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15 posts from November 2011

11/30/2011

~ The Prawn/Shrimp Cocktail w/Marie Rose Sauce ~

6a0120a8551282970b015437a4d164970cOn Monday I started the transition into the Christmas holiday with my post for ~ Once Upon a Time... A Tale About Shrimp Cocktail ~, which you can read in full in Categories 1, 14, 16 or 21.  In that recipe I talked about classic shrimp cocktail, the kind my mother used to make and the kind we all associate with festive occasions and fine-dining experiences.  Today, I decided to follow that post up with another version of shrimp cocktail that you might not be familiar with. I'm going to make my recipe for an authentic creamy cocktail sauce, from "across the pond"!

EW830231_429longShrimp cocktail is not just an American staple.  The British refer to it as "prawn cocktail" and have been serving it as long as we have, but you'll find it served there with a creamy cocktail sauce called Marie Rose sauce, or, Mary Rose sauce.  I fell in love with it back in December of 1983.  Joe and I were in London and I ordered the prawn salad at the famous Browns Restaurant.  It was just before Christmas, the upscale eatery was gloriously decorated and the creamy Mary Rose sauce was absolutely dreamy.  On a side note, the food at Browns was so delicious, I asked Joe to take me back the very next night, because I wanted to taste everything I didn't order on their menu the night before!

PICT4521This creamy, pink-colored sauce is made using a combination of ingredients similar to that of classic cocktail sauce, minus the horseradish, with a bit of mayonnaise and creme fraiche whisked into it instead.  It was originally called Mary Rose sauce and was created in 1981 by a Chef in the Royal Navy who was catering to a commemorative dive on the ship wreck of the Mary Rose, in Portsmouth Harbor.  He found himself without the proper condiments to accompany his prawns, so he used what was on hand and mixed ketchup and mayonnaise together with a bit of lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.  It was so popular, it is now the standard paring for prawns, or seafood cocktail in general, in The United Kingdom!

In the 1990's, there was a trend in England to give foods more French sounding names, hence, the name Mary Rose was "trendified" or "Frenchified" to Marie Rose.  Because Marie Rose sauce is so subtle, smooth and refined tasting, I recommend refraining from substituting Thousand Island or Russian salad dressing in its place.  Why?  While the dressings are indeed condiments whose base is made from ketchup and mayonnaise, their flavor, which is emboldened by the addition of onions and pickles, are a bit too harsh or overwhelming for this decadent, delicate salad! 

PICT4512For the Marie Rose sauce:

1  12-ounce bottle Heinz chili sauce (1 cup)

1/2  cup Heinz ketchup

1/4  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup creme fraiche

1  tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon Tabasco sauce, more or less, to tastee

1/8  teaspoon salt

PICT4516~ Step 1.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all of the creamy cocktail sauce ingredients, as listed. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight, to allow all of the spicy flavors to marry with the cream. Serve chilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PICT4409For the shrimp:

2  pounds jumbo (16/20 count) shrimp

(Note:  I buy both fresh and frozen shrimp, but I always try to purchase tail-on, shell-on deveined shrimp. To thaw frozen shrimp safely, place them in a bowl of very cold water and in about an hour they'll be completely thawed.)

3  cups water

3  cups white wine

1  large, juicy lemon, cut in half

4  medium-sized bay leaves

PICT4421~ Step 1.  To cook the shrimp, place the wine and water in an 8-quart stockpot.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot, then add the lemon rinds.  Add the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the shrimp.  When the water returns to a boil, cook for exactly 1 minute.  Do not overcook!

PICT4447

 

 

~ Step 2.  Drain the shrimp into a colander and rinse under very cold water until shrimp are cool, or cold, to the touch, but ever so slightly warm in the center.  Transfer to a food storage bag and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Peel.

 

To serve the prawn/shrimp cocktail:  Place a bed of soft salad greens on each serving plate. Arrange six shrimp and six tomato wedges and/or six avocado or cucumber slices decoratively around the sides.  Place a small container of Marie Rose sauce in the center of each followed by a lemon wedge or two. Sprinkle with freshly ground peppercorn blend. Serve immediately:

PICT4589The Prawn/Shrimp Cocktail w/Marie Rose Sauce:  Recipe yields enough shrimp to make 6 shrimp cocktails and 2 cups of Marie Rose sauce.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; 8-quart stockpot; colander; food storage bag

PICT4599Cook's Note:  Can't decide on what type of cocktail sauce to make and serve with your shrimp for the holidays?  Don't waste precious time deciding.  Do what I do... make them both!!!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

11/29/2011

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL Video Segment #23: Once upon a time... A Tale about Shrimp Cocktail ~

6a0120a8551282970b015437988abb970c-800wiYesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Once upon a time... A Tale about Shrimp Cocktail ~.  You can find my detailed recipe, along with all of my step-by-step directions and photos in Categories 1, 11, 14 & 16!

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

Shrimp Cocktail

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

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30 on local Comcast chennel 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 2011)

11/28/2011

~ Once upon a time... A Tale about Shrimp Cocktail ~

PICT4452Once upon a time, when I was around 5 years old, which would have been 1960, I was certain that my mother was the inventor of shrimp cocktail.  You might think that odd, as shrimp cocktail has the reputation for being reserved for special occasions or eating in fancy restaurants.  That was not the case in our household.  My mother loved shrimp cocktail, she still does.  She almost always had a large pickle-type jar of it in our refrigerator.  She made it from scratch too.  She would simmer big shrimp and carefully whisk together the cocktail sauce ingredients.  She would put the cooled shrimp into the jar, pour the sauce over the top and refrigerate them overnight.  She ate her shrimp cocktail on crackers, like some people eat tuna salad.  It wouldn't surprise me if shrimp cocktail was one of the first foods I was introduced to after baby food!

Img_large_watermarkedAs I got a bit older, I would sit and watch all of the famous television families (the Ricardo's, the Nelson's, the Cleaver's, the Anderson's, the Brady's, etc.) swoon over giant shrimp cocktails during upscale restaurant scenes.  So, when I got a bit older than that, the later '60's, I spent my fair share of restaurant time imitating them and ordering shrimp cocktail as my appetizer.  Due to my close association with my mother's outstanding version, those restaurant "cocktails" often turned out to be theatrical disappointments. Yes, even as a twelve year old, I knew there was more to shrimp cocktail than just boiling shrimp to a rubber-like texture and topping them with a glop of jarred sauce.  As a grown up, this is probably why I will almost never risk ordering a pricy (around $15.00) shrimp cocktail in a restaurant to this day!

A bit about shrimp cocktail:  I eventually figured out that my mother didn't invent it.  Shrimp cocktail as we know it today originated back in the early 20th century.  Oysters were the original "cocktail" shellfish, were usually served as appetizers in tiny cups, and were topped with a spicy ketchup sauce containing horseradish and Tabasco.  "Cocktail" appetizers became extremely popular during the 1920's, or, the decade of Prohibition.  The appetizers were served in actual "cocktail" glasses (which were originally purchased to hold alcoholic beverages), because it was an attractive, innovative way to make use of the idle stemware!

Sau-sea-shrimp-cocktail-advertisementThe first mass produced shrimp cocktail was introduced to the American marketplace in December of 1948.  Sau Sea brand Shrimp Cocktail was invented in New York City by two entrepreneurs by the names of Abraham Kaplan and Ernest Schoenbrun.  The pair borrowed $1,500 dollars from relatives to start retailing individual, 5-ounce portions of ready-to-eat shrimp cocktail, packed in reusable, glass jars, for about 50 cents a piece.  It was just after WWII and frozen/pre-packaged foods and meals were just beginning to gain popularity.  Their timing could not have been better.   Their risky decision to try to take a restaurant delicacy and make it available to the masses paid off big time.  I admit to never having tasted Sau Sea brand, but a quick internet search informs me that over sixty years later it is still being sold, so, they must be doing something right.  My main reason for telling the Sau Sea story is:  this is the manner in which my mother prepared her shrimp cocktail... all swimming around together in that big jar of spicy sauce!

