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7 posts from January 2018

01/18/2018

~ Bone-Suckin' Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs ~

IMG_3221The machinations of making ribs in a slow cooker never seemed right to me -- kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I've seen people bend entire racks, slice and stack sections, even cut them into individual riblets   That type of rib abuse is why I never attempted it, but, as a person who likes my ribs fall-of-the-bone tender, there was never a doubt the slow cooker could achieve that.  After all, just like a Dutch oven placed on the stovetop or in the oven, it's what slow cookers do, tenderize meat -- especially the cheap, tough cuts.  The lid seals and traps the heat and moisture in the pot, preventing evaporation and heat loss, which provides plenty of time for everything-that-can-make-meat-tough (the muscle, connective tissue and fat) to break down.

IMG_3106Meet Crockpot's Casserole Crock. For me, it's my latest acquisition in a long line of slow cookers.  I now currently own ten different brands, models and sizes -- which is odd because, me, not-the-queen-of-crockpot-cooking, uses a slow cooker, maybe, five-six times a year. While Crockpot rightfully peddles this one as a casserole crock (because it is essentially a 13" x 9" x 3" casserole), and, it's intended to make-and-take slow-cooked casseroles (it's got lock-in-place handles and a stay-cool handle for carrying the entire contraption), I saw it as a vehicle for baby-back ribs (trimmed to fit into it's bottom), to cook evenly, in comfort -- single-layer spa-style.

IMG_3175I bought two.  Simmer down.  At about $45.00 each, it wasn't that big of an investment.  My rational was: Joe buys baby-back ribs vacuum-packed at Sam's club.  Each package contains three racks.  After eye-balling the dimensions of the Crockpot Casserole, I knew with certainty, that between the two of them, I could slow-cook all three racks -- to feed a crowd.  With the Super Bowl coming up in a few short weeks, I couldn't wait to plug them in for their maiden voyages today.

Important Note:  Armed with two crockpot casseroles, for my own purposes, I am slow-cooking three very large racks of baby-back spare-ribs this afternoon.  That said, past this sentence, the recipe is written for one crockpot casserole which will accommodate two small racks of ribs. 

IMG_3118Because the inside bottom dimensions of the casserole are approximately 11" x 6", that requires cutting each rack of baby-back ribs into either 2, 11" lengths (cut each rack in half), or, 3, 6" lengths (cut each rack into thirds).  Besides being more manageable, I chose 6" lengths because they are a perfect portion for each person.

IMG_3115 IMG_3115 IMG_3115 IMG_3134 IMG_3134~Step 1.  To prepare the ribs for seasoning, pat them dry in some paper towels and remove the silverskin from the underside of each rack.  If you don't know how to do this, read my post ~ How to: Remove the Silverskin from Spareribs ~.  Using a large chef's knife, slice each rack into thirds. Lightly sprinkle each section, top and bottom, with your favorite seasoning blend or rub.  See Cook's Note at the end of this post for my favorite brand.

IMG_3143 IMG_3143 IMG_3143Step 2.  Spray the inside of the crock casserole with no-stick cooking spray. Arrange the ribs to fit, in a single layer, slightly-overlapping in a spot or two if necessary.  As I expected, four of the largest sections and five of the smallest sections, fit snugly and nicely between the two crocks respectively.  Nicely done.

IMG_3161 IMG_3161 IMG_3161 IMG_3161 IMG_3183 IMG_3183~Step 3.  Using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle 3/4 cup your favorite barbecue sauce over the tops of the ribs. Cover the crockpot. Cook on high for 2 hours, then, low for 2 hours. The tip of a knife or the tines of a fork, when pierced between any two ribs will easily glide through and come out on the other side.  If desired, adjust heat to keep ribs warm for up to 1 hour prior to finishing them as directed in the next step.

IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193~Step 4.  Preheat broiler with oven rack positioned about 5" under the heat.  Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, then place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of pan.  Open crockpot and remove the ribs, arranging them slightly apart on the baking pan.  Using a large pastry brush generously slather the the tops with additional barbecue sauce.  Finish ribs off under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and just starting to to show signs of light browning.  Watch carefully.  All barbecue sauces contain some form of sugar, which can and will go from lightly-browned to burned quickly.

Plate 'em & serve 'em for dinner (w/plenty of napkins)... 

IMG_3220... or slice 'em & serve 'em as appetizers (w/plenty of napkins):

IMG_3242Bone-Suckin' Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings per casserole (allowing 1/3-1/2-rack per person).

