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14 posts from August 2013

08/30/2013

~ The Low-Down on Loaf Pans: What Size & Kind? ~

IMG_1930You've decided to bake a loaf of bread just like Grandma used to make.  Good for you!

Nothing is quite as ethereal as the aroma of freshly-baked bread.  Her recipe says to put the dough in a loaf pan and you don't have one.  You drive to the nearest cooking store to find out you must choose between several manufacturers and price ranges, different materials ranging from clear glass and ceramic to shiny, gray or black metal -- each kind in a variety of sizes too. When I was a novice cook  (too many years ago to mention), decisions like this caused me to lose sleep.  Today, I'm going to take the angst out of purchasing a loaf pan for you!

#1:  Size matters!  Always use the recommended size loaf pan! 

IMG_1674"Back in the day", Grandma (and most home-cook bread-bakers) used one "standard" size of loaf pan:  it was approximately 9" x 5" x 2 1/2".  That is why heirloom recipes and vintage cookbooks often seem murky or vague on this point.

I baked this luscious recipe for Peanut Butter Bacon Bread from Helen Corbitt's Cookbook a few days ago, and the lack of a specific loaf-pan size irritated me enough to write this blog post!

IMG_1910(Note:  You can find my version of the recipe, ~ A Salty & Sweet Treat:  Peanut Butter Bacon Bread ~, in Categories 5, 9 & 20 or by clicking on the Related Article link below.)

Nowadays, well-written cookbooks and blogs are specific about pan size because we know the correct pan size is one of the reasons a recipe can either succeed or fail.  If you didn't know that, you do now.  

IMG_1937Baking is a precise sport.  Be sensible.  If you wouldn't change the recommended time and temperature guidelines for a recipe, why throw in a substitute for the recommended pan.  That being said, pan sizes vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer (up to 1/4") and those slight variations won't affect almost any recipe. Focus on getting the proper measurement of your loaf pan and make note of it's volume too:

Baking pans are measured across the top and volume is obtained by filling them with water!

Use this helpful chart as a guideline for the most common loaf pan sizes & volume:

5 3/4" x 3 1/4" x 2" (mini) = 2 cups

7 3/8" x 3 5/8" x 2" = 3 cups

8" x 4" x 2 1/2" = 4 cups

8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" = 6 cups

9 1/4" x 5 1/4" x 2 1/2" = 8 cups

IMG_1864 IMG_1872Words of wisdom:  If you must substitute a loaf pan close in size, choose one slightly bigger rather than slightly smaller.  Too small of pan can cause the dough to rise up & burst over the sides.

For example:  If you are using a loaf pan with a 4-cup total capacity, you can't fill it to the very top with dough or quick-bread batter.  You must leave a headspace of 1/2"-3/4" at the top to allow for rising and/or expansion as the loaf bakes.  Well-written recipes (which most are) have already made accommodations for this, so always use the size pan they recommend.  

#2.  Material Matters!  Know what to expect!  

Glass/ceramic vs. dark or shiny metal: 

IMG_1930Over the years, I've baked my share of bread. Some flat, some round and some classic loaves. Some are quick and easy, some are time consuming and difficult.  

Baking bread is an art form, and, over the years I've acquired 'a few' loaf pans.  Over  35 years of hands-on bread baking experience has taught me what to expect from clear glass and ceramic to dark and shiny aluminum and metal -- and they all have a place in my kitchen!

They all conduct heat differently -- use it to your advantage!

IMG_1953Oven-proof glass & ceramic:  Glass transfers heat quicker than shiny metal (which deflects it), which shortens baking time, which causes bread to be undercooked in the center and overcooked outside. This doesn't mean glass doesn't work.  If you love light-colored, slightly-softer sandwich-type bread, glass is great. Just lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees. This gives the bread enough time to cook through to the center without burning it on the outside.  

Tip:  Want to bake in glass, and get a dark, crispy crust similar to that of bread baked in an aluminum pan?  Place the the glass pan on a pizza stone.  It will deflect and control the heat!

IMG_1957Dark metals/shiny metals:  Dull or dark-colored metals absorb more radiant heat than bright or shiny ones, which reflect it away.  

Shiny pans tend to remain 15-20 degrees cooler in a 350 degree oven, which means you need to either increase the heat of the oven and/or extend the cooking time.  

Tip:  I don't have any real axes to grind with shiny pans, and I don't adjust my oven temperature when I use them, but, I always keep them scoured and shiny.  The dough on any darkened spots or blotches may burn before the dough on the shiny portions is properly baked!

IMG_1923Dull or dark metal loaf pans are the best pans ever invented and sturdy, good-weight, medium-colored, non-stick aluminum pans can't be beat. Aluminum is a fantastic conductor of heat and everything I bake in them emerges beautiful and perfectly baked.  When I bake in these pans, like glass, I usually lower the oven temperature 25 degrees!

Tip:  One advantage to any color of metal pan is metal expands when it gets hot.  This makes for easy removal of loaves of any size from a properly prepped (greased and floured) pan!

One last item:  Allow me to answer this before someone asks it.  What do I think of flimsy, disposable aluminum loaf pans for baking bread?  Not one thing past this mention.  They tend to burn bread on the bottom.  Save them for making and taking meatloaf to picnics or tailgates!

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

In Conclusion:

Three men are sitting on a beach.  The first man takes his shirt off, leaving his skin vulnerable to too much sun too fast, and, at the end of the day, a bad burn:  This is how bread bakes in a glass pan.  The second man wears a white T-shirt all day.  His skin is somewhat protected from the sun, and stays somewhat cooler, because his white shirt deflects the heat away from him:  This is how bread bakes in a shiny metal pan.  The third man wears a dark gray shirt.  While his skin is somewhat protected from the sun, he is really hot because his shirt is absorbing the heat: This is how bread bakes in a dark metal pan.  Baking bread is like a day at the beach!!!

IMG_2917Cook's Note:  With August coming to a close, and the "frost soon to be on the pumpkin", perhaps you'd like to try my recipe for ~ Joe's Favorite "Roasted" Pumpkin Quick Bread ~.  I like to bake these in mini-loaf pans and you can find it in Categories 5, 18 or 22!

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

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

08/28/2013

~A Salty & Sweet Treat: Peanut Butter Bacon Bread~

IMG_1910The way to a man's heart is:  Peanut Butter Bacon Bread!!!  (Heart-Stopping, Artery-Clogging & Irresistibly Delicious!!!)  

IMG_1418A few days ago I posted my recipe for ~ "Russian" Sweet & Sour Poppy-Seed Vinaigrette ~, which you can find by clicking on the Related Article link below.  Because mine is a variation of Helen Corbitt's (the woman who made it famous), it promted me to pull Helen Corbitt's Cookbook off of a shelf in my library.  In it she jokes about how odd she finds it that men love this sweet salad dressing.  My husband Joe is a testament to that, and he refers to is as "frosting for a salad"!

IMG_1905In case you've never heard of Helen Corbitt, she was a gal from NYC who was hired as the food-service manager for Neiman Marcus during 1940's and 50's.  I first tasted this dressing in Dallas, in the Zodiac Room, the restaurant in Neiman Marcus's flagship store.  Stanley Marcus declared Helen "the Balenciaga of food", Earl Wilson said "she's the best cook in Texas" and LBJ just plain loved her!

Helen-corbittTexas Monthly magazine referred to her as "Tastemaker of the Century" and wrote:  "In the years B.C. (Before Corbitt), Texans had no artichokes, no fresh raspberries, no herbs except decorative parsley, only beef (chicken-fried, barbecued, or well-done), potatoes (fried or mashed and topped with a glop of cream gravy), and wedges of iceberg with sweet orange dressing." "Into this bleak culinary landscape came a young Yankee named Helen Corbitt.  In a career that spanned nearly forty years in Texas, she delivered us from canned fruit cocktail, plates of brown food, and too much bourbon and branch into a world of airy soufflies, poached fish, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh salsify, Major Grey's chutney, crisp steamed vegetables and fine wine."

$T2eC16hHJHcFFkRhtsOlBR+E+-NPzg~~60_35Ms. Corbitt wrote five cookbooks and I'm lucky enough to have a 1st edition, copyright 1957, of her 1st.  It is dedicated:

 "to the men in my life"

and, in her introduction (which is fascinating) she writes:

"... these recipes I have put into book form are ones my customers have asked for time and time again.  Strange as it may seem, it has been the male half of the universe with which I have made gastrononomical friends, and I work overtime catering to their likes and dislikes.  However, I do not believe that the man who says he likes a thick steak and a green salad always feels that way.  Perhaps it is in defense, who knows?  Anyhow, I say "I love men" -- tall ones, short ones, old ones, young ones, fat ones, thin ones:

"All men.  All the ones who eat.  And they all eat!" ~ H. Corbitt

IMG_1674My regularly scheduled hairdresser appointment was yesterday.   I refer to it as a monthly 1 1/2 hours of Zen: no phone, no iPad, just a few foodie magazines or a good book and me. Helen Corbitt's Cookbook was on the kitchen counter, so I took it along,  knowing it would be fun to revisit.  I laughed out loud when I arrived at page 223, one of four that I had bookmarked back in the '80's. Why?  All the men in my life love her peanut butter bacon bread too!

