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12 posts from November 2018

11/30/2018

~ Sausage and Everything Bagel Breakfast Sandwich ~

IMG_5994It's been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  I whole-heartedly believe it, but, I also have strong opinions about it.  The first:  A protein-packed breakfast is better than a sugar-shocked one.  I love pancakes, waffles and French toast as much as the next person, and indulging in them occasionally is divine, but, on a daily basis, I don't believe them to be the best way to start the day.  The second:  In today's busy food world, folks will put down the sweet pop tart in exchange for a savory sandwich if it can be made in advance, or several days in advance.

A work week of made-ahead breakfast sandwiches.

IMG_5999Sausage, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches are my specialty.  I make ten of them every Sunday, wrap 'em in plastic and stack 'em in the refrigerator.  Monday thru Friday (the work week), these tasty ten sandwiches are breakfast for my husband and myself.  When I tip-toe down the stairs in the dark (at the ungodly hour of 4:20AM), I take one out and let it warm up on the counter for about 30 minutes.  After 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave, I'm eating my breakfast.  I repeat the process in the daylight, when my husband makes his appearance in the kitchen. 

IMG_585210  high-quality New York-style same-day-baked everything bagels, the kind bought at a bakery rather than found in the bread section of the average grocery store

10  sweet sausage links

10  large, medium or jumbo eggs

10-20 slices yellow cheddar cheese (1 or 2 per sandwich)

IMG_5828 IMG_5828 IMG_5828~ Step 1.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the casings from ten sweet sausage links and form each link into into a 4"-round patty.  Place five sausage patties in a 12" skillet.  Over medium heat, fry the sausage patties, until cooked through and lightly-golden on both sides, using a spatula to flip them over once during the process, about 8 minutes per side.  Remove sausage patties to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.  Repeat this process with the remaining five sausage patties.

IMG_5839 IMG_5839 IMG_5839~ Step 2.  Crack 10 eggs into the sausage drippings remaining in the skillet. Lightly-season tops with salt and pepper.  Over medium-high heat, fry the eggs to desired degree of yolky doneness.  Towards the end of the process, I like to place a lid on the skillet for about a minute to form an opaque and protective skin atop the still jiggly yolks. Remove the skillet of eggs from stovetop, cover and set aside.

IMG_5854 IMG_5854 IMG_5854 IMG_5854 IMG_5854 IMG_5854 IMG_5854~Step 3.  To assemble the sandwiches, using a serrated bread knife, slice all ten bagels in half horizontally.  Depending on the size of your toaster, lightly-toast one or two bagels.  As bagels emerge from the toaster, top the bagel bottoms with one or two slices of cheddar cheese, a still warm sausage patty and an egg.  Add the top of the bagel, wrap each bagel sandwich in aluminum foil and set aside -- wrapping the warm sandwich and its warm components in foil steams the bread to the perfect texture.  Repeat process until all ten bagel sandwiches are assembled and wrapped in foil.

IMG_5873 IMG_5873 IMG_5873 IMG_5873~Step 4.  Starting with the first sandwiches you wrapped in foil and working your way to the last sandwiches that got wrapped, remove the foil and tightly-wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap (preferably commercial food service film which is heavier and higher-quality than ordinary Glad- and Saran-type wrap).  Stack the sandwiches neatly on a shelf in the refrigerator.  To reheat, remove a sandwich from the refrigerator and set it on the counter for 30-45 minutes.  In the meantime, take a shower, put the coffee on, check your e-mails -- whatever.  Place the plastic wrapped sandwich in the microwave oven on high power for 90 seconds.  Unwrap and eat.

The perfect protein-packed & savory start to the workday...

IMG_6014... & hearty enough to eat one half & share the other half: 

IMG_6025Got guests coming for the weekend or a large crowd to feed? Sausage & Everything Bagel Breakfast Casserole:

IMG_6054Sausage and Everything Bagel Breakfast Sandwich:  Recipe yields 10 breakfast sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen shears; 12" nonstick skillet w/lid; nonstick spatula; paper towels; cutting board; serrated bread knife; toaster; aluminum foil; plastic wrap

IMG_4484Cook's Note:  Another one of my favorite everything bagel sandwiches, the ~ Smoked Salmon & Folded Omelet Bagel Sandwich ~ contains all the components of a classic bagels and lox presentation. The folded omelette that goes atop this sandwich, is a great substitution for the fried eggs featured today.  

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

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

11/28/2018

~ Glorious Golden Potato and Onion Sandwich Rolls ~

IMG_5798Get out the deli-roast beef, Swiss cheese and horseradish sauce.  An onion roll turns any plain-Jane roast-beef sandwich into an extraordinary roast-beef sandwich.  I love potato bread and any type of slightly-sweet and pillowy-soft potato rolls in general. Unless I am specifically looking for a crusty, semi-firm roll, 'tater-type rolls are my all-purpose sandwich rolls of choice -- that includes hamburger and hot dog rolls too.  The only thing better than a soft, slightly-sweet potato-sandwich roll is a soft, slightly-sweet potato-sandwich roll laced with small bits of onion and herbs.

I tout these for roast-beef sandwiches -- they're great 'burger rolls too.

IMG_5769Imagine my glee when I successfully turned my brioche in the bread machine recipe into glorious, golden potato rolls.

IMG_5695

1/2  cup buttermilk

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, preferably at room temperature

1/2  cup mashed Yukon gold potato, from 1 medium-large potato that has been microwave-baked (I use a slightly-generous half cup)

1  extra-large egg, lightly-beaten 

3  tablespoons sugar

2  1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  dried herbes de Provence, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

2  teaspoons onion powder

2  tablespoons dehydrated minced onion

1  packet Fleischmann's granulated yeast, not rapid-rise yeast granules

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_5702 IMG_5706 IMG_5706 IMG_5706 IMG_5706~Step 1. In a 1-cup measuring container, in the microwave, heat the buttermilk to steaming, 30-45 seconds.  Add the butter cubes.  Using a fork, stir until the butter is melted into the buttermilk.  Add the mashed gold potato.  Stir until nicely incorporated.  Using the fork, in a small bowl, whisk the egg, then stir it into the mixture.  Add and stir in the sugar.

IMG_5717 IMG_5717 IMG_5717 IMG_5717 IMG_5717~Step 2.  Add the liquid buttermilk/potato mixture to bread pan of bread machine.  In a medium bowl, measure and place the flour, herbes de Provence, salt, pepper, onion powder and dehydrated minced onion, then, using the fork give the dry ingredients a gentle stir.  Scoop dry ingredients atop wet ingredients.  DO NOT STIR.  Using your index finger, make a shallow well in the top of the flour mixture and pour the yeast granules into the well.

IMG_5728 IMG_5728 IMG_5732~Step 3.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Select the "dough" cycle for a 1-pound loaf, then press "start".  In less than 1 1/2 hours you will have a light, manageable dough that has proofed twice.

