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15 posts from March 2014

03/30/2014

~ Waldorf Chicken Salad on Cinnamon-Raisin Toast~

IMG_8180This is going to be one of my short and sweet posts.  It is blogworthy because it combines two of life's simple pleasures into one delightful sandwich:  Waldorf salad and cinnamon-raisin toast. It's not a combo that automatically pops into the foodie mind, but, if you think about it for a moment, you just know this paring is perfect.  Since I have it on good authority that a few of you made my recipe for ~ Bread Machine Basics and Cinnamon-Raisin Bread ~ this weekend, I thought you might be interested in an idea for a unique "lunchy brunchy" way to enjoy your bread!  (For the bread recipe itself, simply click on the Related Article link below.)

Ok.  You thought this through.  Now admit it:

Waldorf Chicken Salad on Cinnamon-Raisin Toast = A Great Sandwich!

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

Because of its versatility, nowadays, Waldorf salad is a style of salad. 

IMG_8121As long as it contains apples, celery and mayo, anything compatible with them can be added and become "a la Waldorf".  Today, I'm adding crisply-fried bits of bacon in place of walnuts for crunch, chicken, because I roasted two on Thursday and have meat leftover, and, a bit of onion because I like it in Waldorf salad that has chicken added to it. I'm not adding grapes or raisins, because there's raisins in my bread (but if I were serving this on a bed of lettuce, I'd add one or the other).

IMG_8117For the salad:

2  cups medium-large diced/cubed chicken (1/2"), roasted or poached, no deli-meat please (turkey may be substituted)

(Note:  From 1 large, roasted chicken-breast half I got just under 2 cups today.)  

IMG_81331-1 1/2  cups diced apple, red- or green-skinned, peeled or unpeeled 

1/2-3/4  cup diced celery 

1/4-1/2  cup diced yellow or red onion 

1/4  cup finely-diced, crisply-fried, well-drained bacon

1/2-3/4  cup mayonnaise + additional mayo, if necessary, just enough to coat the ingredients

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/4-1/2  teaspoon sea salt, to taste

IMG_8078For the sandwiches:

8  slices cinnamon-raisin bread, toasted

1/2-3/4 cup chiffonade of romaine lettuce leaves

Note:  "Chiffonade"  is a fancy French term that means "made of rags".  Culinarily, it refers to strips or shreds of very thinly-sliced vegetables, most commonly lettuces and leafy herbs.

IMG_8141~ Step 1.  Prep and place all ingredients in a large bowl, as you work.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the 1/2 cup mayonnaise and the spices, until ingredients are coated.

Note:  Adding additional mayo may be necessary, depending upon how much of each ingredient you used.  

Transfer to a 1-quart food storage container, cover and refrigerate for 1 -2 hours.

IMG_8273~ Step 2.  Toast the bread.  I like to cool it almost to room temperature prior to proceeding. Chiffonade the romaine. Place about 2 tablespoons of romaine on the top of four slices of the bread.  Portion Waldorf chicken salad over the top of the lettuce.   Top each sandwich with the remaining four slices of bread, slice and enjoy:

A nice girl like me wouldn't kid about a sandwich like this.

IMG_8193It's 'Wichcraft!

IMG_8235Waldorf Chicken Salad on Cinnamon-Raisin Toast:  If you add the maximum quantity of all of the ingredients, recipe yields 4 cups chicken salad, and 4 hearty man-sized sandwiches, 8 half-sized ladylike sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; 1-quart food storage container w/lid

6a0120a8551282970b01a511912fff970cCook's Note:  For another one of my bread machine bread recipes, ~ Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe ~, a sweetened yeast bread enriched with milk, butter and eggs, can be found in Categories 2, 15, 18 & 20.  Waldorf salad would be great on it too!

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

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

03/28/2014

~ Bread Machine Basics and Cinnamon-Raisin Bread (Lose that store-bought swirl and give this a whirl!!!) ~

IMG_8079I love a simple piece of toast and a glass of iced tea in the morning.  I adore eggs too, but on super-busy days, toast and tea is just fine with me.   Favorite toasts include egg bagels, English muffins, brioche and cinnamon-raisin bread.  I've always had a knack for bread baking, and, I can't remember ever having any bad experiences.  While I can make bagels and English muffins from scratch, I rarely do, and, when it comes to brioche and cinnamon-raisin bread, I've adapted my recipes to the bread machine.  Yes, even I (who possesses the skill and desire) no longer have the time to devote the better part of one day each week to baking bread for my family.  

IMG_7984Regularly not baking bread bothered me enough to buy a bread machine about 5 years ago. On principle alone, I hoped I would hate this appliance. My wish almost came true.  The first recipes I tried (from the instruction manual), while adequate, were, not up to my standards. After a period of a few months, I took the machine back out the box, gave it a permanent spot in my kitchen (where I had to maintain eye contact with it) and began adapting my own bread recipes to the machine.  Nowadays, I make a loaf of brioche and a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread every week. We are back to enjoying home-baked bread almost always:

< This is a 2-pound loaf of my cinnamon-raisin bread!

IMG_5526< This is a 1-pound loaf of my brioche!

Bread machine bread is rectangular or square in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect (most machines give you three options: 1-pound, 1 1/2-pound, or 2-pound loaves), they all get baked in the shape of the pan that came with the machine. What is wrong with that? Technically:  Nothing.  Visually: Even though it rises and browns beautifully (thanks to the many options the bread machine offers), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you'll forget the moment you taste the bread!

IMG_7894For a 1-pound loaf:

1/2  cup whole milk

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, preferably at room temperature

1/2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

2  tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon-sugar

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  extra-large egg, preferably at room temperature

2  cups +  2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1/2 packet)

1/4-1/2  cup raisins* (dark, golden, or, a combination of both)

For a 2-pound loaf:

1  cup whole milk

6  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, preferably at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract, not imitation

5  tablespoons cinnamon-sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2  extra-large eggs, preferably at room temperature, lightly beaten

4 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1 packet)

1/2  cup raisins* (dark, golden, or, a combination of both)

IMG_7976* Note about raisins:  My bread machine has an "add-in basket" on the top which automatically adds dried fruits and/or nuts to breads at the proper time during the baking cycle.  It has a maximum capacity of 1/2 cup.  This means, if you like a lot of raisins in your cinnamon-raisin bread, make the 1-pound loaf!

IMG_7899 6a0120a8551282970b0133f466ce08970bStep 1. This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the kneading) has been inserted.  The instruction manual said to always start with the paddle in this position before adding any ingredients, so I do.

IMG_7904~ Step 2.  As directed, cut the butter into pieces.  Pictured here is 6 tablespoons of cubed butter (enough for a 2-pound loaf).  

Note of importance:

In all of the following step-by-step "process photographs", I'll be using the quantity listed for a 2-pound loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

IMG_7916~ Step 3.  In a 1-cup measuring container, heat milk until steaming. This is quickly done in the microwave oven.  

IMG_7930Add the butter cubes, vanilla, cinnamon-sugar and salt.  Using a fork, stir until butter is melted.  If milk is steaming and butter is soft, this will only take a IMG_7933minute.

Add the mixture to the bread pan.

IMG_7948~ Step 4.  In the same measuring container, using the fork, whisk the eggs and add them to the pan.

When making bread in a bread machine, always add the wet ingredients first!

IMG_7971~ Step 5.  Add the flour to the bread pan, spooning it right on top of the wet ingredients.  Do not mix or stir!

IMG_7958Using your index finger, make a small well in the top of the flour (but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer).  Add the yeast to the well.

Note:  It is important to keep the dry yeast away from the wet ingredients until it is time for the machine to knead them together because the liquid will prematurely activate the yeast.

Follow your instructions to operate your machine, these are mine:

IMG_8027~ Step 6.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine and press down until it is securely "clicked" into place.  Close the lid and plug the machine in.  Press "select" and choose "white bread".  Press the "loaf size" button to select "2-pound loaf" (or "1-pound loaf" if that's what you're making).  Press the "crust control" button and select "light crust" (or "dark" if you prefer).  Press the "extras" button and add the raisins to the basket located on the top of the machine.  Press "start".

IMG_8040Note:  Depending upon the make and model of your bread machine, and the size of the loaf you are making, the entire baking process will take about 2 1/2-3 hours.  

Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the process.  The moment the timer signals, the bread is done.

I broke this rule for this photo, but you needed to see the lovely rise.

IMG_8100~ Step 7.  Open the lid.  Using a pair of pot holders, remove the bread pan from the machine, using the handle to lift it out.  Turn the bread pan to a 30-45 degree angle and gently slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn the loaf upright and place it on a rack to cool completely.  If the paddle remains (stuck) in the loaf, which does happen occasionally, I find it best to cool the loaf completely before slicing and removing the paddle.

No matter how you slice it -- thick or thin...

IMG_8257... cinnamon-raisin toast never tasted so good!