By the time my appointment was over, I had paged through the entire book.  I returned home feeling rejuvinated and ready to get back to work, but, I just could not stop thinking about peanut butter bacon bread.  It was kind of like when you get the melody of a song stuck in your head and you continue humming the tune all day.  My husband loves it when this happens to me!!! 

IMG_1889Get ready to eat your peanut butter 'n bacon lovin' heart out!!!

IMG_17111  cup sugar

1  tablespoon melted shortening (I use Crisco butter-flavored shortening)

1  cup milk

1  large egg, well-beaten

1  cup peanut butter (I use Jif extra-crunchy peanut butter)

1/2  teaspoon salt

2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

3  teaspoons baking powder

1  cup chopped, unsalted peanuts (I lightly-toast the unsalted nuts, which gives them a nuttier flavor.  I have also made this bread using Planter's Salted Cocktail Peanuts, and, I must admit, I like them the best.  The choice is yours!) 

1  cup chopped, crisp bacon (12 slices of bacon)

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pan (This isn't in the recipe.  Just do it.)

IMG_1682 IMG_1689~ Step 1. Chop the peanuts.  I chop them to the size of chocolate-chips.  

IMG_1693I lightly-toast them to enhance the flavor.  Place in a small (9" x 6") baking pan in a 350 degree oven for 11-12 minutes.

IMG_1706 IMG_1701~ Step 2. How you arrive at crispy bacon strips is up to you.  But, if you'd like to learn about a spatter free, mess free and stress free way to do it, you can find my recipe for:

~ Crispy Oven Roasted Bacon (No Spatter or Mess!) ~ in Categories 9, 15 or 20!

IMG_1733~ Step 3.  On stovetop or in microwave melt the shortening.

IMG_1734~ Step 4.  In a large bowl, using a fork, beat the egg.  Add the sugar, milk and shortening. Using a hand-held electric mixer on low, beat until smooth, 30-45 seconds.

IMG_1747 IMG_1744~ Step 5. Add the peanut butter, increase mixer speed to medium, and beat until thoroughly combined, another 30-45 seconds.  Turn the mixer off.

Note:  At this point you can let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes, meaning:  if the phone rings, you can answer it!

IMG_1755 IMG_1750~ Step 6. Add the baking powder, flour & salt.

Turn the mixer on low speed, slowly and gradually increase it to medium and throughly combine all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula frequently.

IMG_1766 IMG_1760~ Step 7. Add the chopped peanuts and bacon. Using the rubber spatula, fold them into the mixture until thorougly combined.

Transfer the mixture to a 6-cup loaf pan that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.  Set aside for 20 minutes, to give the baking powder time to start a "first rise".

IMG_1855 IMG_1866Step 8. Bake in 350 degree oven 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Place pan on a cooling rack and cool, in pan, about 5-10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan and cool completely, 2-3 hours, prior to slicing and serving:

(This bread is awesome served w/ice cream for dessert, or, toasted and buttered for breakfast!)

"Ours is not to reason why.  Ours is but to do and die."  ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

IMG_1902A Salty & Sweet Treat:  Peanut Butter Bacon Bread:  Recipe yields 10-12 slices.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 9" x 6" x 1/2" baking pan; 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum pan w/corrugated bottom (optional); fork; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" loaf pan (a 6-cup loaf pan); cake tester; cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b016764d85990970b-800wiCook's Note:  Men just love quick breads, and, they are great toasted for breakfast or brunch.  For another one of my menfolk's all-time favorite quick-bread recipes: ~ Macadamia-Mango Coconut-Rum Banana Bread ~ can be found in Categories 5, 11 or 22.

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

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

08/25/2013

~ Kyocera: How do I love thee? Count those blades!~

IMG_1646I am obviously not a stranger to knives and I own four sets of excellent quality ones.  Knives are personal and every knowledgeable cook's or chef's opinion is exactly that.  An opinion based upon their personal preference -- which is the way it should be.  Knives are like buying a car: you have to test drive it, you have to like it after you do, and, you should research personal recommendations and published reports prior to making your final choice!

IMG_1640I always advise students to invest in the best knives they can afford because not only are they an investment that will last a lifetime, a high-quality super-sharp knife (or set of 30) are the most essential tools in the kitchen.  My pride and joys are my carbon-steel Sabatier's, which, I purchased, a few at at time, about 20-25 years ago.  I am sad to report, they have started gathering a bit of dust in my knife drawer.  Why?  Because of a relatively new kid on the kitchen chopping block:  Kyocera ceramic knives. They have become, for the most part, my most-reached-for weapons-of-choice, and, the perfect complement to my steel knife drawer!

IMG_1644Since I started writing KE three years ago, I've been asked the same question enough of times (in different ways) that it's time for an answer:  "Mel, what kind of knives are in your photos?", or, "Those knives look like plastic toys, what kind are they?", or, "Mel, how do you like ceramic knives, I've been thinking about buying one or two?".

IMG_1650I received my first Kyocera Santoku knife 8 years ago.  It was a birthday gift from my husband Joe.  He purchased it because it had a pink handle and pink is my favorite color. He had no clue this $70.00 gift would rock my culinary world and adjust my thoughts about knives -- he bought a 'cute gadget' for his cooking gal who has everything!

IMG_1654The back of each box boasts:  "Our ceramic knives are the ultimate cutting tools for every day slicing of fruits, vegetables and boneless meats.  The ergonomic handle provides for a comfortable and highly controlled grip.  Simply hand wash or wipe clean with a towel. Use with a wood or plastic cutting board."  "Our advanced ceramic is a material close in hardness to a diamond with a rock-like edge that will not roll like steel blades.  The result is a razor-sharp blade that retains its original sharpness more than 10 times longer than steel knives."  "Ceramic is a pure and healthy alternative.  Unlike steel knives, ceramic blades will not transfer metal ions to food, nor corrode from acids or oils in fruits or vegetables.  Ceramic knives will never rust." (Guess what?  All true!)

The Advanage of Ceramic (from a cooking gal's point of view):

IMG_1663From the moment I sliced a tomato with the precision of a surgeon I realized how special this knife was. I 'shaved' an onion (paper thin), and it excelled again.  It glided through vegetable after vegetable, soft and hard ones, and, it minced garlic and herbs too.  The knife was well-balanced, allowing me to make even slices, and, because of its light weight, there was no hand fatigue PICT2750after prepping large quantities.

It performed the same way with boneless cuts of meat too -- uncooked (raw) or fully-cooked -- perfect slices every time!

Note:  Only use ceramic knives to prep/carve boneless cuts.  Scraping bones, or twisting/torquing motions, cause the blade to chip or break. 

IMG_1670After almost a year of daily use and proper care, my knife was almost as sharp as the day Joe bought it.  If the knives ever need sharpening, Kyocera does it for free -- all you have to do is send it/them back to the company.  Just as I was beginning to think I needed to send a couple of them back,  I spotted a Kyocera electric knife sharpener in a local cookware shop, The Kitchen Kaboodle. Katie, the owner of the store, told me it was a new product and I was buying the very first one from her store, and, if it didn't perform up to my standards,  to return it.  That didn't happen! 

PICT2277Purchase what you prefer, but, for my two cents, if you are looking to add a superb knife to your knife drawer, or, buy someone a great gift, consider ceramic.  I volunteer my time to teach cooking classes to retired/elderly folks -- they adore the ceramics because they are light and maneuver with almost no effort!

Ceramic knives do one thing better than any steel knife: They slice with demonic ease!

They effortlessly slice vegetables precisely, and so thin you can see through them! 

PICT2293"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

08/22/2013

~ Copper Carrot Coins: A Super-Simple Side-Dish ~

IMG_1602Our garden is beginning to wane.  The cherry, peach and plum trees are bare.  Our cucumbers and zucchini are gone.  The tomatoes have all be eaten or processed into sauce and I'm back to buying lettuce in the grocery store.  Butternut squash, pumpkins and cabbage will be at their peak in a week or two, and, then it will be time to enjoy the Fall and prepare to Winterize!  

IMG_1492In the meantime, Joe picked a basket full of fine-looking peppers yesterday:  bell, jalapeno, hot wax and poblanos -- enough of all to keep me busy for a few days.  For some reason, this refreshing, cold side-dish salad came to mind today. When I was growing up, I always wondered why it made an appearance at our annual end-of-Summer Labor-Day picnic. Now I know the answer:  dad's vegetable garden was full of bell peppers at the end of the Summer!

IMG_1469This is not a "rocket science" recipe. It is straight out of the 1950's-60's era that I grew up in.  You all know that I am not a "cream of any kind of canned soup kinda gal", but, you wouldn't know it from this photo.  It seems I've managed to accumulate my share of Cambell's cookbooks over the years (as I quietly chuckle)!

That being said, when it comes to Campbell's condensed tomato soup, I maintain a soft spot in my heart.  Who doesn't remember a bowl of their steaming hot cream-of-tomato soup with an ooey-goey grilled cheese sandwich for lunch on a cold Winter's day!