IMG_5736 IMG_5736 IMG_5736 IMG_5736 IMG_5752 IMG_5752~Step 4.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment.  When bread machine signals the dough has proofed, lightly-spray a light-weight plate with no-stick and lightly-oil your fingertips with a bit of the no-stick spray from the plate. Using your oiled fingertips, transfer dough to prepared plate, which has been place on a kitchen scale.  You will have 1 1/2 pounds dough.  Using the scale as a measure, divide dough into 8, 3-ounce pieces.  Between the palms of your hands, roll each piece into a ball and arrange the balls of dough, well-apart, on prepared pan.  Cover the pan with a lint-free cotton flour-sack-type towel and allow to rise a third time, by about 1/2 half (not doubled), about 45 minutes.

IMG_5756 IMG_5756 IMG_5756~Step 5.  Bake rolls on center rack of preheated 350º oven, until golden brown, and, when tapped with the knuckle of your index finger, they sound hollow, about 18-20 minutes.  Do not over bake.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, 1-2 hours.  Best served same-day-baked, but they're fine the next day too.

IMG_5773 IMG_5773 IMG_5773 IMG_5773 IMG_5773 IMG_5773~Step 6.  My favorite sandwich served on these onion rolls:  a copious slather of horseradish sauce, a generous layer of shaved red onion, a heaping handful of very-thinly-sliced rare-roasted deli-beef, and two thin slices of lacy Swiss cheese.

Cool rolls completely, 1-2 hours, then slice & serve:

IMG_5810Top w/horseradish sauce, red onion, a heap of beef & Swiss:

IMG_5813Glorious Golden Potato and Onion Sandwich Rolls:  Recipe yields 8, 3 1/2"-4"-round sandwich rolls.

Special Equipment List: bread machine; 1-cup measuring container; fork; bread machine; kitchen scale; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; lint-free flour-sack-type towel; wire cooling rack; serrated bread knife

IMG_5577Cook's Note:  I adore sweet potatoes.  As long as I can find them in the grocery store, which is about nine months out of the year, I keep them on hand always, as, for me, a humble, baked sweet potato slathered with butter is a meal.  That said, for a variation on the potato-roll theme, one that I make each year for Thanksgiving,  try my recipe for  ~ Sweet & Savory Herbed Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls ~. 

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

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

11/26/2018

~ Stick a Chip in It: Mel's Ultimate French Onion Dip ~

IMG_5670Stir a packet of Lipton's dehydrated French Onion Soup mix into a cup of sour cream and you will get no complaints from me -- zero.  I love the stuff.  I grew up watching TV shows (Bewitched, the Beverly Hillbillies, Andy of Mayberry, Gilligan's Island, Patty Duke, the Flintstones, etc.), to the crackling sound of a bag of Ruffles as I readied each chip for a copious glop of this beloved stuff. Those were good times.  There were obviously no calories in it, because I was a stick figure.

Nostalgic memories.  We all have them.  That said, times change, people change.  I still love French onion dip made via the 1960's seasoning-packet-stirred-into-sour-cream method, but, I really, really, really love my 1980's amped-up version.  It's easy enough to make -- no chopping, dicing or slicing (unless you want to go unnecessarily old-school rogue and caramelize onions to stir into it), but, trust me, it deserves to be served with pride and a slightly-cocky attitude, because, this made-from-scratch concoction is gonna have everyone asking for this recipe.

From California Dip in 1954 to French Onion Dip in 1960 -- Lipton cornered the market on it.

IMG_5659A bit about French onion dip, also known as California dip.  It's an all-American sour-cream-based dip* for potato chips that is flavored with onion and other herbs and seasonings.  Said to have been created by an unknown French cook in Los Angeles in 1954, it was intended to mimic the taste of French onion soup.  The recipe became such a popular addition to the fare served in martini-drinking social circles, it got printed in a local newspaper.  Shortly after, in 1955, the Lipton company promoted it on the TV show "Arthur Godfry's Talent Scouts", touting it as "Lipton California Dip", and followed that up with ad campaigns in supermarkets and on television.  In 1959, the recipe was added to the Lipton instant onion soup package, where it remains today.  By the 1960's, the name had transitioned to "French onion dip", as it remains today.

*Note:  Mayonnaise may be substituted for the sour cream in order to turn the dip into a tangy sandwich spread, but, for the love of mankind, please do not add cream cheese to this dip. 

No slicing or dicing, &, one step to classic chip-dip perfection:

IMG_56401 1/2  cups sour cream

1 1/2  teaspoon dried herbes de Provence

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

1 1/4  teaspoons dehydrated, minced onion

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon celery salt

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1-2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, to taste

IMG_5632 IMG_5632 IMG_5646~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup food-storage container measure and place all ingredients. Give the mixture a thorough stir, then give it another thorough stir.  In two three increments, stir in a small amount of Worcestershire sauce, to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, 4-6 hours is much better, and overnight is perfect.

Snuggle up on the sofa, tune the TV to some classic reruns...

IMG_5684... stick a chip in it & take a trip back in time:

IMG_5690Stick a Chip in It:  Mel's Ultimate French Onion Dip:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups classic chip dip.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01901e603938970bCook's Note:  A favorite of my children's generation (ranch dressing hadn't been invented when I was a child), if you liked my French onion dip (for potato chips), you just might want to give  ~ Mel's Happy-Valley Hidden-Valley Ranch-Style Salad Dressing ~ (for veggies) recipe a try.  It's kid's stuff! 

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

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

11/23/2018

~ Sweet Potato, Apple & Sausage Bundt-Pan Stuffing ~

IMG_5472Stuffing baked in a bundt pan makes for a picture-perfect presentation that brings a smile to everyone.  From a practical standpoint, it feeds a crowd (or a small gathering of stuffing lovers) and it's very user-friendly:  it easy to portion, slice and serve at the table or on the buffet line, and, slices are especially convenient on closed or open-faced turkey sandwiches.  Stuffing slices can be wrapped, stacked and frozen too -- for those times when one has to have a slice of stuffing.

Nicely-sliced stuffing is not new-to-me -- it's old-school brilliance.  My grandmother always baked her stuffing in two loaf pans because it was an efficient use of oven space.  As a savvy cook, she figured out that two, high, narrow loaf pans took up less oven space than a low, shallow casserole while yielding about the same amount.  Her stuffing loaves baked on either side of the roasting turkey with miscellaneous other casseroles strategically placed on the remaining upper rack.

I say, "stuffing", and you say, "dressing".  Who's right?

IMG_5460We both are.  The terms are used interchangeably.  The Food Lover's Companion defines both  as "a mixture used to stuff poultry, fish, meat and some vegetables."  I did not always know that.

Where I grew up in Eastern PA, if someone said, "please pass the dressing", they got the salad dressing.  When someone said she was "dressing the turkey", it meant she was preparing it for roasting (which could include removing its innards and plucking the feathers).  Stuffing per se, was the stuff she stuffed into the bird.  The stuff that didn't fit in the bird, meaning the extra stuffing she'd purposely made so she'd have enough to feed a crowd, got baked in a buttered casserole dish alongside the bird.  Neither turned into "dressing" when it went on the table.  Stuffing went into her oven, stuffing came out of her oven and stuffing went onto her table.  I spent the first fourteen years of life completely unaware stuffing had another name.  It happened by accident.

