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12 posts from October 2016

10/30/2016

~ Short and Sweet: A Three-Ingredient Tart Pastry ~

IMG_2492Pies and tarts:  Two of my all-time favorite desserts.  This isn't a "pass/fail", but, you only get out of something what you put into it, and, the pie or tart pastry you choose to use can turn a dessert from ordinary to extraordinary.  While we all agree we love the time-saving convenience of picking up a store-bought pie crust or pastry on occasion, in our hearts we also know their taste and texture are a compromise.  Even a store-bought, artificially-flavored graham cracker or cookie crust pales in comparison to one made at home using real-deal melted butter instead.

Is there a difference between pie & tart pastry?

The answer is a mixed bag, so, I'll stick to sharing my opinion, which you can compare to others. It begins with knowing the difference between a pie and a tart (read the explanations below), and ends with:  The crust you use to make a tart is more important than the crust you use to make a pie.  When it comes to pie, the crust is there more to hold the filling than it is for taste. When it comes to a tart, the crust plays a bigger part because its taste is integral to the dessert.  

PICT0013A pie is a sweet or savory dish with a bottom crust, a filling, and sometimes a top crust.  It's baked in a dish or a pan with sloped sides.  A pie crust is typically made with flour, salt, cold water and fat or a combination of fat (butter, lard or vegetable shortening).  A pie crust is rolled flat, placed in the dish, baked and expected to be crisp and flaky.  Sometimes a pie pastry is blind-baked before filling, sometimes not.  Pie is sliced and served out of the dish it is baked in.

A tart is a sweet or savory dish with a bottom crust and a filling.  It's baked in a pan with shallow, IMG_2513straight sides and a removable bottom.  While a pie pastry can always be used to make a savory tart, the preferred pastry for a sweet tart is starts out sugary and sandy in texture.  It gets patted and pressed together in the pan and is cookie-like in texture after baking.  This type of tart pastry is fragile and always blind-baked prior to filling. Tarts are always removed from the pan prior to slicing and serving.

You can find two of my all-time favorite recipes (both pictured above) for ~ My Lover Affair w/Lemon & Lemon Meringue Pie ~ and ~ Pucker Up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~ in Categories 6, 21 or 26. 

IMG_0915We bakers all have our favorite recipe for pâte brisée, and pâte sucrée (unsweetened and sweetened recipes for flaky quiche and pie pastry).  I know I do.  Some folks simply purchase pie pastry and I am neither going to judge nor criticize. What happens in your kitchen stays in your kitchen. Just remember: Whether making it from scratch or taking it out of a box, it's got to be rolled enough to fit into the bottom and up the sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom.

That said, I have a nifty little three-ingredient-recipe that is so easy-to-make you'd have to be crazy to use a store-bought crust.  Technically, it's in a category all its own and the fancy French word for it is pâte sablée.  Literally translated, it means "sand dough", because it has a coarse sand-like texture when mixed together.  It is so sandy, it gets dumped into a tart pan and pressed into place because, unlike a pie pastry, it's next-to-impossible to roll and impossible to pick up and move after rolling.  It produces a cookie-like crust, which makes it perfect for sweet tarts.    In my version, I melt some butter in the microwave, stir it into a mixture of flour and sugar, then pat and press it into the tart pan -- that's all there is to it.  It bakes up perfect each and every time.

IMG_2413For one 11" pâte sablée:

10 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) (Note:  If you choose to use unsalted butter, which a lot of bakers do, stir a scant 1/8 tablespoon salt into the flour and sugar mixture.)

2  cups + 3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

5  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

IMG_2415IMG_2417IMG_2423IMG_2424~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave.  In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour and sugar.  In a thin stream add the butter to the dry mixture, stirring constantly with the fork, until all the butter is added.  The mixture will resemble pea-sized crumbs that come together when a few small bits are pressed together with the fingertips.

IMG_2428 IMG_2432Step 2. Transfer all of the loose crumb mixture to the bottom of an 11" tart pan.  Using your fingertips, pat and press the mixture evenly but firmly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Note: Feel free to use a small hand-held tart roller if you have one (like the one pictured above), but it is not necessary.  Place on center rack of 340°-350º oven and blind-bake* until crust is a very light golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool the crust while preparing the tart filling.

IMG_2433

*Blind-bake or bake blind, is the English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled.  There are two instances when you need to prebake a pie or tart pastry:  #1)  A pastry shell that once the filling is added doesn't return to the oven for further baking.  In this application the pastry must be fully-baked, nicely browned and completely cooled before you add the filling, and #2)  A pastry shell that will get filled with a stirred custard, cream, mousse or fully-cooked/ready-to-eat filling and will return to the oven for further baking.  In this application, the degree to which you prebake the pastry (barely brown, lightly brown, golden brown) is determined by the length of time it will take the filled pie or tart to finish baking, meaning:  the longer it will take for the filling to bake, the lighter in color the prebaked crust should be when it goes into the oven.

To make a 10" or 12" tart:  Do the Math.  I did the math for you:

For a 10" pâte sablée tart pastry:

8  tablespoons salted butter butter (1 stick)

28  tablespoons flour (1 3/4 cups)

4  tablespoons sugar (1/4 cup)

For an 11" pâte sablée tart pastry:

10  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons)

35  tablespoons flour (2 cups + 3 tablespoons)

5  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

For a 12 " pâte sablée tart pastry:

12  tablespoons salted butter (1 1/2 sticks)

42  tablespoons flour (2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons)

6  tablespoons flour (1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons)

IMG_2472Fill baked tart shell & proceed w/the recipe as directed:

IMG_2480Short and Sweet:  A Three-Ingredient Tart Pastry:  Recipe yields one 10", 11" or 12" tart pastry.

Special Equipment List:  10", 11" or 12" tart pan; 1-cup measuring container; fork; hand-held tart roller (optional); wire cooling rack

IMG_5043Cook's Note: Want to know more? That's what I'm here for -- specifics. To get my detailed instructions for ~ How to:  Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell (Baking Blind) ~,  as well as all of my easy-to-follow step-by-step photos, click into Category 6 or 15.

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

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

10/27/2016

~ Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron) ~

IMG_2513One thing I love about the late Fall and Winter is the vibrant-colored citrus fruit. Because it's available all year long, a lot of folks don't realize that citrus fruit (lemons, limes, grapefruit and oranges) are in fact "winter fruit".  This year, for some reason, the citrus fruit I've been purchasing, is extra-over-the-top, plump, tart 'n sweet and juicy.  I've been eating grapefruit every morning, putting orange segments in our salads, lime slices in my gin and tonics, and, today I'm baking a lemon tart for dessert.  Tarte au citron is a classic French dessert and every patisserie (bakery) in Paris sells them whole and by the slice each and every day all year long.

In terms of classic tarte au citron recipes, mine is more easy than classic.  That said, please know, I would not pass it along unless it stacked up to the best of them.  It's got a really super-easy-to-make flaky crust and a seriously tart center.  I liken it to the tartness of a key lime pie only made with lemons.  The hardest part is juicing the lemons -- fresh juice is indeed the key. Depending on their size, you'll need six to seven lemons, enough to yield one full cup of juice.

IMG_2508FYI:  The Fall-Winter Season is 'Prime Time' for Citrus Fruit

6a0120a8551282970b017c36e582b1970b 6a0120a8551282970b015390ff7410970bCitrus fruits are all appreciated for their juice and the oils in their zest. While the interior segments of all citrus can be eaten (or squeezed to extract the juice for drinking), grapefruit and oranges are the two most associated with hand-to-mouth consumption.  Tart lemons and limes are usually sweetened with sugar or sugar syrup and used in a host of beverage and baking applications.

IMG_2492Part One:  Making My Three ingredient, Super-Easy Crust

IMG_0915We bakers all have our favorite recipe for pâte brisée, and pâte sucrée (unsweetened and sweetened recipes for flaky quiche and pie pastry).  I know I do.  Some folks simply purchase pie pastry and I am neither going to judge nor criticize. What happens in your kitchen stays in your kitchen. Just remember: Whether making it from scratch or taking it out of a box, it's got to be rolled enough to fit into the bottom and up the sides of an 11" tart pan with a removable bottom.