This "oldie but goodie" recipe has been around the block a lot of times, and, pundits are going to say what they always say, but, I don't care what they say.  I love this salad and this is my blog:

IMG_1484Why do I think this recipe is blog worthy?  I grew up eating carrots without argument because of it and so did my three boys.  From any standpoint and level of culinary expertise: that means it is a hell-of-a good recipe.  It's also not a recipe readily found, unless you have some vintage cookbooks in your library.  Want to try making it using other tomato products (tomato sauce, and/or puree, etc.)?  Knock yourself out then get over it...

There's no substitute for the tomato soup in this recipe, so...

IMG_1593...when you can't beat 'em, join 'em, shut up & enjoy it: 

IMG_15352  pounds peeled and 1/4" "coined" carrots*

8  ounces yellow or sweet onion, halved and very-thinly sliced, slices cut in half lengthwise

8  ounces green bell pepper "julienne" ("cut into thin strips"), strips cut in half lengthwise

1  10 3/4-ounce can condensed tomato soup

1/2  cup vegetable oil

1/2  cup apple cider vinegar

1/2  cup sugar

1  teaspoon Dijon mustard

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for garnish

IMG_1470* Note:  In kitchen terminology, the verb "coin" means to create a coin shape, either by stamping (like dough with a round cookie cutter), or, slicing a long cylindrical object (like a carrot) with a knife.

Even with the simplest of recipes one can always learn a new word or a word for a specific technique!

IMG_1508~ Step 1.  Prep the carrots as directed placing them in a 4-quart saucepan as you work.  Add enough cold water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a steady simmer, partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer, until carrots are just fork tender, but still firm and slightly undercooked or "to the tooth", about 4-5 minutes.  I like mine after 4 minutes.  Do not overcook the carrots!

IMG_1516~ Step 2.  Drain as much water as possible from saucepan into sink. Immediately add very cold tap water to carrots in pan.  This will halt the cooking process and cool them to below room temperature.  Drain carrots into colander and set aside.

IMG_1520~ Step 3. Prep onion and green pepper as directed and set aside.  Easy enough so far?

IMG_1542Step 4.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the tomato soup, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper, until smooth, about 30 seconds...

IMG_1548

 

 

 

 

... Gradually, and in a thin steady stream vigoursly whisk in the oil...

IMG_1552

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

... and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth, thickend, satiny and emulsified.  This process will take about 1- 1 1/2 minutes.

IMG_1588

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1577                                          ~ Step 6. Fold in the carrots, onion and green pepper.  

Cover and refrigerate, several hours to overnight and up to 3-5 days prior to serving.  Serve cold. This "oldie but goodie recipe" is a truly wonderful end-of-Summer side-dish bursting full of Fall color!

IMG_1616Copper Carrot Coins:  A Super-Simple Side-Dish:  Recipe yields 8 cups, or about 16 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart saucepan w/lid; colander; whisk; large rubber spatula; large slotted spoon (for serving)

IMG_1572Cook's Note:  This side-dish salad evolved from another Cambell's original recipe.  The marinade was actually intended to be a salad dressing.  It's got a  great history, and a personal story too.  My brother adored it atop iceberg lettuce.  You can find my recipe for ~ My Homemade Tomato French Salad Dressing ~ in Categories 2, 8, 9, 10, 17 or 20! 

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

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

08/20/2013

~ "Russian" Sweet & Sour Poppy-Seed 'Vinaigrette' ~

IMG_1418"Russian" is in quotes because I have no idea if this salad dressing is authentic Russian!  

793px-Bejgli1What I do know is, I grew up in an Eastern European household and ate my fair share of poppy seeds. My grandmother made a honey-sweetened paste of them to fill her poppy seed and walnut rolls for all holidays, and, sprinkled them on top of small, soft, dinner rolls too.  

Note:  This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.   I promise to post and share my own recipes for poppy seed and walnut rolls closer to the Christmas holiday!

A bit about poppy seeds:  Because I never saw poppy seeds anywhere else, I just  assumed they must be Russian, or Eastern European in general, and on that point was not far off.  The Egyptians were growing them in 1550 BC and documented using them as a sedative.  The Minoans, a Bronze Age civilization living on the island of Crete,  circa 1450 BC, cultivated poppies for their seeds. Through time, poppy seeds have been used throughout Europe as a folk remedy to aid sleeping, promote fertility and wealth, and even to provide the magical power of invisibility.  Nowadays, Eastern European countries are the leaders in poppy seed production!

Me, Neiman Marcus and Sweet & Sour Poppy-Seed Vinaigrette:

IMG_1443Back in the mid 1980's, Joe was traveling to Texas quite a bit.  We had nothing but wonderful experiences in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.  On our Dallas trip, one of the other wives tagged along, so, Barb and I spent a day shopping at the flagship Neiman Marcus store, which included lunch in their Zodiac Room.  I spied a salad on the menu that caught my attention.  It was a combination of iceberg lettuce, chopped red apples, golden raisins, blue cheese and candied walnuts with a IMG_1453thicker-than-usual vinaigrette to the side for dipping or drizzling.  It was amazing and I was so glad I ordered it. Because it boasted poppy-seeds, raisins and walnuts, I assumed it had to have some sort of ties to Eastern European cuisine, and was most surprised to learn (via the waiter): The addictive vinaigrette recipe was attributed to Helen Corbitt, an Irish-Catholic gal from NYC, who was hired as the food-service mananger for Neiman Marcus during the 1940's and 1950's.  So, for years afterward...

I hesitated to refer to it as a Russian or Eastern European creation -- until I read what she wrote, in classy honesty, in her 1957 cookbook, which allows its origin to yet be determined:

Helen-corbitt $T2eC16hHJHcFFkRhtsOlBR+E+-NPzg~~60_35"I would like to tell a story of a dressing designed for fruits.  Where it originated I have no idea.  I remember having it served to me in NYC so many years ago I hate to recall.  

Rumors extend hither and yon that I created it and I hasten to deny this, but I did popularize it when I realized that on the best grapefruit in the world (Texas grapefruit), it was the most delectable dressing imaginable.  Today there is hardly a restaurant or home in Texas that does not have some version of it.  The recipe I use has been in demand to the point of being ludicrous, and, strange as it may seem, the men like it.  A few even put it on their potatoes!"

"If you make one salad dressing or vinaigrette from scratch in your lifetime, make this one!" ~ Melanie Preschutti

IMG_13591/2-3/4  cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)*

1 1/2  teaspoons dry mustard

1  teaspoon sea salt

6  tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or, for a special treat, tarragon vinegar

3  tablespoons diced yellow or sweet onion processed to a finely-grated texture to produce 2 tablespoons finely-grated onion**

1  cup vegetable oil

2  teaspoons poppy seeds

** Note:  Helen Corbitt used onion juice, which she obtained by straining finely-grated onion.  I happen to like the finely grated texture, so I have eliminated that step.  The choice is yours!

* Note:  1/2 cup of sugar  produces a "drizzlier" consistency, 3/4 cup produces a "dippable" one! 

IMG_1370 IMG_1366~ Step 1.  In a mini- food processor or blender, process the onion until it reaches a finely-grated, just short of a puree texture, about 15-20 seconds.  You will have at least 2 tablespoons of finely-grated onion. If you have a little more, use it as it will just add more flavor to the vinaigrette!

IMG_1379 IMG_1376~ Step 2. Place the sugar, mustard, salt, vinegar and grated onion in the work bowl of a small food processor fitted with a steel blade (or a blender).  With motor turned on process until thoroughly combined and smooth, about 30-45 seconds.

IMG_1380~ Step 3.  With motor running, through the feedtube, slowly and in a thin stream add the vegetable oil. Continue to process for 3 minutes.  

Note:  This seems like a long time, but this is the time it takes to ensure this mixture will emulsify properly and remain the same thick and satisfying consistency.  Typical oil and vinegar mixtures separate within minutes of mixing.  This vinaigrette does not...

IMG_1396... see how smooth and thick this is?

IMG_1400~ Step 4. Add the poppy seeds to the workbowl. Using a series of 30-40 rapid on-off pulses, process until poppy seeds are thoroughly incorporated.

Transfer to a bottle or food storage container and store in refrigerator indefinitely.  Be sure to return to room temperature prior to serving:

My husband Joe refers to it as "frosting for a salad", akin to "icing on a cake"!

IMG_1414"Russian" Sweet & Sour Poppy-Seed 'Vinaigrette':  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups dressing.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; mini-food processor; small food processor or blender; rubber spatula; 2-cup bottle or food storage container w/lid 

PICT5582Cook's Note:  This vinaigrette/salad dressing is fantastic on any type of garden salad, but, it complements salads that contains fresh fruit particularly well too.  As I mentioned above, at Neiman Marcus, it was served on a bed of iceberg lettuce topped with chopped red delicious apples, crumbled blue cheese, golden raisins and candied walnuts (which are a special treat).  Add some roasted or grilled chicken and you've got a delightful meal!

You can find my recipe for ~ Super-Crunchy Sugar Crusted Spiced Pecans ~ in Categories 2, 6 or 11!