IMG_8273Bread Machine Basics & Cinnamon-Raisin Bread:  Recipe yields 1, 1-pound loaf, or 1, 2-pound loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine; paring knife; 1-cup measuring container; fork; pot holders or oven mitts; cooling rack

IMG_5539Cook's Note:  My recipe for ~ Bread Machine Basics & My Brioche Recipe ~, a sweetened yeast bread enriched with milk, butter and eggs, can be found in Categories 2, 15, 18 & 20.  Just click on the Related Article links below for a few of my favorite ways to eat it!

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

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

03/26/2014

~An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche~

IMG_7837Pizza quiche?  If you're thinking those two words don't belong together in the same sentence, you have two choices:  read on or move on.  Busy moms who know how to cook are notorius for pulling an inventive, delicious meal out of their apron pocket in the blink of an eye.  Busy moms who have the creativity to give it a kid-friendly name, especially if it's got spinach or broccoli in it, are natural born story tellers.  As I always say, "there is more to a recipe than a list of ingredients. There is either a history or a story behind that forkful of food:  take the time to tell it!"     

IMG_7543Some days you open your refrigerator door and you just know what you are going to cook. Today was one such day, and, it had nothing to do with it being National Spinach Day.  The ingredients (a half of a container of ricotta cheese, a box of thawed spinach, and, a small bowl of grated Parm-Regg were staring at me.  I made ~ Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara ~ on Monday (just click on the Related Article link below to get my recipe). I'm making quiche with my leftovers.

IMG_7824This recipe is a quiche (KEESH), not a pie, because it contains cream, eggs and has no top crust. It's also baked in a classic, fluted-edge quiche dish. This quiche is not one I serve for breakfast or brunch. It is a lunch, dinner or late night snack quiche.  Italians are famous for a pie called "Pizza Rustica", an elaborate ricotta pie traditionally served at Easter.  This is not that. This is: easy, weeknight quiche -- made Italian-American family style. 

Tumblr_m6dstruhke1qmbdr9o1_500It was back in the mid-eighties. Quiche was the food trend du jour back then, and, I bought the ingredients to try a recipe that appeared in the Parade magazine of our Sunday newspaper.  As luck would have it, a mid-week snowstorm hit and our three elementary school-aged boys were at home with me.  They ate their routinely packed lunches around Noon, and, in the afternoon I decided I'd make "that quiche" for dinner.  Joe arrived home from the office and "it" came out of the oven looking beautiful but "green".  When I served it to my boys and Joe, I put a dollop of marinara sauce on it and told them it was "pizza quiche"!

I wasn't expecting rave reviews, but happily:

IMG_7763All of my men ate quiche that night & "pizza quiche" was born!

IMG_76901  9" pie pastry, homemade or store-bought

1  10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, well-drained and squeezed "dry" of liquid

1/2  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

1 1/2  cups whole-milk ricotta cheese

3/4  cup each:  grated mozzarrella and provolone cheese

1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1  cup cream

3  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  cup additional finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for topping quiche

a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, for topping quiche

2-3  cups warmed marinara sauce, preferably homemade, for dipping or drizzling

Wondra flour, for sprinkling on unbaked pie shell after placing and forming in quiche dish

IMG_7687~ Step 1.  Place the pie pastry in the quiche dish and sprinkle some Wondra flour over the bottom.  Prep the spinach, onion and onion as directed and grate the cheeses. 

IMG_7699~ Step 2.  In a large bowl, using a fork, whisk together the cream, eggs, nutmeg, salt and red pepper.

IMG_7714~ Step 3. Add the ricotta to the egg mixture.  Using a large spoon, stir and break up the ricotta until the mixture resembles "very creamy scrambled eggs".

IMG_7717~ Step 4. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the three grated cheeses and the diced onions.

IMG_7735 IMG_7731~ Step 5. Using your fingertips, crumble the spinach into small bits and pieces (not chunks).   

IMG_7732Using the spatula, fold spinach into the cheese mixture.

IMG_7752~ Step 6.  Transfer all of the filling to the prepared pie shell.

IMG_7748Sprinkle with the additional Parmigiano-Reggiano and red pepper flakes.

~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of 350 degree oven 40-45 minutes, or until puffed up, golden brown, and, a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool on a rack about 15 minutes prior to slicing.

IMG_7773Serve each slice with marinara for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_7869An End of Winter Ricotta & Spinach 'Pizza' Quiche:  Recipe yields 8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" quiche dish; cutting board; chef's knife; cheese grater; fork; large spoon; large rubber spatula; cooling rack

PICT0011Cook's Note:  For another one of my quiche recipes, which I make when I have a lot of fresh basil on hand, ~ An End of Summer Tomato, Basil & Brie Quiche ~ can be found in Categories 2, 9, 11 & 14!

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

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

03/24/2014

~ Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara ~

IMG_7543There was a period in my life when I taught cooking classes on a regular basis (which I'm just too busy to do nowadays).  It was a rarity if I chose the subject matter.  When a group of people or an organization wants to take a class, they usually know what it is they want to learn before they come a calling.  In every class, one of the things I enjoy the most are the questions that get asked.  Questions reveal two things:   What is spinning around in the heads of people interested in food, and, what food trends are on the horizon.  Questions are the pulse of food people.

IMG_7557What's the difference between gnocchi (NYOH-kee) & gnudi (NYOO-dee)?

I remember this question well because it resulted in my teaching a second class to the same group of gals a few weeks later, and, it required me to learn how to make gnudi.  It was back in 2008 or 2009, and, while I knew the answer, I had never tasted or made the latter.  That being said, recipes weren't hard to come by.  Even though they've been around for centuries, at that time, Gnudi was the trendy new word in the foodie dictionary, showing up on swanky restaurant menus and in cooking magazines.  If I recall correctly the recipe I originally tried came straight out of Bon Appetit, and, I was really surprised by how easy they were to make!  

A bit about gnocchi & gnudi:  Both are savory side- or main-dish dumplings, meaning:  shaped, even-sized pieces or balls of dough are simmered in liquid until they are cooked through. Depending on the recipe, they are sometimes sauteed just prior to saucing and serving. Gnocchi are nugget-sized dumplings made from mashed potatoes and flour.  

IMG_7455Gnudi are meatball-sized dumplings made from ricotta cheese and flour, but less flour than what is used to make gnocchi.

In both cases, fresh bread crumbs or semolina are sometime substituted for flour. Eggs and/or grated cheese (Parmesan, Romano or Asiago) are usually added to the dough, and, mashed squash (acorn or butternut) or steamed spinach is sometimes added for color and a bit of subtle, but noticeable, flavor.

"Gnocchi" means "lump" and they are heavier (in a pleasant, "substitute for pasta" way).  "Gnudi means "nude" and they are lighter (in an amusing "naked ravioli without the pasta" way).  

Enjoy that giggle.  Amuse your bouche:

IMG_7587Make a meatless meal that won't have anyone asking "where's the beef?"!

IMG_74012  cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, the best available, well-drained

1  10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, well-drained and squeezed "dry" of liquid

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1  extra-large egg, at room temperature

1  extra-large egg  yolk, at room temperature

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon black pepper

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup additional flour for rolling gnudi in

3-4  cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade

additional finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for topping gnudi

red pepper flakes, for garnishing gnudi

IMG_7398~ Step 1.  Prep the ricotta and spinach as directed.  I place them each in a small, paper-towel lined colander and let them sit for 30 minutes to make sure they are free of excess moisture.  While they are draining, using a microplane grater, grate the cheese.

IMG_7416 IMG_7409~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large spoon, combine the ricotta, spinach and grated cheese. 

~ Step 3.  In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, nutmeg, salt, pepper and optional cayenne pepper.  Whisk the egg mixture into the cheese mixture.

IMG_7433 IMG_7429~ Step 4. Stir in the flour and stir until just combined and the mixture forms a moist ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow the mixture to sit for 20-30 minutes. This rest will allow the flour time to absorb the liquid.  Uncover and stir. If the mixture feels wet (it will be a bit sticky), add 1-2 additional tablespoons flour.  I add none.

IMG_7444 IMG_7439~ Step 5. Line a large baking pan with parchment and place 4 tablespoons of flour in a shallow bowl.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop form gnudi dough into balls...

IMG_7461... rolling each one in the flour before placing it on the baking pan.

IMG_7471~ Step 6.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5-quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer.  

Working in batches of 8-12, one at a time drop each gnudi into the simmering water.  Set a timer and allow them to simmer for exactly 6 minutes.  Note:  They will float to the top after 1-2 minutes.  They need to be cooked for 6 minutes.

IMG_7494 IMG_7485~ Step 7. Using an Asian spider or a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnudi to a plate.

IMG_7518Continue to work in batches until all gnudi are cooked.  Go ahead, taste one. Serve on marinara sauce or topped with the sauce, additional grated cheese and red pepper flakes:

IMG_7582Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi (Dumplings) w/Marinara:  Recipe yields 3 dozen gnudi.  Portion and serve as appetizers before the meal, a starter course to the meal, or, as the meal. 

