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16 posts from January 2013

01/31/2013

~ Grandma Ann's 6-Minute Maple-Glazed Ham Slice~

IMG_1218When I think of ham, I think of a holiday or special occasion.  That's because the only time my mother and grandmother made ham, it was a holiday or special occasion.  I think of a whole, bone-in, Berkshire ham that feeds a whole lot of people, and, I remember them ordering it from the butcher well in advance.  Ham was a very big deal -- all 16-20 pounds of it!  

6a0120a8551282970b014e880406bf970d-800wiWhen my now 87-year-old mother-in-law Ann moved to Happy Valley five years ago, I was a bit surprised to see how often ham showed up on her grocery list.  She adores ham with green beans and scalloped potatoes as a meal (who doesn't), and, she adores ham sandwiches with the leftovers.  That being said, Joe and I don't eat that much ham, and, I had to come up with a "ham plan for Ann", so she could eat real-deal ham once a week.  The ham slice/ham steak was my solution and she adores it!

IMG_1157The whole slice, which weighs about one pound, takes less than 10 minutes to prepare (including the glaze and cleanup), enough for 2-3 meals for Ann, which is convenient for her to reheat for herself for breakfast or lunch the next day.  Yes, I said breakfast, because this maple-glazed ham slice is fantastic served alongside eggs and pancakes or waffles too!

 It never occurred to me to post this recipe, until two days ago... when:

 Q.  Julian asks:  Melanie, I am a single bachelor.  I am a big guy with a big appetite.  I bought a ham steak last week and broiled it according to the package directions.  It came out really dry and disappointing.  Do you have any tips or an easy recipe for a better way to cook this piece of meat?  I can cook a little, and, I follow instructions well.  Thanks in advance.  PS:  I made your chicken and rice dinner with Uncle Ben's rice mix last week and I loved it!

IMG_8506A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Julian, this is your lucky day.  If you've got a big skillet, I have got a recipe for you and your ham slice.  It's extremely easy, as well as moist and delicious!

(Note to readers:  My recipe for ~ Mel's E-Z Chicken & Rice Dinner "a la Uncle Ben" ~, can be found in Categories 3, 19 and 20, or, by clicking on the Related Articles link at the very end of this post!)

IMG_1088Four ingredients + one skillet = an easy to make great ham steak!

1  1-pound, center-cut, 1/2"-thick, bone-in, fully-cooked ham slice, at room temperature

4  tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)

4  tablespoons pure maple syrup

freshly ground peppercorn blend or black pepper, to taste

IMG_1092~ Step 1.  In a 12" nonstick skillet, melt the butter into the maple syrup over low heat.  

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~ Step 2. Place the ham slice in the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and saute, until ham is beginning to brown around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once. Using a fork and a wide-spatula, remove the ham slice from the pan and place on a warmed platter.

IMG_1138~ Step 3.  Continue to vigorously simmer/saute the butter/maple syrup mixture, stirring constantly, until it darkens in color and thickens to into a sweet glaze, about 1 minute.  Large bubbles will appear in the mixture as the sugar caramelizes, which is a sign it is thickened and done.  

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IMG_1121                                         ~ Step 4. Pour the hot glaze over the still warm ham slice.  

Using a spoon or a spatula, spread the glaze evenly over the top of the ham, allowing it to drizzle down over the sides in some spots. Generously grind peppercorn blend evenly over the top, slice, and serve immediately.  Yum-a-licious!

IMG_1190Grandma Ann's 6-Minute Maple-Glazed Ham Slice:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  12" skillet, preferably nonstick; fork; wide spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01538e17e98c970b-800wiCook's Note:  In case you are in the mood for one of those big, beautiful, whole Berkshire hams I spoke about earlier on,  you can find my recipe for ~ "A,B,C", That's As Easy as Easter Ham Can Be! ~ in Categories 3, 11, 12 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013

01/29/2013

~ Spicy, Crispy, Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato 'Fries' w/Allspice 'n Chipotle Chili Sauce... Sweet Heat!!! ~

IMG_1042You can cook sweet potatoes by all of the same methods you cook a potato:  bake, boil, fry, grill, roast, microwave and even deep-fry.  I am a lover of this extremely healthy superfood, and so is my 87-year-old mother-in-law Ann.  Ann moved to Happy Valley five years ago, and, for the most part, I cook all of her meals.  She has a venturesome appetite for all sorts of great food, and, I love to cook, so, from that standpoint, we get along great.  Enough said.  Like the rest of us, Ann occasionaly gets a craving for something specific.  When she does, she relays the message to me via her son and my husband: Joe. Yesterday was such a day, and, she mentioned to Joe, "I haven't had those sweet potato fries that Mel makes in a while".  She loves these spicy 'fries' and I was happy to make them for her today.   Super-easy, super-delicous, super-food!

6a0120a8551282970b017d3df1a12b970c-800wiA bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large, edible root (which belongs to the morning glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most commercially grown are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh.  Its flavor is not sweet, and after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato.  The darker variety has a thicker, dark orange skin and vivid orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked, it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture.  The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.  The following photo illustrates the vibrant color and soft texture of the inside of this type of  baked, sweet potato:

6a0120a8551282970b013487fcc775970c-320wiAlways choose firm ones with no cracks or bruises.  Because I am usually planning on baking them, I like to choose even-sized ones so they will all cook at the same time. They should not be stored in the refrigerator, but they need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place.  If the temperature goes above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shrivel.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator, last for about a week!

Mel's easy sweet potato fries w/allspice 'n chipotle chili sauce!

IMG_0965 IMG_0974Take a moment to make the chili sauce first.  In a 1-cup measuring container, mix together:

1/2  cup chili sauce

1/2  teaspoon allspice

1/2 teapoon chiplotle chile powder

Set aside until serving time.  Now it's time to move onto the fries, which take about 10 minutes to trim and cut, then, 30 minutes to roast!

IMG_09134  large, even-sized sweet potatoes, about 8-10 ounces each (Note:  The key to the success of this recipe is to not overcrowd the potatoes on the baking pan, meaning:  if you want to double this recipe, use two baking pans.)

2  tablespoons cornstarch

1/2  teaspoon each:  ground allspice and chipotle chile powder

2  tablespoons corn or peanut oil

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_0902~ Step 1.  I like the classic "fry shape":  about 1/2" thick, 3"-long, square-tipped and boxy-looking. Why? Pointy tips burn.  I don't like fries with burnt ends.  Using a sharp knife, trim the left and right ends from each potato, peel and slice ("fry-cut") as directed above.

IMG_0916 IMG_0920 IMG_0925 IMG_0927

 

 

 

~ Step 2.  Place the sweet potatoes in a food storage bag.  Add the cornstarch, allspice and chipotle chile pepper.  Toss to thoroughly and evenly coat the potatoes in the dry mixture.  Add the oil and toss again, until the potatoes look glistening and wet, with no dry, powdery spots.

IMG_0938 IMG_0933~ Step 3. Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with aluminum foil.  

Generously sprinkle the bottom of the pan with a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.

IMG_0951 IMG_0942                                                 ~ Step 4. Add the sliced sweet potatoes to the pan.  Using your fingertips, take a moment or two to make sure they are all positioned in a single layer with none of them touching.  

Sprinkle another light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend evenly over all.

IMG_0976Step 5.  Roast the sweet potatoes on center rack of preheated 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.  

Remove from oven.  Using a large spoon or spatula, a few at time, scoop 'em up and flip 'em over.  

Return to the oven and continue to roast, about 15 more minutes, or until...

IMG_0988... the sweet potato fries are golden brown and caramelized around the edges.

IMG_1082Remove from the oven and serve immediately with the Allspice 'n Chipotle Chili Sauce to the side (for dipping).

Note: Just like any other kind of fries (oven-roasted or deep-fried), it's important to serve these as soon as they come out of the oven! PS:  These fries go great with burgers & the chili sauce is so much better than plain old ketchup!

IMG_1057Spicy, Crispy, Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato 'Fries'w/Allspice 'n Chipotle Chili Sauce... Sweet Heat!!!:  Recipe yields 4 servings of potatoes and 1/2 cup sauce.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; 2-gallon food-storage bag or a large mixing bowl; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; large spoon or spatula

6a0120a8551282970b017d3cf61d77970c-800wiCook's Note:  Instead of my spicy sweet potato fries, ~ Do You Want (Perfect "French") Fries with That? ~.  You can find this very special recipe in Categories 4, 15, 20 or 21!

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

(Recipe, Commentary & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/27/2013

~ Road Trip: Buffalo, NY's One & Only -- Schwabl's! ~

IMG_0882Thanks to two long-standing members of our Penn State tailgate group who hail from Buffalo, NY, I have heard tales about Schwabl's "beef on a weck" for over thirty years. On more than a few occasions, Mary and her husband Joe would serve their homemade version of this revered sandwich at cocktail parties and tailgates.  Thanks to my husband Joe, who made a business trip to Buffalo this past Thursday,  I finally got to sink my teeth into a real-deal, one-and-only, Schwabl's roast beef sandwich on a real-deal, one-and-only, kummelweck roll!

Mini_15611The moment I learned about Joe's impending trip, I said:  you've gotta stop at Schwabl's and bring some of those "weck" sandwiches home. When Joe arrived there, which was a little after 5:00PM, he said it was a like a trip back to a kinder, gentler time. He said the place was welcoming, the atmosphere casual, the people very friendly, and, a bar full of regular customers was willing to chat with him about his very first Schwabl's experience!

Mini_15612Before ordering the sandwiches, Joe explained to Cheryl and Gene Staychock, the owners, where he was from, his Penn State connection, and, that his wife (me) was a food blogger who would be writing a post about the sandwiches.  They were much more than accommodating, and sent him home with a couple of "deconstructed" sandwiches, just so I could take proper photos!