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; crockpot casserole; 1-cup measuring container; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0be333d970cCook's Note:  Tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoked flavor, natural spices, salt and xanthan gum.  It's the xanthan gum, which they used in place of cornstarch as a thickener, that makes it gluten-free and keeps it a transparent light-red color.  Bone Suckin' Sauce hails from Raleigh, NC, and, is the brainchild of Phil Ford. Back in 1987, Phil was trying to copy his mother's recipe for a western North Carolina-style barbecue sauce.  His creation was so delicious his sister-in-law, Sandi Ford, convinced Phil to partner with her and her husband to sell it. It was coined "bone suckin' " because it made Sandi suck on the rib bones to get every last bit of flavor from them -- as it does to all of us.

IMG_3126Extra Cook's Note:  Bone Suckin' Sauce and Bone Suckin' Seasoning and Rub -- together.  Oh.  My.  Sigh.

My pantry nor I would never be caught without this dynamic duo in it -- I buy the sauce by the case.  My family would simply disown me. Created to go together, they're an addictive, well-balanced blend of sweet-savory BBQ perfection -- both are bright, fresh and crisp with a hint of smokey flavor.  For sprinkling and rubbing to dipping, drizzling, slathering, or basting, there isn't anything, from A-Z in the world of barbecue, they're not fantastic on.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

01/15/2018

~ Say Cheese Please: Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit ~

IMG_3073Welsh rarebit -- the original cheese toast.  It's worth mention that I've only eaten what I believe to be the real-deal once.  It was in the latter 1990's, in Wales, in the exquisite Coed-Y-Mwstwr Hotel (coy-dee-moo-ster).   It came to me as a complimentary side to a lovely salad (which I ordered after returning from shopping in the city of Cardiff).  The cheese toast, along with everything else in this hotel, was perfect.  I kicked off my high-heels and enjoyed it in my lavish room, overlooking the How-Green-was-My-Valley countryside, with a very English G&T too.

I gave cheese toast a lot more thought after that trip.  

IMG_3077Welsh rarebit or rabbit = molten cheese on toast. 

Welsh rarebit (pronounced rabbit) is a traditional British dish made by ladling a thickened, sometimes roux-based, cheese sauce over crustless, thick-sliced ever-so-slightly-toasted bread, then quickly broiling the two until the sauce is bubbling and barely-light-golden.  Basic rarebit sauce is made by melting a hard English cheese (like cheddar, gloucester, cheshire or lancashire) with cayenne pepper, English mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, milk and beer.  Another, easier (cheaters) method, it to simply melt sliced cheese atop lightly-toasted bread that has been slathered with mixture of softened butter, mustard, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper. 

Welsh rabbit is the original name, and, the dish is Welsh in origin, dating back to the 1700's.  The Welsh, who are famous for their love of cheese, claim to be among the first to use cheese in various dishes and sauces.  In their food world, the original name, rabbit, was an affectionate way to say, "we prefer eating cheese to eating rabbit".  In their real world, Wales was an impoverished nation and many a Welshman couldn't afford even the cheapest meat.  Others claim the original name, after making its way into English kitchens, was meant to cast aspersions on the Welsh, who were allegedly not adept at catching rabbits -- and "rabbit" changed to "rarebit" spurred by the need for political correctness.  Still others claim the Welsh peasants, who weren't allowed to eat the rabbits caught during the hunts on the estates of the nobles, eating melted cheese and bread as a substitute, named the dish.  Culinary authorities, like Auguste Escoffier, say the spelling was changed from "rabbit" to "rarebit" merely to emphasize it not being a meat dish.

IMG_29932  tablespoons salted butter

2  tablespoons flour

1   teaspoon dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon onion salt

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2  cup milk

1/2  cup beer, your favorite brand 

1 1/4  cups shredded yellow cheddar cheese

1/2"-thick slices brioche-type bread*, preferably my recipe for bread machine brioche

*Note:  Ordinary soft, white sandwich bread will not work in this recipe.  Prior to toasting and broiling, the bread needs to be firm enough to hold the weight of the cheese and not get soggy.

IMG_2995 IMG_2995 IMG_2995~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, combine the milk, beer and Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside.  Place the flour in a small bowl and add the dry English mustard, onion salt and cayenne pepper.  Set aside.

IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015~Step 2.  Melt the butter in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour and spices.  Whisk constantly for 1 full minute.  Add the milk mixture. Adjust heat to simmer. Whisk constantly until nicely-thickened, about 3 minutes.  Turn the heat off and add the cheese. Whisk until cheese is melted and a thick, drizzly sauce has formed.  

IMG_3038~ Step 3.  Remove from heat.  There will be 1 1/2 cups of cheese sauce. Use immediately to make classic Welsh rarebit (as directed below), or, a Welsh rarebit fondue.  Cheese sauce can be made a day or three ahead, covered, and kept stored in the refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, stirring frequently.  Do not freeze.

IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039~Step 4.  For each serving of classic Welsh rarebit, from the loaf of brioche, cut two 1/2"-thick slices of bread, then, trim the crust.  Ever-so-lightly-toast the bread.  Remove bread from toaster and place on a baking pan that has been lined with parchment.  Place and spread two tablespoons of the rarebit sauce over the surface of each slice, stopping just short of the edges.  Place pan on a rack positioned 5" underneath the broiler and cook until bubbly, about 3 minutes.  Garnish with minced parsley or chives.

Serve ASAP -- while hot & bubbling.

IMG_3078Pick up a knife & stick a fork in it:

IMG_3085Say Cheese Please:  Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups Welsh rarebit sauce, enough to coat 12 standard-sized slices bread.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held box grater; 1-cup measuring container; 1 1/2-quart saucepan; whisk; cutting board; serrated bread knife; appropriately-sized baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b019aff73c661970bCook's Note:  Cheddar cheese sauce in general is really easy to make.  It only takes about five minutes, so please refrain from purchasing the store-bought glop. Even though I don't think vegetables need any livening up, it was one of my secret weapons to get our boys to eat their veggies.  Try ~ My Basic Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables ~.  This recipe is kid tested and mother approved.

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

01/12/2018

~ Well-Seasoned Vegetarian Vegetable & Bean Soup ~

IMG_2977I adore our country's famous Senate bean soup  -- chocked full of navy beans, shards of meat from ham hocks or shanks, onion and celery.  Everything from its rich history to is smokey flavor and creamy texture is perfection -- I've even had the pleasure of eating in the Senate dining room in Washington, D.C.  That said, I have vegetarian friends -- not many, but, they enjoy making their presence known in my kitchen.  When they do, I'm happy to go meatless for a few hours.  Yesterday was one such afternoon.  A pot of this relatively-easy-to-make vegetarian version of my senate bean soup, a rustic loaf of whole-grain bread with a big wedge of herbed-brie, and, of course, a bottle of white wine.  It was a lovely way to fritter away a snowy afternoon.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c873f614970bI 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 (about the same amount of fiber, protein and calories), except for sodium content: canned = 450 mg./dried = 0 mg.

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 "how to" instructions read my post ~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs. Overnight Soaking ~.

Everybody into the pot:  One-Step Vegetarian Bean Soup.

IMG_29371 1/2  quarts homemade vegetable stock, or, Kitchen Basics unsalted vegetable stock (6 cups)

IMG_29713  40-ounce cans great northern beans, undrained (each 40-ounce can of beans contains about 1 1/2 cups of liquid and 4 cups pre-cooked, via the canning process, cooked-in-the-can-beans)

1  tablespoon minced garlic, or, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

2  cups peeled and small-diced carrots 

2  cups small-diced celery 

2  cups small-diced onion

4  cups peeled and small-diced gold potatoes 

1  cup, minced, fresh parsley 

4  whole bay leaves

4  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarsely-ground or cracked black pepper

1 1/2  teaspoons poultry seasoning

IMG_2943 IMG_2943 IMG_2943 IMG_2943 IMG_2965 IMG_2965~Step 1.  Prep and place all ingredients in an 8-quart stockpot.  Using a large spoon, give it a thorough stir.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer, partially cover the stockpot and continue to simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, stopping to stir every 10-15 minutes.  Turn the heat off. Cover the pot and set aside to steep for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, or overnight, for flavors to marry.

Simple, Straightforward & Scrumptious.  Serve:

IMG_2990Well-Seasoned Vegetarian Vegetable & Soup:  Recipe yields 6 quarts.