Special Equipment List:  colander(s); paper towels; microplane grater; fork; large spoon; plastic wrap; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; 8-quart stockpot; Asian spider or large slotted spoon

IMG_7641 IMG_7620Cook's Note:  Gnudi can be simmered several hours ahead of serving.  To reheat: puddle marinara sauce in a shallow plate or casserole, add the gnudi and top generously with grated cheese and red pepper flakes.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the microwave until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly, 1-2 minutes. 

IMG_7498Extra Cook's Note:  Serve gnudi with the best marinara sauce you can get your hands on.  In my kitchen, that would be ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 8, 12 & 22~

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

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

03/21/2014

~ My Braised & Brown Sugar Glazed Corned Beef ~

IMG_7252A funny thing happened at the grocery store yesterday -- all the corned beef was on sale and Joe came home with two beautiful specimens.  I always make my brown sugar glazed corned beef in March, around or for St. Patrick's day, which is a fun holiday even if you aren't Irish -- there is a bit of Leprechaun in everyone.   I make it during the rest of the year too because my recipe makes one of the best deli-style corned beef sandwiches you will ever taste.  Withhold referring to my last statement as arrogant until you have made and tasted my corned beef. 

IMG_7236Even though I love corned beef, it wasn't until our children left the nest that I started making it. Corned beef and cabbage was not high on their list of favorite foods.  One day, about five years ago, I decided to come up with a "Mel" version of the classic, specifically for sandwiches.  I am a lover of sweet and savory combinations, so it seemed natural to finish off my savory stovetop braised brisket in the oven with a layer of brown sugar on top of it.  After all, doesn't everything taste better with brown sugar?  The end result was beyond delicious.  There's more:  

Corned Beef #16 (Sauce Finished) I wanted to develop a braising liquid which was a sauce for dipping or drizzling on sandwiches too (not just a brothy soup).  My goal: put a new twist on corned beef and  take "the briny edge off" of traditional corned beef, cabbage & potatoes.  Using tomatoes was obvious.  Whole allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves (to replace the mustard seed seasoning that comes with each brisket) made my mouth water!

Crusty Caraway Seed Sandwich Rolls #1 (Intro Picture) Then, as it always is in the world of recipe development, you need the perfect home-baked dinner or sandwich roll to serve with the brisket or serve the brisket on.  These needed to be firm-textured and full of flavor.  You can find my recipe for ~ Crusty Caraway Seed Dinner/Sandwich Rolls ~ in Categories 5 & 12!

No time to bake rolls?  Buy the best dark or rye bread you can!

IMG_7359This recipe is easy... really, really REALLY easy!!!

Corned Beef #5 (Picture of Corned Beef Package) A bit about corned beef:  Corned beef is beef brisket that has been brine-cured in a solution of salt and water typically used for pickling or preserving food.  Brisket is the cut of beef taken from the breast section unter the first five ribs.  It is sold without the bone and divided into two sections.  The flat-cut has minimal fat and is more expensive than the more flavorful point-cut. 

Brisket requires long, slow cooking and is best when braised.  The term "corned" comes from the English use of the word "corn", meaning: a process to which small particles, such as grains of salt have been added.  Two types of corned beef are available and depend upon the butcher and/or the region.  Old-fashioned corned beef is grayish-pink in color and very salty.  New-style has less salt and is a bright rosy red.  The most famous corned beef entree is the Irish corned beef and cabbage.  The second is the Reuben sandwich, consisting of generous layers of thinly-sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut served on a rye bread (either cold or grilled) with a dressing (either Russian or Thousand Island).  I think my corned beef recipe, along with its unique sauce, whether served as an entree or a sandwich, is in the race with both of these!!!

Corned Beef #6 (Ingredients)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2  3 1/2-4 pound flat- or point-cut corned beef briskets, at room temperature

4  cups water (total throughout recipe)

24  whole allspice

8  whole bay leaves

4  whole cinnamon sticks

24  whole cloves

2  12-14-ounce yellow or sweet onions, coarsely chopped or chunked

1 1/2  ounces whole garlic cloves, about 10-12 large garlic cloves

2  28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

4  tablespoons sugar

1-1 1/2  teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste

12  ounces dark brown sugar, for topping roasts

4  ounces dark brown sugar, for adding to braising liquid/sauce

Corned Beef #7 (Briskets in Pot with Spices) ~ Step 1.  Remove briskets from packages and discard seasoning packets.  Rinse briskets under cold water and place in bottom of a 12-quart stockpot to which 2 cups of water has been added.  Add the allspice, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and cloves to the water, dividing them equally on both sides of the meat (not on top of it).

Corned Beef #8 (Onions and Garlic Added) ~ Step 2.  Prep the onion as directed.  Add it and the garlic to the pot.

Corned Beef #9 (Water and Tomatoes Added)

 

 

 

 

 

~ Step 3.  Add the second 2 cups of water, the crushed tomatoes, sugar and red pepper flakes.  Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Adjust the heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook, covered, for 3 hours.

Corned Beef #10 (After 3 Hours of Simmering)

 

 

~ Step 4.  This is what the meat and the braising liquid will look like after 3 hours of simmering.  During the cooking process, the liquid/juices in the stockpot will have reduced by about 1" and each brisket will have shrunk by almost one-half its original size.

Did I forget to mention that your entire kitchen smells wonderful right now?

IMG_7214Step 5.  Place a rack in the bottom of a 3-quart casserole to which 1/4" of water has been added.  Using a large spatula, to support the meat underneath, transfer the briskets, fat side up, onto the rack.  Spoon the 12 ounces of dark brown sugar evenly over the top.  Stir the remaining 4 ounces of dark brown sugar into the stockpot of "sauce".

Note:  The reason you add water to the bottom of the casserole is because the water prevents any sugar that drips to the bottom of the dish from burning and smoking.  Watch this process carefully during the last 5 minutes as sugar does go from browned to burned very quickly.

~ IMG_7221Step 6.  Roast the meat, uncovered, in preheated 350 degree oven, about 30-35 minutes.  The sugar will be golden, semi-caramelized and will have formed a crunchy, glaze/crust on the briskets. 

Remove from oven and rest 15-30 minutes prior to slicing and serving.

~ Step 7.  When the sugar-topped briskets go into the oven, return stockpot to stovetop and return the braising liquid/"sauce" to a simmer.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has reduced and thickened, stirring frequently, about 30-35 minutes (while the sugar on the briskets is caramelizing).  While the meat is resting, using a slotted spoon, take 1-2 minutes to remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and as many of the allspice and cloves as you can find.

IMG_7272~ Step 8.  After the meat is rested, and the rest period is very important, slice the meat as thick or as thin as you like it, cutting it with the grain, which keeps it from falling apart -- it is for sandwiches.  This luxurious meat will slice like butter! 

When serving, remember to place a small bowl of warmed sauce to the side of each sandwich for dipping or drizzling. 

Go ahead -- take a taste of that corned beef!

IMG_7303Now make a sandwich...

IMG_7322... eat it... and tell me you love me!

IMG_7349Braised and Brown Sugar Glaze Corned Beef:  Recipe yields enough meat for 12 deli-style sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  12-quart, wide-bottomed stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2"/3-quart casserole; rack sized appropriately to fit into casserole dish; large/wide spatula; slotted spoon

IMG_6788Cook's Note:  For an Eastern European take on corned beef and cabbage, you might want to try my ~ Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 2, 3, 4, 12 or 20!

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

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

03/20/2014

~ Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV Video Segment #55: Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils) ~

IMG_7194Pasta with lentils is very common in Italy.  Yesterday I posted my recipe for ~ Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie ~, which is so delicious it will make you carnivors forget there is no meat in it (vegetarians love this dish).  You can find the detailed recipe with all of my step-by-step directions in Categories 3, 12 or 14.

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

Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)

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

Tune in to WHVL-TV's Centre of It All Show, which airs every Sunday morning at 11:30AM on local Comast channel 14! 

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

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

03/19/2014

~ Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)~

IMG_7194Over the past week I've shown you how to make two of my favorite "legume meals".  I soaked some dried kidney beans to make hearty red beans and rice, then I made some luscious split pea soup in my slow cooker.  In a nutshell, legumes are the dried seed pods of beans, peas and lentils.  It wouldn't be right for me to close the pantry door on legumes without cooking some lentils, so, I'm tying a bow on the trio by making my favorite lentil dish today:  pasta with lentils!

IMG_7033In Italy, pasta with lentils is very common.  Here in Happy Valley USA, both Joe and I love lentil soup, but neither of us had ever heard of this dish, which I find odd.  

I learned all about it by tuning into an episode of Lidia's Italy on PBS television eight years ago.  Back in 2006 I was schooling myself on "all things Lidia Bastianich".  She was coming to Happy Valley to do a fundraising event for WPSU, our local PBS station, and, it was my job to organize and prep everything for her demonstration, as well as cook the dishes she demonstrated:  enough for a studio audience of 100 guests.  Cooking with and for this lovely, gracious woman was an extraordinary, unforgettable, remarkable experience!  