That said, I have a nifty little three-ingredient-recipe that is so easy-to-make you'd have to be crazy to use a store-bought crust.  Technically, it's in a category all its own and the fancy French word for it is pâte sablée.  Literally translated, it means "sand dough", because it has a coarse sand-like texture when mixed together.  It is so sandy, it gets dumped into a tart pan and pressed into place because, unlike a pie pastry, it's next-to-impossible to roll and impossible to pick up and move after rolling.  It produces a cookie-like crust, which makes it perfect for tarts.    In my version, I simply melt some butter in the microwave, stir it into a mixture of flour and sugar, then pat and press it into the tart pan -- that's all there is to it.  It bakes up perfect each and every time.

IMG_2413For one 11" tart crust:

10 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) (Note:  If you choose to use unsalted butter, which a lot of bakers do, stir a scant 1/8 tablespoon salt into the flour and sugar mixture.)

2  cups + 3 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

5  tablespoons granulated sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon)

IMG_2415 IMG_2417 IMG_2423 IMG_2424~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave.  In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together the flour and sugar.  In a thin stream add the butter to the dry mixture, stirring constantly with the fork, until all the butter is added.  The mixture will resemble pea-sized crumbs that come together when a few small bits are pressed together with the fingertips.

IMG_2428 IMG_2432~ Step 2.  Transfer all of the loose crumb mixture to the bottom of an 11" tart pan.  Using your fingertips, pat and press the mixture evenly but firmly across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Note:  Feel free to use a small hand-held tart roller if you have one (like the one pictured above), but it is not necessary.  Place on center rack of 340°-350º oven and bake until crust is a very light golden brown, 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool the crust while preparing the tart filling.

IMG_2433Part Two:  Making My Super-Easy Lemon Tart Filling

IMG_2447For the lemon filling

1  cup fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 of the lemons

6  large eggs

1  cup granulated sugar

1/8  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting baked and cooled tart

IMG_2444 IMG_2449 IMG_2454 IMG_2458 IMG_2460~Step 1.  Place the tart crust on a large baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Juice 6-7 lemons via your favorite method until you have 1 cup of juice. Using a microplane grater, zest one of the lemons before you juice it.

In a medium bowl, on medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, thoroughly combine the eggs, lemon zest, sugar and salt.  Lastly, add and beat in the lemon juice.

IMG_2462 IMG_2465 IMG_2466 IMG_2469 IMG_2472~Step 2.  Wash and dry the mixer beaters.  In a medium bowl over high speed of mixer, beat cream to soft peaks.  Over medium-low speed of mixer, add and thoroughly incorporate the cream into the egg mixture.  Pour all of the filling into the crust.  Note:  If you have used an 11" tart pan, it will be full to capacity with none left over.

IMG_2478~ Step 3.  Bake on center rack of 340°-350º about 23-25 minutes. The tart will be a pretty golden across the top and the center will be just set (it should be wobbly in its entirety yet set to the touch in the center).  Remove baking pan from oven, transfer the tart to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Just prior to slicing and serving, generously dust the top with a coating of Confectioners' sugar.

Remove sides from tart pan & dust top w/Confectioners' sugar:

IMG_2480Slice, serve & pucker up for some lemon perfection: 

IMG_2512Much easier than some classic recipes, quite possibly better too:

IMG_2527Pucker up for French Lemon Tart (Tarte au Citron):  Recipe yields 1, 11" tart and 10-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  11" tart pan; 1-cup measuring container; fork; hand-held tart roller (optional); wire cooling rack; microplane grater; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper

IMG_3202Cook's Note: My favorite key lime pie recipe, which can be made with fresh key limes or high-quality key-lime juice is ~ The Famous Mar-a-Lago Key Lime Pie ~.  Like today's lemon tart, the filling gets made, poured into a pre-baked graham cracker crust and placed in the oven until just set.  Unlike todays lemon tart, this one is best after it's been refrigerated.  My recipe is in Categories 6, 21 and 26.

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

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

10/24/2016

~ Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders ~

IMG_2371In case you haven't heard, Buffalo wings were created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, late one night in 1964, when Frank and Teresa Bellisimo needed some pub grub for the last of that evening's customers.  Teresa sauced the now iconic deep-fried chicken wings with a concoction of Frank's RedHot sauce and melted butter which became just as famous as the wings.  By the 1980's, Buffalo wing sauce was being applied to a whole host of other food creations too:

IMG_2387"Buffalo" chicken dip, "Buffalo" chicken quesadillas, "Buffalo" chicken salad (one of my personal favorites), "Buffalo" chicken pizza, "Buffalo" popcorn chicken and shrimp, and, "Buffalo" chicken fingers, nuggets and fries.  If it's got "Buffalo" in the name, it's got Buffalo sauce in it, on it, or alongside it. There are even "Buffalo"-flavored potato chips (kind of fake tasting and not one of my favorites).

My Buffalo chicken sliders are a recipe I spun-off the shredded chicken topping I use to make Buffalo chicken pizza.  Topped with my easy-to-make ~ Buffalo-Style Blue-Cheese & Celery "Slider Slaw" ~ they were an instant hit with my football-watching family:

IMG_23485  cups store-bought coleslaw mix (10 ounces)

1 1/4  cups crumbled blue cheese

1  cup diced celery (4 ounces)

3/4  cup diced scallion (4 ounces)

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

10-12  tablespoons chunky-style blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing, your choice

1-2 tablespoons Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, not Frank's RedHot

^^^ Prep, place and mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl and refrigerate until chilled.

For my tender, all-white-meat shredded buffalo-style chicken:

IMG_20692 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders, about 10 tenders

3/4  cup prepared Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, not Franks RedHot, or your favorite brand of wing sauce

1  quart cold water, for poaching chicken tenders

1  tablespoon sea salt, for poaching chicken tenders 

3/4  cup very-thinly sliced scallions, white and green part only (Note:  Yellow or sweet onion can be substituted for scallions in both the slaw and the chicken filling.)

8  ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, about 2 cups

12, 2 1/2"-3" round or square slider-sized rolls (Note:  Those pictured in this post are King's Hawaiian brand.

IMG_2072IMG_2075IMG_2083IMG_2084IMG_2078IMG_2090IMG_2092IMG_2094~Step 1.  Place tenders in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, then add the water and salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover pan and cook until soft and tender, 30 minutes.  While chicken is simmering, slice the scallions, grate the Jack cheese, and set both aside.  Remove chicken from heat, drain into a colander, and allow to cool until you can handle them with your hands, about 15 minutes.  Using your fingertips break chicken in chunks, then pull it into small bite-sized bits and pieces, placing it in a medium bowl as you work.

IMG_2096IMG_2098IMG_2103IMG_2106~Step 2.  Add the 1/2 cup of scallions and 1/2 cup of the Jack cheese to the pulled chicken. Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, to thoroughly combine.  Add the Buffalo wing sauce and toss again, making sure that everything is completely coated in sauce. 

Top each slider w/1/3-1/2 cup meat filling & 1/3-1/2 cup slaw:

IMG_2388Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders:  Recipe yields 5-6 cups chicken filling and 5-6 cups slaw and 12 slider sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; colander; cutting board; chef's knife;  hand-held box grater

IMG_2324Cook's Note: ~ Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Wing Sauce ~ can be found on store shelves everywhere. That said, it's super-easy to make at home, and, because it's made with real-deal melted butter (instead of butter flavoring) it tastes better too. To get my recipe, click into Categories 1, 8, 17 or 20.

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

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

10/22/2016

~ Buffalo-Style Blue-Cheese & Celery "Slider Slaw" ~

IMG_2349Slider slaw.  That's the nickname affectionately given to this tangy little concoction by the football-watching men in my life -- the ones who like my bacon 'n blue cheese hamburger sliders on college game day Saturdays, and, my Buffalo-style shredded chicken sliders on professional game day Sundays.  While I first intended this to be a side-dish, nowadays, if you were sitting around my house watching football, you'd encounter my guys heaping it atop their sliders. 

IMG_2348Slider slaw.  This is not a rocket science recipe.  In fact, it took me twice as long to make it today because I had to measure and weigh my ingredients to write this blog post -- instead of just throwing them into a bowl and stirring them all together without giving any thought to specifics.  

