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18 posts from October 2010

10/29/2010

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #1: Tailgate "White Out" White Chicken 'n Corn Chili" ~

6a0120a8551282970b0133f563b1e5970b-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ "White Out" White Chicken 'n Corn Chili ~.  This is one of my most requested recipes for tailgate, and, you can the find the detailed recipe, with all of my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 2, 3, 13, 17, 19 or 22!

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

Tailgate "White Out" White Chicken 'n Corn Chili  

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 11:30AM 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)

10/28/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Michigan Wolverines ~

WCC #1 (with Melted Cheese Intro Picture)Greetings and salutations from Happy Valley!  Our Penn State team is returning to Beaver Stadium this Saturday after a much needed and much appreciated win... and they did it on the road too! 

Because of this, I have decided to cook up and share one of my very special recipes this week just for us tried and true blue  Nittany Lion fans.  I don't even care who we're playing this week!  It is time for:

 

Saturday, October 30th, 2010, 8:00 PM EST, Home at Beaver Stadium

Mel's Menu:

~ "WHITE OUT" White Chicken 'n Corn Chili ~

IMG_3906This is a recipe I'm certain you are all going to really enjoy.  Serve a pot of it up, steaming hot, topped with some grated white cheddar cheese and some white corn chips for dipping.  I am encouraging all of you to make this Preschutti family favorite and remember to  freeze at least 6 cups of it, because:  on November 27th, when we play that other Michigan team, I'm going to show you how to prepare my recipe for White Chicken 'n Corn Chili Burritos!!!

(If you are interested in making your own freshly fried tortilla chips, I'll be posting my recipe for ~ Deep-Fried Tortilla Chips (Totopos) ~ tomorrow!)

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

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

10/22/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (10/22/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

This is the week that just won't end.  You know, the kind where no matter how much you did accomplish, there is still a lot ahead waiting to do.  Usually, after I post Q&A on a Friday afternoon, I take some time off  to enjoy a few T.G.I.F. cocktails and, in the Fall, a Saturday filled with college football games.  This weekend:

The fun-filled task of putting all of our deck furniture into storage for the Winter awaits! 

Roasted Pumpkins of Tussey Mountain #2The good news is, as promised, with a lot of help from husband Joe, we got all of our sugar pumpkins roasted and pureed.  The recipes for ~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree ~, recipe found in categories 15 & 18, and ~ Roasted Pumpkin Seeds ~, recipe found in categories 2 & 18, got posted.  The bad news is, while I did get my ~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday ~ menu planned, I only posted one of the two dishes I promised my friends at BSD.  If any of you are reading this:  I will get that apple pie recipe posted by game time tomorrow!!!

Cinnamon Chicken #1 (Intro Picture)The pie got put on hold because I decided (on Wednesday) to develop a recipe for ~ Oven-Fried Cinnamon Chicken w/Honey-Butter ~, recipe found in categories 3, 10, 17 & 19.  If you are at all familiar with the series Little House on the Prairie, no more explanation is necessary.  It seems a lot of people search the internet for an authentic-to-the-time-period version of this dish and none seem to exist.  I decided to put an end to that situation, and from that standpoint, my recipe is a big success.  Apparently, there are a lot of LHOP fans out there because a lot of people have been in and out of that post... and I just posted it yesterday!  It even generated two great questions from one person:

Q.  Erika asks:  Your cinnamon chicken recipe looks great and I can't wait to try it.  I remember the episode of Little House where Laura switched the cayenne pepper for the cinnamon!  I want to try this recipe very soon, perhaps this weekend.  Do you think I can make it using boneless, skinless chicken breasts?  Also, you served it over couscous.  I have never cooked couscous.  Can you tell me something about it please?

A.  Kitchen Enounters:  You made my week Erika!  You are the first to comment on the cinnamon chicken recipe.  I suspect when my recipe hits the internet proper, it will become a very popular one. 

Oh yes!  Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves will work just fine in this recipe.  In fact, the recipe can easily be adapted to make tenders or nuggets too, which would be great if you're trying to please young children.  I didn't write it that way, because back in the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, they pretty much used a whole chicken cut into 8 parts.  As I did write in the recipe, whatever type of chicken you choose to use, remember:  the smaller the size of the  pieces, the shorter the cooking time will be.  

Couscous #1Erika, I'm so glad you mentioned the couscous.  Nothing is easier to prepare.  Couscous is a granular semolina.  After cooking, which only takes 5 minutes, it has the texture of pasta.

To prepare a box of it, you simply bring water, salt and butter to a boil in a saucepan.  You stir in the couscous, cover the pan and:Couscous #2

Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Uncover the pan, fluff the cousous with a fork and serve immediately.  How easy was that!!

If you want to prepare the cousous that I served with my cinnamon chicken, add 1 cup of golden raisins to the water, butter and salt mixture, along with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, a pinch of ground cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper!

Great questions Erika!!!

 

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)

10/21/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Minnesota Golden Gophers ~

Little House on the Priarie House

Penn State is back in action and on the road this Saturday... all the way out to Minnesota! 

Minnesota is a state I've not had the pleasure of ever visiting, but it does have a very special place in my heart:  Walnut Grove, the banks of Plum Creek and Little House on the Prairie!!!

So, when it came time to plan this Saturday's Penn State/Minnesota tailgate menu, I decided to skip the Swedish meatball, pickled herring and smoked salmon w/mustard-dill sauce recipes.  I took the opportunity to do something I have been meaning to do for a very long time now:  develop a recipe for cinnamon chicken... and I'm here to tell you I am Penn State Proud of this recipe... you won't find it in any cookbook, or  a version quite as authentic and keeping with the time period of it on the internet either (until today)!!!

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010, Noon EST, Away in Minnesota

Mel's Menu:

~ Laura's Little House Oven-Fried Cinnamon Chicken w/Cinnamon Honey-Butter Drizzle ~

~ Caroline's Sour Cream, Apple & Walnut Grove Streusel  Pie ~

(Pie recipe will be posted by game time tomorrow!) 

Cinnamon Chicken #10 (Finished Closup) "WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"

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

~ Oven-Fried Cinnamon Chicken w/Honey-Butter ~

Cinnamon Chicken #1 (Intro Picture)Somebody pinch me.  No don't.  I want to savor this precious moment.  I have been wanting to develop a recipe for cinnamon chicken for quite some time, and finally I did it, it is done, and now I not only get to document it, I get to blog about it.  Sometimes it just is "all about me, my wishes and desires"... 

Little House on the Prairie is perhaps the best, ahead-of-its-time series that ever appeared on television.  Thanks to the insight and under the direction of Michael Landon many of our children were raised with open minds and  family values.  I repeat:  open minds and family values, hand-in-hand together, nothing extreme, just common sense stuff.  This show openly addressed wealth, poverty, love, hate, right, wrong, smart, stupid, feast, famine, bullying, discrimination, alcoholism, drug addition, plague, medicine, death, religion, divorce, adoption, sports, life in the circus and just plain jealousy.  

Jealousy was never more present than in season 6 when the handsome, single Almanzo Wilder arrived in Walnut Grove, Minnesota (on the banks of Plum Creek) and Nellie Oleson's mother Harriet (owner of The Mercantile)  offered to have her single, available, obnoxious, daughter cook dinner for him in the hope of snagging him as a husband for Nellie.  Nellie couldn't cook her way out of a chicken coop, so Laura Ingalls (soon to be Laura Ingalls Wilder) offers to "help" cook Almanzo's (soon to be known as Manly) favorite dinner:  cinnamon chicken.  Well, Laura (who is secretly in love with her Manly) sabotages the dinner by substituting cayenne pepper for cinnamon.  Almanzo and Nellie run for the nearest water trough and the rest is history.  "Half-pint" gets her "manly"!!! 

Little House on the Priarie (Family Photo) This recipe for cinnamon chicken has been a labor of love.  I thought I might get lucky when I ordered a copy of The Laura Ingalls Wilder Country Cookbook (1995), and find a recipe published in it.  They had the nerve to publish this book without even mention of the recipe.  They get no respect from me.  Then I did a brief search on the internet.  Lot's of recipes, but none that seemed to capture the spirit or authenticity of the time period. 