IMG_7198After watching Lidia prepare this dish on TV, I bought the ingredients the next day and prepared her recipe for dinner.  It was marvelous.  Since then, I've prepared variations of the dish, meaning:  I've tried other recipes.  I still like her vegetarian recipe and method for the preparation the best:  She cooks the lentils and the vegetables together to make a spicy sauce, boils the pasta separately, then dresses the pasta with the sauce.  I find this preferable because I can freeze the leftover sauce to serve over cooked pasta at another time (pasta stored or frozen in the sauce gets mushy).  Lidia mentions that in certain regions of Italy, pasta with lentils is soupy or stewlike, but, her recipe is not.  It is a hearty, meatless, perfectly sauced pasta dish!

LentilsA bit about lentils:  Lentils come in several varieties (colors).  Some are whole, others are peeled and split. With each type comes a difference in cooking time, and, a different texture after cooking.  The brown lentil is the most common, is sold in all supermarkets, and, is the kind I keep on hand in my pantry.  After rinsing, lentils cook in stock or water, with the ratio being 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of lentils. 

This is my version of Lidia Bastianich's recipe:

IMG_7026For the lentil sauce:  

4  tablespoons olive oil

1-1 1/2  teaspoons pepperonchino flakes (red pepper flakes)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1  cup diced onion (1/4" dice)

3/4  cup peeled and diced carrot (1/4" dice)

1/2  cup diced celery (1/4" dice)

2  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

1 1/2  cups small brown lentils, rinsed and drained

3  cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or, water

1  35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand into bits and pieces (4 cups)

2  whole bay leaves

For the pasta:

1  pound ditalini pasta, or other small tubular pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

6  tablespoons butter, cut into pieces, for tossing into hot, cooked and drained pasta

1  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, for tossing into hot, cooked pasta

For topping and garnishing:

1/4  cup additional finely-grated Parmigiano-Regiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, for passing at tableside

1/4  cup chopped, fresh Italian parsley (flat-leaf parsley)

IMG_7062 IMG_7049~ Step 1. Place the olive oil in the bottom of an 8-quart stockpot.  Stir in the pepperonchino and salt.  Prep and add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic.  Adjust heat to saute and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the carrots are softening, about 4-5 minutes.  

IMG_7089 IMG_7067~ Step 2. Sprinkle in the lentils, stir, and saute, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

~ Step 3.  Add the stock, tomatoes and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust heat to a steady simmer, cover the pot and continue to cook until the lentils are tender yet al dente, about 1 1/2 hours.

IMG_7097~ Step 4.  Remove the lentil sauce from the heat and set aside, covered, to steep and thicken a bit more while preparing the pasta:

~ Step 5.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a boil, then, add 1 tablespoon sea salt to the water.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the cheese and chop the parsley.

IMG_7127 IMG_7116Step 6. When the pasta is cooked, drain it into a colander and immediately return it to the hot stockpot and return the stockpot to the still warm stovetop.  

Add the butter and cheese. Using two forks or two spoons, toss, like you would a salad, until both are melted and pasta is evenly coated.

IMG_7159 IMG_7144                                               ~ Step 7. Add half of the lentil sauce.  

IMG_7131Note:  Half of the sauce is about 3-3 1/2 cups. Refrigerate or freeze the other half. Add a bit more stock or water to leftover sauce to reach desired consistency.

Portion into four warmed serving bowls and garnish with grated cheese and chopped parsley: 

IMG_7203Ditalini Pasta con le Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils):  Recipe yields 4, main-course servings, and 7 total cups lentil sauce (enough sauce for 2 meals).

Special Equipment List:  2, 8-quart stockpots; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; garlic press; large spoon; microplane grater; colander; soup ladle

Vegetable Stock #3 (Water in Pot)Cook's Note:  One of the things I was required to make for Lidia's demonstration was a big pot of her vegetable stock.  Until I tasted hers, I never had an appreciation for vegetable stock.  To find my version of her recipe, read ~ How to:  Make a Basic Vegetable Stock a la Lidia ~ in Categories 2, 14, 15, 22.

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

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

03/17/2014

~Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup~

IMG_6977What makes this ethnic, hearty, peasant soup traditional?

Every time my mother has a meaty ham bone in her hand, she makes "ham and cabbage".  It is a brothy concoction of ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper.  I grew up loving cabbage and I adore this "boiled dinner".  I am Russian Orthodox (Eastern European).  Cabbage juice runs through our veins -- Russian babies are born into the world loving cabbage (and potatoes).  This soup was one of my father's mother's specialties!  

IMG_6019Over the course of the past week I've been extolling the joys of ~ Hog Heaven:  Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks ~, and discussing ~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs. Overnight Soaking ~.   With them I made ~ Monday's Washday Dinner:  Red Beans and Rice ~, Wednesday's ~ Thick and Creamy Crockpot Split Pea & Ham Soup ~, and, on Friday, I posted ~ Under Pressure:  Ham, Cabbage and IMG_6275Potato Soup ~, which I made in the pressure cooker.  You can get all of the recipes by clicking on the Related Article links below.

One of my friends from high school ('70-'73), wrote on Facebook: "Mel, I hope one of your posts this week will include ham and cabbage soup."  I knew what recipe Marilyn wanted.  I also knew she wanted the version made on the stovetop.

IMG_6963Mom's stovetop meal is every bit as delicious as my pressure cooker meal. But -- the timing and technique differ enough to merit a post of its own!

IMG_6897In a 6-quart stockpot, place:

2  meaty smoked ham shanks, about 2 1/2 pounds total

1  quart chicken stock

6  cups water, or enough to cover the shanks

~ Step 1.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust heat to a steady simmer, cover the pot and continue to simmer until the meat is falling off the bones, about 1 1/2 hours.

IMG_6289~ Step 2.  Turn heat off.  Using a slotted spoon, remove  shanks from broth.  Pull meat from bones and chop into bite-sized pieces.  You'll have about 2 cups of meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

~ Step 3.  Season the broth with:

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2  teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Note:  Shanks and hocks add a lot of salt as they cook, which is why I never salt at the onset.

IMG_6746 IMG_6754 IMG_6763 IMG_6768

 

 

 

 

IMG_6912~ Steps 4, 5, 6 & 7:  Prep the following vegetables (as pictured above) as as directed below:

2 cups coarsely chopped onion

1 cup coarsely chopped celery

2  cups coarsely chopped carrot

4 cups chunked gold potatoes  

Return the broth to a steady simmer and add them all at once.

IMG_6918~ IMG_6736 Step 8. While the vegetables are returning to a simmer in the stockpot, core and coarsely chop 1 medium head of green cabbage.  When the pot has just returned to a simmer, add:

4-5 cups of coarsely chopped green cabbage

IMG_6924The pot will be just about full.  

IMG_6928~ Step 9. Stir well, cover the pot and continue to cook 8-10 minutes, or until the carrots and potatoes are fork tender.  Timing varies according to the size of your potato chunks and the heat of your stove.  Stir in the ham chunks and remove pot from heat.

Portion into 8, large, warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with freshly ground black pepper:

IMG_6988Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup:  Recipe yields 4 quarts/8 hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  6-quart stockpot w/lid; large slotted spoon; plastic wrap; cutting board chef's knife; vegetable peeler; soup ladle

IMG_6833Cook's Note:  This soup does not freeze well, but, no worries.  It keeps 5-6 days in the refrigerator and reheats perfectly in the microwave (I recommend the microwave because it maintains the texture of the vegetables)!

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

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

03/14/2014

~ Under Pressure: Ham, Cabbage and Potato Soup ~

IMG_6788After months of reading two of my Facebook foodie friends (Melissa Trainer and Teresa Gottier) extoll the virtues of their pressure cookers, I finally gave in.  I bought one.  I didn't want one, but I bought one anyway.  After consulting with both friends,  I decided on the kind that I believe every virgin pressure cooker owner, or, anyone who has ever witnessed one explode should buy:  An electric model that can be plugged in out in the garage or down in the root cellar (and run away from as an added precaution).  It arrived Wednesday.  Here's why I don't trust pressure cookers:

LevittownerMy Aunt Mary (my father's sister) and her husband Art lived in Levittown, PA.  It was the 1960's. Levittown was one of America's first, "tract house" planned communities (curved streets, sidewalks, front and back yards with trees, playgrounds, schools, by-laws, etc.).  It was particularly appealing to veterans, because they could buy a home with no down payment.    All of the moderately-priced ranch houses had kitchens with electric cooktops and wall ovens.  

The First Muscle Car 1960 Dodge Dart White - Front Right View-1More and more American women were working women, and, back then, the pressure cooker was the time-saving, trendy darling of the busy woman's kitchen.  Out of 2 sisters and 4 sisters-in-law, Aunt Mary was the only one who used a pressure cooker, and, her specialty was stuffed cabbage (which were pretty good).  We were ALL there, 20-25 of us, for a holiday.  It was either Memorial Day, the 4th of July or Labor Day, because there were flags everywhere.  It was 1960.  My dad just bought a brand new, white, Dodge Dart and this was its maiden voyage.  Our family of four had wings.  I was 5.

