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14 posts from January 2014

01/30/2014

~ Yankee-Style Southern-Fried Chicken & Waffles ~

IMG_2155I refer to my recipe for Southern fried chicken and waffles as "Yankee-style" because I have never eaten fried chicken and waffles together on the same plate below the Mason-Dixon line. I've traveled through many Southern states, and eaten a few meals in Tennesee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.  I have eaten some fine fried chicken on these travels, but, I do not recall the option of a waffle with it or underneath it.  My great Aunt (a South Carolina gal married to a PA guy) repeatedly drawled "there is no such thing as this dish in the South" every time she served it to us Yankees right here in Pennsylvania.  Read on:

IMG_1960Here in Pennsylvania (and the surrounding states), we've been putting chicken on waffles for centuries.  I grew up in Eastern PA and the Pennsylvania Dutch ("Dutch" was the English settlers slang word for "Deutsch", meaning the German speaking people) top their waffles with roasted or stewed chicken and douse it with gravy prior to serving.  When Southern cooks began migrating to the North, and vice versa, a cross-pollination probably occurred and Southern fried-chicken with waffles was born, but, I have another take on this.  I am inserting this paragraph from Tuesday's PA Dutch version post:

In Pennsylvania Dutch country, chicken and waffles is a common Sunday supper (they call "dinner" "supper" there).  The concept most likely evolved from "fried catfish and waffle" dinners served in the Philadelphis area in eateries along the Schuylkill River (whose supplying creeks were full of fresh catfish).  The Schuylkill Hotel (founded in 1813) was the first well-known place, along with the Catfish and Waffle House, located at the Schuylkill Falls, which from 1848 into the early 1900's did a thriving business purely by word-of-mouth recommendations.  It doesn't take much imagination to rationalize a reason for the people of the rural, surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch farming communities (close knit groups of family-oriented people who kept to themselves and never went out to eat) to adopt this inexpensive style of hearty eating by substituting roasted or stewed farm-raised chicken served on waffles (the Yankee version of biscuits and gravy).  That being said, it is also not much of leap to see why they wouldn't have substituted fried chicken for fried catfish, to invent fried-chicken and waffles!

IMG_1676Whatever version of chicken and waffles you're preparing, it begins with waffles.  You want them to be quite crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, and, ones with deep, bold grooves to catch the gravy or maple syrup.  My girlfriend's yeast-risen waffles are amazing.  To get my recipe for  ~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~ just click on the Related Article link below.  Click on the same to get my recipe for real-deal ~ Pennsylvania-Dutch-Country Chicken & Waffles ~!

Southern-Fried Chicken (& Waffles) -- Made My Favorite Way!

IMG_2158Ask someone to name one dish they associate with Southern fare and 99 out of 100 people will say "fried chicken". It is the quintessential Southern dish.  I have some advice for cookbook authors and bloggers:  when publishing a recipe for Southern fried chicken, do not use the words "best" or "ultimate" to describe yours.  You are going to insult someone's mother or grandmother. Keep your pontifications to yourself. Publish your "favorite" recipe.

6a0120a8551282970b019aff535be7970d-800wiWhen it comes to Southern fried chicken, mine is simple.  Why?  I had two Great Aunt's who owned farms and raised chickens:  Aunt Mary (a Northern girl), and, Aunt Yula (a Southern girl). They were sisters-in-law, both living in PA.  It was not unusual for either one of them to behead some poor chicken in the morning and serve it for dinner in the evening.  When it came to frying chicken,  I do not recall any special brines or marinades.  It was a straightforward process that included a wet dip in some beaten farm-fresh eggs, and a dry dip in all-purpose flour mixed with a few dried-spices (hot sauce was not a pantry staple, and, it would be years before any of us would take our first bite of "The Colonel's 11 Herbs & Spices").  Their chicken was delicious.

IMG_2143I use a deep-fryer to fry chicken for this recipe.  It controls the heat perfectly and cleanup is a breeze.  

My Aunt Mary used a WWII era aluminum pot.  The one pictured here is my grandmother's (my Aunt Mary's sister), but it is identical.

Aunt Yula used the biggest, heaviest cast-iron skillet I ever saw.

All three of ladies cooked on wood- or coal-fired stoves.  On that note, I continue with this recipe my way.

IMG_2054For the chicken:

2, 3-4 pound frying chickens cut into 6 pieces each (no wings), or:

4  each:   bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, thighs and legs, or:

your family's favorite combination of chicken parts (see mine below)

corn or peanut oil for deep-frying

Note:  Since every person has a IMG_2069preference, I am frying all three today.  Timing varies, so always cook "like parts" together. Breast halves are a bit more cumbersome, so, if using a deep fryer, make sure one will fit in the fryer-basket.  In my deep-fryer, I can cook 3 legs, 2 thighs or 1 breast per batch.  Never overcrowd the fryer basket!

IMG_2026For the wet and dry coatings:

6  large eggs, at room temperature, whisked together with 6 tablespoons of water and 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

3  cups all-purpose flour

6  tablespoons corn starch (2 tablespoons for each cup of flour)

2  teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon paprika

1  teaspoon black pepper

3/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

2  teaspoons sea salt

freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, for seasoning chicken as it comes out of the fryer

For the toppings:

room temperature butter, for slathering over the hot, crisp waffles

warmed maple syrup, for drizzling over the deep-fried chicken and hot, crisp waffles

hot sauce, your favorite brand, served at tableside for spicing things up a bit 

IMG_2042 IMG_2064~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, water and salt until frothy.  Set aside.  

IMG_2034In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch IMG_2079and all spices.  In a cheese shaker-type container, place 3/4 cup of the flour mixture.

IMG_2073~ Step 2. Line a large baking pan w/parchment.  Pat chicken dry and arrange on pan.  Lightly season tops w/sea salt and black pepper. While using the shaker container, pick each piece up and lightly coat it on all sides with seasoned flour.

IMG_2085~ Step 3.  Preheat deep-fryer to 360 degrees and set up your chicken frying assembly line. Pictured from left to right:  pan of seasoned chicken, bowl of whisked egg mixture, larger bowl of seasoned flour and preheated deep fryer.  In the front, there is a timer and a pair of tongs.  In the back there is a second large baking pan lined w/parchment and fitted with a cooling rack.

IMG_2092 IMG_2088~ Step 4.  I start with the small pieces first.  One at a time, dip 3 chicken legs in the egg mixture and allow excess liquid to drizzle back into the bowl.

IMG_2094Dredge each leg in seasoned flour and shake all excess flour back into the bowl.

IMG_2107 IMG_2104Lower each piece into the fry basket as you work, as quickly as you can, dipping and dredging the next two.  Close the lid and allow to fry about 13-14 minutes.  Repeat this process with the remaining three chicken legs. Repeat this process with the thighs, cooking them two at a time for 13-14 minutes as well.

When chicken comes out of deep-fryer, pot or skillet, immediately season with salt and pepper.

IMG_2124 IMG_2117~ Step 5.  As crazy as this is going to sound, the big, white-meat chicken breasts are going to cook in less time than the smaller dark-meat legs and thighs.  

I dip and dredge the breasts one at a time, and cook them one at a time for 9-10 minutes.

IMG_2132Note: Throughout the frying process, I do not keep the previously fried chicken warm in a low oven.  That would just dry it out. In fact, the rest period does it good, allowing all of the juices time to redistributute throughout the fried chicken. Instead, I do this:  

IMG_1819When the chicken is fried, I place the entire pan in a 350 degree oven for 5-6 minutes to crisp up and reheat, along with the pan of waffles, as per that recipe's directions too.  Remove from oven, portion, and serve immediately, with softened butter, warmed maple syrup and hot sauce at the table:

IMG_2137Go ahead, fix yourself a plate to your liking, and dig in:

IMG_2196I adore the moist and juicy white meat:

IMG_2310I'm Dreaming of a Summer picnic instead of a Winter Superbowl:

IMG_2270Yankee-Style Southern-Fried Chicken & Waffles:  Recipe yields 8 servings of deliciousness.

Special Equipment List:  waffle iron and all special equipment specified in recipe; whisk; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1'2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1-cup cheese-shaker type container; deep-fryer preheated to manufacturer's specifications; tongs; large cooling rack; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b019aff52d2b5970b-800wiCook's Note:  If, for any number of reasons, deep-frying is not your "cup of tea" don't let that stop you from making this recipe.  ~ My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts ~ (found in Categories 3, 19 or 20), will deliver crispy edible skin and moist succulent meat too!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/28/2014

~ Pennsylvania-Dutch-Country Chicken & Waffles ~

IMG_1994It is Waffle Week here on Kitchen Encounters, and, thanks to my finding the perfect recipe for waffles, given to me a few days ago by my friend Teresa, I can post my chicken and waffle recipes, made two ways:  PA Dutch- and Southern Fried-style.  I've hesitated to do so thusfar because I grew up in PA Dutch Country (Eastern, PA),  the land of Pennsylvania Dutch chicken and waffles.  My fiance's grandmother ("Nana"), from Mantzville, was PA Deutsch and hers were amazing, made with sour cream-based waffles.  Besides every family having their favorite recipe for these roasted-chicken and gravy-topped waffles, they had their favorite places to go to eat them too.  Chicken and waffles were served in every diner and restaurant, and, at county fairs and country clubs.  A few times a year, churches, hose companies (fire houses) and organizations like Kiwanis and Lion's clubs featured chicken and waffles at their fundraisers:

Chicken and waffles isn't just a meal, it's bigger than that...

