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11 posts from November 2010

11/29/2010

~ 'Twas the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Thursday ~

Thanksgiving 2010 #1 (Mushrooms Ordered)

For those of you who know me personally, it is no secret that Thankgiving, the week surrounding it and thru the Monday afterward, is my favorite time of year/holiday.  To me it is hands-down better than Christmas, better than birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and most celebrations in general.  Why?

For starters, no one has to buy or bring a gift... which, if I had my way and were the President of a small country, would be how Christmas would be handled.  Thanksgiving is the day for our closest family and friends to gather here at our house, feast, enjoy each others company for the long weekend and party like it's 1999!  It is also a time for sharing with local shelters and food banks... which I like to do throughout the year, but it seems to have extra meaning at Thanksgiving.   

Thanksgiving 2010 #2 (Mushrooms Sauteed) For me, it starts on Monday (three days before the holiday), when my fresh vegetables (many of which have been ordered in advance), like the shiitake mushrooms in the above picture, get picked up.  Can you believe all of these fresh, tender mushroom caps, when sauteed then reduced in my white wine sauce, will fit in a 3-quart casserole dish, will yield 24 side servings and can be made 2-3 days ahead of time?  They have been a traditional side dish at my Thanksgiving feast for at least ten years now and everyone just loves them. ~ Shiitake Mushrooms in White Wine Sauce ~, recipe found in Categories 4, 9, 11 & 18!

Thanksgiving 2010 #3 (Stuffing Ready for Oven) At a totally unreasonable morning hour on Turkey Day (around 7:00AM), I get my turkey ready for the oven as well as prep and get my favorite stuffing casserole ready for the oven:  sweet potato, apple, golden raisin & chestnut w/my home-baked brioche bread cubes. 

Thankfully, I do not do this myself.  My husband Joe peels and chops while I saute and stir.  This is actually quite a lot of fun, as we like to share a couple of traditional, early-morning eye-opening cocktails, which I have conveniently  pre-mixed the night before... 

Bloody Mary #1Stan's Bloody Mary's.  Stan Cook makes the best Bloody Mary I have ever tasted.  Stan is the toastmaster for our Penn State Tailgate group and no one makes a better Bloody Mary than Stan does. 

In preparation for Thanksgiving weekend and the upcoming Saturday Penn State football game I always mix up a giant batch of these memorable eye-openers... which makes my kitchen a kinder, gentler place to be indeed.

~ Stan's "Hail Mary, I'm Born Again" Bloody Mary ~, recipe found in Categories 9, 11, 16, 17 & 18.  If you love Bloody Mary's, you must give these miracles-in-a-glass a try!

Thanksgiving 2010 #2 (Potatoes Prepped & in Pot) Well, it goes without saying that after an early  AM cocktail, or two, peeling potatoes for my "beehive" potato casserole becomes an enjoyable task... I'll be using cubed brioche bread cubes in this casserole too, so I'm glad I made a lot of brioche ahead of time in my bread machine.  In this 8-quart stockpot  are 6 pounds of peeled and cubed Yukon gold potatoes.  Joe did the peeling and I did the cubing.  Teamwork is everything!

Thanksgiving 2010 #5 (Pumpkin Pies Baked) Around Noon, my family and friends arrive to a well-set festive table.  All of the culinary work is done and I try to take as much of the day as I can to relax and enjoy everyone's company (but realistically, we all know the family cook/chef still has tasks and details to attend to).  We eat hors d'oeuvres throughout the afternoon, followed by a buffet-style dinner around 6:30 PM, and end with a dessert buffet (which includes of course, my Preschutti pumpkin pies) around 8:30 PM...

Thanksgiving 2010 #6 (Dog Toy Box) (2) ... unless of course you just happen to be the "pie of GrandMel's eye", in which case you get your favorite, rich & creamy Edy's Slow-Churned, French-vanilla ice cream with Hershey's chocolate syrup drizzled over the top and some big, generous squirts of real Reddi-Wip cream!

AND... you get your dessert even if you only wanted 2 spoonfuls of apple & pear puree and 2 bites of buttered brioche for dinner!

Membership has its priviledges!!!

Turkey Sandwich #2 (The Evan Royster) In conclusion, yesterday (Monday) was "last day for leftovers day".  I am  thankful for a lot of things this and every year, but when the kitchen is finally cleaned, my Asian plum candle is lit, and I am watching a great movie eating my all-time favorite sandwich (a classic turkey club), I am thankful that I have the luxuries of time and inate desire to make Thanksgiving as special a day and a memory as I possibly can for those I love the most.  I wish to hang onto that that heartfelt thought for as long as possible, but it is now time for me to switch gears and devote most of the month of December to posting some of my Christmas cookie,  Christmas dinner and festive cocktail party hors d'oeuvre recipes for you all!  Is that the sound of sleighbells I hear in the distance???

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

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

11/22/2010

~ A Truly Tart & Triple-Delicious Cranberry Sauce ~

6a0120a8551282970b0133f64fcc53970bCranberry sauce has always been one of my favorite things on the Thanksgiving table... and I mean on anyone's Thanksgiving table.  I'm a person who has a taste for sweet and savory, and loves a great sweet and savory fruit sauce with almost any protein.  I've never tasted a cranberry sauce I did not like, except once, and it contained pears and espresso (or very strong coffee).  It was in a fancy country-club restaurant and it remained on my plate at the end of the day. 

I grew up eating the smooth, gelatin-like sauce that slid out of the can onto a serving plate.  My mom would slice it into 1/2" discs, then cut each disc into four triangular wedges.  To this day, on the day after thanksgiving, my favorite cold sandwich gets layered with:  cranberry sauce, my mom's stuffing (mom's is a requirement) and turkey on toasted brioche.  As I got older and more sophisticated, I moved on, to the whole berry-type of canned cranberry sauce.  In my early married years, it made many appearances on our weeknight dinner table.  To this day, in a pinch I have absolutely no reservations about opening up a can of good ole' Ocean Spray!

For several years, I experimented with several different verions of homemade cranberry sauce, trying to develop a sauce with the texture of whole berry and an exciting spiciness a well.   Then, back in the '80's, I settled on two that I just loved:  1) Triple Delicious Cranberry Sauce, and, 2)  Cranberry & Crystallized Ginger Sauce.  I stopped experimenting after these two because both have the textures and spices that make me want a second scoop on my plate.  Now, I won't lie to you, the Triple Delicious Cranberry Sauce (which I am sharing with you today) started with another one of those recipes I clipped out of a magazine somewhere at some point in time.  If I ever remember where, I shall return to this post and give credit where credit is due.  I immediately liked the concept of it:  cranberries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice!  The Cranberry & Crystallized Ginger Sauce, which I'll share with you at another time, morphed out of the Triple Delicious Cranberry Sauce recipe, which everyone in my family loves!