I was having an after-school dinner at my girlfriend Susie's house.  Susie's mom Jeanne was born and raised in the South and talked with one of those great Andy of Mayberry Southern drawls. Susie's mom served cast-iron-skillet fried chicken dinner that night, with cornbread dressing.  I was a pretty picky eater back then and wanted to know what I was eating before I put in on my plate (because according to my family's rules, once it was on my plate I was required to eat it). So I asked, "is this dressing the same thing as stuffing?"  In a lovely, ladylike, upbeat Southern drawl, I was told, "Oo honn-ey -- it's jus' the same --  we'all jus' call it dressin' down South."

My Southern-Style Sweet Potato, Apple & Sausage Stuffing:

IMG_53892  pounds sweet sausage, hot sausage may be substituted

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1  teaspoon poultry seasoning

2  packets from 1 box G. Washington's Golden Seasoning and Broth Mix

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

8-10  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (1 1/2-2 cups)

8-10  ounces diced celery (1 1/2-2 cups)

1 1/2 pounds peeled and 1/2" diced sweet potatoes (about 6 cups)

12  ounces peeled and 1/2" diced tart apples (about 3 cups)

8  jumbo eggs

2  cups whole milk

2  1-pound loaves potato bread, cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing bundt pan

IMG_5392 IMG_5392 IMG_5392 IMG_5392~Step 1.  Using your fingertips, pull the sausage into little pieces, dropping them in a 14" chef's pan as you work.  Over medium-high heat, fry sausage bits, stirring frequently with a large slotted spoon, until just cooked through and beginning to turn brown, 6-8 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Using the slotted spoon, transfer cooked sausage to a paper-toweled-lined plate to drain and cool.

IMG_5401 IMG_5401 IMG_5401 IMG_5401~Step 2.  Over low heat, melt the butter into the sausage drippings remaining in the bottom of the pan.  Add and stir in the spices:  the nutmeg, poultry seasoning, G. Washington's packets, salt and pepper into the butter and sausage drippings.  Add the onion, celery and sweet potatoes.

IMG_5408 IMG_5408 IMG_5408 IMG_5408 IMG_5408 IMG_5408 IMG_5408~Step 3.  Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and sweet potatoes are beginning to soften, 10-12 minutes.  Add and stir in the diced apples.  Continue to sauté, stirring frequently, until apples just begin to soften, 3-4 additional minutes.  Add and stir in the drained sausage bits and pieces.  Remove the pan from heat and set aside for mixture cool about 30-40 minutes.

IMG_5425 IMG_5425 IMG_5425 IMG_5425 IMG_5425 IMG_5425 IMG_5425~Step 4.  In two or three increments, add and fold all of the bread cubes into the still-warm vegetable-sausage mixture in pan. Using a fork, vigorously whisk the eggs.  Add all of the eggs to the pan and thoroughly fold them in, taking enough time to make sure all of the ingredients are enrobed in the eggs.  Add the milk. Fold, fold, and fold again, until bread has absorbed all of the milk, giving it about 10 full minutes.

IMG_5439 IMG_5439 IMG_5439 IMG_5457~Step 5.  Transfer stuffing mixture to a 12-cup bundt pan that has been sprayed with no-stick. The bundt pan will be filled to the top.*  Cover pan with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven for 1 hour.  Remove the foil and continue to bake for 45 more minutes. Remove from oven and rest 45-60 minutes.  Use a paring knife to loosen stuffing from the exterior and interior edges of the pan, place a plate on top and invert stuffing onto the plate.

*Note:  Stuffing contains no leaveners, so, worry not about filling the pan to the top -- filling the bundt pan to the brim actually makes it easier to unmold onto the plate after it bakes.

Slice & serve savory-sausage-stuffing perfection:

IMG_5480The Morning After?  Thanksgiving Stuffing Waffles:  

IMG_3385Sweet Potato, Apple & Sausage Bundt Pan Stuffing:  Recipe yields 18-20 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; serrated bread knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large slotted spoon; paper towels; 12-cup bundt pan; aluminum foil; wire cooling rack; paring knife

IMG_5358Cook's Note: Before baking stuffing in a bundt pan, there are a few things you need to know.  In my post ~ Nicely-Sliced:  Stuffing in a Bundt Pan Stuffing Ring ~ you'll find my tips on the adjustments that need to be made to bake any stuffing recipe in a bundt pan.

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

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

11/20/2018

~ Nicely-Sliced: Stuffing in a Bundt Pan Stuffing Ring ~

IMG_5358Nicely-sliced stuffing is not new-to-me -- it's old-school brilliance.  My grandmother always baked her stuffing in two loaf pans because it was an efficient use of oven space.  As a savvy cook, she figured out that two, high, narrow loaf pans took up less oven space than a low, shallow casserole while yielding about the same amount.  Her stuffing loaves baked on either side of the roasting turkey with miscellaneous other casseroles strategically placed on the remaining upper rack.

Some fun facts about making stuffing in a bundt pan:

IMG_5310Making Thanksgiving stuffing in a 12-cup bundt pan does not take up less oven space.  That said, it's a picture-perfect presentation that makes everyone smile.  From a practical standpoint, it feeds a crowd (or a small gathering of stuffing lovers) and it's very user-friendly:  it easy to portion, slice and serve at the table or on the buffet line, and, slices are especially convenient on those closed or open-faced turkey sandwiches the next day.  Stuffing slices can be wrapped, stacked and frozen too -- for those desperate times when one just has to have a slice of stuffing.

Tips for successfully making beautiful bundt pan stuffing:

IMG_5329The ties that bind -- add eggs.  Any stuffing recipe will work (or can be made to work) as long as it contains enough eggs to bind it together.  So, if you're a fan of crumbly cornbread-type or loose broth-based eggless stuffings, if six lightly-beaten eggs do not get folded into it, the stuffing will just fall apart when unmolded -- which is the point of baking stuffing in a bundt pan.  There's more, if your stuffing recipe already contains four eggs, add two more -- don't ask questions, just do it.

IMG_5331Lower temperature, longer time.  Stuffing is dense and stuffing baked in a bundt pan (instead of a shallow casserole) requires more time.  Generally an extra 15-30 minutes.  Because it is so dense, in order for it to cook through to the center without over browning on the outside, lower the oven temperature to 325º.  Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with no-stick and fill it to the top with stuffing.  Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake, covered, 1 hour.  Uncover and bake 45 minutes. 

IMG_5335Resting and unmolding.  Stuffing contains no leaveners, so, worry not about filling the pan to the top -- it actually makes it easier to unmold.  There's more.  Because bundt pan stuffing is dense from the get-go, it takes a long time to cool down.  Just as the turkey rests 30-45 minutes prior to carving, rest the stuffing for 30-45 minutes.  Using a thin spatula, carefully loosen stuffing from the edges, place a plate atop the bundt pan and invert the stuffing out onto the plate. 

IMG_5340Take a stuffing slice or three & gobble, gobble, gobble!

IMG_5377Nicely-Sliced:  Stuffing in a Bundt Pan Stuffing Ring:  Tips for successfully baking stuffing in a bundt pan/16-20 servings.

Special Equipment List: 12-cup bundt pan; wire cooling rack; plate; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37bad17200cCook's Note: ~ I Just Love My Mother's Cracker Stuffing Casserole ~, and, it's the recipe pictured throughout this post.  It's a simple mixture of saltine crackers soaked in milk and eggs with sautéed celery, onions and ground beef.  Yes, I ground beef.  Mom disliked turkey giblets, so, she substituted the ground meat to mimic their look and mouth feel, which makes it versatile enough to serve with a prime rib roast for the Christmas or New Years holidays. 

