!

 

Saturday, September 11, 2010, 7:00PM EST, Away in Tuscaloosa 

Mel's Menu:

The Blueplate Special... PSU 'Bama BBQ! 

~ Carolina-Style Pulled Pork BBQ/Sandwiches ~

~ Mel's Creamy Crunchy Cole Slaw ~

PICT3141 The top photograph, which hangs in our Happy Valley downstairs Penn State Room shows:  Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant standing under the PSU goal post, in the north end zone, at Beaver Stadium, just prior to the game in which he achieved victory #314, surpassing Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg as "the winningest coach" in Division I football.

"WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/08/2010

~ Melanie's Louisiana Gold-Style 'Tater 'n Egg Salad~

PICT2355It is no secret -- I am a potato salad snob.  Perhaps my Eastern European heritage has something to do with it.  I come from long line of professional potato eaters, so, when it comes to making potato salad in general, I've been taught by experts.  That said, I usually crave the classic Grandma's-type with no hype.  Nothing cool or trendy with a grandiose name or gourmet ingredients.  My favorite potatoes for potato salad are:  creamy Yukon Golds and small "new" reds.  While I peel the Yukons and cut them into large, bite-sized chunks/pieces, I halve or quarter the small reds, leaving their soft peels in tact, which adds rustic color and extra nutrition to the potato salad (like I eat potato salad for its nutritional value).  I always boil my potatoes until fork tender, yet still firm and slightly undercooked in the center.  That said, I've also had pretty nifty results using roasted or grilled potatoes in a couple of my recipes as well!

That said, when developing my recipe for ~ GrandMel's Creamy Potato and Egg Salad ~, which has remained unchanged for about 15 years, I did manage to stray a bit from my grandmother's original recipe:  I like the extra tang of grainy Creole mustard (in place of Dijon/Poupon) and the extra heat of vinegary cayenne pepper sauce (in place of vinegar or cider vinegar).  Yes, I am a potato salad snob, but please do not be intimidated by me.  Start with the recipe I am giving you, adjust it "here and there" and create your own family's classic recipe!

Potato Salad (Ingredients) #16  pounds, peeled and rinsed gold potatoes, cut into large, bite-sized pieces

1 tablespoon sea salt (for adding to the water the potatoes are cooked in)

8-12  jumbo eggs, hard-cooked and peeled

12-16  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

12-16  ounces diced celery

4  cups Hellman's mayonnaise, chilled

1  tablespoon celery seed

4  tablespoons Luzianne Creole mustard

2  tablespoons Louisiana Gold cayenne pepper sauce, more or less, to taste

4  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

2  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon white pepper

Potato Salad (Cooked Potatoes) #1 ~ Step 1.  Prep the potatoes as directed placing them in stockpot, with enough cold water to cover, as you work.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the salt.  Reduce heat to simmer, until the potatoes are fork tender, but still firm and slightly undercooked in the centers, about 6-8-10 minutes.  Do not overcook!

Drain potatoes into a very large colander and rinse under cold running water, until cool to the touch.  Allow the potatoes to drain and "dry", about 45-60 minutes.

 

Potato Salad (Cooked & Chopped Eggs) #1~ Step 2.  Hard-cook and peel the eggs, according to the directions in my recipe for:  ~ A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs ~, found in Category #15.

Pat the eggs dry in paper towels, cut each egg into 4 wedges and cut each wedge into thirds.  Set aside.

Note:  I cook the eggs in the same stockpot the potatoes just came out of.  How easy is that!

PS:  Don't my perfectly cooked eggs look great!?!

 

 

Potato Salad (Rest of Ingredients) #1 ~ Step 3.  Prep the onion and celery as directed, placing in a very large mixing bowl as you work.

Add all remaining ingredients, as listed.

Using a very large rubber spatula, thoroughly combine all ingredients, until a smooth, but chunky, uniform in color, "sauce" is formed.

See the next picture for a great look at how everything is going to easily come together:

 

PICT2342  ~ Step 4.  Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the completely cooled and "dry" potatoes into the smooth but chunky sauce.

