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12 posts from January 2019

01/31/2019

~ Quick as the Craving for Cream of Cauliflower Soup ~

IMG_7914January is National Soup Month, and, the cauliflower in my grocery stores is gorgeous right now. Do the math:  soup + cauliflower = cauliflower soup -- more specifically, a savory, smooth, satisfying soup that can be made in about thirty minutes.  I simply stop there, and so should you because it's full-of-flavor and fantastic as is, with a humble parsley garnish floating on top, so, oh-my-sigh, no cheese please, and, believe it or not, not everything tastes better with bits of bacon.  

How much is in a head of cauliflower?  How much should I buy?

IMG_7818 2Mother Nature did not have OCD.  If she did, there would be more symmetry in the world.  It would be a pretty boring place, but, at least all our vegetables would be the same size, which brings me to this point: How much is in a head of cauliflower?  The most frustrating thing about most cauliflower recipes is their lack of specificity regarding precisely how much cauliflower to buy to get the necessary yield.

IMG_7826Generic measurements for volume (2 cups-, 4 cups-florets) or a vague product description (1 large head, 2 medium heads), are meaningless to the average cooker-of-cauliflower, and, are the biggest causes of recipe failure -- stop recipe failure, use a scale.  Authors and bloggers: write your recipes accordingly.  

Weight (1, 2-pound head, 1 pound florets) is the first and only measurement worth a damn.

IMG_7830Measuring cauliflower requires a scale, both in the grocery store when purchasing this vegetable, and, in the kitchen when cooking it. For my demonstration, I bought two medium heads of cauliflower. Untrimmed, the one on the left weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces, and,  the right one weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces.  After trimming, here is how it all weighed out:

The typical, medium-sized head weighs about 2 pounds.

IMG_7835 2After trimming and removing florets where each meets the core -- a 1-quart measure full-to-the top (6 cups) of florets.

Roughly speaking, a medium-sized head will yield 1-1 1/4 total pounds florets.

If florets are to be chopped or diced, depending on the size required, this will affect volume measurement (number of cups).  Don't play, weigh it first!

When you're craving a steamy-creamy bowl of soup...

IMG_7911... six cups cream-of-cauliflower soup coming right up:  

IMG_78641, 2-pound head cauliflower, trimmed, florets removed, 1-1 1/4 pounds florets, florets rough-chopped (about 4 cups)

1 1/2  cups medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

3/4  cup small-diced celery

2  teaspoons herbes de Provence 

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon ground nutmeg

2  teaspoons  sea salt

1  teaspoon white pepper

3  cups Kitchen Basics unsalted vegetable stock

1  cups heavy or whipping cream

freshly-ground black pepper, for garnish

minced, fresh parsley, for garnish

IMG_7849 IMG_7849 IMG_7867~ Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, rough chop 1 pound of florets from 1, medium-sized, 2-pound head of cauliflower.  Set aside.  There will be a generous 4 cups.  Dice the onion and celery as directed and set aside.

IMG_7868 IMG_7868 IMG_7868 IMG_7868~Step 2.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt butter over low heat.  Add the onion, celery, herbes de Provence, garlic powder, sea salt and white pepper.  Adjust heat to gently sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is tender and celery is softened, 4-5 minutes.

IMG_7878 IMG_7878 IMG_7878 IMG_7878 IMG_7878 IMG_7878~Step 3.  Add the vegetable stock and the chopped cauliflower.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, overcooked actually, stirring frequently, about 15-20 minutes.  Turn the heat off and add the cream.

IMG_7889 IMG_7889 IMG_7889 IMG_7889~Step 4.  The cream will have lowered the temperature of the soup, making it safe to blend immediately.  Give the mixture a thorough stir, then get out the immersion blender.  Blend until smooth, about 2-3 minutes -- less if you want more texture, longer if you want a smoother texture. Adjust heat to medium- medium-low.  Stirring constantly, heat the soup to steaming, not simmering or boiling, about 3-4 minutes.  Garnish and serve immediately with bread or crackers.