IMG_0869 IMG_0865Schwable's has been a family run business since 1837, which makes it THE, or at least one of, the longest line of restaurant owners and operators in the state of New York, and quite possibly the United States.

Once Joe arrived home (4 hours later), I will tell you:  At first bite, I knew that everything I'd been told about this legendary sandwich was no exaggeration.  Four days later, I want another sandwich, and, more of their German potato salad.  Pricey?  Sort of.  $12.25.  Worth it? OMG yes.

What the heck is "beef on a weck"?

IMG_0880A bit about the beef:  What can I say.  Schwabl's ties two big center-cut top round roasts together, which, makes it efficient to hand-carve.  I fully-expected the meat be cut a bit thinner, sort of like the paper-thin beef found on an Italian beef sangwich.  That being said, the 1/4"-ish sliced, mildly-seasoned, mouth-watering beef, which was stacked to perfection on the roll, to my tooth, was like biting into filet mignon... tender to the hilt with just enough of "pull" to make me a permanent fan. Schwabl's roast their beef daily.  You can order your "weck" two ways:  rare or medium!

IMG_0519A bit about the bun:  A sandwich is only as good as the bread it is served on and the kummelweck roll is the 50% partner in the success of this sandwich. The kummelweck rolls (Kaiser-shaped rolls which are slightly firmer than pillowy Kaiser rolls), are flecked with caraway seeds and coarse salt... just enough that the beef hardly needs to be seasoned because every bite of the sandwich gets a burst of flavor from the bread.  In German, "kummel" is the word for "caraway" and "weck" is the word for "roll". Once the rolls are sliced in half, the open sides get lightly-dipped into the natural beef juices just prior to piling on the warm, decadent roast beef!

Want horseradish with that?  It's on every table, at the bar, and, in your takeout box too!

IMG_0495Move over chicken wing, Schwabl's beef is my Buffalo king!

6a0120a8551282970b016768c0261f970b-320wiSchwabl's

789 Center Road (at Union)

West Seneca, NY  14224

(716) 675-BEEF (2333)

www.schwabl's.com

FIVE STARS AS PER MEL!

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

(Photos & Commentary courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/25/2013

~ E-Z Ginger-Chicken Pizza w/Spicy Peanut Sauce ~

IMG_0825T.G.I.F.  "Oh Baby --  It's Cold Outside"!!!  

IMG_0561In case you haven't heard, here in Central PA, we're in the middle of an Artic-esque freeze.  The snow began to fall about two hours ago, which is great for the skiers up on Tussey Mountain this evening, but for me, "not so much". It's about 5:30PM and this is the view from one of my kitchen windows!

This is one of those "don't go out of the house, build a fire in the fireplace, put a great movie on, mix a drink and flop down on your favorite chair kind-of nights." Because of the weather, Joe decided to come home from the office a bit early (4:00 PM).  On his way here, he stopped at the Weis market to pick up a couple of store-bought items that I am going to use to "throw together" one of our favorite "don't cook tonight" meals -- which is going to be full of Asian flavor and heat!

IMG_9924A few days ago, I posted my recipe for ~ Love Me Tender(s), Peanut-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Coconut-Peanut Sauce ~.  You can find it by clicking into Categories 1, 2, 11, 13 or 19. Because of that recipe, I have leftover, uncooked, chicken tenders, as well as a jar of peanut sauce in my refrigerator.  As for the chicken tenders?  They'll take me less than 10 minutes chop up and stir-fry!

IMG_9804 51ahAHfpozL._AA160_Note:  Peanut sauce takes 5 minutes to make, but, feel free to substitute store-bought peanut sauce if that is easier!

IMG_0137 41US76xlGSL._AA160_Sweet chili sauce is another Asian condiment you'll need for this recipe.  It too takes less than 5 minutes to make and you can find my recipe for  ~ "Would You Like Sweet Chili Sauce With That?" ~ in Categories 8, 13 or 20.  Buy a bottle of that too if it's easier!

Let's Crank Out Some Friday Night, Happy-Hour Pizza!

IMG_0572For the chicken (for 2 pizzas):

1-1 1/4 pounds large, meaty chicken tenderloins, about 6-7

1  tablespoon sesame oil

1  tablespoon Thai seasoning soy sauce

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce

2  tablespoons minced ginger

      IMG_9456~ Step 1: At the wide, meaty end of each tenderloin you will notice a little white nub. This is a harmless tendon.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, clip/remove the visible piece of tough nub. Using a chef's knife chop the chicken into small-ish, bite-sized 1/2"-3/4" pieces. 

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~ Step 2.  In a large nonstick stir-fry pan or skillet, heat the sesame oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and ginger over medium-high heat, until ginger is bubbling.  Add the chopped chicken, cook, stirring constantly, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

IMG_0609Note:  I didn't invent this recipe.  I did improve upon others that are "out there".  Most instruct to use "cooked or leftover chicken".  Cut me a break. This is an Asian pizza and I want my chicken to have Asian flavor. Trust me when I tell you, the 5 minutes it takes to cook the chicken MY WAY is well worth the effort.  I refuse to dumb it down to the point of compromising authentic Asian flavors! 

IMG_0533For the cheese (for 2 pizzas):

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, or regular mozzarella cheese, shredded 

Note:  Every pizza needs cheese, but, when making Asian pizza, it's my opinion it be used for texture, not taste:  it should be mild-flavored. Fresh mozzarella is perfect!

IMG_0545~ Step 1.  Using a hand-held cheese grater, shred the cheese.  

Note:  If you are using fresh mozzarella cheese (which contains a lot of moisture), place it on a paper-towel lined plate and set it aside, to allow the paper towels to absorb excess moisture from the cheese, about 15-30 minutes.

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For the dough and the toppings (for 2 pizzas):

your favorite recipe for homemade pizza dough, enough for 2, 10" pizza crusts, or, 2, 13-ounce containers of store-bought pizza dough (Note:  I consider using store-bought dough a compromise in flavor and texture because:  nothing is better than homemade dough.  Having said that, I also realize that not everyone has the time or inclination to make their own pizza dough, so, to assure you store-bought dough will work in this E-Z TGIF recipe, I am using it today.  If you are using store-bought dough, remove it from the refrigerator about 1 hour prior to using it, so it can come to room temperature, prior to opening it and working it into the pans.)

1 cup peanut sauce (from above)

cooked chicken tenderloins (from above)

1-1 1/2  cups store-bought matchstick carrots

1-1 1/2 cups bean sprouts

1  cup very thinly-sliced green onions, white and light green part only

grated fresh mozzarella cheese (from above)

3/4  cup peanuts

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1  cup sweet chili sauce, for drizzling over individual slices of pizza, about 1 tablespoon per slice (Note:  If it an extra-spicy pizza you're looking for, feel free to substitute, or add, a drizzle of Sriracha 'rooster' sauce to your slice!)

2  tablespoons peanut oil, for preparing pizza pans

IMG_0616~ Step 1.  If you have a pizza stone, place it on the center rack of your oven.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Using a pastry brush, paint the bottom of two pizza pans with peanut oil.  

With whatever kind of pizza dough you have decided upon, using your fingertips, pat and press the dough into the pans to form a standard, 10"-round crust.

IMG_0621 IMG_0624 IMG_0632 IMG_0636Step 2.  Spread 1/2 cup of peanut sauce over each crust.  Evenly distribute all of the chicken over both pizzas, followed by the carrots, bean sprouts and green onions.  Top with the grated mozzarella cheese and peanuts.

IMG_0655~ Step. 3.  One-at-a-time, place each pan of pizza, on the optional pizza stone (or directly on the oven rack), in the oven...

IMG_0674... Bake until the pizza, with the aid of a metal spatula, will easily slide from the pan onto the pizza stone (or directly onto the oven rack), about 5-6 minutes...

Continue to bake until bottom of crust is golden, 3-4 more minutes.

Place a cooling rack in the bottom of the now empty pizza pan.

IMG_0689~ Step 4.  Using the spatula, slide the pizza from the stone (or oven rack) onto the cooling rack in the pizza pan.  Cool for 3-4 minutes.  

To serve, slice each pizza into 6-8 wedges.  

Garnish each slice with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro and a drizzle of sweet chili sauce (&/or Sriracha):

IMG_0838E-Z Ginger-Chicken Pizza w/Spicy Peanut Sauce:  Recipe yields 2, 10" pizzas, 6-8 slices each. 

Special Equipment List: pizza stone (optional); kitchen shears; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" nonstick stir-fry pan or skillet; cheese grater; 2, 10"-round pizza pans; pastry brush; metal spatula; small cooling rack

IMG_0819Cook's Note:  I've posted several recipes for wonderful, easy-to-make pizza dough and pizzas here on Kitchen Encounters:  Chicago-Style, St. Louis-Style, Preschutti-Style, Pioneer Club-Style and even my grandson David's Pita Pizza.   They can all be found by clicking into Categories 2, 5, or 19.  Want to make someone happy?  Make a pizza -- or two!  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/24/2013

~ Feel the Heat: Asian Sriracha Shrimp a la Diavolo ~

IMG_0267"Fra Diavolo" (frah dee-AH-voh-loh) is an Italian term that refers to a very spicy tomato-based sauce that is used to coat pasta and/or shellfish (shrimp, scallops or lobster fra davolo being the most common).  The word "fra" is short for "fratello" and means "brother".  The masculine gender noun "diavolo" means "devil" or "satan".  Full translation:  "brother devil".  There are as many versions of fra diavolo sauce as there are cooks and chefs who have a passion for devilish spice.  But, traditionally, besides tomatoes, pretty much all versions contain cayenne pepper (sometimes chile peppers), garlic, onion, basil and/or oregano and olive oil.  According to Mario Batali, this sauce is actually an Italian-American creation that is rarely served in Italy!

