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12 posts from June 2016

06/30/2016

~ Coconut and Rum Pineapple Upside Down Cake ~

IMG_8652Remember the first time you watched your mom make a pineapple upside down cake?  I was mesmerized.  I stood stoic, across the counter, watching as she carefully arranged and layered the ingredients in the pan.  I stood vigil, peering through the glass, at the oven while it baked.  I stood  breathless,  fingers crossed behind my back, when she inverted it out of the pan.  In the end, I didn't know whether to joyfully jump up and down or hug her with pride -- I think I did both.

IMG_8669I was five or six at the time, and, that Norman Rockwell moment of my life, is, what life was like back in the late '50's and early '60's.  It was picture perfect, and, it didn't matter that a boxed cake mix was used, the pineapple came out of can, and, the maraschino cherries were full of toxic Red Dye #4.  It still doesn't -- a cake mix isn't a crime, canned pineapple is not a compromise, and, they've since switched to FD&C Red Dye #40.  Peace, love, rock and roll.

Columbian-Exchange1A bit about pineapple and upside down cake:  Pineapple was introduced to the United States in the mid 19th Century via South American trade routes north to the Caribbean and into the West Indies, where Christopher Columbus found them.  In Caribbean native tongue, the pineapple's original name was "anana", meaning "excellent fruit". The European explorers called it the "pine of the Indies", and, when the fruit started being PICT0002exported to English-speaking parts of Europe via The Columbian Exchange, the suffix "apple" was added (to associate it with their favorite "excellent fruit", the apple).  

From there, the pineapple spread to other parts of civilization and was placed on sailing ships because, like oranges, they were found to prevent scurvy.  It was on one of these voyages the pineapple arrived in Hawaii, and, was presented to King Kahehameha by his Spanish advisor, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. On January 11, 1813 the first pineapples were planted in Hawaiian soil.  In 1901, James Drummond Dole founded the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, and, within a few short years, the pineapple symbolized Hawaii.

^Meet a Pennsylvania pineapple.  Joe grows two or three in pots on our deck every year!

IMG_8649Upside down cakes are a uniquely American dessert as they were first baked in a cast iron skillet for lack of any fancy bakeware -- a brown sugar glaze was prepared on the stovetop in the skillet, any juicy-type of sliced fruit was decoratively arranged in the glaze, an easy to make batter was poured on top of the fruit, and, the "skillet cake" was placed in the oven to bake. Once baked and cooled a bit, the cake was inverted onto a plate and very appealing glazed cake appeared.  

The pineapple upside down cake has been around for almost a Century, with recipes  appearing on Gold Medal flour bags and cans of Dole pineapple in 1925.

Canned pineapple was available everywhere by then and it was very popular with the American housewife.  It was only natural that a pineapple upside down cake with pretty pineapple rings and bright red cherries on top would become a hit at parties and potlucks nationwide.  

 IMG_8606For the hardware:

9" springform pan

parchment paper

For the glaze:

1  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1/2  cup salted butter (1 stick)

no-stick spray, for preparing the springform pan

IMG_8618For the pineapple and the maraschino cherries:

1  well-drained 20-ounce can of 10 pineapple slices, leave one slice whole and round, cut six of the slices into half moon shapes (you need a total of 7 slices), or:

trim and slice a fresh, fully-ripened juicy pineapple into 7 slightly-thicker than 1/4" slices if you are so inclined

13  maraschino cherries, well-drained

IMG_8628For the cake batter:

2  large eggs

1  cup sugar

1 3/4 cups Softasilk cake flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

3/4  teaspoons salt

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

1  tablespoon pure butter rum extract

1/2  cup sweetened, flaked coconut

IMG_8603Step 1. To prepare the pan,  using a pencil or a pen, trace the bottom of the springform pan onto a sheet of parchment paper and using a pair of kitchen shears, cut out the circle.  Insert the pan bottom into the sides and clamp the pan closed. Spray the inside and bottom of the pan with no-stick spray, insert the parchment and give the surface of the parchment a spray too.

IMG_8615 IMG_8611~ Step 2.  To prepare the glaze, in the microwave melt the butter. In 2-4 tablespoon increments, add the brown sugar to the melted butter, stirring thoroughly after each addition.  Pour and distribute (I spread it with a spoon) the glaze evenly over the bottom of the pan, but not up the sides or over the top of the parchment.  You don't want the glaze to seep underneath the parchment.

IMG_8625~ Step 3.  To arrange the pineapple and the maraschino cherries,  drain and pat dry the pineapple slices and maraschino cherries on a few paper towels.  Slice 6 of the pineapple slices as directed into half-moon shapes.  Place one whole slice on top of the glaze, directly in the center pan. Arrange the half moon shapes around the perimeter.  Place a cherry, stemmed side up (you want the pretty side of each cherry facing down for the finished cake), in the center of the whole pineapple slice, and, one cherry between each half-slice. That sure does look pretty!

IMG_1915Step 2.  To make the batter,  

Place two eggs in a large bowl. (Note:  there are 4 eggs in this photo.  I'm making two cakes today so I'm doubling the batter.)

Measure and have ready the sugar.

In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  cake flour, baking powder and salt.

Stir butter rum extract into cream.

IMG_1925IMG_1923Step 3.  In a large bowl, starting on low speed of electric mixer and working up to high, beat the eggs until thick, about 6 minutes.

Note:  Don't take any short cuts with this step -- beat for the entire 6 minutes.  It does make a difference.

IMG_1935IMG_1929Step 4. Lower the mixer speed and begin adding the sugar, in three-four increments, mixing thoroughly, about 30-45 seconds after each addition.  

Note:  Once again, take the time to mix well after each addition as this gives the sugar time to dissolve.

IMG_1947IMG_1940                               ~ Step 5.  On medium-speed of mixer, alternating the cream mixture with the dry ingredients, mix until all of the cream and all of the dry ingredients have been added, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula almost constantly.  This will take about 3 minutes.  Remove mixer, and lastly, fold in the coconut.

IMG_8634 IMG_8631Transfer batter to pan and smooth top by giving the pan a few gentle back and forth shakes across the countertop.

IMG_8637Tip from Mel: Place pan on a large parchment lined baking pan.  This will catch the small oozes and drips that, most times, do occur.

IMG_8641Step 6.  Bake cake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven for 38-40 minutes until golden brown and puffed through to the center, and, a cake tester inserted in the center in 2-3 spots comes out clean. Note:  Only insert the cake tester to the center because, if you go lower, you will poke into the pineapple and bubbling sugar glaze. 

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool in pan for 45-60 minutes.  Remove sides from pan.

IMG_8646It's a bit messy, but, you really do want to remove the sides from the pan while the cake is still warm (even if you're planning on serving the cake at room temperature.  Do this while the cake is still sitting on the parchment-lined baking pan -- it will clean up super easy.  

Invert the cake onto a serving plate, remove the pan bottom and parchment.  Slice and serve warm, or continue to cool to and slice and serve later, at room temperature.

My favorite way to eat this star-spangled American cake... 

IMG_8695... is at any you slice it & at any temperature!

IMG_8704Coconut and Rum Pineapple Upside Down Cake:  Recipe yields 1, 9" round cake/12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" springform pan; parchment paper; pencil or pen; kitchen shears; 1-cup measuring container; paper towels; cutting board; paring knife; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/1/2" baking pan

PICT0008Cook's Note:  Say "cobbler" -- apples and peaches usually come to mind.  That said, pineapple makes wonderful cobbler too.  My recipe for ~ A Simple Summertime Treat:  Pineapple Cobbler ~ can be found in Categories 6, 10 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/27/2016

~State of the Union: Famous US Senate Bean Soup~

IMG_8591Bean soup has always been a part of my life.  While you may think of it as snowstorm fare, I associate it with all sorts of outdoor fun-in-the-sun activities.  When I was growing up, bean soup was served all Summer wherever people gravitated to eat, drink and be merry:  church- and hose-company fund-raising street festivals in ours and neighboring towns, both-of-my-parents and half-of-my-friends-parents annual corporate clambakes, and, when it came to planning the Summer family reunion, the biggest question was "Who's making the bean soup this year?"

IMG_8596When I was twelve, I even ate bean soup in the United States Senate dining room.

Dirksen-senate-diningBean soup is on the menu in all of the Senate's restaurant dining rooms every day and has been for over a hundred years, possibly longer -- it's an official mandate.  It a good thing I like bean soup, because, one Summer, while on a family vacation with my Uncle's family to Washington D.C., Uncle Al mandated that me and my three cousins each have a bowl of their famous bean soup for lunch --  it was very good, and, we each got to keep a copy of that days menu which included a little writeup about the soup's history.  

(^^^ Photo of Dirkson Senate Dining Room courtesy of tripadvisor.)  For the record, you can't just walk into the Senate or their dining room "off the street".  You are required to make advance arrangements, via a letter to your own State's Senator requesting passes.  The fun part:  The passes we received included tunnel access from the Senate thru to the Senate Dining Room, which gave us a chance to see various Senate offices and committee rooms en route.

IMG_8585US Senate Bean Soup, Famous Senate Bean Soup, or simply, Senate Bean Soup, is always made with navy beans, ham hocks or ham shanks and onion.  A second version includes celery, garlic, parsley and mashed potatoes (which came as a surprise to me).  Those versions are on their website, but they admit there were others because like all things, times change and so does personnel.  There was a time period when the soup was made with dehydrated mashed potato flakes, and, another in which soup base was substituted for the actual ham hocks.