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

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

08/17/2013

~Russian Red Salad: Potato, Beet, Onion & Radish~

IMG_1335It's 'that' time of year here in Central PA:  Mid-August.  Joe's two vegetable gardens are gifting me with almost more produce than I can process.  His cucumbers, Summer squash and zucchini are finally starting to wane,  tomatoes and peppers are going to take up a lot of my time next week, and at present, I'm looking at a few bunches of freshly-picked radishes and red beets!

IMG_1237I've been a lover-of-vegetables my entire life, and, growing up in an Eastern European household, root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, radishes, red beets, parsnips and turnips made regular appearances on our dinner table.  Most kids have to be bribed into eating such "things".  I was not most kids. Perhaps it was just the scrumptious ways my Russian Baba and Tettie (my maternal grandmother and her sister) prepared them that turned me on to their taste and texture!

ImagesA bit about Russian Red:  What is Russian Red?  Well, technically, it is a color, a specific shade of red which formed the background of the Russian flag under iron-fisted communist rule!

In spite of how poor and deprived the Russian population was (and all Eastern Europeans in general), they developed a reputation for their hospitality and generosity to guests, which carries on to this day.  Even the poorest of the people will offer a stranger a crust of bread dipped in oil and/or a few morsels of leftover food.  If you drop in on their family unexpectedly, food is immediately put put on the table, along with a bottle of vodka, a few small plates and some shot glasses.  As a guest, you are expected to take a taste of everything, and, even if you don't drink, take a sip. "Nasdrovia", meaning "to health", is not as much a Russian toast as it is a thank-you to the host and hostess for the food and drink!

IMG_1355A bit about Russian Red Salad:  In an odd sort of way, I liken it to the American chef salad in that, served with some crusty bread, as is, it's hearty enough to be eaten as a vegetarian meal. Personally, I adore it served with roasted chicken to the side or tossed into it!

It's a combination of four root vegetables:

red potatoes, red beets, red onions & red radishes!

PICT3455Salad is an important part of all stages of the Russian meal and fresh vegetables are a prized possession.  Unlike the American chef salad and most American salads, you won't find fragile lettuces in almost any Russian "salat".  Due to Russia's cold climate and short growing season, their salads tend to contain cooked and/or preserved/pickled components, including eggs or pickled eggs.  Russian salad tends to be an appetizer, a side-dish or a meal that is stirred together, layered or composed, which will hold-its-own in the refrigerator for a few days!

IMG_1258For the salad:

2  pounds small, new red potatoes, unpeeled and sliced into chunky but bite-sized halves, thirds or quarters (about 6 generous cups of potatoes)

1  tablespoon sea salt, for salting the water potatoes get simmered in

3/4  cup thinly-sliced/shaved red onion (about 1 medium onion)

3/4 cup thinly-sliced/shaved red radishes, circles cut into half-moons (about 3 large radishes)

12  whole picked red beets, each sliced into 4 wedges (48 wedges)

6  extra-large hard-cooked eggs, pickled eggs, or a combination of both, each peeled and sliced into 6 wedges (68 wedges)

IMG_1266For the caper-dill dressing:

1/2  cup mayonnaise

2  tablespoons capers, well-drained 

2  tablespoons minced, fresh dill

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4-1/2  teaspoon white pepper

For topping and garnish:

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

dill sprigs, for garnish

IMG_1251~ Step 1.  In a 5-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add the salt.  Add the potatoes.  When water returns to a steady simmer, adjust heat and simmer until potatoes are al dente, or just slightly less than fork tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Drain into a colander and rinse under cold water to halt cooking process and return to room temperature.  Allow them to "surface dry" in colander, 20-30 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b019102066fb1970c-800wi~ Step 2.  Prep the red onion, red radishes and red beets as directed. Set aside.

~ Step 3.  Peel and wedge 6 eggs according to the directions in my post ~ A Little Thing Called:  How to Hard-Cook an Egg ~.  You can find it by clicking on the Related Article link below.  Note:  If you want to add pickled eggs to this salad, you'll have to make them 1-2 days ahead of time.  The Cook's Note at the end of this post shows tells you where to find my recipe!

IMG_1280 IMG_1273                                               ~ Step 4. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine all ingredients for the dressing.  Set aside, 5-10 minutes, to give the flavors time to marry.  

Note:  Avoid the urge to add more mayo to this intense-flavored dressing -- a little goes a long way!  

IMG_1291 IMG_1284~ Step 5. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the potatoes, onions and radishes, until all ingredients are evenly coated in the dressing.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled or serving time, 2 hours to overnight.

~ Step 6.  Transfer the potato salad mixture to a large serving platter, or individual serving plates.  Arrange red beet wedges and egg wedges over the top, sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, and, garnish with a few sprigs of fresh dill.  Wait until you taste this:

IMG_1328Russian Red Salad:  Potato, Beet, Onion & Radish:  Recipe yields 8-12 side-dish servings and 6 entree servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 5-quart stockpot; colander; spoon; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

IMG_1219Cook's Note:  If you'd like to make my Russian Red Salad adding another "red" ingredient, you can find my recipe for ~ Pretty in Pink: Pickled Eggs ~ in Categories 1, 4 or 12.  These are a common appetizer  on the Russian table!

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

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

08/15/2013

~ Sour-Creamy Russian Cucumber & Radish Salad ~

IMG_1149Most of you already know, but, for those who don't:  my heritage is 'White' Russian.  My husband Joe's heritage is Italian.  We often joke about ours being a marriage made in culinary heaven: blini, borscht, pirogi and stuffed cabbage meets bruschetta, minestrone, ravioli and ossobuco. Thanks to the Russian Orthodox church calendar, for the most part, we get to celebrate two Christmas's and two Easter's too.  These and all ethnic celebrations revolve around tables full of fabulous food and plenty of alcohol:  Vodka for the Russians, Anisette for the Italians!

IMG_1151I have an affinity for Russian fare and the Eastern European style of eating because I grew up experiencing it, but, I'll admit, for newcomers, it takes a bit of getting used to.  My parents are American born, so I grew up in a "toned down" Russian environment, but, my mothers sister married a born-and-raised Russian/Ukrainian* who's family (parents, brothers and sisters) immigrated to the USA after WWII.  The entire clan settled in Trenton, NJ.  Once Uncle Al (Alexi) married my mom's sister Marie, his family became family:  Aunt Olga, Uncle Tony, Sasha, etc. All of their children became my cousins and, let me tell you... a 'wild and crazy' time was had by all:

Grsettle*Russian/Ukranian:  If you are not Russian or Ukranian, you will not notice much of a difference.  In fact, when they had one border (when the Great Russian Empire was), the Ukraine was called "Malorosslya" (Small Russia) and Belarus was called "Belorusslya" (White Russia). The word "Ukraine" comes from the word "u kraya" meaning "near the edge" ("near the edge of the territory of Russia").  The Russian territory was called "Velikorossia" (Great Russia)!  That being said:

If you are Russian or Ukranian, of course you'll claim differences (all petty and imposed by family, politics, religion and/or society). In my opinion, I don't think there are two countries in the world with such a similar culture or history, as they have been a part of the same empire for almost the entirety of their existence!    

"Nasdrovia":  "to health" and "thanks for the food"!

IMG_1093Russians (similar to Italians) are known for, and proud of, their hospitality.  Even if you drop in on them unexpectedly, food is immediately put on the table, along with a bottle of vodka, a few small plates and some shot glasses. Beware of Russians who do not follow this procedure.  As a guest, you are expected to take a taste of everything, and, even if you don't drink, take a sip. "Nasdrovia", meaning "to health" is not as much a Russian toast as it is a thank-you to the host!

Somewhere on the Russian table, besides vodka, there will be sour cream!   

Russians, and most Eastern Europeans, use "smetana" like Americans use creme fraiche and mayonnaise.  They dollop it on or stir it into many dishes.  They slather it on food too -- in the same way we use butter.  "Smetana" is "sour cream", a dairy product produced by souring heavy cream, and, it took me years to understand why it is a beloved Russian staple:

Img003Under iron-fisted government rule, the Russian people were poor. When you have nothing, you waste nothing.  Some Russian peasants afforded a small dachau, a plot of land were they were allowed to grow vegetables and raise a few animals.  Others became collective farmers, where several families labored together to feed each other. While this sounds cozy and nice, in an unforgiving "frozen-tundra" climate with a short growing season and no mechanized equipment or irrigation systems, this is life-essential and back-breaking work. Canning, pickling and/or preserving everything and anything edible is a way of life.  If anyone was lucky enough to have a cow, ones family or ones collective got milk.  When milk separates, you get milk, cream and sour cream (similar to creme fraiche).  The bacteria in sour cream is/was considered healthy, as well as a much-needed source of fat.  By adding a bit of sugar to it, the Russians even use sour cream in place of whipped cream for desserts!

Salat iz Ogurtsov i Beloi Rediski so Smetanoy!

Fresh vegetables are prized possessions throughout Russia, so, "salat" is an important part of any stage of the meal.  This Eastern European side-dish classic is one of the more vibrant dishes you would expect to find on a Russian "zakuska" table ("appetizer buffet").  Aside from potatoes, carrots and beets, red and white radishes are one of only a handful of vegetables hearty enough to grow in Russia's cold climate.  Cucumbers, grow quickly during the short Russian Summer season.  This makes them both popular ingredients in Russian cuisine. Feel free to make this crunchy, refreshing side-dish using all cucumbers or all radishes too!