Cranberry Sauce #4 (Ingredients) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3  cups frozen cranberry juice cocktail concentrate, thawed, (2, 12-ounce containers) or:

3  cups frozen apple-cranberry frozen juice cocktail concentrate, thawed, (2, 12-ounce containers)

1  cup sugar

3  pounds fresh cranberries (4, 12-ounce bags)

6  ounces dried cranberries

1  16-ounce jar orange marmalade, the best available

1  large orange, about 8 ounces

3/4  teaspoon ground allspice

~ Step 1.  Using a microplane grater, remove all of the zest from the orange, being careful to avoid any of the white pith.  You will have about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons.  If you have more, use it all, as it will just add to the great flavor of the cranberry sauce.  If you don't have a microplane grater, I recommend you get one... this is a kitchen tool that will make your life a whole lot easier!

Note:  Zest is the perfumy outermost skin layer of citrus fruit, which is removed with the aid of a microplace grater, citrus zester, paring knife or vegetable peeler.  Only the colored portion of the skin, not the white pith, is considered the zest.  The aromatic oils in citrus zest are what add so much flavor to raw or cooked and sweet or savory dishes.

Cranberry Sauce #5 (Cranberries and Dried Cranberries Added) ~ Step 2.  Preferably in a non-alumimun stockpot, over low heat, combine the cranberry juice and sugar.  Stir constantly, until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the fresh and dried cranberries.

Note:  Aluminum is a great heat conductor, however, it is not recommended that food containing items like eggs, wine, tomatoes or other acidic ingredients be stored in them for long periods of time.  In the case of the acidic cranberry sauce, after it is cooked, I let it cool in the pot for several hours.  If you do plan to use an aluminum stockpot to cook the cranberry sauce in, that is fine, just transfer the cranberry sauce to another container to cool!

Cranberry Sauce #6 (Cranberries Popping & Foamy) ~ Step 3.  Increase heat to simmer rapidly, stirring frequently, until the fresh cranberries are vigorously popping and the mixture is foamy, about 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Cranberry Sauce #7 (Stir in the Spices)

 

 

 

 

~ Step 4.  Stir in the orange marmalade, orange zest and ground allspice.  Make sure these three ingredients are thoroughly incorporated into the cranberry mixture.

Cranberry Sauce #8 (Cooled & Finished)

 

 

 

 

~ Step 5.  Partially cover and set aside to cool completely.  This will take 3-4 hours or longer.  Stir occasionally as the mixture is cooling.

Cranberry Sauce #9 (Ready for Refrigerator or Freezer)

 

 

 

 

~ Step 6.  Portion the cranberry sauce into 2-4-cup size containers.  If  you are a regular reader of this blog, you've noticed I freeze exclusively in reusable glass containers.  The containers in this picture are 2-cup size.  Cover and refrigerate up to one week prior to serving or freeze for up to one year!  How great is that!!!

A bit about cranberries:  Cranberries are one of only a handful of fruits native to North America.  They are also known as bounceberries (because ripe ones bounce) and craneberries (after the shape of the shrubs pale pink blossoms, which resemble the heads of cranes often seen wading through the cranberry bogs).  Our Native Americans introduced them to the first settlers.  Today, we enjoy these shiny, tart, scarlet-colored berries in chutneys, pies, cobblers and countless desserts, as well as the traditional cranberry sauce, where their tart flavor is usually combined with other fruits.  The early Americans appreciated them because they are high in vitamin C, which medicinally warded off scurvy, plus, they contain a natural preservative, benzoic acid, which means that if kept cool, they can be stored for up to six months.  Harvested between Labor Day and Halloween, the peak market period for cranberries is from October through December.

A Truly Tart & Triple Delicious Cranberry Sauce:  Recipe yields 9 cups.

Special Equipment List:  microplane grater; 8-quart stockpot w/lid, preferably non-aluminum; 2-4-cup size freezer containers, preferably glass (optional)

Cook's Note:  This cranberry is sauce is incredibly easy to make.  From start to finish it takes less than 30 minutes.  I just love having this flavorful homemade cranberry sauce in my freezer all year round and I hope you do too!  If you are planning to freeze your cranberry sauce, when portioning it into the freezer containers, leave 1/4"-1/2" of headspace at the top of each container as the sauce will expand as it freezes.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie Preschutti/Copyright 2010)

11/19/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (11/19/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

It is an unusual Friday afternoon here at Melanie's Kitchen.  It is the end of November, the sun is shining, there is no breeze and the doors across the back of my house (the afternoon sun hits them) are wide open.  I'm planning to enjoy this afternoon, "the calm before the storm" so to speak, because as my close friend Faith so poignantly pointed out to me on Wednesday, "now it begins."  I knew exactly what she was talking about. 

Starting tomorrow, the grocery stores and mega-marts will be filled with people, everything from apples to zinfandel will start to disappear from the shelves and home cooks everywhere will begin planning the first of three big holiday celebrations:  Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  Between my assistant Jeanne and my husband Joe, my food shopping is under control (except for those few last minute items that always crop up).  So where I am going with all of this?  Let's get back to my Wednesday conversation with Faith:

Faith has known me for at least twenty years and probably closer to twenty-five.  Before she was married with three children and more pets that I can count, she used to spend a lot of time with Joe and myself, including many of our Thanksgiving feasts.  But that isn't the only reason we don't get to see her as often as we'd like.  Being the crazed, driven, glutton-for-punishment person that she is, she decided to buy and restore a hotel in her hometown of Philipsburg, PA:  The Philips Hotel and 1921 Restaurant (www.thephilips1921.com).  While chatting with me via her cell phone on Wednesday she was picking out fresh lobsters for The Philips once monthly Lobster Night.  Faith has always been one of my greatest advocates and supporters, and she presented Kitchen Encounters with a special request:

C.  Faith says:  Mel I just love your blog and I read it every morning like the newspaper.  I went out and bought a bread machine, made your brioche recipe and I LOVE IT!  I've watched you over the years, and you make everything you do look so easy, and I know it is because I've watched you do a lot of work in advance.  I'd like it if you would share "all that stuff" with the rest of us.  Would you please add a category to your blog... something that has to do with make-ahead and freeze?Fixed Freezer

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Faith,  I went to bed last night pondering your request (I do some of my best pondering at 3:00 AM)!

