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237 posts categorized "15) With Love from Melanie's Kitchen: Techniques, Basic Recipes, My Soup Stocks & an Occasional Oration"

11/24/2021

~Take All the Guesswork Out of Portioning All Poultry~

What size bird to purchase, no matter what the occasion, tends to be confusing because, simply stated, all poultry is not created equal. Seasoned cooks will tell you size doesn't always matter, because some fowl, duck for instance, may appear to be large enough to feed six people, but, you'd be lucky if you get enough meat from one to adequately feed three. If you've never cooked a duck before, one duck comfortably feeds two people -- and I had to learn this the hard way. Every cook, novice or expert, at some point, finds him or herself asking the...... View full recipe for "~Take All the Guesswork Out of Portioning All Poultry~"

11/21/2021

~Twelve Easy Steps to the Perfect Turkey Day Turkey~

So 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...... View full recipe for "~Twelve Easy Steps to the Perfect Turkey Day Turkey~"

10/31/2021

~ Johnnycakes -- Precursor to the American Pancake ~

My first experience with Johnny cakes was in 1992 We decided to take a tennis vacation and headed to the Killington Ski Resort in Vermont. During the Summer, Killington offers tennis packages and first-class accommodations. We drove nine hours, along winding, two-lane interstate and country roads looking at truly picturesque mountains and greenery. It was idillic, and, we had enough free time for sight-seeing, shopping in country stores and eating in local restaurants too. I ate my first Johnny cake at the resort for breakfast before hitting the courts on our first day. I liked them so much, I ordered...... View full recipe for "~ Johnnycakes -- Precursor to the American Pancake ~"

10/28/2021

~Frambled Egg - a Cross between Scrambled & Fried~

What the heck is a frambled egg? A funny typo? Is frambled even a word? The first time I saw it in print, I kinda did think it might be a typo, but, it got my attention and I kept on reading. The definition revealed it is a trendy new cooking term for something many of us older foodies, like myself, have been doing for years: making scrambled eggs without whisking the eggs first. Yep, it's even easier than making scrambled eggs -- you don't need a cup (or a bowl) or a fork (or a whisk). There's more. Eggs...... View full recipe for "~Frambled Egg - a Cross between Scrambled & Fried~"

10/21/2021

~The Hidden History of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing~

Before we know it, the holiday entertaining season will be upon us. Charcuterie, cheese and vegetable trays, along with assorted, chips, crackers, nuts, dips and spreads will be appearing on cocktail tables in neighborhoods all across America. Like everyone else, the snacks I choose to serve change every year, but, one thing that's always present in some form: Hidden Valley Ranch dressing or dip. Why? Everyone loves the taste of cool and creamy "Ranch". Interestingly: A little over 50 years ago no one had ever heard of ranch dressing and now it is America's most popular salad dressing. We do...... View full recipe for "~The Hidden History of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing~"

10/18/2021

~ The Story of Humble, Homey All-American Meatloaf ~

The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten. Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth and rich pan gravy alongside a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with stewed tomatoes and macaroni and cheese? Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf dinner slathered with a thick brown gravy and French fries? I remember them all, but, mostly, I remember my mom's "special" meatloaf. "Meatloaf." Say the word aloud in the company of family or friends, even...... View full recipe for "~ The Story of Humble, Homey All-American Meatloaf ~"

10/12/2021

~Chutney -- A Spicy Condiment and Sandwich Topper~

Having its origin in India, the name for this condiment comes from the East Indian word chatni, which means to entice the appetite. Indian chutneys were and are commonly made daily and eaten the same day -- originally prepared using a stone mortar and pestle, nowadays an electric food processor is often used. Just like our common American condiments, they can be found on the table for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner -- they are a part of the daily culinary routine. Chutney was imported from India to Western Europe in the early 17th century. European renditions were generically referred to...... View full recipe for "~Chutney -- A Spicy Condiment and Sandwich Topper~"