4b806496a5892aa656416e64dc9ab5a2As the story goes, bean soup was a favorite of Speaker of the House, Joseph G. Cannon (1836-1926) of Illinois.  One hot, humid day in 1904, when speaker Cannon arrived for lunch and found out he couldn't order it because it had been taken off the menu for the Summer, he was outraged. "Thunderation", he roared.  "I had my mind set for bean soup.  From now on, hot or cold, rain or shine, I want it on the menu every day."  A resolution was introduced in 1907 by Senator Knute Nellson of Minnesota, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, that decreed that while the Senate is in session, "no day shall pass without Senate Bean Soup".  From that day forward, Senate Bean Soup has appeared on the menu in all eleven Congressional dining rooms every day -- regardless of the weather.

March 3, 1923: GOP Speaker J. G. Cannon is the 1st person to appear on the 1st issue of Time.

Time out to define and discuss ham shanks & ham hocks.

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_6020The 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 IMG_6275method 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. Instead, after cooking, the skin is discarded, the meat is removed from the bone and is added to hearty dishes like soups and IMG_6015stews containing beans or peas, greens, and/or potatoes or rice.  

Hocks and shanks sold in American markets are all cured and smoked in the same manner as ham, but, the degree to which they are smoked does vary.  I've never encountered any that have been over-smoked, but, if you do, simply soak them in cold water for an hour or two to leach out some of the overly-smokey intensity.

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

Screen shot 2016-06-26 at 2.18.15 PM< Here is a screen shot of the two official recipes for Senate Bean Soup, as per wikipedia, posted by the Senate.  As you can see, one is very paired down, and, the second, the one with the more flavorful ingredients, yields 5 gallons.

Having made them both, the first was indeed a bit lack-luster for me. The second was quite good, and, I encourage you to make one or both before tweeking either recipe to come up with your own version (which I did and am sharing below). Mine, with a bit more flavor, and a few carrots too, is sure to please!

Time out to discuss soaking dried bean beans vs. canned beans.

IMG_8559I won't lie, I'm not a snob when it comes to canned beans.  They're a 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". There's more:  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 just about the same amount of fiber, protein and calories too.

Note:  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 overnight (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 5-5 1/2 cups of soaked beans  -- when soaked, beans double in size. For detailed "how to" instructions about soaking beans, along with all of my step-by-step photos, click into Category 15 and read ~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs. Overnight Soaking ~.

IMG_8568^^^Everybody into the pot:  US Senate Bean Soup a la Mel:

IMG_8573As you will see by my ingredients list, I strayed very little from the "5-gallon version" the Senate posted.  While I did add a few bay leaves for flavor and carrots for sweetness and color too (I couldn't resist, I adore carrots in any bean soup recipe), I resisted the urge to substitute chicken or vegetable stock for water.  I made certain to small-dice all of the veggies too, because: the Senate bean soup that I ate in the Senate dining room contained no large pieces of anything.

IMG_85612  quarts cold water

1  pound dried navy beans, soaked over night, about 5 1/2 cups soaked beans, or, 56 ounces canned great northern beans, well-drained (Note:  cannellini beans are of similar-size and texture and may be substituted if that's what you keep on-hand in your pantry.)

1  smoked ham shank (about 1-1 1/4 pounds)

1  tablespoon minced garlic (3-4 cloves)

5  ounces peeled and small-diced carrots (about 1 1/2 cups)

5  ounces small-diced celery (about 1 1/2 cups)

5  ounces small-diced onion (about 1 1/2 cups)

10  ounces peeled and small-diced gold potatos (about 3 cups)

1/2  cup, minced, fresh parsley (about 1/2 ounce)

3  whole bay leaves

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground or cracked black pepper

crusty bread, buttermilk biscuits or cornbread, for accompaniment

IMG_8566~ Step 1.  Place 2 quarts of water in a 6-quart stockpot.  Add the beans and ham hock.  Prep and add the minced garlic, small-diced carrots, celery, onions, potatoes and parsley to the pot as you work.  Add the bay leaves, black pepper and sea salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, cover the pot and continue to cook for 2 1/2 hours, stopping to give it a stir about every 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 2 1/2 hours.

IMG_8578 IMG_8569~ Step 2. Remove the shank from the pot. Remove and discard the skin from it, then, remove meat from the bone.  Using a fork, shred it into the smallest pieces you can and return the meat to the pot.  Over medium heat, return the bean soup to a simmer and reheat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately, or:

Tip from Mel:  If you have the time refrigerate the Senate bean soup, in the stockpot, overnight, and, then reheat it gently.  As with many things, this soups tastes better the second day, and, because the beans continue to absorb moisture, it thickens up nicely.  PS:  It freezes great too!

Simple, Straightforward and Scrumptious:  Senate Bean Soup! 

IMG_8598State of the Union:  Famous US Senate Bean Soup:  Recipe yields 3 1/2 quarts (14 cups).

Special Equipment List:  6 quart stockpot or Dutch oven w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_6568Cook's Note:  Another one of my favorite, ham shank recipes is my easy-to-make ~ Thick & Creamy Crockpot Split Pea & Ham Soup ~. You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 2, 19, 20 or 22.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/25/2016

~ Mel's Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Cheese Pizza~

IMG_8520Pizza -- the pie that won the West.  Pizza has been in America since the first Italian immigrants arrived on our shores in the early 1900's, but, we have the GI's returning home to the States from Italy during and after World War II for pizza's induction into the American mainstream. Because they had a hankering for the pizza they had eaten while stationed overseas, its popularity soared.  We adopted it, glorified it, gave it a place of honor, and, made it our own.

Few foods are more comforting than a "za" or a "slice", and, we Americans buy over three billion pizzas a year -- salty, savory, toppings piled high onto crusty, chewy bread -- it's portable perfection.  Take your pick:  California-, Detroit-, Greek-, Hawaiian-, New Haven-, New York-, Sicilian- or St. Louis-style.  There are bar pies, grandma pies and tomato pies too.  There are thick crusts, thin crusts, cracker crusts, and, their shape can be round, rectangular or freeform.

The original pizzas of Ancient Greece in Rome were flatbreads topped with oil and herbs.  Pizza as we know it today, in its stereotyped form, the ones made with cheese, tomatoes and crust, made their debut in America's first pizzaria, Lombardi's, in NYC, in 1905.  We've come a long way baby, and nowadays, pizza-lovers like myself are emboldened enough to put whatever we want on our pizza without risk of criticism.  Enter:  caramelized onions and gruyère cheese.

IMG_8545Homemade pizza customized to suit oneself is a thing of beauty:

My favorite pizza is a classic Margarita in all its splendor -- a chunky San Marzano tomato sauce (with bits of garlic), buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and a drizzle of EVOO on a thinnish, crispy, air-hole-blistered crust.  That said, I like pizzas without red sauce (or any sauce) a lot -- I find substitutions like homemade pesto refreshing and "bianca sauces" ("white sauces") like Alfredo or garlic-white sauce a pleasant change-of-pace.  I don't like pizzas with forms of bacon or ham, salami or pepperoni on them -- high-quality sausage is AOK.  I love pizzas piled with fresh, sautéed or blanched veggies -- broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions are my favorites.  A homemade pizza, customized to suit oneself is a thing of beauty.  Behold, my beautiful recipe:

IMG_8447Part One:  Making my "Herbes de Provence Pizza Dough" 

Pizza-with-a-French-twist deserves the proper herbes, and, my choice is herbes de Provence:  a mixture of dried herbs typical of the Provence region of southeast France.  It's easy to make your own, but, I started buying high-quality commercial blends back in the 1970's.  They typically contain savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sometimes, a bit of lavender too.  

Note of importance:  Since it takes 40-45 minutes to adequately caramelize onions for this pizza, I "make up the time" by putting one of my favorite pizza dough recipes in the bread machine.  It mixes itself in 55 minutes.  No matter what pizza dough recipe you decide to use (mine or your favorite one)  add some herbs de provence to it and let it proof while you caramelize the onions.

IMG_3835For the pizza dough:

1 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, herbes de Provence & coarse-gound black pepper

1  packet granulated dry yeast

2  additional tablespoons olive oil, for preparing baking pans

IMG_3843Step 1.  To prepare the dough, place all of the items in pan of bread machine in the order listedexcept for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug IMG_3846the machine in, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". You will have 2 pounds of dough, ready to use, in about 55 minutes.  

IMG_3851While the dough is rising in the machine, using a pastry brush or a paper towel, generously oil 2, 13" x 9" rectangular baking pans with the additional olive oil, &, caramelize

IMG_3859IMG_3869the onions as directed below in Part Two.

Step 2. Remove dough from bread machine pan and divide it in half. The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale.  The dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable.

IMG_3882IMG_3883

Place one piece of dough on each pan and let rest for 10 minutes.  Pat and push dough evenly into the bottom of, into the corners, and, up the sides of each pan, to form a rectangular-shaped pizza crust.  Top pizza as directed in Part Three.

Part Two:  Caramelizing the Onions

IMG_0904A bit about caramelizing onions (bypassing all scientific mumbo jumbo):  Onions contain a lot of sugar and slowly cooking them on the stovetop draws out their natural sweetness.  The longer and slower they cook, the sweeter they get. When lightly-browned or browned, they begin to take on a pleasant, nutty taste.  When caramelized to a deep amber color, they get sweet.  Caramelizing onions could not be easier, but, it can't be done in 15-20 minutes. You'll need to allow a good 35-45 minutes (depending upon how many you are making, how you regulate the heat on your stove, and, on any given day, how long you decide to cook them).  Technically, any onion can be caramelized, but I personally think that sweet onions work best, with yellow onions being my second choice, and, I don't recommend caramelizing red onions at all.  My three favorites are:  Vidalia (from Georgia), Walla Walla (from Washington), and, Maui (from Hawaii).  Also on my list of favorites are Texas Sweet (from Texas) and NuMex (from New Mexico).  Before getting started, here are two important tips:

6a0120a8551282970b014e8a9e51cd970d-800wi

1)  To insure even cooking, the onions must be sliced to a consistent thickness -- 1/4" is best.