IMG_23265  cups store-bought coleslaw mix (10 ounces)

1 1/4  cups crumbled blue cheese

1  cup diced celery (4 ounces)

3/4  cup diced onion (4 ounces)

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

10-12  tablespoons chunky-style blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing, your choice

1-2 tablespoons Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, not Frank's RedHot

IMG_2331 IMG_2335 IMG_2336 IMG_2340 IMG_2343~Step 1.  In a large bowl prep and place the slaw mix, crumbled blue cheese, diced celery, diced onion and celery seed.  Using a large spoon or spatula, fold to thoroughly combine.  Add the 10 tablespoons of the blue cheese or ranch dressing and 1  tablespoon of the wing sauce.  Toss again.  Taste and adjust the creamy texture and the heat by adding a bit more salad dressing or wing sauce.  Transfer to a 2-quart food storage container with a tight-fitting lid, cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until well-chilled (overnight is fine too).

Side-dish?  Slider or 'burger topper?  The choice is yours!

IMG_2353Next post: ~ Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n "Slaw Sliders" ~  

IMG_2371Buffalo-Style Blue-Cheese & Celery "Slider Slaw":  Recipe yields 8 cups of slaw.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon or spatula; 2-quart food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

IMG_0990Cook's Note:  I really enjoy crunchy cole slaw a lot, and, you'll find several different recipes for it here on Kitchen Encounters.  One of my favorites ~ Asian Broccoli Slaw w/Honey-Sesame Dressing ~ is a pleasant change of pace from those made with creamy dressings.  You can find this refreshing recipe in Categories 2, 4, 13 or 20.

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

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

10/20/2016

~ Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce ~

IMG_2234Wander into a bar -- any bar, anywhere in America.  Buffalo wings are on the pub grub menu. No description is necessary.  You know you're getting unbreaded, deep-fried wingettes and drumettes coated in a vivid-red vinegar-based cayenne pepper and melted butter sauce.  They'll arrive with celery and carrot sticks, and either blue cheese or ranch dressing for dipping or drizzling.  You will most likely be asked to specify if you want your wings coated in a mild, medium or hot version of the sauce.  Buffalo wing sauce is a classic concoction.  Read on:

IMG_2317Frank's RedHot is synonymous with Buffalo chicken wings.  Why? Frank's was the secret ingredient used in the original Buffalo chicken wing sauce recipe created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY in 1964 by Frank and Teresa Bellisimo.  

There are three stories regarding the invention of Buffalo wings and all three come directly from members of the family, their closest friends and loyal bar patrons:  

1)  Their son Dominic arrived late at night with a few hungry college buddies.  Teresa needed a fast snack and threw some chicken wings (which would normally be used to make chicken stock) in the deep-fryer and tossed them with some hot sauce and melted butter.  

2)  There was a mis-delivery of wings instead of backs and necks (which Teresa used to make the bar's spaghetti sauce.  Faced with tossing them out or taking up freezer space, Frank asked Theresa to come up with a use for them.  

3)  Dominic was working late in the kitchen on a Friday night and folks were still ordering a lot of drinks.  He wanted to do something nice for the patrons (who were mostly Catholic) and Teresa came up with the idea of wings, as it was after midnight and they were able to eat meat again.

In 1977, Buffalo officially declared July 29th, Chicken Wing Day.

By the 1980's, Buffalo wing sauce was being applied to a list of other food creations too: "Buffalo" chicken dip, "Buffalo" chicken quesadillas, "Buffalo" chicken salad (one of my personal favorites), "Buffalo" chicken pizza, "Buffalo" popcorn chicken and shrimp, and, "Buffalo" chicken fingers, nuggets and fries.  If it's got "Buffalo" in the name, it's got Buffalo sauce in it, on it, or alongside it.  There's even "Buffalo"-flavored potato chips (sorry -- not one of my favorites).

20110202-wing-sauce-primaryIt was inevitable that Frank's would start bottling and mass marketing their wing sauce.  Several other brands followed suit too.  For my taste, Frank's is #1.  That said, my husband likes a brand called Texas Pete.  Crystal is popular with a lot of folks, and, of course, there's an Anchor Bar wing sauce too.

< I borrowed this photo from the Serious Eats website.  They conducted a taste test of seven brands and wrote an interesting, in-depth article about it.  Read it.

What's the difference between hot pepper sauce and wing sauce?

IMG_2324The four bottles pictured above, from left to right, were the top four in the Serious Eats wing sauce taste test.  Aside from their #1, Anchor Bar, (which I've not tasted), I have tried the other three (and their cayenne pepper sauces too).  I'm using Frank's brand because it is my favorite (and it's worth noting the winner of Serious Eats best hot pepper sauce taste test).  So, what is the difference between bottled hot pepper sauces and wing sauces?  Wing sauces simply have butter flavoring added to them.

While bottled wing sauce is convenient, you're getting butter flavoring rather than real butter.  If it is convenience you need, go for it -- bottled wing sauces taste just fine unless your tasting them side-by-side one made with real-deal melted butter.  Interestingly enough, if you take the time to read the back label on any bottle of cayenne pepper sauce, you'll find instructions for making wing sauce -- and it simply says to mix their hot sauce with some amount of melted butter.

IMG_2227For my Frank's Style Buffalo-Style Wing Sauce:

In a 2-cup measuring container, in the microwave, melt:

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

whisk in:

1  cup Frank's RedHot

2  tablespoons white vinegar

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

Note:  To make your wing sauce hot, or extra-hot, add cayenne pepper (ground red pepper) in 1/4 teaspoon increments until you achieve the desired heat.  If you like your wing sauce sweeter, whisk in 1 tablespoon honey.  For a smoky flavor, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika will do the trick.  I occasionally add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, because I love onion flavor, and, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder is another option that my son enjoys. 

IMG_2230Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce:  Recipe yields 1 generous cup wing sauce, enough to coat 4 dozen chicken wings (taken from 6 total pounds of whole chicken wings that have been separated into three pieces each).

Special Equipment List:  1 cup measuring container; whisk

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09436912970d 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8a58213970bCook's Note & Tip from Mel: Chicken wings have 3 parts, the meatier drumette, the wingette and, the skinny wing tip.  Once separated (via a pair of poultry shears), I only serve the drumettes and wingettes.  I freeze the tips to make chicken stock.  To learn how I cut, cook and sauce chicken wings, read ~ JoePa's Chicken Wings: Deep-Fried to Perfection ~ in Categories 1, 2 or 17.

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

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

10/18/2016

~ My Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip ~

IMG_2298The first recipe for Buffalo-style chicken dip I came across was published by Frank's RedHot. This makes sense as Frank's was the secret ingredient used in the original Buffalo chicken wing sauce recipe created in Buffalo, NY in 1964 by Frank and Teresa Bellisimo.  Their easy-to-make dip contained just five ingredients (shredded cooked chicken, softened cream cheese, Frank's Redhot, Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing, and crumbled blue cheese). Speaking frankly about Frank's recipe, it was and is very good.  During the 1980's, the recipe was passed around to everyone in our tailgate group and it showed up regularly at early morning tailgates -- it went great with bloody Mary's for breakfast.  Those were good times.

IMG_2311I, of course, tweaked the original recipe to suit myself and so did a lot of us.  That said, in my version, I did stay true to the original flavors of Buffalo chicken wings.  You'll not find any bell peppers or sharp cheddar cheese in my recipe because they are out of place.  Those are Tex-Mex-style ingredients and this is a Buffalo-style recipe.  In my opinion, if you "go there" with the peppers and cheddar, you might as well use Velveeta and throw in a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes too.  I'm not saying that wouldn't be good (because it would) -- it's simply missing the point.    

IMG_2198There's more: I used my Buffalo chicken dip as the inspiration to create a second recipe:  ~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~, but even then, except for the rather tasteless flour tortilla used as the casing for my creation, I did nothing to infuse any Tex-Mex flavor.  Just click on the Related Article link below to read it. In it you'll find a great recipe for my ~ Buffalo Bill's Blue Cheese Slaw ~ which is great served with or on bacon and blue cheese 'burgers.