I realized that I really do take advantage of all of my freezer space to get a lot of my work done in advance (I also have 3 full-size freezers).  I spend a lot of my "off-time" making things that make great meals possible quickly! 

Here is a culinary tour of my kitchen freezer as of this morning:

On the top shelf of my freezer is beef, chicken, duck, lobster and veal stock.  Next shelf down is marinara sauce, chili sauce for hot dogs, chili and white chicken chili.  Next one down is meatballs and pumpkin puree.  The lowest shelf contains  two veal lasagnas, two beef and mushroom lasagnas, one casserole of chicken cacciatore and some homemade sausages.  On the door you'll find my peach preserves, cranberry sauce, apple sauce, apple-raisin chutney and rhubard-ginger chutney.  The drawers (except one that is the ice maker) are full of different types of homemade pasta, six homemade Sicilian-style pizzas and four small meatloaves!!!

When I look at the above, even I say, "geeze, you do a lot of work in advance!"  So, it is with great pleasure that as of today, Kitchen Enounters is announcing a new Category #22:

~ Alert!!! Can be Made Ahead and Frozen! ~

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!

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

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

11/18/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Indiana Hoosiers ~

Texas Chili Dogs #1 ( 2 Dogs Intro Picture)

Oh my... Thanksgiving is right around the corner and there are only 2 remaining games in our Penn State football season!  Football season started just a couple of weeks after I started this blog and I have no idea where the time went!  It's been a whirlwind here at Kitchen Enounters, trying to keep up with a daily food blog and a weekly tailgate post as well...

Anyway, I just couldn't let the football tailgate season end without sharing a very special recipe with all of you and my friends over at Black Shoe Diaries.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with who the folks at BSD are, it is a great and fun Penn State oriented website:  www.blackshoediaries.com , which you should check out.  My weekly tailgate post on their website last Thursday (it was the one regarding five great tailgate sandwiches) prompted a discussion "over there at their house" about hot dogs.  It ended with my promising them a recipe for authentic Texas Chili dogs for this week's tailgate.  So, this post is for all of you at Black Shoe!!!

~ Saturday, November 20th, 2010, Noon, EST, away at Fed-Ex Field in Washington D.C. ~

Mel's Menu:

~ Mel's Real & Authentic Texas-Style Chili Dogs ~

These are fantastic served with my recipes (previously posted in Categories 4 & 17 ) for:

Bacon-y Baked Beans & Creamy Baked Corn Casserole

or:

Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese

Texas Chili Dogs #2 (4 Dogs Exit Picture) "WE ARE... PENN STATE!!!"

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

 

~ Mel's Texas-Style Chili Sauce & Texas Chili Dogs ~

6a0120a8551282970b0134892d3b28970cIn the 1950's, '60's and '70's, my hometown of Tamaqua, PA, had two "hot spots" to eat hot dogs:

  The Coney Island and The Texas Lunch! 

Texas Lunch #2 Both establishments were triangular in shape and were located at opposite corners of Broad Street's "Five Points", the town's main thoroughfare.  Both served lunch daily to at least 100 people, but only had counter seating for 12 and 6 respectively.  The hot dogs were literally passed out the doors to customers standing on the sidewalk, like buckets of water to a fire (while pending orders and money were shouted and passed up the line).  "Two for a dollar (no tax, no change)", "with or without (meaning onions)", was all the information and only option patrons were given.  Both of these two luncheonettes had sweltering, year-round internal temperatures and "sweaty" windows, caused by steam billowing off of their flat top grills.  The similarities ended there.  Those who ate at The Coney Island, NEVER ate at The Texas Lunch and vice versa.  Don't ask me why.  My family ate at The Texas Lunch.  This folks, is an actual picture of my beloved Texas Lunch (taken shortly before they tore it down), which was supplied to me by my high school friend from Tamaqua, and current Managing Editor of Tamaqua's daily paper, The Times News... thank-you Donnie Serfass!

995034_10201331094988137_1673508422_nThis photo of The Texas Lunch was shared with me by another Tamaqua Area High School graduate and resident, Lois Breiner. Lois took this photo herself with a Polaroid and the guy in the blue T-shirt is Dino (the owner) hard at work.   As you can see, even when it was in full-swing, it wasn't much prettier to look at, but... it wasn't the atmosphere we were there for!

In the photo below, Fred De Stephanis found and shared this advertisement from a 1930 copy of TAHS's yearbook, The Sphinx. Thanks Fred for sharing this part of Tamaqua hot dog history with me: 

7262_10151470327016795_1286136790_nWhat's a Texas Chili Dog?

Texas chili dogs are slathered with yellow mustard and topped with an ever-so-slightly chunky, to-the-tooth chewy, aromatic all-meat chili.  You'd think they were from Texas, but they actually were the invention of an unnamed Greek gentlemen who owned and operated a small restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey.  In 1924, he devised a chili sauce that drew upon flavors and spices of his heritage.  Much like Cincinnati chili, a dish also created by Greek immigrants, Texas chili sauce included cloves as well as garlic and other spices.  According to legend, because the chili was made with hand-ground steak, not store-bought ground beef, it earned the "Texas" part of its name! 

Texas chili dogs quickly caught on and spread from Patterson into western Connecticut and Pennsylvania, which is where I grew up and fell in love with them at a very young age!

PICT2687The following recipe, completely developed by me back in the late 1970's, was recognized in 2007 by America's Test Kitchen in Boston in their cookbook:  America's Best Lost Recipes.  (For those of you unfamiliar with who they are, they publish Cook's Country and Cook's Illustrated magazines, along with many cookbooks and have the acclaimed PBS cooking show America's Test Kitchen.)  My recipe, which appears on page 40 of the book, was chosen from over 2,800 to represent 121 slices (recipes) of Americana.  So what did they consider a lost recipe and how did they choose?  As per the Introduction of their book: 

"Just like a short story, a lost recipe has to have a narrative.  Like a book title, the recipe name has to hold out a promise, an expectation of something unusual.  A lost recipe is served and that first taste, like the last line of a good O. Henry story, is a reawakening, a connection to another cook, perhaps a long time ago, who lived a very different sort of life.  In a way, a good lost recipe is about tasting the past and, many times, that experience is more immediate and fulfilling than simply reading history."