... it's a relaxing, comforting, civilized lifestyle!

IMG_2007Both of my recipes for chicken and waffles have always been REALLY good, but, I always felt they could be closer to perfection if I could just get my thumb on a better waffle recipe. Simmer down.  This is not a criticizm of Nana (who made PA Dutch sour cream waffles) or Aunt Yula (who made Southern buttermilk waffles).  They made what their foremothers made on the waffle irons they had available to them:  American-style waffles on American-style waffle irons:

IMG_1827Waffles made with baking powder and/or baking soda are American waffles, and,  they are made on a waffle iron with shallow, delicate grids.  Tangy ingredients like sour cream and buttermilk are common additives to American waffles.

Waffles made with yeast are Belgian waffles, and they are made on a waffle iron with deep, bold grids.  Yeast not only gives these waffles a fully-developed tangy taste, it gives them a very light, airy texture you won't get using baking powder and or baking soda.

IMG_1602Unfortunately, nowadays, the term "Belgian" waffle has come to refer to the type of waffle iron used rather than the recipe, which is made with yeast.  What this means is:  you can make any kind of waffle in either type of machine, but unless your batter is made with yeast, you are not making a Belgian waffle.

Why I believe Belgian waffles are better for chicken and waffles:

IMG_1819There are a three reasons:  1)  Taste.  The fully-developed yeast flavor is present and accounted for.  It holds it's own on the fork with the seasoned roasted or fried chicken.  2)  Texture.  They are crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, and, the deeper grooves hold the gravy and/or honey or syrup so much better than the shallow ones.  3)  Portion size.  One 4" square waffle topped with a generous portion of chicken and a vegetable to the side is a nice meal. One giant dinner-plate sized waffle with a half chicken on top of it is extreme eating (and not for me)!

You say Pennsylvania Dutch, We say Pennsylvania Deutsch!

Illo-06I am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania.  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life?  You betcha! 

A bit about PA Dutch (PA Deutsch) chicken and waffles:  In Pennsylvania Dutch country, chicken and waffles is a common Sunday supper (they call "dinner" "supper" there).  The concept most likely evolved from "fried catfish and waffle" dinners served in the Philadelphia area in eateries along the Schuykill River (whose supplying creeks were full of fresh catfish). The Schuylkill Hotel (founded in 1813) was the first well-known place, along with the Catfish and Waffle House, located at the Schuylkill Falls, which from 1848 into the early 1900's did a thriving business purely by word-of-mouth recommendations.  It doesn't take much imagination to rationalize a reason for the people of the surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch farming communities (close knit groups of family-oriented people who kept to themselves and never went out to eat) to adopt this inexpensive style of hearty eating by substituting roasted or stewed farm-raised chickens served on waffles (the Yankee version of biscuits and gravy).  It is also not much of a leap to see why they wouldn't have substituted fried chicken for fried catfish to invent fried chicken and waffles!

Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken & Waffles a la Mel (in 3 E-Z Parts)!

IMG_1960No respectable foodie ever claims to have "the best" recipe for anything, but, I will stack this chicken and waffle recipe up against anyone's.  If it looks looks long and complicated that's only because of all the step-by-step photos I took to help you.  This is a simple and straightforward recipe with three easy components coming together to result in one extrordinary dinner:  

Light, crunchy waffles piled high with a mixture of moist roasted chicken, onions and celery, drizzled with a savory, silky chicken gravy! 

Part One:  Making the Waffles (Yours or Mine, Your Choice)

IMG_1676~ Step 1.  I prepare my waffles and place them on a large rack that has been placed in a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment. Once cooled to room temperature, I cover the pan with plastic wrap. This can be done in the morning or a day ahead of time.  Before serving, uncover and place pan in a preheated 350 degree oven long enough to reheat and crisp them, about 5-6 minutes (error on the side of crispy).

Note:  If you are only serving waffles 1-2 at a time, pop them in the toaster for about 1 minute to reheat and crisp (error the side of crispy).

 ~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~ recipe can be found in Categories 9, 11, 18, 20 & 21, or, by clicking on the Related Article link below.  They are awesome!

Part Two:  Roasting the Chicken(s)

IMG_1839~ Step 1.  You will need:

1, 7 1/2-8 pound roasting chicken,

but, I cook wise and roast 2.

This will yield lots of gravy for your waffles, and, in the same amount of time, I have one entire "leftover" chicken for salads and sandwiches!

IMG_1840Coarsely chop & toss together:

3  cups yellow onion

1  cup celery.

Stuff mixture in the bird cavities. Place birds on a rack in a large disposible roasting pan into which:

2,  14 1/2 cans chicken broth

have been placed.  Top with:

coarsely ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

IMG_1852~ Step 2.  Roast, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven until a meat thermometer placed in the breast and then the leg-thigh portion has reached an internal temperature of 160-165 degrees.  Ideally, I like to remove my chicken when the temperature is between 161 and IMG_1854163 degrees.  Both of my birds weighed about 7 3/4 pounds, and, depending upon your oven temperature they will need about 1 hour and 45 minutes to roast.

~ Step 3.  Remove from oven and cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, to allow the chicken to rest and steam, for 1 hour.  This is going to allow the juices in the chicken to evenly distribute themselves, and, render the chicken meat extremely moist, tender and juicy.

Note:  This is not the way I normally roast poultry, but it is how I do it for this particular recipe.  To read my official rules, check out my post ~ Roasting Poultry & Making Gravy:  My Own Techniques & Oration (the long and not so short of it) ~ in Category 15!

IMG_1876 IMG_1864~ Step 4. Uncover and transfer each chicken to a separate plate.  

Using a long handled spoon, scoop the onion/celery mixture from the center of each bird and transfer to one, small common bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Cover one chicken with plastic wrap, set it aside to cool completely, then, refrigerate it to use later.

IMG_1885~ Step 5.  Using any method you like, remove and discard all of the skin from the chicken.  Using any method you like, remove all meat from the carcass.  I use a combination of a chef's knife and my fingers.  This tender, flavorful chicken is at its best if it is pulled IMG_1894and shredded by hand, rather than sliced and chopped.

Note:  The above photo illustrates the ratio of white meat and dark meat to veggies.  Nice!

~ Step 6.  Place the chicken and the veggie mixture in a large bowl and toss to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Adding the onion/celery mixture is a secret of mine.  Other recipes don't do this.  Please don't omit it!

Part Three:  Making the Chicken Gravy

IMG_1880~ Step 1.  Transfer all of the pan juices to a 4-cup sized fat/lean separator and set aside.  After about 30-60 seconds, you will have about 3 1/2-4 cups of juices topped with a layer of fat (depending entirely upon the size of your chickens and how fatty they were). 

Add additional chicken stock or water to the top of the separator to total 4 cups of fat-free drippings. This measurement will prevent gravy from being too thick or thin.

IMG_1905 IMG_1903~ Step 2.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, over medium-low heat, melt

6 tablespoons butter

Whisk in:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

IMG_1911Continue to whisk constantly until the mixture (referred to as a roux) is thickened and smooth.  This process takes about 1 minute.

IMG_1919~ Step 3. Whisk in all of the fat-free liquid (4 total cups) from the separator, discarding all fat.  Adjust heat to medium-high and bring IMG_1928gravy to a gentle simmer.  Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until gravy has thickened to coat the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.

~ Step 4.  Whisk in:

1/2  teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, more or less

1/4  cup cream,  just enough to add a silky texture to the gravy, not enough to thin it down

IMG_1932Continue to simmer gently for 1 more minute.  Turn the heat off. Cover the pan and allow to steep for 5-6 minutes, while reheating the waffles in the oven.

Briefly stir, taste, and, add a bit more salt, to taste, if necessary.

To serve, place one waffle on each warmed serving plate, portion (place a mound of) chicken mixture evenly over the top of each and drizzle with gravy.  Serve any leftover gravy to the side.

IMG_2012Pennsylvania-Dutch-Country Chicken & Waffles:  Recipe yields 8 waffles, 8 servings of chicken and 4-4 1/2 cups of gravy.

Special Equipment List:  waffle iron and all equipment as specified in recipe; 20" x 12" x 6" disposable aluminum roasting pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" cooling rack; cutting board; chef's knife; instant-read meat thermometer; aluminum foil; long-handled spoon; 1-quart fat/lean separator; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep-sides & lid; whisk  

IMG_4511Cook's Note:  In the event you are looking for a classic, authentic Deutsch dessert to serve with this chicken and waffle recipe, I've got it:

Check out ~ My PA Dutch Favorite:  Shoo-Fly Pie (Give it a try!) ~ in Categories 6, 19 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/26/2014

~ Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles ~

IMG_1706In the event you make real-deal waffles from scratch, you know the mere sight of a box of frozen, stick-in-the-toaster-type waffles makes you shudder.  In the event you have never made real-deal waffles from scratch (sorry, boxed pancake and waffle mixes do not qualify for "from scratch" status), I warn you, once you do, there is no going back in time.   You'll have no where to run and no where to hide from your family, so, proceed with caution.  Take a moment and make your decision carefully, because the path you choose will affect you for the rest of your life!