All the flavors of Buffalo wings in one easy-to-make dip:

IMG_22381 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs or tenders, simmered gently in salted water (1 quart cold water and 1 tablespoon sea salt in a 4-quart saucepan)  for 30 minutes, drained and chopped or pulled into bite-sized pieces, 4 cups chopped chicken

1  cup very-thinly sliced scallions, white and green part only, (about 4 ounces) save tops for garnish

8  ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, about 2 cups (1 cup stirred into chicken mixture and 1 cup used as topping)

1  cup crumbled blue cheese 

8  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

3/4  cup prepared Frank's Buffalo wing sauce, or your favorite brand, not cayenne pepper sauce (Note:  To make Frank's-style wing sauce at home, read my Cook's Note below.)

1/2  cup chunky-style blue cheese or ranch dressing, your choice

Chicken in a Biskit crackers, for serving

celery and carrot sticks, for serving

IMG_2241 IMG_2243 IMG_2246 IMG_2247~Step 1.  Place the chopped chicken, blue cheese crumbles and sliced scallions in a large bowl. Using a large spatula, thoroughly combine.  Add and fold in half of the Jack cheese.  Set aside.

IMG_2249 IMG_2252 IMG_2256 IMG_2257~Step 2.  Place the softened cream cheese, wing sauce and blue cheese dressing in a medium bowl.  On medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, combine until smooth about 1 minute.  Add and fold the sauce mixture into the chicken mixture and thoroughly combine.

Transfer dip mixture to a 12" oval au gratin or 10" pie dish:

IMG_2259Sprinkle reserved Jack cheese over the top:

IMG_2264Bake in 350º oven until bubbly, 20-25 minutes:

IMG_2268Allow to cool about 15-20 minutes before dipping in:

IMG_2276My Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip:  Recipe yields dip as an appetizer for 6-8-10 people, depending upon what other appetizers are getting served with it.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan (for poaching chicken); colander; cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held cheese grater; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 12" oval gratin or 10" quiche dish

IMG_2230Cook's Note:  Don't have a bottle of Frank's Buffalo-wing sauce on-hand in your pantry?  Not a problem.  To make your own, just whisk together 1/2 cup melted salted butter, 1/2 cup Frank's RedHot sauce, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder.

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

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

10/16/2016

~ Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas ~

IMG_2198My public opinion of Buffalo chicken wings is the popular and safe one:  everyone loves Buffalo wings.  My private opinion is:  serving them needs to be better regulated.  Just so there are no misunderstandings, I like wings, but, a finger food drenched in a vivid orangish-red sauce guaranteed to stain my pretty French manicure or ruin my silk blouse ticks me off.  There's more: To those who serve wings in a sauce so hot it forces tears to my eyes that causes my mascara run:  Extremism is a dish best saved for yourself, not served to your unsuspecting guests.

"Primum non Nocere." -- Latin for "First, do no harm."

IMG_2188Know your crowd.  In my cooking classes, I preach this all the time.  If you've taken one of my classes, I have speechified this to you and you have paid me good money to do it.  If you have ever been entertained in my home as a guest, my kitchen has many faces and you only get to see the one that is appropriate for that given occasion.  I'm proud to say it's a smart and skillful art that has earned me a broad base of very diverse friends which I have learned a lot from.  

At risk of sounding sexist:  Buffalo wings per se are man food.   To state it another way, if I'm inviting a group of women to my home for lunch, serving chicken wings is "off the table".  If I'm inviting men, chicken wings are "on the table".  That said, for a casual gathering for men and women, there are ways we can all work together to bridge the gender gap to include user-friendly buffalo-style snacks and appetizers for all to enjoy that "do no harm" to anyone.

The Buffalo-style Chicken Quesadilla:  All the classic flavors present & accounted for & sandwiched together in a safe-to-eat sandwich.

IMG_2162When put to a vote of family and friends, the vast majority would rather eat these quesadillas than Buffalo wings.  They deliver on all of the classic wing flavors (and textures) too:  chunks of tender white-meat chicken in every bite mixed with the vinegary heat of Buffalo-style hot sauce and some sliced scallions, blue cheese combined with a bit of Monterey Jack for some ooey-gooey meltiness, and, in the case of my recipe, store-bought slaw mix tossed together with blue cheese or Ranch dressing to mimic the crunch of the celery and carrot sticks too.  Once all things are sandwiched together between a slightly-crispy hot-out-of-grill-pan quesadilla, not one person who has ever tried them has ever said, "I wish you would have made wings instead."

IMG_20691 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenders, about 8 tenders

3/4  cup prepared Buffalo wing sauce, your favorite brand, not cayenne pepper sauce

1  quart cold water, for poaching chicken tenders

1  tablespoon sea salt, for poaching chicken tenders 

1/2  cup very-thinly sliced scallions, white and green part only, save tops for garnish (about 2 ounces)

16  ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, about 4 cups, total throughout recipe (Note: 1/2 cup gets stirred into the chicken mixture and 7 tablespoons -- 1 tablespoon shy of 1/2 cup -- gets sprinkled onto each of 8 flour tortillas.

3  cups store-bought coleslaw mix (about 8 ounces)

3/4 cup chunky-style blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing, your choice

1  cup crumbled blue cheese

8, 8" round flour tortillas

vegetable oil, for cooking quesadillas

IMG_2072 IMG_2075 IMG_2083 IMG_2084 IMG_2078 IMG_2090 IMG_2092 IMG_2094~Step 1.  Place tenders in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, then add the water and salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover pan and cook until soft and tender, 30 minutes.  While chicken is simmering, slice the scallions, grate the Jack cheese, and set both aside.  Remove chicken from heat, drain into a colander, and allow to cool until you can handle them with your hands, about 15 minutes.  Using your fingertips break chicken in chunks, then pull it into small bite-sized bits and pieces, placing it in a medium bowl as you work.

IMG_2096 IMG_2098 IMG_2103 IMG_2106~Step 2.  Add the 1/2 cup of scallions and 1/2 cup of the Jack cheese to the pulled chicken. Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, to thoroughly combine.  Add the Buffalo wing sauce and toss again, making sure that everything is completely coated in sauce. Speaking privately, my favorite store-bought wing sauce is Frank's -- use what you like best.

IMG_2107 IMG_2108 IMG_2111 IMG_2114 IMG_2118 IMG_2120~Step 3.  Add the slaw mix to a medium bowl. Add the blue cheese dressing, and using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, to completely coat.  Crumble and add the blue cheese and toss again.  Go ahead, take a taste, that's some kinda kick-ass blue cheese slaw.  For the public record, it's great on 'burgers too.

IMG_2122 IMG_2133 IMG_2136 IMG_2139 IMG_2142 IMG_2144~Step 4.  Spray a 12"-round grill pan with no-stick cooking spray and place it over medium heat (medium-heat on my gas stove is medium-high heat on an electric range).  Place a tortilla on the grids and sprinkle 7 tablespoons grated cheese (1 tablespoon shy of 1/2 cup) over the entire surface of the tortilla to within 1/2" of the perimeter all around.  Place a generous 1/2 cup of chicken filling atop the cheese on half of the tortilla, followed by 1/3 cup of the slaw mixture.  When the bottom layer of cheese has melted, which takes about 45-60 seconds, use a spatula to lift and fold the cheesy half of the tortilla over the chicken-filled half and allow to sit on the heat about 15 more seconds.  Remove from heat and transfer quesadilla to a cutting board.  Repeat with the remaining seven tortillas.

Smile for the camera & have a bit of patience...

IMG_2146... you gotta wait 1 minute before slicing it into three wedges.

IMG_2159Buck up, I get 1/3 of that -- I wrote this recipe for success. 

IMG_2220Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas:  Recipe yields 5 cups chicken mixture, 3 cups slaw and 8, 8" quesadillas and 2 dozen appetizers. 

Special Equipment List: 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; colander; cutting board; chef's knife;  hand-held box grater; 12"-round grill pan or nonstick skillet; wide spatula

IMG_1979Cook's Note:  I have quite a few recipes for quesadillas. Sometimes, I combine them to serve a quesadilla buffet.  ~ Cheesey Roast-Beef Pepper 'n Onion Quesadillas ~ is one you might want to check out in Categories 1, 2, 13 or 27.

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

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

10/13/2016

~ Cheesy Roast-Beef Pepper 'n Onion Quesadillas ~

IMG_1979Real-deal oven-roasted beef, a chunk of habanero cheddar cheese, my homemade Baja-spice mix, colorful bell peppers, a sweet onion and a package of flour tortillas.  The ingredients are all at my fingertips and the clock is ticking.  The only question is, how fast can I slice the beef, grate the cheese, sauté the veggies and assemble them all together between some flour tortillas, grill-pan them all up, get 'em sliced, plated and placed on the TGIF cocktails-are-served table.