IMG_0303It's no secret that my husband and I adore Asian food and so do a lot of our foodie friends.  Because of what I do, I keep a very well-stocked pantry and refrigerator in general, and, I'm proud to say: all sorts of wonderful Asian ingredients (Chinese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese) occupy a decent-sized "piece of the action".  Meet one of my Asian shelves!  

IMG_0320Joe and I feel the same way about real-deal Southwestern and Mexican food, and, my pantry is well represented by their food too. Meet one my Tex/Mex shelves!

One can't be passioniate about these cuisines and have a fear of spice or spicy food.  I've dedicated a lot of my foodie life to developing recipes so you can eat them too. All of my recipes (to date) are featured in Category 13:  Love for Tex/Mex & Thai/Asian Cuisines!

The leap from Italian to Asian fra diavolo was a short one for me!

I've made spicy shrimp or lobster fra diavolo for my Italian husband more times than I can count (and that recipe will be a future blog post).  He loves it served atop linguini.  My Asian-style shrimp fra diavolo recipe was not inspired by, or even developed because of, Italian diavolo.  I simply came up with a super-easy recipe for sweet and spicy, devilishly-red, fiery-sauced shrimp (which I served atop a pile of steamed Asian jasmine rice) for dinner one night.  Joe took about two bites and said, "this is as hot as the devil."  I replied, "And that's what I'm going to name it!"

IMG_0336For the sauce:

4  tablespoons butter 

3  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

3  tablespoons honey

10  tablespoons Sriracha sauce 

For the shrimp:

2  pounds extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), peeled and deveined, tails left on or off, your choice 

For the rice:

6  cups steamed jasmine rice (3 cups uncooked rice) (1 1/2 cups steamed rice per person)

For the garnish:

1/4-1/2 cup fresh whole cilantro leaves and 8 lime wedges 

IMG_0330 IMG_0323~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the Thai seasoning soy sauce, honey and Sriracha sauce.  Adjust heat to medium, bring to a simmer and continue to cook about 30-60 seconds.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside.  Note:  Sauce can be made several hours in advance of serving.  Gently reheat, stirring occasionally, before using or serving as directed.

IMG_0338 6a0120a8551282970b014e60ec75ce970c-320wi~ Step 2. Using the measuring cup from a rice steamer, place the rice in a colander and rinse the rice under cold running water, moving it around with your fingertips as you rinse.  Set aside, to let it drain a bit, about 5-10 minutes.

~ Step 3.  Transfer the rice to the steamer.  Using the same measure, add the water.  Do not use a standard Pyrex-type 1-cup measure.  Briefly stir, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  While the rice is steaming:

6a0120a8551282970b01761762c846970c-320wi~ Step 4.  Peel the shrimp, leaving the tails on, then devein them.  I ask my fish monger to do this for me!

Note:  All shrimp are sold by weight, so, "16-20 count" means there are 16-20 shrimp in each pound.  This means I am cooking 32-40 shrimp tody, which will be enough for 8-10 shrimp per person!

6a0120a8551282970b0153923421db970b-500wi~ Step 5. Prep the cilantro and one lime, as directed, placing each in small food storage container. Refrigerate until serving time.

IMG_0366 IMG_0357~ Step 6.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add the shrimp.  When the water returns to a boil, adjust heat to simmer for 1 minute.

Note:  Timing is everything.  If you are using smaller shrimp, adjust it (shorten it) accordingly!

IMG_0375 IMG_0367~ Step 7. Immediately drain the shrimp into a colander and return the drained shrimp, without rinsing it, to the still warm chef's pan. Return the chef's pan to the still warm stovetop and add the slightly warm sauce.  Toss to combine and set aside about 5-15 minutes.

To serve, evenly portion a bed of warm rice onto each of four warmed serving dishes.  Top each portion of rice with 8-10 warm shrimp and drizzle any and all remaining warm sauce over all. Garnish with cilantro leaves and a squirt or two of fresh lime juice.  Open a cold beer and eat: 

IMG_0442Feel the Heat:  Asian Sriracha Shrimp a la Diavolo:  Recipe yields 4 servings and 1 1/4 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List: 1 1/2-quart saucepan w/lid; colander; electric rice steamer; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides

6a0120a8551282970b017c316b6e8c970b-320wiCook's Note:  I get asked this often: Why do upscale restaurants and shrimp connoisseurs leave the tails on shrimp?  People often complain that the tails are an annoyance. There are three reasons.  #1.  In the event the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole, it serves as a convenient "handle".  #2.  The last bite of shrimp, which is where the meat meets the tail, is the most succulent tasty bite of shrimp.  #3. This is an indication you are being served the best shrimp in the best way possible.  Restaurant chefs and savvy home cooks always adhere to this practice!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/23/2013

~ "Would You Like Red 'Rooster' Sauce With That?"~

IMG_0416I've been using Sriracha hot chili sauce to cook Asian fare, more specifically Thai food, since 1993.  That is twenty years.  It was introduced to me by a close friend from Thailand, and, without her presence in my foodie world at the time, I am certain it would have been several more years before it would have made its way into my pantry.  During these past twenty years, I have watched Sriracha go from a seldom used, specialized ingredient (which I had to buy in an Asian market), to a readily-available common staple found in every grocery store in Central Pennsylvania. Within the last five years, my family and friends have started requesting Sriracha so much, I now keep it on my refrigerator door along with the ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard!

IMG_0238In fact, we now use enough of Sriracha here in Melanie's Kitchen that I decided to research and experiment with recipes for making it in the home kitchen.  From picking out the perfect peppers (which must be fully-ripe, bright-red, freshly-picked jalapenos) to learning about the week-long fermenting process (necessary to achieve the classic, vinegar-y tang), I intend start making my own Sriracha.  That, however, will obviously have to wait until the Summer, as I have absolutely no access to fresh, bright-red, jalapeno peppers, in January, in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania!

IMG_0250A bit about Sriracha (see-RAH-chuh):  Sri Racha is a seaside port-city in the Chonburi province of Thailand.  Located 65 miles from Bankok, Sri Racha has many large factories that employ its residents, many of whom are from China, Japan and Korea.  Sri Racha is known for its seafood, seafood venders, seafood restaurants, and, hot conconctions (chili pastes) that adorn their dishes.  The most famous:  Nam prik Sriracha.  It is a bright-red paste made from peppers, garlic, vinegar, sugar and salt. Sriracha, with its perfect balance of salty, sour, spicy and sweet flavors is Thailands signature sauce.  Its popularity quickly spread to neighboring countries, like Vietnam, and, that's how it ended up here in America!

The Sriracha known to us Americans is:  Tuong Ot Sriracha, also referred to as 'Rooster' sauce, because of the rooster on the front of the green-capped squeeze bottle.  This version of Sriracha was created by David Tran, who was born in Vietnam and of Chinese ancestry.  In Vietnam, he sold chile peppers to earn a living, followed by chili sauces.  During the Vietnam War he and his family fled their country via a Taiwanese freighter named the "Huy Fong".  They eventually made their way to Boston in the 1970's.  To make a long story short, Huy Fong Foods,  now a California-based company, was born.  As for the proud, in-your-face rooster? He represents the year of Tran's birth on the Chinese zodiac!

Mel Meets The Sriracha Cookbook, by Randy Clemens!

Fifty 'Rooster' Sauce Recipes That Pack A Punch!!!

IMG_0246 IMG_0129Over the past week, I've posted three recipes for Asian chicken tenders, which are perfect for the frigid Winter doldrums here in PA. Along with these recipes, I've been posting their accompanying sauces. If you are a lover of Asian food, you know that having the right condiment or dipping sauce to go with the right dish is very important. As a result, I have three great sauces leftover in my refrigerator, along with a big bottle of Sriracha!

IMG_0254Over the next couple of days, I'm going to be posting a few more Asian recipes, to make use of all of these flavor-packed, leftover condiments.  While ordering a few of the necessary Asian ingredients on Amazon.com, I came across this book and ordered it immediately. Yesterday, within minutes of its arrival, I found several recipes I intend to try, as well as a great recipe for making homemade Sriracha sauce, which will serve as my role model for my own version!

If you are addicted to Sriracha sauce, I highly-suggest you pick up a copy of:  The Sriracha Cookbook!

Dsc_0036-11Cook's Note:  For now, I'll be preparing my next few recipes using store-bought Sriracha, but, join me in the Summer, when my husband Joe's backyard vegetable garden yields the coveted red jalapenos for real-deal Sriracha!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/21/2013

~ "Would You Like Sweet Chili Sauce With That?" ~

IMG_0137If you are a lover of Asian food, you know that having the right condiment or dipping sauce to go with the right dish is very important.  If you are a lover of Asian food, you, like me, probably have a nice collection of Asian sauces in your pantry or refrigerator.  I have at least ten.  That being said, when I'm going to the time and trouble to prep Asian fare, I don't mind taking an extra few minutes to prepare a special condiment or dipping sauce to go with it.  Sweet chili sauce is one of them and it could not be easier to make!

41US76xlGSL._AA160_A bit about Thai Sweet Chili Sauce:  Whenever I introduce someone to this product (and, if you get to know me long enough, you WILL be introduced to it), I refer to it as:  "the ketchup of Thailand").  I got my first taste of Thai sweet chili sauce back in the 1990's.  It rocked my foodie world.  To this day, it is my hands-down all-time favorite condiment.  Give me a nice piece of chicken, some fresh broccoli florets, a cup of jasmine rice and sweet chili sauce, and: 20 minutes later I will present you with a memorable dinner.  There is always a bottle of it in my refrigerator, and, I won't lie, it is often a store-bought bottle (this is one case where store-bought is just that good).  How can I be sure?