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

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fccf9945970bCook's Note:  While any bean soup is comfort food at its best on a cold Winter's day, some of my fondest memories are of eating it (out of a styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon) in the Summer at church picnics, backyard barbecues, block parties, family reunions and my father's workplace's annual company clambake.  My mom's recipe for, ~ A Hearty Fifteen-Bean Ham & Vegetable Soup ~, made from dried beans, is worth the extra effort.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

01/09/2018

~Eggnog & Butter-Rum Cinnamon-Apple Fritter Bread~

IMG_2927There's a lot going on in the title of this recipe, but, trust me, after I peel back the layers and get to the heart of it, there will be a moist, quick-bread resemblant of everything one could hope to taste in both their favorite apple-fritter (a deep-fried doughnut sans the hole) and cinnamon bun -- in bread loaf form.  There are many recipes for apple fritter bread.  They vary a bit from cook to cook with one common thread: the way the batter and the primary ingredient (apples) get layered into the loaf pan.  It's signature is a pretty layer of apples in the center and on the top too. 

This brings me to the real-deal reason for my making apple-fritter bread today.  A few days ago, on Facebook, an apple fritter bread recipe came across my newsfeed.  While it was a well-written recipe on a big site, the ingredients were not layered.  In essence, that omission rendered it a generic quick bread recipe.  In my food world, the devil is in the recipe's details, and if you're not layering the ingredients, you're not making apple fritter bread.  It's a step you cannot skip. 

The devil is in the details.  Not layering the ingredients?   

IMG_2898Not making fritter bread.  It's a step you cannot skip.

IMG_2802A bit about fritters:  Here in the United States, fritters are small cakes made with morsels of one primary ingredient (a meat, seafood, fruit or vegetable) that gets mixed with a thick egg and milk batter then deep-fried.  All-purpose flour or cornmeal (or a combination of both) are the most common binding agents. ExamplesSweet corn fritters are made with corn kernels, apple fritters are full of diced apples, and, if deep-fried,  crab cakes are also considered a form of fritter.  I learned how to make fritters from pages 242 and 243 of the 1975 edition of The Joy of Cooking.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c943f252970bA bit about quick bread:  "Quick bread" is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time.  It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high.  Innovative cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast. Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately double-acting baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda.  In the case of baking powder, it is called "double acting" because the rising process starts the moment it makes contact with the liquids, and, gives a second burst of rising power when the bread enters the hot oven.  Typically, quick breads contain eggs, flour, salt and fat (butter, margarine, shortening or oil) and leavening.  They can be sweet or savory and contain sugar, fruits, fruit purée, vegetables, vegetable purée and various liquids (milk, buttermilk, fruit juice or stock).  The wet and dry ingredients are mixed separately, then quickly stirred together, just until the ingredients are moistened, to form a rough-looking batter, just prior to baking.  Biscuits, cornbread, muffins, pancakes, scones, soda bread and waffles all fall into the quick-bread category.  That said, a"quick bread" is not a "batter bread".  Batter bread is a yeast bread in which the batter gets beaten for several minutes.

Eggnog.  It's one of my favorite holiday things, and, every year, I add a recipe containing eggnog, to KE. Over the years, I've shared recipes for eggnog malts and milkshakeseggnog briocheeggnog French toast stickseggnog pancakeseggnog cookies, and, eggnog shortbread.  This year, it's eggnog quick-bread.  That said, while I'm using eggnog and butter-rum flavoring today, because they indeed enhance the finished product, feel free to make this recipe using whole milk and vanilla extract, but, if you do, increase the amount of granulated sugar by 4 tablespoons -- I decreased it because store-bought eggnog is sweetened, milk is not.  

No more frittering around.  Quick-apple-fritter-bread: 

IMG_2806For the apple, brown-sugar cinnamon mixture:

12  ounces  peeled, cored and small diced Granny Smith apples (about 3 medium-sized apples

6  tablespoons packed light-brown sugar

1  tablespoon ground cinnamon

For the dry ingredients:

1 1/2  cups all purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

For the wet ingredients:

1/2  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1/2  cup granulated sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1/2  cup high-quality, store-bought, pasteurized eggnog

2  teaspoons butter-rum flavoring

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2  cup high-quality store-bought applesauce, or homemade applesauce

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0a5fdc6970cFor the eggnog glaze:

1  cup confectioners' sugar

2  tablespoons high-quality, store-bought, pasteurized eggnog

2  teaspoons butter-rum extract

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c71c4132970b~ Step 1.  In a small bowl, place and stir all ingredients for glaze together.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside.