Topped w/Sriracha-infused crema & fresh salsa too?

IMG_1996Making the beef, vegetable & spicy-cheddar quesadilla filling:

IMG_2027 IMG_2000~ Step 1.  I roast an eye-of-round every other week. I alternate it with turkey breast.  I do it to have weekday sandwich meat. Place an 8 pound roast on a rack in a roasting pan in a 350º oven for 1 1/2 hours.  You can find the detailed recipe ~ Eye-of-Round Roast = Back-to-School Sandwiches ~ in Category 2, 10, 17 or 20.

IMG_1879For the beef you'll need:

3  cups 1/2"-diced lean, roasted beef, preferably rare

I like to make my own spice blends too and I love my "Baja Spice Blend".  I use it to season fish tacos and chicken quesadillas and today I'm using it to season the bell pepper and onion sauté.  I won't call the food police if you use store-bought fajita seasoning, just use it judiciously -- it's a lot saltier than homemade.  To get the details about ~ The Spice is Right:  Baja & Carnitas Blends/Rubs ~, click into Categories 8, 13 or 20.  

IMG_4581For my dry Baja spice rub/blend:

4  tablespoons chili powder

1  tablespoon sea salt

2  teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2  teaspoons ground coriander

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon cayenne pepper

~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, stir together all of the spices, and, if you have one on hand, transfer to an empty shaker-type spice container.

IMG_1885For the bell pepper & onion sauté:

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

3  cups 1/2"-diced bell peppers, preferably a colorful combination of green, red, orange and yellow

1 1/2  cups 1/2"-diced onion

3  tablespoons Baja spice blend, total throughout recipe

3  cups diced roasted beef, from above recipe

IMG_1887 IMG_1888 IMG_1893 IMG_1894 IMG_1900~Step 3.  Place 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a 12" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and 1 tablespoon of the spice blend.  Using a large spoon, stir constantly until onion just beings to soften, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and season with a second tablespoon of the spice blend. Stir constantly until the peppers are beginning to soften, about 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Add the diced beef and the third and last tablespoon of spice blend. Stir until the meat is just heated through, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Do not cook the meat, just warm it.  Remove skillet from heat, partially cover  skillet and set aside.

IMG_1908 IMG_1902~ Step 4. Using a hand-held box grater, grate:

12  ounces habanero cheddar cheese, about 3 cups grated cheddar cheese 

Feel free to use your favorite white or yellow cheddar, Monterey Jack or Monterey Jack jalapeño cheese. Grate it yourself or purchase store-bought grated cheese.  They'll all work great and taste great and  the choice is yours.

Grilling the quesadillas on the stovetop in a grill pan:

IMG_4574Quesadilla (keh-sah-DEE-yah):  A round, flat, cooked-until-soft corn or flour tortilla, folded in half to form a half-moon with a savory filling sandwiched in the center.  It is fried on a well-seasoned cast-iron comal (a flat, round griddle), using no or very little oil, although in many modern kitchens, mine included, a grill pan is a great substitution.  

IMG_1912Almost any cooked and chopped or shredded meats and/or vegetables can be used as a filling for a quesadilla (fish and seafood are not typically used) -- the meats and vegetables must always be cooked first because a quesadilla cooks in a few short minutes.  That said, since "queso (KAY-soh)" is the Spanish word for "cheese":  a quesadilla is a container for ooey, gooey melted cheese.  For today's quesadillas, you'll need:

8, 8" round flour tortillas

IMG_1914 IMG_1915 IMG_1918 IMG_1921 IMG_1923 IMG_1925~Step 5.  Spray a 12"-round grill pan with no-stick cooking spray and place it over medium heat (medium-heat on my gas stove is medium-high heat on an electric range).  Place a tortilla on the grids and place 1/3 cup of grated cheese over half of the surface of the tortilla to within 1/2" of the edge.  Place 1/3 cup of the meat filling over the cheese, then, sprinkle another 2 tablespoons of cheese over the top of the meat and the unfilled half of the tortilla.  Using a spatula, lift and fold the empty half of the tortilla over the meat filled half and allow to cook until the cheese is just melted, about 45-60 seconds.  Remove from heat and transfer quesadilla to a cutting board.  Repeat with the remaining seven tortillas.

IMG_1944Wait 1 minute prior to slicing each quesadilla into 3 triangles:  

IMG_1956Crispy on the outside, cheesy & beefy on the inside:

IMG_1976Read below to learn about my Sriracha-Infused Crema:

IMG_1989Cheesy Roast-Beef Pepper 'n Onion Quesadillas:  Recipe yields 8, 8"-round quesadillas and 24 appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 12" skillet w/lid; large skillet; hand-held box grater; 12"-round grill pan or nonstick skillet; paper towel; wide spatula

IMG_4369Cook's Note:  For the toppings, I use tomato-based salsa (homemade or store-bought) and  an easy to make Sriracha-infused crema:

1/2  cup Mexican crema, or American sour cream

1/4  cup Sriracha hot sauce, more or less to taste

In a small bowl combine crema and Sriracha.  If you have a squirt bottle, the kind used to dispense salad dressings, transfer the mixture to it. It will make topping the quesadillas easy & mess free.

IMG_2052Extra Cook's Note Bonus Recipe: Spray a 13" x 9" casserole with no-stick spray.  On each of 6, 6" flour tortillas, place 1/3 cup shredded cheddar and 1/3-1/2 cup prepared meat mixture.  Lift up the left and right side of each tortilla and fasten with two toothpicks.  Sprinkle 1 1/2 cups additional shredded cheddar over the top centers of all.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 6-8 minutes, until cheese is melted.

IMG_2007 IMG_2011 IMG_2014 IMG_2026"We are all in this food world together."  ~Melanie Preschutti

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

10/11/2016

~Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings (Haluski)~

IMG_1859Potatoes have been a staple in the Eastern European diet for centuries.  When Columbus discovered potatoes on Hispaniola (an Island in the Caribbean), he could never have imagined how they would eventually revolutionize eating habits globally.  In the harsh, unforgiving climates of Eastern Europe in particular, the starchy potato got cooked and used in every imaginable way -- it literally saved generations from starvation.  In the process of creating a long list of delectable potato dishes, these resourceful people experimented with their "exotic" tuber and found they could make vodka (an alcoholic beverage), potato starch (similar to corn starch), confectioners' syrup (similar to corn syrup), and, hog feed (similar to corn feed) too.

When the Eastern Europeans (like two of my great-grandparents and three of my grandparents) came to America, their potato recipes came with them.  Four generations later, I got to grow up glibly eating all sorts of amazing potato dishes -- the thought of them as peasant food served for sustenance never once entered my mind.  Haluski is an example.  When my mom made them, they were a special treat to go with our meat and vegetables -- hard for a kid to imagine they were once served as a stick-to-your-ribs meal because there was nothing else in the larder to eat.  I especially enjoyed leftovers reheated in a frying pan the next day for lunch.

Slovak haluski differ from Polish haluski.  Both are Eastern European but: 

IMG_1855While both are classic Eastern European potato dishes, and both are generically referred to as "haluski" (ha-loosh-key), the Slovaks and the Poles will tell you in stereo that both dishes, while decidedly delicious, are distinctly different.  Slovak haluski are dumplings prepared with grated raw potatoes, sometimes grated onion, flour, eggs salt and pepper. The freeform dumplings are dropped from a spoon into boiling water to cook, drained and dressed with butter and onions or bacon and chives and sometimes a bit of crumbled Farmer's cheese.  

Polish haluski is a dish of butter-braised shredded or chopped green cabbage, onions, salt and pepper combined at the end with potato dumplings (which are often made from cooked and mashed potatoes rather than raw grated potatoes), or (as the dish became Americanized), al dente cooked and drained 1/2" wide egg noodles.  Dumplings or noodles, the choice is yours.

Making my sautéed butter and onion "dressing".