I remember the day I told my son Jess that my recipe was chosen to appear in this book.  He said something like, "of the hundreds and hundreds of recipes you've developed, why would you submit a recipe for a chili dog?"  That too is a short story I must include in this post!

IMG_7844When my love for Texas Chili Dogs turned into a passion!

When I moved to State College back in 1974, one of the things I missed most about my hometown (I grew up in Hometown) was a weekly chili dog.  Yes, I said weekly.  You see, when I was growing up, grocery shopping day was Tuesday.  No matter what, on Tuesdays, 52 a year, we ate chili dogs at the Texas Lunch.  Sometimes we ate them for lunch and sometimes we ate them for dinner, but we ate them on Tuesdays before we shopped.  I was shocked and appalled when I ordered my first chili dog in a downtown State College diner (which shall remain nameless).  In my ignorance, I thought them to be idiots, not realizing that most people in general have no idea what a real Texas chili dog is supposed to taste like.  In my stubborness, I refused "to cave" and eat an unworthy chili dog.  So, hi-ho hi-ho, it was off to work I went:

IMG_7843Yes folks.  Mel's Texas Chili Dog is the very first recipe I ever developed and it took me about a year to get it perfect.  Since we visited my parents in Tamaqua often, many Texas Lunch chili dogs made the trip back to State College for me to taste side-by-side my experiments.  So, back in 2006, when I read in Cook's Country magazine that they were looking for "lost recipes" (the criteria being the recipe had to be:  #1) Original.  #2) Prefaced by a short story/memory.  #3)  Not readily found in any other cookbook.), I stopped what I was doing that morning and sent the recipe in that afternoon.  The moment I put the flag up on the mailbox, I was 100% confident my recipe was going in their book! 

Now, if my Texas Lunch story weren't enough authentic commentary for you, one of my best friends in and from high school, Gary Sassaman, who started blogging about eight years ago, blogged about the Texas Lunch back in 2005.  Gary and I graduated in 1973 and Gary's blog, Innocent Bystander, has been keeping me entertained for years.  Gary's encouragement is pretty much solely responsible for my starting my own blog!  To read Gary's own extrememly humorous commentary on and remembrances of the Texas Lunch, check out: http://innocentbystander.typepad.com/innocent_bystander/2005/05/tales_of_the_te.html

Finally..... it's time for me to show you how to make some real-deal Texas-style chili dogs!!!  

Texas Chili Dogs #3 (Ingredients) For 4 cups of Texas Chili Sauce (enough for 16 hot dogs):

2  tablespoons corn oil

1  pound London broil (sometimes labeled as bottom round steak), no subsitutions

8  ounces yellow or sweet onion (8 ounces after trimming and peeling)

4  ounces celery stalks

1  garlic clove (about 1 teaspoon minced garlic)

1/2  cup ketchup

1/2 cup chili sauce

2  tablespoons yellow mustard, no substitutions

2  tablespoons cayenne pepper sauce

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1  tablespoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

*For 22 cups of Texas Chili Sauce (enough to freeze in 2- or 4-cup containers), which the making of is pictured below:

3/4  cup corn oil

6  pounds London broil (sometimes labeled as bottom round steak), no substitutions

3  pounds yellow or sweet onion (3 pounds after trimming and peeling)

1 1/2  pounds celery stalks

8  large garlic cloves (about 2 tablespoons minced garlic)

3  cups ketchup

3  cups chili sauce (3, 12-ounce bottles)

3/4  cup yellow mustard, no substitutions

3/4  cup cayenne pepper sauce

6  tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

6  tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

*Note:  This recipe is ideal for making a large quantity and freezing.  I make a big batch of it once a year.  For a quick, weeknight meal, I just microwave a container of the sauce while I broil the hot dogs.  All Summer long, it is on hand in the freezer waiting for an impromptu picnic or barbeque.  During the Fall, my tailgate group, 40 strong, always requests my Texas chili dogs to be served at one of the games... in a snap I thaw some sauce, take it to the stadium and reheat it while grilling the hot dogs!

Texas Chili Dogs #4 (Trimmed Meat) ~ Step 1.  Trim the London broil of all visible fat and cut the meat into 1"-1 1/2" chunks/cubes.

PLEASE do not substitute ground beef in this recipe!  Even America's test kitchen comments on this in their book, stating:  Processing the steak gave it an almost shredded texture, making it much better than just using ground beef.

This is one of the things that makes this recipe so authentic!

Texas Chili Dogs #5 (Processed Meat) ~ Step 2.  In work bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind the chunks of London broil, using a series of 30-45 on-off pulses.

Note:  My food processor does this in 2, 3-pound batches, which takes less than 2 minutes!  The number of batches and pulses will be determined by the size and brand of your food processor.

Texas Chili Dogs #6 (Processed Garlic & Onions) ~ Step 3.  Coarsely chop the onions into large, 2"+ chunks and pieces.  Place them and the garlic cloves the work bowl of processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of on-off pulses, finely mince the onion.  My processor did all 3 pounds of onion in one batch and 30 on-off pulses.  In this instance, you want the onion to be as finely minced as possible without pureeing it or becoming soupy.

Texas Chili Dogs #7 (Processed Celery) ~ Step 4.  Coarsely chop the celery stalks into large, 2"+ pieces and place them in processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of on-off pulses, finely mince the celery.  My processor minced all of the celery in one batch using 20 on-off pulses.  In this instance (just like the onion), you want the celery to be minced as finely as possible without pureeing it or becoming soupy.

Texas Chili Dogs #8 (Meat & Vegetables in Pan) ~ Step 5.  Before you process the meat and vegetables, place your stockpot on the stove and add the corn oil.  If you are making just 4 cups of Texas chile sauce, use a 4-quart stockpot.  Today, I'm using a 16" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides to prepare 22 cups of chili sauce.  As you process the meat and vegetables, add them to the pot as you work.  Using a large spoon, thoroughly combine all ingredients, and:

Texas Chili Dogs #10 (Meat Cooked & Liquid Evaporated) ~ Step 6.  Over medium- medium-high heat, cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the meat has lost all of its red color and is steamed through.  Keep your heat adjusted so that at no time, no browning occurs.  Continue to cook until almost no moisture/liquid remains in the bottom of pot.  For the large quantity, this takes about 50-60 minutes.  For 4 cups, this will take as little as 10-12 minutes.