IMG_2811 IMG_2811~ Step 2.  Spray a 9" x 5" loaf pan with no-stick cooking spray and preheat oven to 325° -- I like to use a glass loaf pan, so I can keep an eye on what's going on while this quick-bread bakes.  If you're using a metal pan, increase the oven temperature to 350°.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

IMG_2813 IMG_2813 IMG_2813 IMG_2813~Step 3.  In a large bowl, place the butter, eggs, granulated sugar, butter-rum flavoring and vanilla extract.  Over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream these ingredients together, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula, about 1 minutes.  Lower the mixer speed and fold in the eggnog, followed by the applesauce.  Set wet ingredients aside.

IMG_2826 IMG_2826 IMG_2826~ Step 4.  In a medium bowl, place and stir together the light-brown sugar and cinnamon. Remove and set aside all but about 1/4 cup of the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Peel, core and dice the apples as directed, placing them in the bowl with the 1/4 cup sugar mix.  Toss the apples to coat and set aside.

IMG_2833 IMG_2833~ Step 5.  Add the dry ingredients (the flour mixture) to the wet ingredients (the butter mixture). Using the rubber spatula, fold the two mixtures together, just until moistened.  There will be 3 cups of batter -- I did the measurement for you.

IMG_2839 IMG_2839 IMG_2839 IMG_2839 IMG_2852 IMG_2852 IMG_2852~Step 6.  Place and evenly distribute one half of the batter (1 1/2 cups) in the bottom of prepared loaf pan.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the sugar-cinnamon mixture.  Distribute half of the apples across the top, then, using your fingertips and a light touch, press the apples down a bit.  Repeat the performance, topping with the remaining batter, sugar-cinnamon mixture and apples, lightly pressing down on them too.

IMG_2861 IMG_2861 IMG_2861~ Step 7.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven, 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack, 1 hour, prior to inverting onto a plate, then inverting again, back onto cooling rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours, prior to glazing as directed below.

Bake on center rack of 325° oven, 55-60 minutes:

IMG_2860Cool, in pan on wire rack, 1 hour, prior to inverting...

IMG_2876...  out of pan & back on rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours.

IMG_2885Drizzle w/prepared glaze & allow glaze to set/firm up...

IMG_2892... about 1 hour prior to slicing & serving.

IMG_2921Eggnog & Butter-Rum Cinnamon-Apple Fritter Bread:  Recipe yields 12-16 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9" x 5" loaf pan, preferably glass; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack

IMG_2845Cook's Note:  One bowl, a whisk and a spatula -- no mixer required. Yep.  Those words accurately sum up my recipe for ~ Nice & Easy No-Nonsense Quick-Mix Apple Bread ~, and, the end more than justifies the means, meaning:  it's hard to believe something this easy can taste this divine.  While apple bread isn't the most photogenic, don't let its monochromatic appearance fool you.  It's dense but not heavy, has a delicately-moist crumb, and, it's bursting with appleicious flavor.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

01/07/2018

~ Sausage, Apple & Herbed-Brie Breakfast Burgers ~

IMG_2731This morning I decided to go eggless -- it's a woman's perogative.  I skipped the skillet and got out the grill pan.  On this frigid January morning, I made what I affectionately refer to as: breakfast 'burgers.  Six-ounce sausage patties topped with lightly-grilled apple slices and melty herbed Brie, served on toasted English muffins.  I conjured up these ladylike, burger-esque breakfast sandwiches years ago.  They're culinary proof that necessity is the mother of invention.  Read on:

IMG_2698We were enjoying an AM tailgate at Beaver Stadium.  When I reached into the Igloo cooler to retrieve the eggs, I realized they hadn't been packed.  While my sausage patties were sizzling on the Weber, I strolled over to our communal snack table and borrowed a wedge of Brie and a big handful of apple slices -- from the elaborate fruit and cheese tray my girlfriend Carole had assembled.  I nabbed the Brie because she'd cut the cheddar into cubes.  Yes, of course I asked Carole's permission and she, of course, granted it.  Instead of scrambled eggs, sausage and muffins for breakfast, on that day, everyone got to eat and critique a new-to-us sandwich.