Add the egg chunks and ever so very gently, fold the eggs into the potato mixture.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  I personally prefer the potato salad after it has been refrigerated overnight!

 

Melanie's Lousisiana Gold-Style 'Tater 'n Egg Salad:  Recipe yields 20-24 cups, depending upon how many eggs you cook and how much celery and onion you add.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; very large colander; paper towels; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

Cook's Note:  This potato salad is truly at it's best when prepared a day in advance of serving.  My recipe, as written, is easily cut in half to make less, but that is a mistake I have chosen to not make twice -- in reality, 20-24 cups is only 12, 3/4-1 cup servings!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/07/2010

~ A Little Thing Called: Boiling Eggs (Hard-Cooked) ~

IMG_6257A few days ago I ordered a chef's salad for my mother-in-law.  Not just any chef's salad, one from her favorite place, just the way she likes it:  balsamic vinaigrette, extra-turkey and an extra hard-cooked egg.  Sounds simple enough.  Apparently not.  The salad arrived and upon my first glimpse through the clear plastic top of the container I saw:  8 perfectly sliced egg wedges, decoratively arranged to garnish the perimeter of the the salad.  These were not just any ordinary egg wedges.  These were egg wedges with that greenish-gray halo around the yolks.  THE HORROR!  While edible, the unappetizing halo, which is always the result of boiling and overcooking, is easily avoided by using the proper cooking time and method!

IMG_9820Life it too short to eat overcooked eggs!

Boiling Eggs #1~ Step 1.  Place desired number of chilled eggs, in a single layer, in the bottom of a stockpot, with enough cold water to cover the eggs by one inch.  Do not overcrowd the pot.

Key words:  cold eggs, single layer, cold water, don't overcrowd.

NEVER BOIL EGGS!:                  "Boil" refers to foods submerged and cooked in liquid maintaining a temperature at 212 degrees, the boiling point.  Large bubbles break the surface throughout the cooking process.

GENTLY SIMMER EGGS!:  "Simmer" refers to food submerged and cooked in liquid maintaining a temperature at or slightly above 185 degrees.  Tiny bubbles will just begin to break the surface of the liquid during and throughout the entire cooking process.Boiling Eggs #2  Just like in the picture below:

~Step 2.  Bring the eggs to a boil over high heat and immediately reduce the temperature to the gentlest of simmers and begin timing, according to the following directions:

(Timing gets adjusted according to the size of the egg being cooked meaning:  the larger the egg the longer the cooking tme.)

 

TIMING FOR LARGE, EXTRA-LARGE & JUMBO EGGS IS AS FOLLOWS:

CODDLED EGGS (tender white, soft yolk):  30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute

SOFT-COOKED EGGS (soft white, soft yolk):  2 minutes, 2 1/2 minutes, 3 minutes

MEDIUM-COOKED EGGS (firm white, soft yolk):  4 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes

HARD-COOKED EGGS (firm white, firm yolk):  10 minutes, 11 minutes, 12 minutes

Boiling Eggs #3 ~ Step 3.  Drain water from pot.  Immediately start adding very cold tap water to eggs in pot.  This halts the cooking process, and cools the eggs to room temperature, which makes them much easier to peel by causing a slight contraction of the egg within the shell.  I allow them cool in the pot for 20-30 minutes prior to peeling.  During this time, residual heat will contine to cook the eggs and the result will be slightly flaky, pale yellow yolks (as seen in the next picture).   

IMG_4688~ Step 4.  On countertop or side of sink, gently tap the surface of each egg to crack the shell into small pieces.  Under cold running water, carefully peel away the membrane and shell.

Note:  In the event you need, want or like your yolks to be creamier and softer (as I sometimes do), time, cook, cool and peel them according to the above  directions for medium-cooked eggs!

IMG_4658

 

A Little Thing Called:  Boiling Eggs (Hard-Cooked):  Recipe yields instructions for perfectly cooking as many eggs of any size as you want to make!

Special Equipment List:  stockpot or saucepan (The pot size and choice will vary depending upon how many eggs you are cooking.)