 

So, doing what I do best, I took the time to develop a recipe using ingredients that would have been readily available to the folks of Walnut Grove and in Nellie's Restaurant kitchen on the night of Laura's covert mission.  Except for the use of one ingredient, Panko, which I used in place of ordinary dry bread crumbs (because I know that Caroline Ingalls would approve of this), my recipe stays true to what I set out to do.  I carried the subtle sweet and spicy flavors of cinnamon and cayenne pepper throughout the recipe putting it:  in the marinade, in the flour mixture and even in the cinnamon honey-butter drizzle.  It emerges from the oven oh so crispy and deliciously fragrant.  I think it to be a wonderful dinner and tribute to Little House on the Prairie! 

What to serve with it?  That choice is yours.  Last night, when my final version of cinnamon chicken came out of the oven, I served it steaming hot atop one of my favorite recipes for couscous (which just happens to contain golden raisins and cinnamon, which made it the perfect complement).  If you want to serve it at room temperature at a picnic or a tailgate, accompany it with any number things:  cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, baked corn casserole, etc.  As long as you don't cover the cinnamon chicken with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, it will stay really crispy for about 24 full hours, which makes it a great "make and take" dish to serve... and... the easy to make cinnamon honey-butter drizzle, if kept at room temperature, stays perfectly drizzly as well!

One last noteworthy item:  I used 8 leg-thigh portions to prepare my cinnamon chicken, but you are certainly not limited to that.  Eight chicken breast halves, 16 legs or 16 thighs won't change the quantities on the following ingredients list, but keep in mind that smaller pieces of chicken will cook faster than larger ones, so be sure to adjust your cooking time.           

For the marinade/batter:

1  quart buttermilk

1  tablespoon cinnamon

1  teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less, to taste

2  teaspoons sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

6  large eggs (whisked into the marinade after the chicken has been removed from it, to form a batter)

For the flour mixture:

4  cups all-purpose flour

3  tablespoons cinnamon

2  teaspoons cayenne pepper, more or less, to taste

2  tablespoons sugar

2  teaspoons sea salt

For the chicken and breadcrumb coating:

8  bone-in, skin-on chicken leg-thigh portions,  trimmed of excessive overhanging flaps of fat

2  8-ounce boxes Panko breadcrumbs, or regular plain, dry breadcrumbs

For the cinnamon honey-butter drizzle:

1  stick butter

1  cup honey

1  teaspoon cinnamon

1/4-1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less, to taste

1/4-1/2  teaspoon sea salt, to taste

Cinnamon Chicken #2 (Marinating Chicken) ~ Step 1.  In a very large mixing bowl, whisk together all of the marinade ingredients except for the eggs.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim the chicken of all pieces of excess overhanging fat.  Add the chicken to the marinade and toss to coat.  Marinate for 2-3 hours, turning about every 15-20 minutes, as well as basting occasionally with a meat baster.

~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine the dry ingredients:  flour, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, sugar and salt.  Set aside until meat is done marinating.

~ Step 3.  When chicken is done marinating, remove each piece of chicken from bowl, shaking all excess marinade back into the bowl, and place in a 2-gallon food storage bag.  Whisk the eggs into the marinade to form a thick, drizzly batter for dipping the chicken into.  Place the Panko in a second large mixing bowl.  Place a rack in a large roasting pan.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

We're going to start an assembly line-type dipping process now and it will go very fast.  In this order, line up your bowls:  #1) the dry ingredients; #2) the wet batter; #3) the Panko.  Set your roasting pan right next to the panko.  Ready... set... go!  Your chicken is going to be in the oven in about 5 minutes

Cinnamon Chicken #3 (Dip in Dry Mixture)Coat each piece of chicken in flour, then:

 

 

 

Cinnamon Chicken #4 (Dip in Batter)

 

 

dip it in the batter, and:

 

 

Cinnamon Chicken #5 (Coat in Panko)

 

 

 

 

 

coat it all over with Panko!

Cinnamon Chicken #6 (Into Oven)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat the above process until all chicken pieces are dipped, coated and arranged in pan.  Bake on center rack of preheated oven 60-75 minutes, depending upon the size of your chicken pieces. 

Cinnamon Chicken #8 (Honey Butter)

 

 

~ Step 4.  To prepare the cinnamon honey-butter drizzzle:  While the chicken is baking, melt butter over low heat and whisk in the honey, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt.  When mixture is smooth and even in color, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Cinnamon Chicken #8 (Finished Closeup)

 

 

~ Step 5.  Remove from oven, sprinkle some sea salt over all and serve each portion with a generous drizzle of cinnamon honey-butter!

Cinnamon Chicken #10 (Finished Closup)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oven-Roasted Cinnamon Chicken w/Honey Butter:  Recipe yields 8 servings and 1 1/2 cups of cinnamon honey-butter drizzle.

Special Equipment List:  1 very large mixing bowl; whisk; kitchen shears; meat baster; 2 large mixing bowls; large spoon; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack

Cook's Note:  This is a great recipe to get your kids or grandkids involved with.  Put the Little House on the Prairie DVD's on the TV and whip up a batch of cinnamon chicken!

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

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

10/20/2010

~ How to: Clean and Roast Pumpkin Seeds ~

IMG_7510Once a year, when I am making and freezing roasted pumpkin puree from the sugar pumpkins Joe grows in our garden, I can't wait to finish up with the puree and roast the seeds.  Even if you are not making your own ~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree ~, recipe found in Categories 15 & 18, and are just carving a big Jack-o'-lantern pumpkin for Halloween, please, please, please, keep the seeds!  Homemade roasted pumpkin seeds are indeed a treat  and taste nothing at all like those hard, salt-encrusted white "things" they sell in stores.  I am a purist about them and like them tossed with a little oil and simple sea salt, but don't be afraid to be creative and add  some sweet or savory spices to invent your own favorite mix! 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #2 (Removing the Goop) ~ Step 1.  Firstly, if you are a woman with nice fingernails, this is the part of the recipe you want to pass along to family members, like your children or grandchildren (in my case my husband Joe), who will actually "get into" removing the seeds from the goop!

This task is not hard.  In this picture Joe is removing/pulling the seeds from the mushy centers of 2, 4-pound sugar pumpkins.  He was done in about 5 minutes.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #3 (Drying) ~ Step 2.  Thoroughly rinse, then drain the seeds in a colander.  Line a baking pan with 3-4 layers of paper towels.  The size of the pan you'll need to use will depend upon how many seeds you have.  You want the seeds to fit comfortably, in as thin a layer as possible.

I set my seeds aside to dry while I am making my pumpkin puree, which takes about 2 hours, during which time they dry nicely.  If you want them to dry quicker, a hair dryer works quite well!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #4 (Dry) ~ Step 3.  You'll know your seeds are thoroughly dry because you will be able to mound them or push them around  easily without any of them sticking together or clumping.  While this sounds like overkill, getting your seeds thoroughly dry is an important step in the process.

Remove the paper towels, along with the seeds, from the baking pan.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #5 (Ready for Oven) ~ Step 4.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil, that way there is no mess to clean up at the end!  Place 2 tablespoons of corn oil in the bottom of the pan and add the pumpkin seeds.   Using a spoon, stir (careful, don't tear the foil) until they are thoroughly coated.  Sprinkle with 1 generous tablespoon of sea salt and stir again.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds #6 (Out of Oven)~ Step 5.  Roast on center rack of preheated 325-350 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes.  During the roasting process, open the oven door every 8-10 minutes to briefly stir with a spoon.  Remove from oven.  The seeds are ready to eat, but they are MUCH better if you let them cool completely in the pan, about 1 hour, prior to eating!

IMG_7509

 

How to:  Clean and Roast Pumpkin Seeds:  From 2, 4-pound sugar pumpkins, you'll get 1 1/2-2 cups of roasted pumpkin seeds.

Special Equipment List:  colander; baking pan (sized according to the amount of pumpkin seeds you have); paper towels; aluminum foil

Cook's Note:  Once a year when I make my pumpkin puree, I make one large batch of pumpkin seeds, sometimes as many as 10-12 cups, which means I have to store them.  Once completely cooled, they can be stored in an air-tight container.  That being said, I often put them in a pretty bowl on my kitchen counter and let them sit out for 2-3 days for "passers-by" to munch on at will!

Extra Cook's Note:  This recipe works just as well with acorn or butternut squash seeds!