Texas Chili Dogs #11 (Ketchup Mixture) ~ Step 7.  In a measuring container or mixing bowl, combine the ketchup, chili sauce, yellow mustard, cayenne pepper sauce, Worcertershire sauce, chili powder and ground cloves.  Stir until smooth and uniform in color.  You can do this while the meat is cooking.

When almost all of the moisture/liquid has evaporated from the meat, stir the sauce mixture into the meat mixture.

Texas Chili Dogs #12 (Sauce Cooked) ~ Step 8.  Adjust heat to a very gentle simmer.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.  For the large quantity, this takes about 30-40 minutes.  For the 4-cup batch, this takes about 20 minutes.  Turn the heat off, partially cover the pot and allow the mixture to steep and cool, 1-2 hours, to allow all of the great flavors to marry.

You now have Texas Chili Sauce!

Texas Chili Dogs #14 (Hot Dog Ingredients) ~ Step 9.  This not an official step and I can't tell you how or in what order you want your Texas chili dog topped, but I highly recommend:

Potato hot dog rolls, Hebrew National all-beef 1/4 pound franks (broiled), Mel's Texas Chili Sauce, French's yellow mustard, minced red onion, salt and pepper!

 

Texas Chili Dogs #13 (Sauce in Containers)"If you made the big batch, you will certainly thank me now!  If you made the little batch, you won't definitely won't make that mistake twice!!!"

~ Melanie

Top w/chili sauce, ballpark mustard & diced onion:

6a0120a8551282970b0134892e6577970cMel's Texas-Style Chili Sauce & Texas Chili Dogs:  Recipe as written yields 4 cups of sauce, which will top 16 hot dogs, or, 22 cups of sauce (to be made ahead and frozen), enough to top 88 hot dogs.

IMG_7950Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 12-quart stockpot w/lid or 16" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid(or a stockpot/pan sized appropriately for how much sauce is being made); large spoon; 2-4-cup size food storage containers, preferably glass (optional); aluminum foil sheets (optional)

IMG_7960Cook's Note:  I freeze my chili sauce in 2-cup size containers, which is enough to top 8 hot dogs.  For an added treat, as you are assembling your hot dogs:  while the dogs and the sauce are still hot, wrap each chili dog, fully topped/assembled, in a piece of aluminum foil and set aside for 2-3 minutes, to allow the buns to steam!  Yum!!!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie (Maliniak) Preschutti, TAHS '73

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

11/13/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (11/12/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

Ok, so it's Saturday morning (not Friday afternoon).  I went to bed last night not having any questions for Q&A Friday and woke up this morning with two really good ones! 

Since it's my blog (and I can say and do pretty much whatever I want to here), I'm going post Q&A now, instead of making everyone wait a week for the answers.  I can't promise I'll do this every time questions arrive a little late, but I'll do the best I can.

6a0120a8551282970b015436418497970c-800wiQ.  Gretchen (via Facebook) asks:  I had a busy week and just spent the last hour or so catching up on your posts this week.  I really loved the one for your great-aunt's mashed potato stuffing.  It looks just like the one my grandmom made. After she passed away, we found out no one in the family ever learned to make it.  I'm going to surprise them and make yours for Thanksgiving this year, but I have a couple of questions for you:

(Note:  My recipe for ~ Tettie's Baked-Mashed-Potato Stuffing Casserole ~ can be found in Categories 4, 12, or 18!)

#1)  Why do you call it stuffing casserole and what is the difference, or is there a difference, between stuffing and dressing?

#2)  I've noticed that you use different size eggs in your recipes (some call for large, some call for extra-large, some call for jumbo).  Are they interchangeable?  If not, how do I substitute the sizes?

6a0120a8551282970b01543643900a970c-800wiA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Gretchen, these questions are great (and it is  doubly great to hear from you two weeks in a row)!  You're going to love the stuffing casserole and let me know what your family says about your surprise!!!

For another one of my stuffing recipes ~ Sweet Potato & Apple Stuffing for Poultry or Pork ~ can be found in Categoriey 4 or 18!

#1)  Technically, there is no difference between stuffing or dressing.  They are both well-seasoned mixtures that contain bread, bread crumbs or bread cubes (although rice, potatoes and other vegetables and meats are often added as well).  Both mixtures need to be cooked, and this is where their names come into play:  Stuffing is stuffed into and cooked inside the breast cavity of the bird, while Dressing is cooked separately (usually in a casserole dish) and served as another pretty side dish to "dress up" the turkey and the table!

IMG_6059I stand with my favorite Food Network chef, Alton Brown, on this point:  Stuffing is evil!!!  Well, stuffing itself isn't evil, but from a food-safe standpoint, stuffing the bird is.  By the time the center of the stuffing cooks to a safe-to-eat internal temperature of 165 degees, you will have grossly overcooked your bird, resulting in very dry, almost tasteless, meat.  If you take your bird out of the oven when you are supposed to, when the meat reaches a temperature of about 160-165 degrees (then cover and rest it to allow carryover heat to cook it to a temperature of 170-175 degrees), your stuffing is more than likely:  not sufficiently or fully-cooked.  There is no "gray area" or "middle ground" here, just a bad prognosis.  This is not said to start any arguments with grandmothers across the USA who successfully stuff their Thanksgiving turkeys and do not poison their friends and family, these are just statements of food-safety fact.  In my kitchen, I prefer to stuff my bird with a few aromatics, like rosemary, chopped onion and apple!

IMG_6137On a personal note:  Both my grandmother and my great-aunt always stuffed their birds.  Since no one ever got sick, I can only assume we ate our turkey on the dry side!  That being said, because both of them had large families to feed, both of them always made an extra pan (casserole) of stuffing to serve as a side dish.  This makes perfect sense, considering you can only put about 2-3 cups of stuffing in the breast cavity of a turkey (and I'm gonna eat AT LEAST one cup of it myself).  In our family, I don't recall anyone saying, "please pass the dressing", and if they did, they got the salad dressing.  Kitchen Encounters is going to be posting 2-3 more of my family's stuffing recipes before this Thanksgiving rolls around, and for all of the reasons discussed above, they will all fondly be referred to as stuffing casserole.  So... please pass the stuffing folks!!!