PICT4409For the shrimp:

2  pounds jumbo (16/20 count) shrimp

PICT4413(Note: I buy both fresh and frozen shrimp, but I always try to purchase tail-on, shell-on, deveined shrimp. To thaw frozen shrimp safely, place them in a bowl of very cold water and in about an hour they'll be completely thawed.)

3  cups water

3  cups white wine

1  large, juicy lemon, cut in half

4  medium-sized bay leaves

PICT4396For the cocktail sauce:

1  12-ounce bottle Heinz chili sauce (about 1 cup)

1/2  cup Heinz ketchup

1/2  cup prepared horseradish

1  tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from above lemon

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon Tabasco sauce, more or less, to taste

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

lemon wedges, for garnish

PICT4404

~ Step 1.  I prepare the cocktail sauce first, as it tastes best after having been refrigerated, which gives all of the spicy flavors time to marry.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all of the cocktail sauce ingredients, as listed.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  

Note:  After you squeeze and add the 1 tablespoon of lemon juice from 1/2 of a lemon to the sauce, do not discard the lemon or any juice remaining it it.  You will be using it when you cook the shrimp.

PICT4421~ Step 2.  To cook the shrimp, place the wine and water in an 8-quart stockpot.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the pot, then add the lemon rinds.  Add the bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the shrimp.  When the water returns to a boil, cook for exactly 1 minute.  Do not overcook!

PICT4447

 

~ Step 3.  Drain the shrimp into a colander and rinse under very cold water until shrimp are cool, or cold, to the touch, but ever so slightly warm in the center.  Transfer to a food storage bag and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Peel.

Note:  This cooking and chilling method is my secret for succulent, perfectly cooked shrimp!

  PICT4437 To prepare shrimp cocktail my mother's way:

Cook the shrimp exactly as directed above.  When the cooked shrimp are cooled as directed, quickly peel them (leaving the tails on or off, your choice), and place them in a jar or a food storage bag as you work.  Toss with all of the prepared sauce.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Note:  Using a large food storage bag is actually a lot easier than the jar, but I feel compelled to use the jar just because it makes me happy to see it sitting in my refrigerator just like my mother used to do! 

PICT4505

 

Once upon a time... A tale about Shrimp Cocktail:  Recipe yields enough shrimp to make 6 shrimp cocktails and 2 cups of cocktail sauce.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; 8-quart stockpot; colander; food storage bag; 2-quart jar (optional)

PICT4452Cook's Note:  Both versions of shrimp cocktail can be prepared up to 3 days in advance of serving.  I, personally, cannot tell you which one I like better.  My mother's presentation is a little more rustic, but the shrimp take on all of the wonderful spicy flavor of the sauce, which gets rave reviews each and every time I serve them.  The classic version, is, well... classic.  What I can tell you is this:  once you start cooking shrimp according to the above directions, you will get a true appreciation for perfectly, cooked, succulent shrimp! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/25/2011

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (11/25/11) ~

Culinary Q & A #2'Tis the day after Turkey Day and I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful holiday.  Due to a few travel issues and scheduling problems, my family is celebrating, right here in Melanie's Kitchen, tomorrow.  I am of the philosophy that it is better to delay a family holiday a day (or two), if it means we can all be together for the celebration.  So, right after I finish this post, I'll be picking up where all of you left off yesterday... cooking!!!

Three great questions came my way this week and it won't surprise you to find out they all revolved around... Thanksgiving!!!

Q.  Diane comments and asks:  Remember me?  I'm the one who asked the question about convection toaster ovens back in August.  After reading your answer, I finally took mine out of the box and I love it!  Thank you so much Mel for taking your valuable time for little 'ole me! I am baking pies for the first time for Thanksgiving.  I want to bake apple and pumpkin and I have 2, clear glass, 9" Pyrex pie dishes.  I am using store-bought pie pastry because I am not confident enough to try making that... yet.  How many cups of pie filling do I need for each pie?  Every recipe seems to say something different.

PICT3160A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Diane  it is great to hear from you again, and I am so proud of you!  You've conquered the oven, your baking pies and I see you making pie pastry in the near future!  

The amount of pie filling you are going to need is going to vary depending upon the type of pie you are making.  For chunky fruit/nut filled pies (like apple, cherry, pecan), 6 cups of fruit is the average measure.  That being said, if you are following a recipe that specifically calls for more (sometimes as much as 8 cups), follow it, as some recipes require this type of filling to be piled high/mounded in the pie dish.  For pureed/creamy filled pies (like custard, lemon-meringue and pumpkin), 4 cups of filling is the maximum measure, as any more will spill over the sides!

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PICT4052Q.  Leah comments and asks: Mel, I loved your post yesterday about the Frico hors d'oeuvres.  I was asked to bring an appetizer to my sister-in-law's on Thanksgiving and this is one that I know everyone is sure to enjoy.  I have never heard of Frico before, nor have I ever seen a tart tamper before.  Is there anything else I could substitute for that utensil?  Also, where can I buy a tart tamper?

PICT4366A.  Kitchen Encounters:   Leah! Great to hear from you my new friend!  I was thrilled at all of the responses I got to last Friday's ~ Fun with Frico (Italian Parmesan Cheese Crisps) ~ recipe. Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun with this one, which can be found in Categories 1, 2, 11, 12, 15 & 20!

Wooden tart tampers have been around for a while.  They were invented to make fitting/patting pastry into small tart molds and mini-muffin pans really easy.  These inexpensive ($6.00-$8.00) gadgets are well worth the investment and are available in most kitchen stores or on Amazon.com.  I highly recommend you invest in one, but until then, I recommend using an ordinary wine cork or cork bottle stopper to pat and press your hot Frico into the muffin pan to cool!

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Q.  Martin asks:  Mel, I've just gotta know!  What is your favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipe?

PICT1577A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Martin, oh Martin, I hope this does not disappoint you.  I am a purist.  The day after Thanksgiving, my reason to wake up the morning is to eat the biggest, baddest turkey sandwich I can wrap my hands around.  After that, I like my Thanksgiving leftovers reheated on a plate and served as is... Thanksgiving dinner revisited so to speak.  I've never met a casserole or soup that can compete with a simple reheat of turkey, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes.  Gobble, gobble!

Enjoy your weekend everyone.  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

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

11/23/2011

~ Two "Cocktail" Sauces: Classic and Creamy ~

6a0120a8551282970b015437a1e06e970cThe holiday season is officially at our doorsteps.  With Thanksgiving being tomorrow, and Christmas right around the corner, I decided there was no time like the present to present two delicious, easy-to-make, seafood sauce recipes that are reminiscent of festive occasions and fine-dining experiences for us all.  I've been eating classic shrimp cocktail since I was 5 or 6 years old and loved to watch my mom make it for special occasions.  She would let me arrange the shrimp around the champagne glasses, which, if you have children, is a smart/tricky way to get them to try a new food.  It wasn't until years later, on a trip to London in December of 1983, that I was served a creamy version with a prawn salad I had ordered in the famous Browns restaurant.  It was just before Christmas, the upscale eatery was gloriously decorated and the creamy Mary Rose sauce was absolutely dreamy!   

PICT4477A bit about classic cocktail sauce: Shrimp cocktail, as we know it today, originated back in the early 20th century.  Oysters were the original "cocktail" shellfish, were usually served as appetizers in tiny cups, and were topped with a spicy ketchup sauce containing horseradish and Tabasco. "Cocktail" appetizers became extremely popular during the 1920's, or, the decade of Prohibition.  The appetizers were served in actual "cocktail" glasses (which were originally purchased to hold alcoholic beverages), because it was an attractive, innovative way to make use of the idle stemware!