Contrary to popular belief, not everything tastes better with bacon.  The choice is yours but I much prefer butter and onions to dress my dumplings over bacon and chives.  Bacon and chives are very popular (some folks crumble some Farmer's cheese over the top too), but, for my taste, the smokey bacon just masques the flavor of the dumplings.  Butter and onions, on the other hand, which enrobes and slowly soaks into the dumplings, enhances the flavor.

IMG_1767For my butter and onion "dressing":

8  ounces salted butter (2 sticks)

2  cups finely-diced onion

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

Note:  This will yield 2 cups of "dressing".  While it sounds like a lot of cholesterol and calories, a little does go a long way.  It dresses a lot of haluski,  which no one has ever claimed to be lo-cal diet food.

IMG_1772 IMG_1777 IMG_1779 IMG_1781 IMG_1796~Step 1.  In a 2-quart saucepan melt the butter over low heat.  Add the onions, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper.  Adjust heat to simmer until onions are very soft and translucent, about 8-10 minutes.  

Remove from heat, cover and set aside while preparing the dumplings as directed below. Briefly reheat dressing prior to tossing with cooked haluski.

Making my potato & onion dumplings.

Everyone makes these a bit differently, but, one thing everyone does:  after the potatoes are grated, as much liquid as possible needs to be removed from them.  If you add grated onion, the same is true for them.  Some folks use a kitchen towel or cheesecloth.  I simply wrap them up in paper towels and squeeze until I've removed as much liquid as I can.  There's more.  I gave up on the traditionally used hand-held box grater and/oror food mill a long time ago.  In the case of haluski, yes, you can successfully use your food processor to make short work of pulverizing them (instead of grating them), if, you read and follow my instructions carefully.  Be brave:  

IMG_17972  pounds peeled Yukon gold potatoes, cut into chunks (about 2 pounds, 4-6 ounces unpeeled potatoes)

4-6  ounces onion, about 1/2 of a medium-sized onion

2  large eggs

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon white pepper

IMG_1801 IMG_1803 IMG_1805 IMG_1809 IMG_1811 IMG_1814~Step 1.  Break eggs into a medium bowl and add the sea salt and white pepper.  Using a fork, whisk the salt and pepper into the eggs and set aside.  Chop onion into chunks, place in work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and, using a series of 30-35 on-off pulses, process to small bits and pieces --  not a smooth purée.  Using a large rubber spatula, transfer onions to a shallow bowl lined with 5-6 layers of paper towels.  Gather the paper up around onions and firmly squeeze, to release as much moisture as possible.  Stir the onions into the beaten eggs.  Discard paper towels and liquid.

IMG_1815 IMG_1818 IMG_1820 IMG_1823 IMG_1827 IMG_1828 IMG_1832~Step 2.  Peel the potatoes and chop them into 3/4"-1" pieces. Depending on the size of your food processor, in two-three batches (it is important not to overcrowd the work bowl), place a batch of potatoes in work bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 30-35 on-off pulses, process to small bits and pieces -- not a smooth purée.  With each batch, using a large rubber spatula, transfer the potatoes to a shallow bowl (use the same one from the onions) lined with 5-6 layers of paper towels.  Gather the paper up around the potatoes and firmly squeeze, to release as much moisture as possible.  With each batch, add and stir the potatoes into the onion/egg mixture, discarding the paper towels and the liquid.  Add the flour, in 2-3 increments, using the rubber spatula to thoroughly fold and stir until a sticky dough-like mixture forms.  Set aside for about 5-10 minutes, to allow the gluten in the flour to absorb any excess moisture.

IMG_1835 IMG_1836 IMG_1845 IMG_1852~Step 3.  While potato mixture is resting, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot and add 1 tablespoon of sea salt.  Return  butter and onion "dressing" to low heat and briefly reheat without returning it to a simmer.  Remove from heat and set dressing aside.

Tip from Mel before cooking:  It is important to keep all of the haluski even-sized, so they all cook evenly.  Before starting, I always cook one as a test for time and texture.  If the test dumpling does not hold together properly (this can happen if you haven't squeezed enough of excess liquid from the potatoes and/or onion), stir in another tablespoon or two or three of flour. 

IMG_1835When water comes to a boil, in well-rounded tablespoonfuls, using the aid of your index finger, drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough into the boiling water.  I do this in batches of 8-12, as it's important to keep the water boiling while giving the haluski plenty of space to swim. Within the first 30-45 seconds, if any haluski have not floated to the top, gently loosen them with the aid of a long-handled spatula (they won't be stuck, they just need a nudge). Cook 8-9 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, thoroughly drain and transer to a large bowl. Ladle just enough "dressing" over the top to lightly coat.  Repeat this process until all haluski are cooked and dressed.  Using the large rubber spatula, gently stir and serve immediately.

IMG_1852Holy Haluski!  When imperfection = potato dumpling perfection:

IMG_1863Portion a few into every person's bowl & indulge:  

IMG_1876Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings (Haluski):  Recipe yields 36-40 dumplings, or, 4 main-dish servings, 6 lunch-sized servings and 8, side servings.  

Speical Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; vegetable peeler; food processor; paper towels; fork; large rubber spatula; wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; ordinary tablespoon; long-handled spatula; large slotted spoon or Asian spider

IMG_7297Cook's Note:  There are many ways to make dumplings, and to learn how to make another classic Eastern European potato-free dumpling, click into Category 4, 12, 19 or 20 to get my recipe for ~ Hungarian Galuska (Small Soft Eggy Dumplings) ~.

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

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

10/08/2016

~ Classic Pommes Anna: The Ultimate Potato Cake ~

IMG_1721This just might be the most impressive potato dish ever placed on a fancy-schmancy dining room table.  It's a gorgeous golden cake constructed of layers of ultra-thin-sliced potatoes that have been baked in the oven (just like a cake layer) and turned out onto a serving plate. When sliced into wedges, each person gets a pretty, pie-sized wedge of potato heaven: buttery-rich, nicely-and-lightly seasoned potatoes, with a crispy golden crust and a soft tender center.

Impressive to look at & surprisingly simple to make.

IMG_1755While pommes Anna does take a bit of time to make, for a French dish, it requires very few steps. Once sliced, the potatoes are layered, overlapping in concentric circles, and each layer is brushed with melted butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.  After assembling, the dish is either baked in the oven or fried on the stovetop.  The dish was created in the 1800's, during the time of Napoleon III, by Chef Adolphe Dugléré, the head chef at the Café Anglais, the leading Paris restaurant of the 19th Century.  He is said to have named the dish after a famous "grandes cocotte" ("a very pretty, flirtatious woman") of the time. There is, however, a historical disagreement of which beautiful female he named it after:  acress Dame Judic (real name, Anna Damiens), or Anna Deslions.  Whoever the lucky lady was, classic pommes Anna consists of just four inexpensive, readily-available ingredients:  potatoes, butter, salt and pepper.

IMG_1761Potatoes, butter, salt & pepper. No fancy herbs or spices please!

6a0120a8551282970b0163055c04a6970d6a0120a8551282970b016768dd410c970bIMG_0340It's important to know that when it comes to making any potato dish, all potatoes aren't created equal.  Here are the three basic tuber options:  

Russets (baking potatoes/starchy potatoes), Reds (boiling potatoes/waxy potatoes) and Golds (all-purpose potatoes/middle-of-the road potatoes).  Baking potatoes are high in starch, which makes them ideal for making baked and mashed potato dishes because their drier texture keeps them light and fluffy.  Boiling potatoes are considered to be waxy, meaning they hold their shape great during the boiling process, so, the trait that makes them great for potato salad, makes them undesirable for baking or mashing because they tend to get lumpy and heavy. All-purpose potatoes, moister than the baking potato and less waxy than the boiling potato, not only bake and mash well, they are adored for their golden color and creamy texture.

What's up with that expensive pan?  Do you need one?  No!

71r1kJRpXvL._SL1500_The most intimidating thing about making pommes Anna is the suggestion that a 4-quart "cocotte à pommes Anna" is necessary.  It is a Mauviel M'Tradition™ copper, very-expensive, double baking pan manufactured in France.  The upper and lower halves fit into each other so that the whole vessel, with the potatoes in it can be easily inverted during the cooking process. $268.00 on-line.  Seriously?