IMG_11044  cups thinly-sliced, 1/8"-1/4" thick cucumbers (2, 8" cucumbers), patted dry (Note:  After I slice the cucumbers, I like to wrap them in a few layers of paper towels and set them aside to drain for about 15-20 minutes prior to making the salad.  This choice is yours.)

1  cup thinly-sliced, 1/8"-1/4" thick red radishes (10-12 radishes)

1  cup very thinly-sliced/shaved yellow or sweet onion (1/2 of a large onion)

2  tablespoons finely-chopped fresh dill ("Dill & mint are to Russian cuisine what basil & oregano are to Italian cuisine!" ~ Melanie Kononchuk-Maliniak Preschutti

1  tablespoon capers, drained and chopped

1/2  cup sour cream

1  tablespoon white vinegar

1/2-1  teaspoon sugar, to taste

1/4  teaspoon white pepper

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, to taste (Note:  I use 10-15 grinds of sea salt and 40-50 grinds of peppercorn blend.)

additional freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for topping each serving

dill sprigs, for garnish

IMG_1095~ Step 1.  Trim the pole ends from the cucumbers and radishes and slice them as directed.  Peel and slice/shave the onion.  If you are lucky enough to have a vegetable slicer or a mandoline, all of these tasks will take less than 5 minutes.

Note:  I bought my handy-dandy Feemster's Famous Vegetable Slicer over 20 years ago for $5.00.  I am please to report they are still available today on Amazon.com!

~ Step 2.  Chop the capers and dill as directed and set aside.

IMG_1111 IMG_1109~ Step 3.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together the capers, sour cream, vinegar, sugar and white pepper. Season with freshly ground salt and peppercorn blend. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Note:  Capers are salty tasting.  Stir them into the the sour cream mixture to prevent over salting!

IMG_1122 IMG_1116~ Step 4. Add the sliced cucumbers, radishes, onions and minced dill.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly combine all ingredients until evenly-coated in the sour cream sauce.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, 2-6 hours.  Serve cold:

IMG_1167Sour-Creamy Russian Cucumber & Radish Salad:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  mandoline or vegetable slicer (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; paper towels (optional); large rubber spatula 

PICT0594Cook's Note:  For another Russian classic, you can find my recipe for ~ Pirogi:  Like My Russian Baba Used to Make w/my method for "Perfect Food Processor Pirogi Dough ~ in Categories 4, 12 or 22!

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

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

08/13/2013

~ Time Out to Define: Sukiyaki, Teriyaki & Yakitori!!! ~

IMG_1173Hold the presses!  Just as I was about to return my Japanese ingredients back to my pantry (and move on to posting a couple of my family's Russian Summertime side-dish salad recipes), I got a question from a reader regarding last weeks posts for ~ My Japanese Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack!!! ~, ~ Japanese 'Yakitori no Tare' (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~, ~ Japanese 'Yakitori' (Skewered & Grilled Chicken) ~, and, ~ Japanese 'Tempura' ('Light Batter' for Deep-Frying) ~ (all of which can be found by clicking on the Related Article links below)!  

IMG_0723Janet says and asks:  My husband and I found your blog looking for a recipe for yakitori.  We were in the mood for some Japanese food, and, after eating this dish in a restaurant in Los Angeles several years ago, we decided to try to make it at home.  When we found your posts, we stopping looking.  Everything we needed to know was at our fingertips.  My husband said, "Melanie writes a hell of a blog"!

We had a discussion about teriyaki and yakitori, and, teriyaki and yakitori sauce.  Both sauces seem to be about the same.  Are they the same thing and can they be used interchangeably? How do they differ?  Also we read in your post that "yaki" is the Japanese word for "grill/grilled". How does sukiyaki fit into this description.  We always thought sukiyaki was a one-pot meal!

IMG_0712Kitchen Encounters:  Janet, thanks for your comments, and, wow, your questions are so good they deserve an entire blog post. Firstly, teriyaki sauce and yakitori sauce are similar enough, that, in a pinch, you can use them interchangeably.  I hope the following will demystify sukiyaki, teriyaki & yakitori for you: 

ImagesSukiyaki (soo-kee-YAH-kee):  Sukiyaki is a stewlike meal prepared tableside in a cast-iron "nabemono" or "Japanese hot pot".  In Japan sukiyaki is referred to as "the friendship dish" because it appeals to foreigners.  It consists of "suki", "thin strips" of beef, vegetables and noodles or tofu. It's flavored with soy sauce, dashi (broth), mirin, sake and sugar. Before eating, each bite is dipped into beaten egg. Sukiyaki fits into the "yaki" or "grilled" category because the meat is grilled in the pan prior to adding the other ingredients.   Sukiyaki is similar to shabu-shabu, another hot-pot meal, with sukiyaki being sweet and shabu-shabu being more savory!

PICT4653Teriyaki (tehr-uh-Yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beef or chicken, that has been marinated (in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic, ginger and seasonings) prior to being grilled, broiled or roasted. "Teri" is the Japanese word for "luster", and it is the sugar in the marinade that gives the food its "teri" or shiny glaze.  It's interesting to note that in Japan, there is no official teriyaki sauce.  Teriyaki sauce was invented by early Japanese settlers to Hawaii.  

They created a marinade/basting sauce out of local, readily-available products, like pineapple juice and garlic (neither of which are Japanese), mixed with soy sauce and thickened with corn starch.  Teriyaki sauce tends to be bolder in flaver, sweeter and thicker than yakitori sauce! 

IMG_0700Yakitori (yah-kee-TOH-ree):  This Japanese term literally means "grilled" ("yaki") "bird" ("tori").   Small morsels of not-marinated chicken are skewered, grilled and brushed with "tare", meaning "sauce" or "BBQ/basting sauce":  once when the skewers are cooked about 75% of the way through, and a second time prior to removing them from the grill. The yakitori grill is designed to keep the skewers about 1" above the direct heat of the grill grids!

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

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

08/10/2013

~ August 10th: Happy Birthday to Me, KE & Snoopy!~

971269_593900497327377_1161803785_nThree years ago, at the stroke of 12:01 AM on 8/10/2010, I pushed "publish" on my 1st Kitchen Encounters blog post. August 10th is my birthday, and, KE was my 55th birthday present from my husband!

In August of 2011, I was grateful for a few thousand "hits", indicating my recipes and commentary were being appreciated; in 2012, I was thankful for tens of thousands, and; this year, it's hundreds of thousands -- 619 posts to date & thanks for allowing me to share my kitchen encounters with you and vice versa!

And they say you can't teach an old dog (or an old broad) new tricks!

When I woke up this morning, I did what I always do:  I checked my e-mails and Facebook messages.  It was on Facebook that I learned I share a birthday with none other than:  Snoopy!!!

IMG_1074It seems that while Snoopy first appeared in the Peanuts comic strip on Oct. 4th, 1950, his official birthday in the strip is August 10th. This news has kept me smiling all day.  My brother David and I grew up with Snoopy.  My son Jesse's nursery had a Snoopy theme.  The Snoopy, pictured here, is the one he slept with every night for years. My 6-year-old Grandson David's bedroom has a Snoopy theme too, and, D.J. gets tucked in with Dad's Snoopy whenever he's visiting!

1157512_593504977366929_2111636267_nYesterday, I shared my Snoopy news with both son and grandson. Jess laughed (as only a son can do) and David gleefully proclaimed (loudly, clearly and innocently):

"GrandMel, I had no idea you would ever do something like that!!!"

The "it is time to celebrate" tone of D.J.'s voice made me feel like a celebrity -- of all the superheros in his life, he has a grandmother who actually shares a birthday with Snoopy -- news as big as this is something he can surely share with his 1st grade class in two weeks... tidings of great joy!!!

Of all of the things I have accomplished, and, of all the things I am bound and determined to accomplish, sharing a birthday with Snoopy, the world's most famous beagle and WWI flying ace/hero, will certainly always remain my greatest accomplishment -- Happy Birthday Snoopy!!!

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

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

08/09/2013

~ Tempura-Dipped Onion Rings: Light, Airy & Crisp! ~

IMG_1022I love onions and a day rarely goes by in my kitchen that I am not using or serving some type of onion in some way, shape or form.  Today, I'm going to address onion "shape", more specifically: the onion ring.  Batter-dipped and deep-fried, onion rings are on the menu (usually just below or to the right of French fries) at diners, drive-ins, dives, carnivals and county fairs all across our country.  They are an American institution, and, June 22 is National Onion Ring Day in the USA!

Best-tony-onion-ringsNo one knows exactly who invented deep-fried onion rings, but, we do know that in 1933 a recipe appeared in a Crisco advertisement in The New York Times Magazine. The A&W restaurant chain is credited with popularizing onion rings in their fast-food restaurants during the 1960's (which is where I first ate them),  and, who can forget that last episode of The Sopranos!