Savory, smooth and satisfying cream-of-cauliflower soup:

IMG_7917Quick as the Craving for Cream of Cauliflower Soup:  Recipe yields 6 cups soup/6 servings.  Reheat leftovers gently on the stovetop or in microwave.  Does not freeze well.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon or spatula; immersion blender; 2-quart stockpot; colander

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1e35f01970cCook's Note:  Celery.  It's the swizzle stick in my Bloody Mary, a must in my egg, tuna and potato salad, and, send back those Buffalo wings if they don't come with a crudité of celery and blue cheese dip.  That said, in the food world, celery isn't considered an exciting vegetable. No one ever remarks, "my Bloody Mary had the best stalk of celery in it", "the celery in her tuna salad was divine", or, "the celery that came with his chicken wings was outstanding". Try my ~ Rich & Cream Celery Soup (It isn't Ho-Hum at All) ~.

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

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

01/28/2019

~How Much is & How Many Florets in One Cauliflower~

IMG_7818Mother Nature did not have OCD.  If she did, there would be more symmetry in the world.  It would be a pretty boring place, but, at least all our vegetables would be the same size, which brings me to this point:  How much is in a head of cauliflower?  The most frustrating thing about most cauliflower recipes is their lack of specificity regarding precisely how much cauliflower to purchase.  Generic measurements for volume (2 cups-, 4 cups-florets) or a vague product description (1 large head, 2 medium heads), are meaningless to the average cooker-of-cauliflower, and, are the biggest causes of recipe failure -- stop recipe failure, use a scale.  

Weight (1, 2-pound head, 1 pound florets) is the only measurement worth a damn.

Measuring cauliflower requires a scale, both in the grocery store when purchasing this vegetable, and, in the kitchen when cooking it.  For my demonstration, I bought two medium heads of cauliflower.  Untrimmed, the one on the left weighed 2 pounds, 15 ounces, and, the one on the right weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces.  After trimming, here is how it all weighed out:

A typical untrimmed, medium head weighs about 2 pounds.

IMG_7838After trimming & removing florets where each meets the core...

IMG_7826... a 1-quart measure full-to-the-top (6 cups) florets...

IMG_7830... or, roughly speaking, between 1-1 1/4 pounds florets. 

IMG_7835Chopped florets from 1, 2-pound head = 4 generous cups.

IMG_7853Don't play, weigh the cauliflower first -- at the store! 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/25/2019

~Jamaican-Style Butter-Poached Lobsta Rasta Pasta~

IMG_7805Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of serving cheese or cheese sauces with fish or seafood, but, there are exceptions to every rule, so, for those who, like myself, do appreciate the divine goodness of dishes like lobster macaroni and cheese, you've gotta try my creamy-dreamy Island-Style Jamaican-Italian-American Rasta Pasta with succulent, butter-poached lobster meat added to it.  In the event you've never heard of rasta pasta, take a moment and read on:     

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a53cc4200dRasta Pasta is a restaurant located in Colorado Springs, CO.  The owners, the Taraborelli family, specialize in fusing two of the unlikeliest of culinary bedfellows:  the island flavors of Jamaica with their Italian-American background.  It's easy to assume the title "rasta" is associated with Rastafarianism, which would require the fare to be vegetarian -- no meat or shellfish.  No mon.  It implies the colors of the veggies:  red, yellow and green.

Research revealed a full range of opinions regarding the origin of this dish (which has developed a cult following), as Caribbean restaurants across the USA, many them in New York City (which has a large Jamaican population), have a version of rasta pasta on their menu.  All left me completely up-in-the-air on the subject and unwilling to pass any along.  My best guess:  It is a savvy Jamaican-American cook's creation that got popularized in America, then made its way back to Jamaica, where it quickly became as popular as it is here.  All I can say with certainty:  It's a delicious twist on your typical creamy pasta dish, and, it appealed to me from the start.

Island-Style Jamaican-Italian-American Rasta Pasta...