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

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

11/17/2018

~ Sweet & Savory Herbed Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls ~

IMG_5577I love potato bread and any type of slightly-sweet and pillowy soft potato rolls in general. Unless I am specifically looking for a crusty, semi-firm roll for a specific reason, rolls of the 'tater-type are my all-purpose sandwich roll of choice -- that includes hamburger and hot dog rolls too.   That said, I like the sweet potato even more than I like the red, Russet or gold potato.  As long as I can find sweet potatoes in the grocery store, which is about nine months out of the year, I keep them on hand always, as, for me, a humble, baked sweet potato slathered with butter is a meal.

Imagine my glee when I successfully turned my brioche in the bread machine recipe into a delightful recipe for sweet potato dinner rolls.

IMG_54861/2  cup buttermilk

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces, preferably at room temperature

1/2  cup mashed sweet potato, from 1 small sweet potato that has been microwave-baked (I use a slightly-generous half cup)

1  extra-large egg, lightly-beaten 

3  tablespoons sugar

2  1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  dried herbes de Provence, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

1  packet Fleischmann's granulated yeast, not rapid-rise yeast granules

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing pans

1-2  tablespoons additional butter, melted, for brushing over tops of finished rolls

IMG_5489 IMG_5489 IMG_5489 IMG_5489 IMG_5489 IMG_5489~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, in the microwave, heat the buttermilk to steaming, 30-45 seconds.  Add the butter.  Using a fork, stir until the butter is melted into the buttermilk.  Add the sweet potatoes.  Stir until nicely incorporated. Whisk the egg.  Using the fork, whisk the egg into the mixture.  Add and stir in the sugar.

IMG_5502 IMG_5502 IMG_5502 IMG_5502 IMG_5502~Step 2.  Add the liquid mixture to bread pan of bread machine.  In a medium bowl, place the flour, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper, then give the dry ingredients a gentle stir.  Scoop dry ingredients atop wet ingredients.  DO NOT STIR.  Using your index finger, make a shallow well in the top of the flour mixture and pour the yeast granules into the well.

IMG_5516 IMG_5516 IMG_5516~ Step 3.  Insert the bread pan into the bread machine.  Select the "dough" cycle for a 1-pound loaf, then press "start".  In less than 1 1/2 hours you will have a light, manageable dough that has  proofed twice.

IMG_5533 IMG_5533 IMG_5533 IMG_5533~Step 4.  Spray 2, 8" round cake pans with no-stick cooking sparay.  When the bread machine signals that the dough has proofed, lightly oil your fingertips with a bit of the no-stick spray from one of the pans and transfer the dough to a plate that has been place on a kitchen scale.  You will have 1 1/2 pounds of dough.  Using the kitchen scale as a measure, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces that weigh 2 ounces each.  Between the palms of your hands, roll each piece into a ball and arrange six balls of dough in the bottom of each prepared pan.  Cover the pan with a lint-free cotton flour-sack-type towel and allow to rise a third time, until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

IMG_5546 IMG_5546 IMG_5546 IMG_5546 IMG_5560 IMG_5560~Step 5.  Bake rolls on center rack of preheated 350º oven, until golden brown, and, when tapped with the knuckle of your index finger, they sound hollow, about 18-20 minutes.  Mine baked for 18 minutes today.  Do not over bake these rolls.

With a light touch, paint tops with melted butter...

IMG_5605... & delight in every soft, sweet & savory bite:

IMG_5614Sweet & Savory Herbed Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls:  Recipe yields 12 dinner/slider-sized rolls.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine; 1-cup measuring container; fork; bread machine; kitchen scale; 2, 8"-round cake pans w/straight sides; wire cooling rack; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b019b0031ac11970bCook's Note: My three boys grew up calling these "Mom's Pull-Aparts", but this recipe for classic ~ Buttery & Easy-to-Make Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls ~ is not mine. Back in the 1980's (before home computers, the information super-highway or Food TV), we moms often mailed a box top or two, and sometimes $1.00, to receive a booklet of recipes from a particular company.  I did that a lot back then.  This dinner roll recipe is courtesy of either Fleischmann's yeast or Land O Lakes.

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

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

11/15/2018

~ Slightly-Spicy and Creamy-Rich Sweet Potato Soup ~

IMG_5297As a gal who eats sweet potatoes all year long, I pay particular homage to them at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I present them as a cup of sweet potato soup as the starter to the meal, sometimes they arrive in the form of a side-dish sweet potato and caramelized apple casserole, other times they're the sweet potato, apple and sausage stuffing/dressing side-kick to my turkey, and, always but always, my traditional Turkey Day feast includes a sweet potato pie.

Sweet potato soup is a savory starter.  Season it accordingly.

When it comes to sweet potato soup, think "savory soup" not "sweet dessert" and season accordingly.  Sweet potato soup does not need sugar, brown sugar or honey added to it -- sweet potatoes are full of flavor, texture and they're naturally sweet.  When served as a savory starter to a meal it's my opinion they shouldn't contain commonly used pie spices -- no cinnamon or nutmeg please.  Herbes de Provence, cracked black pepper and a kiss of fresh rosemary do it for me.

An inconvenient truth:  A sweet potato is not a yam.

IMG_8026A bit about sweet potatoes:  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, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato. The darker variety (pictured above) has a thicker, dark-orange skin and vivid-orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture. The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

IMG_5635When buying sweet potatoes, choose plump, firm even-sized ones with no cracks. Like regular potatoes they should never be stored in the refrigerator, but do need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. If the temperature is above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shriveled.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator, last about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potates are always eaten cooked, never raw.

My silky-smooth, creamy-rich herbes de Provence, cracked black pepper & rosemary-kissed sweet potato soup:

IMG_52583  cups smashed sweet potatoes, removed from 3 pounds sweet potatoes after baking or microwave-baking the potatoes

1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion (8 ounces)

1  cup diced celery (4 ounces)

2  tablespoons butter

1 1/2  teaspoons herbes de Provence (a blend of dried rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory)

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

2 1/2  cups high-quality, unsalted vegetable stock

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream 

3-4  3"-4"-long fresh rosemary sprigs 

crème fraîche (sour cream or Greek-style yogurt may be substituted), for garnish 

small fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish

IMG_5257Step 1.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, pierce tops of sweet potatoes in 4-5 spots.  Microwave-bake them until soft -- in my microwave this takes about 18 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, 15-20 minutes.  Using the paring knife and an ordinary tablespoon slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork.  Set aside.  This task can be done several hours or a day or two in advance.

IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260 IMG_5260~Step 2.  In a 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed chef's pan melt the butter over low heat.  Add the diced onion and celery to the pan.  Season the vegetables with the herbes de Provence, salt and coarse-grind black pepper.  Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softening and celery is crunch tender, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_5273 IMG_5274 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279 IMG_5279~Step 3.  Add the sweet potatoes and stir them into the vegetables.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.  Add and stir in the cream.  Place the rosemary sprigs on the surface of the soup and reduce heat to simmer gently, about 5-6 minutes.  Remove from heat, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and serve immediately, garnishing each portion with a dollop of crème fraîche and a rosemary sprig.