71yRnKELXiL._SL1350_As much as I would love to add that beautiful pan to my copper cookware collection, I can't justify the price.  Why?  I don't need one and nor do you.  That said, in order to achieve the same classic size and shape, you need an oven-safe pan similar in size (9 1/2" across) and volume (3-4 quarts).  The pan should have straight sides too. Meet Cuisinart's, 3-quart, stainless-steel casserole.  $49.95 on-line.

Slicing the potatoes -- Russet or Gold, your choice:

IMG_1647When preparing potatoes dishes like pommes Anna or potatoes gratin, Russets  or Yukon golds both work great.  In the case of both dishes, while the potatoes need to be very-thinly-sliced, the thickness of the potato slice is not as important as the uniformity (uniform potatoes all cook uniformly), but VERY, VERY thin slices (1/16"-1/8" thick) release more starch (more slices = more starch), than thicker sliced ones.  I like them sliced thin enough to just see through.

IMG_1629The Feemster's Famous Vegetable Slicer:  I have all sorts of fancy mandolins and super-sharp knives, but I ADORE my little blue-bladed Feemsters. I bought 2 of these, for $5.00 a piece, about 20 years ago from a kitchen store, here in Boalsburg.  I am sorry to report that The Country Sampler is no longer in business, but "The Feemsters" is available on-line at Amazon.com.  

3 1/2 pounds peeled Russet or Gold potatoes, sliced to a thickness of no more than 1/8"

IMG_1654

Note:  I cannot emphasize this enough, so I'm going to say it again:  slice the potatoes as thinly as you possibly can and keep them as uniform in thickness as is humanly possible.  I consider "thin" to be "easy to bend in half".

There's More:  Do not peel the potatoes in advance (they will discolor) and do not soak them in water (to prevent discoloring). Once pan is prepared (as directed below), peel and slice the potatoes as you are layering them in the pan.

For the mise en place, preparing the pan & layering the potatoes:

IMG_1658Hardware you will need to put in place before you start:  

17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined w/ aluminum foil and parchment paper

3-quart Cuisinart casserole w/lid, 2, 9" rounds of parchment and spatula

1-cup measuring container, for melting butter, and pastry brush

vegetable peeler and chef's knife, mandoline or Feemster's slicer

grinders containing sea salt and peppercorn blend  

IMG_1665 IMG_1666 IMG_1670 IMG_1674~Step 1.  Line the baking pan as directed above and place the Cuisinart casserole in the pan. Place the first 9" round of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan.  In a 1-cup measuring container, in the microwave, melt 8 ounces (2 sticks) salted butter.  Place 3 tablespoons of melted butter in the pan and using a pastry brush, paint the parchment-lined bottom and sides of the pan. Using your favorite devices, peel and slice one potato as thin as possible, between 1/16"- 1/8",  then position one slice of the potato directly in the bottom center of the pan.

IMG_1675 IMG_1680 IMG_1682 IMG_1685 IMG_1688 IMG_1690~Step 2.  Begin building the first layer of potatoes by overlapping potato slices in concentric circles around the center potato.  Brush the finished layer with butter and season with salt and pepper. Arrange a second layer of potatoes over the first, this time, starting at the outside of the casserole and finishing in the center.  One-at-a-time, continue slicing, layering, buttering and seasoning potatoes until the potatoes are gone.  The casserole will be full to within 1/2" of the top, and the tight-fitting lid, with its 1/2" drop down (see photo 1 in step 1 above), when placed on top, will be short of being able to cover the casserole.

IMG_1693 IMG_1697 IMG_1698 IMG_1702~Step 3.  Place the second parchment round atop the last layer of buttered and seasoned potatoes, and using a spatula, press down on the surface to compress the layers.  Put the lid on the casserole and bake, covered, on center rack of 375º oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the lid and the parchment and continue to bake until golden on the top, about 30 more minutes.  The total baking time in a 375° oven in the specified pan is approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes.  Run a paring knife around the perimeter of the pan, place a 9 1/2" plate over the casserole and invert potatoes onto that plate.

IMG_1728Slice into 8-12 wedges and serve immediately: 

IMG_1739Classic Pommes Anna:  The Ultimate Potato Cake:  Recipe yields 8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" rectangle of parchment paper; 3-quart Cuisinart casserole w/straight deep sides & lid; 9" round of parchment paper; 1-cup measuring container; pastry brush; vegetable peeler; chef's knife, mandoline or Feemster's slicer; spatula; paring knife; 9 1/2" serving plate

Potatoes Gratin #1 (Intro Picture)Cook's Note:  While ~ Perfect Potatoes Gratin (Scalloped Potatoes) ~ may not be sa gorgeous too look at as pommes Anna, they are every bit as good. Check out my recipe in Category 4.

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

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

10/05/2016

~ Crispy & Light Deep-Fried Mashed Potato Puffs ~

IMG_1583These aren't croquettes (they're not coated in breadcrumbs) and they're not fritters either (there's no batter involved).  You gotta admit, they do look a lot like a Southern hushpuppy (no cornmeal in them though), and, although similar, they sure as hell aren't my rendition of Tater Tots (a manufactured shredded hash-brown-type product mixed with flour).  These are, in fact, deep-fried mashed potatoes. My grandmother, an Eastern European heritaged woman, who knew a thing or two about potato cooking, used to make them.  While I'm on the subject of 'Tater Tots:

I've never understood the fascination with these store-bought, frozen thingies.  I'm pretty sure I know why.  In my youth (before 'Tater Tots were invented by Ore-Ida), my grandmother was deep-frying leftover mashed potatoes, which she would give us grandkids as snacks.  I loved her deep-fried puffy potato thingies.  To my chagrin, years later, in my own kitchen, it only took one try for me to learn from experience that you just can't plunge spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes into hot oil and emerge with potato puffs -- suffice it to say, it's a giant mess.

IMG_1593Start, from scratch, with the "right kind" of mashed potatoes.

Luckily, Baba was only a phone call away at that time.  She didn't laugh at me, but she  explained that she never used leftover mashed potatoes to make those snacks for us grandkids. "You've got to start with the right kind of mashed potatoes," she said, "the texture of traditionally-made mashed potatoes is too loose".  It turns out she started from scratch by making a small batch of mashed potatoes that contained eggs and much less cream than she normally used. There's more. She stirred in cheddar cheese for flavor then added flour to hold them together.

IMG_1469I made duchess potatoes yesterday, and interestingly enough, the potato mixture I use to make them, is, in fact, the same "stiffer" cheddar-y potato mixture recipe my grandmother gave to me to make potato puffs (without the flour added to it).  It works spot-on perfectly.  

Today I am making potato puffs using "the right mashed potatoes" and all I'm doing is stirring in flour, baking powder and garlic powder.

Here is "the right kind of mashed potatoes" recipe.  It makes 6 cups.  Do the math & cut the recipe by two-thirds to make 2 cups for potato puffs.

IMG_5480For six cups of mashed potatoes:

2 1/2-2 3/4  pounds peeled, rinsed, then cut into 1" chunks, gold potatoes

1  tablespoon salt, for seasoning water

2  ounces butter, at room temperature (1/2 stick)

3  large eggs, at room temperature, lightly-beaten 

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  teaspoon white pepper

8  ounces store-bought, pre-grated sharp white cheddar cheese, at room temperature

1/2-3/4  cup heavy or whipping cream, added at the very end, just enough to achieve a very-fine-grained to smooth consistency

IMG_5494Step 1.  Place potatoes in a stockpot, cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat.   Adjust to a simmer and continue to cook, until fork-tender and fully-cooked, meaning: cooked through to their centers without falling apart, 9-10 minutes.

Note:  This timing is going to vary depending upon the size you have chunked your potatoes.

IMG_5501IMG_5496Step 2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Immediately return the hot potatoes to the still hot stockpot and return the pot to the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter and cheese.  Give the mixture a stir and cover the pot, until the butter has melted, about 5 minutes.

IMG_5512IMG_5506Step 3. Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool about 5-10 minutes.  In 1-cup measuring container, whisk together the eggs. Uncover the pot, drizzle in the eggs and add the salt and white pepper.

IMG_5534Step 4.  Using a hand-held vegetable masher, mash the potatoes, adding  cream, in 2-3 increments, until a fine-grained to smooth consistency is reached, although slightly-chunky is ok too.