IMG_26344  6-ounce, 4"-round sausage patties

1  apple, cored and sliced into 12 thin rings (3 apple rings per sandwich)

a pinch of apple pie spice per apple slice

8  ounces herbed Brie, kept cold until it's time to slice it, cut into 1/4" slices

4  English muffins, sliced in half

IMG_2642 IMG_2642 IMG_2642 IMG_2642 IMG_2642~Step 1.  Place the sausage patties on a grill pan over medium- medium-high heat and cook until golden on both sides, turning only once, about 8-10 minutes per side.  Using a spatula, transfer sausage patties from pan to a plate, and set aside (no need to cover them or place them in a warm oven -- all will be fine).  While the sausage patties are cooking:

IMG_2653 IMG_2653 IMG_2662 IMG_2662 IMG_2622 IMG_2622~Step 2.   Using an apple corer and a chef's knife, core and slice the apple as directed.  Without removing packaging (it's easier to slice), using a serrated bread knife, cut the Brie into 1/4"-thick slices, removing and discarding the wrapping as you slice -- generally speaking, this method makes it very easy to slice soft cheeses, like Brie.  

IMG_2673 IMG_2673 IMG_2673 IMG_2673 IMG_2673 IMG_2698~Step 3.  Place apple slices in  still hot grill pan. Lightly, sprinkle tops with apple pie spice.  Over medium-medium-high heat, grill the apple slices, turning only once, until slight grill marks appear on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side.  Do not overcook.  One-at-at-time, remove the apples from the grill pan, placing three on top of each sausage patty.  Portion-to-fit (I used a knife) and arrange the sliced Brie on top of the apples.

IMG_2707 IMG_2707 IMG_2707~Step 4.  Turn the heat off under the grill pan, but leave it on the still hot-to-warm stovetop.  Return the topped sausage patties to grill pan.  Cover the pan and wait, 2-3 minutes for the Brie to slowly soften and start to melt down the sides of the 'burgers.  While the cheese is melting, slice and toast the English muffins.

Get out your grill pan and rethink breakfast:

IMG_2733Go eggless, use apples instead, &, put a lightly-toasted lid on it.

IMG_2761You won't be sorry you did.  Why?  Because this:

IMG_2772Redefines the meaning of breakfast sandwich. 

IMG_2784Sausage, Apple & Herbed-Brie Breakfast Burgers:  Recipe yields instructions to make 4  breakfast burgers.

Special Equipment List: apple corer; cutting board; chef's knife; serrated bread knife; grill pan w/lid; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b017c3696365a970bCook's Note: You've heard me say it before:  I am not a morning person. I don't love cooking breakfast. Eating breakfast -- that's another story.  I love breakfast.  I have a particular weakness for bagel, sausage and egg sandwiches.  Only a NY bakery-style egg bagel, a juicy sweet-sausage patty, and, a fluffy scrambled egg pancake will do. Cheese?  I prefer mine with none, but, I'll put it on, for you -- two slices of white American or yellow cheddar. ~ Egg Bagel, Sausage & Scrambled Egg Sandwich:  A Super-Breakfast for Super Bowl (Sunday) or any Sunday ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

01/04/2018

~ Filling, Braiding & Baking Store-Bought Puff Pastry ~

IMG_2263Everyone loves a home-baked sweet or savory pie or quiche, but, for those times when you are out of time, or, just don't want to take the time, from appetizers to entrées to desserts, making a puff pastry braid using store-bought puff pastry is a valuable skill to have.  As long as you play by the rules, they bake up perfectly 100% of the time.  What are the rules?  I'm glad you asked.

My three basic rules/guidelines for filling a pastry braid:

IMG_2269 IMG_2315 IMG_24961)  With the exception of the obvious (any liquid or liquid concoction that pours or flows), any solid ingredient, or a  concoction of ingredients with a sticky or gluey viscosity, can be used as a filling for a puff pastry braid.  Almost anything you can wrap your head around:  meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, nuts, etc.  

IMG_2194 IMG_2194 IMG_25342)  The filling can be added to the pastry by stacking and layering thin slices or strips of one or more ingredients on top of each other, or, by spooning a mixture of minced or diced ingredients into the center, or a combination of doing both.  That said, any ingredient that won't fully-cook or soften to an edible texture in a 375° oven in 18-20 minutes, or, any ingredient that will exude a lot of moisture as it cooks, needs to be cooked or semi-cooked first.  For example:  Adding raw sausage or ground beef will render the braid greasy/watery, and, 18-20 minutes is not enough time for a raw apple or pear to fully-cook.  

IMG_2189 IMG_2189 IMG_21893)  Lastly, never overstuff a puff pastry braid.  The size of the puff pastry sheet matters, and, the sheets I use are 8 1/2"-ounce, 9" x 9" tri-folded squares exclusively.  For stacked and layered fillings, go no higher than 1 1/2".  For sticky concoctions, no more than 2-2 1/4 total cups, and, mound the filling towards the center.