IMG_1019Onion rings are easy to make (definitely easier than French fries), but (and this is a big but):  if I'm going to indulge in deep-fried anything, it better taste great and look as good as it tastes. Simply stated, it better be cooked to perfection (in the proper oil at the proper temperature for the proper amount of time), crispy on the outside, moist tender and juicy on the inside (not heavy or greasy), and, pretty as a picture. I've tried onion rings in a lot of places, and, in my opinion, the best ones are:

My Onion Rings Dipped in Tempura Beer-Batter & Deep-Fried!

IMG_1027It just makes sense.  Onions contain lots of water.  In order for them to maintain structural integrity, they need to be fried quickly.  They also need a batter that won't weigh them down in an armorlike coating.  Airy, Japanese tempura is that batter. Tempura, made with beer is even better.  Why?  Beer is loaded with carbon dioxide, foaming agents and alcohol, which creates a light, crispy crust with a slight yeasty tang to it!

IMG_0745Tempura is traditionally mixed in small batches, using a pair of chopsticks, and kept cold by placing the bowl of batter in a larger bowl of ice water.  The batter is made just prior to deep-frying and it is never allowed to stand.  Chopsticks are intentionally used because they are not an efficient tool for mixing, which makes them perfect for this task.  Leaving lumps in the batter results in the unique fluffy and crisp texture, so it is only mixed for a few seconds.  For Westerners like myself, "lumpy batter" can be a hard concept to grasp, because we are accustomed to trying to achieve velvety, smooth batters.

The mark of a well-made tempura batter are the lumps of dry-flour throughout the batter and the tell-tale powdery ring of flour around the sides of the bowl!

IMG_0900For the onions:

1  large Vidalia onion, or other sweet onion (1 large onion per batch of batter)

For the batter:

3/4  cup all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons rice flour

1  tablespoon cornstarch

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  large egg yolk, cold (taken straight from refrigerator, separated & used as as directed)

1  cup ice-cold Japanese beer, plus a small amount of additional beer, only if necessary

6  tablespoons cornstarch, more or less for dredging

corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying, placed in a deep-fryer according to manufacturer's specifications and heated to 360 degrees

freshly ground sea salt, for sprinkling on onion rings as they come out of the fryer

IMG_0129For the dipping sauce:

ranch dressing  (Note:  Feel free to dip onion rings into anything that pleases you, but, in my opinion, onion rings deserve something creamy that clings to their crunchy exterior and, in my play book, nothing beats the flavor of ~ Mel's "Happy Valley" Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~.  It is another American-born institution and you can find my recipe in Categories 1, 2, 8, 10, 17, 19 or 20!)

IMG_0930Step 1.  Slice the root and tip ends from the onions.  Peel the onions and cut them crosswise into 1/2" slices, then, separate the slices into individual rings.  Depending upon the size of the onions, plan on getting 4-5 slices from each one, or 24-30 onion rings per onion.  

Note:  I do not use the small centers of the onions, which you can do if you want to, but, I do dice and refrigerate them to have on hand to use for other purposes.

IMG_0787 IMG_0774~ Step 2.  In a small mixing bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour, rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

~ Step 3.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, lightly beat the egg yolk.  Add enough of beer to the measuring container to total 1 cup of liquid.

IMG_0805 IMG_0791                                         ~ Step 4. Add the beer/egg mixture to the flour mixture, and, using a pair of chopsticks, whisk until the mixture is just combined, drizzly, and slightly lumpy.  If the mixture is a bit too thick, add a bit more beer.  Error on the side of a drizzly, lumpy consistency rather than a "gloppy" lumpy consistency.

IMG_0972 IMG_0960~ Step 5. Working in assembly line fashion, one-at-a-time, lightly dredge each of 6 onion rings in the cornstarch (shaking off the excess)...

... Next, dip each onion ring into the tempura batter (allowing excess to drip back into the bowl) and lower it into the hot oil.  When 6 onion rings have been dredged, dipped and added to the 360 degree oil:

IMG_0988 IMG_1003~ Step 6. Close the lid on the fryer and cook for 3 1/2-4 minutes.  Using an an Asian spider (the basket of the deep-fryer works fine too), transfer to a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with paper towels to drain. Immediately sprinkle with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  

Repeat this process 3-4 more times, until all onion rings are deep-fried.

IMG_1062Tempura-Dipped Onion Rings:  Light, Airy & Crisp!:  Recipe yields 24-30 onion rings/3-4 servings allowing 6-8 per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; fork; 1-cup measuring container; chopsticks; deep-fryer; Asian spider or basket of deep-fryer; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels

IMG_3779Cook's Note:  Making real-deal French fries are a bit more work, but well worth the effort!  

My recipe for ~ Do You Want (Perfect "French") Fries with That? ~ can be found in Categories 2, 4, 15, 20, or 21!

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

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

08/07/2013

~Japanese 'Tempura' ('Light Batter' for Deep-Frying)~

IMG_0841You know how it is when you find yourself "on a roll".  According to wiki.answers.com, "on a roll" means:  to be busily engaged successfully, with ease and enjoyment, in any activity.  To be more specific, I am "on a Japanese roll".  Last week was yakitori week on Kitchen Encounters, and, it left me wanting more of their classic flavors and textures.  Joe and I "heart" Asian cuisine, and thanks to ten days in Tokyo back in 1986, we had our introduction to Japanese food and hospitality in the most authentic way possible.  Aside from being taken aback when my shrimp tempura "looked back at me" (it was served with the heads left on, which is considered a delicacy), I fell in love with everything, including sushi (which, because it is raw seafood, I was determined not to like).  This is why I understand those Americans who claim to love Japanese food, but, won't give sushi a try.  When asked what Japanese food they do like best, aside from yakitori or teppanyaki (which are both forms of grilling), the answer most often given is:  tempura!

IMG_0846Tempura is the pinnacle of fried food!  

No armorlike breading:  just a crispy, light, airy batter!!!

IMG_0736A bit about tempura (Tehm-POOR-uh) batter: Unlike panko-crusted food (Japanese breadcrumbs that produce an armorlike, extremely-crunchy casing), tempura produces an airy, extremely-light, crispy crust without using breadcrumbs.  It's made from very cold water or sparkling water (or Japanese beer, which I particularly like), eggs, flour and rice flour, baking soda or baking powder and salt (occasionally spices).  There are also store-bought tempura mixes, and, I won't lie, they work quite well!

IMG_0745Tempura is traditionaly mixed in small batches, using a pair of chopsticks, and kept cold by placing the bowl of batter in a larger bowl of ice water.  The batter is made just prior to deep-frying and it is never allowed to stand.  Chopsticks are intentionally used because they are not an efficient tool for mixing, which makes them perfect for this task. Leaving lumps in the batter results in the unique fluffy and crisp texture, so it is only mixed for a few seconds.  For Westerners like myself, "lumpy batter" can be a hard concept to grasp, because we are accustomed to trying to achieve velvety, smooth batters.

The mark of a well-made tempura batter are the lumps of dry flour throughout the batter and the tell-tale powdery ring of flour around the sides of the bowl!

IMG_0862"Tempura" per se refers to batter-dipped, deep-fried fish, seafood or vegetables, with importance placed on using the freshest of seasonal ingredients. Tempura restaurants, tenpura-ya, range from fast-food, take-out street-fare to five-star. They often offer tempura as a meal served in a compartmented bento (lunch box) accompanied by a low-sodium soy and ginger sauce for dipping or drizzling!

Tempura was introduced to the Japanese by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century. Tokugawa, Ieyasu (the 1st Shogun) loved it so much, it was adopted into their culture, accompanied by a seasoned soy sauce.  Like other Japanese words of that period, the word "tempura" is said to come from the Portuguese "temperado", which refers to spiced foods cooked without water, which was eventually interpreted to mean deep-fried!

Three things to remember for perfect tempura:

1) Fresh ingredients of choice, prepped as directed, patted dry and dredged in flour;

2) clean oil kept at a constant temperature of 360 degrees, and;

3) a cold, lumpy tempura batter is a perfect tempura batter!

IMG_0750Before one prepares their tempura batter, one must decide what one wants to dip into said tempura batter. Because shrimp are the hands-down all-time tempura favorite, I'm going to show you how to make shrimp tempura today.  For one batch of batter (recipe below), you'll need to prep as follows:

1  pound jumbo (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on and patted dry, about 2 dozen shrimp

IMG_0755After prepping the shrimp as directed above, here are two optional steps that are going to result in a pretty presentation:

~ Optional Step 1.  Using a sharp paring knife or a pair of kitchen shears, trim the ends off the tails at an angle, then...

IMG_0758... stand each shrimp upright and fan out the tail!

Doesn't that look prettier already? This little trick, which takes almost no time, works great when boiling, steaming, sauteeing or broiling shrimp too! 

 

IMG_0762~ Optional Step 2.  Flip each shrimp over on its back and score two shallow slits in the belly (as if you were going to slice the shrimp in thirds).

 

 

IMG_0766Notice how flat this shrimp is laying? This nifty step is going to prevent the shrimp from curling up when they get deep-fried!