I wasn't witness to the explosion.  My Auntie Annie came running out into the yard and quickly "herded" a few women away from their cocktails and into the kitchen.  I followed. Aunt Mary was in tears.  Who wouldn't be.  Cabbage shrapnel was everywhere.  While 4-5 women made short work of getting the incident under control, there was no mistaking the smug "now you know why I don't own a pressure cooker" look I got from my mom.  You see, my mother had predicted this.

IMG_6687 IMG_6685Fast forward to today. Meet the beast I chose.  It is very well built and I have read the instruction manual completely. It seems pretty straightforward.  I am hoping to fall in love with my newest countertop appliance, and...

 ... it's locked, loaded and ready for launch!

IMG_6791Every time my mother had a meaty ham bone in her hand, she made:  ham, cabbage and potato soup.  A brothy concoction of ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes seasoned with nothing other than salt and pepper.  I grew up loving cabbage and I adored this meal.  We are Russian Orthodox (Eastern European). Cabbage juice runs through our veins -- Russian kids like cabbage.  Period.  I think of this meal as the "plain cousin" to Irish corned beef and cabbage.  I was planning on making this soup "her way", on the the stovetop today, then decided it would be a good recipe to get me familiar with my new appliance and pressure cooking in general. 

My 1st PC recipe: The trauma of pressure cooking without adequate instructions!

This is nobody's recipe.  This is being blogged live by the seat of my pants.  It is either going to work or not.  I won't lie, once I got past the "how to operate" the pressure cooker instructions of the manual,  I looked at the recipes in "the booklet", similar ones on the internet, and, in a couple pressure cooker cookbooks too.  I have no idea what I am doing and I know I can do better than these cryptic pieces of "3-5 easy steps and no photo" rubbish.  They make me want to write a pressure cooker cookbook (with step-by-step directions and photos for fearful idiots like me).

IMG_6664~ Step 1.  Place the trivet (the little rack) in the bottom of the cooking pot (the bowl insert) of the pressure cooker.  The trivet keeps heavy meat from sticking to the bottom (or that's what I think it does).  Add:

2  meaty smoked ham shanks, about 2 1/2 pounds total

1  quart chicken stock

1  quart water

IMG_6710~ Step 2.  Secure lid and cook shanks on high heat for 20 minutes. After the PC signals (beeps) the end, the machine will switch to "keep warm" mode.  For this recipe, immediately turn the pressure limit valve, in order to quick release the pressure from the machine.  Use a pair of tongs or fork to easily turn this "free floating" gismo as there will be a "whoosh" of  hot steam. This will take about 1 minute.  

IMG_6705Note:  The pressure limit valve is very easy to turn because, while secure, it never locks into place. One push with the side of a fork and the steam was escaping.  

Note:  Natural release means to wait for the machine to cool down on its own about 20-30 minutes. Always follow the recipe on these two very specific instructions.

IMG_6289 IMG_6275~ Step 3. Using a large slotted spoon, remove the shanks from the broth.  Pull the meat away from the bones and chop it into bite-sized pieces.  You will have about 2 cups of meat. Place it in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and set aside.  

Now it's time to add the veggies!

IMG_6723 IMG_6719~ Step 4. Remove the trivet.

Note:  Never exceed the maximum capacity of the pressure cooker. The manual also says  to have at least 1/2 cup of liquid in the PC at all times. I have 6 cups of liquid and a 16 cup capacity.  I should be ok.

IMG_6736 IMG_6727                                          ~ Step 5.  To the broth, add:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2  teaspoon dried thyme leaves

~ Step 6.  Core and coarsely chop 1 medium head of green cabbage.  Add 4 cups to the pot.

IMG_6746 IMG_6754 IMG_6763 IMG_6768

 

 

   

 

~Steps 7, 8, 9 & 10.  Add 2 cups of coarsely chopped onion, 1 cup coarsely chopped celery, 2 cups coarsely chopped carrot and 4 cups chunked gold potatoes to the broth in the pot.

IMG_6773~ Step 11.  Add enough of liquid, chicken stock or water, to total 16 cups.  I added 1 cup of stock.

Secure lid & cook on high for 8 minutes.  Vegetables will be tender.

IMG_6784Stir in the reserved ham and serve immediately garnished with black pepper.

I couldn't be happier with how this recipe turned out.  I will make it in the pressure cooker from this day forward.  The vegetables were all perfectly cooked, just through, not  mushy.  The flavors were equal to that of my mom's stovetop version.  If I could offer one sentence of advice, "always error on the side of less pressure cooking time vs more".  Unlike cooking on the stovetop, once the PC lid is locked and loaded, you cannot physically keep an eye on texture. You can always pressure cook the food an extra 1-2 minutes, but, if you've overcooked it to mush there is no turning back the clock.  I've decided to keep a notepad of documented cooking times for everything I cook stored inside my PC, and, I can't wait to share my recipes with you!

IMG_6814I LOVE MY NEW PRESSURE COOKER!  Thank-you Teresa!  Thank-you Melissa!

IMG_6808Under Presssure:  Ham, Cabbage & Potato Soup:  Recipe yields 4 quarts/8 hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 6-quart pressure cooker; large slotted spoon; plastic wrap; soup ladle

IMG_6833Cook's Note:  This soup does not freeze well, but, no worries.  It keeps 5-6 days in the refrigerator and reheats perfectly in the microwave (I recommend the microwave because it maintains the texture of the vegetables)!

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

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

03/12/2014

~ Thick & Creamy Crockpot Split Pea & Ham Soup ~

IMG_6571I have a large arsenal of small kitchen appliances -- many in multiples.  Some I bought in different sizes for specific purposes, others because I wanted a newer, improved model.  Thirty-nine years is a long time to collect appliances.  I have no reason to sell any on e-Bay either. Storage space is not an issue for me, and, my old relics have become fun, retro props for photographs and TV.  Each one is reminiscent of a different time and place in my life.

PICT2652Meet my very first "crockpot", made by West Bend.  I got it as a wedding shower gift in 1974.  I have two others identical to it.  My mother gave me hers and my girlfriend Sally gave me hers (when they each decided that crockery cookery was not their gig either).  All three are like new and work perfectly. What fun to welcome this old friend onto my countertop today!

West Bend introduced an electric bean cooker in 1962, called The Bean Pot, which was a traditional 9DD353AE-E2B4-A350-4AE66A8064936FCAbean pot atop a waming tray, which is essentially what my slow-cooker (pictured above) is.

The slow-cooker was originally invented by Chicago's Irving Naxon (Naxon Utilities Corporation).  It was introduced, in August 1970, as the Naxon All-Purpose Cooker, or Beanery.  As the story goes, Irving was a great inventor but lacked marketing skills and his bean machine flopped.  Later that same year, the Rival company bought Naxon and reintroduced the product under the Crock-Pot name.

Shortly after I got married in 1974, the crockpot craze occurred.  Just in time for Christmas, Rival introduced removable stoneware inserts to the product.  Women everywhere were buying them up.  Guess what was on my wish list that year?  Yep!

PICT2656 637448Fast forward through the '80's and '90's to the present day.

PICT2690Welcome my All-Clad crockpot #9:

The mother of all things crockpot... they've come a long way baby!

The crockpot.  The illustrious American one-pot meal-cooking wonder of the "I have no time to cook", "I hate to cook" generation.  I use mine, maybe twice a year.  Why?  I have time to cook, I love to cook, and, there are only a handful of things I like cooked in a crockpot.  Simply stated: Everything cooked conventionally, by any method, just tastes better.  There are, of course, exceptions:  split pea soup is one of them.  Chili is another.  As long as split pea soup is thick and creamy, I love it made by any method, and:  every crockpot delivers a great split pea soup!

IMG_6458A bit about split peas:  Dried peas are "pulses":  the dried seeds of legumes (beans, peas and lentils). They come in green and yellow varieties, which can be used interchangeably, with yellow split peas being milder in flavor.  

When whole peas are harvested and dried, if the dull-colored outer skin is removed from the whole round pea (either manually or mechanically), the pod inside splits in half.  The halves are known as split peas.  Split peas are most commonly used to make thick soups and stews because, unlike whole peas, they do not need to be soaked prior to cooking, and, they cook quite a bit faster due to the increased surface area of the two smaller halves!

IMG_64421  16-ounce bag, dried split peas (2 1/2 cups)

2  cups peeled and diced carrots

2  cups diced celery

2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

4  cups peeled and diced gold potatoes

4  bay leaves

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/4-1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional) (I add 1/2 teaspoon because we like this soup spicy.)

2  meaty smoked ham shanks, about 2 1/2 pounds total (Note:  Click on the Related Article link below, ~ Hog Heaven: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks ~, to learn about these two flavorful cuts of pork.)

6  cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (Note:  Be sure to have additional chicken stock on hand for reheating any leftovers, as, the split peas continue to absorb moisture.  Add just enough to return the soup to desired consistency.  If you're reheating the entire 3 quarts, plan on needing 1 1/2-2 additional cups.)

1-2  teaspoons salt

freshly ground black pepper, for garnishing soup

IMG_6465 IMG_6461~ Step 1. Prep and place all ingredients in crockpot, along with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Do not add any more salt than this.