Serve garnished w/crème fraîche & a sprig of rosemary:

IMG_5290Can be made 3-5 days ahead -- reheat gently to steaming:

IMG_5308Silky-Smooth and Creamy-Rich Sweet Potato Soup:  Recipe yields 2 quarts/8 cups/8 servings. Can be made 3-5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.  Does not freeze well.

Special Equipment List:  paring knife; spoon; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed chef's pan; large spoon; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b25c14970bCook's Note:  While butternut squash and sweet potatoes are not directly related to each other, culinarily, almost anything you can do with any Winter squash you can do with a sweet potato (and vice versa).  One more point: when it comes to the butternut squash, I prefer it to its blander cousin, the pumpkin.   That said, if you're a person who prefers the butternut squash to the sweet potato, try my ~ Easy Rosemary-Kissed Butternut Squash Bisque ~.

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

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

11/13/2018

~ Stranger Things: Revisit Retro French Bread Pizza ~

IMG_5235Binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix started conjuring up fond food memories from the 1980's.  OMG -- the many scenes with the Eggos, not to mention the perfectly-timed Jiffy-Pop explosion, the  invitation to the KFC dinner, and, the Reese's pieces conversation in the shrinks office.  They all left my mind wondering about what's to eat in Season three.  Stouffer's French bread pizza was the first thing that popped into my head -- with frozen yogurt coming in second.

IMG_5115I know everything there is to know about French bread pizza, as back in the '80's, even I dove into the frozen food section of my grocery store once a week to pick up a box -- it was one of my "busy mom late-night snack-attack solutions" -- I usually ate it whenever my husband was on a business trip, sitting with my feet up watching movies in the family room, while my kids slept upstairs (cognizant that Domino's ringing the doorbell would turn my quiet time into a kids party.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb088cbd77970dAs an accomplished cook, I've posted all sorts of scratch-made 'za: Thin-Crust St. Louis-style, Deep-Dish Chicago-style, Detroit-Style Brick Cheese & Pepperoni Pizza, Philadelphia-Style Cheesesteak PizzaPizza alla Puttanesca, French-Style Caramelized-Onion & Gruyère Cheese PizzaThai-Style Grilled Chicken Pizza, a Blast from My Husband's Past Pioneer-Club Pizza, a Nobody's Pizza for the Somebody in All of Us, a holiday Pizza Wreath, plus, the family recipes for Preschutti Pizza Crust, My Guy's Italian-American Sicilian-Style Pie, and, My All-Purpose Time-Saving Bread Machine Pizza Dough, not to mention a host of recipes for making snack pizza using flatbreads like pita, naan, tortillas and boboli as foils.  

IMG_5198French bread pizza of the semi-homemade-type is one of my favorite "what to cook for me" meals or late-night snacks.

IMG_51372  8-ounce, 10"-11"-long French batards, preferably fresh, but, if it has been tightly-wrapped in plastic, 1-2 days old is just fine

4-6  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft

1 1/2-2  cups pizza sauce, high-quality store-bought, or, my recipe for Preschutti Pizza Sauce, which is full of fresh basil, onion, garlic, and, is basically a concentrated (reduced) version of  My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara)

1  pound deli-style brick mozzarella, hand shredded

2  teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

a light sprinkling of dried red pepper flakes

my favorite add-on topping suggestions:  crisply-fried sweet sausage crumbles, sautéed mushrooms, and/or thinly-sliced red onion pieces

IMG_5141 IMG_5141 IMG_5146~ Step 1.  Slice each batard in half horizontally, to form four pieces, then slice each half into four quarters to form 16 pieces. Arrange on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Place a second baking pan over the top and press down, to remove about 2/3 of the volume from the bread.

IMG_5147 IMG_5147 IMG_5147~ Step 2.  Lightly slather each piece with about 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of the butter, then place pan 5 1/2"-6" under preheated broiler until bubbly and slightly browned around edges, about 2 minutes.  Remove from oven.

IMG_5168 IMG_5168 IMG_5168~ Step 3.  Evenly top each lightly-toasted piece with a generous tablespoon of pizza sauce, followed by a generous 2-3 tablespoons of shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of basil and red pepper flakes.  Add your favorite toppings (or none) and bake on center rack of 375º oven until cheese is melted, 8-10 minutes.

Serve ASAP & grab one fast before they're...

IMG_5214... going, going, gone (into the Upside Down*)!

(*In the Netflix series, Stranger Things, the Upside Down is an alternative dimension in the universe that runs parallel to the human world.)

IMG_5250Stranger Things:  Revisit Retro French Bread Pizza:  Recipe yields 4 French bread pizza loaves/16 pieces/6-8 servings at 2-3 pieces per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater; skillet (optional); 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07e6f222970dCook's Note:  French bread pizza is one of the newest oldest tricks in the KISS Book of Entertaining (Keep It Simple Stupid). Making pizza on French bread was made famous in the 1960's by Bob Petrillose, the founder of the legendary Hot Truck on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. His experiment not only spread like wildfire, it was eventually licensed to Stouffer's. After that, it quickly made its way into home kitchens nationwide -- mine being one of them.

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

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

11/10/2018

~ Side-by-Side: Texican Chili & Mexican Rice Bowls ~

IMG_5085Side by side.  Arm in arm.  Hand in hand.  The combination of steaming-hot Tex-Mex-style chili and Mexican-style rice teamed up in the same bowl is a hearty, satisfying, yummalicious meal.  I was, however, taken aback to learn, that, unlike spaghetti and meatballs for example, it's not a duo that most folks pair together right "off the top of their head".  When my neighbor dropped by yesterday to borrow some herbs de Provence from my spice rack, she found me eating a chili-rice bowl for lunch.  With a look of wonderment, she said, "why didn't I think of that?"  She went home with a new serving idea for chili, I finished my lunch, and you all are getting a blog post.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39ae65a200dWhile chili taste great just as it it is, whether it's chili con carne or chunky steak chili, there are lots of ways to jazz up its service (or stretch leftovers).  Some folks put chili over spaghetti and others make chili mac and cheese.  Some folks ladle it over French fries or cheese fries and kids love it on twice baked potatoes of the taco 'tater type -- it's common to ladle it over nachos or wrap it in tortillas to make chili tacos too.  When I have leftover chili in the refrigerator or freezer, we've always enjoyed it with rice -- specifically Mexican-style adobo rice, which contains sweet corn and fire-roasted tomatoes.

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200cThe difference between Mexican and Spanish rice is akin to the difference between a side-salad and a chef's salad.  Both contain similar ingredients, but, the first is a side-dish and the latter a main course. While both are Spanish, when I think "Mexican rice", I think "tawny-red-tinged, onion-and-garlic laced, side-dish riddled with bits of vegetables (beans, corn and/or tomatoes, or peas and carrots)".  When I think "Spanish rice", I think "protein-packed main-dish-rice chocked full of meat, poultry or shellfish".

Got chili?  Make rice. Try a chili-rice bowl. 

