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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

04/11/2021

~ Unembellished Perfection -- Classic Cheese Toast ~

IMG_0582Cheese toast served with a side of tomato soup.  Also known as cheese-on-toast, these two go hand-in-hand together, and, truth told, I enjoy dipping this munchy-crunchy oven-toasted side-dish into my creamy-steamy soup better than the overwhelming favorite amongst the masses: the slightly-greasy skillet-fried grilled cheese sandwich (served with a side of tomato soup).  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it's because my dad preferred cheese toast to grilled cheese, or, perhaps it's because it was one of the first meals my mom allowed me to prepare sans supervision.

To a budding young cook -- kitchen independence is bliss.

IMG_0603Everyone makes cheese toast a bit differently, but, the worst thing you can do is overthink it.  It's cheese on toast.  Period -- and ordinary white bread will do just fine.  My mom started by stirring a bit of mayonnaise, ballpark (yellow) mustard, a drop or two of Worcestershire sauce and a scant amount of black together in a small bowl.  Sometimes she used two slices of white American cheese, sometimes she used two slices of yellow American cheese, sometimes she used one slice of each -- whatever she had on hand was fine.  There's no need to take the time to slice the cheese slices into thin strips, but, she did, and for some reason, the cheese seems to melt better.

It's cheese on toast.  Period.  Please don't overthink it:

IMG_05701  slice White bread

2  teaspoons mayonnaise

1/2  teaspoon ballpark mustard

2  drops Worcestershire sauce

1/8  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

2  slices American cheese, white or yellow or one slice of each, slices cut into thin strips

IMG_0558 IMG_0563 IMG_0567 IMG_0575~Step 1.  In a small ramekin, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard Worcestershire sauce and pepper.  Using a chef's knife, slice the cheese into thin strips and set aside.  Place the slice of bread in the toaster and lightly-toast it, just until barely brown, about 45-60 seconds.  Keep an eye on it because you do not want to over-toast the bread.  Remove the toast from the toaster and place it on a small broiler pan that will fit in the toaster oven.  Preheat the toaster oven to broil.

IMG_0575 IMG_0576 IMG_0579~ Step 2.  Slather the bread with the mayonnaise concoction.  Scatter the thin-sliced cheese slices on top. Place under the broiler of toaster oven until cheese is bubbly and melted, 30-45 seconds. Watch carefully as the the cheese will go from melted and bubbly to browned and burned quickly. Serve immediately.

Serve immediately w/a side of creamy tomato soup: 

IMG_0607Unembellished Perfection -- Classic Cheese Toast:  Recipe yields instructions to make 1 slice cheese toast.

Special Equipment List:  small ramekin; spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; small, disposable, toaster-oven-sized aluminum broil pan, preferably the kind with a corrugated bottom

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d01ceb970cCook's Note:  ~ Say Cheese Please:  Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit ~. It's the original cheese toast and 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.  After that trip, I not only gave cheese toast a lot more thought, I started taking it seriously.  Unembellished perfection.

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

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

04/08/2021

~ Bone-Suckin'-Sauced Boneless Chicken Paillards ~

IMG_0544Bone Suckin' Sauce.  If this is product you've never tried, I suggest you make the pilgrimage to your nearest Lowe's (yes folks, our local Lowe's home improvement and appliance retailer is the only place we can buy it here in Happy Valley -- they sell the sauce in the same spot they sell barbecue grills, which, makes sense), or, get it on-line on their website.  My son in Pittsburgh introduced me to Bone Suckin' Sauce about fifteen years ago, and, without exaggeration, the first taste changed my life.  Before long, I was buying this sauce, on-line, by the case.  Over the years, their Bone Suckin' Seasoning & Rub, Bone Suckin' Steak Seasoning & Rub, and, Bone-Suckin' Lemon-Pepper Seasoning have earned a permanent spot in my pantry. 

Bone Sucking' Sauce is non GMO, gluten free, &, fat free:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09ea441d970dBone Sucking' Sauce:  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 glean every last drop of flavor from them.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d147c0970cBone 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.

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.

This easy winner winner chicken dinner is awesome:

IMG_04821 1/4-1 1/2  cups Bone Suckin' thicker-style sauce, plus, additional sauce for dipping or drizzling at tableside

6-8  tablespoons water (3-4-ounces)

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99973f3200b6  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".