6a0120a8551282970b017617268b9e970c-320wiBack in 1993 I had the great pleasure of becoming quick friends with a Home Economist from Thailand.  Kanya Wacharamai was living here in State College with her husband Fu, who was earning an engineering degree from Penn State.  When we two gals introduced my engineer husband Joe to Fu, we four began getting together regularly.  Kanya has since moved back to Thailand, but during those three marvelous years, Kanya not only taught me personally how to cook and serve Thai food:  she taught several very popular Thai cooking classes from her apartment kitchen (all of which I attended).  Thanks to Kanya, Thai cuisine is a big, happy part of my culinary life.  Thanks to Kanya, I also grow my own Thai bird chile pepper plants!

IMG_9929For the sweet chili sauce:

3/4  cup sugar

1/2  cup rice vinegar

1/4  cup water

1  tablespoon pressed garlic, about 3-4 large garlic cloves run through a press

1  tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1  tablespoon cornstarch

1  tablespoon cold water

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce

IMG_9952 IMG_9951                                                ~ Step 1. In a 1-quart saucepan, briefly stir together the sugar, vinegar and water.  Just stir long enough to combine, not to dissolve the sugar (that will come later).  Set aside.

IMG_9940

 

 

~ Step 2.  Run the garlic through a press and set aside.  Measure the crushed red pepper flakes and set aside.  Stir together the cornstarch and water, until smooth.  Set aside.

IMG_9962

 

 

 

 

~ Step 3.  Bring the sugar mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the pressed garlic and crushed red pepper.

IMG_9969Adjust heat (lower it a bit), to a steady simmer and continue to cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.

IMG_9972~ Step 4.  Briefly restir the cornstarch mixture.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer (lower it a bit more) and drizzle the cornstarch "slurry" into the simmering liquid.

IMG_9982Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until nicely thickened, about 30-60 seconds.  Stir in the fish sauce. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, about 15-20 minutes.

IMG_9989~ Step 5.  Place in a food storage container and cool until sauce is at room temperature.  Place in the refrigerator.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.  Today I made 1 cup of sauce, but the recipe doubles or triples with ease if you want to make a bigger batch... which I almost always do!

31lfX8odCJL._AA160_Note:  My sauce is not as red colored as the store-bought kind. That is because store-bought sweet chili sauce is made using pulverized, bright-red, pickled, Thai bird chile peppers.  Some recipes instruct to add Sriracha hot chili sauce (which I like) to the sweet chili sauce recipe, to achieve the red color, but I find that product to vinegar-y in this culinary application.  Stay tuned for my next blog post when: I'll explore the world of Sriracha hot sauce!

"Would You Like Sweet Chili Sauce With That?":  Recipe yields 1 cup of sauce.

Special Equipment List:  garlic press; 1-quart saucepan; food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_0116Cook's Note:  Want a great dish to serve this amazing sauce with?  It's pictured here today served drizzed over the top of my recipe for ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Coconut-Crusted Chicken Tenders ~.  It can be found by clicking in Categories 1, 2, 11, 13 or 19!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/19/2013

~ "Would You Like Spicy Peanut Sauce With That?"~

IMG_9881If you are a lover of Asian food, you know that having the right condiment or dipping sauce to go with the right dish is very important.  If you are a lover of Asian food, you, like me, probably have a nice collection of Asian sauces in your pantry or refrigerator.  I have at least ten.  That being said, when I'm going to the time and trouble to prep Asian fare, I don't mind taking an extra few minutes to prepare a special condiment or dipping sauce to go with it.  Peanut sauce is one of them and it could not be easier to make!

51ahAHfpozL._AA160_A bit about peanut sauce:  This sauce is widely used in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa.  The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar.  Pulverized spices (red chile peppers, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and /or lemongrass, are almost always added.  You can easily purchase your favorite brand, but, when you see how easy this is to make, I don't know why you would.  My recipe, which came from my Thai girlfriend Kanya, contains one small can of Thai-style red curry paste, which provides all of the above named pulverized spices.

IMG_9773For the peanut sauce:

2  tablespoons sesame oil

1  4-ounce can Thai-style red curry paste

1  13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (briefly stirred after opening the can)

6  tablespoons chunky-style peanut butter

2  tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar or brown sugar

IMG_9781 IMG_9777                                      ~ Step 1. Place the sesame oil and the red curry paste in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  

Continue to cook gently, stirring almost constantly, until the curry paste is bubbling rapidly and is very fragrant, about 30 seconds.

IMG_9787 IMG_9783                                            ~ Step 2. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter and sugar. Continue to simmer steadily, stirring almost constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes... 

 

 

IMG_9790... Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes.  Serve slightly warm, or:

~ Step 3.  Place in a food storage container (or two) and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature.  

Cover tightly and store indefinitely in the refrigerator.  

Reheat gently in the microwave, stirring occasionally, just prior to serving.

IMG_9804"Would You Like Spicy Peanut Sauce With That?":  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart saucepan; food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon

IMG_9924Cook's Note:  My peanut sauce is pictured here served with my recipe for ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Peanut-Crusted Chicken Tenders ~.  It can be found by clicking into Categories 1, 2, 11, 13 or 19!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/17/2013

~ Love Me Tender(s): Chicken Tenders -- in Review ~

IMG_0132I rarely write a retrospective blog post, but in the case of the three Asian-Style chicken tender recipes I posted this past week, along with the three marvelous dipping sauce recipes that were generated from them, I am proudly making an exception.  If you are a lover of real-deal chicken tenders (Is there anyone who doesn't love chicken tenders?), this week in Melanie's Kitchen and on Kitchen Encounters have been a lot of crunch-a-licious fun!  Just ask Joe!!!

Here's a quick recap of my 'Love me Tender' recipes:

IMG_9493January 9th:  While Joe and I were sitting in a pub snacking on a basket of chicken tenders and fries, I had the idea that it would be fun to post a few of my 'tender' recipes on KE.  It took two beers to decide on 3 recipes and all were Asian-style, plus, I decided on a dipping sauce for each one too.  In short, all of the recipes and the sauces could be used interchangeably or served together at one awesome party!

IMG_9437Next, we drove across the street and picked up a 6-pound package of chicken tenderloins ($12.00), which would be enough to prepare all three recipes.  Because only real-deal chicken tenderloins will do:  I suggest you read ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Is there a diffence between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender?  Yes! ~, which you can do by clicking on the link below!

IMG_9757January 11th:  ~ Love Me Tenders(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #1:  Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Gingery-y 'Duck' Sauce ~, started our party!

6a0120a8551282970b0154383e5645970c-320wi"Panko" is Japanese for bread crumbs. They give new meaning to the word crunchy, and, they absorb less fat and more flavor than ordinary bread crumbs!

IMG_9924January 13th:  ~ Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #2, Peanut-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Coconut-Peanut Sauce ~!

51zS3MyaKdL._AA160_In this recipe, Mr. Peanut joins the party and takes center stage.  The only thing more crunch-a-licious than a panko crusted chicken tender is panko & peanut crusted chicken tender!

IMG_0116January 15th:  Last, but not least, it doesn't get any more Asian than ~ Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #3:  Crunchy Coconut-Chicken Tenders w/Sweet Red Chili Sauce ~!  

51HDG9XKgML._AA160_Talk about a crunch-a-licious threesome. The only thing that competes with panko and peanuts for a crispy 'tender' coating is golden brown, fried coconut!

SWEET HEAT!!!  

What tender with what sauce will become your favorite???

IMG_0130"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/15/2013

~ Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #3: Crispy Coconut-Chicken Tenders w/Sweet Red Chili Sauce~

IMG_0095Well, here it is folks, the last post of "Love Me Tenders(s) Week" on Kitchen Encounters.  Elvis would be proud.  It started last Wednesday, when Joe and I found ourselves snacking on a basket of chicken tenders and fries at a local pub.  We jointly decided it would be fun to post a few of our family's favorite chicken tender recipes on Kitchen Encounters, and, by the time we were on our second beer, the recipes and the accompanying sauces were all decided upon.  I have at least eight or nine recipes in my repertoire, everything from Buffalo- to Honolulu-style, but, we decided on Asian-style:  three Asian-style chicken tender recipes with three Asian-style sauces that could all be used interchangeably and/or served all together at one party!    

IMG_9428After we left the pub, we drove across the street and picked up a 6-pound package of "real-deal" chicken tenders ($12.00), enough to make all three recipes (24-28 large tenders). FYI:  Chicken tenderloins are the tenderest portion of the chicken breast, and there is only one tenderloin per breast half. Nowadays, they are readily IMG_9595available, fresh not frozen, at large markets and grocery stores!

Before grocery shopping or starting to cook any of these three recipes, I suggest you click into Categories 16 or 25 to read:  ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender?  Yes! ~.  This part of the chicken is my favorite and is well worth the few extra pennies it might cost!

SWEET HEAT!!!  Want some sweet red chili sauce with that?

41US76xlGSL._AA160_A bit about Thai sweet chili sauce:  Whenever I introduce someone to this product (and, if you get to know me long enough, you WILL be introduced to it), I refer to it as:  "the ketchup of Thailand".  I got my first taste of Thai sweet chili sauce back in the 1990's.  It rocked my foodie world.  To this day, it is my hands-down all-time favorite condiment.  Give me a nice piece of chicken, some fresh broccoli florets, a cup of jasmine rice and sweet chili sauce, and: 20 minutes later I will present you with a memorable dinner. There is always a bottle of it in my refrigerator, and, I won't lie, it is often a store-bought bottle (this is one case where store-bought is just that good).  How can I be sure?

6a0120a8551282970b017617268b9e970c-320wiBack in 1993 I had the great pleasure of becoming quick friends with a Home Economist from Thailand.  Kanya Wacharamai was living here in State College with her husband Fu, who was earning an engineering degree from Penn State.  When we two gals introduced my engineer husband Joe to Fu, we four began getting together regularly.  Kanya has since moved back to Thailand, but during those three marvelous years, Kanya not only taught me personally how to cook and serve Thai food:  she taught several very popular Thai cooking classes from her apartment kitchen (all of which I attended).  Thanks to Kanya, Thai cuisine is a big, happy part of my culinary life.  Thanks to Kanya, I also grow my own Thai bird chile pepper plants!