Let me be honest, if you are the family cook, making real-deal waffles in the midst of getting everyone in your household out the door for school and/or work on time, to say the least, requires a degree in time-management.  Toasting some bread, scrambling or frying some eggs, and, even whisking up a few pancakes is child's play compared to making any type of waffles. For years, I saved waffle making for occasional weekend and very special occasion breakfasts.

IMG_1676I had issues with the entire waffle-making ordeal.  Waffles made with baking powder and/or baking soda lacked the well-developed flavor of waffles containing yeast.  Waffles containing yeast require ample time to rise, several hours on the countertop or overnight in the refrigerator, and, even then, most recipes require whisking additional ingredients into them prior to cooking. Not my idea of a good time.  For me, cooking in the morning had better be seriously simple and straightforward -- period.  I am not a "sweet" girl in the morning.  I just want to have fun:

Preheat waffle iron, remove batter from refrigerator and cook!

401433_368206216530792_1474985001_aBy coincidence, about two weeks ago, a talented foodie friend of mine, Teresa Gottier, posted a photo of her "overnight" yeast waffles on Facebook.  Over the past two years, Teresa has shared a few of her delicious recipes with me.  Let me tell you, when Teresa shares a recipe with you, you know it is going to work perfectly:  it is precisely written, with all sorts of added notes that troubleshoot any "gray areas".  Good luck trying to find that in a published cookbook these days.  Her recipe for Belgian waffles is EVERTHING a waffle should be, including easy!

IMG_1466A bit about Belgian vs. American Waffles:  Americans tend to think all waffles are alike.  Nothing could be farther from the truth -- even in Belgium.  Traditionally, Belgian waffles are made with yeast, giving them plenty of time to rise, rendering them lighter and crisper than American waffles made with baking powder and/or baking soda. Unfortunately, that distinctive difference in preparation has been dumbed down to refer to the type of waffle iron used (either electric or stovetop), rather than the recipe.

IMG_1467It is important to note that the difference between the two irons is immediately obvious. The Belgian iron (pictured on the left) has a deep, bold grid, while the American iron (on the right) has a shallow more delicate grid.  I own both types of electric waffle irons and I find it very odd that neither of the recipe booklets include a recipe for waffles made with yeast.  No wonder people are confused!

IMG_1773Belgian waffles and Mel:

In 1958, Belgian waffles were showcased to the world at Expo 58 in Brussels, Belgium.  I was 3 and I did not attend.  In 1962, they made their American debut at the Century 21 Expo in Seattle, WA.  I was 7, and I didn't make that event either. Belgian waffles were made famous in 1964 at the New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, where they were served with strawberries and whipped cream.  I was 9 and my brother was 6.  Our family visited that fair 3 times and Belgium waffles was one of our stops every time!

It's time to make some overnight Belgian waffles!

IMG_151310  ounces unbleached, all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 cups)

1  generous tablespoon sugar

1  teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons granulated yeast (1, 1/4-ounce packet), not Rapid Rise

14  ounces whole milk (1 3/4  cups)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1 1/2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract, not imitation

2  large eggs, at room temperature

IMG_1495 IMG_1503~ Step 1. Let me start by saying when a recipe gives you a flour measurement by weight, it is the correct way to give you a flour measurement.  Flour should be measured using a kitchen scale.  As per Teresa, I weighed the flour.  For your convenience I measured it.  It worked out to be about a teaspoon shy of 2 1/4 cups.

IMG_1525 IMG_1515~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients:  flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Set aside.  

In a 1-cup measuring container (or a small bowl), using a fork, whisk the eggs and set aside.

IMG_1538 IMG_1523~ Step 3.  In a 1-quart saucepan, place milk, butter and vanilla.  Melt the butter into the milk over medium heat, stirring frequently.  When butter is melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool to 120 degrees, about 20-25 minutes.  Check  temperature every 5 minutes with an instant read thermometer to get it exact.

IMG_1559 IMG_1547~ Step 4. Whisk the milk mixture to the dry ingredients until smooth.

IMG_1568Whisk in the eggs.  The yeast batter should be very smooth and drizzly.

IMG_1602 IMG_1590~ Step 5. Transfer the mixture to a very large, clean bowl (I like to let the dough rise in a bowl with no residue on the sides and this is a 5-quart bowl).  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator overnight, 10-12 hours, or longer.  (Mine was in the refrigerator from 5:30PM to 10:30AM, or 17 hours.)

IMG_1612~ Step 6.  Preheat your waffle iron according to manufacturer's specifications.  My waffle iron takes about 10 minutes.  

IMG_1609Remove the batter from the refrigerator, uncover and give it a couple of stirs to deflate it.  There is no need to overmix it.

IMG_1631~ Step 7.  It's time to ladle the batter onto the waffle iron.  My Belgian waffler makes two 4" square waffles.  Each waffle requires 1/2 cup batter.  I'm using a 4-ounce ladle and it works perfectly.

Note:  Grid size varies between manufacturers, so, it may require a test batch to determine if you need to use more or less batter.  Make a note of it and you'll never have to worry about that again!

IMG_1638Open the lid of the preheated waffle iron, and, working as quickly as you can without making a mess, deliver a level ladleful (no more, no less) to the center of each square, and, slightly towards the back hinges of the waffle iron.  I used a teaspoon to scrape all of the batter from the ladle onto the grid.

I say "slightly towards the back of the machine" because when you close the lid, it is going to push the batter forward towards the front.

IMG_1656Close the lid on the waffler and allow the waffles to cook, until golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Note:  This time will vary depending upon the heat of your machine, and, as you bake continuous batches, the time will most likely lessen a bit because the grids store heat.

Using a fork, lift the waffles up from the grid, slide a long spatula underneath the pair and serve immediately, or:

To make them slightly ahead of time, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Place a rack in a 17 1/2" x 11 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment.  Prepare all of the waffles, as directed above, placing them on the rack as they come out of the waffle iron.  When all waffles are cooked, place the entire pan in the oven for 3-5 minutes to warm and crisp them.

IMG_1819"L'Eggo My Eggo & L'Me Eat!!!"

IMG_1754Teresa's Easy-to-Make Overnight Belgian Waffles:  Depending upon the size of the grids on your Belgian waffle iron, recipe yields 8, 4" square waffles, or 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale; whisk; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 1-quart saucepan; instant-read thermometer; a very large mixing bowl, about 5-quarts; plastic wrap; waffle iron, preheated to manufacturer's specifications; 1/2-cup ladle; teaspoon; long-handled fork; long spatula 

6a0120a8551282970b015438a65255970c-800wiCook's Note:  A pizzelle is a very thin, Italian "waffle" cookie, made with a doughy batter and cooked on a "pizzelle iron", which is very similar to a waffle iron.  

To learn about these delightful cookies and get my recipe, click into Categories 7 or 12 to read   ~ Double-Lemon & Vanilla-Kissed Pizzelle Cookies ~!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

01/24/2014

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/24/14) ~

Culinary Q & A #2The sun is out but "oh baby, it is cold outside" -- any number above zero would be most welcomed here in PA.  Because of this freeze,  I've been making quite a few "Honey, I'm working at home instead of going into my offices" breakfasts. This past week we've enjoyed omelettes two ways: ~ An Indian Masala Omelette ~, and, ~ My E-Z Creamy-Dreamy French-Style Omelettes ~.  Click into Category 9 to find both of these recipes!

IMG_1075Making and eating breakfast on a frigid cold Winter morning is a very cathartic experience.  It just gives everyone, including the cook, a "warm, happy, fuzzy feeling".  It is your brain signaling that you and yours are safe, warm and protected from the elements.  Even our three poodles love a French omelette!

IMG_1472Because I've decided to make waffles for my next blog post, I chose a question I received a few months ago for today's Q&A.  Just so you understand, I receive questions all the time on KE, and, I answer each one of them almost immediately.  I also keep them all in a file, to use at a later date.  This is not self-serving, it is to serve you better.  These are culinary questions directly related to the upcoming/immediate matter at hand:

IMG_1466Q.  (On November 30, 2013) Joleen says and asks :  Thank-you for your recipe for ~ Perfectly Roasted Rosemary Turkey Breast ~.  My sister and her husband were here for my 1st attempt at Thanksgiving dinner. The turkey breast turned out wonderful -- moist and delicious and just the right amount for the four of us.  Back in July, I received an electric waffle maker as a bridal shower gift.  It says it is a Belgian waffle maker.  It came with a small booklet of recipes, which I used on Friday to make waffles for breakfast (for my guests).  The waffles were fine, but, my husband said they were not "Belgian" waffles.  He says, Belgian waffles need to be made with yeast.  Is this true?

IMG_1467A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Joleen, I am so happy your turkey breast was such a success, and, I am just as happy your waffles turned out good too.  About your waffles, I want to tell you there is a right answer to this question, but, I am afraid the term "Belgian waffle", nowadays, is loosely defined, and, refers more to the type of waffle iron (either electric or stovetop) used to made them, rather than the recipe.

The difference between the two irons is obvious immediately.  The Belgian iron (pictured on the left) has a deep, bold grid, while the American iron (on the right) has a shallow more delicate grid.  On a side note, I will say this:  I am proud of anyone making any kind of  homemade waffles in any kind of waffle iron rather than placing frozen ones in their toaster -- bravo!