09/30/2021

~ The Difference between Pickling and Quick Pickling ~

It's that time of year. The late-Summer early-Fall harvest. It can be daunting. Downright overwhelming. While I do can a few fruits and vegetables in the traditional manner (peaches and red beets to name two), I honestly do not love the exhausting, time-consuming process -- I also do not have anyone to stand by my side and help. Armed with only two hands, I much prefer quick-pickling in small batches or freezing in large quantities, but, only if or when either process can be applied without compromise -- for example, peaches are compromised by freezing, beets are best pickled and...... View full recipe for "~ The Difference between Pickling and Quick Pickling ~"

09/24/2021

~ The History Behind the Very Famous Caesar Salad ~

Over the past four decades, the classic Caesar salad has: #1) Become America's most popular main-dish salad; #2) Altered the lettuce industry, as the demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and: #3) Turned the chicken-topped Caesar salad into the chicken item most frequently found on restaurant menus -- even more than wings and chicken fingers. Now considered the all-American salad, it was in fact invented in Mexico in 1924 by an Italian-born immigrant to Mexico. Now considered the all-American salad, the Caesar was invented on July 4th, 1924, by an Italian-Mexican chef & co-owner of a restaurant in Tijuana, who emigrated...... View full recipe for "~ The History Behind the Very Famous Caesar Salad ~"

09/15/2021

~ Jamaican Jerk Style -- A Unique Method of Cooking ~

In a (coco)nutshell, jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica. It was developed by African slaves who escaped into the mountains of Jamaica after the British captured this island paradise from Spain in 1655. Forced to adapt to their new surroundings, the Maroons (the name given to the escaped slaves) made use of the foods nature provided, by pulverizing the edibles they gathered into a fiery pasty rub. By adding fruit and/or citrus juice, the fiery pasty rub became a spicy basting and dipping sauce. When thinned down with a bit of drinking water or the milk from...... View full recipe for "~ Jamaican Jerk Style -- A Unique Method of Cooking ~"

09/12/2021

~What is Quick Bread and What Defines 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,...... View full recipe for "~What is Quick Bread and What Defines Quick Bread~ "

09/09/2021

~Crisp, Crunch, Betty, Cobbler, Grunt, Slump & Buckle~

Our forefathers' wives. the true mothers-of-invention, invented several amusing words to define our now vintage American-heritaged fruit desserts -- none of which, uniquely, fall under the category of pie. It's a short list. Seven words that can confound even the savviest of bakers. Seven words that can confound even the savviest of bakers: A crisp is a fruit mixture topped with a crispy crumb or streusel (a streusel contains oats, a crumb does not, which makes it crumbly). If a crisp has a bottom crust, it's called a crunch. To turn a crisp or a crunch into a betty, the...... View full recipe for "~Crisp, Crunch, Betty, Cobbler, Grunt, Slump & Buckle~"

09/06/2021

~Coffeecake: Traditional Fare for Breakfast or Brunch~

Thanks to post WWII advertising campaigns by the American Coffee Bureau, by 1950, America was a country of coffee drinkers. In the workplace, the 15-minute coffee break was born, and, if you were a housewife, once you got your husband off to work and the kids off to school, you likely participated in a daily, weekly or occasional mid-morning "coffee klatch" with neighborhood friends. The term "coffee klatch" comes from the German word "kaffeeklatsch", meaning "coffee chat" -- a casual gathering for sharing coffee and conversation with close confidants. Literally translated: kaffee = coffee, and, klatsch = gossip. I like...... View full recipe for "~Coffeecake: Traditional Fare for Breakfast or Brunch~"

09/03/2021

~ What to Consider Before Cooking in Big Batches ~

If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for: the pots are big, the load is heavy. There's more. As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you. Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next,...... View full recipe for "~ What to Consider Before Cooking in Big Batches ~"

08/31/2021

~ What is the Difference Between a Soup and a Stew ~

When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall. Why? When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside. Why? When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast. Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the two favorite things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): a stockpot full of luscious, heartwarming, soup...... View full recipe for "~ What is the Difference Between a Soup and a Stew ~"