Note:  Both of these steps can be done up to one day in prior to deep-frying shrimp.  Cover  prepped shrimp with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to deep-fry:

IMG_0912Here's what you need for the batter & the dipping sauce:

IMG_0900For the batter:

3/4  cup all-purpose flour

4  tablespoons rice flour

1  tablespoon cornstarch

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1 large egg yolk, cold (taken straight from the refrigerator, separated & used as directed)

1  cup ice-cold Japanese beer, plus a small amount of additional beer, only if necessary

6  tablespoons cornstarch, more or less, for dredging

corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying, placed in a deep-fryer according to manufacturer's specifications and heated to 360 degrees

freshly ground sea salt, for sprinkling on shrimp as they come out of the fryer

IMG_0904For the Dipping & Drizzling Sauce (tentsuyu): (Note:  Simmer in a small saucepan for 1-2 mintutes. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.  Serve warm.)

1/2 cup dashi stock (1/2 cup water + 1 teaspoon Hondashi granules)

3  tablespoons dark soy sauce, to taste

2  tablespoons mirin

1  tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1  garlic clove, run through a press (optional)

It's time to make the tempura batter and deep-fry the shrimp:

IMG_0787 IMG_0774~ Step 1.  In a small mixing bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour, rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, lightly beat the egg yolk.  Add enough of beer to the measuring container to total 1 cup of liquid.

IMG_0805 IMG_0791                                          ~ Step 3. Add the beer/egg mixture to the flour mixture, and, using a pair of chopsticks, whisk until the mixture is just combined, drizzly, and slightly lumpy.  If the mixture is a bit too thick, add a bit of additional beer.  Error on the side of a drizzly, lumpy consistency rather than a "gloppy", lumpy consistency.

IMG_0796~ Step 4.  Working in assembly line fashion, one-at-a-time, dredge each of six shrimp in the cornstarch (shaking off the excess)...

IMG_0800... Next, dip each shrimp into the tempura batter (allowing excess to drip back into the bowl) and lower it into the hot oil.  When six shrimp have been dredged, dipped and added to the 360 degree oil:

IMG_0818 IMG_0830~ Step 5. Close the lid on the fryer and cook for exactly 3 minutes. Open the lid after about 2 minutes of frying.  Using a pair of tongs, flip the shrimp onto their second side and complete the remainder of the cooking process. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.  Salt immediately. Repeat process three more times, until all shrimp are deep-fried.

IMG_0877Japanese 'Tempura' ('Light Batter' for Deep-Frying):  Recipe yields instructions for making enough tempura batter to batter-dip and deep-fry 1 pound of jumbo shrimp (2 dozen shrimp).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife; kitchen shears (optional); fork; 1-cup measuring container; chopsticks; deep-fryer; tongs; paper towels

Thai-Style Coconut Shrimp #1-c (Closeup)Cook's Note: For another one of my favorite beer-batter-dipped, deep-fried Asian-style shrimp recipes (using panko breadcrumbs for a super-crunchy crust), check out my recipe for ~ Crunchy Thai-Style Deep-Fried Coconut Shrimp ~ in Categories 1, 11, 13 & 14!

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

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

08/05/2013

~ How to: Properly Prepare Shrimp for Deep-Frying ~

IMG_0917Deep-fried shrimp.  Is there anyone who doesn't love them?  I'm won't lie, I love them, but, (and this is a very big but):  if I am going to indulge in some occasional deep-fried anything, it better taste great and look as good as it tastes.  Simply stated, it had better be cooked to perfection (in the proper oil at the proper temperature for the proper amount of time), crispy on the outside, moist, tender and juicy on the inside (not heavy and/or greasy), and, pretty as a picture!

IMG_0912In the case of shrimp, did you ever wonder why those jumbo, batter-dipped, deep-fried shrimp you get served in restaurants and see on television commercials look so much better than the ones most made in the home kitchen -- fingerlike looking, instead of curled up in tight little balls?

IMG_0846The answer is just two easy culinary techniques away! 

IMG_0883I spent all last week exploring the world of chicken yakitori here on KE:  three posts worth!  To read:  ~ My Japanese Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack!!! ~, ~ Japanese 'Yakitore' no Tare (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~, and/or ~ Japanese 'Yakitori' (Skewered & Grilled Chicken ~, just click on any of the Related Article links below!

I'm still in the mood for classic Japanese flavor and texture, so I've decided to continue on with Japanese fare a tad longer. On Wednesday, I'll be posting ~ Japanese 'Tempura' ('Light Batter' for Deep-Frying) ~.  I'll be making shrimp tempura, so I've decided to spend today showing you how to prep the shrimp:

IMG_0750In my tempura recipe, I'll be using jumbo shrimp.  This is important. Shrimp that are larger will take longer to took properly, causing the batter to be overcooked and dry. Smaller shrimp will take less time to cook, causing the batter to be undercooked and soggy.  You'll need:

1  pound jumbo (21-25 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on and patted dry, about 2 dozen shrimp

IMG_0755After prepping the shrimp as directed above, here are the two steps that are going to result in that picture-perfect presentation I've been talking about:

~ Step 1.  Using a sharp paring knife or a pair of kitchen shears, trim the ends off the tails at angle, then...

IMG_0758... stand each shrimp upright and fan out the tail.  

Doesn't that look prettier already? This little trick, which takes almost no time, works great when boiling, steaming, sauteing or broiling shrimp too!

IMG_0762

 

~ Step 2.  Flip/turn each shrimp over on its back and score two shallow slits in the belly (as if you were going to slice each shrimp into thirds)...

IMG_0766

 

 

... Notice how flat this shrimp is laying?  This nifty step is going to prevent the shimp from curling up when they are deep-fried.

Note:  Both of these steps can be done up to one day prior to deep-frying shrimp.  Cover prepped shrimp with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to deep-fry!

IMG_0833How to: Properly Prepare Shrimp for Deep-Frying:  Recipe yields instructions for prepping jumbo shrimp for batter-dipping and deep-frying.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; paring knife or a pair of kitchen shears

IMG_5232 IMG_5196Cook's Note: For one of my familiy's all-time favorite "snack shrimp" recipes, that uses medium shrimp in a culinary circumstance when shrimp "curling up into little balls" is very desirable, you can find: ~ Cajun-Creole Corn-Meal-Crusted Popcorn Shrimp ~ in Categories 1, 2 or 14.  Kids just love these and they're a great party starter too!

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

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

08/03/2013

~ Japanese 'Yakitori' (Skewered & Grilled Chicken) ~

IMG_0729Everyone loves to eat "food on a stick".  "Kabbaba" is the ancient Aramaic word for "to char" or "to burn".  Medieval Persian soldiers, who used their swords to grill their food over open fires in the field are credited with inventing "kabobs".  Over time, every culture/cuisine developed its own time-honored, traditional method for skewering and cooking kabobs:  the Greeks have their souvlaki, Peruvian anticucuos are awesome, and, satay is the national dish of Indonesia!

IMG_0711Americans are no exception and we Americans love to grill, which is why Americans who love Japanese food love yakitori.  Yakitori literally means "grilled chicken", with "yaki" being the Japanese word for "grill/grilling" and "tori" being the word for bird/chicken".  Morsels of chicken are threaded onto 6"-8" skewers in kabob fashion then grilled over hot charcoal or gas hibachi-type grills.  During the process, the meat is basted a couple of times with a distinct, savory and sweet "yakitori no tare" ("tare" is the Japanese word for "sauce"), a barbecue-type sauce made from mirin, sake, soy sauce, tamari sauce and brown sugar.  

What's not to love about that:

Welcome to Part III of III of yakitori week on Kitchen Encounters!

IMG_0449On Tuesday I posted ~ My Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack ~.  It is a rather lengthy, but extremely informative, in-depth commentary describing the art of cooking yakitori.  While doing the research, I was fascinated to learn how involved the process/method can be, and, in true Japanese-style, not a single part of the chicken goes to waste -- I even included a list of what you can expect to find and order from a yakitori menu.  To read it, just click into Category 16 or on the Related Article Link below!

IMG_0570On Thursday, I posted ~ Japanese 'Yakitori no Tare' (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~.  You've heard me say it before, "sometimes food is only as good as the sauce it gets served with" and this tare is what sets yakitori apart from all other chicken kabobs.  You can purchase it in Asian markets, but, taking the time to make this sauce from scratch will take your yakitori from ordinary to extraordinary.  Click on the Related Article link below for my recipe!

IMG_0611If you're ever sitting in an izakaya (a Japanese tapas-type bar), when ordering yakitori, you'll need to decide if you want yakitori, grilled with shio (sea salt), or, yakitori no tare, grilled and basted with sauce. 

When the yakitori is served, there will be two spices on the table: shichimi (a seven-spice chili pepper mixture) and sancho pepper (the dried berry of the prickly Ash tree with a tangy lemony flavor), sometimes marketed as Japanese pepper or prickly ash powder.  Head's up:  depending on where you live, these two can be prickly to find. I ordered them both on-line via amazon.com!

There's a trick to grilling yakitori in true Japanese style...

IMG_0712... and I've got two easy ways to mimic it on any type of grill!

Japanese_Style_yakitori_grillThe trick to churning out perfectly-charred chicken skewers that are crispy on the outside and moist and tender in the inside is not to let them touch the grill grids (which can cause them to stick and tear when being Japanese_Style_yakitori_grillturned, causing them to lose their juices and dry out).  Surprise: Japanese chefs have/use specially-designed grills that keep the food elevated about 1" above the grill grates over the steady stream of direct heat!  I say, "let's do that":

IMG_0614Wrap two bricks in foil and place them on the surface of any type of grill.  Just lay the 6"-8" skewers of food on top of the bricks and turn them occasionally as they cook.

