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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

05/05/2021

~Cheesy Ground-Beef Corn-Tortilla Taco-Quesadillas~

IMG_1102Everyone I know loves a taco or three.  No one I know loves a taco that's been made using a taco-shell that came out of a box -- they taste like the cardboard they came packed in, and, unless the fillings sit in the shells for several minutes, the shells shatter like glass -- bring out the knives-and-forks because everyone's dinner just landed on their plate.  It's a less than ideal situation.  In a perfect world, everyone would make fresh corn tortillas from scratch, but, in today's busy real world, that time-consuming process is, frankly, unrealistic.  That's where store-bought, soft, fresh corn tortillas come into play.  That said, many home cooks have a fear of, or aversion to, deep-frying, which, causes them to resort to buying a box of cardboard-esque taco shells.  It's a viscious, frustrating circle, but, there is an easy end-around that solves the problem:

Taco quesadillas -- Quesadillas made w/corn tortillas.

In most American home kitchens, mine included, tacos are considered a relatively easy-to-make meal typically associated with dinner.  On the other hand, quesadillas, like nachos, are considered a super-fast way to quell the craving for an any-time-of-the-day cheesy snack.  There's more.  In my kitchen, like most American home kitchens, tacos are typically associated with corn tortillas and quesadillas are associated with flour tortillas -- don't ask me why because, FYI, there's no culinary rule on that point.  That said, on frequent occasions, I combine the two, by turning quesadillas into a knife-and-fork way to serve American-style ground beef tacos (using corn tortillas) into a main-dish -- because they taste the same and they're quicker to make than tacos.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a46e604b200dQuesadilla (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 common substitution.

IMG_1122Almost 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.  Be sure to purchase:

your favorite brand of 6"-round yellow or white corn tortillas

After assembling the ingredients, start to finish, each taco quesadilla takes 5 minutes to layer & cook:

IMG_1131For each taco quesadilla:

2  6"-round soft, fresh corn tortillas

4  generous tablespoons shredded yellow cheddar cheese, divided

4  generous tablespoons (a generous 1/4 cup) American-style ground-beef taco filling, (Note:  All taco filling is not created equal. My chunky beef recipe is full of onion, garlic, bell pepper and tomatoes, and, seasoned with my homemade Tex-Mex taco seasoning blend.) 

1-2  teaspoons vegetable oil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a493347c200bFor my favorite store-bought and fresh toppings and garnishes:

pico de gallo or store-bought salsa fresca

fine-shredded iceberg lettuce and lime wedges

Mexican crema or sour cream

spicy avocado crema or store-bought guacamole

Choose to useall of them, none of them or some of them.  Your choice.

IMG_1044 IMG_1044 IMG_1051 IMG_1051 IMG_1057 IMG_1057 IMG_1064 IMG_1064 IMG_1070~Step 1.  Place 1-2 teaspoons oil in an 8" nonstick skillet.  Use a paper towel to distribute it evenly in the bottom of the skillet and absorb any excess.  Do not turn the stove on yet.  Place one corn tortilla in the skillet and scatter 2 generous tablespoons shredded cheese across its surface. Using a spoon dollop and distribute a generous 1/4 cup ground-beef taco filling atop the cheese.  Scatter a second 2 generous tablespoons shredded cheese atop the taco filling, then, finish the assembly by placing the second corn tortilla on top of the fillings.

IMG_1075 IMG_1075~ Step 2.  Turn the heat on to medium- medium-high.  Once the skillet heats up, 30-45 seconds, sauté the quesadilla until it is sizzling and light golden on bottom, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Using a wide spatula, carefully flip the quesadilla over and continue to sauté until the second side is light golden, about 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Turn heat off.

IMG_1081 IMG_1082 IMG_1084 IMG_1096~Step 3.  The moment the taco-quesadilla is cooked, slide it from the skillet onto a plate.  Without delay, spread a generous dollop (about 2 tablespoons) pico de gallo or fresh salsa over the top. Scatter some shredded lettuce (about 1/4 cup) atop the salsa, followed by a dollop of crema or sour cream, a dollop of avocado crema or guacamole, and, a lime wedge.  Serve ASAP.

As pretty as a picture, &, hearty & satisfying too:

IMG_1108Pick up your knife, pick up your fork & dig in ASAP:

IMG_1118Cheesy Ground-Beef Corn-Tortilla Taco-Quesadillas:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many 6"-round taco quesadillas as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8" nonstick skillet; paper towel; wide nonstick spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a442e6e9200cCook's Note: Undercover nacho tester.  I suppose it could get boring, but, because every eatery I've ever been to makes this Tex-Mex pub-grub staple a bit different, I'd be willing to risk running into some occasional repetition and hard-earned heartburn.  From nibbling on basic nachos consisting of deep-fried corn tortillas topped with melty cheese sauce, to digging-into nachos-grande, nachos-supreme, fully-loaded nachos or ultimate-nachos piled high with a plethora of enough savory stuff to qualify for full-meal status, yes, I think undercover nacho tester is a job for me.  Try my ~ Na-Cho Mama's Fully-Loaded Sheet-Pan Nachos ~.  A perfect ratio of cheese to toppings on every chip.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

05/02/2021

~ Apple-Pie Chicken Paillards and Stuffing Casserole ~

IMG_0996Chicken and stuffing.  The two go hand-in-hand, and I can't fathom my food world without this combination.  As a young girl, roast chicken with mom's stuffing and gravy was our Sunday dinner twice-a-month.  Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, be it a Sunday or a weeknight, it's always prime-time for chicken and stuffing on my dinner table, and, this super-easy casserole is a spin-off of my Aunt's apple-pie pork-chop and stuffing casserole recipe -- which, uses two boxes of Stovetop stuffing mix in place of classic white bread stuffing, plus, a can of apple pie filling is added to the bottom of the casserole for an added, sweet-and-savory surprise. 