That being said, your husband is correct.  Traditionally, Belgian waffles are made with yeast, giving them plenty of time to rise, rendering them lighter and crispier than our American waffles made with baking powder and/or baking soda.  He'll surely be pleased with my next post!!!

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

IMG_0961Enjoy your weekend, and once again:  To leave a comment or ask a question, scroll to the end of it and type away... or e-mail me directly!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/21/2014

~ My E-Z Creamy-Dreamy Folded French Omelette ~

IMG_1098It's minus-3 degrees here in Happy Valley this morning!

I have no idea "what's up" with the weather this Winter, but, I'm finding myself cooking a lot more "Honey, I've decided to work at home instead of going into my offices today" breakfasts.  Today, we had French omelettes, one of my personal favorites:  made the way I like them made!

If you've ever eaten an omelette in Europe, more specifically in France, you know it is different than our American omelette.  It is buttery, delicate and creamy.   On the outside, it is a pretty-yellow color, showing no signs of browning, and, on the inside it is tender and slightly-creamy.  It is just creamy enough (perfectly undercooked) that many newbies to the experience assume it's unsafe to eat and are inclined to send it back for further cooking.  Please do not do that!

Purists of the French omelette don't want them made with anything but egg and a bit of water, but, I adore the addition of a spash of real-deal cream and a grind or two of sea salt and peppercorn blend.  In France, they are sometimes filled with a light sprinkling of cheese and/or herbs just prior to rolling.  In fact, many folks feel very strongly that omelettes were made for fillings.  For me, a French omelette the way I prepare it is the ultimate way to experience "an egg tasting like an egg", so, I do not  muddle the taste or complicate the preparation in any way:

I look upon a French omelette as an upscale scrambled egg!

IMG_1075The slightly-wrinkled vs. the smooth-surfaced French Omelette:

Before going any further, there are two schools of thought on what a "perfect" French omelette should look like, and, it comes down to one little difference in omelette-making technique.  They both taste the same (I made one of each this morning for you to see).  Do what is easiest for you:

IMG_1069The slightly-wrinkled omelette. 

IMG_1045It shows no signs of browning, has a creamy center and wrinkles on the surface because the egg solids were stirred towards the center of the pan at the beginning of the cooking process.  This is the easier of the two preparations.

IMG_1120The smooth-surfaced omelette.

IMG_1109It shows no signs of browning, has a creamy center and a smooth surface because the pan was lifted from the heat occasionally and the eggs were swirled around rather than stirred.  It's more refined in appearance, but, it tastes the same!

"The Mel Way" to Prepare a French Omelette:

IMG_1026~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together:

1  jumbo egg, at room temperature

1  tablespoon heavy or whipping cream

2 grinds freshly-ground sea salt

4  grinds freshly-ground peppercorn blend

IMG_1038 IMG_1036~ Step 2.  In an 8" omelette pan over low heat, melt:

2  teaspoons butter (salted or unsalted)

Increase heat to medium (no higher), wait about 10-15 seconds, briefly rewhisk the egg mixture and pour it into the pan.

IMG_1053~ Step 3.  Be prepared to work quickly.  As pictured above, either:

with a thin spatula, push egg solids to center of pan, as they form, in combination w/lifting, tilting and returning pan to heat, or;

by constantly swirling the egg around while lifting and returning the pan to and from the heat.

Cook the omelette for 45-60 seconds, and stop when the surface is still slightly-creamy and shiny.

IMG_1299Note:  If it is a cheese omelette you want, now is the time to add it.  Pick one that melts nicely (I'm using grated Gruyere) and place a bit across the center of the omelette, about 3 tablespoons.  Do not overload the omelette with cheese or it will ooze out the sides of the omelette when you try to fold it. Proceed as directed below:

IMG_1054~ Step 4.  Remove the pan from the heat.  

Hold the pan by the handle with your non-dominant hand. With your dominant hand slide a spatula about 1/3 of the way underneath the omelette on the side closest to you, then roll it over towards the center.  

Note:  We are folding the omelette into thirds.  Feel free to do that right in the pan if it is easier for you...

IMG_1060... but there is an impressive pan-to-plate technique that will impress your friends and make you feel like a fancy French chef:

~ Step 5.  Pick the pan up with your dominant hand.  Tilt the pan downward at an angle over the center of a plate, allowing the unfolded side of the omelette to gently slide from pan to plate (along with any butter remaining in the pan), then, give it a last quick "third of a roll" onto the plate by inverting the pan at the end.  Serve:

IMG_1174Or, just say "please" for cheese!

IMG_1318My E-Z Creamy-Dreamy Folded French Omelette:  Recipe yields instructions to prepare 1, 1-egg omelette.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; fork; 8" omelette pan, preferably nonstick; thin spatula and/or wide spatula

PICT2701Cook's Note:  As if you couldn't have guessed, I am just as particular about preparing my scrambled eggs too.  To learn ~ How to:  Make "Fluffy" Scrambled Eggs & Bacon ~, just click into Categories 9, 12, 15, 17 or 20!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/19/2014

~ An Indian Masala Omelette w/Crispy Fried Onions ~

IMG_0981When it comes to breakfast I am a "savory", not a "sweet" girl.  While I won't turn my nose up at a well-made waffle or pancake,  I much prefer traditional eggy, savory fare:  any type of egg with bacon and toast of some sort, an egg and sausage bagel sandwich, or, an omelette.  For the record, I do not like cheese with breakfast, but Joe does, so, it is available upon request.  On weekdays, Joe and I rarely sit down to breakfast together.  He stops for coffee and a muffin on his way to the office, and I, well -- let's suffice it to say, a glass of iced tea and a slice of cold pizza suits me just fine (which contradicts my statement that I don't like cheese with breakfast)!  

Today is Sunday:  we always cook and eat a nice breakfast together on Sunday!  

IMG_0819This past week, I've cooked and posted some wonderful Indian food. Just click on the Related Article links below to get my recipe for ~ Easy Indian Chicken Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~, and, ~ Indian Chicken Biryani:  Demystified (& Simplified) ~.  I also made ~ Indian Barista (Crispy, Deep-Fried Onions) ~, which is a tasty staple common to Indian kitchens.  They are used as a crispy, savory, topper for any type of biryani, curry, soup, salad or sandwich.

"I'll bet those would taste great on an omelette." ~ Joe Preschutti

IMG_4571Genius.  So, I proceeded to make Indian-style masala omelettes for breakfast this morning.  I say "Indian-style" because I combined my method for making American-style fluffy omelettes (as oppossed to custardy, French-style folded omelettes) infused with Indian flavors and spices, namely garam masala, hence the name:  masala omelette.  I also prepared my omelette "egg pancake-style", a common practice in Chinese and Indian cooking.  Read on:

IMG_0954In China, the finished egg pancake (pictured just above) is shredded and added to dishes like moo shu pork and fried rice.  In India, the egg pancake (pictured below) is cut into squares and sometimes simmered in curry sauce.  As for using the barista (crispy, deep-fried onions) to top our omelette this morning, I have absolutely no idea if that is common practice in an Indian kitchen, but, in my American kitchen:  they were the frosting on the "egg pancake" omelette cake!

IMG_0961Just in case the word "fritatta" is rattling around in your head, yes, this is similar but not quite. Fritatta is similar in that it is a flat or open-faced Italian-style omelette (not folded).  Generally speaking, fritattas, or at least the ones I make, are thicker, similar to that of a quiche, and, they are often completely baked in the oven or finished cooked in the oven.  The "egg pancake" is thin enough to slip between two slices of bread or flatbread for a delicious snack sandwich too!

IMG_0847For the masala omelette:

6  large eggs, at room temperature

6  tablespoons water

IMG_08651/4  teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4-1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4  teaspoon ground ginger

1/4  teaspoon Madras curry powder

1/4  teaspoon turmeric

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_0856

 

6  tablespoons finely-diced (1/4") cilantro leaves

6  tablespoons finely-diced (1/4") shallots

6  tablespoons finely-diced (1/4") green pepper

6  tablespoons finely-diced (1/4") white mushroom caps

6  tablespoons finely-diced (1/4") seeded tomato

1-2  tablespoons canola, coconut, corn, vegetable, peanut or sunflower oil, just enough to thinly-coat the bottom of skillet, not olive oil 

IMG_0869 IMG_0871~ Step 1. Place the eggs in a medium mixing bowl, add the 6 tablespoons of water and set aside.

IMG_0868Place all of the spices in a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water to them and stir to combine.

IMG_0886 IMG_0876~ Step 2. Using a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk, beat the eggs until very frothy.

IMG_0879Add the spices and beat or whisk again until very frothy.  The frothier the better.

IMG_0905 IMG_0891~ Step 3. Using a large rubber spatula, one at a time, fold all the vegetables into the eggs.

~ Step 4.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, heat the oil over low heat.  Briefly restir the egg mixture, add it to the pan and increase heat to medium.

IMG_0909 IMG_0907                                         ~ Step 5. Using a thin spatula, push the egg solids towards the center of the skillet as they form around the perimeter, tilting the pan in various directions to allow the liquids to flow to the bottom via the perimeter of the skillet. Continue until almost no liquid remains on the top of the omelette, 3-4 minutes.

IMG_0914~ Step 6.  When almost no liquid remains on the top of the omelette, turn the heat off and place a lid on the skillet for about 1 minute.  This rest will give all of the ingredients time to "become one big piece".  