IMG_5096"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

11/07/2018

~ Triple Chocolate & Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies ~

IMG_5057In a nutshell, the problem with loving the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is you can't eat Reese's peanut butter cups with your morning coffee -- well, you can, you just can't admit to it. These brownies, inspired by a version my mom used to make using a Duncan Hines brownie mix, are a pitch-perfect reason to skip waffles and pancakes and start the day with a brownie.  Back in the days when no one ever heard of a peanut allergy, they made great lunch box treats too.

A rich triple-chocolate layer, &, a thin salty peanut-butter layer sandwiched between dreamy peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting.

IMG_5053Things I know:  I know I will always choose a chocolate brownie over a slice of chocolate cake.  I know I will always choose chunky over smooth peanut butter too.  I like the informality of the pick-up-and-eat moist and cohesive user-friendly brownie over the refined use-a-fork-and-don't-get-any-crumbs-on-my-floor, moist and grainy cake.  As for peanut butter, I choose Jiffy over Skippy, never was a fan of Peter Pan, and I adore the flavor and texture that roasted peanuts add to it.  I know that chocolate and peanut butter is an irresistible combination.  Put peanut butter frosting on a chocolate brownie and I'll follow you anywhere -- right after I eat one, two or three.

The brownie is an all-American chocolate confection, and, the first printed recipe referencing a "brownie" to describe a mildly-chocolate cake-like dessert appeared in 1896, in Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking School Cookbook.  By 1910, the brownie had taken on its current form and the word "brownie" was the term used to describe a rich, dense, chewy, fudge-esque, chocolatey dessert that is eaten out-of-hand -- a sort of cross between a small cake and a very soft cookie. 

IMG_4934For the dry ingredients:

3/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour (12 tablespoons)

3/4  cup unsweetened cocoa powder (12 tablespoons)

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

For the wet ingredients:

2  extra-large eggs

3/4  cup light-brown sugar

1/4  cup granulated sugar

2  teaspoons pure chocolate extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate add-ins and salty peanut butter layer:

8  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)

6  ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels (about 1 cup)

3/4  cup crunchy peanut butter

IMG_5017For the crunchy peanut-butter cream-cheese frosting layer:

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1  stick)

1  cup cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft (1, 8 ounce brick)

1  cup crunchy peanut butter (4 ounces)

1  cup Confectioners' sugar 

IMG_4938 IMG_4940Step 1.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut an 8"-square of parchment.  Spray the inside of an 8" x 8" x 2" square baking pan with no-stick cooking spray, place the parchment in the bottom, spray the top of the parchment and set aside.  

IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951 IMG_4951~Step 2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients:  the eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar and both extracts.  In a double-boiler with 1"-1 1/2" of water in the bottom, placed on the stovetop over medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate, whisking throughout the process until both are thoroughly combined.

IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972 IMG_4972~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold all of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, just until moistened.  Add the melted chocolate and continue to fold until thoroughly combined and a thick batter has formed.  In microwave, heat the peanut butter to a drizzly consistency, about 30-40 seconds.

IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990 IMG_4990~Step 4.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and use the spatula to spread it evenly across bottom and into sides.  Drizzle the peanut butter over the top. Using the tip of a paring knife and a light touch, create some swirls across the top, to spread it evenly across the top of the batter and into the corners.  Bake brownies on center rack of 350º oven, 25-28 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into center.  Place on a wire rack to cool, about 1 hour, prior to removing bottom from pan and cooling completely.

IMG_5021 IMG_5026 IMG_5026 IMG_5026~Step 5.  To prepare the frosting, in a medium bowl, on medium-high speed of mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese and peanut butter.  Add Confectioner's sugar.  On low mixer speed and working your way up to high, beat until frosting is smooth and creamy, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  

IMG_5036~ Step 6.  Transfer frosting to top center of brownie.  Using a butter knife, working from the center out, spread frosting evenly toward the edges. Technically brownie is ready to slice and serve.  That said, I put it in the refrigerator to chill for several hours, to firm the frosting up. This makes for clean cuts and a pretty presentation.  Serve cut brownies at room temp.

Store in refrigerator.  Serve at room temperature.

IMG_5060Chocolate & Crunchy Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies:  Recipe yields 16, 2"-square brownies.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen shears; parchment paper; 8" x 8" x 2" baking pan, preferably with removable bottom; whisk; large rubber spatula; sharp paring knife; cake tester; wire cooling rack. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c93bc544970bCook's Note:  As a chocolate and peanut butter lover, if you prefer cookies to brownies, allow me to suggest you try my ~ Over-the-Top Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies ~.  They don't imitate the taste of Reese's peanut butter cups, they're topped with Reese's cups.

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

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

11/05/2018

~Bonjour French Onion & Swiss Smashburger Sliders~

IMG_4854For a straight path to my heart:  put onions on it.  In my food world, with rare exception, a sandwich sans onion is incomplete -- unfinished.  Under the right circumstances, if caramelized onions are an option -- tick tock.   I finally met my mouthwateringly onionalicious match -- the double French onion and Swiss Smashburger: Two juicy-drippy sublimely-seasoned smashed 'burger patties, piled high with shaved and sweet caramelized onions, served on an onion roll that has been slathered with (oh yum) a mayonnaise-based French onion spread.  Because a double smashed 'burger is too much food for me, I'm downsizing to sliders, and even they are huge.

 Smashburger, smashing 'burgers, &, my smashed 'burgers:

IMG_4777If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed.  As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, give it a solid whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty, then quickly season it with salt and pepper.  Juices would bubble up around the sides, but, they cooked so fast there was no reason to worry that might be cause to dry them out -- they were drippy-juicy to a fault.

SmashburgerSmashburger is an American 'burger chain that was founded in Denver, CO, in 2007.  It currently has over 370 franchises in 37 states and 9 countries.  The name explains what they do, as they literally smash secret-seasoned 'burgers on a flat-topped griddle over high heat, so the fat and juices stay trapped inside. American cheese gets melted over the top, then, crusty and cragged-edged, they are served with various customized toppings on a soft, sweet secret-sauced bun.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-17-at-7.48.45-AMWhile the technique for the 'burgers is precisely the same in all locations, everything else is open to interpretation.  To  avoid the stigma of a fast-food chain, after doing localized market research, every menu includes a signature 'burger crafted for the locals.  Colorado locations serve 'em topped with roasted green chiles; Miami's come with grilled chorizo; in Minneapolis, which has a big Scandinavian populous, Swiss and caramelized onion goes on; Oklahoma features fried-pickles, and, in Boston, it's onions and cranberry chutney (supplied by Ocean Spray).

To make my Smashburger-style double-decker (two patties) French Onion & Swiss Smashed-'Burger Sliders:

IMG_4691If you're thinking a smashed 'burger is a thin, scrawny, bordering-on-dry-edged 'burger, you'd be wrong. Smashed 'burgers are thickish and juicy crispy-edged perfection.  The only thing that can change that is if YOU overcook this all-beef plus American-cheese patty served on a Brioche roll topped with secret sauce, sweet pickle chips, acidy tomato slices, shaved red onion, and, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  

One more noteworthy point:  In order to maintain the perfect temperature of 385º in the home kitchen, I turn to my trusty flat-surfaced 16" electric skillet to cook them and it works perfectly. While I am demonstrating one slider (two patties) today, the skillet is large enough to easily make two-at-a-time (four patties) -- or four sliders if you don't want to serve double deckers.  On a cheese-melting note, I have two cheese-melting domes which I can maneuver to accommodate four patties, but, there's no need for them -- just put the lid on the skillet and the cheese will melt.