PICT4576A bit about creamy cocktail sauce: Shrimp cocktail is not just an American staple.  The British refer to it as "prawn cocktail" and have been serving it as long as we have, but nowadays across the pond, you'll most likely find it served with a creamy sauce called Marie Rose sauce.  This creamy, pink-colored sauce is made using a combination of ingredients similar to that of classic cocktail sauce, minus the horseradish, with a bit of mayonnaise whisked into it instead.  It was originally called Mary Rose sauce and was created in 1981 by a Chef in the Royal Navy who was catering to a commemorative dive on the ship wreck of the Mary Rose, in Portsmouth Harbor.  He found himself without the proper condiments to accompany his prawns, so he used what was on hand and mixed ketchup and mayonnaise together with a bit of lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.  It was so popular, it is now the standard paring for prawns, or seafood cocktail in general, in Britain!

In the 1990's, there was a trend in England to give foods more French sounding names, hence, the name Mary Rose was "trendified" or "Frenchified" to Marie Rose.  Because Marie Rose sauce is so subtle, smooth and refined tasting, I recommend refraining from substituting Thousand Island or Russian salad dressing in its place.  Why?  While the dressings are indeed condiments whose base is made from ketchup and mayonnaise, their flavor, which is emboldened by the addition of onions and pickles, are a bit too harsh or overwhelming for this decadent, delicate "cocktail"/salad!

PICT4396For the classic cocktail sauce:

1  12-ounce bottle Heinz chili sauce (about 1 cup)

1/2  cup Heinz ketchup

1/2  cup prepared horseradish

1  tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon Tabasco sauce, more or less, to taste

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

PICT4404

 

~ Step 1.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all of the classic cocktail sauce ingredients, as listed. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight, to allow all of the spicy flavors to marry.  Serve chilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PICT4512For the creamy cocktail sauce

1  12-ounce bottle Heinz chili sauce (about 1 cup)

1/2  cup Heinz ketchup

1/4  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup creme fraiche

1  tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon Tabasco sauce, more or less, to taste

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

PICT4516~ Step 1.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all of the creamy cocktail sauce ingredients, as listed. Cover and refrigerate several hours, or overnight, to allow all of the spicy flavors to marry with the cream.  Serve chilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can't decide which one to make?  Do what I do, make them both!

PICT4599Two "Cocktail" Sauces:  Classic and Creamy:  Recipe yields 2 cups each.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; 2, 2 cup food storage containers w/lids

Cook's Note:  Both recipes can be made up to a week in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!!!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/21/2011

~ Crabmeat & Montasio Stuffed Mushroom Caps!!! ~

PICT4363Did someone say succulent, crabmeat stuffed mushrooms?  

"Step into my parlor", said the spider to the fly!

PICT4269This is one of my most popular hors d'oeuvres and over the past twenty or so years I've served them more times than I can count... especially during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season.  It is perfect served at any time of day: with a glass of champagne for breakfast, wine for lunch or a cocktail just before a sit down dinner or buffet supper. That being said, I've also portioned the decadent crabmeat mixture into larger sized mushroom caps and served them (with a knife and fork) as a main-dish dinner to a vegetarian friend or two!

PICT4253~ Step 1.  You'll need 36, 1 1/2"-2" round, white button mushrooms. Using a damp paper towel, gently wipe any dirt from them.  (Tip: Never wash or soak mushrooms in water as they absorb moisture like a sponge and become mushy.) Using your fingertips, remove the stems. Using a sharp paring knive, trim the perimeter of the caps. Using a grapefruit spoon, scrape/remove the furry gills.  Reserve the stems, trimmings and gills.

PICT4258~ Step 2.  Using a large chef's knive, finely dice/mince the stems, trimming and gills.  You will have and will need about 6-7 ounces of mushroom trimmings.

~ Step 3.  Arrange the caps on a large baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

PICT4277~ Step 4.  Over low heat, in a 10"-12" skillet, melt 2 ounces of butter (1/2 stick).  Add and stir in 1-1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning. Turn the heat off. 

Dice/mince 6-7  ounces of shallots (yellow or sweet onion may be substituted), and, 6-7 ounces of celery,  adding them to the pan as you work.  Add the diced/minced mushroom trimmings to the pan.

PICT4280~ Step 5.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute until mushrooms have lost almost all of their moisture and the pan is quite dry at the bottom, about 10-12 minutes.

~ Step 6.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool, about 30-45 minutes.  Mixture should be at room temperature or just slightly warm prior to stuffing mushrooms.

PICT4282

 

~ Step 7.  In a 1-cup measuring container, whisk together and stir into the cooled mushroom mixture:

2  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon white pepper

1  tablespoon Frank's RedHot cayenne pepper sauce

1  tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh, or bottled concentrate

PICT4292~ Step 8.  Using a large spoon or spatula, stir 3/4 cup plain, dried breadcrumbs into the mixture. Take the time to combine thoroughly while allowing the breadcrumbs to absorb moisture, about 2-3 minutes.

~ Step 9.  Gently fold in 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat.  Do not over mix! It should be "marbled" looking in appearance.

PICT4309Step 10.  Using a 1 1/2"-1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, portion generous mounds of crabmeat mixture onto the mushroom caps. Continue to mound it until no more remains in skillet!

~ Step 11.  Finely grate and distribute 1/2 cup of Montasio cheese (Parmigiano-Reggianno may be substituted) over the top of stuffed mushrooms.

PICT4327~ Step 12.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for about 15-18 minutes.  Adjust heat to broil for 3-5 minutes. Mushrooms should be lightly browned, sizzling and oozing a bit of moisture onto the baking pan.  Serve immediately (although they are great served at room temperature too):

 

 

 

PICT4350Crabmeat & Montasio Stuffed Mushroom Caps!!!:  Recipe yields 3 dozen appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; paring knife; grapefruit spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; plastic wrap; 10"-12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large spoon; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk; 1 1/2"-1 3/4" ice-cream scoop

Cook's Note:  To prepare mushrooms 1-2 days in advance, prep the mushroom caps as directed and place on baking pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Prepare crabmeat stuffing as directed and place it in a food storage container and refrigerate it.  Bring both the caps and the stuffing to room temperature, assemble and bake as directed.  Gobble, gobble!!!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/18/2011

~ Fun with Frico (Italian Parmesan Cheese Crisps) ~

PICT4052With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays fast approaching, we're all looking for fun and festive ideas for finger-food type snacks and hors d'oeuvres.  Since pretty much everyone I've ever met enjoys a cheesy, crispy snack cracker, I thought I'd kick my holiday posts off with this easy-to-make Preschutti family favorite!  

PICT4213Having its origin in the Italian region of Friuli, "frico" are baked or fried, lacy-looking, wafer-like, delicate Italian cheese crisps.  They are typically broken into pieces then sprinkled over a main dish or a salad for a flavorful crunch, or, are used to garnish soups or stews!  

They are really easy to make and when they are hot out of the oven they are extremely pliable, making them easy to mold into small baskets or larger salad bowls.  Here in the USA, frico is typically made with shredded, not grated, Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese.  That being said, in Italy they are traditionally made with aged Montasio cheese, which is produced in the Friuli-Venezia Gulia region of Italy.  About this region and cheese, Mario Batali artfully writes:

"It is the region of Italy that lies between two worlds.  It is an unassuming region of thundering importance, offering an abundance of gastronomic treasures and stunning natural beauty, where all that is Italian collides with Central and Eastern Europe.  Latin and Roman traditions meet and mingle with Austrian and Slovenian custom and culture, and from this heady mix comes some of Italy's finest and most precious products:  incredible wines, the sweetest Proscuitto, and the noble, elder statesman of cheeses, Montasio."  "Montasio is a wonderful table cheese, perfect for enjoying with one of Friuli-Venezia Gulia's excellent wines, a savory mostarda, or one of the luscious stone fruits that are grown in Friuli, such as peaches, plums, and cherries."  "Montasio is also the cheese that is used to make frico, a beloved dish that is relatively unknown outside of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, but somewhat of an icon of Friulian cuisine."

