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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

11/21/2021

~Twelve Easy Steps to the Perfect Turkey Day Turkey~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d09c3f8f970cSo you're cooking your first turkey today.  Congratulations and worry not.  I'm sharing my uber-easy foolproof method, which I've been using since before you were probably born, and, it works great for all turkeys -- fresh (never frozen), frozen (and completely thawed) or organic, it works.  Period.  Ready?  Set?  Get your bird out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to roasting (to take the chill out of it).  Before opening the package, make a note of its poundage and weight (so you can follow the timing guidelines below).  Place the bird in the sink (a lot of juices are going to ooze out), carefully open the package, and, remember to remove the giblets from the cavities.  

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TIMING GUIDELINES:

20 minutes per pound for small birds up to 8 pounds

15 minutes per pound for medium birds 8-16 pounds

13 minutes per pound for large birds 16-20 pounds

11 minutes per pound for extra-large birds 20-22 pounds

10 minutes per pound for huge birds over 22 pounds

Begin timing the bird the moment it goes into the 350 ° oven.

The best test for doneness is an instant-read meat thermometer placed in the breast and then the leg-thigh portion.  Remove from the oven when meat has reached an internal temperature between 160-165 degrees.  I like to remove mine at 160 degrees.  Carry-over heat will continue to cook the bird during the resting process. 

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Insert a rack in a large roasting pan (disposable pans are great) -- add 6 cups chicken stock (to render lots of drippings for gravy):

IMG_7309Remove neck and giblets from cavities (reserve those for gravy) -- place bird, breast side up, on center of rack.

IMG_7313In breast cavity, stuff the following: 5-6 rosemary sprigs...

IMG_7315... 3-4 celery stalks...

IMG_7318... 1 small sweet onion...

IMG_7319... 1 small tart apple (these aromatics exude flavor and moisture).

IMG_7325Sprinkle or grind salt and pepper evenly over all.

IMG_7333Out of aluminum foil, fashion a protective shield for the breast:

IMG_7336Place turkey on lowest rack of 350° oven.

IMG_7337When breast turns light brown (after about 20-30 minutes):

IMG_7340Place the protective shield atop the tender breast meat:

IMG_7344Remove from oven, tightly seal the entire pan with aluminum foil -- rest 45 minutes prior to carving and using dripping to make gravy:

IMG_7347"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

11/18/2021

~ Tis the Season to Learn the History Behind Eggnog ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d18ac19f970cEggnog means eggs in a cup, and it is used on both sides of the Atlantic to toast to health.  Nog is an old English term for a small wooden cup.  It descended from a hot British drink called posset, made from eggs beaten with milk, sugar and some type of spirit. During that period, alcoholic drinks were served at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because it was cooked, posset traveled and adapted well to local tastes.  One such place: the American colonies, which were full of farms which were full of chickens, cows and lots of cheap rum -- our signature ingredient. 

Fast forward to present day.  Over the holidays, pasteurized eggnog is sold in milk-like cartons in almost every grocery store in America.  Here is where I stick my two cents in.  All store-bought eggnog is not created equal.  Most mass-produced name brands are cloyingly sweet, leaving an almost bubblegum-like aftertaste.  Most purists agree (I am one), those who don't like this traditional Yultide beverage have simply never had the opportunity to taste real-deal eggnog.

References to eggnog date back to the 1800s, when, even back then it was served during the Winter holiday season. Known as "egg milk punch", it was and still is a sweetened dairy-based beverage made with milk, sugar, raw egg yolks, whipped egg whites and a splash of rum and/or vanilla extract. Nowadays cream is always included in place of some or all of the milk, because today's milk has a much lower fat content than milk in the 1800's, which had cream on top.

Brandy, rum and/or bourbon are almost always added.  The plain truth:  Eggnog just tastes A LOT better with some alcohol in it.  Each smallish finished serving is poured into a punch cup, then it's topped off with a dollop of freshly-whipped cream and a sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg.

Try My Happy Valley Meyer Dairy Eggnog Cookies:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3c74f4a200bOr, My Eggnog Breakfast Brioche in the Bread Machine:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d24b8827970cAnd, help yourself to My Eggnog Brioche French Toast Sticks:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d24c72d1970c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

11/15/2021

~Caviar - The Perfect Start to Any Holiday Celebration~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08947070970dThe word caviar, which refers to lightly-salted roe, aka fish eggs, comes from the Turkish word khavyar and dates back centuries. There are many types of caviar, but true caviar comes from sturgeon, which has been a big part of the Middle Eastern and Eastern European diet for all of their history, and, caviar from the Caspian Sea and rivers of Russia has always been considered uber-premium.  In order of high-end to low-end pricing, there four types of sturgeon caviar: beluga, sevruga, oestra and ship -- and no sturgeon caviar is what I consider cheap.  

The experts will all tell you, when choosing any type of caviar, let your palate, not the price, be your guide.  I am a prime example as I find some of the inexpensive caviar choices (the Japanese black tobiko roe and American Alaskan red salmon roe for example), remarkably more to my liking.  Once upon a time in the Middle East and Europe, caviar was reserved for royalty and their guests.  Here in 19th century America, when our waters were full of sturgeon, salty caviar was, surprisingly, sold uber-cheap or served free in saloons to get customers to drink more beer.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08947a7a970dA bit about caviar utensils and etiquette:  Just like fish and seafood, all caviar should be very fresh, so, purchase it from a reliable source within 1-3 days of serving it. Because heat and oxygen are caviars worst enemies, it should be kept refrigerated and unopened until just prior to serving it in a non-metallic bowl nestled in a larger bowl of cracked or crushed ice. Since metal affects the taste of caviar, caviar spoons are typically made of mother-of-pearl, bone, tortoise shell, glass, wood or plastic.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7f05f2b970bUnless it is being used as a garnish, caviar is served as an hors d'oeuvre.  It's meant to be eaten in 1/2 teaspoon portions, and, it's considered bad manners to heap more than that on each appetizer. 

As for what to drink with caviar, while I like fine French champagne as much as the next person, no self-respecting gal of Russian descent would ever serve her caviar with anything other than iced shots of the finest frozen Russian vodka available. "Nasdrovia!" "To health!"

How much to buy & the classic caviar service:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d17a4319970cDon't get nervous, none of the following info is etched in stone.  It's all about the caviar, it's the star of the show, but, caviar is to be accompanied by items that enhance its flavor, not interfere with it.  When it comes to the foil, or the bland, edible, bread vessel it will be placed atop, while toast points or water biscuits are perfectly acceptable, purists all agree that Russian buckwheat blini (small, 2"-2 1/2"-round yeast-risen pancakes) are considered traditional and classic.

Estimating how much caviar to buy: There are, give or take, 8-10, 1/2 teaspoon servings of caviar in 1 ounce.  That means, the 2-ounce jar of caviar pictured here should be enough to make 16-20 appetizers -- if everyone plays by the 1/2 teaspoonful rule.  I plan on 2 ounces of caviar serving 4 people.  Because caviar is best served opened fresh (within the hour) and chilled, I almost always purchase a few smaller containers, rather than one large one, and refresh it as needed.

What to serve with caviar:  Once you've decided on the foil (which for me is always buckwheat blini), plan and prep the accompaniments. Sour cream (or creme fraiche if you are French), chopped hard-cooked egg (whites and yolks chopped and served separately), minced red onion and minced chives are mandatory.  I also include, for those not fond of caviar and to stretch the amount of caviar consumed, small chunks of pickled herring and thin slices of smoked salmon.

Try your caviar on my recipe for Russian Buckwheat Blini:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08947286970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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