Note:  These aren't your typical mashed potatoes. They are going to seem thick and heavy, but, the eggs (and baking powder) are going to make them cook up light and airy.

To mix, form & deep-fry these potato puff thingies:

IMG_15122  cups "the right kind of mashed potatoes", "leftover" and chilled

1  3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon baking powder

2  teaspoons garlic powder

freshly-ground sea salt, for seasoning potato puffs when then come out of the deep-fryer

IMG_1517 IMG_1518 IMG_1522 IMG_1532~Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder and garlic powder.  Add them to the mashed potatoes and stir until no signs of flour remain.  Preheat peanut (or corn) oil in a deep-fryer to 360° and place a cooling rack atop a layer of paper towels.

IMG_1538 IMG_1544 IMG_1547 IMG_1553~Step 2.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, gently drop 3-4 firmly-packed balls of mashed potatoes into the hot oil.  Don't place directly onto the fryer basket (the fryer basket should be down in the oil).  Do not overcrowd the fryer basket.  After 10-15 seconds, give the fryer basket a few gentle shakes, to loosen any potato puffs that have not floated to the top on their own.  Fry in batches of 3-4 at a time until golden and cooked through to the centers, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack and immediately season tops with freshly-ground sea salt:

IMG_1564Like "gravy on your fries"?  It's to-die-for w/potato puffs!

IMG_1617Crispy & Light Deep-Fried Mashed Potato Puffs:  Recipe yields 15-16 appetizers.

Special Equipment List:  pot, colander and vegetable masher (for cooking potatoes); spoon; deep-fryer; wire cooling rack; paper towels; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; large slotted spoon

IMG_8324Cook's Note:  My cheddar-y potato puffs are a great pub-grub-type appetizer.  For an awesome tailgate-around-the-TV-tailgate, serve them with another one of my retro favorites, ~ City Chicken: Literally, "The Other White Meat."~ along with chicken gravy for dipping or drizzling.  Just click into Categories 1, 2, 3, 10, 17 or 26 to easily find the recipe.   

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

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

10/02/2016

~ Duchess Potatoes (Pommes de Terre Duchesse) ~

IMG_1480Mashed potatoes are the quintessential American side-dish for the Sunday roast or pot roast and the gravy that comes with it.  While there are a lot of ways to prepare potatoes, the ethereal smell of a chicken roasting in the oven or a pot roast simmering on the stovetop compels me to peel potatoes and bring a pot of water to a boil.  To us Americans, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food, and duchess potatoes, a fancy French-named mashed potato dish made of piped egg-laced mashed potatoes which are baked to a beautiful golden brown, is an impressive-to-look at, easy way to dress them up in their Sunday best.  They're just so pretty.

IMG_1493Potatoes are not native to North America.  The first potatoes arrived in the colonies in 1621 when the Governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler, sent two large cedar chests containing what historians believe to be yams and/or sweet potatoes to Governor Francis Wyatt of Virginia at Jamestown.  It wasn't until 1718, when the Reverend James McGregor and his Scotch-Irish immigrants arrived in New Hampshire with sacks of potato seed that the first white potatoes, of the type we now use to make mashed potatoes, got planted on American soil.  Idaho planted its first potatoes in 1838 and by 1900, their yearly production was exceeding one million bushels.

It's all in the name & the French are famous for fancy names.  

"Pomme" is the French word for "apple", "de" means "from", and, "terre" is the word for "earth". "Duchesse" means "duchess", a woman monarch and/or member of nobility (a "duc" is a duke or a male of the same social status).  The word "pomme" used to mean "excellent fruit" in Old French.  In Old France, associating another food with a "pomme" was a huge complement, as apples were considered to be nature's perfect fruit.  "An apple from the earth", or "earth apple", the name the French bestowed upon the potato, is indeed a potato dish worthy of a duchesse:  

IMG_1472Interestingly, once upon a time, potatoes were banned in France.

In 1748, potatoes were banned by the French government because it was believed they caused leprosy and death.  Then, in 1756, war broke out between France and Great Britain.  During The Seven Years War, as it is referred to, a medical officer by the name of Antoine-Augustine Parmentier was given nothing but a diet of potatoes to eat in a prisoner-of-war camp.   Because he did not die, after the war, Parmentier dedicated the better part of his life to changing the minds of government officials regarding potatoes.  In 1772, potatoes were finally declared edible for humans and it became legal to cultivate them.  Parmentier began hosting dinner parties and serving potatoes to dignitaries like King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.  Potatoes soon became very trendy in French social circles, which is where our own Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed them served in creative ways and in fancy French style.

Duchess Potatoes:  Crispy outside, light & airy inside.

IMG_1482Beside their elegant, swirled presentation, it's the textural variation that makes this dish a real exercise in deliciousness -- baking them until golden gives them a crispy outside which protects their delicate centers.  That said, the preparation of the mashed potatoes for this dish does vary from that of run-of-the-mill bowl-served mashed potatoes.  The mixture contains very little cream or milk, but, it contains plenty of egg and/or yolks which gives them the ability to bake up fluffy.

How long they bake is determined by the size of the piped potatoes and the desired degree of golden color, which is at the discretion of the cook.  My favorite seasonings are sea salt, white pepper, and sometimes a pinch of nutmeg.  I often add grated white cheddar cheese too (my family loves it), which pairs really well with my holiday prime rib roast.  While my favorite method of baking is to pipe them directly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, when I'm looking to serve larger portions, usually for my roasted turkey day feast, I pipe them into one-cup sized ramekins. There's more.  Duchess potatoes can be piped and refrigerated overnight prior to baking them, which is convenient when entertaining during busy holidays or for special occasions.

IMG_5480For the mashed potatoes:

2 1/2-2 3/4  pounds peeled, rinsed, then cut into 1" chunks, gold potatoes

1  tablespoon salt, for seasoning water

2  ounces butter, at room temperature (1/2 stick)

2  jumbo eggs, at room temperature, lightly-beaten 

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

8  ounces store-bought, pre-grated sharp white cheddar cheese, at room temperature

1/2-3/4  cup heavy or whipping cream, added at the very end, just enough to achieve a very-fine-grained to smooth consistency

IMG_5494Step 1.  Place potatoes in a stockpot, cover with cold water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat.   Adjust to a simmer and continue to cook, until fork-tender and fully-cooked, meaning: cooked through to their centers without falling apart, 9-10 minutes.

Note:  This timing is going to vary depending upon the size you have chunked your potatoes.

IMG_5501 IMG_5496Step 2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Immediately return the hot potatoes to the still hot stockpot and return the pot to the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter and cheese.  Give the mixture a stir and cover the pot, until the butter has melted, about 5 minutes.

IMG_5512IMG_5506Step 3. Remove pot from heat and set aside to cool about 5-10 minutes.  In 1-cup measuring container, whisk together the eggs. Uncover the pot, drizzle in the eggs and add the salt and white pepper.

IMG_5534Step 4.  Using a hand-held vegetable masher, mash the potatoes, adding  cream, in 2-3 increments, until a fine-grained to smooth consistency is reached. Texture is important because they need to flow cleanly through the pastry bag.  Note:  These aren't your typical mashed potatoes. They are going to seem thick and heavy, but, the eggs are going to make them cook up light and airy.

IMG_1434 IMG_1438~ Step 5. You will have about 6 cups of potatoes.  Preheat oven to 375°. Line 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment and insert a large star tip into a pastry bag.

Proceed to pipe potatoes in 2 1/2" rounds, about 20 on one pan and 16-20 on the other.  One-pan-at-a time, bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until golden.

Pipe potatoes in 2 1/2" rounds onto baking pans:

IMG_1447Bake in 375° oven 35-40 minutes, until nicely golden:

IMG_1462Consider Duchess potatoes for your next holiday feast!

IMG_1507Duchess Potatoes (Pommes de Terre Duchesse):  Recipe yields 6 cups potatoes and approximately 3 dozen (36-40), 2 1/2" round duchess potatoes.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; colander; hand-held vegetable/potato masher; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper

IMG_0420Cook's Note:  It's hard to imagine the food world without traditionally-made creamy and comforting mashed potatoes in it. To learn all I know about making great mashed potatoes, click into Category 4, 11, 15, 18 or 19 and read my post:  ~ Basic Machinations for Mashed Potato Perfection ~.

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

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