08/28/2021

~ Don't Confuse the Tomatillo with the Green Tomato ~

Tomatillo, also called tomato verde, means husk tomato, with verde meaning green in Spanish. The tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, which, while related to the red tomato family, and remarkably similar in appearance to the green tomato, cannot be used interchangeably with green tomatoes. Tomatillos are a staple in every Tex-Mex gardener's garden. The fruit of the tomatillo is firm, green and relatively small compared to red tomatoes (only about the size of a large, cherry tomato). They grow to maturity inside of an inedible husk (which gets disgarded), and, range in color from pale green to...... View full recipe for "~ Don't Confuse the Tomatillo with the Green Tomato ~"

08/24/2021

~Let's Talk Plantains -- The Next of Kin to the Banana~

Bananas and plantains -- they resemble each other, and they're related too. I eat a banana almost every morning, but, I can't say the same for the plantain. By accident or out of curiosity, if you've ever peeled a plantain and taken a taste, you knew you weren't eating a banana. That said, when sautéed, the taste and texture of the yellow plantain is remarkable. As a lover of sautéed bananas, a la bananas foster for dessert, or atop eggnog pancakes w/sautéed butter-rum 'n nog bananas. The best way for me to culinarily describe the difference between the two is,...... View full recipe for "~Let's Talk Plantains -- The Next of Kin to the Banana~"

08/21/2021

~My All-Purpose Beer Batter for Deep-Frying Anything~

Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or vegetables. Heck, even cheese and macaroni and cheese can be beer-batter-dipped and deep-fried. Slices, strips, chunks, fillets or paillards. Appetizer, snack, small meal, main-dish or pub grub. It doesn't matter. This beer batter will coat it evenly and fry up light as air. There's more. Be not afraid. Batter-dipping and deep-frying, while somewhat repetitive and time-consuming, it is super-easy. While you don't need an electric deep-fryer to deep fry, a small investment of $50-$75 dollars will get you a light-weight, countertop, cool-touch fryer with a lid, precise temperature control and an air filter which will...... View full recipe for "~My All-Purpose Beer Batter for Deep-Frying Anything~"

08/15/2021

~ Demystifying the Differences Between Four Flours ~

All-purpose flour, bread flour, cake flour and pastry flour. It really is all in the name, and, a well-written recipe will specify the type of flour required to produce the best results. I for one would rather not bake something than substitute a different flour. Why? Unlike cooking, baking is a precise science. It is a series of chemical reactions that occur based upon a list of weighed and/or measured ingredients. The words "smidgen", "pinch" and "dash" have no place in the baking world. The moment you grasp this, you can embrace baking. And, please don't let the words "precise...... View full recipe for "~ Demystifying the Differences Between Four Flours ~"

08/09/2021

~An Inconvenient Truth - A Sweet Potato is Not a Yam~

Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root, which belongs to the morning-glory family, is native to the tropical regions of the Americas. There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" -- the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato. The pale potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet, and, after being cooked,...... View full recipe for "~An Inconvenient Truth - A Sweet Potato is Not a Yam~"

08/06/2021

~ The Bell Pepper Season & Why We All Love Them ~

Ok, maybe we ALL don't love the bell pepper but the majority of us do, including me. Served raw or cooked, they impart both flavor and color in all sorts of dishes from cuisines all around the world. At first sight, it's hard not to be attracted to their bold green, red, orange or yellow color, and, even if a recipe calls for a specific color, it's nice to know they can be used interchangeably -- although the green bell pepper is not quite as sweet as the others. Store-bought or home-grown, kept stored in the refrigerator, they have a...... View full recipe for "~ The Bell Pepper Season & Why We All Love Them ~"

08/03/2021

~The History Behind the Beloved Hass Avocado Fruit~

The most popular avocado in the United States is California Hass -- HASS, which rhymes with PASS is frequently mispronounced and mispelled Haas. This pear-shaped fruit weighs in at about half a pound and has bumpy, rough, dark greenish-black skin -- interestingly, it was originally known as the alligator pear, which, when you think about it for a moment, is an accurate description. It is known for its silky, rich, buttery texture and mild, nutlike flavor. It is the only avocado variety to be grown year-round, representing about 80% of all avocados sold in the world and generates more than...... View full recipe for "~The History Behind the Beloved Hass Avocado Fruit~"