Note:  Smoked ham shanks and ham hocks contain a lot of salt. Wait until closer to the end of the cooking process to taste and add more salt.

IMG_6482~ Step 2.  Using a large spoon, stir all of the ingredients together.  

IMG_6486Wipe any drips from the rim of the crockpot and place the lid on.  Cook on high for 1 hour.  

Open the lid and give the mixture another good stir.

IMG_6500Step 3.  After the first hour of cooking on high, change the temperature to low and continue to cook for 7 more hours, stirring occasionally, or, until the split peas are very tender and the meat from the ham is falling off the bones.

Note:  This photo has been taken after 3 hours of cooking on low.  If you taste the mixture now, you will notice that the shanks are gradually adding the needed salt.

IMG_6532~ Step 4.  In this photo, the soup, from beginning to end, had been in the crockpot for a total of 8 hours (1 hour on high and 7 hours on low). The consistency is perfect.

IMG_6289~ Step 5. Remove the shanks, discard fat and bones, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and stir it back into the soup.

Ladle hot soup into warm bowls and serve immediately with a grinding of pepper...

IMG_6568... and of course, crusty bread and butter.  Good to the last spoonful:

IMG_6577Thick & Creamy Crockpot Split Pea & Ham Soup:  Recipe yields 3 quarts.  This soup freezes really well.  When reheating, remember to have additional chicken stock on hand to return it to desired consistency (1/2-3/4 cup of stock for every quart of soup).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler;  6 1/2-quart crockpot; 1-quart measuring container; large spoon; soup ladle

PICT2619Cook's Note:  My recipe for ~ "Winner Winner Crock-Pot Dinner: A Scrumptious, Slow-Cooked, Sweet Potato & Ground Beef Chili ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 13, 19 & 20.  

This is particularly good in the Fall, when sweet potatoes are in season, and, like all root vegetables (and beans too), they cook up perfectly in the crockpot!

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

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

03/10/2014

~ Monday's Washday Dinner: Red Beans and Rice ~

IMG_6425Louis Armstrong loved red beans and rice so much, he signed his personal letters:

"Red beans and ricely yours."

Red beans and rice dates back to the early 19th century.  A slave rebelllion broke out in Haiti and many rich, white sugar planters fled to Louisiana, a possession of France at the time.  They brought red beans from the Caribbean with them.  Red beans and rice was created in the kitchens of the French Quarter and is now a signature dish of Louisiana's Creole cuisine.  

IMG_6164It starts with diced bell pepper, celery and onion ("the trinity") being sauteed in some fat in a large pot. The vegetables are small diced, not chopped, so they take a back seat in the finished dish.  Red kidney beans, usually (but not always) soaked, water and a smoked ham hock, shank or ham bone, get added.  The mixture is seasoned (but not overly spicy) with bay leaf, thyme and cayenne pepper or a Creole seasoning blend.  Andouille IMG_6169sausage, tasso ham or pickled pork are common additions, especially if there is not a lot of meat on the ham bone.  The mixture is simmered slowly over low heat for a few hours.  The consistency can be brothy and souplike, but, more commonly, is stewlike and creamy. Some cooks remove a few cups of beans, mash them and stir them back in for added creaminess. Others melt in cold butter at the end for a silky mouthfeel.  All red bean and rice recipes contain the same basic ingredients, but, every cook prepares it a bit differently! 

IMG_5689 

The final component, Louisiana's signature long-grain white rice, ties the dish together, but, it is always cooked separately and often simmered in seasoned stock for an additional layer of flavor.  When served buffet-style or at a party, the rice and beans are presented separately and are scooped and plated by each guest.  When plated properly, the rice is traditionally mounded in the center with the beans spooned around the rice. Remember to always place a bottle of hot sauce on the table too!

110307_0411Red beans and rice became known as "the washday dinner", because Monday was typically when women worked outdoors washing and drying their family's clothes for 4-6 hours.  The meal was prepared with Sunday supper's leftover ham bone.  It was convenient, because dinner almost cooked itself on the stovetop, or over an outdoor fire, while the women worked and commiserated about the week ahead and caught up on all the neighborhood gossip.  Gotta love washday! 

Red beans and rice is so emblematic of NOLA, there is even a Red Bean Parade during Mardi Gras.  People cover themselves, from head to toe in red beans.  Now that, I would like to see!

This meal is Americana.  My preference is to keep the slow-cooker and the pressure cooker out of its preparation.  Feel free to disagree -- now excuse me while I put a pot of beans on stove and do some laundry! 

I love New Orleans and have eaten in many of their fine restaurants as well as their roadside diners and dives -- and I loved every one.  I even had some outstanding Chinese food there (THAT is a great story for another time).  Interestingly, I never ate red beans and rice in NOLA.  

IMG_6295My recipe comes from my friend Toni (Antoinette) Coher, who hailed from Texas but had a Creole grandmother on her paternal family tree.  When I moved into my first apartment here in Happy Valley, PA back in 1974 (age 19), Toni and her husband lived in the apartment upstairs.  Toni introduced me to the joys of cooking with ham hocks over a bowl of her KILLER red beans and rice for dinner one evening.  

The following Saturday, she spent the afternoon with me and showed me how to make it in my own kitchen.  After all these years, I've never felt the urge to experiment with any another recipe:

IMG_61571  pound dried, red-skinned kidney beans, soaked (Note:  Just click on the Related Article link below to get my instructions for ~ Quick-Soaking vs Overnight Soaking Beans ~.)

4  tablespoons bacon fat or butter (Note:  I use butter because the smoked ham shanks are going to add enough of smoky flavor to this dish.)

2  cups small-diced yellow or sweet onion (1/4" dice)

1 1/2-2  cups small-diced celery (1/4" dice)

1  cup small-diced green bell pepper (1/4" dice) 

4  large, minced garlic cloves

1  tablespoon Creole seasoning (a blend of salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder and dried thyme)

2  meaty smoked ham shanks, about 2 1/2 pounds total (Note:  Click on the Related Article link below, ~ Hog Heaven:  Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks ~, to learn all about these two flavorful cuts of pork.)

4  bay leaves

6  sprigs fresh thyme

2  quarts water

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, to taste, only if necessary

your favorite cayenne pepper sauce, served at tableside

3  cups uncooked extra-long grain white rice, 6 cups cooked or steamed rice

IMG_6192~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, melt the butter over low heat.  

IMG_6174Add the diced onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and Creole seasoning.  Stir well.  

Adjust heat to medium-high  and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, about 6 minutes.

IMG_6205 IMG_6198~ Step 2. Add the kidney beans, ham shanks, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and 2 quarts of water.

IMG_6213Bring to a full boil over high heat, then stir.

IMG_6224~ Step 3.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer, partially cover and allow to cook for 2 hours.  During this time, I give it a stir every 15 minutes or so, but I'm not sure it's necessary, it just makes me feel better to know the beans are not laying on the bottom.

IMG_6230After two hours, flip the shanks over and cover again.

IMG_6248~ Step 4.  Continue to simmer, covered, for a 3rd hour, stirring occasionally.  After three hours of cooking, the meat will be starting to pull away from the shanks the liquid will be reduced by about half.

IMG_6258~ Step 5. Cover and cook for a 4th hour. Now the meat will be falling off the bones and beans will very soft and tender.

Note:  If meat is not falling off the bones, continue to cook until it is, 30-60 minutes.

IMG_6275~ Step 6.  Remove the shanks and the bay leaves from the pot. Remove the meat from the bones.  

IMG_6289Using your fingers, pull the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding all fat as you work.  Stir the meat into the creamy broth and beans.  Simmer for about 5 minutes:

IMG_6301Portion 1 cup of rice in each bowl, ladle 1 1/2 cups of red beans around it...

IMG_6414... and eat:

IMG_6361Monday's Washday Dinner:  Red Beans and Rice:  Recipe yields 2 quarts or 6, 1 1/2 cup servings (6, 2 1/2 cup servings when you add 1 cup of rice to each one).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01901b6fafc5970b-800wiCook's Note:  While in NOLA I became addicted to ~ Louisiana's Famous Po'Boy Sandwiches ~.  I think I  ate one for lunch almost every day I was there.  

My favorite kind was the cormeal crusted deep-fried shrimp with remoulade sauce. You can find my my recipe in Categories 2, 11 & 14!

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

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

03/08/2014

~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs Overnight Soaking ~

IMG_6037There is always a method to my madness and occasionally it includes writing a post about a method, a technique, or, an ingredient .  It's easy for anyone to take a pretty photo, write a list of ingredients, hand out a six-pack of instructions, and, send readers on their way. Unfortunately, if you've ever taught a cooking class, you know you can't do that.  If you write a blog that teaches people to cook step-by-step, you REALLY can't do that.  I can't do that.  Today is such a post.