IMG_4564Remove the lid, place a plate over the top of the skillet and invert the omelette onto the plate.

IMG_0925 IMG_0929~ Step 7. Immediately slide the omelette, cooked side up, into the hot pan, to allow the bottom to cook over medium heat, about 45-60 additional seconds.  

Note:  Inverting the omelette onto a plate and sliding it back into the skillet is easy and takes about 10-15 seconds.  Don't be squeamish. Be fearless and just do it!

IMG_0934~ Step 8.  Slide the fully-cooked omelette from the skillet onto a serving plate or platter.  

IMG_0947To insure perfect slices, allow to rest and cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, prior to slicing.

Slice and serve immediately garnished with tomato slices, cilantro leaves, barista (crispy, deep-fried onions) and warm flatbread or toast:

IMG_1004An Indian Masala Omelette w/Crispy Fried Onions:   Recipe yields 1, 9" omelette or 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held electric mixer or whisk; rubber spatula; 10" skillet w/lid, preferably nonstick; thin spatula; 9"-round plate or platter

IMG_4750Cook's Note: In my recipe for ~ Chinatown's Famous Moo Shu (Shredded) Pork ~, their version of the "egg pancake" gets shredded and stir-fried into the shredded pork.  You can find it in Categories 2, 3, 13 & 19!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/17/2014

~ Making Indian Birista (Crispy Deep-Fried Onions) ~

IMG_0819If you are familiar with Indian food, you have eaten their birista (bah-REES-tah):  thinly-sliced crispy, golden, deep-fried onions.  They are as common to an Indian kitchen as steamed basmati rice and roti (an unleavened, griddle-cooked flatbread).  They are eaten as a snack and used as an additive to, or a topper for, delectable dishes like biryani, curries, steamed rice, mashed potato filling, soups, salads, sandwiches, grilled meats, meat patties and savory breads. If you are not familiar with Indian food, but are a lover of onions, because barista are generic (they contain no Indian spices), you can and will find yourself using them in the exact same way!

IMG_0845This short onion-loving post just might change your life!

IMG_07213  medium-sized yellow or sweet onions, about 9- 10-ounces each, pole ends sliced off, peeled, cut in half and thinly-sliced into half-moon shapes, 1/8" or less thick,

peanut oil placed in a deep fryer and preheated to 350 degrees, according to manufacturer's specifications (Note:  the oil should not be overly hot.  When you drop a few onions in to test the heat, the oil should give a friendly sizzle.)

IMG_0716~ Step 1.  Peel and slice the onions as directed.  Do your best to slice them as thinly as possible. Preheat deep-fryer to 350 degrees (in India they use a wok/kadai). Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with several layers of paper towels.

Note:  I slice and fry one-half an onion at a time (an amount that fits nicely without crowding my fryer basket).  While one batch is frying, I slice another half an onion.

IMG_0779~ Step 2.  Using your fingertips, sprinkle, don't dump all at once, the sliced onions into the hot oil.  

IMG_0724Initially, they will sink down under the oil, and shortly afterward they will start to rise to the top with a happy sizzle.

Note:  Do not close deep-fryer lid.

IMG_0759 IMG_0751                                      ~ Step 3. Using a long-handled fork (I use a three-prong bacon fork) give the onions a quick stir to make sure they are separated.

After three minutes, with the lid open on the deep-fryer during the cooking process, they will look like this this photo:  just beginning to show signs of browning.

IMG_0763 IMG_0789~ Step 4. Give the onions another quick stir with the fork to, once again, make sure they are staying separated.

Continue to fry, another 3 minutes, with the lid open on the deep-fryer during the cooking process.  They will look like this photo: golden brown with white centers.

IMG_0739 IMG_0792                                              ~ Step 5. Stir onions one last time and fry, with lid open. 1 1/2-2 more minutes, watching carefully.  Transfer to prepared baking pan and repeat the process until all onions are deep-fried.  Cool at least 1 hour before serving.

This is the result of three deep-fried onions:

IMG_0810Use birista to give your favorite dishes a "wow" factor:

IMG_0832Making Indian Birista (Crisp Deep-Fried Onions):  Recipe yields instructions to slice and deep-fry as many onions as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels; long-handled fork; 3-minute timer 

IMG_0903Cook's Note:  For another one of my favorite ways to incorporate onions into my onion-loving weekday diet, click into Categories 4, 8, 15 or 20 ~ To Sweeten Your Life:  Caramelize Some Onions ~.  Next to birista, caramelized onions are one of my favorite sandwich toppers! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

01/15/2014

~ Indian Chicken Biryani: Demystified (& Simplified) ~

IMG_0623Back in 2005 and 2006 I volunteered my services as a cooking consultant to WPSU-TV.  It turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life, as, without knowing, it evolved into a  launching pad of sorts:  it exposed me to the workings of a television station, and, allowed me to participate, from beginning to end, in the production of cooking on television.

IMG_0707With no credentials other than "a local woman known for her cooking", Charlie, the producer, put me on his team.  I took my 'job' seriously and am proud to say:  I redesigned the look of their cookbooks, instituted a standard format for recipe submissions, edited each recipe, decided which ones went into each book, and, got every book to the publisher on time. In preparation for each show, I recommened 6-8 guests to be invited to cook on-air, estimated the time for each appearance, and, chatted with each person about what was expected.  I presented the show's host (Charlie) with relevant facts and commentary about each person and their dish, then, did food-styling for the final camera presentation of every dish made on-air.  It was a lucky experience! 

The second book/show I 'worked on' was all chicken recipes.  A lovely Indian woman, Mytri Acharya, submitted her recipe for Biryani Pilaf, accompanied by her recipe for Chicken Biryani. Mytri prepared her pilaf as a side-dish that day (because there wasn't enough time to prepare her time-consuming chicken biryani on live TV), and it was marvelous.  It was so marvelous, a few weeks after the show, I called her because I wanted to make her chicken biryani, which outwardly seemed complicated to me.  She was kind enough to discuss her recipe with me in detail, in three easy parts, which I have "Westernized/customized" a bit for my family!

IMG_0597In India, this dish is served at celebrations because it is joyful!

A bit about chicken biryani (beer-YAH-nee):  Known as one of India's signature dishes, variations  exist in Pakistan (Sindhi biryani) and all surrounding countries.  Biryani is basically a rice-based dish made from an exotic and wide array of herbs, spices and other flavorings, along with meat poultry, fish, shellfish and/or vegetables.  Yogurt usually plays a part somewhere too. The flavors come from ingredients like:  ghee (clarified butter) or oil, bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, mint, saffron and/or turmeric.  "Basmati" rice, a Himalayan grown fragrant rice, which literally means "queen of fragrance", is classic to the preparation of biryani.  Vegetables like broccoli, green beans, peas, carrots and/or tomatoes are often added.  In some regions of India, dried fruits and toasted nuts are added as well.

The most important thing to remember about biryani is:

IMG_0630The meat and/or vegetables are cooked separately from the rice (each in their own spices).  The meat portion is cooked until almost all liquid has evaporated from it, and, the rice is steamed until the grains are separated and fluffy. The two components are then combined one of two ways:  They are stirred together in one pot, or, layered and baked in one pot.  The final dish is minimally moist, with the grains of rice remaining separate.  If you think about it for a moment, that just makes sense.  The time it takes to properly cook the meat and vegetable portion of this dish, does not equate to the time it takes to properly steam or cook rice. Cooking them both together in one pot would result in more of a creamy risotto consistency -- and that is NOT what biryani is about!

Part One.  Marinating the Chicken

IMG_04202  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of large pieces of fat, cut into 1 1/2"-2" chunks, about 6 large thighs after trimming (Note:  boneless chicken tenderloins may be substituted, but, I rather enjoy the fuller flavor of chicken thighs in this dish.)

1/2  cup chopped, fresh cilantro leaves, a minimal amount of stems are ok

1/4  cup chopped, fresh mint leaves

2  tablespoons finely-diced (about 1/8") fresh garlic cloves

2  tablespoons finely-diced (about 1/8") fresh ginger

IMG_04231/2 cup plain yogurt (Note:  I try to purchase Indian yogurt, but, can't always find it.  Substitute Greek yogurt without  compromise.)

1  tablespoon garam masala (a mixture of fragrant spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and black pepper) 

1  teaspoon Madras curry powder (a piquant mixture of coriander seeds, turmeric, chile pepper, salt, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, anise and mustard seed)

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_0432 IMG_0436~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, garam masala, Madras curry powder and sea salt.  Prep the chicken, cilantro, mint, garlic and ginger as directed, placing them in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Add the yogurt mixture, seal the bag and toss to coat.    Marinate at room temperature for 1 hour, or, in the refrigerator overnight.

Part Two.  Making the Curry and Cooking the Chicken

IMG_04522-3  tablespoons canola, coconut, corn, vegetable, peanut or sunflower oil, just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan, not olive oil

1 1/2 cups medium-diced (about 1/2") yellow or sweet onion

1  teaspoon ground turmeric

all chicken and marinade (from above)

1 cup coconut milk, shaken or well stirred prior to measuring and adding to curry

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, well-drained, juice reserved

4 whole bay leaves

IMG_0468the seeds from 2 whole green cardamom pods

(Note:  Cardamom is a member of the ginger family, and, inside of each pod are 17-20 seeds full of spicy-sweet flavor.  Just cut each pod in half widthwise.  Squish it around between your thumb and index finger and the seeds will fall right out.  Don't worry about any small pieces of the pod or rib sections that join the mix -- they will disintegrate when cooked)

2 whole cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

2  whole star anise

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

IMG_0475 IMG_0474~ Step 1.  In a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, place just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Prep and add the onion.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute, stirring frequently, until the onion is beginning to soften, about 3 minutes.  Do not brown the onions.