07/25/2021

~ Put Gluten-Free Beer in Gluten-Free Pizza-Dough ~

Let me start by saying that a great pizza crust is puffy, chewy and crispy with a bit of yeasty flavor. Let me end by saying, a gluten-free pizza crust is none of those things. In fact, the only two things a traditional yeast-risen pizza crust and a yeast-risen gluten-free pizza crust have in common are shape and function. Once I got past that and stopped trying to turn "water into wine", it was easier (I didn't say easy, 'cause it took several tries) for me to move-on and come up with a perfectly-palatable very-tasty gluten-free crust to please those...... View full recipe for "~ Put Gluten-Free Beer in Gluten-Free Pizza-Dough ~"

07/12/2021

~ Making the Most of the Short & Sweet Corn Season ~

What a wonderful gift the Native Americans gave to the world. Everything on the corn plant can be used: the husks for tamales, the silks for tea, the kernels for food and the stalks for fodder. Modern day horticulturists developed our two most popular varieties: white (Country Gentleman) and yellow (Golden Bantam). White corn kernels are smaller and sweeter. Yellow corn kernels are larger and fuller-flavored. The more recently developed hybrid (Butter & Sugar Corn) produces ears speckled with both yellow and white kernels -- my personal favorite. Almost nothing beats a serving of fresh, steaming corn on the cob...... View full recipe for "~ Making the Most of the Short & Sweet Corn Season ~"

07/03/2021

~The Cool History behind the Composed Cobb Salad~

The Cobb salad, affectionately called the California Cobb, was invented in 1937 at Hollywood's Brown Derby Restaurant by the owner, Robert Cobb. As the story goes, it's said to have been composed for some hungry late night diners. Mr. Cobb carefully chose from a variety of uniformly sliced and diced ingredients from the day's fare, arranging them in unusually neat lines atop a bed of lettuce as he plated. Another tale (of woe) says that Mr. Cobb threw the salad together to satisfy the appetite of a loyal customer to came into the restaurant complaining of a toothache, so, Cobb...... View full recipe for "~The Cool History behind the Composed Cobb Salad~"

06/30/2021

~ The Cool History behind the Composed Chef Salad ~

A restaurant that serves a great chef's salad for lunch is a restaurant I will frequent. Like Seinfeld's Elaine, I like a big salad, and I don't mean a big bowl of lettuce. I mean a lot of perfectly-cooked good stuff in it, right down to more-than-a-few crunchy, buttery-rich croutons on top. The chef's salad is exactly that salad -- it's not served before the meal or after the meal, it is the meal. The chef salad is a "composed salad", meaning, it is a pretty-to-look-at, arranged-on-a-plate, high-quality, salad -- a perfectly-balanced mixture of color, flavor and texture. At the...... View full recipe for "~ The Cool History behind the Composed Chef Salad ~"

06/24/2021

~The Sizzling History behind Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon)~

Fajitas were originally named tacos-al-carbon and were served as portable food, ready-to-eat-with-the-hands, by wrapping strips of unpretentious skirt steak that had been cooked over a campfire or on a grill, in a warm corn or flour tortilla, meaning they were served taco-style. "Faja" is the Spanish word for "strip, band, sash or belt", and, with "ita" added to the end, it means "a little strip, band, sash or belt", meaning the ingredients for fajitas are always cut into strips. The dish dates back to cattle ranching life along the Rio Grande Valley regions of the Texas-Mexico border in the 1930's....... View full recipe for "~The Sizzling History behind Fajitas (Tacos al Carbon)~"

05/11/2021

~ Three Ways to Cook Smoked Bone-In Pork Chops ~

Smoked porcine (bacon, ham, sausage pork chops, etc.), when properly smoked, is enhanced with a sublime slightly-smoky flavor and an enticing pinkish color, meaning the aroma is pleasant (not at all overpowering), and the visual is pretty. There's more. The smoking process renders the meat cooked, meaning, it only needs to be heated to a safe internal temperature prior to eating and the information is indicated on the label: 125° if fully-cooked, and, 145° if not fully-cooked. In the case of smoked pork chops, in my kitchen there are three quick-and-easy options for cooking: a broiler pan in the oven...... View full recipe for "~ Three Ways to Cook Smoked Bone-In Pork Chops ~"