My method of braiding & baking a puff pastry braid:

IMG_2500No special tools are required to make a puff pastry braid.  Ideally, a large 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment paper, a 6" ruler and a paring knife (for measuring and scoring the pastry), and a pastry brush (for applying the egg wash), should all be on-hand in your kitchen.

IMG_2146 IMG_2149 IMG_2149 IMG_2149 IMG_2159~Step 1.  Remove pastry from packaging and place, lengthwise, on prepared baking pan.  Using fingertips, carefully open the tri-folded sheet.  Where the pastry was folded, will define three, even-sized thirds, each approximately 9"L x 3"W.  Using a paring knife and a ruler, slice 3"L x 1/2"W "tabs" along the lower and upper thirds of the pastry (18 tabs on each third of the pastry), leaving the center third (which is where the filling will go) uncut.  If at any time while you are slicing the tabs, the pastry gets sticky, return pan to refrigerator for 5-6 minutes to firm it up again (and again).  Cutting the tabs is very easy if pastry is kept cold.

IMG_2201 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09e5c67b970d-120wi 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09e5c67b970d-120wi 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09e5c67b970d-120wi~Step 2.  Once the filling has been layered and placed in the center third of the pastry (as per the recipe's directions), starting at one end and working all the way to the other, alternately crisscross the tabs up and over filling (as pictured in rule/guideline 2).  When you get to the end, trim and remove the last two tabs of pastry, along with any excess scraps of pastry.  As per ~ Step 1, if the tabs get sticky or start to stick to the pan, refrigerate for 5-6 minutes, then proceed.  Tuck the ragged edges evenly underneath the pastry braid. Use the two trimmed tabs and ragged edges to seal the open end where you started.  Both ends will now be sealed and tucked -- the ends don't have to look perfect.  Trust me, the patchwork puff pastry will bake up to be picture perfect.

IMG_2215 IMG_2215 IMG_2239~Step 3.  In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water together. Using a pastry brush, lightly paint egg wash over the entire surface of the puff pastry braid.  Bake on center rack of preheated 375° oven, 18-20 minutes. Pastry will be golden brown and bubbling and filling might be starting to bubble from the nooks and crannies. Remove from oven and cool on pan 30-45 minutes.  Use a spatula to aid in transferring to a serving plate prior to slicing and serving warm or at room temperature.

IMG_2411A bit about store-bought puff pastry sheets:  

IMG_2267For home cooks who like to entertain, don't like to entertain, or, simply don't have a lot of time to entertain, store-bought puff pastry is a high-quality, time-saving ingredient -- especially during the holiday season.  As one who takes the better part of two days to make real-deal, all-butter, high-quality-butter, puff-pastry from scratch (to make Danish for special occasions), trust me, for certain culinary applications, store-bought puff-pastry is a relatively small compromise I am willing to make.  There's two boxes stashed in my freezer at all times.

Like many, I discovered puff pastry sheets in the 1980's.  Grocery stores were becoming grocery chains, which expanded our choices and selections of long established and new products exponentially.  Cooks embraced this product, and, before long, we were all using it in creative ways to make appetizers, entrées and desserts.  Here's three of my favorites:

Appetizer:  Cloudberry Jam, Brie & Almond Braid.

IMG_2290Entrée:  Sweet Sausage, Apple & Cheddar Braid.

IMG_2453Dessert:  Swiss Chocolate, Cherry & Almond Braid.

IMG_2595

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

01/02/2018

~Swiss Chocolate, Cherry & Almond Puff Pastry Braid~

IMG_2595Imagine eating a freshly-baked, still-warm chocolate croissant at your favorite coffee shop.  Just thinking about one of those divinely decadent indulgences makes me happy.   Now imagine it super-sized, more than enough to feed four, with sweet cherries and crunchy almonds added to it too.  Need I say more?  Valentine's Day will be here before we know it, and, if you're looking to surprise the chocolate lover in your life with something truly sweet, stash the ingredients on this list in your pantry and freezer, then, start counting the days to February 14th.  Tick, tock.    

IMG_2522From appetizers to entrées to desserts...

IMG_2263... making a puff pastry braid is a valuable skill to have.