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

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

10/19/2010

~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree (The Preschutti Way!) ~

Roasted Pumpkins of Tussey Mountain #1

Once we pick the pumpkins from Joe's garden, he and I know it is indeed fall.  He starts the process of wintering the gardens and transplanting whatever herbs we can move indoors into pots.  I start the process of roasting and pureeing all of the pumpkins and squash.  The entire process is extraordinarily easy (at least my end of it is).  I'm not going to lie, it takes a little time, as each batch takes 2 hours to roast and 1 hour to cool, but aside from oven time, your hands-on work-time is limited to about 10-15 minutes per batch.  Because we have so many pumpkins, I usually do it over the course of a weekend.  I'm proud to say that as of Sunday evening (10/17/10), I froze enough of my roasted pumpkin puree to make 16 pies (as well as pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin creme brulee)!

In the picture above, you'll notice that all of the pumpkins are quite small, except for one.  I like to call the large, decorative variety (the kind we all decorate for Halloween), "Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins".  Joe grows a couple of these every year, just for fun, focusing more of his attention on the small, culinary pumpkins called:  sugar or "pie" pumpkins.  I always refer to them as sugar pumpkins because culinarily, they are NOT just pie pumpkins.  The sugar pumpkin can be used to make pickles, preserves and all sorts of savory dishes... even soup!

IMG_2802Sugar pumpkins average in size from about 4-8 pounds, but as you can see in the picture, some are quite smaller and some are quite bigger.  My favorite size to work with is the 4-pound range, but  size is not as important as quality.  Choose pumpkins with smooth, unblemished skin that is solid and firm (no soft spots).  If the pumpkin you choose happens to still be a little green, that is ok.  Kept in a cool spot (not in the refrigerator), it will continue to ripen on its own.  A fully-ripe pumpkin, stored at room temperature, will keep just fine for about a month.  Whether you cut your pumpkin out of your own garden or buy one at the farmers' market, don't use the short stubly stem as a handle for carrying your pumpkin, as they are quite woody and can snap off quickly under the weight of the pumpkin... in an instant your carefully chosen, prime pumpkin will be smashed on the ground beneath your feet! 

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #1 (Pumpkins with Cans) A lot of people tell me they think pumpkin is one of the few foods that is better canned than fresh.  The key word here is "think".  I am one of the purists that is here to tell you, if you have never tasted a light, silky-smooth, custard-like pumpkin pie, made from fresh pumpkin puree, you need to think again.

Compared to each other, the canned stuff does have one thing going for it:  is sure is easy to use!

IMG_6560Before we get started on my recipe, I'd like to point out there are three other methods "out there" for making pumpkin puree:  boiling, steaming and microwaving.  In my opinionated opinion, roasting is superior to the other three.  Here me out: The reason we are using the sugar pumpkin for cooking, instead of the Jack-o'-lantern pumpkin, is because of its dryer, meatier texture.  While I have successfully used the J-o'-l pumpkin to make pumpkin puree (just because I wanted to experiment with it) it is very watery.  It required several hours of draining through cheesecloth, after roasting it, to turn it into a usable puree.  So, if we don't want our pumpkin watery, why would we subject it to boiling?  Feel free to inform me.  In the cases of steaming and microwaving, ok, they work just fine, go ahead, you'll have no problem with me.  As for roasting, it is all about the added  sublte, nutty flavor you get when the pumpkin is roasted that you won't get by any other method.  One last comment:  I have been roasting pumpkin for years now, and by this method, it is rare indeed when a batch of sugar pumpkins needs to be drained through a cheesecloth.  It does happen, but it is rare

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #2 (Quartered Pumpkins)~ Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, remove the "lid" by cutting around the stem end.  The best way to explain this is:  after slicing the top off a 4-pound pumpkin, you will have about a 4" circle.  Cut the pumpkin into 4 quarters.

Note:  I am using 2, 4-pound pumpkins throughout this recipe.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #3 (Seeds Scraped Out) ~ Step 2.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, scrape the seeds and "stringy goop" out from all of the pumpkin quarters.

You can discard the seeds & goop, but if you've never tasted roasted pumpkins seeds, I suggest you do not.  I place all of it in a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, until I get my pumpkin in the oven.  I'll be posting the pumpkin seed recipe this week, so stay tuned!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #4 (Ready for Oven) ~ Step 3.  Arrange the unpeeled pumpkin pieces, flesh side down, on a rack that has been placed in a roasting pan to which 4 cups of water has been added.

If you're a regular here at Kitchen Encounters, you'll notice I just love to use these large disposable aluminum pans!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #5 (Pricking with Fork) ~ Step 4.  Roast pumpkin on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 2 hours.  You will know pumpkin is done when the tough skin is lightly browned and can be easily pierced with the tines of a fork.

This timing may vary slightly, less for small pumpkins and more for larger pumpkins, but 2 hours is pretty much the magic number

~ Step 5.  "Loosely" cover the pan with a piece of aluminum foil.  "Loosely" is the key word here.  Do not tuck it down or crimp it around the edges of the pan.  Set the pan aside until the pumpkin is cool enough to handle with your hands, about 1 hour.  The pumpkin is now ready to be peeled and pureed.  Note:  If you get busy and don't have time to puree the pumpkin after one hour, just let it sit.  I've left it sit for several hours and it changes nothing with the recipe.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #6 (Peeling the Skins Off) ~ Step 6.  Remove the foil from the pan.  I just place it on the counter top and use it as my work surface while removing the skin from the pumpkin quarters (no messy cleanup afterwards).  I find that a very sharp paring knife works best for this.  It does not matter if it all comes off in one piece, like in this picture.  Just promise to be very diligent and remove ALL of the skin from each piece.  This entire task will only take about 5-6 minutes!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #6 (Pumpkin in Processor) ~ Step 7.  In work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, place enough of pumpkin to fill the work bowl about three-quarters full.

The amount of pumpkin you can process at one time will vary depending upon the size of your food processor.  I own several Cuisinart food processors and am using my DLC-X Plus today.  It can easily handle all of the pumpkin from the pan in one batch.

Start with about 10-15 rapid on-off pulses, to chop the pumpkin into bits, then turn the machine on to process for about 20 seconds, or until pureed.  How easy was that!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree #8 (Finished) ~ Step 8.  Pumpkin is now ready to be used or portioned and frozen for up to a year.  I portion mine into 4-cup containers, leaving about 1/4" of headspace at the top of each container (because pumpkin expands when it freezes).  Each of my containers will make 2 pies.  Pumpkin puree or thawed pumpkin puree can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 days prior to using.  Now, it's time to roast those pumpkin seeds:

6a0120a8551282970b0162fbd6fc38970d-800wiRoasted Pumpkin Puree (The Preschutti Way!):  Recipe yields approximately 2 2/3-3 cups per 3 1/2-4 pound pumpkin.  Pictured above is 4 quarts, enough for me to make 8 pies.  This yield came from roasting 6 pumpkins all in the 3 1/2-4 pound range.  No pumpkins used while writing this recipe were under 3 1/2 pounds or over 4 pounds. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; 8"-10" chef's knife; tablespoon; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack; aluminum foil; very sharp paring knife; food processor

6a0120a8551282970b0133f530c894970b-320wiCook's Note:  Skip the can man... Roasted pumpkin puree is just marvelous!  After you taste your first pie you'll know why!!!  

To learn ~ How to: Roast Pumpkin Seeds ~, one of the most delicious snacks known to mankind, just click into Categories 2, 15 or 18!!!

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

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

10/18/2010

~ David & "The Great Pumpkin" Patch ~

Pumpkin David #1

Today my grandson David is taking us "out back" to grandfather JoePa's pumpkin  patch.  At first it is a little "spooky"... lots of long, strung out, woody vines and large leaves with heavy, orange-colored balls and lots of other strange-shaped "things" (squash) growing.  [Some people use large jack-o'-lantern pumpkins for cooking and there is nothing wrong with that.  I've done it successfully and I'll be discussing that in my next post.]  David's JoePa grows 4-8 pound sugar or "pie" pumpkins!

Pumpkin David #2 David is carefully selecting his pumpkins, for him to take back to Pittsburgh.  Always try to choose one with no bruises or soft spots.  It may be a little greenish in color, but if you leave it in a cool spot it will ripen on its own and turn orange.  Stored at room temperature, it will keep just  fine for a month or so.  Pumpkins are technically a fruit, and moms and grandmoms usually make pies out of them for Thanksgiving, but they are great when cooked like a vegetable too!