IMG_9929For the sweet chili sauce:

3/4  cup sugar

1/2  cup rice vinegar

1/4  cup water

1  tablespoon pressed garlic, about 3-4  large garlic cloves run through a press

1  tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1  tablespoon cornstarch

1  tablespoon cold water

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce 

IMG_9952 IMG_9951                                                ~ Step 1. In a 1-quart saucepan, briefly stir together the sugar, vinegar and water.  Just stir long enough to combine, not to dissolve the sugar (that will come later).  Set aside.

IMG_9940

 

 

~ Step 2.  Run the garlic through a press and set aside.  Measure the crushed red pepper flakes and set aside.  Stir together the cornstarch and water, until smooth.  Set aside.

IMG_9962

 

 

 

 

~ Step 3.  Bring the sugar mixture to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring almost constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the pressed garlic and crushed red pepper.  

IMG_9969Adjust heat (lower it a bit), to a steady simmer and continue to cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.

IMG_9972~ Step 4.  Briefly restir the cornstarch mixture.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer (lower it a bit more) and drizzle the cornstarch "slurry" into the simmering liquid.  

IMG_9982Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until nicely thickened, about 30-60 seconds.  Stir in the fish sauce. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, about 15-20 minutes.

IMG_9989 31lfX8odCJL._AA160_~ Step 5.  Place in a food-storage container and cool until sauce is at room temperature.  Place in the refrigerator. Serve chilled or at room temperature.  Recipe yields 1 cup of sauce.  Recipe also doubles or triples with ease if you want to make a bigger batch... which I almost always do!

Note:  My sauce is not as red colored as the store-bought kind.  That is because store-bought sweet chili sauce is made using pulverized, bright-red, pickled, Thai bird chile peppers.  Some versions instruct to add Sriracha hot chili sauce, to achieve the red color, but I find that product too vinegar-y for my taste!

Songs will be written about this coconut-crusted chicken!

IMG_9995For the chicken:

1 1/2 pounds, large, meaty chicken tenderloins, about 8-9

1  cup all-purpose flour

4  large eggs, at room temperature + enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid

2  tablespoons Thai soy sauce

4  cups sweetened, flaked coconut

peanut or corn oil, for frying

IMG_0001~ Step 1.  Organize what I like to refer to as "a breading assembly line (from left to right):  1)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  2) An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 4 large eggs that have been whisked together with enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid + 2 tablespoons soy sauce.  3)  A 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish containing 2 cups of coconut (reserve the remaining 2 cups).

IMG_9456~ Step 2.  At the wide, meaty end of each tenderloin you will notice a little white nub.  This is a harmless tendon, and, you don't need to worry about removing it entirely because the part of the tendon inside of the tenderloin is paper-thin and unnoticeable after cooking.  In fact, if you try to remove it all, it is likely the tender will fall apart. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the visible piece of the tough nub.

IMG_9623 IMG_9619~ Step 3. One-at-a-time, dredge each chicken tender in the flour to coat it on all sides, placing them all back in the dish of flour as you work.  When all of the chicken pieces are coated in flour...

IMG_9630

 

 

 

IMG_9628~ Step 4. One-at-a-time give each chicken tender a shake, to remove any excess flour, and place it in the egg-soy mixture.  Using your fingertips, flip it over once or twice, to evenly coat it in the wet mixture.

Lift it out of the liquid and give it a shake, to allow any excess liquid to drizzle back into the dish...

IMG_0017 IMG_0006~ Step 5. Place it in the dish of coconut. Continue until all tenders are in the dish of coconut.  When all tenders are in, add the remaining coconut.  Using your fingertips, toss to coat each tender in coconut.  

IMG_9656~ Step 6.  In an electric skillet, heat about 1/4" of peanut oil to 335-340 degrees.  While the oil is heating, place a large cooling rack over a layer of paper towels.

Note:  An electric skillet works great for frying chicken tenders because it controls the heat precisely.  If you do not have one, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

IMG_0047 IMG_0024~ Step 7. Carefully, place the tenders in the skillet of hot oil and fry, until golden brown, about 3 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once.  

This timing will vary.  If using smaller tenders, they can be done in as little as 2 1/2 minutes per side.

IMG_0050~ Step 8.  Using a pair of tongs, remove from skillet, place on a cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature with chilled or room temperature sweet chili sauce for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_0116Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #3:  Crispy Coconut-Chicken Tenders w/Sweet Red Chili Sauce:  Recipe yields 8 hearty appetizers or snacks and 1 cup of sauce.

Special Equipment List:  garlic press; 1-quart saucepan; 1 1/2-2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; 1-cup measuring container; fork; kitchen shears; electric skillet or 12"-14" skillet placed on stovetop; large cooling rack; paper towels; tongs

6a0120a8551282970b014e5f5853d5970c-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my yummy appetizers that uses this flavor-packed sweet red chili sauce, my recipe for ~ Crunchy Thai-Style Deep-Fried Coconut Shrimp ~ is in Categories 1, 11, 13 or 14! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/13/2013

~Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #2: Peanut-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Coconut-Peanut Sauce ~

IMG_9893On Monday I told you I was dedicating this entire week on Kitchen Encounters to kitchen relaxation, meaning:  easy, fun, full-of-flavor "no brainer" meals that both kids and adults crave. While snacking on a plate of chicken tenders at a local pub with my husband Joe on Wednesday, the idea occurred to me (us) to dedicate my next few posts to our family's favorite chicken tender recipes, and, some dipping sauces too.  We decided on Joe's three favorite recipes, and, they just happen to all be Asian (perfect to serve all at once at a party). While Elvis "left the building" years ago, today's recipe for panko and peanut-crusted chicken tenders with spicy Thai peanut sauce has been known to conjure up a few Elvis sightings here in my kitchen!

IMG_9730On Friday I started off this series of posts by making ~ Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #1: Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Chinese 'Duck' Sauce ~.  You can find it by clicking into Categories 1, 2, 11, 13 or 19!

"Panko" is the Japanese word for "bread crumbs" and theirs are considerably crunchier than our Western-style breadcrumbs.  They also absorb less grease, more flavor, and, stay crispier longer!

IMG_9428Chicken tenderloins are the tenderest portion of the chicken breast, and, there is only 1 tenderloin per breast half. Nowadays, they are readily available, fresh not frozen, at large markets and grocery stores.  This is a 6-pound package, which contains about 24-28 tenderloins... enough to make all three of my recipes! 

IMG_9595Before doing your grocery shopping or starting to cook any of these three recipes, I suggest you click into Categories 16 or 25 to read:  ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender?  Yes! ~.  This super-tender, easy to work with part of the chicken is indeed worth the few extra pennies it will cost!

Want some spicy, creamy, coconut-y-rich, peanut sauce?  

51ahAHfpozL._AA160_A bit about peanut sauce:  This sauce is widely used in the cuisines of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Africa.  The main ingredients are roasted peanuts or peanut butter (crunchy or smooth), coconut milk, soy sauce and palm sugar.  Pulverized spices (red chile peppers, coriander, cumin, garlic, galangal and/or lemongrass), are almost always added.  You can easily purchase your favorite brand, but, when you see how easy it is to make, I don't know why you would.  My recipe, which came from my Thai girlfriend Kanya, contains one small can of Thai-style red curry paste, which provides all of the above named pulverized spices!

IMG_9773For the peanut sauce:

2  tablespoons sesame oil

1  4-ounce can Thai-style red curry paste

1  13 1/2-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (briefly stir after opening the can)

6  tablespoons chunky-style peanut butter

2  tablespoons firmly-packed palm sugar or brown sugar

IMG_9781 IMG_9777                                      ~ Step 1. Place the sesame oil and the red curry paste in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Continue to cook gently, stirring almost constantly, until the curry paste is bubbling rapidly and is very fragrant, about 30 seconds.  

IMG_9787 IMG_9783                                         ~ Step 2. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter and sugar. Continue to simmer steadily, stirring almost constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 3 minutes.  

Remove from heat, cover, and set aside, to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes.  Serve slightly warm, or:

IMG_9804~ Step 3.  Place in a food storage container (or two) and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature.  Cover tightly and store indefinitely in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave, stirring occasionally, just prior to serving.

Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

Bring on the panko & peanut crusted chicken tenders ASAP!

IMG_9813For the chicken tenders:

1 1/2  pounds, large, meaty chicken tenderloins, about 8-9 

1  cup all-purpose flour

4  large eggs, at room temperature + enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid

2  tablespoons Thai soy sauce

2  cups panko bread crumbs

2  cups salted peanuts, crushed 

peanut or corn oil for frying

IMG_9607~ Step 1.  Organize what I like to refer to as "a breading assembly line (from left to right):  1)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  2)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 4 large eggs that have been whisked together with enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid + 2  tablespoons soy sauce.  3)  A 13" x 9" x 2 " baking dish containing 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs + 2  cups of crushed peanuts (processed as directed below).

IMG_9456~ Step 2.  At the wide, meaty end of each tenderloin you will notice a little white nub.  This is a harmless tendon, and, you don't need to worry about removing it entirely because the part of the tendon inside of the tenderloin is paper-thin and unnoticeable after cooking.  In fact, if you try to remove it all, it is likely the tender will fall apart. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the visible piece of tough nub.

IMG_9825 IMG_9818~ Step 3. Place the peanuts in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Using a series of about 30 rapid on-off pulses, process the peanuts to crumbs.

Transfer the peanut crumbs to the baking dish containing the panko bread crumbs, and, using your fingertips, stir the two together until thoroughly combined.

IMG_9623 IMG_9619~ Step 4. One-at-a-time, dredge each chicken tender in the flour to coat it on all sides, placing them all back in the dish of flour as you work.  When all of the chicken pieces are coated in flour...