IMG_6134Dried beans, peas and lentils are mature beans that are dried and removed from their pods. Unless you've been living on another planet, you've eaten beans in some form or another, and, you know that unless they come out of a can, they need to be cooked prior to eating.  In fact, even if you were tempted to eat the dried ones, the moment you put one of those little rocks in your mouth you'd know it was a bad decision.  Beans have been around a long time, having been cultivated around the world for more than 7,000 years.  Here in North America, our Native Americans cooked them in clay pots and served them with maple syrup and bear fat -- which sounds yummy, and without a doubt in my mind, that was a precursor to Boston baked beans!

IMG_6032Canned Beans vs. Dried Beans:  Don't be total bean snob.

I like beans, and I won't lie, I'm not a snob when it comes to cooking with canned beans.  They are a most appreciated, time-saving convenience.  My pantry contains a nice variety of beans, both dried and canned.  Like all conveniences, pound for pound, canned beans are more expensive than dried ones, but they hardly fall into the category of "pricey".  Plus, when I only need a cup or two of cooked beans to toss into a salad or a soup, I'm reaching for the can without hesitation (small quantity = canned beans).  Both canned and dried are healthy.  There is little nutritional difference between canned and dried beans either, except for sodium content: canned 450 mg./dried 0 mg.  They both contain about the same amount of fiber, protein and calories.  Just because they are fat free, does not necessarily make them diet food.  It pretty much comes down to flavor, and, on that point, when taste tested side-by-side, dried beans win!

The #1 reason to not use dried beans exclusively is:  time.

(And, no matter how you soak your beans, they still need to cook for 1-2 hours after that.)

IMG_6053For the best taste and texture, dried beans need to be softened prior to cooking them and that requires soaking -- 12-24 hours of soaking. Soaking beans also helps to remove any indigestible sugars, and, in some cases (especially kidney beans) toxins.  The process is not hard.  Just sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, and, sticks or stones.  Give them a quick rinse under cold water, place them in a pot and cover them with tepid water for 12-24 hours.  That's that.  

Don't loose any sleep over it!

Just realize, once the beans have soaked, they still need to be cooked -- even if you're just adding them to a salad, they are not ready to eat.

Finish cooking will take another 1-2 hours, depending upon the size & variety of the beans.

Transfer them to a large pot covered by about two inches of fresh water (or directly into simmering stock, a soup, a stew or whatever dish you are preparing).  Slowly bring them to a boil, skimming any foam from the surface (if and forms), adjust heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are cooked through to their centers and easily pierced with a fork.

Cooked, cooled and drained beans will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or, they can be portioned and frozen.  Aside from chick peas, which I add to salads and make hummus with regularly:  soaking, cooking and freezing beans just for the sake of having them on hand is a waste of  time and freezer space, although I understand why beanaholics and vegetarians do it.

IMG_6061Quick-Soaking:  "enjoy a shorter bean-soaking day"!

(And, no matter how you soak your beans, they still need to cook for 1-2 hours after that!) 

The reason I am writing this post is:  I found out yesterday that some people do not know there is a short cut to bean soaking:  quick-soaking.  It works so well I completely stopped soaking beans overnight over 20 years ago.  Yesterday I got a call from my bachelor-father cousin in NJ.  He qualifies as a foodie and we chat about recipes for him to make for his teenage daughters a couple of times a week.  I picked up the phone because I saw his name on the "Caller I.D.", and I said, "Vic, I'll call you back in 5 minutes, I'm quick-soaking some kidney beans."  When I called him back, he asked what "quick-soaking" was.  He had never heard of it. In my food world, "where there is smoke, there is fire", in which case, I write a blog post!

IMG_60652  pounds dried beans (I am using kidney beans today.)

4  quarts cold water

2-3  teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)

~ Step 1.  Place beans in a large colander and sift through them with your fingers.  Remove any broken ones or anything that looks foreign. Rinse under cold water.

IMG_6080~ Step 2.  Tranfer the rinsed beans to an 8-quart stockpot, add four quarts of water and the optional red pepper flakes.  Do not add salt.  

IMG_6098Tip from Mel: I'm making red beans and rice tomorrow and I like REALLY like the extra heat the pepper adds to the soaked beans.

IMG_6102Note:  The alternative to this is to soak the beans conventionally, in 4 quarts of lukewarm water and optional red pepper flakes, 12 hours or overnight, in the covered stockpot, and skip the following simmering process:

IMG_6110~ Step 3. Bring beans to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat and simmer vigorously for exactly 3 minutes, and 5 minutes for kidney beans to remove any toxins.

I estimate every 1 minute of simmering equals 3 hours of soaking.

IMG_6120~ Step 4.  Remove beans from heat, cover and set aside for 3 hours.  This time will vary, depending upon the type of beans.  They should be tender through to the center with a slightly-grainy texture.  I find three hours off the heat ideal.  They will get creamy during the final cooking.

IMG_6134~ Step 5.  Drain into colander. Return to stockpot, cover with 2" of fresh water, return to a simmer and cook for 1-2 more hours, adding additional water or stock to the pot, if necessary during the process. OR:  Drain into colander. Place in a food storage container, cover and refrigerate.  Add to specific recipe as directed, making sure they have plenty of liquid and 1-2 hours to finish cook. 

IMG_6149Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs Overnight Soaking:  Recipe yields about 10-11 cups of soaked beans.  Do the math:  1 pound of dried beans (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 2 1/3-2 1/2 cups dried beans.  1  pound of dried beans after soaking (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 5-5 1/2 cups of soaked beans.  I soaked 2 pounds of kidney beans today for a total of 10-11 cups.

Special Equipment List:  colander; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; 1-quart measuring container 

PICT2724Cook's note:  For those of you who love garbanzo beans (chick peas) as much as I do, be sure to click into Categories 1, 14, 15, 17 or 20 to read ~ Hummus... Yummus. Nothing Ho-Hum about this! + (How to:  Cook Chick Peans & Roast the Garlic too!) ~.

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

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

03/06/2014

~ Hog Heaven: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~

IMG_6020A lot of us Northern gals who lived in the 'burbs and learned to cook during the '60's and 70's didn't get much experience cooking two of the most flavorful parts of the hog: the hock, and its meatier cousin, the shank.  Being Eastern European, fresh pork roasts and chops, smoked hams and pork sausages were cooked often by my mother, but she never used the hock or the shank. I never heard my grandmother make reference to them either, and she was raised on a farm.  In the nearby Pennsylania Deutsch (German speaking) farming communities, I heard mention of "ham hocks" for making pot pies, cabbage and potato or white bean soups and stews, but even then, the cooks I knew, like my fiance's grandmother, always used a meaty ham bone.  I "blame" my ignorance of them on the region of PA I grew up in, especially because research has oddly revealed that ham hocks are revered by Germans, Eastern Europeans and Southern Americans!

It wasn't until I moved to Happy Valley, PA, in '74 (age 19) and living in my own apartment that I was introduced to the ham hock.  It was over a bowl of red beans and rice.  Toni (Antoinette), who lived in the apartment upstairs, hailed from Texas but had a Creole grandmother on her paternal family tree.  Amongst other Creole specialties, Tony made KILLER red beans and rice, and, she made it clear that a smoked ham hock or ham shank was essential to its preparation!

IMG_6425I'll be using smoked ham shanks in my next three recipes, so:

I've decided to define and discuss both shanks & hocks today!

6a00e54ef13a4f8834015393684e10970b-400wiA bit about ham shanks and ham hocks:  Bony cuts of fatty meat taken from the legs and near the feet of the pig, with the shanks being the meatier of the two.

Ham Shank

Ham Hock

Culinarily, the ham shank and the ham hock can be used interchangeably.

IMG_6569The shank refers to a fairly meaty part just below the pork shoulder (if it is the front of the hog) or the hip (if it's from the back of the hog).  The hock refers to a much bonier cut taken from just above the feet.  Both have a thick, tough skin (which is left on) and contain a lot of tendons, ligaments and fat.  They contain a lot of collagen too, which adds silkiness to whatever they are cooked in.  All of this means they require a long, slow, moist-heat method of cooking, like stewing or braising, to make them edible. They are primarily added to dishes to impart smoky flavor, not substance.

Unlike ham, neither contain enough meat to be the focal point of dinner. IMG_6015Instead, after cooking, the skin is discarded, the meat is removed from the bone and added to hearty dishes containing beans or peas, greens, and/or potatoes or rice.  

They're both cheap, but, I prefer the slightly more expensive, meatier ham shank to the bonier ham hock.  When I find them on sale, I buy several because they freeze really well.  

If you can find the right source, meaning the phone number for the slaughterhouse, you can procure these two cuts of pork unsmoked, and use them just as you would beef, lamb or veal shanks.  Otherwise, at least here in America, expect those you purchase over the counter to be cured and smoked in the same manner as ham.  Just like ham, the degree to which they are smoked varies from processor to processor.  I've never encountered any that have been over-smoked, but, my butcher was kind enough to tell me that some folks like to soak their hocks or shanks in cold water for an hour or two to leach out some of the smokey flavor.

IMG_6396Shanks and hocks adapt well to recipes made in a slow cooker or a pressure cooker too!