PICT4154Just reading that description made me get on-line and order a pound of this famed cheese, and, it arrived on my doorstep this morning.  For the record, I did call around to my two local Happy Valley cheese sources first.  No one had it, and, no one seemed familiar with it either. That is not a criticism, I mention it because, unless you live in the city, it is what I suspect you'll find if you go looking for Montasio too!

PICT4231At first glance, its color is very similar to Parmigiano-Reggianno with its texture being just slightly softer, or, not quite as granular/crumbly.  Price-wise, I paid $16.99 a pound for my Montasio on-line, vs. $12.39 a pound for my Parm-Regg in my local grocery store.  That being said, the Parmigiano-Reggiano on-line was selling for $18.49 a pound, which leads me to believe the two are comparably priced.  Now for the tasting:  The Montasio is exquisitely nutty and slightly less tangy than the Parm-Regg.  Just like the Parmigiano-Reggiano, I wouldn't hesitate to grate this cheese over hot pasta or melt it over hors d'oeuvres.  As Mario mentioned, this cheese would be marvelous to serve just as at is, alongside some shaved Italian meats, marinated vegetables and or fresh buffalo milk mozzarella as "bar food" to munch on with cocktails.  I'm taking that one step further today:

PICT4170Whether you're making frico with Montasio or Parmigiano-Regianno cheese, you are going to need shredded, not finely grated cheese. You won't hear me say this very often, but if you're really pressed for time or don't have a microplane grater with the right size perforations or slits to produce shreds, store-bought, pre-packaged shredded cheese works fine too!

PICT4173Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Evenly space and spoon 8, level tablespoon-sized mounds of the shredded cheese  on the lined baking pan.  Using your fingertips, spread each mound out to a thin, airy, lacy-looking thickness.

PICT4183Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 5 1/2-6 minutes, or until cheese is melted and the bubbles have turned into a light golden brown crust.  Do not over bake as over browning will cause the frico to taste bitter!  Remove from oven and cool completely on the baking sheet, or, to make hors d'oeuvre-sized baskets:

PICT4191Remove from oven, and, using a spatula, IMMEDIATELY transfer the still soft frico to a miniature muffin pan. Using a wooden tart tamper, gently press them into a basket shape. Allow frico to cool completely in the muffin pan.  

Frico (of any shape) can be prepared several hours and up to a day or two in advance of serving. Place on a tray or in a basket and store lightly/semi-covered with plastic wrap until serving time.  

To accompany every holiday cocktail you serve, place some edible muchies on a plate next to some frico crisps or into mini-frico baskets (my favorite combination is a slice of herbed or peppered salami, a tiny ball of fresh mozzarella, a garlic-y olive and a strip of roasted red pepper.  What a happy start to the holiday season:

PICT4226Fun with Frico (Italian Parmesan Cheese Crisps):  Recipe yields instructions to make as many crisps or baskets and your holidays can handle!

Special Equipment List:  baking pan(s); parchment paper; wooden tart tamper (optional)

PICT4204Cook's Note:  To make edible salad baskets, the process is almost the same.  Spread 4 tablespoons of shredded cheese onto a parchment-lined, 9" pie dish.  Bake as directed above.  Remove from oven, and, using a large spatula, remove from parchment and place on top of an inverted cereal-type bowl.  Press down lightly and cool completely on bowl.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/16/2011

~ How to: Make an Incredible Edible Tomato Rose ~

PICT3748Tomato roses.  You've seen them at fancy parties, in upscale restaurants and catered events. Occasionally, when I'm teaching a cooking class, I like to nonchalantly pick up a tomato and a paring knife and make one, spur of the moment, or unannounced, so to speak.  While I'm talking to my students, I carefully peel the tomato and in one or two short minutes, present them with a beautiful and classy, edible garnish.  Besides all of the "ooos and awws", more often than not, everyone is enthusiastic about trying to make one for themself.  I usually choose to do this on a day when the recipe we are cooking calls for a peeled, seeded and diced tomato, or several. That way, there is no waste, and it turns out to be quite a lot of fun at the same time.  Once you learn this simple technique, you'll be garnishing like a pro too!

Before I continue, I've got to thank my husband Joe.  You see, in order to make a tomato rose I need both of my hands, which makes taking all of my own pictures impossible.  He has graciously agreed to play photographer for me this morning and I am most appreciative!

PICT3474~ Step 1.  First you need to pick a tomato.  Since it is Fall and I don't have access to our garden tomatoes, I bought a few high-quality, vine-ripened ones from the market.  They are relatively large, about 6 ounces each.  They are also firm, smooth and round with no blemishes or marks.  Lastly, they are the prettiest shade of red that was available.

PICT3479~ Step 2. Second, choose your weapon. You'll need a very sharp paring knife.  Start by cutting around the top of the tomato and removing the top core.

PICT3483~ Step 3.  Turn the tomato "upside down" or place the core side in the palm of your hand.  Since I'm a lefty, I'll be cutting with my left hand, so the tomato is in my right hand.

Cut a strip of skin, about 1" wide across the base of the tomato and stop when it gets to be about 1 1/2" in length.  At the end of this process, this wide piece is going to serve as the base for your rose, which will keep it from unraveling.

PICT3486

 

~ Step 4.  This is probably the trickiest part.  Take a deep breath. Relax.  While cutting, slowly turn the tomato to the right, and, without detaching the base you just cut, begin peeling the tomato, in a single strip, about 1/2" wide, in the same manner you would peel an apple.

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~ Step 5.  The following is a good picture of what the peeling process is going to look like.  Continue peeling until you've reached the core end.  Note:  Until the tomato peel is long enough to reach the cutting board, I find it helpful to rest the base and peel on the top of my hand.  This helps to insure the base does not detach from the peel.

PICT3490Done. Once you get good at this, you'll be peeling each tomato in less than a minute!

PICT3498~ Step 6.  As pictured above, carefully lay the peel out, fleshy side up, on your work surface the best you can.  I let it take its natural twists and turns because I want it to remain in one long, unbroken length.  Starting at the small core end, using your fingertips, begin rolling the rose, keeping it as tight as you can.

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~ Step 7.  Once the rose gets big enough, you'll know when it's time, it gets easier if you set it down on the cutting board to complete the rolling process.  Again, when rolling, keep it as tight as you can.

PICT3406~ Step 8. When you get to the base, set the rolled part on the base. You have made a lovely rose just like a pro!

~ Step 9.  In order to move the rose(s), pick it/them up by the base.  I like to place mine on a few sage leaves (with mint leaves being another alternative).  Tomato roses can be covered and refrigerated for several hours or overnight.  This one is pictured in my recipe for ~ Easy, Creamy & Dreamy Mushroom Bruschetta ~.  You can find this recipe is Categories 1, 12, 14 and 21.  The rest of this tomato has been seeded, diced and placed on top of the bruschetta!  

PICT3450How to:  Make an Incredible Edible Tomato Rose:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many rose garnishes as you want.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; very sharp paring knife

Cook's Note:  I always buy one or two extra tomatoes, just in case I make a mistake.  It happens to the best of us!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/14/2011

~ A Little Thing Called Florentine (a la "The Philips") ~

PICT4111"A la Florentine" is an Italian term which refers to dishes prepared "in the style of Florence, Italy", usually eggs or fish, that are presented on a bed of spinach and topped with a creamy sauce, usually Mornay sauce, which contains Parmesan cheese.  That being said, chicken Florentine seems to have originated in and been made famous by upscale French restaurants, where it remains ensconced today.  That makes sense to me, since the French are responsible for our culinary "mother sauces" and all things creamy and delightful.  I for one am a spinach lover. That being said, eating spinach in this context is a downright decadent, indulgent, somewhat noble experience.  If you are convinced you don't like spinach, now is the time to get over yourself!