6a0120a8551282970b017ee66339a6970d-800wiCook's Note:  For ~ A Simply Satisfying Breakfast:  Soft-Cooked Eggs ~ you can find my method for making them in Categories 9 or 20!  Poached eggs don't fall into the category of "boiling eggs".  It's a different method and will be a future blog post!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/06/2010

~ Labor Day: Past & Present ~

Labor Day #1Labor Day 40-some years ago:  I'd be organizing my closet of new school clothes and finalizing my choice for what to wear tomorrow morning for the first day of school.  Between the clothes my mother had made for me over the summer (she is an expert designer/seamstress) and the accessories she had bought for me over the summer, I fully-expected to make it pretty much into November never wearing the same outfit twice.  My majorette boots were polished, batons were out of their cases and around 10:00 AM, I'd be at the front of our high-school marching band leading them across town in Tamaqua's annual Labor Day parade!

Labor Day 20-some years ago:  I'd be organizing our three sons' closets of new school clothes and holding out no hope of any one of them finalizing their choice for what to wear until about 5 minutes before the bus was due to arrive.  Between the shirts my mother* "had made" for them and the jeans and sneakers I had bought for them over the summer, I fully-expected them to make it pretty much into November never wearing the same outfit twice.  NOT!  With boys, when they "hit" on something they like, they wear it 'till it's dead!

* During this time period, my mother designed samples of children's clothes for companies like Disney.  The company would take a look at the samples and decide which ones would go into mass production based upon my mom's recommendations.  Convenient for me, as each year my mother would instruct her department to make the samples in the sizes of each of my boys!

Labor Day present day:  My freezers (4 total) are organized and I am pretty sure we can make it through to next Labor Day never eating the same things twice (thanks to my husband's summer gardens).  The air is crisp and clean and the temperatures have dropped into the sixties.  The college students have arrived back in Happy Valley and the excitement of PSU football season has taken over the entire town.  My kitchen is spit-polished, my knives are sharpened and I am ready to lead us foodies into and through the tailgate and holiday entertaining seasons!

So, how will we celebrate Labor Day today?  Joe and I will do an outdoor barbecue later this afternoon.  Not just because it is the traditional, symbolic end of the summer, but because to me it is the "real" last day of summer!  I will be posting these pictures and recipes very soon.  Enjoy your holiday everyone!

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/05/2010

~ The Corn Chronicles: Perfect Corn on the Cob ~

The Corn Chronicles #1What a wonderful gift the Native Americans gave to the world.  Everything on the corn plant can be used:  the husks for tamales, the silks for tea, the kernels for food and the stalks for fodder.  Modern day horticulturists developed our two most popular varieties: white (Country Gentleman) and yellow (Golden Bantam).  White corn kernels are smaller and sweeter.  Yellow corn kernels are larger and fuller-flavored.  The hybrid (Butter & Sugar Corn) produces ears speckled with both yellow and white kernels:  Corn Chronicles #5

Almost nothing beats a serving of fresh, steaming corn on the cob lacquered with sweet cream butter and sprinkled with salt.  Here in our beautiful and scenic "rolling hills of Pennsylvania", cornfields, miles of them, are a very common sight.  Sweet corn, hands down, is my family's favorite choice as a summer vegetable.  Unfortunately, corn has a relatively short season... not being at its peak until late July or August and past its prime by Labor Day.  As soon as it is picked, the corn's sugar immediately begins to convert to starch, which lessens its natural sweetness.  Therefore, it is important to buy corn as soon after it is picked as possible.  Corn connoisseurs claim to be able to tell immediately if corn has not been cooked the same day it has been picked!

 Selecting corn to eat is not a tricky business once you know what you are looking for:

Corn Chronicles #7 Choose ears that are bright green with snugly fitting husks and golden brown silk.  Gently strip/peel back a small portion of the outer husk.  The kernels should be plump and the rows should be tightly spaced. 

Pierce down into a kernel with your thumbnail.  If the kernal squirts a wet, milky juice, the corn is young, tender and ready to cook and eat.