05/08/2021

~Making Great Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Tortillas~

We all have a few favorite food combinations, meaning, two foods that go hand-in-hand together. A duo you can't emotionally separate because you can't enjoy one without the other. A few of my cheesy favorites: a cup of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, my mom's meatloaf with some macaroni and cheese, my favorite cheeseburger with a side of fries. Another personal favorite: a bowl of Wendy's-style chili with a few quick-to-make cheesy quesadilla wedges. "Queso (KAY-soh)" is the Spanish word meaning "cheese", and, a quesadilla is a tortilla containing ooey-gooey melted cheese. Quesadilla (keh-sah-DEE-yah): A round, flat, cooked-until-soft...... View full recipe for "~Making Great Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Tortillas~"

04/29/2021

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

The 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...... View full recipe for "~Steak My Day - Summer-Up & Try Pork Blade Steak~"

04/26/2021

~How to Bake a Pullman Loaf in a Pullman Bread Pan~

The Pullman loaf is the quintessential white sandwich loaf. The name "Pullman" comes from its use in the kitchens of the Pullman Company's railway cars of the 1800s, and, the Pullman company is credited with inventing the rectangular-shaped lidded baking pans (which coincidentally resembled the shape of the railroad cars). Baking bread in a pan with a lid is, functionally a bit different than baking bread in an open-topped pan, which, of course, affects the crumb structure. The confined space, which doesn't allow most of the steam to escape, prevents big air bubbles from forming, which keeps the crumb fine...... View full recipe for "~How to Bake a Pullman Loaf in a Pullman Bread Pan~"

04/23/2021

~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf & Pullman Loaf Pan ~

A flat-topped loaf of white sandwich bread that gets baked in a square-sided loaf pan with a lid is, culinarily, known as a Pullman loaf. It goes without saying, the technical term for the loaf pan itself is a Pullman pan. The fancy French terms for a Pullman loaf are "pain-de-mie" ("pain" meaning "bread", and "mie" meaning "the soft white inner part of the loaf"), and, "pain anglais" (meaning "English loaf"). It's a loaf of somewhat-firm-yet-soft enriched white bread with perfectly square sides and minimal crust. It slices easily, making it the quintessential sandwich loaf. The Pullman loaf is the...... View full recipe for "~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf & Pullman Loaf Pan ~"

03/24/2021

~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- and Define a Paillard ~

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. In certain areas of the United States, paillards are simply referred to as "cutlets". Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a few boneless, skinless chicken thighs as an example. Paillard (PI-yahrd): This fancy French word dating back...... View full recipe for "~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- and Define a Paillard ~"

02/20/2021

~ Fry the Entire Danged Thing -- Unsectioned Wings ~

Chicken wings. While not even close to the top of my list of healthy-eating snacks or meals, they are at the top of my list of favorite snacks or meals, and, much like the greater percentage of the rest of the population of the United States, from time-to-time I get a craving for them. Also, much like the greater percentage of the rest of the population of the United States, I am in agreement, deep-fried wings, as opposed to air-fried oven-roasted or barbecue-grilled, are the best wings. What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in...... View full recipe for "~ Fry the Entire Danged Thing -- Unsectioned Wings ~"

01/06/2021

~ The Difference Between Pancake and Waffle Batter ~

Pancakes or waffles, waffles or pancakes. Everyone loves them, and, once you make the decision to make one of these two common breakfast foods, in the culinary scheme of things, no two dishes that start out fundamentally same (with a flour, milk and egg batter), could possible emerge so different. When it comes to pancakes and waffles, the number one mistake folks make it assuming they can use the same batter for both -- perfectly underderstandable, but wrong. Waffle batter is thicker than pancake batter and requires more eggs, fat and sugar in order to render the unique, signature texture....... View full recipe for "~ The Difference Between Pancake and Waffle Batter ~"

01/03/2021

~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic, Pancake Mix ~

We all do it. Why not. Wake up in the morning, go into the pantry, and pull out a time-saving box of Bisquick or Aunt Jemima pancake mix. Whether it gets mixed with milk or buttermilk, the pancakes are quick to make, they taste great, and, in this busy world, there's no shame in it. My attitude is "morning food should be easy food". That said, dry pancake mix can be made in minutes at home and stored in a tightly-sealed jar or ziplock bag, in the pantry, for up to six months. Just add some milk or buttermilk, an...... View full recipe for "~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic, Pancake Mix ~"