Note:  Bricks elevate the food 1 3/4" from the heat, so they take a bit longer to cook than over a 1" elevation.  But, at 1 3/4" above the heat, wooden skewers won't burn, so, there's no need to soak them in tepid water for 30 minutes first!  Or:

IMG_0621Invest in an inexpensive shish-kabob set (they all work the same and cost $15.00-$20.00).  I like this contraption on so many levels:

a.  It's the perfect 1" elevation.

b.  The skewers are kept stationary and they're super easy to turn too.

c.  13" skewers allow you to cook twice as much food in the same space as 6"-8" skewers on bricks!

Choose your weapons (skewers)!  Let's make yakitori no tare!

IMG_0638~ Step 1.  On each of three skewers I'm using the meat from (3 are all leg meat/3 are all thigh meat):

5  skinless chicken legs (I used their bones to make the tare on Thursday), and

5   boneless, skinless chicken thighs

cut into 1"-1 1/2" chunks, alternated on 6, 13" skewers with:

IMG_0633~ Step 2.  The white and light-green 4" center sections of:

4 very large leeks that have been split in half lengthwise.  The 4" sections have been separated and washed (to remove grit and sand), patted dry and cut into 1" squares.

Note: Japanese neganegi (long onions) were not available. Leeks are the suggested substitution.

IMG_0688~ Step 3.  Place skewers (on  bricks or the shish kabob rack) on grill over hottest setting.  Grill, until chicken is short of turning brown and juices begin to drip, on both sides, about 7-8 minutes per side.  

IMG_0678Brush on both sides with tare and continue to cook for 1 minute per side...

IMG_0700... or slightly longer, until lightly golden (about 75% cooked through).

Brush chicken a second time on both sides and cook until golden, about 1-1 1/2 more minutes (30-45 seconds per side).  Do not overcook or it WILL dry out.

Note:  All grills cook differently, and our Viking cooks quite hot, so be sure to adjust and note your cooking times accordingly!

IMG_0634 IMG_0683 IMG_0693 IMG_0704I like to give my yakitori a quick 3rd baste prior to transferring to a serving platter.  Let everyone help themselves, and be sure to serve w/plenty of steamed white rice.  Allow everyone to season their own portion with a sprinkle of fragrant sancho pepper, shichimi seven-spice and additional tare for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_0723Japanese 'Yakitori' (Skewered & Grilled Chicken):  Recipe yields instructions for skewering, grilling and serving yakitori in Japanese-style.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; barbecue skewers (bamboo or metal, any length) or shish-kabob set; pastry brush; a really good pair of grill gloves or tongs

IMG_0634Cook's Note:  It's important to note that all of the prep for this meal can be done just short of the actual grilling, several hours or one day in advance.  Covering the skewers of chicken with plastic and storing in the refrigerator overnight is perfectly acceptable behavior (I refrigerated this entire kabob rack).  This is a great meal to serve for a party, and, remember, this is an event your guests will enjoy watching!

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

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

08/01/2013

~ Japanese 'Yakitori no Tare' (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~

IMG_0514It's hard to comprehend, but there are Americans who claim to love Japanese food and won't give sushi a try.  When asked what Japanese food they like best, aside from deep-fried tempura, the answer is a resounding yakitori or teppanyaki:  which are both forms of grilling.  Americans love to grill.  "Yaki" is the Japanese word for "grill/grilling".  In the case of yakitori ("tori" is the japanese word for "bird/chicken"), pieces of chicken are skewered and grilled over an open-grate, charcoal or gas, hibachi-type grill.  In the case of teppanyaki, all sorts of food (meat, poultry, seafood, rice, eggs and or vegetables) are cooked on a flat-topped, solid-surface, iron plate called a teppan, which is better suited to smaller-sized and/or finely-chopped ingredients!

Welcome to Part II of III of yakitori week on Kitchen Encounters! 

IMG_0449

On Tuesday, I posted ~ My Yakitori Story & All the Facts Jack ~.  It is a rather lengthy, but extremely informative commentary describing the art of cooking yakitori.  While doing the research, I was amazed to find out how involved the process/method can be, and, in true Japanese-style, not a single part of the chicken goes to waste.  To read it, just click into Category 16 or on the Related Article link below!

Every cuisine/culture has it's own time-honored, traditional method for skewering and grilling kabobs:

What sets yakitori apart from all other grilled chicken kabobs?  It's all about the sauce:  Yakitori no Tare!

IMG_0416"Tare" is the Japanese word for "sauce", and, a good homemade yakitori sauce, like any other sauce, will always be richer, thicker and more flavorful than store-bought sauce.  That being said, there are some pretty good brands on the shelves of Asian markets, which, in a pinch, will save you quite a bit of time (about 2 hours).

Even though yakitori sauce is time consuming, yakitori no tare is easy to make, using easy-to-find ingredients:  sake, mirin, dark soy sauce, tamari sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger and occasionally roasted chicken leg bones (which add a lot of extra flavor).  The tare is a nice balance of salty and sweet, with soy and tamari sauces providing the salty.  The sweet comes from the sake and mirin, which are both sweet rice wines!

Similar to American barbecue pitmasters, it is said that some yakitori chefs just add ingredients to the sauce on an as-needed basis, and, some have (astonishingly) kept their pot of sauce ongoing for over ten years!  

This type of "ongoing sauce" process/method produces a particularly rich and flavorful tare (sauce) because Japanese chefs customarily dip the skewered food into the pot of sauce, rather then brushing it on, so the tare accumulates a lot of additional flavor from the chicken juices!

Like many things, recipes for yakitori no tare vary from cook to cook (there is no secret formula). There are quick-mix versions and slow-simmered ones.  I prefer the slow-simmered ones for their intense, complex flavor.  Like many things, I think yakitori no tare tastes best if left to cool for several hours or overnight, to give all of the flavors time to marry.  Also, it keeps in the refrigerator almost indefinitely and freezes well too!  Here is my version:

IMG_05034-6  bones from 4-6 chicken legs after removing skin and meat 

2  cups mirin

1  cup sake

1 1/2  cups dark soy sauce

1/2  cup tamari sauce

4-6  tablespoons firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1  cup coarsely-chopped green onion, white and light-green part only

4-6  large garlic cloves, coarsely-sliced

1/2  cup of peeled and 1/4"-1/2" diced fresh ginger

IMG_0483 IMG_0478~ Step 1. Remove the skin from the chicken legs.  

The easiest way to do this is to loosen the skin at the plump bottom end and pull the skin upward, in one piece, towards the thin top end.

Using a paper towel, firmly grip the skin and give it a good tug.  Its kind of like removing a sock from someone elses foot!

IMG_0490~ Step 2.  Using a sharp filet or paring knife, carefully trim the meat away from the bones.  Do your best to keep the meat in large chunks.  

Note:  Each chicken leg will yield enough of chunked leg meat to yield one yakitori negima (the meat of the leg).  Save the skin too, when the Japanese skewer and grill the skin of the leg, thigh, breast &/or neck, that's called yakitori kawa!

Refrigerate the chicken chunks until ready to use.

IMG_0500~ Step 3.  Position oven rack about 5" underneath the preheated broiler of oven.  Place the chicken leg bones on a small broiler pan.  I'm using a small, toaster-oven size disposable aluminum broiler pan. Broil, until bones are browned all over, using a pair of tongs to turn them every 8-10 minutes.  This will take about 25-30 minutes.

IMG_0507 IMG_7598                                               ~ Step 4. Prep the green onion, garlic and ginger as directed placing them in a 4-quart saucier or 4-quart saucepan as you work.  Note:  A saucier is a pot with a flat bottom and rounded sides that promotes reduction.

Add the mirin, sake, soy sauce, tamari sauce, brown sugar and chicken bones. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat...

IMG_0536... adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until mixture is reduced by about half, 1-1 1/2 hours.  In my saucier on my stove this took 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Note:  This mixture contains sugar and sweet liquids.  Regulate the heat as needed.  It can and will boil over if the heat is too high.

Remove pot from heat, cover and allow to cool and steep, several hours to overnight.

IMG_0600 IMG_0587~ Step 5. Place a fine mesh strainer over a 1-quart measuring container or food storage container. Strain the yakitori no tare through the strainer into the container.

Store in the refrigerator indefinitely. Return to room temperature prior to using at room temperature or warmed slightly. 

IMG_0570Japanese Yakitori Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups yakitori no tare.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; cutting board; sharp filet or paring knife; kitchen shears; 9" x 6 1/4" x 1" disposible aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom; 4-quart saucier or 4-quart stockpot; 4-cup measuring container &/or food storage container w/lid; fine mesh strainer

IMG_4625Cook's Note:  Looking for another unique sauce common to Asian cuisine?  You can find my recipe for ~ A Chinese Staple:  Real-Deal Basic Brown Sauce ~ in Categories 8 or 13.  Like its cousin, yakitori no tare, this is a sauce you will not want to be without!

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

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