2)  Because the onions will loose most of their volume as they slowly caramelize, start out with a lot more than you think you will need.

For onion slicing instructions, read: ~ How to: Select, Slice, Mince, Dice & Chop Onions ~, which can be found in Category 15.

IMG_08052 1/2 pounds (after peeling) 1/4"-thick "half-ring-shaped" slices of yellow or sweet onion (9 cups) 

4  tablespoons olive oil

4  tablespoons salted butter

3/4  teaspoon sugar 

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

2-4  tablespoons white wine, for deglazing pan (stock or water may be substituted)

IMG_0831IMG_0820Step 1. Prep the onions as directed. Over low heat, in skillet, melt butter into olive oil.  Add the onions to the skillet. Season with the sugar and salt.  

Using a large slotted spoon or spatula, toss until the onions are evenly coated in the oil/butter mix.

IMG_0837 IMG_0848 IMG_0860 IMG_0879~Step 2.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Continue to slowly cook, stirring occasionally.  After 10 minutes, the onions will have lost a lot of their volume and will be limp and steamed through. ~ Step 3.  At this point there will be no signs of browning.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 10 minutes. It's now that you are going to start to see what I refer to as light browning. ~ Step 4.  Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly, another 10 minutes. Now the onions are nicely browned and they are truly beginning to caramelize.  From this point on, do not leave the stove.  The onions require constant stirring, and, can go from browned to burned quickly.

IMG_0889~ Step 5.  Today, my onions cooked for another 10 minutes, with me stirring constantly, before I added the wine and deglazed the pan, or: for a total of 40 minutes.  Deglazing the pan is an important step that takes caramelized onions from ordinary to great. These are some mighty-fine looking caramelized onions (if I do say so myself).

Part Three:  Topping and baking the Pizza 

IMG_8406For the pizza toppings:

dough (from above recipe)

garlic-infused olive oil or olive oil

1 pound grated gruyère cheese (6 cups)

all of the caramelized onions (from above recipe)

herbes de Provence and coarsely ground-black pepper

EVOO & freshly ground sea salt 

IMG_8413 IMG_8419 IMG_8425 IMG_8435~Step 1.  To top the pizzas, using a pastry brush and a light touch, paint a thin coating of garlic-infused olive oil evenly over the surface of each crust.  Sprinkle half of the cheese, 1 1/2 cups evenly over the bottom of each crust.  Evenly distribute half of the caramelized onions, 3/4 cup, over the cheese on each crust.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese (3 cups) evenly over the tops, 1 1/2 cups on each pizza.  Lightly sprinkle with herbes de Provence and pepper.

IMG_8450 IMG_8452 IMG_8453 IMG_8464 IMG_8439 IMG_8483~Step 2.  To bake the pizzas, one-at-a-time, place pizza, in its pan, on a hot pizza stone preheated in a 375 degree oven.  The stone must be hot.  

Bake each pizza, one-at-a-time, in pan, 11-12 minutes.  Using a long-handled spatula, slide pizza from pan onto stone and continue to bake 5-6 minutes.  Cheese will be bubbling and lightly golden on top and crust will be golden and crispy on bottom.  Using a pizza peel, remove from oven and place on a rack for 3-4 minutes prior to slicing and serving drizzled with olive oil.

Cool on wire rack 3-4 minutes prior to slicing & serving...

IMG_8477... drizzled with EVOO and freshly ground sea salt: 

IMG_8555"When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that's amore."

Mel's Caramelized Onion & Gruyere Cheese Pizza:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups of caramelized onions and 2, 13" x 9" pizzas of 8-10 servings each, depending upon how you slice it.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large slotted spoon or spatula; bread machine (optional); 2, 13" x 9" baking pans; pastry brush; pizza stone; long-handled metal spatula; pizza peel; wire cooking rack; pizza cutter

IMG_4012 IMG_4038Cook's Note: Sliced and served cold, or hot right out of the oven, when I do have a hankering for ham, salami and pepperoni on a pizza, I put it in my pizza and make ~ Mel's Rotolo Di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~.  You can find my recipe by clicking into Categories 1, 2, 11, 12, 17, 18 or 22.  It can be made ahead and frozen!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/22/2016

~ Lemony English Pea, Mint & Gold Potato Salad ~

IMG_8400The typical English pea salad, or English pea and potato salad, the one that graces picnic and potluck tables this time of year, has never been my cup of tea.  While I have no ax to grind with most of the mayonnaise and/or sour cream concoctions it gets dressed with, traditionally it is loaded with chunks of cheddar cheese and bacon bits too, which I think does those pretty, little, freshly-picked green jewels a disservice.  It's not easy being green -- please show some respect!

IMG_8373For me this is a KISS (keep it simple stupid) salad.  Why?  The moment you put a delicately-flavored ingredient like freshly-picked, freshly-steamed garden peas into a salad, in my mind, you relinquish your license to turn it into another kitchen-sink pasta or potato salad.  You are duty-bound to simply enhance their flavor, and, trust me when I tell you, my lemon-mint mayonnaise is the dressing that sets my version of the English pea salad apart from all others.  

It's bright & fresh, &, "please pass the cold pea salad" because it never tasted so good!

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c756d7fb970bFor the lemon-mint mayonnaise:

1  cup mayonnaise, homemade or the best available (read my post ~ How to:  Make Homemade Mayonnaise ~, in Category 15)

2 tablespoons each: lemon zest & lemon juice, from 1 large lemon

1  ounce coarsely-chopped, fresh mint leaves, 1 lightly-packed cup

2  teaspoons Greek seasoning

1  teaspoon sugar

a generous 1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, sea salt and white pepper

PICT1726Step 1.  Prep and measure all ingredients, placing them in a medium mixing bowl as you work. Note:  It's ok to add more zest, but do not add more than 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

PICT1728Step 2. Using a large spoon or spatula, thoroughly combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.  Overnight is best.

Note:  This thickens as it chills, so, it is best to chill it before stirring it into the peas and potatoes.

IMG_8366For the pea & potato salad:

12  ounces fresh garden peas, blanched in boiling, salted water for 3-3 1/2 minutes (2 cups)

16  ounces peeled & 1/2" cubed gold potatoes, cooked in boiling salted water until fork tender, about 4-4 1/2 minutes (2 cups)

1/2-1 cup lemon-mint mayo

ground sea salt, peppercorn blend & mint, for garnish

Note:  Occasionally, I add 4 hard-cooked and small-diced eggs to this salad.  It makes it a bit richer and creamier, and, it stretches the yield to 6 cups.  I leave that choice up to you.

IMG_8344 IMG_8357 IMG_8361 IMG_8364~Step 1.  In a 2-quart saucepan bring 1 quart of water to a boil and add 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add peas.  Start timing immediately.  When water returns to a boil, adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue cooking until peas are almost cooked through, 3-3 1/2 minutes.  Do not overcook. Drain into a colander and run cold tap water through them to cool to room temperature and halt the cooking process.  Place peas on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess water.

IMG_8345 IMG_8349 IMG_8354 IMG_8356~Step 2.  Peel and cube potatoes as directed.  In the same 2-quart saucepan, bring 1-quart of water to a boil and add 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add potatoes.  Start timing immediately. When water returns to a boil, adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue cooking until potatoes are almost fork tender, 4-4 1/2 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into a colander and run cold tap water through them to cool to room temperature and halt the cooking process.  Place potatoes on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb excess water, patting potatoes dry from the top as well..

IMG_8381 IMG_8375Step 3. Place peas and potatoes in a large bowl and add 1 cup of chilled lemon-mint mayo.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold until both are enrobed in dressing.  Place bowl in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.  Fold again and add more dressing, in 1-2 tablespoon increments until desired flavor and consistency is reached.

Note:  As with most mayonnaise- or vinegar-based potato, pasta or 'slaw concoctions, salads "of this type", are best prepared a day ahead, to allow the flavors to marry, and, served very cold. 

Easy peesy English pea and potato salad -- my cup of tea!

IMG_8403Lemony English Pea, Mint & Gold Potato Salad:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups lemon-mint mayo and 4 generous cups pea and potato salad.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 2-quart saucepan; colander; paper towels large rubber spatula

IMG_6608Cook's Note: My lemon-mint mayo is a condiment I keep around a lot in the Summer.  I like it in place of plain mayo in and on a lot of things, for example:  As a dressing for egg, chicken or tuna salad and slathered on a simple turkey sandwich. Another favorite creation of mine, ~ A Versatile Tex-Mex Condiment: Chile-Lime Mayo ~, can be found in Categories 8, 10, 13, 17 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016) 

06/20/2016

~ City Chicken: Literally, "The Other White Meat." ~

IMG_8324City chicken.  It could be said, "it's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key" -- A wartime Winston Churchill quote.  In The Joy of Cooking, if you go the index intentionally looking for "city chicken", and look under "chicken", you'll not find it.  That said, if you're looking for a pork or veal recipe in the same cookbook, and look under "pork or veal", you will stumble upon "mock chicken drumsticks or city chicken" on page 469.  That's because:

Even though it looks like a chicken leg & tastes like chicken... 

IMG_8311... city chicken isn't chicken, it's made with pork &/or veal.  