To cook the corn you will need:

 

6-8  freshly picked, carefully selected, cobs of corn

2-4  tablespoons sugar

8  tablespoons salted butter

salt to taste

Strip away the husks and carefully remove the silks from each cob of corn (discard or compost the husks and silks).  In stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the sugar.  Ease the corn cobs, one at a time, into the pot of boiling water.  After the last cob has been added and the water has returned to a rolling boil, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and drain thoroughly.  Return corn to still warm stockpot and add the butter.  Cover and allow the butter to melt, about 2-3 minutes.  Give the pot a few gentle tosses to coat the corn in the butter.  Serve immediately with salt to taste!

Corn Chronicles #2                                                                                                                                                                                                           The Corn Chronicles:  Perfect Corn on the Cob:  Recipe yields 6-8 perfectly cooked cobs of buttered corn.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot w/lid; colander

Cook's Note:  Perfect corn on the cob can be prepared in large batches, shaved from the cob and used in many recipes, which I will be sharing with you! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

09/03/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (9/3/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2 How nice, I actually did receive both a comment and a question here on my very first Culinary Q&A Friday! 

It is later than my promised 3:00 PM EST time response, but I just got and read these and decided to reply immediately... rather than waiting a week until next Friday!

I really do hope this becomes a popular feature of my Kitchen Encounters on T.G.I.F...riday!

 

Gloria says:  I remember that library of cookbooks and am proud to say that I have even contributed a couple of books... looks like it's overloaded... you are doing a magnificent job girl, keep going and never give up.

Kitchen Encounters:  How wonderful to hear from you Aunti Glo!!!  Yes, you have contributed several books to my "overloaded" library.  As I always say, one (especially me) can never have too many cookbooks.  One very noteworthy item you to gave to me was an 8" x 5" file box filled with ethnic recipes.  I use it ALL the time as a reference.  More than that, you have given me MUCH LOVE and SUPPORT over the years.  Love, your crazy niece, Mel.

Jeanne asksMel, I have a question about convection ovens.  I just bought a table top which I love but I am not sure at what temp. to bake my cookies also how long.

Kitchen Encounters:  Jeanne, you're going to love your new convection oven.  Here's what you need to know specifically about convection-baking cookies:  Lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees (if your recipe says 375 degrees, bake at 350 degrees) and reduce the baking time by 2-3 minutes.  When convection-baking cookies, the real time-saver is:  you can bake 3-5 trays of cookies at one time (depending upon the size of your oven).

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Friday! ~

Culinary Q & A #1Kitchen Encounters is happy to announce that beginning today, Friday, September 3rd, and each and every subsequent Friday in the future, at about 3:00 PM EST, I will:

~ Attempt to answer any and all of your weekly culinary questions;

~ Try to solve any or all of your  weekly cooking dilemmas; or,

~ Endeavor to comfort you in your weekly hour of foodie hell!

 If you have a question about food from A-Z in general, a problem with that new kitchen gadget or appliance you just bought, or, just want to know how to get the significant other in your life to participate actively in the kitchen, I'm your  "go-to gal".  

I'm doing this because I can, I want to, and I wish I had someone like me 30 years ago to help me out.  That was back in the days of NO internet, NO food tv and NO cookbooks with pictures!  I've weathered so many culinary storms and broken so many cooking rules I have nothing left to do but share my solutions with YOU!  Consider me your own year-round "Butterball Hotline!!!"

Click into Category #20, click on the BLUE TITLE of this or any post, on ANY DAY OF THE WEEK and I'll be "back at ya" on Friday.  In cases of a true emergency, I will do my best to respond immediately or as soon possible! 

The above picture is of one wall in my 5,000+ volume, in-house cookbook research library and collection.  Within it is an answer to almost any cooking question and a recipe for almost any application!  I also have a smaller library of vintage cookbooks, so if you lost "Great Aunt Mary's 80-year old recipe for Fresh Coconut Cake", I can probaby bail you out of that mess too!

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

(Commentary and Photo courstesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

09/02/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Youngstown State Penguins ~

Saturday, September 4, 2010, Noon EST, Home at Beaver Stadium

Mel's Menu:

JoePa's Wing's 'n Things & a Jalapeno Pirogi Too!