Being a spinach lover, I am very grateful to whomever developed the process for industrially cleaning and packaging it washed, dried and "perky" in bags.  If you've ever handled spinach "au natural", you know that it is labor intensive from the standpoint that it must be meticulously cleaned of all sandy grit, and, you can't get it overly-wet while your doing that because it looses its integrity quite quickly.  Then, you need to remove/snip off the tough stems.  I really do recommend that you use fresh, pre-prepped and bagged spinach when preparing this chicken Florentine recipe, but if all you have is frozen spinach, I won't turn you in to the spinach police. I've made Florentine using frozen spinach and it works just fine!

I have a special place in my heart for chicken Florentine.  It is what was served at The Lehigh Valley Country Club for my wedding rehearsal dinner thirty-six years ago.  The table linens were shades of green, the Sauvignon Blanc was flowing freely and the Florentine was fabulous.  For years, I've been in search of a Florentine with succulent, moist, juicy chicken that is topped with a perfectly-seasoned, rich and creamy spinach sauce.  Thirty-six years later, being seated in the elegant atmosphere of The Philip's 1921 Restaurant, savoring a dish of their outstanding chicken Florentine and a bottle of herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc, is indeed cause for a celebration for any occasion!  Here's my version of their decadent dish:

PICT4071For the chicken:

PICT41352  large, meaty, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, about 10-12 ounces each, cut in half widthwise to form four relatively even-sized 5-6 ounce portions (Note:  If you want to serve two larger portions, do not cut the chicken in half.  Proceed with recipe as directed.)

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

3  tablespoons olive oil

3  tablespoons salted butter

For the sauce:

1-1 1/2  teaspoons minced garlic 

2  tablespoons minced shallots (sweet onion my be substituted)

2  cups thinly-sliced white button mushroom caps, no stems

1/4  cup white wine

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

3 cups fresh, clean, dry, spinach leaves, trimmed of stems (about 3 ounces spinach leaves)

4  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

For the pasta:

1  pound linguini

4  ounces salted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the optional garnishes:

1/4  cup minced parsley

1/4  cup finely diced tomato

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

shaved or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

PICT4138~ Step 1.  One at a time, place each piece of chicken in a food storage bag (or between two pieces of plastic wrap).  Using the flat side of a meat mallet, lightly pound each piece until it is about 1/3 larger than its original size.  Do not smash it to smithereens.  Pounding the meat not only tenderizes it, it allows it to cook quickly without drying out.  

~ Step 2.  Season chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper then sprinkle them on both sides with flour.  Set aside for about 15 minutes.  This will allow the flour to absorb moisture which will in turn result in a light, golden brown crust.  While the chicken is resting:

PICT4076~ Step 3.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Cook the linguine until al dente. Drain thoroughly and return hot pasta to still warm stockpot.  Add the butter, garlic powder, sea salt and red pepper flakes.  Toss, like you would a salad, until pasta is coated in a buttery, garlicy, slightly spicy mixture.  Cover and set aside to keep warm.

PICT4145

~ Step 4.  To cook the chicken, in a 12" skillet over low heat, melt the butter into the olive oil.  Add the chicken pieces.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute until chicken is a light golden brown on both sides, about 3 1/2-4 minutes per side, or until chicken is just cooked through, moist and juicy. Turn the heat off for just a moment.

Using a pair of tongs, remove the chicken from the pan juices, place on a plate or a platter, cover with aluminum foil and set aside.

PICT4097~ Step 5.  Add the garlic, shallots and mushrooms to the pan juices in skillet. Adjust heat to medium-high and saute until mushrooms have released their moisture and are just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.  Add the wine and continue to cook until only a thin coating of liquid remains in the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute.

PICT4104~ Step 6.  Add the cream and spinach to the skillet.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  Cook until spinach leaves are wilted and deep green in color and cream has reduced and thickened, about 2 minutes.  Turn heat off.

~ Step 7.  Grate and add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to the sauce.  Stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated.

~  Step 8.  To serve, onto each of four, warmed serving plates, divide and portion the pasta.  Place a piece of chicken on top of, or, to the side of the pasta.  Ladle sauce evenly over the top of all four plates.  Garnish as desired and serve immediately:

PICT4106A Little Thing Called Florentine (a la "The Philips"):  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1, food storage bag or plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; tongs; aluminum foil; microplane grater; ladle

PICT4125Cook's Note:  While I used boneless, skinless breasts to prepare my Florentine, if you want to, feel free to substitute chicken fillets or tenders.  Kids love them. Plan on serving 3-4 per person.  Do not pound them, but do salt, pepper and flour them. Proceed with the recipe as directed.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/11/2011

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

Culinary Q & A #2On today's Friday Q&A and 11/11/11 date, Kitchen Encounters has a fun announcement to make:

I have added another television adventure to my repertoire.  In addition to my annual work with WPSU for their Celebrity Chef's cooking demonstration and my own weekly Kitchen Encounters cooking segment on WHVL's Centre of it All show (channel 235), I will now be representing The Philips Hotel's 1921 Restaurant on:

WTAJ-TV's Chef's Showcase

This segment will air every Friday during their 4:00PM Central PA Live show (local channel 10). Each week I will be taking a dish from The 1921's menu and showing viewers how to cook my version of it in the home kitchen.  All of the recipes will be posted right here on Kitchen Encounters, along with my step-by-step directions and photos.  We're also going to link each cooking segment right here to my  blog (see bottom left hand column of KE home page), so, you can even watch them right here if you missed the show!

PICT3450Last Friday, I prepared a luscious appetizer ~ Creamy Mushroom Bruschetta a la "The Philips" ~, and you can find my recipe by clicking into Categories 1, 12, 14 or 21.  The link to that segment is up too, so give that a click if you'd like to watch me on live TV!

PICT3905I am really looking forward to this new Kitchen Encounter.  Live TV presents a new set of cooking challenges for me (no editing), plus, it is shot on their WTAJ set in their Altoona studio, rather than here in Melanie's Kitchen!

In about an hour, my assistant Jeanne and I will be loadin' up and takin' our show on the road. This afternoon on Chef's Showcase, I'll be making my ~ Smoky 'n Sweet Roasted-Tomato & Thyme Soup a la "The Philips" ~ and you can find that recipe in Categories 2 or 22.  It will be up on the WTAJ website by 5:30PM and here on my Kitchen Encounters blog this evening!

Enjoy your weekend everyone.  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

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/09/2011

~ My Cheese-y Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole ~

PICT4033Every cook, every where, needs at least one, hearty, easy-to-make, go-to casserole recipe that can be counted on to please and feed a crowd.  This is mine.  There are as many versions of this recipe "out there" as there are den mothers, which is how I came to start making this one over twenty years ago.  I'm making it today because I just made my annual vat of chicken stock a few days ago.  You can read my recipe for ~ It's National Chicken Stock Day:  In Mel's Kitchen! ~ in Categories 15 & 22.  I'll be using the chicken from the stock in my casseroles today.  Yes, I said casseroles, plural.  You see, after assembling my casseroles today, I'm going to bake one and freeze one!

PICT4036So, what makes is this my favorite "go to" casserole?  For starters, it is a super-yummy, one-dish, family-style dinner...  I love it served with tomato soup and/or a Caesar salad. It is perfect to serve at a brunch and holds up really well on a buffet table (it even tastes great at room temperature).  It travels well too. Men, women and kids all love it, which makes it a great meal to take to tailgate, a pot luck or church supper-type of event.  It even gets kids to eat their broccoli.  Leftovers? Well, if you have a microwave at your place of work and this casserole leftover in your refrigerator, you'll actually be looking forward to brown baggin' it.  Did I mention that from start to finish, all you need is one stockpot in order to prepare it! 

You're not allowed to pass judgement on my use of Cheez-Whiz, instead of making a complicated cheese sauce to stir into my wonderful chicken, broccoli and rice (been there, done that) until you have tasted this recipe.  Or, just trust me when I tell you, "Cheeze-Whiz is the bomb" and that is that.  I have never, not even once, served this casserole that someone didn't ask me for the recipe.  Then, when they find out what is in it, I love the "you've got to be kidding me" look, followed by the "Mel, I just assumed that you of all people would be making some sort of fancy cheese sauce!"