IMG_8174A bit about chicken "sans volaille", which is French for chicken "without poultry":  City chicken is a depression era meal born out of necessity.  During the Presidential campaign of 1928, Herbert Hoover claimed that if he won, there would be "a chicken in every pot (and a car in every garage)" -- it was a promise of prosperity.  During that time period, unless you lived on a rural farm where you had the space to raise a few chickens, chicken was very expensive to purchase, especially in the urban cities (chickens weren't raised in volume until the 1950's).  It was a wealthy man's family and guests that sat down to a well-appointed chicken dinner on a Sunday.

Said to have originated in the city of Pittsburgh, butchers began placing inexpensive cubes of pork and veal along with a few wooden skewers in a package, so housewives could thread and fashion what (once dipped in an egg wash, dredged in breadcrumbs and baked or fried) mocked a chicken leg.  It was quite inventive.  Gravy was made from the pan drippings, mashed potatoes and a vegetable were served, and, the family enjoyed a very tasty, faux-chicken dinner.

IMG_8181In Eastern Pennsylvania, where I grew up, my grandmother called it "chicken-on-a-stick", and she, in fact, did skewer cubes of pork and veal to make it.  In my lifetime, the cost of veal sky-rocketed, so I stopped including veal a while ago.

Back in the 1980's I became  friends with a meat-cutter here in Happy Valley who managed a popular mom and pop butcher shop.  While they didn't IMG_8176sell city chicken "in the case", if you ordered it ahead, he and his wife would "make it up", and, a lot of caterers ordered large quantities to serve at big events. Theirs was made from very coarsely ground pork (and veal too if you requested it and paid extra for it), and, it was formed in one of these nifty cast-aluminum gadgets (mine is pictured), with "chicken sans volaille" stamped on the side of it.

I love this low-tech retro cast-aluminum gadget, but if you don't have one, don't fret, it's easy to mock using your fingertips:

IMG_8219Now let's go & get straight to the meat of the no-chicken matter! 

IMG_6002 IMG_60102  pounds pork loin, untrimmed, cut into 1/2"-3/4" slices, then cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes

1/2  teaspoon each: sea salt and coarsely-ground or cracked black pepper

IMG_6207 IMG_6209~Step 1.  Cube the pork as directed, placing it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Add the sea salt and black pepper. Using a series of 30-35 on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the pork.  Transfer the ground pork to a large bowl.   No need to wash processor bowl yet.

IMG_8182 IMG_8184 IMG_8188 IMG_8190~Step 2.  Add 1 cup very coarsely-chopped yellow onion (4 ounces) to work bowl and using a series of 20-25 on-off pulses, finely-dice the onion.  Transfer onion to bowl with pork.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine.  You will have 2 pounds, 4 ounces of city chicken mixture.

Holding the city chicken mold like a pair of scissors...

IMG_8200... scoop up some city chicken mixture & tightly close the mold.

IMG_8203Using your fingertips, remove & "clean up" the excess...

IMG_8205... then stick a skewer into & through the hole of the mold.

IMG_8212Repeat process until 16 city chicken are formed...

IMG_8221... placing them on a parchment lined baking pan as you work.

IMG_8227 IMG_8229Step 3.  To dip, dredge and fry the city chicken, in a shallow 9" pie dish, using a fork, whisk 4 large eggs with 4 tablespoons water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  In a second 9" pie dish, place 1 cup French-style bread crumbs.

IMG_8238 IMG_8243~ Step 4.  One-at-a-time, roll each "city chicken leg" around in the egg wash, to thoroughly coat it, then, roll it around in the breadcrumbs, to thoroughly coat it, returning each leg to the parchment lined baking pan as you work.

IMG_8263 IMG_8264 IMG_8290~ Step 5.  In a 16" electric skillet over low heat, melt 4 tablespoons salted butter into 4 tablespoons corn or peanut oil. Increase heat to 250 degrees, add 8 city chicken legs to skillet and gently fry until golden on all sides, for a total of 14-16 minutes.  Remove chicken and place on a wire cooling rack that has been placed in the parchment and aluminum foil lined baking pan.  Add a second 4 tablespoons of salted butter and 4 tablespoons of corn or peanut oil to skillet (don't remove the previous pan drippings) and repeat the process with the remaining 8 city chicken legs.

IMG_8221 IMG_8251 IMG_8309Note:  From beginning to end, sans the wooden skewers, it's remarkable just how much they look like real chicken legs.

Serve hot, warm or at room temp as hors d'oeuvres or snacks, or, ASAP as a meal w/pan gravy, mashed potatoes & a vegetable!

IMG_8332City Chicken:  Literally, "The Other White Meat.":  Recipe yields 16 city chicken/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; cast-iron "chicken sans volaille" city chicken mold (optional); 16, 6"wooden skewers; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; 2, 9"-round pie plates; 16" electric skillet or a 14" skillet on the stovetop

6a0120a8551282970b013488325365970cCook's Note:  To make a quick pan gravy, stir 1/4 cup flour into the hot drippings in skillet along with 1/2-3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning.  Stir until a thick roux forms and cook until bubbly, about 30 seconds.  Add 2 cups of canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock.  Bring to a simmer and taste.  Add a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend -- how much depends on how seasoned the broth or stock was.  Adjust heat to simmer gently until nicely-thickend, about 2 minutes.  At this point my grandmother added a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet or Gravy Master (both Browning and Seasoning sauces) for color too! 

IMG_7452Extra Cook's Note:  Two weeks ago I posted my recipe for ~ Herbed Pork Skewers w/Apricot Mustard Sauce ~.  My friend Bob commented that it reminded him of city chicken, and, in fact, it is reminiscent of the chicken-on-a-stick he and I grew up eating in our Eastern Pennsylvania, hometown of Tamaqua.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 2, 3, 10 or 17.  Thanks Bob Richards, for the inspiration for me to write and share my yummy city chicken recipe!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/17/2016

~Dinner's in 30 Minutes: Indian-Style Butter Chicken~

IMG_8165Put your big boy pants on.  Put bigger pants on.  If you're conscientiously counting calories, carbohydrates or cholesterol, your calculator is entering the forbidden zone.  Butter chicken is to Indian food what General Tso’s chicken is to Chinese food.  It's love from first to last succulent bite, it's positively irresistible and addictive, and, it's guaranteed to push even the most self-controlled eater into the abyss of really bad diet days.  Get your affairs in order, there's more:

Butter Chicken is served w/basmati rice, mango chutney & buttery naan.

A bit about "butter chicken":  "Murgh makhani" (which means "chicken cooked in butter" comes from the word "makkhan" which means butter), was created in the 1950's at the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi.  Typical Northern Indian makhanis are mild to medium-spiced curry dishes consisting of yogurt-and-spice marinated chicken breasts or thighs.  After dry-heat roasting or grilling, the browned chicken is simmered in creamy-silky pinkish-orange tomato-based sauce made of garlic and ginger with a bit of honey or sugar for some sweetness.  The sauce is seasoned with an array of aromatic herbs and spices, used at the discretion of the chef or cook: garam masala, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and fenugreek, plus, earthy cumin and turmeric.  Cashew paste is stirred in for a subtle nutty flavor, which thickens the sauce a bit too, and, at the end, the signature melted butter is drizzled over the top.  Lastly, the dish is garnished with cream, crème fraîse or yogurt and fresh cilantro leaves, then, served with or over basmati rice accompanied by buttery naan flatbread and sweet chutney.  It's a very rich dish.

IMG_8169No -- Butter chicken is not the same as chicken tikka masala.  

Butter chicken is a Northern Indian Punjabi dish -- it's classic and mainstream Indian.  Chicken Tikka Masala hails from the United Kingdom -- it's Indian inspired and is eaten all over the world. They’re both wonderful, and similar looking too, but, there are differences between the two. Butter chicken has a rich, creamy, mildly-spicy, tomato-based sauce with a nutty undertone due to the addition of cashew paste, and, the dish is finished off with melted butter (hence the name: butter chicken).  Chicken tikka masala has a rich, creamy, spicy, tomato-based sauce with a citrusy undertone due to the addition of lemon juice, and relies, in large part, on garam masala* for its flavor.  There's a bit more.  In Indian, a piece of "food" (chicken, meat or paneer) prepared in a tandoor is referred to as "tikka" (hence the name: chicken tikka masala).  It's all in the name.

*Garam masala is a pulverized blend of dry spices, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of the Indian 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.

IMG_8163After all that -- Dinner's in 30-minutes?  Really?

For all of the complex, sophisticated flavor Indian-style butter chicken delivers, one would think this dish takes hours to prepare.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Chopping the chicken and preparing the marinade takes 5 minutes, and, the marination process requires 2-4 hours, or preferably, 6-8 hours or overnight, so, I've excluded both from the 30-minute stovetop-to-table time because they're done well in advance.  That said, past that, aside from chopping a few fresh green chilis (which I grow and keep in my freezer), there's no slicing, dicing or chopping to do after that -- just compile and measure some Indian ingredients* along with some cream and canned tomatoes, and, steam some basmati rice while the butter chicken simmers away.

IMG_8115 IMG_8117 IMG_8122 IMG_8124*Cashew paste:  It's on the list and it plays a significant role in making real-deal butter chicken. Of course you can buy it at your local Indian market, but, if you have an extra 1-2 minutes and you are so inclined, make what you need in a mini-food processor.  Place 1/2 cup chopped, unsalted cashews or chopped lightly-toasted & cooled cashews in the work bowl. With motor running, process to fine cashew crumbs, about 30-45 seconds.  With motor running, a few tablespoons at a time, drizzle in 1/2 cup of water until a thick paste forms, 30-45 seconds. 