PSU TAILGATE Wings 'N Things & a Piroghi Too!

  

PSU TAILGATE Wings (Finished) #1~ JoePa's Chicken Wings ~:   This is my husband Joseph's recipe for chicken wings.  FYI:  In our Happy Valley house, our grandson David calls Joe "JoePa" and calls me (Melanie) "GrandMel"!  Sweet!?!

These wings are deep-fried, then sauced in a sweet 'n spicy mixture of honey and hot sauce.  Dipping these into a chunky blue cheese dressing is a guaranteed field goal!PSU TAILGATE Chicken Things (Finished) #1

~ JoePa's Chicken Things ~:  SO much better than fried chicken.  These boneless, skinless, beer-batter dipped, crunchy, panko-crusted chicken "poppers" are downright addictive.  They hold their crunch all day, which really keeps everyone coming back for more!

These get dipped into the same sauce the wings were sauced in.  Is that an easy 2-point conversion or what!?!

Two down and one to go...PSU TAILGATE Piroghi (Finished) #1

~ And a Jalapeno Pirogi Too! ~:  Straight from Hazelton, PA, the home of jalapeno pirogi!

Do you remember that crazy mayor of Hazelton who went on that crazy illegal Mexican immigrant rant (this was big national news a couple of years ago)?  Well, the T&L Pierogie Shop in Hazelton saw this situation quite differently:  there are enough Mexicans living in Hazelton, PA to warrent manufacturing jalapeno piroghi, which T&L can barely keep stocked on the shelves of local PA markets.  Seriously folks, give this some "ah-ha" thought... the only thing better than a well-made, authentic Pennsylvania pirogi is a well-made, Pennsylvania jalapeno pirogi and these fit perfectly into my Pennsylvania melting-pot tailgate menu.  What was that mayor thinking?  These are this game's winning touchdown!

The recipes for my entire tailgate appear in the next 4 posts.  Scroll down, enjoy and remember:

"WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010) 

~ JoePa's Chicken Wings: Deep-Fried to Perfection ~

Chicken Wings #8 12-47-56In our Happy Valley household, our grandson calls my husband Joe "JoePa" and calls me (Mel/Melanie) "GrandMel".  Living in a college town and having raised three boys, chicken wings were and are everywhere, and, everyone who cooks makes wings and has a favorite recipe.  While I could go through life without chicken wings,  I've gotta say,  JoePa's wings are my favorite:  They're plump and crispy on the outside, and, tender and juicy on the inside.  He's been making a lot of folks very happy in Happy Valley with his version of wings for a long time.

6a0120a8551282970b017c34e7b18d970bPlump & crispy outside -- tender  & juicy inside! 

Chicken Wings #1~ Step 1.  Seriously, now is the time to think about buying a deep-fryer.  This inexpensive appliance is just plain wonderful.  If you don't have one, that is ok.  You can fry in any large-size 6-8-quart stockpot.  Just fill it half way (no more) with corn or peanut oil heated to 360º and you should use a candy thermometer to control/monitor the temperature. 

If you do own a deep-fryer, preheat it to 360º according to the manufacturer's directions.

Chicken Wings #2 ~ Step 2.  Using a pair of poultry shears, cut 6 pounds of wings, at their two joints, into 3 sections:  the drumette, the wing, and the "skinny" wing tip.

Some folks like to fry and eat the wing tips, I do not, but that is your choice.  Without frying the wing tips, this recipe will yield about 4 dozen chicken wings.

The wing tips can be frozen and used to make stock, as while they are "skinny", they are flavorful.

Chicken Wings #3 12-44-53~ Step 3.  Simply dredge/coat the wings in pancake mix -- yes I said pancake mix.  I've tried all sorts of flour mixtures and pancake mix is the best.  You'll need about 2-2 1/2 cups pancake mix total.  Most people don't dredge their wings in anything -- not even flour.  I don't understand why.  This step makes the wings crispy with a slight crust that causes any type of wing sauce to blanket the wings.

Chicken Wings #6~Step 4.  Fry the wings, 5-6-8 at a time, or whatever the basket of the deep-fryer will comfortably hold without crowding the fryer basket, about 13 minutes per batch.