IMG_6201Jamaican Rasta Pasta, which is almost always made using penne, is very resemblant of one of my favorite entrées in an Italian-American restaurant, Fettucchini Alfredo, which I always order primavera-style, meaning:  some vegetables get tossed into it, hence the name of my own recipe, Fabulous Fettuccine Alfredo a la Primavera-Style -- and,  it's always an option to have chicken or shrimp tossed in too.  The  Rasta Pasta Sauce itself, is also resemblant of the rich, creamy, parmesan-laced sauce that enrobes the tender strands of al dente egg-pasta and colorful crunch-tender blanched veggies, and, when ordering rasta pasta anywhere, it's Jamaican-jerk chicken or jerk shrimp options you'll find.

... plus elegant & exquisite butter-poached lobster tail meat... 

6a0120a8551282970b017d3f5c9cff970cBoiling or steaming lobster might be the traditional methods for cooking lobster, but, a third method, my preferred method for tails, is butter poaching.  It's decadent, divine and sublime.  Butter poaching is done by removing the meat from lobster tails and ever-so-gently cooking them in seasoned or unseasoned melted butter without allowing the meat to simmer or boil (which toughens the meat).  There's more, it's easy to do and it only takes a few minutes.

... is a decadent, divine & sublime, relatively-easy entrée:

Butter-poaching lobster tails for rasta pasta is no different than butter-poaching tails in my above-mentioned French-style version, except, instead of using traditional French seasonings (lemon juice, tarragon, onion and red pepper flakes), I use classic Jamaican flavorings (jerk seasoning, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper powder and lime juice).  As for the rasta pasta sauce and vegetable sauté, the recipes are both quick to make, but, note they each yield 6 cups -- twice as much as needed for 1 pound of any type pasta, so, do the math and kindly cut the recipes in half.

IMG_77403  cups rasta pasta sauce, prepared according to my recipe, but do the math, cut the recipe in half

3  cups rasta pasta vegetable sauté, prepared according to my recipe, but do the math, cut the recipe in half

2  1 1/4-1 1/2-pound lobster tails, 3 1/2-4 1/2 generous cups chopped lobster meat

1  pound medium pasta shells, cooked al denté, according to package directions

1  teaspoon sea salt, for adding to water for pasta

1  cup salted butter (2 sticks)

1/4  cup white wine

1  teaspoon lime juice

1  teaspoon jerk seasoning blend, your favorite brand

1/2  teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/16  teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper powder

IMG_7759 IMG_7759 IMG_7759 IMG_7759~Step 1.  To prep  lobster meat, use a pair of kitchen shears to clip both sides of the underbelly of both tails and remove the thin shells.  Using your fingertips, gently remove the tails from the outer shells.  Chop tails into bite-sized pieces, about 1/2"-3/4" (3 1/2-4 1/2 cups lobster meat).

IMG_7742 IMG_7742 IMG_7742 IMG_7785 IMG_7785~Step 2.  In a 4-quart stockpot or saucepan bring 3 quarts water to a rolling boil and add 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Add the pasta shells, adjust heat to simmer steadily and continue to cook, until al dente, about 8-9 minutes. Do not overcook the pasta.  Transfer pasta to a colander to drain thoroughly, then, toss it into the skillet containing the vegetable sauté.

IMG_7747 IMG_7747 IMG_7747 IMG_7747 IMG_7770 IMG_7770 IMG_7770 IMG_7770 IMG_7770~Step 3.  To prepare the butter sauce and poach the lobster, in a 1-cup measuring container, stir the lime juice, jerk seasoning, dried thyme, garlic powder and Scotch bonnet pepper powder into the wine.  Place the butter in a 2-quart saucier.  Add the wine mixture.  Over extra-low heat, melt butter into wine, stirring frequently, until steaming.  Add the lobster pieces and stir constantly, adjusting the heat, lowering if necessary, until lobster is opaque and just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.  Do not simmer or boil.  Do not over-poach lobster tails.  