Pumpkin David #3 David has made his choice!

David's JoePa's sugar pumpkins are especially good in pies.  After David and JoePa pick all of the pumpkins,  JoePa cuts off their tops and cleans/scoops out the "mush" & seeds. GrandMel then roasts the pumpkins and makes puree for pies.  She even roasts the pumpkin seeds for a fun snack that all kids just love (JoePa does too)!

"Hey JoePa, let's pick this one first", says David!

Pumpkin David #4 JoePa cuts the pumpkin from the vine using a big chef's knife (while  David steps away and stands back to watch that part).  JoePa only leaves a short stubbly stem on the top.  Then, David picks up and shows everyone the correct way to pick up and hold a pumpkin.  David explains: 

"You never want to carry or handle a pumpkin by the stem because it will break off very easily and your pumpkin will fall to the ground and smash."

"Geeze JoePa, this is heavier than I thought it would be", says David!

 

"Picking pumpkins turned out to be a whole lot of fun... I can't wait to show these off back in Pittsburgh!"

Pumpkin David #5 David hopes that everyone has learned a lot about choosing and picking pumpkins today.  Be sure to check back here at Kitchen Encounters over the course of this week.  David's GrandMel will be showing everyone how to make Roasted Pumpkin Puree and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.  Closer to Thanksgiving she'll also be showing everyone how to use the puree to make her recipes for  pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake and even pumpkin cookies!!! 

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

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

10/15/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (10/15/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

Today is Friday and I am pleased to report this is a week that has had a happy ending on all fronts:

First and foremost, all 33 Chilean miners (along with their 6 rescuers) have been reunited with their families and are pretty healthy too.  I'm proud to say I watched all 39 be safely returned to the earth's surface!

Secondly, since Penn State doesn't play football tomorrow,  I stepped away from tailgate fare and cooked some great Fall meals which got plugged into my new Category 19:  Just Family-Style Family Dinners.  From my blog's stats, it seems that more than a few of you are liking that category and are anxious to try some of the recipes.  All three thusfar:  Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy, Veal Chops Braised in Tomato-Basil Sauce and My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts & Gravy got almost as many hits as David's Penn State Pita Pizza did a couple of weeks ago.  Once again, if you have any special requests, let me know and I'll cook it up and get it posted for you ASAP! 

Thirdly, Kitchen Encounters had one great question, followed by feedback regarding last weeks ~ Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 17 & 19.  Here we go!

Q.  Jesse asks (in regard to the Dutch oven used to prepare Apple-Briased Pork Pot Roast):  I have a 10" cast-iron camp stove, which essentially functions as the exact same type of pan except:  #1) it is cast-iron; #2) the sides aren't exactly straight; and, #3) you can use the lid as a skillet.  Can I use this in place of a Dutch oven?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  I am familiar with the Lodge cast-iron camp stove and it is a great piece of equipment.  It really doesn't matter if the sides aren't straight.  Two things do matter.  #1)  The roast should fit easily into the bottom of the pan.  Since your pan is 10" at its base, make sure you tell your butcher you need a roast no more than 9 1/2" in length.  #2)  When the lid is placed on your camp stove, it must close tightly without touching the top of the roast.  The roast will not brown properly unless there is some clear air space between it and the lid.

C.  Jesse says:  I made the Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza.  It's like a meat pie.  It's wonderful and it will feed 8 people easy.  I followed the crust recipe without exception and it worked great.  This took longer to make than it seemed it should have, but I can totally see how if you've done this a couple of times you could get this in the oven in an hour or so, and with a little practice, I probably could have banged a lot of it out while the dough was rising.  The 12" cast-iron skillet worked great too, but there is no way on God's green earth, even after resting it for 30 minutes, that you are getting that Pizza out of the pan in one piece!

Chicago Pizza alla Jesse A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Thanks so much for the feedback and for e-mailing this picture of your Chicago pizza, which came out FABULOUS!

For those of you looking at this pizza picture, look very closely as Jesse's pizza is still in his 12" cast-iron skillet here.

I can only imagine how hard, even impossible, it is to remove the pizza in one piece from the skillet.  Because Chicago pizza is so thick, that is why the traditional pans have a removable bottom.  That being said, after resting it, I'd probably recommend that you cut it into quarters or eighths while it is still in the skillet, then remove the pieces one at a time.  And remember, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is supposed to be ooey-gooey-oozy and served very hot.  Most people eat the first half of their slice with a knife and fork.  By the looks of your pizza, I am certain you had no complaints!!!

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 Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)

10/14/2010

~ My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts & Gravy ~

IMG_2352Besides trying to work through three uninspiring days of Central Pennsylvania's famous drizzle and overcast gloom, on Tuesday night around 9:00 PM, I found myself captivated by the Chilean miners' rescue coverage on CNN.   First I watched the first miner emerge, then the second, who presented rocks to his country's president Pinera and lead the crowd of onlookers in a cheer.  I went to bed with the TV on and kept it on all night.  That tell-all, simple-looking, "wheel & cable", turning counter-clockwise when sending the rescue capsule 1/2 mile down into the mine, then turning clockwise when coming up from the mine with a rescued miner in it, had me mesmerized.  I guess I have a better body clock than I thought because I managed to take cat naps in between rescues, waking up every 50 minutes or so to watch each miner reunite with his family.  Wednesday (yesterday) was more of the same.  I was semi-exhausted, but nonetheless could not take my eyes off the televisions, which were all tuned into CNN.  I am proud to say I saw all 33 men, plus 6 rescuers returned safely to their loved ones!

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #1 (Intro Picture)About 2:00 PM yesterday it was time to plan dinner.  As I said, it was raining, I was tired, and I did not want to put any time or energy into a meal that would distract me from the television.  I did not want takeout pizza either.  I wanted real comfort food.  Something I could take a big plate of into the family room, sit down on the floor and slowly eat in front of the TV!

There was only one thing that could satisfy me:  My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts & Gravy!  In 5 minutes the chicken was ready to go into the oven to roast for exactly 1 1/2 hours, making it easy for me to watch TV.   During the last 30 minutes of the chicken roasting time, I cooked some rice (potatoes are an alternative) and prepared some peas (the ones picked from Joe's garden that I froze earlier in the year).  When the chicken was done, I prepared my foolproof gravy from the flavorful pan drippings.  My version of a TV Dinner was completed!

IMG_1194If you are tired of boring, boneless, skinless, tasteless "rubber" chicken breasts, you are not alone and you have every reason to stage a revolt.  Start roasting my "real" chicken breasts.  The following recipe produces perfectly roasted, succulent, moist breasts with a crispy, eatable skin.  One simple reason to love this delicious, hearty meal is:  once you purchase the chicken breasts (I always buy the largest, meatiest ones I can find), you know you have everything else on hand in your pantry and kitchen.  GET REAL!!! 

For the chicken breasts

8-10  large, meaty chicken breasts on bones with skin

4-6  tablespoons butter, very thinly sliced

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

For the foolproof chicken gravy:

1  14 1/2-ounce can chicken stock + 1  14 1/2-ounce can of water

6  tablespoons butter

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2  teaspoons poultry seasoning

1/2-3/4  teaspoon Gravy Master (optional)* (read about Gravy Master below) 

 Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #1 (Intro Picture) (2)~ Step 1.  Place a roasting rack in the bottom of a large disposable aluminum roasting pan to which 1, 14 1/2-ounce can of chicken stock and 1 can of water (use the can from the stock to measure the water) has been added. 

Arrange 8-10 large, meaty chicken breasts (breasts on bones with skin, NOT boneless, skinless chicken breasts), side by side, overlapping slightly if necessary, skin side up, on rack.  Slice some butter, as thinly as possible, and place 3 pats on top of each chicken breast.  Liberally season everything with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #3 (Chicken Out of Oven) ~ Step 2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Roast the breasts, uncovered, on center rack of preheated oven exactly 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the breasts from the oven, transfer them to a large, warmed serving platter and allow them to rest, about 15 minutes, prior to serving. 

While the breasts are resting, prepare the gravy according to the following directions: 

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #4 (Fat-Lean Separator) ~ Step 3.  Pour all liquid from the pan  into a 1-quart fat/lean separator.  You will have about 4 cups of fat-free drippings/liquid. 