PICT3932

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3-4  pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fillets or tenders

2  quarts canned chicken broth

1 1/2  pounds fresh broccoli florets

12  ounces butter (3 sticks), total throughout recipe

1  1/2  pounds diced yellow or sweet onion

1  tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

6  cups extra long-grain white rice

3  15-ounce jars Cheeze Whiz Cheese Dip

3  5-ounce jars Old English Cheese Spread

no-stick cooking spray

PICT4011~ Step 1.  Place the chicken in an 8-quart stockpot with enough chicken broth to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Partially cover, reduce heat and simmer, until the chicken is cooked through, 8-12 minutes. This timing will vary depending upon what cut of chicken you are simmering.  Using an Asian spider or large slotted spoon, remove the chicken to a platter.  Set aside to cool.

 

~ Step 2.  Add the broccoli to the still simmering stock.  Cook the broccoli until al dente, about 3 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Turn the heat off.  Drain the broccoli, along with all of the broth, into a colander and set the broccoli aside to cool.  

Note:  If you are using leftover chicken, like I am today, just simmer the broccoli in some lightly salted water.

PICT3938~  Step 3.  Return stockpot to still warm stovetop.  Over low heat, melt 1 1/2 sticks of the butter and stir in the black pepper.  Add the onion and increase heat to saute, until the onion softens, about 5-6 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat and transfer sauteed onions to a very large mixing bowl.

PICT3941

 

~ Step 4.  Chop the cooled chicken as directed placing it in the mixing bowl with the onion mixture as you work.  Add the broccoli.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly combine the ingredients.

PICT3967

 

 

 

 

~ Step 5.  Return the stockpot to the stovetop.  Add the Cheez-Whiz and the Old English products.  Over low heat, stirring almost constantly, mix until the mixture is smooth and drizzly.  Remove from heat.

PICT3970

 

 

 

~ Step 6.  Add all of the cheese mixture to the bowl.  Using the spatula, thoroughly but gently fold and combine the mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

PICT3936

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 7.  Using a standard 1-cup measure, (not the cup/measure from the rice steamer), place the rice in steamer.  Again, using a standard measure, add 6 cups of water to the steamer.  Turn on, to steam.  When the steamer shuts off, the rice should be firm and just slightly undercooked.  Open the lid and add the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of butter.  Stir until the butter is completely melted and the rice is evenly coated.

Note:  No electric rice steamer? Cook the rice on the stovetop in the 8-quart stockpot.  Just do your best to cook it al dente.

PICT3990

~ Step 8.  Transfer the hot rice to the chicken mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold and incorporate it into the mix, until it is uniform in color and no pockets of white rice remain.

~ Step 9.  Transfer the mixture into 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casseroles that have been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.

PICT4016

 

~ Step 10.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 20-25 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or, until very lightly browned, and bubbly. Serve immediately. 

 

 

PICT4034My Cheese-y, Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole:  Recipe yields 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casseroles, 12 servings each, 24 total cups and/or 6 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; colander; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; 1-cup measuring container; electric rice steamer; 2, 13" x 9" x 2" casserole dishes; aluminum foil

PICT2703Cook's Note:  Prior to baking them, the casseroles can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated, up to 3 days prior to baking and serving, or, frozen for up to 6 months.  In either case, remove casseroles from refrigerator or freezer and return to room temperature prior to baking according to above directions.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/07/2011

~ Smokey 'n Sweet Roasted-Tomato & Thyme Soup a la "The Philips"... and don't forget the Frico! ~

PICT3905Savvy cooks and chef's know that when tomatoes start to go out-of-season in the Fall, or, are really out-of-season throughout the Winter, roasting them in the oven concentrates their flavor, making them a truly succulent and sweet ingredient to use in a myriad of savory culinary applications.  If you are a consummate tomato lover like me, this is great news!

In the Fall, the Philips Hotel and 1921 Restaurant occasionally has a "to die for" tomato soup featured on their "soup du jour" menu.  It is thick, rich, slightly sweet, and contains just a hint of smoky flavor... reminiscent of the Summer grill flavors we Central Pennsylvanians left behind us a few short weeks ago.  Adding a bit of cream to this soup, if you'd like to turn it into a cream soup, while an option, is one I recommend "holding off on" until you've tasted it.   After recently eating it again at The Philips for lunch, accompanied by a fabulous Caesar salad, I found myself driven (all the way back to Boalsburg) to create my own version to share with all of you today!

Tomato soup deserves its own identity.  

From a personal standpoint, many roasted tomato soup recipes taste too much like pasta sauce, meaning:  they are too often flavored with basil or oregano.  I am pleased to report this not to be the case at The Philips.  In fact, I was wowed by their subtle use of thyme as the herb, as well as an obvious hint of caramelized sugar, which brought their soup's flavor up to a level of simple, elegant, French-style decadence!

PICT381812, medium-large sized, vine-ripened tomatoes, about 4 pounds, top core removed, tomatoes sliced in half pole-to-pole

2  very large yellow or sweet onions, about 1 1/2 pounds, peeled and coarsely chopped

2  heads garlic, peeled, about 2 ounces peeled garlic cloves

8-10  sprigs fresh thyme

8  tablespoons olive oil (1/2 cup), total throughout recipe

3-4  tablespoons dark brown sugar

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

3  cups vegetable stock (chicken stock can be substituted), preferably homemade (Note: You can find my recipes for making chicken or vegetable stock in Categories 15 & 22.)

1/2-3/4  teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2-1 teaspoon additional sea salt

PICT3820~ Step 1.  Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.

PICT3825~ Step 2.  Add the onions and garlic to pan. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Using your hands, toss to coat.  Place the thyme sprigs on the top, followed by a light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.

~ Step 3.  Arrange the tomato halves over the top of the onion mixture, spacing them slightly apart. Drizzle tomatoes with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sprinkle the tops of the tomatoes with brown sugar, followed by a light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.

PICT3861~ Step 4.  Roast on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, about 1-1 1/2 hours, or until onions are caramelized and tomatoes have a bit of a char to their tops.

Note:   Timing will vary depending upon the consistency and ripeness of the tomatoes.  What the finished mixture looks like is more important than the time it takes.

PICT3866~ Step 5.  Transfer the vegetable mixture to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. If you do not have a large processor, do this in 2-3 batches.

PICT3873~ Step 6. Using a series of about 30 rapid on-off pulses, process until a "semi-chunky" puree is formed, or a puree to your liking.

PICT3879~ Step 7.  Transfer to a 3 1/2-4-quart chef's pan or stockpot.  Add the stock and smoked paprika.  Over moderate heat, bring to a gentle simmer.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning, adding additional sea salt, if necessary.  Simmer gently for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover pan/pot and set aside, to steep for about 15-20 minutes, to allow the flavors to marry.

 

Frico?

PICT3924Let's face it, we've all pretty much grown up eating tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. One without the other is, well... almost unAmerican.  In its simplest form, "frico" (pronounced free-co) are fried Italian Parmesan cheese crisps that are typically broken into pieces and then sprinkled over a main dish or salad, to add a flavorful, cheesey, salty, crunch. In the case of this soup, we're going to float one on the top of each bowl.  The Philips will certainly serve you a great grilled cheese sandwich with your tomato soup if you request it, but, I find their parmesan crisps to be just plain fun.  It just so happens that I've been making these for my own kids for quite some time here in Melanie's Kitchen, and I can't wait to show you how easy they are to make.  Frico is, simply put, a way to bring the grilled cheese directly to your soup!