IMG_0487~ Step 2.  Reduce heat to low and stir the turmeric into the onions.  

Add and thoroughly incorporate the chicken and all of the marinade.  

IMG_0495Return heat to medium-high and cook until chicken is no longer pink and is firming up, stirring almost constantly, about 6 minutes.

IMG_0515~ Step 3.  Add the coconut milk, reserved juice from tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, anise, black pepper & salt.  

IMG_0521Adjust to a steady simmer and cook, uncovered, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated from the pan, about 30- IMG_053845 minutes, stirring constantly towards the end of the cooking process to prevent browning or scorching, lowering the heat towards the end, if necessary.  

Note:  Depending upon the heat on your stove, and what you consider a steady simmer, this could take up to an hour.  Don't panic, just stir, allow the liquid to evaporate and thicken, and, don't let the mixture brown at the bottom.  How easy is that!

IMG_0550 IMG_0544~ Step 4. Stir in the reserved diced tomato pieces and cook for about 30 seconds.  Their acid will 'sort of' deglaze the pan (which shouldn't have any browned bits to begin with but you get the idea). Turn the heat off, cover, and, allow to steep while preparing the rice.

Part Three.  Steaming the Rice, Serving & Garnishing

IMG_06674  cups uncooked basmati rice

2  whole bay leaves

the seeds from 4  whole green cardamom pods

1  cinnamon stick

4  whole cloves

1  whole star anise

4  cups water (measured in the same cup used to measure the rice)

Note:  I use a rice steamer to cook my rice for this dish and I error on the side of cooking a bit too much rice.  Every time I make this dish, the chicken mixture requires a slightly different amount to achieve the proper texture.  Leftover rice never goes to waste in my kitchen!

IMG_0685While the rice is steaming, I prepare my garnshes.  I place 1/2 cup slivered almonds in a 350 degree oven to lightly-toast for 5-6 minutes, and I mince about 1/4 cup of mint leaves.  If you prefer cashews over almonds and cilantro over mint, feel free to substitute either one of them!

In Classic Indian cooking, all types of biryani are usually topped with crisp, deep-fried onions called birista.  Stay tuned for my next blog post, when I show you how easy it is to make them!

IMG_0569~ Step 1.  Using the measuring cup from the rice steamer, add the rice, 4 cups of water and all of the spices as listed.  Give the mixture a quick stir, close the lid and turn the steamer on.

The moment the steamer shuts off, unplug the steamer, open the lid and rake through the rice with a fork (I use a pasta fork) to fluff it.  Do not allow the rice to sit in the steamer on the "keep warm' cycle or it will be overcooked!  Think "al dente"!

IMG_0563~ Step 2.  Uncover the still warm chicken mixture.  Remove the bay leaves, cinnnamon sticks and star anise.  Take a moment, inhale, and smell the love.  Transfer about half of the rice to the pan of chicken. Using two large spoons, toss like you would a salad, until the rice is incorporated. Continue adding rice until the rice is taking on an identity all its own, meaning:  the grains are enjoying the chicken mixture without being stuck together in it.

I added all of the rice today!

IMG_0588Serve immediately in warmed bowls garnished with toasted almonds and mint leaves: 

IMG_0661Indian Chicken Biryani:  Demystified (& Simplified):  Recipe yields 6-8 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 1 gallon food storage bag; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; spatula; electric rice steamer (optional); 2 large spoons

IMG_0406Cook's Note:  Chicken Biryani is what is known as a "dry curry".  To learn the difference between a dry curry and a wet curry, as well as everything I can tell you about cooking Indian food, click on the Related Article link below to read ~ Easy Indian Chicken Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

01/13/2014

~ Easy Indian Chicken Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~

IMG_0354I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel twice over the weekend -- now I want a bowl of Indian curry in a hurry!

I do not profess to knowing a lot about India or being an authority on authentic Indian cuisine.  I have never had the opportunity to travel there, however, I have had the pleasure of having been entertained, on several occasions back in the early 1980's, in the home of neighborhood friends, Prashant and Bharti.  Bharti was an excellent cook, and, while I did get some hands-on training from her, back in the '80's, without a local Indian market here in Happy Valley at the time (internet shopping didn't exist then either), a lack of ingredients prevented me from pursuing it seriously.  I did, however, develop a taste for well-made, real-deal Indian food, and, learn from Bharti's explanations and stories why cooking Indian fare confuses so many of us Americans:  

IMG_0338India is very complex culturally, geographically and religiously.  Over the centuries, Indian food has been influenced by many foreign cuisines due to invasions and the rules imposed by those governments.  During times of upheaval, it was often necessary for large populaces (who for generations had lived their entire lives in one region of India with their religious culture and cuisine) to migrate to another region.  This slow, logistical cross-pollination of religious beliefs and food tradition, mixed with the 'politics du jour', makes it difficult for us Westerners to decide 'right or wrong' when it comes to preparing many Indian dishes.  In a nutshell:  In India, cooking styles vary not only from state to state and town to town, but from home cook to home cook.  

IMG_0184A bit about curry and curry powder: "Curry" is a catch-all English term used in Western cultures to denote stewlike dishes from Southern and Southeast Asian cuisines that are cooked in a sauce containing herbs, spices and chile peppers, and, in Southern India, "kari" is the word for "sauce".  Curry powder (the commercially marketed blend of spices we buy in our American markets) doesn't exist in India.  The closest thing to Western curry powder in an Indian kitchen is garam masala (ga-RAHM mah-SAH-lah).  It's a pulverized blend of dry spices, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of each family or cook.  It's said that garam masala is the precursor to curry powder, having been prepared by Indian merchants and sold to members of the British Colonial government who called it "curry powder".  I purchase a very good brand at my Indian market.

IMG_0412Dishes called curry are relatively easy to prepare and can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish. Seasonal vegetables can be included, or, the dish can be made of vegetables (vegetarian). Curries can be "wet" or "dry".  What is common to almost all wet curries is the use of cream, coconut milk or yogurt, and occasionally stock, to prepare the sauce.  They don't tend to be overly-thickened (gravylike), and, they aren't spicy hot (although they can be).  This style of cooking evolved out of necessity.  Water was often scarce and/or its use in cooking had to be avoided, so, the "creamers" were used as a silky, rich, substitution for water, not as a thickener. Dry curries are cooked in very little liquid in sealed pots.  Almost all of the liquid evaporates during the cooking process, leaving the ingredients heavily coated in the spice mixture.

IMG_01762  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of large pieces of fat, cut into 1 1/2"-2" chunks, about 6 large thighs after trimming (Note: boneless chicken tenderloins may be substituted, but, I rather enjoy the fuller flavor of chicken thighs in this curry.)

2-3  tablespoons canola, coconut, corn, vegetable, peanut or sunflower oil, just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan, not olive oil

1  1/2-2  cups medium-diced (about 1/2") yellow or sweet onion

3-4  tablespoons finely-diced (about 1/8"), fresh garlic cloves

3-4  tablespoons finely-diced (about 1/8"), fresh ginger

2  teaspoons garam masala

1  teaspoon amchur (mango powder) (Note:  This powder, made by drying tart green mangos and powdering them is going to add a pleasant sharpness to this curry.  It is available at all Indian markets.)

1 1/2-2  teaspoons Madras curry powder (optional) (Note:  I like to add this for a bit of heat and earthy undertone.)

1/4  teaspoon turmeric (optional) (Note:  I like to add this for a bit more earthy undertone and its pretty yellow-orange color.)

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

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

1 3/4  cups (14 ounces) heavy or whipping cream (coconut milk or plain yogurt may be substituted)

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

6  cups steamed basmati rice, 3 cups uncooked basmati rice (1-1 1/2 cups steamed rice per person)

IMG_0200 IMG_0188~ Step 1.  In a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, place just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Prep and add the onion, garlic and ginger to the pan.  Adjust heat to medium-high and saute, stirring frequently until the mixture is steaming, sizzling and the onion is beginning to soften, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.  Do not brown.

IMG_0203 IMG_0209~ Step 2. Reduce heat to low and stir in the spices, optional spices and salt, until thoroughly incorporated.  Add and  incorporate the chicken into the mixture.  Return heat to medium-high and cook until chicken is no longer pink and is starting to firm up, about 6 minutes.

IMG_0236 IMG_0223~ Step 3.  

Add the tomatoes, adjust heat to gently simmer and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the cream and cook until mixture is steaming hot and just beginning to simmer, about 3 more minutes. Turn the heat off and cover the pan and set aside 30 minutes.

IMG_0415Note:  I like to allow my curry to "steep" for about 30 minutes prior to serving to allow all of the flavors to develop.  I used this time to steam the basmati rice in my rice cooker!

To serve, make a bed of rice in 4-6 shallow bowls.  Using a slotted spoon, portion chicken onto the rice. Ladle sauce over the top and garnish with freshly, minced cilantro leaves.