IMG_8098For the chicken and the marinade:

2-2 1/2  pounds raw, boneless skinless chicken thighs, chopped into bite-sized, 3/4"-1" pieces (about 8 large chicken thighs)

3/4  cup Greek-syle yogurt

1  tablespoon garlic paste

1  tablespoon ginger paste

1  teaspoon kashmiri chili powder (a chili powder used in Indian cooking for color, not heat)

1/2  teaspoon garam masala

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_8100 IMG_8104 IMG_8107 IMG_8109~Step 1.  Chop chicken as directed, placing it in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt and all remaining ingredients.  Add the marinade to the chicken and toss until chicken is evenly coated.  Refrigerated for several hours or overnight.  

IMG_8131For the sauce & butter chicken preparation:

6  tablespoons salted butter (3/4 stick)

4-6  green chilis, thinly-sliced

1  tablespoon garlic paste

2  tablespoons ginger paste

seeds from 1 black cardamom pod

1 1/2  cups tomato puree

2  tablespoons honey

2  teaspoons kashmiri chili powder

1  teaspoon garam masala

1/2  teaspoon dried funugreek leaves (kasoori methi) 

1  cup cream

1/2  cup cashew paste

2  tablespoons salted butter, for stirring in at the end

all of the marinated & roasted chicken + its juices, from above recipe

For the suggested accompaniments & garnish:

4  cups uncooked basmati rice, cooked according to package directions in an electric rice steamer or on the stovetop

4-6 naan flatbread, see Cook's Note below

1  cup mango chutney

1/2  cup Greek-style yogurt, for garnish

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_8138~ Step 1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking pan with foil and parchment.  Spread chicken on pan and roast for 15 minutes. Chicken will be browning on top and about three-quarters cooked through with clear juices in the pan.

IMG_8139 IMG_8142 IMG_8146 IMG_8148 IMG_8150 IMG_8152~Step 2.  While the chicken is roasting, in a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter over low heat.  Stir in the sliced chilis, garlic paste, ginger paste and cardamom seeds and cook about 30 seconds, until bubbling and fragrant.  Add and stir in the tomato purée and honey, followed by the dry spices:  chili powder, garam masala and fenugreek leaves.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer, stir in the cream and the cashew paste, return to a simmer and cook about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

IMG_8154 IMG_8157 IMG_8160~ Step 3.  Add the roasted chicken and its juices too. Adjust heat to a very gentle simmer, partially cover pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes.  Stir in remaining the butter just prior to serving.

Serve over or w/basmati rice w/yogurt & cilantro garnish:  

IMG_8161Dinner's in 30 Minutes:  Indian-Style Butter Chicken:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; mini-food processor (optional); spoon; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper;  5 1/2 quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides & lid; large spoon

IMG_8081Cook's Note:  Every Indian cook knows how to make their family's traditional breads, and, every Indian cook serves one or more types every day with almost every meal.  Not making it is not an option, and, it's traditional to serve naan with butter chicken.  My recipe for ~ Flatbread in a Hurry?  Easy No-Yeast Indian Naan ~, can be found in Categories 5, 13.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/14/2016

~ Flatbread in a hurry? Easy No-Yeast Indian Naan ~

IMG_8083From biryani to vindaloo, whenever I cook Indian fare, I can't, in good conscience, serve it without flatbread.  My Indian girlfriends have all explained to me the integral role their many varieties of flatbread (and crepes) play in their very diverse Indian culture and cuisine.  Every Indian cook knows how to make their family's traditional breads, and, every Indian cook serves one or more types every day with almost every meal.  Not making it is not an option.  That's that.

IMG_0412India 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, or region-to-region.  

This slow, logistical cross-pollination of religious beliefs and food traditions, mixed with the 'politics du jour', makes it hard for Western cooks to decide 'right or wrong' when it comes to preparing many Indian dishes, as, cooking styles vary from state to state, town to town, and cook to cook. Example:  I've learned from three Indian woman and they all do things differently.

61d8ed69be506b2fab64fc072c87c0e1Naan was the first Indian flatbread I wanted to learn how to make because, as a Westerner, it was most familiar to me. Naan is so popular here in America, you can find it in every grocery store -- Naan pizza is one of my favorite snacks!

Unlike some of the other Indian flatbreads which are unleavened and made from durum wheat flour (like chapati and roti), the slightly thicker naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast.  Yogurt (in place of milk) is often used to impart flavor, and, it's often enhanced with fragrant  additions like fresh garlic, onion, coriander or mint.  Some versions are even stuffed with sweet or savory mixtures of nuts and raisins or potatoes and onions.   Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven to bake over a wood fire.  It gets its teardrop shape because the dough sags down a little while baking on the tandoor.  

IMG_8093It's rare for an Indian household to have a tandoor oven, so, home cooks developed a way to make it on the stovetop.  My friend Mytri showed me how she makes it and I was pleased to find it easy. She also took the time to show me her family's short-cut method for making it without yeast, by substituting baking powder.  While I adore Mytri's "Naan with Yeast & Yogurt" recipe, I am here to tell you:

When my Indian dinner is being served in a short 30-minutes... 

... my go-to Indian flatbread recipe is:  No-Nonsense Naan w/o Yeast!

IMG_8073Naan made in this manner, without yeast, can't be beat in that once you've done it once or twice, from start to finish, it literally, can be measured, mixed, rolled and cooked in 30 minutes.  No special skills or equipment are required, just be sure to roll each ball of dough very thin, to a thickness of about 1/8", and, if you've got a nonstick crepe pan or skillet, now is the time to use it.

IMG_80172 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sugar

1/2-1  teaspoon garlic powder (optional, but I always add it)

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon baking powder

2  tablespoons olive oil

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons milk

1/4  cup salted butter, melted (2 tablespoons/1/4  stick) 

IMG_8023 IMG_8025 IMG_8027 IMG_8029~Step 1.  In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  flour, sugar, optional garlic powder, salt and baking powder.  Using a spoon, make a well in the center of the mixture, add the olive oil, then stir it in until it forms little clumps of oil throughout the flour.  Make a second well in the center of the mixture and add the milk.  Using the spoon, stir and work the milk into the flour until a rough, sticky mass forms.  Using the heel of your hand, knead the dough, right in the bowl, by gathering it up, pushing down on it, and giving the bowl a quarter of a turn after each push. Knead the dough, for a full 3 minutes.  You will have a ball of dough that weights 16 ounces.

IMG_8037 IMG_8039 IMG_8042 IMG_8045~Step 2.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide the dough into 8, 2-ounce pieces.  On a unfloured wooden pastry board (no need for bench flour -- this dough is very pleasant to work with), using your hand, form each piece into a ball.  Using a small rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into an elongated oval freeform shape, roughly 6"-6 1/2" long and 4"-4 1/2" wide.

IMG_8068 IMG_8064~ Step 3. Heat a 10" crepe pan or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat (no need for oil, butter or no-stick cooking sprays if you're using a nonstick pan).  

One at a time, place a piece of IMG_8069dough on the hot skillet.  Cook on the first side, about 1-1 1/2 minutes -- air bubbles will form randomly across the surface.  Using a nonstick spatula, flip the naan over to cook on the second side. The first side will be speckled with lots of golden brown marks.  Cook on second side, 45-60 seconds, gently pressing down on its surface with the back of the spatula occasionally, to flatten, by releasing the steam from the air bubbles.  

Brush naan w/melted butter & serve hot, warm or at room temp:

IMG_8081Flatbread in a hurry?:  Easy No-Yeast Indian Naan:  Recipe yields 8 naan/4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; spoon; kitchen scale, wooden pastry board; small rolling pin; 10" crepe pan or nonstick skillet; nonstick spatula; pastry brush

PICT2757Cook's Note:  I've always been fascinated by flatbreads from all cultures.  For another one of my favorites, ~ In Praise of Perfectly Baked Pita (Pocket) Bread ~ click into Category 2 or 5.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/12/2016

~ Dinner's in 20 Minutes: Japanese Teriyaki Chicken~

IMG_7996On days when cooking is a chore, having a few recipes like this tucked away in your repertoire will keep you sane.  Yes, even I have those kind of days occasionally, and, recipes like this do keep me sane and out of the drive-thru too.  Most times, they're faster than delivery as well.  In the case of this meal, I simply put rice in my electric rice steamer, open a package of fresh broccoli florets, chop a few chicken tenders and get a bottle of teriyaki sauce out of my pantry.  I don't feel one bit guilty about it either -- no more guilty than putting Goulden's brown mustard on my hot dog, Heinz ketchup on my hamburger or Hellman's mayonnaise on my turkey sandwich.  

There's no shame in owning a bottle of teriyaki sauce.

When a recipe says it can be made in 20 minutes, I assume that a shortcut or two has been taken, and, if it's a high-quality "bottle of this" or "can of that", I'm not bothered by it a bit. That said, when a recipe says it can be made in 20 minutes, it had better live up to my taste expectations.  Twenty minutes is 20 minutes and if I'm taking any amount of time to make anything it'd better taste really good.  This recipe is both quick-to-make and really good tasting. Since it's neither classic nor authentic Japanese, feel free to customize it to your family's liking. Bell peppers instead of broccoli?  Sure.  Lo-mein noodles instead of rice?  Fine by me.  