IMG_6275Stay tuned for my next three posts:  I'm cooking smoked ham shanks three ways!

PICT1833Cook's Note:  If you or someone you know has ever found purchasing ham a bit confusing, you're not alone.  All those labels make it a downright hard decision to make. You can read my post ~ Handling Hams:  Choose What's Right for You ~ by clicking into Category 15!

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

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

03/04/2014

~Oscar Bites: BBQ'D Porkrib Tartlets for the Starlets~

IMG_5962Oscar night in our house is subdued.  Monday morning comes early for Joe and I, so we accept no invitations to parties and never throw one.  We enjoy a few cocktails, I make a snack or two, and we give watching the show our best effort.  Joe usually walks away from the TV as soon as the food runs out, and, I don't blame him.  In all honesty, as much as I love to watch movies, I find the Oscar ceremonies atrocious.  I've lost count as to how many times I've vowed not to watch it. Alas, I'm not good at playing mind games with me, so, every year, I watch it and whine about it!

IMG_5940Of the 11 nominees I saw:  Nebraska was my favorite movie.

August:  Osage County, followed by Dallas Buyers Club, get #2 and #3. I understand why 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture (and have no ax to grind with that).  Blue Jasmine was good, but, it reminded me of an irritating day on Facebook, in a modern-day Mildred Pierce sort of way (but with a great musical soundtrack).  I found Gravity gravely disappointing (Houston, we have a problem, this ain't no Apollo 13.).  Everything in between was just running on fumes.  Because of my own top picks, I went with a down-home Midwestern-Texican menu for our snacks.  I always pick a theme, pretending the food will sway the way the Acadamy votes.  It never works. This year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I had a last minute, minor, change of plan:

IMG_5691I made my recipe for ~ Broiled and Baked:  K.C. Country-Style Ribs ~ on Friday for dinner.  I purposely made a double batch so I'd have leftover ribs on hand.  Joe's man-radar detected them in the refrigerator.  "Honey, what are your plans for those ribs?"  I kind of knew what he wanted.  After a short discussion, my snacks turned into his sandwiches.  That's ok.  They were scrumptious and I kept (hid) enough of rib meat to make the appetizers to snack on tonight!

IMG_7624These sandwiches are so good that I sometimes make the ribs just to make them.  The pulled/shredded meat from the rib bones goes on rolls with cheddar.  I wrap them in foil and bake them.  Joe drizzles the warm sauce (my recipe for ~ Kansas City BBQ Sauce:  Sweet, Spicy & Smokey ~) on afterward. Coleslaw and cold beer is all you need to complete the feast. 

Just click on the Related Article links below to get the recipes!

It's all about compromise.  If I've got to watch the Superbowl with him, he's got to watch the Oscars with me.  If I've got to massage my menu a bit to accomplish that, all is fair in love and war and I win:  I'm making my appetizers today (and I'm still whining about the Oscars too)!

These Texican appetizer treats are perfect fare for blue jean or black tie parties!

IMG_5653 IMG_5227Cook six country-style spareribs according to my recipe. When cool enough to handle, use a fork to pull meat from the bones and shred into small, bite-sized pieces. Discard bones and any large pieces of fat as you work.  Six ribs is going to yield enough to make 6 dozen of these appetizers, so, throw a big party, or, do what I did:  make four sandwiches and save the rest!

IMG_5856Ready, set, assemble!

IMG_5744For 24 mini-tarts (tartlets):

1  box Pillsbury Pie Crusts/2, 9" pie crusts

Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour

1/2  cup store-bought finely-shredded yellow cheddar cheese

1  cup shredded porkrib meat (as per my recipe), at room temp

1  cup Kansas City BBQ sauce (as per my recipe), at room temp 

IMG_5761 IMG_5749~ Step 1. Lightly sprinkle the bottom of 1-2 mini-muffin tins (enough for 24 tartlets) with Wondra flour.

IMG_5754Using a small rolling pin, roll each crust to a 10" diameter.

Using a 3" cookie cutter, cut each 10" crust into 12 discs.

IMG_5783 IMG_5772~ Step 2. Place one disc in each muffin cup. Using your fingertips, open each one up.  

IMG_5787Use your fingertips to pat and press discs into cups, but if you have a "tart tamper" this task will go very quickly.

IMG_5793 IMG_5807 IMG_5818~ Steps 3, 4 & 5. To each tartlet add:  1 teaspoon grated cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons shredded meat and 2 teaspoons sauce.

IMG_5846 IMG_5831~ Step 6. Tip from Mel: Drizzle the sauce on slowly, to give it time to work its way down between all the nooks and crannies.  Place a pinch of cheddar cheese on the top of each tartlet.  I use a pinch, you can use a bit more if you like, but don't overdo it with the cheese.  Trust me.

IMG_5864 IMG_5851~ Step 7. Tip from Mel:  To make these in advance, form your tart shells and cover them with plastic wrap, and, have all other ingredients prepped.  Do not assemble until just prior to baking on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven 12 -14 minutes.

IMG_5888Step 8.  Remove from oven.  

IMG_5860Using a thin spatula or a small fork (I prefer a small cocktail-type fork), carefully and gently lift (from the side not the center) each one and transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

IMG_5916Note:  Serve these garnished with a dollop of Midwestern-style pepper slaw!

IMG_5989Grab an ice cold beer, take a bite & enjoy a movie night:

IMG_6010Oscar Bites:  BBQ'D Porkrib Tartlets for the Starlets:  Recipe yields 2 dozen appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  fork; 1-2 miniature muffin pans, enough for 24 miniature muffins; rolling pin; 3" round cookie cutter; tart tamper (optional); cooling rack

PICT3331Cook's Note:  For another one of my favorite savory appetizers, my recipe for ~ Danish Blue, Swiss Emmentaler & Pine Nut Tartlets ~ can be found in Categories 1, 9, 11 or 18.  These have a custard mixture poured over the top and are like eating mini quiche!

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

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

03/02/2014

~ Melanie's McRib. "Would you like fries with that?" ~

IMG_5691Joe has a round about way of asking me to cook something he's really hungry for.  Perhaps he's just cautious.  He knows I always have some sort of plan in place or in progress.  After a couple of trips to the refrigerator this morning, he found the courage to ask, "Are you planning to make anything with the leftover ribs?"  For me, reading between those lines was not rocket science. Joe was craving the ribs and I was almost certain he wanted me to make what I almost always make with these particular leftover BBQ'd spareribs:  My McRib sandwiches!  

I love these sandwiches as much as Joe does, but, I assure you, neither he or I have ever tasted a McRib at McDonalds.  We are not drive-through kind of people.  In fact, the first time I made these for our PSU tailgate group, I'm pretty certain the McRib hadn't even been invented yet!

IMG_5716Joe gets his craving satisfied, I write a blog post I never would have thought to write, and, you get a great sandwich recipe! 

IMG_5227The ribs Joe was referring to were leftover from Friday's dinner and they are bone-in country-style spareribs. Without exception, these are the only ribs I will ever use to make my rib sandwiches.  They are taken from the rib end of the pork loin, and, unlike babyback ribs they are very meaty and are marbled with quite a bit of fat.  You will not get the taste or texture from any IMG_5645other cut of pork, so don't be inclined to substitute anything else. You will just end up disappointed.  

You can get my easy recipe for ~ Broiled & Baked:  K.C. BBQ'D Country-Style Ribs ~ by clicking on the Related Article link below.  My recipe for ~ Kansas City BBQ Sauce:  Sweet, Spicy & Smoky ~ can be found there too!

IMG_5653I reheated this pan of six leftover ribs (pictured just above) in the microwave about 5 minutes, just long enough to warm them in order to soften them after a night in the refrigerator.  I used a fork to pull the meat from the bones and shred it, but you can use your fingers if you like.  Discard the bones and any large pieces of fat as you work.  

Six ribs will yield enough meat to make six sandwiches, and, enough sauce for dipping an drizzling!

IMG_5666 IMG_5657Choose your favorite rolls. We like soft ones with sesame seeds.  They are also larger than the average hamburger roll, being closer in size to a Kaiser roll.

Open and place each roll on an aluminum foil sheet that will be large enough to wrap the sandwich without pressing down on it.  Place three slices of cheddar cheese on the bottom half of each roll.

IMG_5677 IMG_5669Place the top of the roll on each, but, don't press down on it. Wrap the foil around each one, and seal tightly, again, without pressing down on the sandwich. Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. While sandwiches are baking, warm the sauce.  Sauce and serve the sandwiches immediately:

IMG_5698Note:  Because these sandwiches are not sauced until the end, they can be assembled and wrapped a few hours in advance of baking -- which is why they are great to take to a tailgate!

IMG_5738Melanie's McRib.  "Would you like fries with that?":  Recipe yields 6 hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  fork; aluminum foil

IMG_9455Cook's Note:  Joe and I both love sandwiches, and we both have our favorites, but, this post is all about him.  So, for one more of his favorites, check out my recipe for ~ Joe's Beefy French-Onion French-Dip Sandwiches ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories 2 or 19!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos, Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyrigh 2014)