Serve over basmati rice garnished w/cilantro: 

IMG_0274Easy Indian Chicken Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; spatula; electric rice steamer (optional); slotted spoon; ladle

IMG_8913Cook's Note:  To learn about Thai curries (which shouldn't be confused with Indian curries), as well as get my recipes for making them, check out my post ~ Demystifying Thai Curries: Green, Red & Yellow ~ in Categories 8, 13, 15 & 16.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/10/2014

~ Mel's Crispy, Deep-Fried Chinese Lemon Chicken ~

IMG_0096I am chuckling at my decision to make Chinese lemon chicken today.  Why?  If you check my January archives for the past three years, you are going to find more than a few Asian-style recipes.  It seems I have developed a pattern of wanting Asian food at the beginning of each new year and today it is Chinese.  I'm pretty certain it has little to do with celebrating Chinese New Year (the date of which is January 31st this year), and has everything to do with my wanting to "wake up my tastebuds" with something bold and bright in the doldrums of Winter!

IMG_0121A bit about Chinese lemon chicken:  While lemon chicken is a dish common to many cultures, outside of China it refers to a whole roasted chicken (or roasted chicken parts) prepared with wine, fresh lemon/juice, chopped aromatics (carrot, celery, onion and sometimes garlic) various vegetables, herbs and/or spices.  Four of my favorite ethnic versions of this type of lemon chicken hail from France, Greece, Italy and Spain.  Chinese lemon chicken is unique unto itself:

IMG_6478In authentic Chinese cuisine, lemon chicken consists of chicken breast strips which have been "velveted". Velveting is a classic Chinese technique that involves coating and marinating proteins in a mixture of cornstarch, rice wine and egg whites, then, bathing them briefly in barely simmering water or warm oil to pre-cook and tenderize them for finish-cooking. In this case, the velveted chicken gets steamed and tossed with subtly-flavored lemon sauce, producing a creamy, succulent chicken dish. Click into Category 15, or, on the Related Article link below to read my post ~ How to: Velvet (Tenderize) Meat the Chinese way ~.

In Chinese-American cuisine, lemon chicken consists of marinated, dredged, boneless, skinless breast halves, strips or pieces, that are deep-fried until golden brown with a crunchy crust. The chicken is then enrobed in a refreshing, addictive, almost drinkable, lemon sauce.  Some say chicken thighs can be used.  I disagree.  They contain too much fat and render this dish greasy.

Now we need to chat about that bright-yellow lemon sauce Americans love so much:

IMG_0082If it looks like lemon meringue pie filling, it means it contains no Chinese flavor!

PICT0053In my opinion, if the sauce I'm dipping lemon chicken into looks like lemon-merinque pie filling, it means that no authentic Chinese flavor has been added to it, namely: sesame oil, soy and hoisin sauce. All of these ingredients are brown. There is somthing just oh-so-wrong about that. We can agree to disagree on this point, but, if it's lemon pie filling you wish to dip your chicken into, omit them and substitute chicken stock.  I am not!

Part One:  Marinating the Chicken and Preparing the Sauce

IMG_9894For the chicken and its marinade:

2 1/2-3  pounds large, meaty, chicken tenderloins, cut into 1 1/2" cubes

2  tablespoons Lee Kum Kee premium dark soy sauce

2  tablespoons dry sherry

1  tablespoon firmly-packed cornstarch

1  tablespoon sugar

2  large eggs

additional cornstarch, for dredging chicken, about 1/2 cup

corn or peanut oil for deep-frying

freshly ground sea salt, for lightly salting the deep-fried chicken pieces 

PICT1120~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk everything (except additional cornstarch), until smooth.  Pour into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Set aside for 45-60 minutes.  While chicken is marinating, prepare the lemon sauce as directed below:

IMG_9917For the lemon sauce:

1  cup chicken broth (Note:  I use store-bought canned broth instead of my homemade stock from my freezer.  I do this because canned broth is relatively generic, meaning, it's not seasoned with as much Western flavor as my homemade stock, which was made with rosemary, etc.)

3/4  cup fresh lemon juice, about 4 large lemons, no substitions, fresh lemon juice only (Note:  Using a microplane grater, zest/reserve 1 tablespoon of zest prior to juicing  lemons.)

1  teaspoon hoisin sauce, optional (Note:  This rich, reddish-brown sauce has has a sweet, tangy flavor that pairs extremely well with the citrusy lemons.  If you choose to omit it, which I hope you don't, add an additional 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce.)

1  teaspoon Lee Kum Kee premium dark soy sauce

4  tablespoons firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  tablespoons sugar

1  teaspoon sesame oil

1  tablespoon finely-minced fresh ginger

1  tablespoon finely-minced fresh scallions, light green part only

1  tablespoon finely-minced lemon zest, reserved from one lemon used above

2  tablespoons firmly-packed cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup additional chicken stock

all remaining marinade from above chicken

additional thinly-sliced green scallion tops, for garnishing finished dish

IMG_9905 IMG_9921~ Step 1. Finely mince the ginger and the scallions, then, using a microplane grater, zest 1-2 lemons, until you get 1 tablespoon of zest (if you get a bit of extra zest, that's fine, use it for garnishing the finished dish. Set all three aside.

IMG_9934 IMG_9929~ Step 2.  In a very small bowl, using a very small spoon, stir together the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1/4 cups of stock, until smooth.  Set aside.

Note:  This mixture is going to thicken the sauce.  Have it ready. For it to work its magic, it must be whisked into the simmering sauce. 

IMG_9956 IMG_9943~ Step 3.  In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the sesame oil over low heat.  Add the minced ginger and scallions and adjust heat to saute until they are both tender and fragrant, less than 1 minute.

~ Step 4.  Add the chicken stock, lemon juice, hoisin sauce, soy sauce,  brown sugar and sugar. IMG_9976Stir until sugar dissolves.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer.  Slowly, and in a thin stream, whisk in the cornstarch mixture.  Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce is slightly-thickened and will lightly-coat the inside of a spoon, about 2-3 minutes.  Do not stir in the lemon zest just yet!  

Note:  The sauce should be drizzly, not gloppy.  Turn the heat off and cover the saucpan.

Part Two:  Deep-Frying the Chicken & Finishing the Sauce

IMG_9983~ Step 1.    Preheat the oil in a deep-fryer to 360 degrees according to the manufacturer's specifications.  Line a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish with 3-4 layers of paper towels.  In a medium bowl, place 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Open the bag of marinated chicken.  Do not drain the marinade from the chicken.  In a medium bowl, place 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

IMG_9993 IMG_9988                                      ~ Step 2. Remove 12-14 pieces of chicken from the marinade, allowing the excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag.  Place them in the bowl of cornstarch. Using a fork, toss them around until they are lightly and evenly coated in the cornstarch.  Do not over-coat chicken in cornstarch.

IMG_0002~ Step 3.  One at a time, drop the chicken pieces into the hot oil in the deep-fryer. Close the lid and fry for 1 1/2 minutes, or until golden brown and just cooked through. Remove from fryer basket and transfer to the the paper towel lined baking dish to drain.  Lightly sprinkle with freshly ground sea salt.

Repeat this process until all chicken is deep-fried, using 2 additional tablespoons of cornstarch each time you place chicken into bowl.

IMG_0028 IMG_0017Note:  The alternative to deep-frying bite-sized chicken pieces is to deep-fry 3-4, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been cut in half and lightly pounded (a total of 6-8 servings).  Do not over-pound to smithereens.  These will take 3 1/2 minutes each to fry.

IMG_0082~ Step 4.  Transfer all marinade from the bag to the sauce.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently.  Simmer for 30-60 additional seconds.  Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon zest.

To serve, lightly toss chicken pieces with about one-third of warm sauce. Serve remaining sauce to the side for dipping or drizzling.  Garnish with thinly-sliced scallion and any additional lemon zest: 

IMG_0153Mel's Crispy, Deep-Fried, Chinese Lemon Chicken:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings and 2 cups of lemon sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board, chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 1-gallon food storage bag; microplane grater; hand-held citrus juicer; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; whisk; deep-fryer; 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan; paper towels

PICT1189Cook's Note:  For another one of my favorite family-style Chinese meals (and one of my family's favorites), prepared in a similar manner to lemon chicken, click into Categories 3, 13 or 19 for my recipe ~ Sweet & Sour Broccoli-Orange-Cashew Chicken ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/08/2014

~ Time Out to Define: Hoisin Sauce & Oyster Sauce ~

IMG_9897Since I am about to embark on a little mid-January trist with Chinese food, I decided to define two of the most used sauces in the Chinese pantry:  Hoisin and Oyster.  Why? Because too many Americans think they are "almost the same" and can be used interchangeably:  wrong.

Hoisin Sauce (HOY-sihn):  "Hoisin" means "sea-fresh" in Chinese, but contains no seafood and is not served with seafod either. Sometimes referred to as "Peking sauce", it is a rich,  reddish-brown sauce with a sweet, tangy flavor.  It's made from soybeans, sesame seeds, garlic, chile peppers, salt, sugar and spices.  Besides being used as a table condiment, it is used in the preparation of many chicken and pork dishes, as well as a barbecue sauce for spareribs.

Oyster Sauce:  In ancient times, this thick, brown sauce was made from boiling oysters, brine and soy sauce until thick and concentrated.  It was quite salty and fishy tasting.