12/31/2020

~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic Waffle Batter ~

In my kitchen, a snowy morning with buttermilk in the fridge adds up to one of two things: a big plate of pancakes or a big plate of waffles. I'm not sure if there is a better way to fritter away some time on a cold Thursday morning. This morning we decided to go the waffle route. They're a little more involved than pancakes, mostly because a waffle iron is involved, but, what the heck, my foolproof buttermilk waffle recipe only takes a few minutes to whisk together, and, they emerge from the waffle iron light-and-fluffy with crispy edges --...... View full recipe for "~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic Waffle Batter ~"

12/27/2020

~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic French Toast ~

The French words for French toast are pain perdu, meaning lost bread, because it is a way of reviving bread which becomes dry after a day or two. The basics of any French toast recipe are pretty simple: Thickly-sliced, two-three-day-old bread is dipped into a vanilla-flavored egg-and-cream custard mixture. The bread is allowed to soak up the custard for a few moments, then it gets fried in a skillet containing a coating of oil. When executed correctly, it emerges from the skillet crisp and golden brown on both sides with a creamy, almost pudding-like, center. Use any semi-firm textured bread,...... View full recipe for "~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic French Toast ~"

12/18/2020

~Old Bay -- Maryland's Staple in a Classic Yellow Can~

Newsflash -- There are two reasons to never consider trying to make Old Bay Seasoning at home. The first: You can't do it, you'll never get the proportions right, and, those of us who recognize the signature taste -- we'll hate you for yours. The second: Old Bay Seasoning is a source of Marylander pride. It's a staple -- it's found, right next to the salt and pepper shakers, on the tables in eateries everywhere. If you wouldn't try pawning some off-the-rails homemade salt or pepper off on your guests (or customers), don't try it with Old Bay seasoning either....... View full recipe for "~Old Bay -- Maryland's Staple in a Classic Yellow Can~ "

12/13/2020

~An E-Z Two-Ingredient Shortbread-Cookie Pie Crust~

Cheesecakes, cream pies, many layered bar-type cookies, and, some refrigerated pudding and frozen ice-cream desserts call for using a graham cracker crumb crust or cookie crumb crust as a buttery, crunchy base. While homemade graham crackers, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, gingersnaps and chocolate wafers make exceptional crumb crusts, I won't lie, it would have to be one heck of an insanely over-the-top dessert for me to bake any of them for the sole purpose of starting with a real-deal scratch-made base. That said, I learned early in my baking life that I don't at all care for the quality of...... View full recipe for "~An E-Z Two-Ingredient Shortbread-Cookie Pie Crust~"

11/24/2020

~ Simple Tips for Entertaining for Breakfast or Brunch ~

Entertaining guests for breakfast or brunch is decidedly different than entertaining guests for cocktails and/or dinner. For starters, we breakfast chefs don't have the luxury of several hours prep time leading up to the get-together, which means, all of the shopping and as much of the fare (as is humanly possible) needs to be prepped or semi-prepared the night before. An early call to the kitchen means "all the boxes" need to be checked, and double-checked, prior to showtime. Do NOT bite-off more than you can chew. Don't break your budget (just don't do it), resist the urge to be...... View full recipe for "~ Simple Tips for Entertaining for Breakfast or Brunch ~"

10/31/2020

~Stirring the Pot: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~

In my kitchen, cold weather is soup and stew weather, and, once the frost is on the pumpkin I like to make my soups and stews in slow-simmered big batches. After we've enjoyed one hearty warm-us-up meal, I freeze the rest in two-quart containers, so we can slurp soups and stews several more times until Spring comes. Chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, and, ham and bean soup are my on my family's short-list of favorites. For the most part, when making soup or stew, "chicken is chicken" and "beef is beef", meaning: they're almost self-explanatory. That said, when making soups...... View full recipe for "~Stirring the Pot: Smoked Ham Shanks & Ham Hocks~"