You'll need 6 ounces of shredded Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, a 6"-8" nonstick skillet and a nonstick spatula:

PICT3882~ Step 1.  Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons, in a 3" disc shape, evenly into the bottom of the skillet, keeping the cheese "light" around the edges so it looks lacy.  When golden on the underside, after about 1-1 1/2 minutes:  

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~ Step 2. Slip the spatula underneath it and flip it over.  Cook on the second side, about 20-30-40 seconds, until second side is golden brown too. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to cool. Repeat this process as many times as your frico-loving heart desires (which will be 12).  Portion soup into 6 warmed serving bowls, top each with a Parmesan crisp and one to the side. Serve immediately!

PICT3899

 

Smoky 'n Sweet Roasted-Tomato & Thyme Soup a la "The Philips"... and don't forget the Frico!: Recipe yields 2 quarts of soup/6 servings and 12 parmesan crisps.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; food processor; 3 1/2-4-quart chef's pan or stockpot w/lid; 6"-8" nonstick skillet; nonstick spatula

Cook's Note:  This soup is a tomato soup lovers dream come true.  It freezes beautifully and my recipe is written to double or triple without any more effort than an extra 5-10 minutes in preparation time!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/03/2011

~ Coaldale Baba's Heavenly Chicken Noodle Soup ~

PICT3800Welcome to day three of my third-generation chicken soup post.  When I was growing up, I don't ever remember eating canned soup (except for Campbell's tomato soup which to this day I love), but, I do remember eating a lot of wonderful soups.  My Coaldale Baba (my maternal grandmother who lived in Coaldale, PA) made a heavenly chicken soup and served it with homemade noodles.  I remember eating this meal at her kitchen table on Sunday's after church more times than I can count.  Whenever she made it, or any other kind of soup for that matter, she made lots of it, and it was comforting to know there was always some to be found in her refrigerator or freezer!

"Like fine china, a family recipe for chicken soup, as simple as it sounds, is an heirloom to cherish and use often." ~ Melanie

The delicate flavor of her chicken stock, combined with the texture of her egg noodles, along with the proportions of the vegetables she added turned an ordinary list of ingredients into a superb meal.  Once or twice a year, I indulge myself.  I take a day-trip back in time, to a kinder, gentler place.  Baba's kitchen:  The big, long table is set with flowered bowls and jelly-jar glasses.  Us grandkids are playing in "the fort" in her back yard.  She's in the kitchen, with her collie (named Cricket) by her side, rolling the noodles for her soup, which is slowly simmering on the back of her white coal stove!

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Liquid Gold.

Two days ago I posted my recipe for ~ It's National Chicken Stock Day: In Mel's Kitchen ~.  You can find it by clicking into Categories 15 or 22.  To make this soup taste the way my grandmother, my mother and I do, your going to need 3 quarts of "it".  You're also going to need 2-3 cups chopped chicken from "it".

PICT3724Solid Gold.

Yesterday I posted my mother's recipe for ~ How to Make Egg Noodles from Scratch for Soup ~. You can find this recipe in Categories 2, 12 or 15.

These are quite easy to make.  To give this soup the same texture and consistency my grandmother, my mother and I do, you're going to need 6 cups of "these"!

 

The Gold Standard.

Once you've prepared the stock, prepped the chicken and made the noodles, you'll need some vegetables.  Besides the following list of ingredients, I occasionally make this soup adding 2 cups fresh broccoli florets and 1, 14 1/2-ounce can of diced tomatoes too.  That being said, my Baba's original, combination (carrots, celery, onion and potatoes) is indeed the "golden" one!

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2-2 1/2  cups peeled and diced carrots

2-2 1/2  cups diced or sliced celery

1-1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

3-3 1/2  cups peeled and diced gold potatoes

freshly ground peppercorn blend

PICT3776~ Step 1.  Place stock in an 8-quart stockpot.  Prep and add the carrots, celery and onion as you work. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook until all vegetables are cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.  While vegetables are simmering, prep the potatoes as directed.  Add the potatoes to the simmering stock and continue to cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 8-10 minutes.

~ Step 2.  Stir in the cooked chicken.  After about 1 minute, turn the heat off.  Cover the pot and allow soup to steep for about 30 minutes prior to serving.  This step gives the fresh taste of the vegetables time to marry with the flavorful stock.

To serve, place a generous 1/2 cup of room temperature or slightly warm noodles in the bottom of each large, warmed soup bowl.  Ladle hot soup over the noodles and top with freshly ground peppercorn blend, to taste.  Serve immediately:

PICT3796Coaldale Baba's Heavenly Chicken Noodle Soup:  Recipe yields 5 quarts soup or about 8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; soup ladle

Ann's Chicken Vegetable Soup #2 (Full View)Cook's Note:  The above soup recipe is well worth the effort. That being said, if you're looking for super chicken soup fast, give my recipe for Joe's mother's favorite soup a try.  Right down to the store-bought noodles, it's a great recipe to have on hand.  You can find my recipe for ~ GrandMa Ann's Easy Chicken Vegetable Soup ~ in Categories 2, 20 or 22! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/02/2011

~ How to: Make Egg Noodles from Scratch for Soup ~

PICT3724In an Eastern European household, when one refers to noodles, one is referring to egg noodles that go into soup.  When one refers to pasta, one means dried or fresh spaghetti or macaroni shapes that get sauced.  As a child, I had it all figured out.  As an adult,  I'm confused by folks who refer to lasagna sheets as lasagna noodles, or expect to be served pasta with sauce when they've ordered "noodles with gravy", which where I come from are egg noodles w/brown gravy.

Noodles are not pasta!  Pasta is not noodles! 

PICT3650The difference between noodle dough and pasta dough is:  noodle dough refers to a product containing only eggs (or egg yolks) and flour, while pasta dough, which usually contains eggs (or egg yolks), also contains a liquid such as water or oil.  Macaroni, which falls into the pasta category, contains no eggs or egg products. Both noodles and pasta get rolled to the desired thickness, then cut into flat, thick-or-thin strips of various lengths or into squares. Dried pasta is just what the name implies:  it is laid flat or hung and dried for various lengths of time prior to cooking.  Fresh pasta is pasta that, shortly after being rolled and cut (or extruded out of a pasta machine) gets cooked and eaten immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days prior to cooking.  Noodles are similar to fresh pasta, but, they are almost always dropped into boiling water and cooked as soon as possible after being rolled and cut.  After the noodles are drained, rinsed and cooled, they get eaten or stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

My mom makes the best egg noodles I have ever eaten and I'm sure she got the recipe from her mother.  Egg noodles are incredibly easy to make.  In fact, when I was about 7 years old, when my mom would make them, she began teaching and allowing me to roll the dough and slice the noodles.  If you've never tried to make noodles, or have been afraid to try, you really need to give noodle making a whirl.  Once you've eaten them homemade, you'll thick twice about substituting even the best store-bought version to add to your soup!

PICT3647To make the dough:

~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, place 2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour.

~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together 4 jumbo eggs and 2 teaspoons salt.

~ Step 3.  In a small bowl, set aside 3/4 cup additional flour.  A couple of tablespoons will be used during the mixing process and the rest used for bench flour during the rolling process.

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~ Step 4.  Using the fork, push the flour out of the center of the bowl to form a "well".  Pour the egg mixture into the "well".  Using the fork, begin stirring very small amounts of the flour into the "well" and continue stirring until almost all of the flour has been incorporated.

PICT3658Mixture will be a rough looking, sticky-textured mass.

PICT3665~ Step 5.  Using the heel of your hand, aggressively begin to gather and push down on the dough, giving the bowl a quarter turn each time you gather and push. Continue this kneading process for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle in and add up to 2 tablespoons of additional flour, if necessary, to keep dough from sticking to bottom of bowl.  You will have a solid, well-mixed ball, with small blisters on the surface.

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Note:  The kneading process transforms basic flour and eggs into a smooth dough.  The harder the dough is worked, the better the end result will be.  Kneading also gives dough its elasticity, so the harder the dough is worked the more elastic it becomes as well.  Without sufficient resting time after it is kneaded, 1-3 hours works best (and experience has taught me that overnight in the refrigerator does not work well), the dough will spring back and not hold its shape when you attempt to roll it.