Immediately transfer wings to a paper towel lined dish or platter.  Immediately and generously salt the wings.  I use freshly ground sea salt.  Continue this process until all wings are deep-fried and salted. Transfer wings to a big bowl and proceed to toss 'em, all at once, in your favorite sauce, or, sauce with:

~ Melanie's Sweet 'n Spicy Wing Sauce ~, recipe found in Categories 1, 2, 8, 17 or 20.

Proper chicken wing etiquette:  Wings are user-friendly, requiring no knives or forks.  All you need are your fingertips and a large stack of napkins to delight in this very unique and casual culinary experience.  Pick them up with your fingers and proceed to nibble, gnaw and chew until all of the meat and sauce have been savored.  No pretenses when eating this beloved snack food:  It's perfectly acceptable to ignore the napkins completely and lick your lips and fingertips. 

IMG_6168Chicken wings can be served sauced or unsauced (pictured below), the choice is yours.  

In either case, they are traditionally served with blue cheese dip or dressing, accompanied by carrot and celery sticks .  

To get my ~ Buttermilk Blue Cheese 'n Chive Salad Dressing ~ (pictured here), just click into Categories 8 or 10.  It is one of the cheesiest versions you'll ever taste.

"Lip-smackin' " and "finger-lickin' good" apply in every context:

6a0120a8551282970b01538ea973f7970bJoePa's Chicken Wings (Deep-Fried to Perfection):  Recipe yields about 4 dozen chicken wings or 4 dozen appetizers/snacks.

Special Equipment List:  deep-fryer (or 6-8-quart stockpot); cutting board; poultry shears; tongs; paper towels; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish (for finished wings); very large bowl (for saucing wings)

6a0120a8551282970b01a511d4cbdd970cCook's Note and Tip:  JoePa's wings can be fried and sauced several hours in advance of serving.  

For a different twist, stir 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon and 1-2 tablespoons of ground cayenne pepper into the 2-cups of pancake mix.  Hahaha:  When I do that and if you do that, the name officially changes to: ~ GrandMel's Cinnamon-Chicken Wings ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

~ JoePa's Chicken Things: Better than fried chicken!~

PICT2715Here's another one of my husband Joe's ("JoePa" as per our grandson David) recipes.  These beer-batter dipped, panko-crusted, deep-fried "poppers" are SO much better than ordinary fried chicken.  A few years ago, when I began experimenting using panko in my "crispy coated fried food" recipes, one afternoon, Joe decided to surprise and present me with a brand new recipe he could call his own.  After tasting them, I proclaimed, "these chicken things are great!"  Hence the name:  JoePa's Chicken Things!

PICT2712A bit about panko bread flakes: Sometimes referred to as Japanese breadcrumbs, panko has a coarser texture, is much lighter and makes for a crunchier crust than ordinary breadcrumbs.  They are made from traditional Japanese bread, the loaves being slowly dried then shredded into crispy flakes.  Tan-colored panko is made from a whole loaf of bread, while white-colored crumbs result from using bread without the crust.  Panko is basic to Japanese cuisine, but its texture enhances recipes and adds excitement to all types of cooking and cuisines.  Panko bread flakes create a deliciously cruncy crust on all types of fried or deep-fried food and I use them a lot here in Melanie's Kitchen!

Chicken Things Ingredients #1

 ~ Step 1.  Besides the pancake mix (about 5 cups total), panko (about 6 cups total) and beer (2, 12-ounce bottles), you will need 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, or 4 1/2-5 pounds total.

Using a chef's knife, trim each breast half of any visible fat, then cut each one into 10-12, 1"-1 1/2" chunks (or "things" as we call them in our house). 

 

Chicken Things Outdoor Setup #1 ~ Step 2.  It just so happens it's a nice day here in Happy Valley, so I've decided to set my assembly line up outside on "Joe's Vegetable Table."  This is where he puts his freshly picked garden vegetables! 