IMG_7789 IMG_7789~ Step 4.  Using a large slotted spoon, transfer the lobster pieces to the pasta/vegetable mixture in skillet.  Add rasta pasta sauce, in 2-3 increments, tossing after each addition, until all ingredients are nicely-coated (not drenched) in the cream sauce.  

Note:  There will be almost a cup of flavorful butter sauce left in the saucier.  I like to serve the remaining butter sauce to the side with toasted rustic bread slices or garlic bread for dipping.

Stressed?  Don't worry, be happy.  Eat lobsta rasta pasta:

IMG_7797 2It's fantastic made w/lobster or seafood ravioli too:

IMG_7622Jamaican Rasta Pasta w/Butter-Poached Lobster:  Recipe yields 4-6 rich, hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List: kitchen shears; cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart saucepan; colander; 1-cup measuring container; 2-quart saucier; large slotted spoon; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides (for preparing rasta pasta sauce); 12" nonstick skillet (for preparing vegetable sauté)

IMG_7778Cook's Note: Store-bought seafood stock is readily available, but I can tell you this:  it is a compromise and I never feel my end result is quite as good as it could have been if I'd used my real-deal stock.  Besides, one of the fundamentals of good cooking is to waste nothing, or as little as possible, so this gives me an opportunity to feel good about myself.  All my shrimp and lobster shells go in a freezer bag.  'Nuff said.  ~ Save Those Lobster Shells!!!  Because I Said So!!! ~

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/22/2019

~ Twelve-in-an-Hour Chicken-Vegetable Soup Bowls ~

IMG_7714Fifteen minutes of prep time and forty-five minutes of stovetop simmering later (slightly longer for you slow-handed choppers), we sat down in front of these steaming bowls of chicken-vegetable soup, ate, and got back to business as usual, which included freezing ten soup bowls for future consumption. Had you arrived in time for lunch, I'd have offered you a bowl, and, you'd never guess it didn't simmer, and I didn't slave over it, all day.  It's simply THAT good, as long as the recipe is followed as written, and, it yields the same amount, twelve two-cup bowls, every time.  

This is one of the make-in-advance meals I cook just for me, as, a small cup of soup, some chicken- or tuna- salad, or a microwave reheat of something-anything leftover, is my typical weekday take-a-break-to-have-a-bite-to-eat lunch.  While this recipe, once-upon-a-time a few decades ago, would have been referred to as semi-homemade time-saving pantry cooking, truth told, for the busy current-day hard-working one- or two-working parent household, it is as close as it gets to feeding a family a homemade dinner, plus leftovers, in a reasonable time frame.

Six quarts of clear-brothed, bold-flavored, rich, hearty soup:

IMG_767815 minutes prep + 45 minutes simmering = 12 luscious servings

IMG_76466  cups water

1  32-ounce box Kitchen Basics, unsalted vegetable stock

1  14 1/2-ounce can Del Monte "original-style", not "Italian-style", stewed tomatoes

1  8-ounce can sliced mushrooms, undrained

2  tablespoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1  packet Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

2  generous cups diced yellow or sweet onion, 12 ounces onion

2  generous cups diced celery, 12 ounces celery

3  generous cups peeled and diced carrots, 16 ounces carrot

4  generous cups diced boneless, skinless chicken thighs or tenders, 2 pounds

5  generous cups peeled and diced gold potatoes, 2 1/2 pounds potatoes

cooked and drained egg noodles (optional)

IMG_7648 IMG_7648~ Step 1.  Into an 8-quart stockpot:  water, stock, tomatoes and mushrooms, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, red pepper flacks and granulated beef bouillon -- no eye rolling, beef bouillon in chicken soup is a secret seasoning weapon.

IMG_7654 IMG_7654 IMG_7654 IMG_7654~Step 2.  Dice the onion, celery, carrots and chicken as directed, placing them in the stockpot as you work -- this takes me about 15 minutes.  A noteworthy time-saving tip:  A 16-ounce bag of frozen, sliced, carrots (throw them in frozen) can be substituted without compromise.