That said, if you find yourself without a bottle of teriyaki sauce in your pantry, or, if you have an extra five minutes and you are so inclined, teriyaki sauce is quick and easy to make -- IF you do enough Asian cooking to have 1-2 Asian staples and 1-2 common pantry ingredients on hand:  

IMG_79281/2  cup soy sauce or tamari soy sauce

1/2  cup mirin (a cooking wine made from rice) or sake (sometimes thought of as beer because it's made from grain, but classified as a wine)

1/4 cup white or brown sugar

2-3  teaspoons minced fresh garlic and/or ginger (optional)

4  teaspoons cornstarch or potato starch

4  teaspoons cold water

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

They created a slightly-and-nicely thickened marinade/basting sauce using local, readily-available Hawaiian products, like pineapple juice (in place of the mirin or sake of their homeland) and wild garlic (in place of or in conjuction with the ginger they brought with them), mixed with soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch.  To make teriyaki sauce from scratch:

6a0120a8551282970b017ee4e785a4970dStep 1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the cold water and cornstarch until smooth.

Step 2.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the soy or tamari sauce, mirin or sake and white or brown sugar.  Add the minced garlic and or ginger. Bring to a steady simmer over medium heat and cook about 1 minute.  Whisk cornstarch mixture into the sauce and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is drizzly but slightly-thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and use as directed.  To use as a marinade:  cool sauce to room temperature prior to using. Keep unused sauce stored in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator for several weeks. 

IMG_7993Pour a glass of wine, put a movie on the kitchen TV or listen to your favorite tunes -- avoid the news at all cost.  Dinner's in 20 minutes.

IMG_79392  pounds chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/2  cup teriyaki sauce, store-bought or homemade from above recipe, for the marinade  (Note: When choosing a store-bought brand, shake the bottle. If the sauce/marinade is the consistency of soy sauce, do not buy it.  It is too thin.  For this reason, I will tell you: Do not buy Kikkoman brand -- it is thin and salty.  I like and purchase Shirakiku at my Asian market and it is pleasantly sweet and saucelike.)

12-16  ounces broccoli florets

1/4  cup minced, fresh garlic and/or ginger (optional)

1/2  cup diced green onion, white and light green part only, yellow or sweet onion may be substituted (optional)

2  tablespoons each:  peanut oil and sesame oil, for the stir-fry

1/2-1  cup additional teriyaki sauce, for saucing the stir-fry

3  cups uncooked jasmine rice

IMG_7940 IMG_7949 IMG_7954 IMG_7958~Step 1.  Place 3 cups of rice in the steamer with 3 cups of water.  Turn it on and let it do all the work for 20 minutes.  Chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces, placing it in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work, add 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce, toss, until chicken is coated in sauce, then, set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.  In a 4-quart saucepan bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the broccoli and blanch for exactly 2 minutes.  Drain into a colander, rinse thoroughly under cold water to halt the cooking process and set aside to drain thoroughly.  Chop the optional garlic, ginger and onion.  All of this can easily be accomplished in 15 minutes.

IMG_7960 IMG_7963 IMG_7965 IMG_7968Note:  I use my electric skillet to prepare this stir-fry-type meal.  It controls the heat perfectly, and, it has the surface area to cook all of the ingredients evenly (enough to feed a family of four -- which most stir-fry recipes don't typically yield), in a short period of time, about 5 minutes.

IMG_7971 IMG_7973~ Step 2.  Place peanut oil and sesame oil in skillet and adjust heat in skillet to 250 degrees. Add optional ingredients  (garlic, ginger and onion) and chicken to hot oil.  Stir-fry, using a large spoon or spatula to keep mixture moving at all times, until chicken is just short of being cooked through, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Add the broccoli and continue to stir-fry another 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in additional teriyaki sauce, in small amounts, until all ingredients are coated to your liking -- I add the entire 1 remaining cup.

Portion rice into bowls or onto plates... 

IMG_7989... top w/teriyaki chicken & serve ASAP:

IMG_8006Dinner's in 20 Minutes:  Japanese Teriyaki Chicken:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups teriyaki sauce and 4-6 servings of teriyaki chicken with 1-1 1/2 cups of rice per serving.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart saucepan; small wire whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; electric rice steamer; 4-quart saucepan; colander; 16" electric skillet or 14" skillet on the stovetop; large spoon or spatula
IMG_0729Cook's Note:  Thanks to a two week stay in Tokyo, I have lots of tales to tell about Japanese food.  My favorite perhaps, revolves around yakitori.  You can find all of my posts ~ My Japanese Takitori Story & All the Facts Jack ~~ Japanese 'Yakitori no Tare' (BBQ/Basting Sauce) ~~ Japanese 'Yakitori' (Skewered & Grilled Chicken) ~, and, ~ Time Out to Define:  Sukiyaki, Teriyaki & Yakitori ~, in Category 13. 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/10/2016

~ Creole Crawfish Beignets w/French Remoulade ~

IMG_7915Crawfish, crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs:  The last time I saw these small, freshwater, lobster-esque crustaceans here in Central Pennsylvania, fresh or flash frozen, was -- never.  The only time I've ever encountered crawfish was in Louisiana, Commander's Palace to be exact, and, "crawfish beignets" was an appetizer choice.  I ordered it because I was surprised to find the word "beignet" used in a new-to-me savory seafood application rather than a sweet dessert way. Had I been up on my Big Easy history at the time, I wouldn't have been surprised by it at all.

05e691bec3441e1aba0e8e2e2c92f73eNow owned by the Brennan Family, Richard Brennan Sr., was one of the best restauranteurs in NOLA, with Commander's Palace regarded as the best upscale restaurant in the city -- Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse are two alumni. That said, Richard Brennan was the brother of Owen Brennan, also a restauranteur and founder of his own equally-famous eatery, Brennan's, located in the French Quarter -- where I'd eaten beignets at breakfast that same morning.

Brotherly love?  I assumed so until I started reading.  These two factions of the Brennan family were, almost always,  embroiled in a cut-throat competition with each other.  From recipe oneupmanship to legal disputes, there was no love lost between these two Brennan Brothers.

French?  Cajun?  Creole?  Somewhere in between?

IMG_7918Louisiana's cuisine, particularly New Orleans, is brimming with French influence.  Cajun cooking is a simple, rustic, country-style of cooking born out of the necessity of peasants and represents a combination of French and Southen fare.  Creole cooking is a more refined, sophisticated-style of city dwellers, born out of restaurant chefs, continuously supplied by the commerce of the ports, accessing the best ingredients of French, Spanish and African cuisines.  When it comes to spice, one cuisine is not spicier than the other.  They both use the same spices, in quantities determined by how spicy the food is supposed to be or they want it to be.  It boils down to this:

"Cajuns eat in the kitchen and Creoles eat in the dining room!" ~ Chef John D. Folse

IMG_7921In France, "beignet", meaning "bump", is simply a deep-fried square or spoonful of sticky dough (either choux or yeast dough), and, they're sold in cafes, restaurants and on the streets of New Orleans.  When sweet sugar is added to the dough, it's typically cut into squares, deep-fried, and, the beignet is served like a doughnut with coffee.  When savory seasonings and chopped meat, seafood or vegetables are added to the dough, spoonfuls are dropped into the fryer, and, the beignet is served as an appetizer with French remoulade sauce (similar to tartar sauce).

IMG_7490A bit about Classic French, Cajun and Creole remoulade sauceFrench remoulade (ray-muh-LAHD) is a creamy to yellowish-colored condiment-sauce, containing lemon- or vinegar-laced homemade mayonnaise, mustard, shallots, capers, gherkins, herbs and sometimes anchovies.  Cajun remoulade, which is mayonnaise-based too, differs from the French original in that it has pink hues and a piquant flavor due to the addition of ketchup, cayenne pepper and/or paprika.  Creole remoulade, is a slightly-chunkier, reddish-hued oil-based condiment-sauce containing ketchup, finely-chopped vegetables (usually green onion, celery and parsley), stone-ground or Creole mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, and, sometimes horseradish.  

Remoulade is similar to cocktail sauce in that it is served chilled to accompany or dress cold meats, poultry, fish, shellfish and egg dishes.  

Today I'm making my version of classic French remoulade -- or Creole tartar sauce as I've heard several NOLA chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, refer to it.  Whatever French remoulade recipe you are making, you'll almost always find a fresh herb added to it.  Fresh dill is my favorite as it pairs so well with fish or seafood dishes.  That said, fresh tarragon is a nice addition too. 

IMG_7770For the French remoulade:

1  cup mayonnaise

1/2  cup finely-diced sweet gherkins or sweet pickle relish or a cominbation of both, to taste

1/4  cup very-finely diced yellow or sweet onion, to taste

1  tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh

3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed

IMG_77771/2  teaspoon sugar

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_7783~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients as listed. Transfer to a food storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours or overnight prior to serving chilled.  Overnight is truly best, and, remoulade can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

Excuse my crawfish beignets -- they're made w/shrimp.

IMG_7924Crawfish are impossible to find in my neck of the woods -- landlocked Central Pennsylvania. That said, they are so abundant in the southern reaches of Louisiana known as the Bayou, they've become a staple in the diets of the Cajuns and Creoles who live there.  Once I heard Emeril say it was ok to use shrimp as a substitute, I got over my guilt complex in a hurry. Note: Unlike the fluffy pillow-shaped sugar-dusted beignets sold with coffee in the French Quarter, these round, rustic and bumpy-shaped beignets are a cross between a hush puppy and a fritter.