PICT0001#2)  I do use 3 sizes of eggs in cooking and I'm always careful about specifying the sizes I personally like to use in each recipe I write.  When baking, I never stray from the straight and narrow and absolutely always bake using large eggs.  When frying or scrambling eggs, I use whatever size I'm in the mood for or just happen to have on hand.  When developing, cooking and writing my recipes, I use and document what experimentation has taught me produces a better finished result.  If I prepare a casserole using 3 large eggs, then prepare it again using 3 jumbo eggs, and the latter comes out remarkably better in texture, I write the recipe as such.  Because all eggs are not created equal, for best results, I highly recommend you use the sizes specified in my recipes.  However, here is a conversion chart that I hope helps you out in a pinch:

Large/Extra-Large/Jumbo

    1                 1                 1

    2                 2                 2

    3                 3                 2

    4                 4                 3

    5                 4                 4

    6                 5                 5  

Enjoy the rest of 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!

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

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

11/11/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Ohio State Buckeyes ~

Turkeys in the Pasture"Oh what a night"... for those of you who don't live in Happy Valley proper, you can't begin to imagine the celebrations after JoePa's 400th win last Saturday.  The celebrations weren't just at the stadium and downtown either, the celebrations were in every home in every neighborhood.  I know I turned the last of my lights off around 2:45AM on Sunday and many of my neighbors out here in the 'burbs were still going strong!

Sunday was a lazy day.  Joefromboalsburg and Jessedotsmom, intent on savoring JoePa's historical moment to the hilt, stayed in bed watching The Big Ten Network until Noon, then sauntered downstairs for some of my ~ Ranch-Style Eggs (Huevos Rancheros) ~, recipe found in Categories 9 & 13,  serious Sunday newspaper reading and a few well deserved Coronas.  I can say this:  after last Saturday's victory, I was having a hard time focusing seriously on what lies ahead for Penn State in their last 3 remaining games... including what to serve for tailgate.

Then Monday rolled around and I went back to real work.  I've been working nonstop trying to get several blogs ready for upcoming  Thanksgiving related posts.  When I opened the refrigerator today (Thursday), two roasted turkey breasts and one entire turkey were staring at me head-on... not to mention several satellite side dishes and a vat of gravy!  I quickly decided upon my menu for this Saturdays game:

~ Saturday, November 13th, 2010, 3:30PM, EST, away at Ohio State ~

Mel's Menu:

~ It's Time to Talk Turkey for Tailgate ~

aka:

~ Five Superb Tailgating Turkey Sandwiches~

Turkey Sandwich #1 (The Matt McGloin) #1.  THE McGLOIN:  Ya gotta start with this one folks! 

When you've got turkey and gravy in your refrigerator, there is no need to look any further.  My playbook calls for an open-faced hot turkey sandwich on brioche bread that you can count on for a solid performance every time! 

~ Matthew McGloin, #11 (6'-1"/209).

Turkey Sandwich #2 (The Evan Royster) #2.  THE ROYSTER.  Nothing fancy, all business.   "This is what I'm takin' about"...

... my all-time favorite sandwich.  The classic club sandwich.  Three thin slices of my brioche, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise!  There is nothing boring or "up the middle" about this!

~ Evan Royster, #22 (6'1"/228).

Turkey Sandwich #3 (The Devon Smith) #3.  THE SMITH.  Small, slick and make-my-day swift!

Serve up some crostini.  Grilled baguette slices slathered with apple butter then layered with shaved red onion, turkey, thin sliced tart apple and grated Gouda cheese.  Broil until the Gouda melts and is very lightly browned.   Top with a dollop of apple butter, leave your opponents in the dust and glide into the appetizer end zone!

~ Devon Smith, #20 (5'7"/157).

Turkey Sandwich #4 (The Steffen Wisniewski) #4.  THE WISNIEWSKI.  Big, strong, well-seasoned  and always intent on getting the job done!

Hold the girly green lettuce leaves and tomatoe slices.  Give 'em a hearty, grilled, 4-pepper goat cheese, bacon and turkey  panini-roll sandwich (onions optional)!

~ Stefen Wisniewski, #61 (6'3"/306).

Turkey Sandwich #5 (The Collin Wagner)

 

#5.  THE WAGNER.  This one just doesn't miss!

This crowd pleasing focaccia is layered with horseradish sauce, grated Havarti cheese, red onion, bacon, turkey, baby greens and  tomato.  Kick another one between those uprights and serve me another slice of this three point pie!

~ Collin Wagner, #36 (5'9"/183).

Let's all sit back, be thankful for what we've got and enjoy our 'bout with the Buckeyes this Saturday.  I have a warm, fuzzy, optomistic feeling about this game!  If you'd like to roast your own turkey for this Saturday's tailgate, scroll down to my previous post ~ Perfectly Roasted Rosemary Turkey Breast~, also found in Categories 3, 18 & 19. 

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

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

11/05/2010

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (11/5/10) ~

Culinary Q & A #2

This post is late.  I try my best to get Friday Q&A out of the gate by 3:00 PM, but on a day when my computer has no compassion or respect for my deadline... I move on to more pressing matters, like cooking dinner and deciding what movie I will be watching tonight. 

Tonight's dinner: Grandma Ann's Easy Chicken Vegetable Soup.

Tonight's movie:  The Bridge On the River Kwai.

Last weeks' Penn State Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday was a big success.  The "White Out" White Chicken 'n Corn Chili and Deep-Fried Tortilla Chips (Totopos) recipes got a lot of attention.  When I followed up on that Tex-Mex theme by posting my breakfast recipe for Ranch-Style Eggs (Huevos Rancheros), I was astonished at how many folks "ate that one up"!  While I didn't have any questions for Q&A last week, I did have one extremely gratifying comment, which I'll share today:

WCC #1 (with Melted Cheese Intro Picture) C. Gretchen (via Facebook) says:  I've been wanting to make White Chicken Chili for a while now.  I've even searched the internet for recipes several times.  Then, all of a sudden, on a Google search this week, there "you" Kitchen Encounters were.  The moment I saw all of the "how to" pictures I knew it was the recipe I wanted to try.  Your chili is wonderful!  Thank you so much.  I look forward to trying many of your wonderful, easy to follow, creations!

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Gretchen, you just made all of this worthwhile!  No need to say more!!!

This week, Kitchen Encounters had one question regarding the Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches recipe and one question regarding the Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese recipe.  Both questions are from Jesse, who is becoming a regular at asking important questions here at KE:

Q.  Jesse asks:  I noticed you used Cambozola cheese as an option on the blackened flank steak sandwich.  Can you tell me something about that cheese?

Cambozola Cheese A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Jesse, great to hear from you again.  Cambozola cheese just happens to be my very  favorite soft, spreadable cheese... just plain wonderful!