IMG_9630

 

 

 

IMG_9628~ Step 5. One-at-a-time give each chicken tender a shake, to remove any excess flour, and place it in the egg-soy mixture. Using your fingertips, flip it over once or twice, to evenly coat it in the wet mixture.

Lift it out of the liquid and give it a shake, to allow any excess liquid to drizzle back into the dish...

IMG_9837 IMG_9829Place it in the dish of panko and peanuts. Continue until all tenders are in the baking dish.  When all of the tenders are in, using your fingertips, gently toss and turn them, to thoroughly coat each tender in the crumbs.  Set aside about 5 minutes.

IMG_9656~ Step 6.  In an electric skillet, heat about 1/4" of peanut oil to 350 degrees.  While the oil is heating, place a large cooling rack over a layer of paper towels.

Note:  An electric skillet works great for frying chicken tenders because it controls the heat precisely.  If you do not have one, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. 

IMG_9854 IMG_9842~ Step 7. Carefully place the tenders in the skillet of hot oil and fry, until golden brown, about 3 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once.  This timing will vary.  If you are using smaller tenders, they can be done in as little as 2 1/2 minutes per side.

IMG_9867~ Step 8.  Using a pair of tongs, remove from skillet, place on a cooling rack and immediately lightly sprinkle with salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature with peanut sauce for dipping or drizzling:

 

IMG_9924Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #2:  Peanut-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Coconut-Peanut Sauce:  Recipe yields 8 hearty appetizers or snacks and 2 1/2  cups of sauce.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 1-quart saucepan; food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; 1-cup measuring container; fork; kitchen shears; electric skillet or 12"-14" skillet placed on stovetop; large cooling rack; paper towels; tongs

6a0120a8551282970b016769318118970b-800wiCook's Note:  If you love Thai food, Thai curry and peanuts, I suggest you check out my recipe for ~ Thai Red Pork Curry w/Steamed Jasmine Rice ~ in Categories 3, or 13!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/11/2013

~ Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #1: Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Ginger-y 'Duck' Sauce ~

IMG_9727T.G.I.F!  On Wednesday, I found myself snacking on a plate of chicken tenders in a local pub with my husband.  It was the first real break he and I have had to relax since "the holidays left the building".  As I've mentioned before, I love it when I get an inspiration for a blog post from a reader or a spur-of-the-moment real-life event.  While washing my crunchy chicken tenders down with an ice-cold beer, I mentioned to Joe that it would be fun to dedicate a few days on Kitchen Encounters to chicken tender recipes.  After all, everyone loves chicken tenders!

IMG_9735As my No.1 taste-tester, Joe was all for this idea, but he commented that "his guess was" the recipe-world is saturated with all sorts of recipes for Buffalo tenders, BBQ tenders, Tex-Mex tenders, and, his least favorite: "the Italian Parmesan-crusted kind with Marinara sauce" (he much prefers real-deal chicken parmesan to this type of tender).  I agreed.  So, over a second beer, we disussed what kind of chicken tender recipes I should post.  The unanimous winner:  Asian style!  

IMG_9428We decided that I would spend the weekend posting three recipes for Asian-style chicken tenders along with three Asian dipping sauces!

What's more, I wanted three chicken tender recipes, and three sauce recipes, that could be used interchangeably, and, could be served all together at an Asian-themed cocktail party!

IMG_9595Before doing your grocery shopping or starting to cook any of my next three recipes, I suggest you click into Categories 16 or 25 to read: ~ Love Me Tender(s):  Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender?  Yes! ~.  This super-tender, easy to work with part of the chicken is indeed worth the few extra pennies it will cost! 

Would you like some fruity, ginger-y 'duck' sauce with that?  

6a0120a8551282970b0176169aec86970c-320wiA bit about "duck" sauce:  All of us are familiar with those packets of an orange, sticky and sweet condiment that come with Chinese takeout.  Real "duck" sauce is actually made using fresh plums, apricots or peaches, some rice vinegar, ginger, sugar and spices.  In reality, "duck" sauce isn't duck sauce at all.  It is plum sauce.  When Chinese food was being Westernized, plum sauce was served as a condiment for Peking duck (instead of the traditional hoisin sauce) and it quickly picked up the nickname "duck" sauce!

IMG_9566Wait until you see how easy this is!

For the "duck" sauce:

1/2  cup apricot preserves

1/2  cup mango & ginger chutney*

1/4  cup water

* Mango & ginger chutney contains many of the same ingredients in "duck" sauce.  It is a fabulous, flavor-packed time-saving "secret" to a quick Asian "duck" sauce!

IMG_9571 IMG_9568~ Step 1. Place the preserves, chutney and water in a small 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Continue to simmer gently for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  

Remove from heat, cover and set aside to cool slightly, about 15-20 minutes.

IMG_9575 

~ Step 2.  Transfer mixture to a blender or a small food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth, about 30-45 seconds.  Serve slightly warm, or:

IMG_9581~ Step 3. Place in a food storage container and cool, uncovered, until sauce is at room temperature. Tightly cover and store indefinitely in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in the microwave just prior to serving.

Recipe yields 1 1/4 cups of sauce.

PLEASE pass the crunchy panko-crusted tenders!

IMG_9590For the chicken tenders:

1 1/2 pounds, large, meaty chicken tenderloins, about 8-9

1  cup all-purpose flour

4  large eggs, at room temperature + enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid 

2  tablespoons Thai soy sauce

4  cups panko breadcrumbs*

peanut or corn oil for frying

freshly ground sea salt

6a0120a8551282970b0154383e5645970c-320wi* "Panko" is the Japanese word for "bread crumbs" and theirs are considerably crispier and crunchier than our Western-style dried breadcrumbs.  What's more, they absorb less grease, more flavor and stay crispy a lot longer.  Nowadays, panko is  readily available in all grocery stores, and, an 8-ounce box or bag will contain the 4 cups necessary for this recipe.  What's not to love about that!

IMG_9607~ Step 1.  Organize what I like to refer to as "a breading assembly line" (from left to right):  1) An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  2)  An 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish containing 4 large eggs that have been whisked together with enough of water to total 1 cup of liquid + 2 tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce.  3)  A 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish containing 2 cups of the panko breadcrumbs (reserve the remaining 2 cups).

IMG_9456~ Step 2.  At the wide, meaty end of each tenderloin you will notice a little white nub.  This is a harmless tendon, and, you don't need to worry about removing it entirely because the part of the tendon inside of the the tenderloin is paper-thin and unnoticeable after cooking.  In fact, if you try to remove it all, it is likely the tender will fall apart. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the visible piece of tough nub. 

IMG_9623 IMG_9619~ Step 3. One-at-a-time, dredge each chicken tender in the flour to coat it on all sides,  placing them all back in the dish of flour as you work.  When all of the chicken pieces are coated in flour...

IMG_9630 IMG_9628

 

 

 

~ Step 4. One-at-a-time give each chicken tender a shake, to remove any excess flour, and place it in the egg-soy mixture. Using your fingertips, flip it over once or twice, to evenly coat it in the wet mixture.

Lift it out of the liquid and give it a shake, to allow any excess liquid to drizzle back into the dish...

IMG_9643 IMG_9635~ Step 5. ... Place it in the baking dish of panko. Continue until all tenders are in the baking dish with the panko. When all of the tenders are in, add the remaining two cups of panko. Using your fingertips, toss to thoroughly coat each tender in panko.  Set aside about 5 minutes.

IMG_9656~ Step 6.  In an electric skillet, heat about 1/4" of peanut oil to 350 degrees.  While the oil is heating, place a large cooling rack over a layer of paper towels.

Note:  An electric skillet works great for frying chicken tenders because it controls the heat precisely.  If you do not have one, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high.

IMG_9680 IMG_9665~ Step 7. Carefully place the tenders in the skillet of hot oil and fry, until golden brown, about 3 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once.  This timing will vary.  If you are using smaller tenders, they can be done in as little as 2 1/2 minutes per side.  

IMG_9690~ Step 8.  Using a pair of tongs, remove from skillet, place on a cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with salt.  Serve warm or at room temperature with duck sauce for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_9757Love Me Tender(s), Asian-Style, Recipe #1:  Panko-Crusted Chicken Tenders w/Ginger-y 'Duck' Sauce:  Recipe yields 8 hearty appetizers or snacks and 1 1/4 cups sauce.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart saucepan; blender or small food processor; 1 1/2-2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; 1-cup measuring container; fork; kitchen shears; electric skillet or 12"-14" skillet placed on stovetop; large cooling rack; paper towels; tongs

6a0120a8551282970b017743813563970d-320wiCook's Note:  To try another one of my yummy appetizers that uses this flavor-packed recipe for Chinese duck sauce, you can find my recipe for ~ TGIF:  Mel's Make-Ahead Asian Cocktail Meatballs ~ in Categories 1, 13, 20 or 22!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

 

01/09/2013

~ Love Me Tender(s): Is there a difference between a boneless chicken finger and a chicken tender? Yes! ~

IMG_9493Everyone knows what a beef, lamb, veal or pork tenderloin is, so, I just assumed everyone knew what a chicken tenderloin is too.  I was wrong.  On our way back from from running errands yesterday, Joe and I stopped by our local Home Delivery Pizza Pub for a quick mid-afternoon snack (and a beer).  Joe ordered a plate of their classic Buffalo Wings.  I was torn between the Cheddar & Potato Pierogies and the Chicken Tenders with Honey-Mustard Sauce (served with fries).  Before ordering, I asked the bartender, "are the tenders made with the actual tenderloins or sliced boneless chicken breasts"?  The bartender gave me polite "I don't know" look, and said, "I'll go check".  Fair enough.   A moment or two later, a nice fellow emerged (I think from the kitchen) to assure me the chicken tenders were indeed tenderloins, not chicken breast strips. Without hesitation, I ordered them.  The crispy tenders were finished off with coarse salt and the tangy dressing had just a hint of cayenne.  My snack (pictured above) was finger-lickin' good!