If you don't own a fat/lean separator, this is an inexpensive kitchen gadget you'll want to get.  Mine just happens to be made of  glass and is ovenproof, but the plastic ones work just as well.  As you can see in the picture, all of the chicken fat has floated to the top, leaving all the flavorful fat-free drippings/liquid to be poured out from the bottom!

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #5 (Making the Roux) ~ Step 4.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat.  Whisk in 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of poultry seasoning.  Do not add any salt or pepper... your fat-free drippings are seasoned!  Whisk constantly, until the mixture (referred to as roux) is thick and smooth.  This process will only take about 1-2 minutes.

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #6 (Gravy Done) ~ Step 5.  Whisk in all of the fat-free liquid from the fat/lean separator and discard all of the fat.  Adjust heat to medium-high and bring gravy to a gentle simmer.  Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until gravy has thickened to your liking and coats a spoon, 2-3 minutes.  The longer you simmer the gravy, the thicker it will get.  How quick and easy was that!  

 *All of this being said, depending on the color of your fat-free liquid that day (and it does vary slightly  in color everytime you make it), if you want your gravy to be a little darker in color, just stir in about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of Gravy Master.  Gravy Master is a nifty product that I keep on hand in my pantry and I recommend that you do too.  It comes in a small, 2-ounce bottle with an orange label and a little splash goes a very long way.  I use a very small amount of this product exclusively for the purpose of adding some color to any pale-looking gravy! 

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #7 (Sliced Chicken) ~ Step 6.  For the most part, I like slicing and plating chicken breasts before serving them.  This is SO NOT NECESSARY, so if you want to skip this task/step, serve them up just as is.

As you can see from the picture, the chicken is perfectly cooked.

Can you believe this one chicken breast, when thinly sliced, makes a yummy plate of food this size!?!

Meet my version of a modern-day TV dinner:

Real Roasted Chicken Breasts #8 (TV Dinner Picture) My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts & Gravy:  Recipe yields 8-10 hearty, main course servings and 4 cups gravy.

Special Equipment List:  20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack; 1-quart fat/lean separator; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; whisk; cutting board; chef's knife

Rhode_island_red_1915_lithographCook's Note:  Sometimes I prepare these chicken breasts on a Sunday afternoon, just to have them on hand all week.  Sliced, they make a great chicken sandwich or wrap.  Chopped, they make a great chicken salad or addition to a garden salad.  So, if you do not plan to make gravy:  prepare the recipe exactly as directed adding 4 cups of plain water to the bottom of the roasting pan,  instead of a combination of chicken stock and water.  In either case, it is the liquid in the bottom of the pan that makes these roasted chicken breasts so moist!

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

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

10/12/2010

~ Veal Loin Chops Braised in Tomato-Basil Sauce ~

Braised Veal Chops #1 (Intro Picture)In the Fall, I enjoy the transition from food that gets cooked quickly outdoors on the grill to food that gets cooked slowly on the stovetop indoors.  Whether I'm watching the leaves fall from the trees in the October sunshine, or puddles form on the driveway during a Fall rain, having a pot roast or some chops braising on the stove and my poodles napping at my feet is art to me!

Braised Veal Chops #7 (Last Picture)_face0Braising is a method of cooking in which food (usually meat and/or vegetables) is first browned in some fat, then cooked in some liquid over a low heat for a long period of time.  The long, slow cooking time develops the flavors and tenderizes the food(s) by breaking down their fibers. Braising can be completely done on the stovetop or started on the stovetop (to  brown the food) and finished in the oven.  A pot or a pan with a tight-fitting lid is important, to  keep the liquid from evaporating.  In almost all cases, recipes that use braising as the cooking method, while time consuming, are extremely easy!

In the following recipe, I am using bone-in, veal loin chops (because I adore veal) that have been cut to a thickness of about 1 1/4"-1 1/2".  This recipe works just as well with bone-in pork loin chops, so feel free to substitute them without hesitation or compromise.  When my veal chops are browned, I add 3 quarts of ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~, recipe found in Categories 8 & 12, but feel free to add your favorite homemade or even store-bought sauce!  

Braised Veal Chops #2 (Ingredients) ~ Step 1.  I'm making 8 veal chops, but make 2, 4 or 6... the choice is yours.  Just remember to scale back your pan size and the amount of sauce you add.  Liberally season the top sides of the chops with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Then sprinkle Wondra flour over the tops of chops.  Allow the chops to rest, 15-20 minutes, to allow the flour to absorb moisture from the meat.

Braised Veal Chops #3 (In Pan & Second Side Seasoned) ~ Step 2.  Place 8 tablespoons of olive oil in a 14" chefs pan, or just enough oil to coat the bottom of whatever size pan you are using.  Heat oil over medium-high heat.  Place chops in the pan, FLOURED SIDE DOWN.  Liberally season the second side of the chops with freshly ground sea salt, peppercorn blend and Wondra flour.

Braised Veal Chops #5 (All Chops Turned Over) ~ Step 3.  Over, medium-high heat, saute the chops until they are golden brown on their first sides, about 20 minutes.  Using a spatula (not a fork) flip the chops over and continue to saute until they are golden brown on their second sides, about 20 minutes.  Time may vary... you want golden brown!

Braised Veal Chops #6 (Marinara Added & Fully-Cooked) ~ Step 4.  At this point, I add 1/2 cup of Port wine and deglaze the pan, by using a spatula to scrape all of the browned bits loose from the bottom of the pan.  Feel free to use any red wine that you like.

Cover the chops with 3-quarts of your favorite sauce and adjust heat to a very gentle, steady simmer.  If you're using store-bought sauce, you might consider adding about 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and some shredded fresh basil leaves, to add some spice and additional flavor and color to the sauce.  Cover the pan and continue to simmer, 1 1/2-2 hours.  The chops will be fall-off-the-bone, fork-tender.  During the last 1/2 hour of braising the  chops, cook your favorite pasta and grate some Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese for sprinkling over the top of both the sauced pasta and sauced chops.  In Melanie's Kitchen, when I braise 8 chops, I cook 1 1/2-2 pounds of pasta!

Braised Veal Chops #1 (Intro Picture)Veal Loin Chops Braised in Tomato-Basil Sauce:  Recipe yields 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; spatula

Cook's Note:  Chops can be prepared 1-2 days in advance of serving and actually taste fantastic the next day (after having spent the night in my awesome tomato-basil sauce).  Chops and sauce can be refrigerated in pan and reheated on stovetop or transferred to a 4-quart casserole dish, refrigerated and reheated in the microwave.  The recipe for ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~, can be found in Categories 8 & 12.

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

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

10/08/2010

~ The End of an Era: Tettie & Baba... Sisters ~

Tettie & BabaNo two women have impacted me more.  Meet my "Tettie", my great aunt (on the left) and my "Baba" (my maternal grandmother) on the right.  Sisters.  Baba died three years ago, on February 9th, at 4:20 PM.  She was 96.  Tettie died yesterday, October 8th.  She was 97.  You have all heard me talk about and read my writings about Baba.  When I was growing up, Tettie lived at 210 Hunter Street in Tamaqua, PA, and Baba lived at 148 East High Street  in Coaldale, PA... about 9 miles apart from each other.  Tonight my thoughts are with Tettie's family.

My earliest recollection of Tettie was her ever present smile.  Even if she wasn't in a good mood, it was hard to catch her without it (I wish I could have somehow inherited that trait).  She was a woman who adored her children (Billy & Marion), loved her husband "Uncle Andy" and could cook her way in and out of any situation.  She and Baba were the mastermind planners and cooks behind the scenes of all family celebrations.  Sisters.   

As young children, Tettie babysat for my brother David and I almost as much as Baba did.  David loved sitting in the middle "TV" room with Uncle Andy.  The two of them watched every cowboy show on television and giggled their way through each and every one of them.  I loved sitting at Tettie's kitchen table, which was always filled with the ingredients for what she was cooking that day.  The woman was amazing.  She taught me how to beat an egg into mashed potatoes for extra richness, use a pinch of salt and sometimes sugar to balance and bring out the flavor in food, and:  I have an in-her-hand written copy of her Fresh Coconut Cake recipe (she grated the fresh coconut herself folks), which she made me promise not to share.  What happened in Tettie's Kitchen, stays in Melanie's Kitchen!  She had a black and white spotted terrier named Sugar, which was anything but, except with her... he melted in her arms!