IMG_7829For the crawfish or shrimp beignets:

14-16  ounces coarsely-chopped crawfish tails or extra-large shrimp meat (2-2 1/4 cups)

1/4  cup finely-diced onion

1/4  cup finely-diced red bell pepper

1/4  cup finely-diced parsley

1 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

IMG_78331 1/2  teaspoons baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon sugar

2  tablespoons Creole seasoning

1  large egg, beaten

3/4  cup milk or buttermilk

corn or peanut oil, for deep-frying

~ Step 1.  Prep crawfish or shrimp, onion, bell pepper and parsley as directed and set aside. Stir dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, sugar and Creole  IMG_7846seasoning) together in a medium bowl.  Heat oil in deep-fryer to 360 degrees. Place a wire cooling rack atop 2-3 layers of paper towels.

Note:  Don't add wet ingredients to flour mixture until fryer is heated. It's important the batter gets stirred together just prior to frying to insure the beignets rise properly.

IMG_7850 IMG_7853~ Step 2.  Using a fork, in a 1-cup measuring container, vigorously whisk together the egg and the milk or buttermilk.  Add to the flour mixture.

Using a spoon, stir until a thick batter has formed.

IMG_7856 IMG_7860 IMG_7864 IMG_7868~Step 3.  Stir in the diced onion, red bell pepper and parsley, followed by the crawfish or shrimp.

IMG_7869 IMG_7874 IMG_7878 IMG_7883~Step 4.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, and, holding it close to the surface of the oil in the fryer, gently roll "balls" of beignets, 4 at a time, into the hot oil.  Don't overcrowd the fryer basket.  Close the lid and fry for 3/1/2-4 minutes.  Remove from fryer, place on wire cooling rack and immediately sprinkle with a sea salt.  Repeat until all beignets are deep-fried.

IMG_7887Serve ASAP w/remoulade to the side for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_7902Creole Crawfish Beignets w/French Remoulade Sauce: 22-24 beignets and 1 1/2 cups remoulade sauce/6-8 servings planning on 2-3 per person as an appetizer.  

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid; deep-fryer w/oil preheated according to manufacturer's specifications; wire cooling rack; paper towels; 1-cup measuring container; fork; spoon; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop
 
IMG_7925Cook's Note:  For a variation on the same theme, if batter-dipping and deep-frying whole shrimp is more to your liking, my recipe, which comes from my childhood, ~ Anchor-Deep Deep-Fried Shrimp w/Tartar Sauce ~ can be found by clicking into Categories 1, 2, 11 14 or 28.
 
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
 
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/07/2016

~ Holy Trinity & Remoulade: Creole Macaroni Salad ~

IMG_7768Crunchy, creamy and cold, macaroni salad is a classic Summer staple on American tables everywhere.  It's easy to make, tastes great, and, by changing out a few add-in ingredients here and there (and the fresh herbs and dry spices in your mayonnaise concoction too), you can personalize it to suit yourself, or, customize it to fit the flavor profile of the meal you're serving.  

In case you've just landed from another planet, the "holy trinity" (diced celery, green bell pepper and onion) is to the French-heritaged Cajun and Creole cooks of Louisiana what "mirepoix" (diced carrot, celery and onion) is to French cooks in France.  It's the base seasoning for many sauces, soups and stews, as well as many low-and-slow-braised meat, poultry and fish dishes.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb090ba836970dA bit about Classic French, Cajun and Creole remoulade sauceFrench remoulade (ray-muh-LAHD) is a creamy to yellowish-colored condiment-sauce, containing lemon- or vinegar-laced homemade mayonnaise, mustard, shallots, capers, gherkins, herbs and sometimes anchovies.  Cajun remoulade, which is mayonnaise-based too, differs from the French original in that it has pink hues and a piquant flavor due to the addition of ketchup, cayenne pepper and/or paprika. <<<Creole remoulade, is a slightly-chunkier, reddish-hued oil-based condiment-sauce containing ketchup, finely-chopped vegetables (usually green onion, celery and parsley), stone-ground or Creole mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, and, sometimes horseradish.  

Remoulade is served chilled to accompany or dress cold meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, egg dishes and salads -- it's great slathered on sandwiches (like Nola's beloved Po' Boy) and 'burgers too.  

Occasionally, Creole remoulade will contain a small amount of mayonnaise to give it a slightly creamy texture and that's exactly what I'm doing today to make my macaroni salad dressing.

IMG_7490For the remoulade sauce to dress 12 ounces of cooked elbow macaroni + add-in's (diced vegetables & eggs):

1 cup Creole-style remoulade sauce (Note:  You can use your favorite store-bought brand, like Zatarain's, your own favorite recipe, or, my recipe for ~ Remoulade Sauce:  A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen ~, which can be found by clicking to Category 8.)

1/2-3/4  cup mayonnaise

IMG_7502 IMG_7516~ Step 1.  In a 1-quart food storage container with a tight-fitting lid, thoroughly stir the Creole remoulade and enough mayo to get a creamy consistency and a taste you like.  You will have about 1 1/2 cups.  I refrigerate for an hour or two to thicken it a bit -- that choice is yours.

Holy Trinity & Remoulade Creole Macaroni Salad:

IMG_7783Crunchy, Creamy & Refreshingly Cold, Bold & Creole!

IMG_773712  ounces elbow macaroni, cooked al dente, according to package directions and well-drained

6  large eggs, hard-cooked and coarse chopped

1/2  cup diced celery

1/2  cup diced green bell pepper

1/2  cup diced green onion

1/2  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

1/2  cup minced parsley

1 1/2  cups Creole remoulade sauce (from above recipe)

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7f6a1cd970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb089adb9b970d-120wiStep 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the macaroni and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain into a colander and run cold tap water through it to halt the cooking process.  Allow it to continue to drain thoroughly, 5-10 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.

IMG_7741 IMG_7745~ Step 2.  While macaroni is cooking and draining, prep all of the remaining ingredients as directed.  Place the well-drained macaroni and all of the diced vegetables into a large bowl.   Combine the macaroni with all of the veggies.

IMG_7746 IMG_7751 IMG_7753~ Step 3.  Gently fold in the chopped eggs, followed by the sauce.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours.

Serve chilled as a side-dish to your favorite Cajun- or Creole-spiced fare!

IMG_7788It goes great w/blackened steak, chicken or fish & 'burgers too!

IMG_7803Holy Trinity & Remoulade:  Cajun Macaroni Salad:  Recipe yields 10 cups.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; plastic wrap 

IMG_7595Cook's Note:  While today's macaroni salad is the perfect side-dish to serve with almost any blackened-steak, chicken or fish dish, I love to serve it with my ~ Bayou Pork Burgers w/Ragin'-Cajun Remoulade ~.  You can find my recipe by clicking into Categories 2, 3, 10 or 17.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/05/2016

~ Bayou Pork Burgers w/Ragin'-Cajun Remoulade ~

IMG_7595"I will never be blue, my dreams come true, on Blue Bayou."  Hold that beautiful thought because  Roy Orbison singing Blue Bayou is as close as I'll get to the Louisiana bayou -- or any bayou.  Plenty full of pretty pelicans, herons and spoonbills, it's the alligators, snakes, and leeches that will keep me out.  That said, many Cajuns, and a few Creoles too, feel right at home in these mysterious reaches of Southern Louisiana -- bayou life has its own pace and culture.

BayouA bayou is a body of water found in flat, low-lying areas.  It can refer to a slow-moving stream or river with a poorly defined shoreline, or, to a marshy lake or wetland.  The name "bayou" is native to Louisiana, originating from "bayuk", a word meaning "small stream" in a Native American tongue local to Louisiana which referred to:  the wide and narrow streams fed by the Mississippi River that braided their way through the low-lying areas of Southern Louisiana.

These extremely slow-moving streams provide an ideal habitat for alligators, crawfish, certain species of shrimp, frogs and catfish -- all of which are popular bayou fare.  While there's plenty of Creole flavors in the bayou, the most closely associated culture to the bayou is the Cajun culture.  Cajuns were French-speaking settlers who relocated from Nova Scotia.  They were actually known as "Acadians" but the local slang eventually led to the word becoming "Cajun". 

IMG_6414Cajun cooking is a simple, rustic, country-style of cooking born out of the necessity of peasants and represents a combination of French and Southen fare.  Cajun cooks use copius amounts of inexpensive pork fat along with anything they can hunt, trap or harvest from the swamps and bayous.  Cajun food tends to be one-pot, low-and-slow-cooked stew-like meals prepared in a single cast-iron pot or skillet.     

IMG_5803Creole cooking is the more refined, sophisticated-style of city dwellers, born out of restaurant chefs accessing the best ingredients of French, Spanish and African cuisines.  Creole cooks, who are continuously supplied by the commerce of the ports, place emphasis on rich and fresh butter, cream and eggs.  Creole food is more elegant and requires two or three cast-iron cooking vessels.  

IMG_6164Both cuisines rely upon the "holy trinity" (onion, celery and green bell pepper) and rice, however, Cajun food is based on inexpensive additions and is plain looking, while Creole food is based on more exotic ingredients and is quite flamboyant.  When it comes to spice, they both use the same spices, in quantities determined by how spicy the food is supposed to be or they want it to be.

"Cajuns eat in the kitchen and Creoles eat in the dining room!" ~ Chef John D. Folse

IMG_7490A bit about Classic French, Cajun and Creole remoulade sauce: French remoulade (ray-muh-LAHD) is a creamy to yellowish-colored condiment, containing lemon- or vinegar-laced homemade mayonnaise, mustard, shallots, capers, gherkins, herbs and sometimes anchovies.  Cajun remoulade, which is mayonnaise-based too, differs from the French original in that it has pink hues and a piquant flavor due to the addition of ketchup, cayenne pepper and/or paprika.  Creole remoulade, is a slightly-chunkier, reddish-hued oil-based condiment-sauce containing ketchup, finely-chopped vegetables (usually green onion, celery and parsley), stone-ground or Creole mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, and, sometimes horseradish.  In all cases, remoulade is served chilled to accompany or dress cold meats, poultry, fish or shellfish.  Occasionally, Creole remoulade will contain a small amount of mayonnaise to give it a slightly creamy texture.  Read on:

IMG_7513Creole remoulade + mayo = My kinda Cajun-Creole remoulade!