Everyone knows chickens do not have fingers!

IMG_9428You see, I adore "real-deal" chicken tenderloins, which is why I asked the question.  Furthermore, it's a valid question, since the terms "chicken fingers", "chicken tenders", "chicken strips", "tender strips" and "chicken fillets" are used interchangeably (because all refer to strips of chicken that do not include any bones or skin).  I'd like to rephrase that to say, "strips of real, not processed, strips of chicken that do not not include any bones or skin", but I'm sorry to report, this is not always the case.  Surprisingly, the food police (USDA) don't seem to have an ax to grind over this, nor do they offer a clear-cut definition of what constitutes a "chicken finger". Why not?  All of the above (all commercially-generated and carefully-marketed names for chicken breast) contain about the same weight, calorie content and nutritional value.  Fair enough, except, everyone knows chickens have many parts, none of which are fingers!

Is there any interesting food history behind the chicken finger?

IMG_9426Not that I know of.  To the best of my recollection, I never encountered them prior to the 1990's.  You see, we were all told, by the forces-to-be at the time, to cut back on eggs and red meat.  Two of my favorite foods. The boneless, skinless chicken breast revolution had begun.  It worked for a while. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts began replacing fat, juicy steaks on dinner plates in homes and restaurant dining rooms everywhere.  I refer to this as America's "rubber-chicken dinner" period. What occurred next, I believe happened because, back then, all of us rubber-chicken-hating Americans had all grown up eating real-deal moist, juicy, roasted or fried chicken with crispy, edible skin.  We disliked the new genre.  It didn't take long for us to do what we do best.  We invented ways to make this flat, boring, basically tasteless piece of poultry palatable again.  The batter-dipped, breaded and fried, daintily-portioned but calorie-laden, chicken strip was born!

A true chicken tender is the "real deal" tenderloin!

IMG_9451 IMG_9445If you have ever skinned and boned a split chicken breast, you can't help but notice that it is comprised of two pieces (both of which are muscles):  a large, flat, elongated, but triangular-ish-shaped piece, and, a long, slender, narrow, piece (located underneath the large, flat piece), comparable in shape to a finger.  Because this narrow muscle is the closest of the two in location to the spine, it is not as exercised as the large piece, which makes it an exceptionally tender piece of poultry. This my friends, is the tenderloin.  All others are the result of cutting the flat breast into 4-5 strips!

IMG_9453At the wide, meaty end of each tenderloin you will notice a little white nub.  This is a harmless tendon, and you don't need to worry about removing it entirely, because the part of the tendon inside of the tenderloin is paper-thin and unnoticeable after cooking.  In fact, if you try to remove it all, it is likely the tenderloin will fall apart.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, simply clip, remove, and discard the visible piece of tough nub.  Once this is done, the tenders are ready to cook!

Please join me over the next few days, as I share three of my favorite recipes for "real-deal" chicken tenderloins, as well as, three of my accompanying sauce recipes too.  Cluck, cluck!!!

IMG_9437"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen, Copyright 2013) 

01/07/2013

~ Waldorf-Style Apple, Raisin, Walnut & Rice Salad ~

IMG_9392Like many of you foodie friends, now that the "holidays have left the building", I need a few days of kitchen relaxation.  I don't mean entirely no cooking, I mean:  over the next few days, I just want to cook a couple of easy, full-of-flavor "no brainer" meals.  If they happen to be a little lighter on fat and calories, that would be good too... as long as they are full of flavor.  This versatile side-dish salad is not only light, fresh and flavorful, it's easy to make and will be great to serve alongside one or two meals this week.  What's more, if I stir in some cooked and cubed chicken in a day or two, it'll transform into a great lunch too.  What's not to like about that!  

WaldorfA bit about Waldorf salad:  The Waldorf salad is an American classic.  It was first created in the late 1800's (sometime between 1893 and 1896) at the Waldorf hotel in New York (later to become the legendary Waldorf-Astoria when the Waldorf merged with the adjacent Astoria Hotel, which opened in 1897).  All sources credit Oscar Tschirky, the maitre d'hotel of the Waldorf for creating this recipe, along with several other of their signature dishes.  To this day it remains their most requested menu item. The original salad contained only apples, celery and mayonnaise served atop a bed of lettuce.  Walnuts were added soon after, and, walnuts are now considered a part of the traditional recipe, with grapes or raisins being a common addition.  Waldorf salad is served as an appetizer, unless cooked chicken is added to it, then, it is served as a light meal!

IMG_9369Nowadays, even at the Waldorf-Astoria, they serve elaborately presented variations of this salad, some of which contain heirloom apples, celery root, yogurt, candied walnuts and microgreens. I'm sticking to the traditional ingredients today, but, I did relax and have fun placing the finished salad in a ring mold to make it look fancy.  Who wouldn't enjoy sitting down to this!

I took the liberty of choosing low-fat, Greek-style vanilla yogurt as my muse (in place of a lot of the mayonnaise).  And, by adding nutty basmati rice to it, it's ready-to-serve as a side-dish, or, a light vegetarian meal.  This fun-to-eat salad is wide-open to interpretation and creativity!

IMG_9321

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the salad:

6 cups cooked, fluffed and cooled basmai rice (3 cups uncooked rice) 

1  cup diced walnuts, lightly-toasted and cooled

3-4  cups unpeeled and diced red-delicious apples, about 2-3 large apples 

1/4  cup apple juice

1  cup diced celery

1/2  cup golden raisins

1 cup Greek-style vanilla-flavored yogurt

1  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper 

1- 1 1/2  cups chilled mayonnaise, more or less, to taste

For the optional accompaniments and garnishes: 

additional toasted walnuts, for garnish 

apple slices and whole grapes, for accompaniment 

6a0120a8551282970b0176168db7d9970c-320wi~ Step 1.  In an electric rice steamer, using the cup/measure from the rice steamer, place 3 cups of uncooked basmati rice in the steamer.  Using the same cup/measure, add an equal amount of water, or a 1-to-1 ratio of rice-to-water, or, 3 cupfuls of water.  

Briefly stir the rice, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  Do not uncover or stir during the steaming process.

IMG_9312When the steamer signals that the rice is done, open the lid.  Using a fork, rake through the rice, to loosen/fluff the grains. Transfer rice to a bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap (do not form an airtight seal).  Set the rice aside to cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, and, up to 6 hours in advance of using in the salad.

Note:  Do not be inclined to steam your rice the night before and refrigerate it, or, use rice that has been previously refrigerated.  Why? Only freshly-steamed, fluffy, soft, room temperature rice can and will absorb all of the flavors, from all of the ingredients, in this salad.  

IMG_9309~ Step 2.  Place 1-cup of diced walnuts in a small, shallow baking dish.  Roast on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven (or toaster oven), until lightly-toasted and fragrant, about 12-15 minutes, stopping to toss with a spoon about every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

IMG_9326Step 3.  Dice apples as directed, placing them in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Add the apple juice.  Close the bag and toss to evenly coat the apples.  Set aside for about 15-30 minutes, retossing the apples about every 5 minutes. This will prevent discolorization.

IMG_9338 IMG_9332~ Step 4. Place the rice in a large mixing bowl.  Add the apples and any apple juice left in the food storage bag.  Using a large rubber spatula, toss to combine.  Add the celery, walnuts and raisins.

Using the spatula, toss to thoroughly combine.

IMG_9345 IMG_9342~ Step 5.  In a 2-cup measuring container, stir together the yogurt, sugar, cinnaman, salt and white pepper. Fold the yogurt mixture into the salad mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside 1-2 hours. Do not add any of the mayonnaise just yet.

IMG_9356~ Step 6.  After the salad has rested for a an hour or two, uncover it, briefly restir and taste. Now it is time to stir in the mayonnaise, until the desired flavor and creamy texture is reached.  I add about 1 cup.

Note:  If the tangy mayonnaise had been added earlier in the recipe (before the flavors had time to marry), it would be too hard to determine how much is just enough, or, too much, which could overwhelm the salad.

Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours, or until chilled, prior to serving.  Portion, garnish, serve and eat:

IMG_9406Waldorf-Style Apple, Raisin, Walnut & Rice Salad:  Recipe yields 12 cups or 8, 1 1/2 cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  electric rice steamer; fork; large spoon; plastic wrap; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; large rubber spatula; 

6a0120a8551282970b0168e94ef875970c-800wiCook's Note:  When Joe and I sit down tonight to watch the last college football game of the season, we'll be eating this salad next to ~ My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts ~.  That recipe is in Categories 3, 19 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/04/2013

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/4/13) ~

Culinary Q & A #2Happy New Year!  I hope you all enjoyed a joyous Christmas and festive New Year.  In case you don't know, we got a lot of snow here in Central PA over the holidays. Presently, we are battling frigid temperatures that will take your breath away.  It is so cold, even my poodles do not want to go outside!

Thanks to a reader, who submitted a question on Tuesday, I have a feeling things are about to heat up very quickly around here!

The great cheese with fish debate!

Don't haul off and call the food police on me just yet!

IMG_8845Q. Leon says and asks:  Melanie,  I loved your New Year's Eve post for butter-poached lobster.  I am going to ask my girlfriend of 6 years to marry me on Valentine's Day and I am going to make it, along with the lemon-tarragon and corn orzotto.  In your recipe for the orzotto you write, "it does however, contain Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese, which, can be a hot topic if you are amongst the foodies that believe fish and cheese are NEVER to be served together... ever"!  Would you please explain, in detail, the philosophy behind this thinking?  My mom put cheese on seafood all the time and I thought it was great!  Is this going to offend my girlfriend?