10/28/2020

~ Defining the Differences between Soups and Stews ~

When I pull out my big, 20-24-quart stockpots, it's officially Fall. Why? When it's chilly outside, it's time to cook up a storm inside. Why? When one lives in the Northeast, it's a wise cook who has a freezer containing some thaw-heat-and-eat meals for those snowy days when a quick trip to the grocery store is not in the forecast. Yes indeed, when the frost is on the pumpkin, I don't mind spending an afternoon at the stovetop preparing one of the two favorite things I cook in big batches (for "freezer meals"): a stockpot full of luscious, heartwarming, soup...... View full recipe for "~ Defining the Differences between Soups and Stews ~"

10/25/2020

~ Tips for Big Batch Eat-Some Freeze-Some Cooking ~

If you've ever envisioned yourself being a restaurant chef, be careful what you wish for: the pots are big, the load is heavy. There's more. As a home cook, in terms of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing, you won't have any line cooks to perform those menial tasks for you. Don't get me wrong (I'm not trying to talk you out of this), big batch cooking isn't necessarily hard, but, more-often than not, it is time consuming -- in many instances, it's prudent to do the majority of the prep work on one day and the actual cooking the next,...... View full recipe for "~ Tips for Big Batch Eat-Some Freeze-Some Cooking ~"

09/15/2020

~What's the Buzz -- Thick & Hearty Bronze-Cut Pasta~

Dried pasta, I'm guessing, is in 99.9 percent of all pantries. Even if I didn't adore pasta as much as I do, not to mention have around 100 favorite ways to prepare around 100 of my favorite pasta shapes, several boxes of pasta would still be required to be in my pantry at all times. Why? Because the majority of everyone I know loves pasta, and as the family cook, it's my responsibility to please as many people at one time as possible -- and pasta, as a side-dish or a main-course, is a simple, straightforward, sure-simmered way to do...... View full recipe for "~What's the Buzz -- Thick & Hearty Bronze-Cut Pasta~"

08/31/2020

~ The Best Way to Assemble & Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~

The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one. None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on: the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito. When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla. That said, generally speaking, when ordering a tortilla wrap,...... View full recipe for "~ The Best Way to Assemble & Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~"

08/09/2020

~How to Season & Roast Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters~

Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month. They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin. Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight). No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal. Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to...... View full recipe for "~How to Season & Roast Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters~"

07/15/2020

~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~

An over-fried corn tortilla can be like eating broken glass. That super-crispy-crunchy state is best left for frying tortilla wedges or wisps to serve as tortilla chips with dips, or wisps to garnish various Mexican-style soups or main-dishes. No one wants to pick up a taco only to take a bite and have the taco shell shatter all over the plate. This is not a blog post I ever intended to write, but, based on the number of times I get asked how I fry my taco shells, in order to achieve the perfect crisp-yet-pliable texture, I guess I should....... View full recipe for "~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~"

07/05/2020

~ Broiled & Baked Rack of St. Lewis-Style Spareribs ~

Not everyone is a master of the barbecue grill or smoker. Newsflash. Not everyone wants to be. While I'm more than competent on a gas grill, charcoal gives me fits and the smell of smoke gives me a blinding headache. There's more. When the temperature in the great outdoors is threatening to blow the top off my thermometer, you won't find me outside torturing myself in the blazing heat just to prepare a rack of ribs. It's the AC for me baby, and, trust me when I tell you, you're gonna love the ribs I'm making in the cool oasis...... View full recipe for "~ Broiled & Baked Rack of St. Lewis-Style Spareribs ~"

05/09/2020

~Oven-Braising a Turkey Breast without a Dutch Oven~

Let's talk turkey. Whole frozen birds and whole thawed breasts, were, for the most part, always available year round, but, at present, folks seem to be noticing them more -- especially the whole breasts. Considering the increasing scarcity, not-to-mention skyrocketing prices of beef and pork products, people are in search of relatively inexpensive alternatives that can feed an entire family. A whole turkey breast is one wise-choice item, but, based on the questions coming to me via KE recently, many first-time stay-at-home-full-time cooks find themselves overwhelmed, intimidated and confused by a product they've passed by more times than they'd like...... View full recipe for "~Oven-Braising a Turkey Breast without a Dutch Oven~"