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~ Step 6.  You will have about 1 1/4 pounds of dough.  Using a sharp knife, cut the dough in half.  Briefly knead each half a few seconds to form a 3/4"-thick elongated disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 1-3 hours.

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Note:  When the dough is unwrapped, it will be sticky.  Just pull it loose from the wrap and quickly reform the disc.

To roll the dough and cut the noodles:

~ Step 1.  On a large pasta board, sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the bench flour.  Roll the first disc of dough, as thinly as possible, into a large rectangle approximately 16"-18" x 12"-14" in size.   Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour evenly over the top.

PICT3685~ Step 2.  Using a very sharp knife, cut the rectangle, lengthwise, into 6-8 strips.  The ones pictured here are 1 1/2".  Stack the strips, 3-4 of them on two piles of 3-4 each.

PICT3679Here's a closeup of how the stacks will look.

PICT3698~ Step 3.  Using a very sharp knife and as little pressure as possible, cut the dough across the strips to any size you prefer (1/4" for thin egg noodles or 1/2" for wide egg noodles, gently placing the noodles on a baking pan as you work.  Toss with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Repeat this process with the second ball of dough.

PICT3705To cook the noodles:

~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Gradually add the noodles by hand, gently sprinkling them into the boiling water.  Stir immediately, but very slowly, to prevent noodles from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook!

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Note:  Homemade noodles cook very quickly, in 2-4 minutes depending upon their thickness. After they are all floating on the top of the bubbling water, test for doneness (by tasting) about every 20-30 seconds.

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Step 2.  Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.  This will halt the cooking process and bring noodles to below room temperature.  Store and refrigerate well-drained noodles in a food storage container for 3-5 days.  Return to room temperature and use as directed in recipe.

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How to:  Make Egg Noodles from Scratch for Soup:  Recipe yields 6 cups of cooked noodles.

Special Equipment List:  fork; plastic wrap; large wooden pasta board; rolling pin; paring knife or chef's knife (whatever works best for you); baking pan; 8-quart stockpot; colander; food storage container w/lid

Cook's Note:  I really hope you will give these a try.  Aside from the time it takes for the dough to rest, making the dough, rolling it out and cooking the noodles only takes about 30-45 minutes!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)

11/01/2011

~ It's National Chicken Stock Day: In Mel's Kitchen! ~

PICT3582Today is my own private holiday.  For some reason, for many, many years now, on November 1st, I make a huge pot of chicken stock.  I actually plan my week around this day.  It is a day just for me.  Once the stock is simmering, I make no attempt to be particularly productive.  I relax, read, write or watch a movie for a few hours.  Even my poodles snooze for hours in the etherial environment.  Perhaps I chose November 1st because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, at which time I'll need quite a bit of chicken stock.  The truth be told, I think it is that instinct we all have to "ready our nest" for Winter.  Birds fly South, squirrels collect acorns, I make chicken stock... and my world is a kinder, gentler place to live in today because of it!

PICT3608Meet my 24-quart stockpot.  This is the biggest stockpot I own and I have no idea what I would do without it on this holiday.  Of course, I have others, ranging in size from 8-, 12-, 16- to 18-quart, but this big-bad-boy brings a smile to my face!

A stockpot is a large, deep, straight-sided pot used for preparing stocks and simmering large quantities of liquid on the stovetop.  It has a wide, flat bottom, two handles on the sides and a lid with a handle on the top.  Stockpots are made from aluminum, stainless steel, copper and/or enamel, and have bottoms made of layers of different metals to enhance heat conductivity.  This one is restaurant-quality and is made of aluminum, which is a fantastic conductor of heat.  That being said, before purchasing an aluminum stockpot, know that while aluminum pots and pans are a top-knotch heat conductor, it is not recommended that food be stored in them for long periods of time. Aluminum will react with and discolor some foods containing eggs, wine or other acidic ingredients, like tomatoes.  While this discoloration is not harmful, it is unattractive.  Every cook needs a stockpot and I recommend choosing the biggest, bestest one(s) you can afford!

Vegetable Stock #8 (In Pyrex Containers Closeup)The definition of stock is:  A moderately seasoned, strained, clear liquid resulting from the simmering of water, bones and/or vegetables.  Stock is the basis for almost all soups and stews, and when reduced, is the basis for many sauces and gravies.  In order of versatility, beef, chicken and veal are the classic stocks, with seafood and vegetable coming in a close second and third.  The same basic guidelines apply to the preparation of all stocks:  minimal boiling, maximum simmering and moderate seasoning (unless the stock being prepared is going to become soup for tonights dinner, in which case it should be seasoned accordingly).    The single goal of all stocks is the same:  clarity!

Debate over the inclusion of meat (on bones) instead of just raw bones or roasted bones (in the case of brown stock) exists.  Unless you work in a restaurant, the quantity of bones necessary for the preparation, besides being cumbersome, can be prohibitive as:  specific bones are not always available at your butcher shop and/or can take months to accumulate in your freezer. While the inclusion of meat (on bones) is a little more expensive, it shortens the preparation time considerably, adds depth and sweetness to the flavor, and, provides poached meat/poultry for use in the end product:  soups, stews, sauces, gravies and even casseroles.  The following chicken stock recipe, my own recipe, represents the "put meat in the stock" mindset!

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3  4-pound frying chickens, preferably cut in half (Note:  I request my butcher do this.  Cutting the chickens in half makes them more manageable to work with after the stock is done.  Using whole chickens results in a perfect balance of fat, flavor and meat to eat!)

10  quarts cold water

2  pounds peeled yellow or sweet onions, left whole

1  pound peeled carrots, left whole

1  pound celery stalks, left whole

8-10 large, peeled garlic cloves

6-8  6"-8" fresh rosemary sprigs (about 1 ounce of fresh rosemary sprigs)

4  tablespoons sea salt

2  tablespoons white pepper 

PICT3586~ Step 1.  Place all of the ingredients in the stockpot, except for the white pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and using a skimmer, remove and discard all of the white foam as it collects on top of the the liquid.  This process will take about 10-12 minutes.  Note:  If you had added the white pepper, it would have collected in the foam and you'd be discarding it too!

PICT3592~ Step 2.  After you are done removing the foam, remove and discard the rosemary too.  It will be limp and losing its bright green color.  This herb has done its job. The result will be a stock that is lightly and pleasantly flavored by it, rather than overpowered by it if you'd have left it in any longer!

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~ Step 3.  Stir in the white pepper. Reduce heat to simmer gently, uncovered, for about 3-3 1/2 hours. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for about 3-3 1/2 hours.

~ Step 4.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove chicken to a platter or bowl.  Set aside.  Remove and discard the vegetables, with the exception of the carrots... I eat them with just a bit of salt and pepper!

PICT3627~ Step 5.  Ladle the stock into a fat/lean separator.  Pour the stock from the separator, through a mesh strainer, into the desired-sized food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of headspace at the top of each container to allow for expansion if you are freezing the stock.  Discard fat from separator.  Repeat this process until all stock has been separated and strained.

Use as directed in specific recipe or refrigerate overnight and freeze!

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It's National Chicken Stock Day:  In Mel's Kitchen:  Recipe yields 8 1/2-9 quarts of stock and about 6-8 cups of succulent, shredded chicken for use in soups, stews or a casserole or two.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 24-quart stockpot w/lid; skimmer; soup ladle; fat/lean separator; fine mesh strainer;  desired-sized food storage containers, preferably glass 

Cook's Note:  Don't have a 24-quart stockpot?  Don't want a 24-quart stockpot?  I wrote this recipe so it could easily be halved or quartered.  That being said, this chicken stock is going to see me through my chicken stock requirements for about 6 months.  So, if you want to Winterize your nest's freezer with homemade chicken stock, I recommend you consider investing in at least a 12-quart stockpot.  You can thank me later!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)