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec6c2a8200c~ 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°).

6a0120a8551282970b027880210c7b200d 6a0120a8551282970b026bdec92284200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bdec922a1200c 6a0120a8551282970b027880210c9b200d~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_0497 IMG_0497 IMG_0504 IMG_0504 IMG_0519 IMG_0519 IMG_0519 IMG_0519 IMG_0527 IMG_0527 IMG_0535 IMG_0535~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.   Season their tops (liberally) with the Bone Suckin' Seasoning and Rub.  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.  Add the Bone Suckin' Sauce to the chicken in the skillet, followed by the water.  Quickly heat the sauce to bubbling, stirring in and around and under the paillards constantly for a moment or two to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  Adjust the heat to a very gentle simmer (steady yet very gentle), and continue to simmer very gently, uncovered, about 20 more minutes.

Try it served atop some slightly-spicy Mexican-style rice

IMG_0553Bone-Suckin'-Sauced Boneless Chicken Paillards:  Recipe yields 6 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sized meat mallet; 16" electric skillet w/lid; 1-cup measuring container; fork and/or spatula; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b02788021145d200dCook'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)

04/05/2021

~ Cheese Ravioli w/Butter, Garlic & Cottage Cheese ~

IMG_0436I'm often asked what I cook just for myself, meaning:  what I eat when no one else is around or no one else is looking.  My answer is always the same:  Most times I make a sandwich or nuke some soup (which require no actual cooking), but, when I do want to place a pot on the stovetop, I treat myself to a super-quick, super-easy pasta dish that is a spin-off of a childhood favorite (my dad's version of mac and cheese) which was an odd combination of hot, buttered-macaroni tossed with cold cottage cheese and seasoned with garlic powder, salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

Steaming-hot cheese ravioli tossed w/ice-cold cottage cheese?

IMG_0449If you can't quite wrap your head around the concept of hot and cold in in the same pasta bowl, rethink your position.  Resist every urge to heat or melt the cottage cheese, or, God forbid, create a baked casserole out of this recipe (which actually might be good but totally misses the point). This meatless meal is wonderful just as it is, and, if you happen to have a tomato and/or some fresh parsley, don't hesitate to chop either or both and toss them in at the end as well.

A one-pot cheese ravioli dish that goes from stovetop-to-table in 10-15 minutes.  It's as close to instant-gratification as it gets:

IMG_04096  ounces frozen cheese ravioli (1/2 of a 12-ounce bag)

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder, more or less, to taste

1/4-  teaspoon sea salt, more or less, to taste

1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste

1  tablespoon finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2  cup large-curd cottage cheese, somewhat cold (Note:  Just before you're ready to start boiling the water for the ravioli, remove the cottage cheese from the refrigerator and set it aside. At serving time, it will be cold, but not ice cold.)

6-8 small, sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)

1-2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)

IMG_0413 IMG_0413 IMG_0419 IMG_0422~Step 1.  In an 2-quart saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the ravioli and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, about 5-6 minutes.  Transfer to a colander. Drain well and return hot ravioli to still warm stockpot on still warm stovetop.  

IMG_0425 IMG_0428 IMG_0431 IMG_0431~Step 2.  Add the butter, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes, followed by the Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese.  Using two forks or two spoons, gently toss as you would a salad, until butter is melted and ravioli are evenly coated.  Add the cottage cheese along and lightly toss, just to distribute the creamy cheese throughout ravioli.  Remove from stovetop and serve immediately.

Toss in some sliced cherry tomatoes &/or parsley too:

IMG_0464Dig into some cheesy, creamy & slightly-spicy comfort food:    

IMG_0467Cheese Ravioli w/Butter, Garlic & Cottage Cheese:  Recipe yields 1 hearty main-course servings, or, 2 smaller side-servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-quart saucepan; colander; large spoon; cutting board; chef's knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7f6a67a970bCook's Note: My dad's mac & cheese is a comforting, flavor-packed dish that will provide almost instant gratification because it goes from stovetop to table in the time it takes to cook the macaroni.  His unusual combination of hot, spicy, buttered elbow macaroni, tossed with cold cottage cheese (he liked farmers' cheese but began substituting cottage cheese as farmers' cheese started to get hard to come by) literally bursts with flavor.    ~ Dad's Mac & Cheese, or:  What I cook Just for Me ~.

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

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