In my teen years, I was a majorette in the Tamaqua Area High School band.  The band practiced three times a week and marched past her house on Hunter Street.  On those days, she was out on her front porch, along with her nextdoor neighbors, Mrs. Murphy (who lived to the left) and Mrs. Camerini (who live to the right), waving and watching their private parade.  After practice, most of my squad, and occasionally a few band members, would follow me for the short walk to "Tettie's", where there was always some sort of freshly baked sweet treat and her welcoming, loving smile waiting for us all.

All of this being said:  I am not a funeral go-er.  Tettie will remain in my heart, permanently and forever etched.  Just like Baba, to me she has not died.  Just like Baba, to me she lives on.  They live on in me, their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I feel good about this, and I think they do too!  Tettie & Baba... sisters, together again. 

Look out heaven, Tettie & Baba come armed with many great recipes under their angel wings!

"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 Too (10/8/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

This has been an "interesting" week.  I say "interesting" because: 

With the change in season and temperature (hot Summer to cool Fall) came a change in food.  Last weekend I started off October by making my ~ Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy ~.  Yesterday, I found myself buying some beautiful veal loin chops to prepare in  some of ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce ~ that I made at the end of August!

The season of "let's just throw something on the grill" is over.  It was fun, but:  every year at this time, I personally think food gets more "interesting".  Everything, including food, seems to slow down in the Fall.  Every year at this time my mind turns to warm, comforting family dinners served family-style.  The kind where Joe and I sit down, sip wine and savor our food slowly.  The kind where no matter who shows up unexpectedly, there's always enough to go around.  The kind where afterward you just want to take a nap or watch a old movie.  Because of this, today, I am adding a new Category 19 to my list of your choices:  Just Family-Style Family Dinners! 

Kitchen Encounters had one great question this week regarding my recipe post ~ Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 17 & 19: 

Chicago Pizza #1

Q. Jesse asks:  Help a brother out.  You know me.  I loathe vegetables on my pizza, almost as much as I hate chunks of tomato.  However, I am a member of the unique tribe that thinks that the crust is the best part of the pizza.  For that reason I can't give up on Chicago-Style Pizza, even though I always wind up disappointed and picking around stuff I don't like. 

What can a guy do?  Also, I have a book layin' around that says I can make this in a 10" cast-iron skillet.  What do you say?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Jesse, you are going to love the Chicago-Style pizza recipe I'm going to suggest for you to make in your trusty cast-iron skillet!  Here are my recommendations:

#1)  The pizza dough recipe I provided makes a large crust that fills a 15" round by 2" deep Chicago-style pizza pan perfectly.  If you use a 12" cast-iron skillet, my dough recipe will fit into it as the recipe is written.  When the dough is worked into any sized pan/skillet, you want it to be about 1/4" thick all over (bottom and sides).  If you use a 10" cast-iron skillet, you'll probably end up with dough extending over the rim of your skillet.  Trim off the excess and proceed with the recipe.  Whether using a pan or a skillet:  REMEMBER TO OIL THE BOTTOM AND SIDES before working dough into the pan/skillet with oiled fingertips.  REMEMBER TO LET YOUR DOUGH RISE IN THE PAN for 20-30 minutes before adding cheese, filling and sauce.

#2)  The Chicago-style sausage filling I provided is the traditional filling.  The Pizza Police will not come to your door if you change the recipe to suit your taste and style!!!  Use the filling recipe I provided as a guideline for how much filling to prepare.  Again, if using a 12" cast-iron skillet, the amount of filling I prepared will fit perfectly.  If using a 10" cast-iron skillet, you'll have excess.

#3)  Since I do know you, and I know what you like, I'm suggesting you make:  Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Taco Pizza.  The cornbread in the dough will be the perfect foil for your taco filling.  Line the bottom and sides of  your crust with 1 pound of grated white or yellow cheddar cheese (or my favorite:  Monterey Jack with jalapenos).  Do not press it into the crust, just gently distribute it over the bottom and pat it up the sides.  Start with 1 pound of ground meat, sausage or a combination of both.  Using that quantity of meat, prepare your taco or Tex-Mex meat mixture using ingredients, herbs and seasonings you like (onion, garlic, chile peppers, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, etc.).  Top your meat mixture with 2 cups of your favorite homemade salsa or store-bought salsa (green or red).  Because I would never put Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on a Tex-Mex taco pizza, I am going to suggest this:  bake your pizza, as directed, with the salsa being your last layer, for 30 minutes (with a round of aluminum foil that has been sprayed with no-stick spray, very loosely placed, sprayed side down, over the salsa, not touching the crust, to keep it from drying out).  During the last 5-10 minutes or so of the baking process, remove the foil and sprinkle 1-2 cups of grated cheddar over the top. This will finish baking the pizza and melt the cheese without burning it.  ENJOY!!!  PS... if you e-mail me a picture of your pizza, I will post it on next week's Culinary Q&A and Kitchen Therapy Too!

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)   

10/07/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Illinois Illini ~

Chicago Pizza #1

So, Penn State is playing Illinois this Saturday.  I took pause to come up with a menu to serve while watching the game here in my kitchen with my  usual band of always loyal PSU fans. 

I asked myself:  What puts people in a good mood really fast no matter how the game is going?  Why a very special pizza of course!!!

 

Saturday, October 9th, 2010, Noon, Home at Beaver Stadium

Mel's Menu:

 ~ Illinois' Famous:  Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza ~

Chicago Pizza #17 (Cut Slice & First Bite)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

10/05/2010

~ Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy~

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #8 (Whole Plate Finished)When I was growing up, Saturday at our house was always cleaning day (because my mom worked all weekdays) and everyone was expected to help with the chores.  Mom rewarded us all by always cooking something we loved for dinner that night.  Her pork pot roast was my favorite "reward meal" because not only is it extraordinarily delicious, the smell of it slowly braising on the stovetop all afternoon is ethereal!  This is my mother's method of cooking the roast, as well as her recipe, with two exceptions:  1)  Mom makes hers using water (not apple juice) and does not add any apples.  Feel free to do it this way if you don't like apples, the result will be just as marvelous!  2)  Mom never made gravy out of the highly-flavored pan juices.  My husband asked for gravy with this pot roast enough of times for me to experiment until I figured out an easy, foolproof way to get great gravy (and enough of it) to serve with this great meal too! 

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #1 (Ingredients)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1  6-7 pound boneless, center loin, pork roast

2  cups apple juice, plus up to 1 cup additional juice, only if necessary

2  large yellow or sweet onions, cut into quarters

4  Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into sixths

12  whole allspice

6  whole bay leaves

12  whole cloves

2  whole cinnamon sticks

garlic powder

salt and black pepper

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #2 (Dutch Oven)

About the pan/pot in this picture.  What you see pictured on my stovetop is a 6-quart, stainless steel, Farberware Dutch oven with a domed lid.  My mother actually bought me this pan 35 years ago.  I guess she knew I would be making her pork roast!  It has a very wide base, 12", and straight, deep sides, 4",  which makes it ideal for a 6-7 pound roast.  I've briefly searched the internet, and can't seem to locate a source for anything similar to provide (as it seems Farberware no longer makes this type of Dutch oven).  If anyone out there finds a source, please let me know so I can post it!  If anyone out there sees one at a garage sale or flee market, I advise buying it... mine is 35 years old and still like new!  By definition, a Dutch oven is a large pot or kettle, usually made of cast iron, with a tight-fitting lid so steam cannot readily escape.  It is used for moist-cooking methods, such as braising and stewing.  Dutch ovens are said to be of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, dating back to the 1700's.  Since braising can be done on the stovetop or in the oven, a Dutch oven is made out of material safe for both.  May the force be with you!!!

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #3 (Ingredients in Pan)~ Step 1.  Add the apple juice to the pan and place the roast, fat side up, in the juice.  Add the allspice, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon sticks to the apple juice, dividing them equally on both sides of the roast.  Add the onion, then apples, dividing them equally on both sides of the roast as well.  Generously sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper evenly over all.  Cover the pan. 

 

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #4 (First Side Browned)~ Step 2.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a steady simmer.  Continue to cook for 1 1/2-2 hours.  The bottom of the roast should be browning nicely, meaning:  what it looks like is more important than the time it takes to get it there.  