IMG_4807For each double French-onion smashed-'burger slider:

2  3-ounce loosely-packed balls of meat mixture, prepared as directed below

1 1/2  teaspoons salted butter

1/3  cup shaved sweet onion, prepped as directed below

4-6  generous pinches Mel's seasoning blend, prepared as directed below

2  slices Swiss cheese, one slice per meat patty

1  3"-round slider-sized onion roll, sliced in half horizontally, toasted or not, your choice

1  tablespoon Mel's French onion sandwich spread, prepared as directed below

IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4670 IMG_4670 IMG_4670~Step 1.  Place 2 pounds ground beef (32 ounces) in a large bowl.  Cut 1 pound flank steak (16 ounces) flank steak into 1 1/2" chunks.  Place the chunked steak in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade -- depending upon the size of the food processor, working in two batches may be necessary.  Using a series of 30 rapid on-off pulses, process/grind/mince the meat.  Place the ground steak in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_4642 IMG_4642~ Step 2.  Peel 1  large, 16-ounce Vidalia onion. Slice the onion in half.  Using a very sharp chef's knife and a precise hand (or a mandoline if your knife skills aren't sharp), slice/shave the onion into almost see-through half-moon shapes. The thinner the onions, the quicker they cook -- and smashed 'burgers are all about express (fast) cooking. There will be about 3 cups shaved onion -- you will need a generous 1/3 cup per slider.

IMG_4655For my seasoning blend:

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon beef boullion

IMG_4658Stir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp.

IMG_4793For my French onion spread:

1  cup mayonnaise

1  packet Lipton onion soup and dip mix 

1  teaspoon dehydrated onion

1  teaspoon dehydrated garlic

1  teaspoon cracked black pepper

IMG_4799Whisk or stir all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate 1 hour.  Makes 1 cup.

IMG_4706 IMG_4706 IMG_4803 IMG_4808 IMG_4810 IMG_4810 IMG_4810 IMG_4810 IMG_4822 IMG_4822 IMG_4822 IMG_4822 IMG_4834 2 IMG_4834 2 IMG_4834 2~Step 1.  To cook the 'burgers and onions, in electric skillet, melt butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet.  Increase the heat to 385°.  For every slider you plan to cook, scatter a generous 1/3 cup of shaved onion in the skillet.  Place two-to-four lightly-compacted 3-ounce balls of meat mix on the skillet.  Using the grill press, smash them down, lifting and lowering the press to make sure the entire surface has been evenly smashed (into free-form, craggy-edged 3"-3 1/2"-sized patties).  Lightly-season tops of 'burgers and onions.  Sauté for 2 minutes, using a spatula to keep moving the onions around during this time.  Flip 'burgers over, then scrape up and transfer the caramelized onions to a small plate or bowl.  Top each' patty with a slice of Swiss cheese, place cheese domes on (or lid of electric skillet) and cook for another 1-1 1/2 minutes (1 minute for rare-ish, 1 1/2 minutes for medium-rare-ish).  Turn the heat off.  When the butter-sputtering stops, use a spatula to transfer 'burgers to rolls and top as directed below.

IMG_4842 IMG_4842 IMG_4842 IMG_4842 IMG_4842~Step 2.  Slice onion rolls and lightly-toast, if desired (mine were placed on the rack of my toaster oven for less than 1-minute -- to ever-so-slightly toast the surface and gently heat the roll).  Place the bottom of the roll on a plate and slather 1 tablespoon French onion spread over the surface. Place and stack two smashed 'burger patties atop the sauce. Top with the caramelized onion and put the top of the roll on.  Serve (with napkins) and eat immediately.

French Onion, Swiss & Caramelized-Onion Smashed-'Sliders:

IMG_4860They're about as French & onion-loving as a 'burger can get:

IMG_4910French Onion Soup & Swiss Smashburger Sliders:  Recipe yields meat mixture for 8 double-pattied  sliders or 16 single-pattied sliders (3-ounce-size patties)/2 tablespoons secret-seasoning/1 cup French onion dip/instructions to smash, cook and top smashed-'burger sliders. 

Special Equipment List:  ramekin; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press; cheese-melting dome; wide spatula; serrated bread knife; toaster oven (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39dd8d6200dCook's Note:  Armed with the right equipment (a skillet, a lid, and a heat source) hamburgers or cheeseburgers can be made anywhere, anytime -- even under the worst of circumstances.  My recipe for  ~ The  Iwatani 12-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~ is proof that just because you have no electricity for a week, is no reason to not eat great food.

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

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

11/03/2018

~ For the Love of Hamburgers: The Smashed Burger ~

IMG_4777I have always contended that hamburgers cooked in a skillet or on a flat-topped griddle are the best.  I won't turn down a hamburger hot-off-the-grill, but, sorry my friends, it's just not as moist and juicy as a hamburger that seared in its own juices.  As a 'burger lover, I'm always looking for and open to a new-to-me 'burger combination.  I wasn't, however, expecting to come across an old method for cooking 'burgers touted as a new method for cooking 'burgers.  Huh?  Read on.

If you ate in some of the mom and pop establishments I grew up eating in (in the small towns of Pennsylvania and New Jersey), I am here to tell you, the concept of smashing 'burgers isn't new -- it has merely been revisited and remarketed.  As a kid living in the pre-McDonald's food world, I watched many grill-cooks grab and slap an ill-formed ball of ground beef onto a seething-hot flat-top-griddle, then give it a solid whack with a big, heavy all-purpose spatula to smash it into a patty.  A few juices would bubble up around the sides, but, these 'burgers cooked so fast there was no reason to worry that might be cause to dry them out -- they were drippy-juicy to a fault.

Hold the presses:  I'm adding the Smashburger to KE today.

SmashburgerSmashburger is an American 'burger chain that was founded in Denver, CO, in 2007.  It currently has over 370 franchises in 37 states and 9 countries.  The name explains what they do, as they literally smash secret-seasoned 'burgers on a flat-topped griddle over high heat, so the fat and juices stay trapped inside. American cheese gets melted over the top, then, crusty and cragged-edged, they are served with various customized toppings on a soft, sweet secret-sauced bun.

SmashBurger-logoFounders, Rick Schaden and Tom Ryan are veterans of the restaurant-chain  world, with Ryan inventing some legendary items.  At pizza hut, he was behind the Lover's Line of toppings, and, the Stuffed Crust.  At McDonald's, the Dollar Menu, McFlurries  and McGriddles are all his.  At Quiznos he played a leading roll in developing Steakhouse Beef Dip and the Prime Rib Sub.

4-smasher-smashburgerAt Smashburger, Ryan put his PhD in Flavor and Fragrance Chemistry to use.  Every burger is made the same, using never-frozen chuck & steak trimmings, which resemble being chopped or food processored rather than ground.  Loose balls of meat, not patties, go on on a butter-brushed 385° flat-top griddle, and smashed with his invention, the multismasher, to create almost-instant crusty-caramelization.