Nowadays, oyster-flavored sauce, made with oyster extracts, soy protein, sugar and salt, is quite pleasant tasting.  It is used as a seasoning sauce and gets added to stir-fries to enhance flavor without overpowering the natural flavor.  It is not used as a table condiment.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

01/06/2014

~Steak au Poivre (Peppercorn-Crusted Filet Mignon)~

IMG_9844Joe and I celebrate New Years Eve quietly.  Why?  We do enough entertaining and partying throughout the year.  By the time this holiday rolls around, we qualify for "professional party pooper status".  That, however, does not mean we don't celebrate it elegantly.  We do! 

IMG_9858We always put forethought and planning into a dinner worthy of a bottle of bubbly.  Sometimes it takes us all day to prepare (meaning it is a complicated recipe), sometimes it takes just a few minutes (meaning it is an easy recipe).  Last year it was a bit complicated, and, it was lobster. Two days ago, when Joe came home with beautiful filets mignons, I knew immediately what I would make to ring in 2014:  steak au poivre.  Good news for me this year:  it's quick and easy!

TrianglenightThe first time I ate steak au poivre was in the early 1980's.  It was in a lovely restaurant named Christophers (currently the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto), located atop Mt. Washington, overlooking downtown Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle.  The view was breathtaking and the steak was excellent!

A bit about steak au poivre (ah PWAHV-re):  Any steakhouse "worth its salt" has steak au poivre on their menu, and, it is one of the most delicious ways to enjoy a filet.  In French "au poivre" means "with pepper", and, in the case of this dish, cracked black or a blend of peppercorns form a crust on this tender, high-end, pan-seared cut of beef.  When the steak comes out of the skillet and is resting, cognac, demi-glace or cream, and sometimes shallots and/or Dijon mustard are added to the buttery "fond" ("pan drippings") to create a quick pan sauce.  In true French style, it is typically served with crispy "pommes frites" (French fried "shoestring potatoes")!

IMG_9757Where did this dish originate?  Who invented it?  It's a valid question without a solid answer. The earliest origin (as per Craig Claiborn's NY Times Food Encyclopedia) suggests that peppered steak can be traced to Prince Leopold I of Germany in 1790, but, The American Culinary Cookbook says, "Food historians of solid reputation dismiss the Leopold story as fantasy."  What we do know for sure:  Steak au poivre with pan sauce has been served since the mid-19th century.  All chefs agree the same pan used to cook the steak should be used to create the sauce.  Seasoned chefs say heavy cream does not belong in the recipe, but, many home cooks and restaurants use it.  Call me "seasoned", as I do not like the unappetizing appearence of au poivre served with the odd-colored cream sauce.  Serve me the glistening demi-glace rendition!

IMG_97534  6-8-ounce, approximately 1 1/4" thick, filet mignons, as evenly sized as possible, at room temperature

3  tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon for brushing on steaks and 2 tablespoons for sauteing filets

3  tablespoon salted butter, 2 tablespoons for sauteing filets and 1 tablespoon (cubed and kept cold) for finishing sauce

3  tablespoons cracked, crushed or coarsely-ground peppercorn blend, or your favorite peppercorns (Note:  The peppercorns must be cracked, crushed or coarsely ground, not ground to a fine powder.)

3 tablespoons good-quality Cognac (1 1/2 ounces)

4  ounces demi-glace (1/2 cup), a rich, brown, strongly-flavored combination of duck and veal stock prepared with roasted bones, homemade or store-bought

2-3 tablespoons of your favorite slightly-thick, "A-1-type" steak sauce, not Worcestershire sauce (1-1 1/2 ounces) (optional)

IMG_9740~ Step 1.  Cracking, crushing or coarsely grinding peppercorns can be done one of two ways (and both are easy).  I have a wonderful pepper grinder that has "C", "M" and "F" (coarse, medium and fine) grind options.  In 3-4 minutes of grinding I've got the necessary 3 tablespoons.  If you don't have a grinder, place your peppercorns in a ziplock food storage bag.  Place the bag on a surface that can't be destroyed (like a cement garage floor or sidewalk) and whack them with the bottom of a cast-iron skillet.

IMG_9777 IMG_9771                                      ~ Step 2.   Open the filets and pat them dry in some paper towels.  Using a pastry brush, paint the top of each filet with olive oil and dip the top in the peppercorns.  

Turn each one over and do the same thing with the bottom.  Do not coat the sides of the steaks in olive oil or peppercorns.

IMG_9788~ Step 3.  In a 10" skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter into the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Place the seasoned filets in the skillet and saute 2 1/2-3 1/2 minutes per side, turning only once. Filets will be golden around the edges and across their tops.  At 2 1/2 minutes per side, the filets will be very rare, at 3 minutes per side they will be rare, and, at 3 1/2 minutes they will be medium-rare. 

IMG_9795~ Step 4.  Turn the heat off. Transfer the filets to a warm serving platter, leaving all of the juices in the pan. Cover the filets with aluminum foil and allow to rest, 5-6 minutes, while preparing the sauce. DO NOT cut into your steaks to test for doneness because I can tell you they are going to look underdone. Remember:  carry over heat during the rest period is going to continue to cook them, so just be patient!

IMG_9807~ Step 5.  Add the cognac to the skillet, and, using a spatula, deglaze by gently loosening all of the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of pan, about 30 seconds.  

Note:  As much fun as it is to watch chefs "flambe" things ("ignite" things to produce a flame) in restaurants and on TV, it is almost always completely unnecessary, especially in the home kitchen.  I try to avoid it whenever possible.

IMG_9831 IMG_9824~ Step 6. Add the demi-glace and optional steak sauce and simmer rapidly over medium-high heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat.  Whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon of cold butter cubes until butter has melted into the sauce.  Serve immediately:

IMG_9877Steak au Poivre (Peppercorn-Crusted Filet Mignon:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  adjustable grind pepper grinder, or, zip lock bag and cast-iron skillet; paper towels; pastry brush; 10" skillet, well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick; spatula; aluminum foil; small whisk 

IMG_8860Cook's Note:  Last New Year's Eve I prepared ~ Elegant & Exquisite: Butter-Poached Lobster Tails ~. You can find that recipe in Categories, 3, 11, 14 & 21!  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

01/03/2014

~ Culinary Q&A & Kitchen Therapy Too (1/03/14) ~

Culinary Q & A #2Happy New Year and T.G.I.F.  I for one am looking forward to a quiet weekend of rest and recovery, then a return to a normal routine starting first thing Monday morning.  This morning, I received question from a reader which made me chuckle, because, by complete coincidence, it's related directly to my next  blog post of 2014.  I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised by it, because a lot of people (like myself) often choose to serve fancy beef dishes for their New Year's Eve celebration!

IMG_2070Q.  Connie says and asks: Melanie,  I made your individual beef Wellingtons for New Years eve. You entitled your recipe ~ My Love Affair with: Individual Beef Wellingtons ~.  That name is appropriate because now my family has a love affair with them as well. My father-in-law said, "this is the best meal I have ever eaten!" [Note to readers from Mel: Recipe can be found in Categories 3 or 21.]

IMG_2081During dinner, we all conversed about other filet mignon dinners we have experienced in the past.  My sister-in-law, named Diane, remarked about Steak Diane, which she recently ate in New York  City.  I said it sounded a lot like steak au poivre.  Is is possible there are different names for the same dish?

A.  Kitchen Encounters:  Needless to say Connie, I love it that your family loved my Wellingtons.  I chose to feature your question this week not IMG_9757just because it is such a lovely testimonial to my recipe, but, because it fits perfectly with what I made for Joe and I for New Year's Eve dinner (and will be my next blog post):  steak au poivre!

Steak au poivre and steak Diane are similar in that filet mignon is used in the preparation of both.  In both cases, the same skillet used to prepare the meat is used to prepare a sauce made from the "fond" ("drippings") left in the pan.  

Here are the notable differences:

IMG_9784Steak au poivre is a French creation which historians date back to the 19th century.  Steak Diane is a mid-20th century creation invented and popularized in NYC when preparing flambeed dishes tableside was very trendy.  The most important thing to remember about steak au poivre is: "au poivre" is French for "with pepper", and, for this dish the steak is crusted in a copius amount of cracked peppercorns prior to being pan-seared on the stovetop (and sometimes finished off in the oven).

The thing to remember about steak Diane is: the meat is not crusted in peppercorns.  It is, however, sliced or pounded thin prior to frying, at tableside, so that it will cook rapidly!

That being said, there is one other term that confuses a lot of people:  "a la Diane".  

In French, "a la" means "in the style of", and Diane was the Roman goddess of the hunt.  Her name is often attached to dishes prepared with game, namely:  venison.  So, for instance, if you prepare steak au poivre using filet of venison, you would name it:  Steak au poive a la Diane!

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

IMG_8925Enjoy 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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

01/01/2014

~ Good-bye 2013, Hello 2014! Happy New Year!!! ~

ScanIn a few short moments, the clock will strike 12:00AM and a New Year will begin.  Everyone enjoys new beginnings and fresh starts, which is probably why this holiday is enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.

Joe and I will be celebrating quietly with our bottle of bubbly (which is the norm for us), with the same toast as always:  the hope for health, peace and prosperity for everyone, everywhere + lots of good food too!

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

(Commentary and Photo courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)