Flip the roast over, fat side down, and generously season the bottom of roast (now the top side) with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #6 (Finished Closeup) ~ Step 3.  Recover the pan and once again, bring the roast back to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer,  gentler than the first 1 1/2-2 hours of cooking time, and continue to cook a second 1- 1 1/2 hours.  Check frequently and add additional apple juice, if necessary to avoid scorching.  You want the roast to be golden brown, so again: it's how it looks not the exact time.  Flip the roast back over. 

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #7 (Roast Wrapped and Puree Processed) ~ Step 4.  Remove the roast from the pan and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil.  Set aside to rest while prepareing the gravy, about 15-20 minutes.

Using a teaspoon, find, remove and discard all of the allspice, bay leaves, cloves and cinnamon sticks.  Transfer all of the pan drippings to food processor fitted with steel blade and process until smooth, about 10-15 seconds. 

Return the drippings to a pan on stovetop (you'll have about 3 cups).  

PICT0711~ Step 5.  "The Gravy".  Please reserve judement on what I'm about to say until I've said it.  I've done my homework.  I've tried making the roux and adding chicken stock to make perfect gravy out of these amazing drippings, and it was great.  But, the best gravy was achieved by when I added 2-4, 12-ounce jars of myr favorite brand of store-bought chicken gravy.  Simply stir it in, a jar at a time until you get the consistency you want, bring mixture to a simmer and serve.  Why do I, "the purist", recommend this?  Because these drippings are so amazing and flavorful, you won't taste any difference in the final product.  In cases like this, I opt for easy.  

What happens in Melanie's Kitchen stays in Melanie's Kitchen!

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #9 (Finished Closeup #1)Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy:  Recipe serves 8-10 easily.  Recipe yields 6-8 cups of the one of most flavorful gravies you will ever taste.

Special Equipment List:  6-quart Dutch oven w/domed lid; cutting board; paring knife; aluminum foil; food processor; 4-quart saucepan

Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast #10 (Finished)Cook's Note:  In the picture above, the roast is served with my recipe for ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~, found in Categories 4 & 18.  The roast, leftover, reheated and thinly sliced, topped with a tablespoon or two, or three, of warmed gravy makes the most amazing sandwiches.  I like to use soft rolls for these sandwiches.  My favorites are our Pennsylvania Dutch potato rolls!

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

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

~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~

PICT2476 Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large, edible root (which belongs to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh.  Its flavor is not sweet, and after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato.  The darker variety has a thicker, dark orange skin and vivid orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked, it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture.  The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

When buying sweet potatoes, choose firm ones with no cracks or bruises.  Because I am usually planning on baking them, I like to choose even-sized ones so they will all cook in the same amount of time.  They should not be stored in the refrigerator, but they need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place.  If the temperature goes above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shrivel.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator last for about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are always eaten cooked.

You can cook sweet potatoes by all of the same methods you cook a potato... bake, boil, fry, grill, roast, microwave and even deep-fry.  I am a lover of this extremely healthy superfood, and as the Thanksgiving season approaches, I will be posting all sorts of sweet potato recipes, including the most amazing sweet potato pie, which you are surely to love!  The following recipe for my ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~ is a great "change of pace", as well as a colorful, flavorful, highly-nutritious alternative to mashed potatoes.  I serve these often to accompany roast chicken, turkey or pork for any occasion.  I especially like to serve them as an accompaniment to my recipe for ~ Apple-Braised Pork Pot Roast w/Apple Pan Gravy ~ found in Categories 3, 12 & 19.  What a great dish to start the Fall season with... warm, comforting, sweet & absolutely delicious! 

Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes #2 (Ingredients)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6-8  cups, fully-cooked and smashed sweet potato flesh, from 6-8 large, even-sized, orange, sweet potatoes

4-6  ounces butter, at room temperature

4-6  tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/4-1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg, more or less, to taste

1/2-3/4  teaspoons sea salt, more or less, to taste

1/2-3/4  teaspoons white pepper, more or less, to taste

1-1 1/2  cups heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes #3 (In Microwave) ~ Step 1.  How you come up with your 6-8 cups of smashed sweet potatoes is entirely up to you, but by far, the best method is by baking them conventionally or microwaving them, until they're ever-so-slighly undercooked.  Boiling tends to make them mushy, in which case you'll be serving mashed sweet potatoes!  I have 8 potatoes in my microwave.  They'll be done in about 20-25 minutes...

Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes #4 (Potatoes out of Microwave) ~ Step 2.  ... Before putting them in the microwave prick each potato in several spots using the tip of a paring knife or the tines of a fork.  This will insure even cooking and help the steam escape, which will keep them from exploding in the microwave.  Yes, I said exploding!  Remove the entire tray from the  microwave.  While potatoes are hot:

 

Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes #5 (Slice & Scoop) ~ Step 3.  Slice potatoes in half and scoop out the soft centers, placing them in a large mixing bowl as you work.  Discard or compost the jackets.  When you are done you will have at least 6-8 cups of loosely-packed, soft, sweet, creamy sweet potato flesh just waiting to be seasoned and smashed together!

Sweet potatoes vary in size.  You bought the largest potatoes in your store, but that doesn't mean they're as large as the ones I used, so: 

~ Step 4.  Start by adding about 3/4 of the amount of each additional ingredient on the list.  Using a hand-held potato masher or just a table fork, begin smashing the potatoes until you get the texture and consistency you want, tasting often until the potatoes taste exactly the way you want them to! PICT2459

Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes:  Recipe yields 6-8 cups of potatoes or about 8-12 side servings, depending upon the size of the portions being served.

Special Equipment List:  paring knife or table fork; tablespoon; hand-held vegetable masher

Cook's Note:  These potatoes can be made several hours and 1-2 days in advance of serving.  Cover with plastic wrap and reheat in the microwave.  Refrigerate if preparing them 1-2 days in advance of serving.

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

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

10/02/2010

~ Sweet & Sassy Steak & Maytag Blue Salad ~

Maytag Salad #1 (Finished Salad)

In September of 1993, Joe and I traveled to Ames, Iowa, for a long weekend to visit friends Barb and Larry.  Penn State had just joined the Big Ten Conference and was playing their first away conference game against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.  Larry, a Dean at Iowa State (Iowa's home state rival), got us four great seats for the game, while Barb planned a tailgate at the stadium and a weekend of fun sightseeing.  The year before, Barb and Larry lived next door to us on Belmont Circle because Larry was on sabbatical doing research at Penn State.  They were as excited as we were to watch Penn State beat up on their rival, 31-0, on that OH SO BEAUTIFUL Saturday afternoon!  On Sunday, they took us to visit the historic Amana Village followed by lunch at the Amana Colony Restaurant, where I fell in love with their famous Maytag Blue Cheese Steak Salad, topped with the most amazing dressing.  I asked our waitress what the dressing was made of and was surprised to learn it was a simple combination of pure maple syrup and balsamic vinegar!

Maytag Salad #2 (Cheese Wheel) In 1941, Maytag Dairy Farms began producing its own world famous blue cheese in the heartland of America, with milk from a herd of prize-winning Holstein cattle.  E.H. Maytag, son of the founder of the famous appliance firm, had established this herd of show cattle in 1919.  During the 1930's, the Maytag Holsteins gained fame in competitions across the North American continent.

Fred Maytag II, who succeeded his father in 1940, heard about a new process for making blue cheese that had been discovered and patented by two Iowa State University microbiologists.  They still use this process today.  It is a time-consuming method of hand making cheese in small batches, usuing fresh sweet milk from Iowa dairy farms.  Each batch of cheese is carefully monitored during the long months of aging, until the peak of flavor is reached and it is finally ready for market. 

The above pictured half-wheel of Maytag blue cheese weighs 2 1/2 pounds.  A full wheel weighs in at around 5 pounds (their  standard size).  Presently, it costs about $19.00 per pound, but a little goes a long way flavorwise and it is really worth every penny.  When tasting blue cheeses side by side, there really isn't anything comparable to it, so when I am decadently eating bite-sized chunks and crumbles of melt-in-Mel's-mouth blue cheese, I want mine to be Maytag!  So, let's see if I can cipher this correctly:  $10-$20 for 8-16 ounces of cheese, $20-$25 dollars for two great steaks, plus some vegetables/pecans for about $10-$12 and on-hand pantry items = four people eat an absolutely fabulous restaurant-quality meal for $10-$15 per person.  Ask your friends to bring a bottle of wine and the dessert and there is no reason to go out for dinner... and I can't wait until you taste the dressing!!!    