(Note to readers:  My recipe for ~ Elegant & Exquisite: Butter-Poached Lobster Tails ~ can be found in Categories 3, 11 or 14.  My recipe for ~ Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved Corn Orzotto ~ can be found in Categories 4, 14, or 21!)

6a0120a8551282970b015432779207970c-320wiA.  Kitchen Encounters:  Wow! This is a loaded question Leon! Let's start with your second question first.  I do not know your girlfriend or how she feels about cheese with her fish.  I highly-suggest you drop a few hints the next time you two order dinner in a restaurant, to see if she has any deep-seated, puritanical, emotional, problems concerning this combo. Why?  Read on.

For many Italians, and a lot of French folks too, garnishing or finishing off a fish dish with a light grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano is a "hanging offense".  If you have ever watched an episode of Chopped, Iron Chef or Top Chef, snobby, Celebrity-Chef judges criticize and chastise contestants who stray from this archaic "no cheese with fish" rule.  Sometimes, I agree with them, sometimes I do not.  Besides the "there is an exception to every rule" as my defense, here's why:

IMG_7207Meet my recipe for ~ Festive Seafood Gratinee (Gratin de Fruit de Mer) ~, which can be found in Categories 3, 11, 14, 19 or 20. Much like present day recipes for lobster mac 'n cheese, or seafood lasagna, this dish, which is topped with grated Parm-Regg, is decadently delicious.  I triple-dog-dare any food snob to criticize my addition of cheese to any of the above named dishes!

6a0120a8551282970b014e895c7d70970d-320wiOn the other hand, if I were to substitute any type of white fish fillet in my gratinee, I would convulse at the thought of topping it with cheese.  Why?  While seafood like lobster, shrimp, scallops, and even crabmeat, are structured with a flavor and texture that can handle a bit of cheese, white fish fillets are not.  They are so mild-flavored, that anything other than a simple flavor enhancer (like butter and lemon) will overwhelm their flavor (cheese being the biggest offender).  Furthermore, who doesn't just love a grating of cheese on their linguini with clam sauce?  And, what about anchovies on an ooey-gooey cheese-covered pizza?

Where did this "rule" come from, and, what is the "bottom line"?

Orthodox Easter Paska #3I'm a realist.  I believe its origin is, without a doubt, religious-based, followed by centuries of tradition.   For centuries, religious leaders prohibited the consumption of meat and dairy (which includes cheese) every Friday (which I also believe were instituted for purely economic reasons which benefitted the impoverished fishermen of the time).  Fish became the protein of choice on that day.  Therefore, it seems logical to me that fish dishes naturally evolved during this time period, WITHOUT cheese!  

The bottom line:  Know your ingredients and follow your tastebuds.  A savvy cook who knows what they are doing can indeed pair seafood with cheese.  SHHHSH!  Don't tell the food police!!!

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

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

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)

01/02/2013

~A Blast from Jessup PA's Past: Pioneer Club Pizza~

IMG_9243I am starting off my 2013 posts with a "lost recipe request" from a very important Kitchen Encounters reader (and my biggest supporter):  my husband Joe.  On New Years Eve he reminisced to me about a pizza he used to eat when he was growing up:  Pioneer Club Pizza. He asked if I would try to replicate a version of this pizza, which was unique in itself, and, to his hometown of Jessup, PA.  Developing a recipe for something that you've never seen or tasted, as well as a product that hasn't existed for 30 years, is:  tricky business.  I began by asking Joe to write down his recollections of the Pioneer Club and their pizza:

IMG_9254Joseph says and asks:  Some of the saddest stories on earth concern the demise of former establishments known for their signature dishes, which are forever lost.  The story of Pioneer Club Pizza is one of those.  The Pioneer Club, located in uptown Jessup, PA, was the local Italian Men's Club. They sponsered a little league field and team, had a bar/kitchen that served a very unique pizza every Friday and Saturday night, and, operated 24/7 the longest-running illegal-card-game in Northeastern PA.  My dad spent most of his evenings in the back rooms of 'the Club', smoking cigars and playing cards.  Every Friday night, almost everyone in uptown Jessup ate a tray of Pioneer Club Pizza.  It had a thin, rectangular crust topped with a unique cheese combo, lots of black pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil.  Sadly, The Pioneer Club shut down in the 1970's.  I despaired of ever having a taste of this pizza until I tasted your recipe for St. Louis-Style Pizza, which was very similar in taste to Pioneer Club Pizza (which had a slightly-thicker, yet still thin, yeast-dough crust).   Mel, please try to replicate this recipe so I can share it with my family and friends in Jessup, PA!

IMG_9011Kitchen Encounters:  Joe,  this post has been a labor of love.  After two very tasty tries, I've got a recipe for you (or the closest I can come to one).  Please share it with your family, friends and fans of Jessup's one-and-only Pioneer Club Pizza and let me know what everyone thinks!

PICT0005A bit about Provel Cheese:  I am certain that what made you think about Pioneer Club Pizza when you tasted St. Louis-style pizza was the cheese, and that would be Provel. Provel is a white, slightly smoky and slightly salty tasting processed PICT0016cheese, with a texture similar to Velveeta.  It is a blend of provolone, Swiss and white cheddar.  The second you take a knife to it, you just know it is going to melt to a creamy state.  The secret to this cheese is in the processing, so, grating these three cheeses and tossing them together WILL NOT produce a similar product or result!

In PA, Provel is hard to find.  I order mine from 'It's a St. Louis Thing' (www.itsastlouisthing.com)!

Mel's Pioneer Club Pizza a la Jessup, PA!

IMG_8919For my thin-crust, bread-machine pizza dough:

1 1/2  cups very warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

2  teaspoons salt

4 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sugar

1  packet graulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise yeast

IMG_9110For the pizza toppings:

1 1/2  cups pizza sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand

8  ounces Provel cheese (about a 2" hunk of Provel

ground black pepper, the kind you put in your pepper shaker

olive oil

Ready, set, go!  It's time to prepare the pizza dough!

~ IMG_8922Step 1.  This is the rectangular-shaped pan that came with my bread machine.  The paddle (which will do the kneading) has been inserted into it.  The instruction manual said to always insert the paddle in this position before adding any ingredients, so I do. When using a bread machine, always place the ingredients into the bread pan in the order listed. This is very important.

IMG_8926~ Step 2.  As pictured above, add the warm water, olive oil and salt.

Next, add the flour.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation on top of the flour (but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer).  Add the sugar and the yeast.

Note:  It is important to keep the yeast away from the wet ingredients until you turn the machine on.

IMG_9115Step 3.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely into place.  Close the lid and turn the machine on.  Select the "pizza dough" cycle, then press "start". Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the ongoing process!  

The moment the timer signals the dough is done (about 55 minutes in my machine), you have:

IMG_91272 pounds of perfectly risen, ready to use pizza dough.

Divide the dough in half and use immediately (as directed below), or:

Note:  At this point you can place the  enitre ball of dough in a bowl that has been greased with olive oil, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it up to 4 hours, prior to baking the pizzas.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, preheat the oven with the stone in it.

It's time to assemble some Pioneer Pizza!

IMG_8938~ Step 1.  I am not going to lie.  The size of your baking pans are important.  If the pans are smaller than 15 1/4" x 10 1/4",  while your pizza will still be delicous, the crust will be thicker than pictured throughout my recipe.  Using a pastry brush or a paper towel, lightly oil both pans with olive oil.

IMG_8942~ Step 2.  Using the heel of your hand and your fingertips, pat and press the dough evenly throughout the bottom of the pans.  Work patiently and carefully.  Towards the end, the dough will be almost see-through and you want to avoid any rips or tears at all cost.

IMG_8954 IMG_8946                                                ~ Step 3. Using a large spoon evenly divide and distribute the sauce over the dough.  Because this dough is so thin, do not be inclined to use more than 1 1/2 cups of total sauce between the two crusts.  

Sprinkle a bit of black pepper over the sauce on both pizzas.

IMG_8962 IMG_8956~ Step 4. Grate and evenly distribute the Provel cheese over the tops of both pizzas.  Again, because this pizza is so thin, do not be inclined to use more than 8 ounces of cheese.

Sprinkle a bit of pepper over the cheese on both, followed by a light but generous drizzling of olive oil.

IMG_9164It's time to bake some Pioneer Pizza!

IMG_9181~ Step 1.  One at a time, bake each pizza on the center rack of preheated 400 degree oven (with or without a pizza stone), about 10 minutes, or until:

IMG_9204

 

~ Step 2. Aided by a metal spatula placed underneath one end of the pizza, it will easily slide from the pan onto the pizza stone or oven rack.  Continue to bake, until:

IMG_9211

~ Step 3.  The cheese on the top is golden brown and bubbly and the bottom of the crust is golden brown too, about 5 minutes.

While pizza is baking, place a large cooling rack in the bottom of the now empty baking pan.  This will keep the crust crispy until it is time to slice the pizza.

IMG_9073 IMG_9193                                              ~ Step 4. Using the same metal spatula, slide the pizza from the oven onto the rack in the baking pan.  Cool about 3 minutes prior to slicing and serving pizza.

Repeat baking process with the second pizza.  Slice and serve:

IMG_9265

 

A Blast from Jessup PA's Past:  Pioneer Club Pizza:  Recipe yields 2, 15 1/4" x 10 1/4" pizzas/12 slices each. 

Special Equipment List: bread machine (optional); 2-cup measuring container; pizza stone (optional); 2, 15 1/2" x 10 1/4" baking pans; pastry brush or paper towel; large spoon; cheese grater; metal spatula; 1-2 large cooling racks

PICT0035Cook's Note:  St-Lous-style pizza is known for its super-thin cracker crust.  It should not be confused with thin-crust pizza (like Pioneer Club Pizza), because its dough does not contain yeast, it is made with baking powder.  To find my recipe for ~ St. Louis-Style Pizza: "Square Beyond Compare" ~, just click into Categories 2, 5 or 19!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013)