It is a triple creme, full-fat cheese that is a cross between Italian Gorgonzola blue cheese and  French Camembert.  It was invented in the 1970's (which makes it relatively new to the cheese world) by the Kasseri Champignon company in Bavaria, Germany, and the name was successfully trademarked by them in 1975.

The best description of this cheese that I can come up with is:  blue brie.  It is much milder than, creamier than and lacking the saltiness of Gorgonzola.  It is made from cow's milk; it is great served with fruits like apples, grapes and pears; and, it pairs perfectly with white wines, particularly Chardonnay. 

Q.  Jesse asks:  How do I add goat cheese to your macaroni & cheese recipe?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Jesse,  if you are going to add a dry-aged, grate-able goat cheese, like the Dutch Beemster, you can simply subsitute it for the Italian Fontina in my recipe.  If you come across a product called "crumbled goat cheese", which is sold in a plastic container, that will work as a substitution too.  Personally, the Dutch Beemster is the way to go.  This being said, if you are using soft chevre, the kind of goat cheese that spreads like butter, you have to change your tactics just a bit.  Substitute it equally for the Italian Fontina, but instead of grating it:  bring it to room temperature and as per the recipe, when you put the butter into the warm stockpot to melt, stir in pieces/small chunks of the soft chevre.  When you get that butter/chevre mixture to a consistency that will easily stir into the pasta, proceed with the recipe!

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)

11/04/2010

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #7: Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches with Bacon-y Baked Beans & a Baked Corn Casserole ~

6a0120a8551282970b01538e767571970b-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches ~, which are a spicy, mouthwatering alternative to an ordinary steak standwich.  You can find the detailed recipe, along with all of my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories  2, 10 or 17!

6a0120a8551282970b017c35054dd0970b-800wi 6a0120a8551282970b01543453b36e970c-800wiIn this segment I also prepare two of my crowd pleasing side-dishes: ~ Bacon-y Baked Beans ~, and, ~ Creamy Baked Corn Casserole ~. Both of these recipes (along with my detailed directions and step-by-step photos) can be found in Categories 4, 10 or 17!

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

Blackened Flanksteak & Bacon 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 11:30AM on local Comcast channel 14!

************

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

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

11/03/2010

~ Tuning Up for Tailgate Thursday: The Penn State Nittany Lions vs. The Northwestern Wildcats ~

Mrs. O'Leary's CowHello to all of you gleeful Penn Staters!  Happily, Penn State is back on their home turf again this week.  After last weeks exciting win, I'm looking forward to and hoping for "a hot time in the old town this coming Saturday night" as well!

From the moment I started humming the above tune in my head, I knew exactly what my menu for this week's tailgate would be!

A tribute to Mrs. O'Leary's Cow... 

Late one night, when we were all in bed,

Mrs. O'Leary lit a lantern in the shed.

Her cow kicked it over,

Then winked her eye and said,

"There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight!"

PICT2763

 ~ Saturday, November 6th, 2010, 3:30PM, EST, home at Beaver Stadum ~

Mel's Menu:

~ Blackened Flank Steak & Bacon Sandwiches ~, recipe found in Categories 2, 10 & 17

and

~ Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Macaroni & Cheese ~, recipe found in Categories 4, 14 & 17

Macaroni & Cheese #2 (Intro Picture Closeup)  

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

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

11/01/2010

~ Ranch-Style Eggs (Huevos Rancheros) ~

Hoevos Rancheros #1 (Intro Picture) If you've ever eaten in the American southwest, as a guest in someone's home or in a restaurant, you have surely had the pleasure of at least tasting huevos rancheros (literally translated:  eggs ranch-style).  This is a very hearty breakfast that is often served mid-morning on rural farms and ranches.  Before I go any further, there are pretty much as many versions of this dish as there are cooks, but the basic dish consists of:  fried eggs served on a lightly fried corn or flour tortillas, accompanied by refried beans (refritos)  and topped with a spicy tomato-chili sauce.  Before I give you my recipe for huevos rancheros, here are a few of my personal thoughts about the dish, as well a few variations you should be aware of:

Ok. Relax.  This dish is not at all hard to prepare.  In fact, if your getting overnight guests, pretty much all of the steps, just short of frying the tortillas and cooking the eggs can be done a day ahead of time.  Everything can be gently reheated on the stovetop, however, the microwave reheats the components without compromise.  

First, I want to discuss the tortillas and the eggs.  Huevos rancheros was/is traditionally prepared using corn tortillas, but unless you are making tortillas from scratch, in my opinion, pre-packaged corn tortillas really don't do the dish one bit of justice.  I much prefer to use the softer-textured, pre-packaged flour tortillas.  As for the eggs, fried eggs, the sunny-side-up kind, cooked to your favorite degree of doneness, are the traditional method of cooking.  This being said, I have seen recipes that add scrambled eggs at the end.  Not my choice, but ok.  

Second,  it goes without saying, huevos rancheros was not origianlly prepared using canned refried beans.  Homemade refritos are made by soaking, cooking, mashing and frying the beans, quite a lengthy process, which quite frankly I'm not "up for" at breakfast time.  I do use canned refried beans, but I take a few moments to add some sauteed onion and garlic, along with a couple of spices to them.  In Mexico, refritos are almost "soupy" in texture.  You can achieve that if you want to by adding a few tablespoons of water.  I, however, prefer my beans very, very creamy, about the texture of softened, spreadable butter, so I do not add water.

Third, there is the tomato-chili sauce.  I do not consider bottled salsa or canned enchilada sauce viable alternatives or additives to this dish.  I have seen it done, tasted it, and at the risk of being impolite:  this just "dumbs the dish down" to the point of being offensive.  The sauce I'm going to show you how to make takes about 10 minutes to prep the fresh vegetables, then about 10 minutes to saute and simmer.  This is well worth the effort.

Lastly, as I said before there are a lot of versions of huevos rancheros, with all sorts of accompaniments and garnishes.  To mention most of them:  grated cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream, shredded lettuce, freshly diced tomatoes and minced cilantro.  Truthfully, none of these sound bad to me at all.  If I were going to serve any of them, I'd be inclined to put them in small bowls and let each person add what they want and as much of it as they want.  In my kitchen, I like to serve my basic huevos rancheros served accompanied by a scoop of Mexican rice, garnished with some minced, fresh cilantro and grated cheddar cheese as an option...  Joe opts for the cheese and I do not!