Maytag Salad #3 (Ingredients)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Salad:

1  large head iceberg lettuce

1/2-1  red or yellow onion, finely diced

1  large Kirby cucumber, unpeeled, cut lengthwise into 4 quarters, quarters sliced into 1/4" pieces (1/4 cucumber per salad)

1  pint grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

8  ounces Maytag blue cheese (I always buy 1 pound, as you will read below.)

1  cup pecan halves

For the Dressing:

3/4  cup pure maple syrup

1/4  cup balsamic vinegar

For the Steak:

2  large Delmonico steaks, cooked by any method you like, to the degree of doneness you prefer, cut into 12 slices, 1/2 steak per person, but:  feel free to serve a whole steak if you want to turn this lunch into a hearty, dinnertime meal

 Maytag Salad #4 (Pecans)~ Step 1.  Break or coarsely chop the pecans, placing them in a small baking dish as you work.  Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 8-10 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about half way through the roasting process.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely, about 30-40 minutes.  While nuts are cooling:

Maytag Salad #5 (Lettuce Wedges) ~ Step 2.  Cut the head of lettuce into 4 wedges and slice out the core.  Cut each wedge, chiffonade-style, into 1/4" strips.  Portion each sliced wedge onto 4 serving plates.

I like to assemble the four salads, on four plates, as I prep each of the ingredients.  While I am doing this, husband Joe usually grills and rests the steaks.  The alternative is to prep the salads and refrigerate them while you grill the steaks yourself!

 

 

~ Step 3.  Prep the onion as directed and sprinkle them over the lettuce on each plate.  Prep the cucumber as directed and sprinkle evenly over the onion on each plate.  Prep the grape tomatoes as directed and distribute evenly over the cucumber on each plate.  Crumble the blue cheese and distribute it evenly over the tomatoes on each plate (I actually like to buy some extra cheese and garnish each plate at the end with 1-2 pretty wedges, which works well if you are serving warm, crusty baguette slices with the salad, to heap sliced meat and cheese on... yum! ).  Top all of the salads with a generous sprinkling of toasted pecans.  In a measuring container with a tight fitting lid and a pourer top, combine the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar.  Cut each warm steak in half, slice each half into 6 pieces and arrange next to the salad.  Drizzle dressing evenly over all!  Enjoy:

Maytag Salad #7 (Closeup Finished) Sweet & Sassy Steak & Maytag Blue Salad:  Recipe yields 4, hearty luncheon salads and 1 cup of dressing.

Special Equipment List:  8" x 8" x 2" baking dish;  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup measuring container w/tight fitting lid and pourer top.

Cook's Note:  Believe it or not, this a great meal to serve at a picnic or at tailgate.  The pecans and all of the vegetables can be prepped in advance and placed in food storage bags.  The dressing can be made in a snap at home before you go (or up at the stadium) and the steaks... grill them fresh just before the game.  If you are serving it as a meal at home, I have served this salad with roasted chicken breasts, as well as seared duck breasts, for two equally delicious variations!

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

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

10/01/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (10/1/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

Wow... it is October!  Like clockwork, here in Pennsylvania, the temperatures have dropped, the trees are turning golden and "the frost is on the pumpkin".  Actually, there is no frost quite yet, but my pumpkins are ready to be picked this week and turned into:

~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree ~.  Here at Q&A on 9/10/10, Charlotte asked a pumpkin question, so, Charlotte, if you are reading this, the post will be coming your way very soon!

I want to thank everyone for all of the nice comments this week!  I'm so glad to hear you are all enjoying my website and I love the feedback.  As always, if you have any special requests, please ask and I'll try to get it posted as soon as I can!  We had two great questions this week, so let's get started:

Q.  PSUinBOSSton asks:   I am inspired.  I am going to make David's pizza to hold me over until the weekend.  But, I also wonder if you could help me with some of the mechanics of a grilled pizza?  I need some tips for expedience and convenience.  I always make a colossal mess, and have a feeling I could be doing it differently.  Maybe you have a recipe for one you could share along with your usual helpful hints?

6a0120a8551282970b0133f4c64956970bA.  Kitchen Encounters:  A few weeks ago I might have "fumbled" around trying to answer this question, but it just so happens that my son in Pittsburgh makes the best grilled pizza I have ever tasted.  In August, on a visit to their house, I spent an afternoon taking picures, while Becky made her homemade dough and Jesse grilled the pizzas.  My plan is to do a full blown blog about grilled pizza.  In the meantime, here are some tips:

6a0120a8551282970b013487e63394970cCut sheets of parchment paper slightly larger than the size of the pizzas you intend to make.  Spray one side of each parchment sheet with no-stick cooking spray.  Roll or press the dough on the oiled side of the parchment, to form the crust, then spray the top of the crust with no-stick cooking spray.  If you are making a lot of pizzas, like Jesse did that afternoon, you just keep stacking the crusts, with the parchment between them, on top of 6a0120a8551282970b013487e63492970ceach other.  You can do this ahead time and keep "the stack" in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before your guests arrive, but your dough needs to be at room temperature at grilling time, so you'll have to remove them about an hour or so in advance of grilling. 

To grill:  Lay the dough/crust on the grill grate, parchment side up.  Using a pair of tongs, grip one corner of the parchment and peel off the paper.  Flip the grilled dough onto a baking sheet, grill marked side up,  add the toppings, slide pizza back onto grill, close the lid and wait for the cheese to melt and the underside of the crust to grill.  That said, that day, Jesse grilled all of his crusts on both sides, put them on a big pile, then we topped them (all day and into the evening), placed them back on the grill, at a lower temperature, closed the lid and waited for the cheese to melt.

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Q. Desiree asks:  Hi jessedotsmom!  I got to your site through BSD but I am so happy I found it.  I love to cook and entertain.  I have a question for you.  I would truly like to cook tuna steak at home but am afraid of over/under cooking the tuna and I don't really have a good recipe for how to cook it.  Can you help?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Great question Desiree.  My first experiences with and introductions to tuna were excellent ones, due to my cousin Victor who does a lot of deep-sea fishing and presents me with prime cuts!  Two summers ago, he caught a prize-winning tuna and presented me with the entire fish... he and I spent the entire weekend cutting, cooking and eating!!! 

#1)  When you're at the seafood counter, whenever possible, ask the fishmonger to cut your steaks directly off the loin, instead of buying presliced ones.  Exposure to air makes tuna discolor and spoil, so this step will give you a slightly longer shelf life.  I personally always ask for my steaks to be cut to a thickness of 1".  Why?  Because the thickness controls the cooking time, and I know that for a 1" thick tuna steak, it will be perfectly cooked, over the most intense heat for about 2-4 minutes per side.   

#2)  When you get your tuna home, keep it tightly wrapped in plastic and well-iced right up until you are ready to cook it.  It is always best to cook tuna steaks the same day you purchased them.  You'll notice a dark strip of meat that runs through each steak.  I like to remove that.  It's perfectly harmless, but does have a slightly strong taste (cats love it).  The best tuna, bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore really shouldn't be marinated.  Why?  Well, this is just my opinion, but their flavor is delicate and most marinades tend to mask that lovely flavor.  Also, marinade starts the cooking process and quickly turns the tuna white.  One more thing, marinade tends to make tuna stick to the grill.  No-stick cooking spray is your best friend when cooking tuna!

#3)  The best two methods for cooking a tuna steak are:  panfrying or grilling.  It can also be quickly broiled with pretty good results.  Deep-frying it is a disaster.  You want your tuna steak to sear quickly, so that an outer crust forms (just like a rare steak), but the inside stays anywhere from completely raw to pink and no longer translucent.  Once you do this once, you can make a mental note (or a real, written one if that works better) of exactly how you like yours.  For instance, I'm great with 2 1/2 minutes of cooking time per side.  I like mine rare... the center of the steak is deep pink/red and raw (but warm and lightly cooked).  When cooked slightly longer 3-3 1/2 minutes, to medium-rare, the center will be pink.  The center of a tuna steak should never look:  brown, white or opaque.

#4)  A tuna steak is a lot of food.  I like to serve it sliced, so depending on what you are serving it with, one steak may be enough to feed two people.  Also, sliced tuna is delicious tossed into salads!

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)