6a0120a8551282970b01bb090ba836970d-120wiFor the remoulade sauce:

3/4  cup Creole-style remoulade sauce (Note:  You can use your favorite store-bought brand, like Zatarain's, your own favorite recipe, or, my recipe for ~ Remoulade Sauce:  A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen ~, which can be found by clicking to Category 8.)

4-6  tablespoons mayonnaise

IMG_7502 IMG_7516~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid, thoroughly stir the Creole remoulade and enough mayo to get a creamy consistency and a taste you like.

Ground pork loin + Cajun seasoning = My kinda pork-burger!

IMG_7561A pork loin, if left untrimmed, when ground, has just the right amount of fat on it to cook up into a very juicy burger that can compete with the best of beef burgers.  While it may feel looser-textured, do not be inclined to add an egg or any type of binder to it -- it grills up just great! 

IMG_7520For the pork burgers:

1 1/2  pounds pork loin, untrimmed & cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes

1/2  cup very coarsely-chopped onion (2 ounces)

1/2  cup each:  very coarsely-chopped, sweet yellow and orange bell pepper (2 ounces each) (Note: green bell pepper may be substituted but I like the subtler flavors of the sweet peppers better.)

1  tablespoon Cajun seasoning

1/2  teaspoon Tabasco

IMG_6207 IMG_6209 IMG_7522 IMG_7524~Step 1.  Cube the pork as directed, placing it in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 25-30 on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the pork.  Transfer the ground pork to a large bowl.   There is no need to wash the processor bowl.  Add the onion and bell peppers to work bowl and using a series of 15-20 on-off pulses, chop the vegetables.

IMG_7526 IMG_7533~ Step 2.  Add the chopped veggies to the bowl containing the ground pork.  Add the Cajun seasoning and the Tabasco.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine.  You will have slightly under 2 pounds of burger mixture (1 pound, 14 ounces).

IMG_7552 IMG_7541~ Step 3. Divide and form burger mixture into four, 4" round, 3/4" thick discs, about 7 1/2 ounces each.  I use a kitchen scale to insure they're indeed even-sized. Place burgers on grill pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. Cook until golden-brown brown on both sides, turning only once, 5 1/2-6 minutes per side.

No cheese please!  Just lettuce, tomato & remoulade!!!

IMG_7585100% worthy of my favorite Ragin'-Cajun (James Carville):

IMG_7607Bayou Pork Burgers w/Ragin'-Cajun Remoulade:  Recipe yields 4 burgers and 1 cup of Ragin'-Cajun remoulade sauce.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 12" grill pan

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c86891d8970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1f272da970cCook's Note: Two more of my favorite and classic NOLA recipes that use Creole remoulade sauce ~ Mardi Gras Shrimp Remoulade a la Galatoires ~, and,~ Louisiana's Famous Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwiches ~ can be in Categories 2, 11 or 14.  Both are a perfect Cajun-Creole change-of-pace choice to make for or take to almost any outdoor picnic or gathering.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

06/02/2016

~ Remoulade Sauce: A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen ~

IMG_7487It is 99.9% impossible to visit New Orleans and not experience their remoulade sauces. Lots of people go to NOLA for Mardi Gras.  Back in 1982, Joe and I decided to spend seven days there, which included New Years Eve and New Years Day -- if you like to travel, I highly recommend doing this.  I tell everyone, "we did nothing but eat our way through the city's superb restaurants, bars, grilles and countryside dives".  For our very first meal, we chose to dine at the elegant Galatoire's, where I encountered their signature appetizer:  Creole shrimp remoulade.

Remoulade sauce is a refreshing condiment for the Summer season too!

IMG_7490In New Orleans, you'll find three types of remoulade sauce:  French, Cajun & Creole.

Remoulade_SauceA bit about Classic French, Cajun and Creole remoulade sauce: French remoulade (ray-muh-LAHD) is a creamy to yellowish-colored condiment-sauce, containing lemon- or vinegar-laced homemade mayonnaise, mustard, shallots, capers, gherkins, herbs and sometimes anchovies.  Cajun remoulade, which is mayonnaise-based too, differs from the French original in that it has pink hues and a piquant flavor due to the addition of ketchup, cayenne pepper and/or paprika. <<<Creole remoulade, is a slightly-chunkier, reddish-hued oil-based condiment-sauce containing ketchup, finely-chopped vegetables (usually green onion, celery and parsley), stone-ground or Creole mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, and, sometimes horseradish.  In all cases, remoulade is served chilled to accompany or dress cold meats, poultry, fish or shellfish, and, it's great slathered on sandwiches too (like Nola's beloved Po' Boy).  Occasionally, Creole remoulade will contain a small amount of mayonnaise to give it a slightly creamy texture.

Cajun?  Creole? Somewhere in between?

Fact:  Cajun = country-style.  Creole = city-style.

Fiction:  Cajun cuisine is spicier than Creole Cuisine.

A bit about Cajun and Creole cuisines:  Cajun cooking is a simple, rustic, country-style of cooking born out of the necessity of peasants and represents a combination of French and Southen fare.  Creole cooking is a more refined, sophisticated-style of city dwellers, born out of restaurant chefs accessing the best ingredients of French, Spanish and African cuisines.  

PICT2692Cajun cooks use copius amounts of inexpensive pork fat along with anything they can hunt, trap or harvest from the swamps and bayous.  Creole cooks, who are supplied by the commerce of the ports, place emphasis on rich butter, cream and eggs.  Cajun food tends to be one-pot stew-like meals prepared in a single cast-iron pot. Creole food is more elegant and requires two or three cooking vessels.   Both cuisines rely heavily upon the "holy trinity" (diced onion, celery and green bell pepper) and rice, PICT2689however, Cajun food is based on inexpensive additions and is quite plain looking, while Creole food is based on more exotic ingredients and is quite flamboyant.

When it comes to spice, they both use the same spices, in quantities determined by how spicy the food is supposed to be or they want it to be. What it all boils down to:

"Cajuns eat in the kitchen and Creoles eat in the dining room!" ~ Chef John D. Folse

6a0120a8551282970b0168e7af9941970cFounded in 1905, Galatoire's Restaurant is the grand dame of New Orleans' old-line restaurants. It is a fine-dining, "coat and tie", "heels and hose" establishment. Currently under the fourth generation of family ownership, they maintain the rich tradition of serving authentic French Creole cuisine at an art form level.  I'll admit, the place is bistro busy and loud, but once you are seated at your white-clothed table, the superb food, cocktails and service are the only things you'll notice.

6a0120a8551282970b0168e7afc1fa970cGalatoire's most requested dish is their shrimp remoulade made with their signature "Louisiana red" Creole remoulade sauce -- a fiery, ketchup-y blend of grainy Creole mustard, horseradish, hot paprika, Worcestershire and vinegar all whisked together with some oil until emulsified.  Once you've tasted theirs, no other will do.  Luckily, they published their recipe, so we can make it at home.

The following is my version of Galatoire's published shrimp remoulade recipe.  I use almost the same ingredients list, only in measurements that suit my family's palate.  In Melanie's Kitchen, we like our vegetables (celery, scallions, onion and parsley) a little chunky,  so I finely dice them. At Galatoire's, they mince their vegetables in a food processor.  That choice remains yours!

PICT2688For the remoulade sauce:

3/4-1  cup finely diced celery

3/4-1  cup very thinly sliced green onions, white and light green part only (Note:  Reserve dark green tops for garnishing as directed below.)*

1/2-3/4  cup finely diced yellow or sweet onion

1/2-3/4  cup finely diced curly parsley leaves, as few stems as possible

1 1/2  cups chili sauce

1/2  cup Creole mustard

1/4  cup red wine vinegar

2  tablespoons prepared white horseradish

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1  tablespoon smoked paprika

1/2  teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 

1/2-3/4  cup vegetable oil

PICT2690Step 1.  Prep the celery, green onions, yellow onion and parsley as directed.  Set aside.

Step 2.  In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place all ingredients except for oil. Process until smooth and uniform in color, 25-30 seconds.

Note:  Now is the time to taste and adjust your remoulade mixture for seasonings -- tweek 'em to your liking.  There is no going back to do it after the next step.

PICT2697 PICT2695                                          ~ Step 3. With the processor motor running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream, until the desired consistency is reached, stopping after 1/2 cup has been added to see if it is to your liking.  Stop if it is.

Step 4. Transfer to a medium bowl and fold in the prepped vegetables. Refrigerate 1-2 hours, overnight, or up to 1 week.  Serve chilled.

Because remoulade sauce is always served chilled w/cold fare, &, because Creole remoulade contains no mayo, it's a great condiment-sauce to keep on-hand during the Summer season:

PICT2704Add something new to your Summer menu:  remoulade!

IMG_7499Remoulade Sauce:  A Staple in the NOLA Kitchen:  Recipe yields 4 generous cups remoulade sauce.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container; food processor; 1-quart food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

PICT2692 PICT2689Cook's Note: You can find both of my recipes for ~ Mardi Gras Shrimp Remoulade a la Galatoires ~, and, ~ Louisiana's Famous Shrimp Po' Boy Sandwiches ~ in Categories 2, 11 or 14.  Both are a perfect change-of-pace choice to make for or take to any picnic or gathering.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)