Hoevos Rancheros #5 (Ingredients) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4-6  burrito-size flour tortillas, about 9" round

4-6  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

10  tablespoons butter, total used throughout recipe

6  tablespoons corn oil, total used throughout recipe, plus 4-6 additional tablespoons for frying tortillas

For the fresh vegetables:

3  cups diced yellow or sweet onion, total used throughout recipe

4  tablespoons minced garlic cloves, total used throughout recipe

1  cup diced green bell pepper

1  cup diced red bell pepper

1  very large, fresh jalapeno pepper (optional)

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

For the dry spices:

2 1/2  teaspoons Santa Fe Seasons Chile Blend, total throughout recipe*

2 1/2  teaspoons Santa Fe Seasons Six Seasonings, total throughout recipe*

2 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin, total throughout recipe

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less to taste, total throughout recipe

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt, more or less to taste, total throughout recipe

For the pantry, freezer and refrigerated items:

1  16-ounce can refried beans

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  bottle Santa Fe Seasons Red Chile Hot Sauce*

1  8-ounce bag Vigo Mexican rice with corn

1  10-ounce box frozen corn, unthawed, partially thawed or thawed (I usually remove it from the freezer when I'm ready to start prepping the vegetables.  Whatever "state" it is in when added to the rice is just fine.) 

1 1/2 cups grated yellow or white sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

* Information about Santa Fe Seasons spice blends and products:  Available on-line at www.applecanyon.com.  I cannot begin say enough of good things about their products, which are packed full of authentic southwest flavor.  The company is located in New Mexico and  I have been using their spice blends, salsas and sauces for several years now.  Their new margarita mixes are amazing.  If forced to suggest subsitutions for the three products mentioned above to you, use one-half the amount of Mexican-style chili powder, Mexican-style oregano and your favorite brand of hot sauce (in place of Chile Blend, Six Seasonings and Red Chile Hot Sauce).

Hoevos Rancheros #6 (Onion Mixture before Beans) ~ Step 1.  Preparing the beans.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter into 2 tablespoons of corn oil over low heat.  Stir in 1 teaspoon chile blend, 1 teaspoon six seasonings, 1 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

Add 1 cup of diced onion and 2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves.  Saute until onions are becoming tender, about 3-4 minutes...

Hoevos Rancheros #7 (Beans Mixed In) ...  stir in the refried beans.  Reduce heat to low and stir until beans are steaming.

Cover saucepan, remove from heat and set aside.

Easy enough so far?

 

 

 

Hoevos Rancheros #8 (Rice Cooked) ~ Step 2.  In a 4-quart stockpot with a tight fitting lid, bring 2 1/2 cups of water, 4 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to a boil over high heat.  Butter will melt as water comes to a boil.  Sprinkle in the rice and return to to a boil.  Reduce heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cover the pot.

Continue to cook until all water is absorbed and rice is cooked, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the frozen corn.  Cover, remove from heat and set aside.

Hoevos Rancheros #9 (Fry the Tortillas) ~ Step 3.  Fry the tortillas.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a 12" nonstick skillet.  Using a paper towel, distribute the oil evenly over bottom of skillet.  

Place over medium-high heat.  Fry until tortilla is lightly browned on both sides, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.  Tortilla will begin to puff up while cooking on the second side.  Repeat process until all tortillas are fried...

Hoevos Rancheros #10 (Tortillas in Plate) ... placing each tortilla in a shallow, flat soup plate or on a flat plate.  I like to use shallow soup plates.  For some reason it's just more fun to eat huevos rancheros out of a shallow bowl.  Set each aside.

You want to have the tortillas ready and waiting when the sauce and eggs are cooked.  Don't worry if the tortillas come to room temperature.  They will quickly reheat when the warm ingredients are added.

Hoevos Rancheros #11 (Vegetables Sauteed) ~ Step 4.  Prepare the sauce.  Using the same skillet, melt 4 tablespoons butter into 4 tablespoons corn oil.  Stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons each of chile blend, six seasonings and cumin.  Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and  1/2 teaspoon of  red pepper flakes.  Add 2 cups of diced onion, 2 tablespoons minced garlic cloves, 1 cup diced green bell pepper, 1 cup diced red bell pepper and the optional minced jalapeno.

Adjust heat to simmer, stirring frequently, until vegetables just begin to soften, but are still quite crunchy, about 5-6 minutes.

Hoevos Rancheros #13 (Eggs Added) Stir in the can of diced tomatoes.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn the heat off, until all of the bubbling stops.

Very gently, break 4-6 eggs into the pan.  Return the sauce to a very gentle simmer, cover the pan and cook the eggs to desired degree of doneness... 

Hoevos Rancheros #14 (Eggs Cooked) ... about 4-5 minutes.  At 4 minutes the yolks will be very runny and fragile, which, quite frankly is how I like mine.  The yolks pictured here have been cooked 5 minutes.  The yolks are still quite soft, yet much easier to serve without breaking them than at 4 minutes.

The nice part about this is:  you can cook the eggs to order,  removing them one at a time to suit everyone!  Serve immediately!!!

Using a large spoon, portion eggs and sauce into each tortilla.  Add a scoop of Mexican rice,  refried beans and garnish with the minced cilantro.  Top with a sprinkling of optional grated cheddar cheese.  Serve hot sauce at tableside, although this recipe is pretty spicy on its own!

Huevos Rancheros #4 (Full Plate)Huevos Rancheros:  Recipe yields 4-6 hearty servings.  That being said, I have cooked 8 eggs in the 12" skillet and it worked just fine.  On that day, I did it because I was feeding some hungry, male college students and I gave them each 2 eggs with their huevos.  In the adverse, if you want to serve slightly smaller portions, you can cook 8 eggs in the skillet and feed 8 people!   

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; 1 1/2-quart saucepan w/lid; 4-quart stockpot w/tight-fitting lid; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; paper towels; large serving spoon

Cook's Note:  Interesting enough, all of the components of this dish (the beans, the rice and the sauce) can be used to create all sorts of great meals.  Serve them as side dishes to grilled chicken, use them as toppings for nachos or even as fillings for quesadillas!

Extra Cook's Note:  If you do not have access to Vigo Mexican rice you can prepare a tasty version using long-grain white rice.  As directed above, bring the water and butter to a boil.  Add 1/2 teaspoon each of Chile Blend, Six Seasonings and cumin.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Proceed with recipe as directed.

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

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