IMG_7662 IMG_7662 IMG_7662Step 3.  Place the stockpot on the stove and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Once boiling adjust heat to simmer gently but steadily for 15 minutes.  Use this time to peel and dice the potatoes.

IMG_7672 IMG_7672 IMG_7672 IMG_7672~Step 4.  Add the diced potatoes to the simmer soup, give it a stir, return to a gently but steady simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, 35-45 more minutes.  Using a soup ladle, portion one cup broth into each of twelve, 2-cup-sized freezer-safe food-storage containers (with tight-fitting lids).  Using a large slotted spoon, portion one cup vegetables into each container.

Eat one, with or without some cooked egg noodles added...

IMG_7686... or freeze twelve delicious 1-hour investments in the future:

IMG_7689Twelve-in-an-Hour Chicken-Vegetable-Soup Bowls:  Recipe yields 12, 2-cup servings of chicken-vegetable soup/6 total quarts soup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 8-quart stock pot; large-spoon; soup ladle; large slotted spoon; 12, 2-cup size food-storage containers w/tight-fitting lids

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09ed9264970dCook's Note: I would never recommend you bypass making a big batch of homemade chicken stock, or your grandmother's heirloom  ~ Coaldale Baba's Heavenly Chicken Noodle Soup ~, complete with ~ Eastern European-Style Homemade Egg Noodles ~. Never.  Period.  I am merely saying that in today's busy world, having a time-saving, uncompromising, semi-pantry-made alternative makes it a kinder, gentler, relaxed-paced place.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/20/2019

~ Florentine-Style Ricotta Cheese & Spinach Sauce ~

IMG_7613Creamy cheese sauces have a place in my food world -- not a big place, but a place.  My attitude toward them is to use them judiciously, in a manner that does not overpower the dish being served, and, in moderation, so as not to tip the scale.  To my credit, I have developed my own versions of more than a few:  Easy Boursin, Trendy Rasta PastaClassic Mornay, Silky Parmesan-Sherry, Dreamy Gorgonzola, Basic Asiago, and a Kid-Friendly Cheddar.  It is my opinion that, for the most part, all store-bought cheese sauces are a compromise, so, don't debate it, just grate it -- take the few minutes required to make your cheese sauce from scratch.

"A la Florentine" = in the style of Florence, Italy.

"A la Florentine" is an Italian term which refers to egg, fish or seafood dishes prepared "in the style of Florence, Italy", meaning:  they are presented on a bed of spinach and topped with a creamy sauce, usually Mornay sauce, which contains Parmesan cheese.  What about the chicken Florentine we all love?  Well, it originated here in America and was made famous by upscale French restaurants back in the 1960's, where it remains ensconced today.  I for one am a spinach lover, and I am here to tell you:  eating spinach in this context is a downright decadent, indulgent, somewhat noble experience.  If you are convinced you don't like spinach -- get over it.

The green thing called Florentine = spinach (fresh vs. frozen):

IMG_7572As a spinach lover, I'm grateful to whomever developed the process for industrially cleaning and packaging it washed, dried and in bags. Why? Handling spinach "au natural" is labor intensive from the standpoint it must be meticulously cleaned of sandy grit, and, it can't get overly-wet while doing that because it loses its integrity quickly. Then, the tough stems need to be snipped.  While I recommend using fresh spinach for most Florentine recipes, if all you have is frozen spinach, worry not, all sorts of Florentine-style dishes turn out uncompromisingly fine using frozen, and, it's perfect for this creamy, full-flavored, cheese sauce.

1 lb. fresh spinach, cook & drained = 1 1/2 cups = 1, 10-ounce box frozen

6a0120a8551282970b0223c84e9c88200c 6a0120a8551282970b0224df3654e5200b~ Step 1.  I can think of many instances to use fresh spinach, but this quick-and-easy weeknight-meal sauce is not one of them -- frozen chopped spinach yields the right amount every time with no need to cook it.  Thaw the spinach overnight in the refrigerator or in a colander placed in the sink with cold water dribbling over it.  Once thawed, wad the spinach up in several layers of paper towels and squeeze as hard as possible to remove as much liquid as possible.  Kept covered in the refrigerator, this task can be done a day ahead. 