The patented multismasher at Smashburger, with about 3/8" lip of headspace to insure consistent thickness, makes four burgers at one time.  The loose texture of the meat being smashed below its weight allows meat juices to bubble up, creating and trapping steam. After 90 seconds of additional cooking, the burger gets flipped and it's finished cooking in three total minutes.

Smashburger isn't another cookie-stamp fast-food chain.

Screen-Shot-2015-06-17-at-7.48.45-AMWhile the technique for making the 'burger is precisely the same in each and every location, everything else is left open to controlled interpretation.  In order to  avoid the stigma of a fast-food chain, after doing extensive localized market research, every menu includes at least one signature 'burger crafted for the locals.  For example:  Colorado locations serve 'burgers topped with roasted green chiles; Miami's locations serve 'em with grilled chorizo; in Minneapolis, which has a big Scandinavian populous, Swiss and caramelized onion goes on;  Oklahoma features fried-pickles, and, in Boston, it's onions and cranberry chutney (supplied by Ocean Spray).

The bread and sauces on the signature 'burgers are also regionally inspired:  Sourdough in San Francisco; telera rolls in California;  pretzel buns in Chicago, onion rolls in Minnesota, and; brioche in New York.  In Michigan the bread is slathered with cherry barbecue sauce; in Chicago, Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce; in Tennessee you'll get Jack Daniels barbecue sauce; Florida's sauce contains orange juice;  New Orlean's makes theirs with Barq's root beer syrup, and: in Utah (The Behive State), it's honey barbecue.  One more tidbit:  In 2012 a program to partner with regional craft beer breweries to pair and serve local beers was launched too.

For my basic smashed-'burger seasoning, sauce & beef:

IMG_4695Both the Smashburger seasoning and Smashburger sauce are pretty well-guarded secrets.  That said, research reveals the seasoning contains:  salt, black pepper, garlic powder and granulated beef flavoring.  Research also reveals the sauce contains:  mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles and lemon juice.  Armed with that information, I simply concocted my own versions, to my liking.  As for the beef, I've been grinding my own in the food processor for decades -- there is indeed a discernible difference between its texture and traditional ground.  For my smashed 'burgers, I am using a 2:1 ratio of 85/15 (85% lean/15% fat) ground beef and food processor ground flank steak. Feel free to use all 85/15 ground beef -- they'll taste great, but the texture will be different.

IMG_4661 IMG_4665 IMG_4665 IMG_4665 IMG_4670 IMG_4670 IMG_4670~Step 1.  Place 2 pounds ground beef (32 ounces) in a large bowl.  Cut 1 pound flank steak (16 ounces) flank steak into 1 1/2" chunks.  Place the chunked steak in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade -- depending upon the size of the food processor, working in two batches may be necessary.  Using a series of 30 rapid on-off pulses, process/grind/mince the meat.  Place the ground steak in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_4655For my seasoning & the sauce:

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon beef bouillion

IMG_4658Stir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e448b8970c1  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup each: ketchup and sweet pickle relish

1  tablespoon yellow mustard

1  teaspoon white vinegar

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder and paprika

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e4490f970cWhisk all ingredients together, cover and refrigerate 1 hour.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.

To make my basic Smashburger-style smashed 'burger:

IMG_4691If you're thinking a smashed 'burger is a thin, scrawny, bordering-on-dry-edged 'burger, you'd be wrong. Smashed 'burgers are thick and juicy crispy-edged perfection.    The only thing that can change that is if YOU overcook this all-beef plus American-cheese patty served on a Brioche roll topped with secret sauce, sweet pickle chips, acidy tomato slices, shaved red onion, and, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  

One more noteworthy point:  In order to maintain the perfect temperature of 385º in the home kitchen, I'm turn to my trusty flat-surfaced 16" electric skillet to cook them and it works perfectly. While I am demonstrating one today, the skillet is large enough easily make two-at-a-time.  On a cheese-melting note, I have two cheese-melting domes which accommodates both 'burgers, but, there's no need for them -- just put the lid on the skillet and wait for the cheese to melt.

IMG_4681For each smashed 'burger & cheese:

6  ounces Mel's-meat mixture per sandwich, prepared as directed above

2  pinches Mel's-'burger seasoning blend per sandwich, prepared as directed above

1-2  slices yellow American cheese, 1 or 2, your choice

For the rolls & the toppings for each sandwich:

1  4"-round brioche hamburger roll, sliced in half horizontally

1-1 1/2  tablespoons Mel's-'burger sauce per sandwich, prepared as directed above

4 sweet pickle chips per sandwich

3  thin slices Campari tomatoes per sandwich

10-12 thinly-sliced red onion pieces (half-moon shapes) per sandwich

3-4  small, soft Bibb lettuce leaves per sandwich

1 1/2 teaspoons salted butter, for preparing electric skillet or flat-topped grill

IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4694 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4716 IMG_4726 IMG_4726 IMG_4726 IMG_4726~Step 1.  In electric skillet, melt butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet.  Increase the heat to 385°.  Place a lightly-compacted 6-ounce ball of meat mix on the skillet.  Using the grill press, smash it down, lifting and lowering the press 2-3 times to make sure the entire surface has been evenly smashed (into a free-form, craggy-edged 4"-4 1/2"-sized patty).  Lightly-season top of 'burger.  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Flip the 'burger over, top with 1-2 slices of cheese (one is traditional, two is additional), place cheese dome on and cook for another 1-1 1/2 minutes (1 minute for rare-ish, 1 1/2 minutes for medium-rare-ish).  Turn heat off.  When the butter-sputtering stops, use a spatula to transfer to rolls topped as directed below.

IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4740 IMG_4749 IMG_4749 IMG_4749 IMG_4749~Step 2.  Slice each brioche roll horizontally and place the bottom half on a plate.  Slather the bottom half of the brioche roll with 1-1 1/2 tablespoons of the secret sauce.  Plop a hot cheese-topped smashed-'burger on top.  Coming up next: four sweet pickle slices, three small Campari tomato slices, and, a scattering of red onion.  Finish these beautiful 'burgers with a few small, soft Bibb lettuce leaves.  Put the bun tops on and enjoy each and every drippy-juicy bite.

Once you've smashed a 'burger, you'll never grill a 'burger:

IMG_4767Enjoy each & every drippy-juicy succulently-seasoned bite:

IMG_4783For the Love of Hamburgers:  The Smashed Burger:  Recipe yields meat mixture for 8 (6-ounce) single-pattied 'burgers/2 tablespoons secret-seasoning/1 1/2 cups secret sauce/instructions to smash, cook and top smashed-'burgers. 

Special Equipment List:  ramekin; 1-cup measuring container; small whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; kitchen scale; 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press; cheese-melting dome; wide spatula;  serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27ff4dc970cCook's Note:  Armed with the right equipment (a skillet, a lid, and a heat source) hamburgers or cheeseburgers can be made anywhere, anytime -- even under the worst of circumstances.  My recipe for  ~ The  Iwatani 12-Minute Tornado Cheeseburger ~ is proof that just because you have no electricity for a week, is no reason to not eat great food.

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

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