In a small bowl, place about 2 cups of pancake mix.  In a large bowl, combine about 3 cups of pancake mix with 2 bottles of beer.  Place panko in a  square baking dish. Chicken Things Outdoor Setup #3 (Batter Consistency)

~ Step 3.  After you mix the pancake mix with the beer, set the mixture aside for about 5 minutes, to allow the beer batter to thicken. 

This picture illustrates the ideal consistency the beer batter should be at:  smooth and  drizzly.  If it is not, add either a bit more pancake mix, to thicken it, or a bit more beer, to thin it down.Chicken Things Outdoor Setup #4 (Dredging in Flour)  

 

~ Step 4.  Dredge 4-6-8 pieces of chicken "things" in the dry pancake mix.  Only dredge as many pieces as the the basket of your deep-fryer can handle comfortably without crowding.  Preheat the deep-fryer to 360 degrees.

As in the recipe for chicken wings, if you don't have a deep-fryer, you can use a 6-8 quart stockpot filled about halfway with corn or peanut oil. Chicken Things Outdoor Setup #5 (Dipping in Batter)

~Step 5.  Things move faster here.  Dip each piece of dredged chicken into the wet beer batter.  Shake any excess batter off of each piece back into the bowl.  Dredging, dipping, coating and frying goes quickly once you get it started. 

 Make sure you have a rectangular baking dish, lined with several layers of papers towels waiting to put the finished chicken things in as they come out of the deep-fryer.Chicken Things Outdoor Setup #7 (Place in Panko)

 

~ Step 6.  Coat each batch of beer batter dipped chicken things in the panko. 

It's a little more work, but I like to add the panko to the baking dish a little at a time, or just enough to coat each batch of chicken things.  This keeps the panko from getting sticky towards the end of the frying process.Chicken Things Outdoor Setup #9 (Out of Deep-Fryer)

~ Step 7.  Fry each batch of chicken things about 6-8 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.  Don't be inclined to overcook them to a deep golden brown color.  As they cool, they continue to cook on the inside and if they are initially too brown, they dry out.  Immediately transfer things to a paper towel lined dish or platter.  Immediately and generously salt the things.  Continue this process untill all the 'things' are deep-fried and salted: 

PICT2715

 

JoePa's Chicken Things:  Better than fried chicken!:  Recipe yields about 6 dozen chicken things or 6 dozen appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  deep-fryer (or 6-8-quart stockpot); cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; tongs; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish (for panko); paper towels; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish (for finished chicken things)

Chicken Thing-Wing Sauce #6 (Finished #1)Cook's Note:  Chicken things can be prepared several hours and up to one day in advance of serving (do not cover or refrigerate them)!  Dip finished chicken things in my recipe for ~Sweet 'n Spicy Wing Sauce ~, found in Category 8! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

~ And a Jalapeno Pirogi Too... Yes, I said Jalapeno! ~

PICT2737Pirogi are to Eastern Europeans as ravioli are to Italians.  I know this because I come from Eastern European heritage and my husband comes from Italian heritage.  This being said, I'm not sure many Eastern Europeans have ever eaten a Jalapeno pirogi.  In fact, I'm not sure many people in general have ever eaten a jalapeno pirogi!  It is only within the past 4-5 years that Joe and I came across them, thanks to my mom, who lives in Tamaqua, PA, a short drive from Hazelton, PA.  Here's the story:

Do any of you remember that crazy mayor of Hazelton who went on that crazy illegal Mexican immigrant rant (this was big national news a couple of years ago)?  Well, the T&L Pierogie Shop in Hazelton saw this situation quite differently than the mayor did.  There apparently are enough Mexicans living in Hazelton for T&L to warrant manufacturing a new, innovative pirogi:  the jalapeno pirogi.  Seriously folks, give this some "ah-ha" thought... the only thing better than a well-made, authentic Pennsylvani pirogi is a well-made, Pennsylvania jalapeno pirogi and these are absolutely delicious!  What was that mayor thinking?  Try these and get back to me please!Piroghi #1

~ Step 1.  There isn't much to do.  Take the jalapeno pirogi out of the freezer and let them thaw just a bit, 10-15 minutes.