IMG_2267For home cooks who like to entertain, don't like to entertain, or, simply don't have a lot of time to entertain, store-bought puff pastry is a high-quality, time-saving ingredient -- especially during the holiday season.  As one who takes the better part of two days to make real-deal, all-butter, high-quality-butter, puff-pastry from scratch (to make Danish for special occasions), trust me, for certain culinary applications, store-bought puff-pastry is a relatively small compromise I am willing to make.  There's two boxes stashed in my freezer at all times.  

Like many, I discovered puff pastry sheets in the 1980's.  Grocery stores were becoming grocery chains, which expanded our choices and selections of long established and new products exponentially.  Cooks embraced this product, and, before long, we were all using it in creative ways to make appetizers, entrées and desserts.  Here's one of my desserts:

IMG_24961  8 1/2-ounce, 9" x 9" store-bought & tri-folded puff pastry sheet

1  3 1/2-ounce bar Lindt bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces

1  21-ounce can cherry pie filling, or, my Seriously Simple Stovetop Sour Cherry Pie Filling

1/4  cup lightly-toasted slivered almonds 

1  large egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water, to be used as an egg wash for assembled pastry braid

IMG_2136 IMG_2136 IMG_2502~ Step 1.  Place slivered almonds on a small baking pan.  Roast on center rack of preheated 375° oven, until lightly-toasted and fragrant, 5-6 minutes, stopping to stir the almonds around in pan half way through the process (so they brown evenly).  Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15-20 minutes.  Using a large chef's knife, chop the chocolate into small bits and pieces.  Set aside.

IMG_2146 IMG_2146 IMG_2146 IMG_2156 IMG_2159~Step 2.  Remove pastry from packaging and place, lengthwise, on prepared baking pan.  Using fingertips, carefully open the tri-folded sheet.  Where the pastry was folded, will define three, even-sized thirds, each approximately 9"L x 3"W.  Using a paring knife and a ruler, slice 3"L x 1/2"W "tabs" along the lower and upper thirds of the pastry (18 tabs on each third of the pastry), leaving the center third (which is where the filling will go) uncut.  If at any time while you are slicing the tabs, the pastry gets sticky, return pan to refrigerator for 5-6 minutes to firm it up again (and again).  Cutting the tabs is very easy if the pastry is cold.

IMG_2507 IMG_2507 IMG_2507 IMG_2507~Step 3.  Scatter the chocolate, in a single layer, over the center third of the pastry sheet. Sprinkle the almonds over the chocolate.  Place the cherry pie filling in a bowl, and working a couple of tablespoons at a time, remove and scoop the cherries from the pie filling over the chocolate, mounding it towards the center -- discard the excess red cornstarch glop remaining in bowl.  

IMG_2524 IMG_2524 IMG_2524 IMG_2524 IMG_2524 IMG_2524~Step 4.  Starting at one end and working all the way to the other, alternately crisscross the tabs up and over filling.  When you get to the end, trim and remove the last two tabs of pastry, along with any excess scraps of pastry. As per ~ Step 4, if the tabs get sticky or start to stick to the pan, refrigerate for 5-6 minutes, then proceed.  Tuck the ragged edges evenly underneath the pastry braid. Use the two trimmed tabs and ragged edges to seal the open end where you started.  Both ends will now be sealed and tucked -- the ends don't have to look perfect, the patchwork puff pastry will bake up to be picture perfect.

IMG_2210 IMG_2210 IMG_2210 IMG_2210 IMG_2563 IMG_2568 IMG_2568~Step 5.  In a small bowl, whisk the second egg and water together.  Using a pastry brush, lightly paint egg wash over the entire surface of the puff pastry braid.  Bake on center rack of preheated 375° oven, 18-20 minutes. Pastry will be golden brown and bubbling and cherry juices will be starting to bubble from the nooks and crannies. Remove from oven and cool on pan 30-45 minutes.  Use a spatula to aid in transferring to a serving plate prior to slicing and serving warm or at room temperature.

Cool this culinary work of art 15-20 minutes...

IMG_2583... prior to slicing & serving warm or at room temperature.

IMG_2606Indulge in each & every divinely, decadent bite: 

IMG_2611Swiss Chocolate, Cherry & Almond Puff Pastry Braid:  Recipe yields 8-10 appetizer-sized desserts/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  small baking pan; cutting board; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; paring knife; fork; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b017c32320db8970b 6a0120a8551282970b017d3c582479970cCook's Note: An  elegant entrée, which pairs perfectly with today's dessert, is :  ~ My Love Affair with: Individual Beef Wellingtons ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)