Paillard is a fancy French word, a verb, meaning "to pound":

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dA bit about paillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that gets quickly sautéed. A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness --  to break down the fibers, to tenderize it, and, to make it cook evenly.  It's done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it to do a truly expert job.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an extra step well worth the effort. I find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it takes to pound six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.

IMG_0983This quick & easy sweet & savory chicken dinner is applicious:

IMG_09274  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing paillards

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning paillards

2  22-ounces can apple pie filling

2  6-ounce boxes Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

1  generous cup diced celery

1  generous cup diced onion

2  cups chicken broth

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfa26200b6  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Note:  This is approximately the equivalent of 3, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied to form 6 pieces/portions.)

~ Step 1.  Place the thighs between two large layers of plastic wrap and lightly pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to a thickness of more than a 1/4" and less than 1/2".

6a0120a8551282970b026bdecb4568200c~ Step 2. Remove and discard the top layer of plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle the tops of paillards with:

Bone Suckin' Sauce Seasoning and Rub 

In a 16" electric skillet on low heat, heat:

6 tablespoons corn or peanut oil

Increase heat to medium- medium-high (240°-250°).

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaba200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bdecb4600200c 6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaea200b 6a0120a8551282970b027880233296200d~Recap: Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic.

IMG_0930 IMG_0930 IMG_0940 IMG_0940 IMG_0948 IMG_0948~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.   Season their tops (liberally) with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend. Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 7-8 minutes per side, turning the heat down, if necessary, to prevent scorching. Turn the heat off.  Using a fork, transfer the paillards from the skillet to a plate and briefly set aside (leave drippings in bottom of skillet).

IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3896 IMG_3896 IMG_3903 IMG_3903 IMG_3908~Step 4.  Return heat in skillet to 225º and wait 30-60 seconds, just long enough to reheat the chicken drippings,  Add the celery and onion.  Sauté the vegetables, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until crunch tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and the stuffing mix.  Stir until the stuffing is thick and has absorbed the broth.  Turn the heat off, cover the skillet, and let sit for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_0922 IMG_0922 IMG_0960 IMG_0960~Step 5.  Open one can of apple pie filling and use a spoon to scoop and distribute it evenly in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Uncover the skillet.  Use the spoon to scoop and evenly distribute the stuffing atop the apple pie filling.  Open the second can of pie filling and distribute it evenly atop the stuffing.  Arrange the still warm chicken paillards atop the pie filling.    

IMG_0966 IMG_0970~Step 6.  Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on center rack of 325° oven 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake another 15 minutes, or until stuffing is turning golden on top. Remove from oven, place it on the table and serve ASAP.

Place it on the table & serve it up.  Leftovers reheat great too:

IMG_0981Apple Pie Chicken Paillard and Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List: large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sized meat mallet; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork and/or spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaaa200bCook's Note:  A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a boneless chicken thighs as an example: ~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- & Define a Paillard ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/29/2021

~Steak My Day - Summer-Up & Try Pork Blade Steak~

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1The pork blade steak is my new-to-me muse -- in my own words, it's a bone-fide kick-butt man-sized pork chop.  Known as pork steak, pork butt steak or pork blade steak, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork. Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs*, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare-rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask the Sam's Club butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-to-our-locale steaks for me.  Perhaps this post will help them to catch on "out here in the counties".

*Country-style ribs are cut from the blade end of the loin close to the shoulder. They're meatier than other ribs.  They contain no rib bones, but contain parts of the shoulder blade bone.

6a0120a8551282970b0224df30e276200b-1"Pork butt" or "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog. Smoked or barbecued, Boston butt is a southern tradition.  This cut of meat got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

Butcher's in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork 6a0120a8551282970b0223c84936d8200cshoulder then packed and stored the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies.  Simply stated:  the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, evolved into the name "Boston butt".

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1Steaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

Because overcooking renders them dry and tough, this quick-cooking cut is perfect for the grill, sauté pan or broiler.  Choose pinkish-gray steaks that are generally the same size and thickness (3/4"-1" thick is ideal), and, have been trimmed of excessive fat from the fat-cap-side.

The four steaks pictured above, weighing a total of 6.48 pounds, cost $10.87.  That's a whole lot of economical porcine wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family with big appetites. Depending on the recipe du jour, sometimes I marinate these steaks, sometimes I don't.  When it comes to pork blade steaks, absorb this: marination (which does not affect the cooking time), is a flavorizer not a tenderizer.  Please know: these steaks are super-tender with zero marination. As for seasonings, salt and pepper is all they require, but, they play well with dry seasoning blends or wet marinades too -- and, hear this, they love to be slathered with BBQ sauce at the end.

Because overcooking renders them tough, this quick-cooking pork steak is perfect for the grill, grill pan, sauté pan or broiler.  

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d8d4d3970c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)