For best results, open the bags and lay them, singularly, on 2-3 layers of paper towels.  If they begin to thaw in the bags, they do tend to stick together.

Easy enough so far?Piroghi #2

~ Step 2.  Preheat oil in deep-fryer according to the manufacturer's instructions to 360 degrees.  I use corn or peanut oil for deep-frying.

Deep-fry pirogi in batches of 5-6 at a time for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from deep-fryer and transfer to a paper towel lined baking dish.  Salt them generously immediately upon removal from deep-fryer.

If a little bit of potato filling oozes out while frying, that is just fine.  It's also an indicator they are fully-cooked!

A bit about Pirog, Pirogi, Pirozhki:  This is the classic Russian and correct spelling of the word and its progression, which is related to the size of the actual dumpling/pie itself.  A pirog is one very large savory dumpling/pie, usually rectangular in shape.  A pirogi is a smaller, individual, "pocket-sized" savory dumpling/pie.  A pirozhki is a very small savory dumpling/pie, which in many cases go into soups.  When correctly pronounced, the word pirogi has no "hard g" sound in it at all, just a simple, soft "pir-o-hee"!  Pirog, pirogi and pirozhki are also all both singular and plural words:  "I ate one pirogi this morning, I ate one dozen pirogi tonight".  So, who did put those "e's" in the spelling of pirogi... that remains a mystery to me!

PICT2713And a Jalapeno Pirogi Too... Yes, I said Jalapeno!:  Recipe yields instructions to deep-fry as many as you want.  Each bag contains 12 jalapeno pirogi.

Special Equipment List:  deep-fryer; tongs; paper towels; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish (for finished piroghi)

Cook's Note:  For dipping, you can use plain, ordinary sour cream, however, I like to use a good quality bottle of Garden Dill Ranch salad dressing.  Hey, if the pirogi come out of a bag, the dip should probably come out of a bottle!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

~ Melanie's Sweet 'n Spicy Wing 'n Thing Sauce ~

Chicken Thing-Wing Sauce #1 (Finished #2) This incredibly delicious and very easy to make, sweet and spicy chicken wing sauce needs little introduction. 

Once you have stirred a mixture of two pantry ingredients, honey and hot sauce, together over low heat for about 1 minute, it is pretty much done!

It's almost embarassing to call this a "real" recipe, but everyone asks me how I make it, so here goes:Chicken Thing-Wing Sauce #1 (Ingredients)

 

~ Step 1.  The measurements here are pretty much arbitrary (up to you and your personal taste), but I like my wing sauce ratio to be:

"2 to 1" meaning:  2 cups of honey to 1 cup of Frank's RedHot Sauce.

Chicken Thing-Wing Sauce #3 (In Bowl on Stove)

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 2.  I don't even use a pot!  I like to use a large stainless steel bowl on the stovetop.  The same bowl the wings will go into to be sauced when they come out of the deep-fryer!

Add your honey, then the hot sauce to the bowl.  Place on stovetop over low heat. Chicken Thing-Wing Sauce #5 (Whisk Together)

 

 

 

~ Step 3.  Whisk the honey/hot sauce mixture together for about 1 minute, or less, over low heat.  You will know immediately when the wing sauce is done...Chicken Thing-Wing Sauce #6 (Finished #1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 4.  ... as it will be uniform in color and very shiny. 

At this point, the sauce can be used immediately to sauce or dip wings, or:

Sauce can be refrigerated pretty much indefinitey.  I almost always have a small container on hand in my refrigerator.

Also, once this sauce is stirred together over low heat, it will never separate!  How neat is that!

Melanie's Sweet 'n Spicy Wing Sauce:  Recipe yields approximately 1 1/2 cups of wing sauce or enough to sauce 4 dozen chicken wings.

Special Equipment List:  large stainless steel bowl; whisk

Cook's Note:  Sauce can be made well in advance of serving.  Sauce keeps almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.  Reheat in microwave or gently on stovetop.  In case you are wondering what the "'n Thing" means in the title of this recipe, this sauce is just as delicious served with my recipe for ~ JoePa's Chicken Things ~ found in categories 1 & 17!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)