Looking for a cheese sauce for pasta, veggies, chicken, fish or seafood?  If so, try mine.  It's great w/cheese, lobster or mushroom ravioli too.

IMG_75764  tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon each:  dehydrated minced onion and garlic, and, garlic and onion powder

1/2-3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and red pepper flakes, to taste

1-1 1/2  cups heavy or whipping cream, to control consistency

1  cup whole milk ricotta cheese

4  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1, 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained

fresh pasta or ravioli, your choice

a garnish of red pepper flakes

IMG_7578 IMG_7578 IMG_7578 IMG_7578 IMG_7589 IMG_7589 IMG_7589 IMG_7589~Step 2.  In a 12" nonstick skillet over low, heat the olive oil.  Add and stir in the dry seasonings. Add cream to skillet and increase heat to bring it to the point of steaming or barely simmering. Stir in the ricotta and the Parm-Regg.  Simmer very gently for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the spinach and continue stirring until spinach is heated through.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

In a world full of so much wrong, one thing is very right: 

IMG_7610Florentine-Style Ricotta Cheese & Spinach Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups sauce, enough to coat 1 1/2-2 pounds pasta or ravioli.

Special Equipment List:  small colander; paper towels; microplane grater; 12" nonstick skillet; large spoon

IMG_7567Cook's Note: Knowing how to make a super-quick cheese sauce is indispensable for any number of reasons. Friends can drop by without notice, a snowstorm requires some pantry cooking, or, the craving for something rich, creamy, cheesy and comforting must be quelled. For another cheese sauce that takes about the same time to make and is appropriate for pasta, vegetables, chicken, fish or seafood, try my recipe of ~ Easy Boursin Sauce for Pasta, Seafood & Veggies ~.  My refrigerator is never without Boursin.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/17/2019

~ Du Pain, du Vin, du Cinq Boursin Cheese Recipes ~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3d2399a200bBoursin cheese has been the star of KE the past ten days, and, it has enjoyed a delicious run. While some might question, or find themselves bored with, my little foray into Boursin (a most delicious form of French cheesefeed), there is always a reason behind one of my obsessions.  In the case of the plethora of Boursin recipes, there are three reasons.  #1.  When someone asks, I always answer, and, I did --  with my recipe for Boursin mashed potatoes.  #2.  In our food world, food is expensive -- if I'm going to recommend purchasing a special or pricey ingredient, I'm going to provide a variety of ways to use it.  #3. In my food world, every recipe has a story, and every ingredient does too, and, the history of Boursin cheese is quite interesting.  Read on:

Boursin is classified as a French "specialty" cheese.  This soft, spreadable cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, similar to cream cheese.  Boursin was the creation of François Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own palate. When purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese", it is not authentic Boursin.  "Gournay" is the word François Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  

The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France using the slogan, "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin".

~ Buttery-Rich and Cream-Cheesy Copycat Boursin ~

IMG_7362~ Mushrooms Stuffed w/Garlic & Fine Herbs Boursin ~

IMG_9836~ Herbaceous Caramelized-Onion & Boursin Burgers ~

IMG_7487~ Easy Boursin Sauce for Pasta, Seafood & Veggies ~

IMG_7567~ Buttery-Rich & Boursin-Cheesy Whipped Potatoes ~

IMG_7290"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/15/2019

~ Easy Boursin Sauce for Pasta, Seafood & Veggies ~

IMG_7567Knowing how to make a super-quick cheese sauce is indispensable for any number of reasons. Friends can drop by without notice, a snowstorm requires some pantry cooking, or, the craving for something rich, creamy, cheesy and comforting must be quelled.  This five-minutes to make sauce is as delicious as it is easy, which is what makes it more than worthy of a blog post.  Both Joe and I love it tossed into pasta (sometimes with some chards of roasted chicken thrown in too), it's a fantastic sauce for seafood (if you're not a purist about cheese and seafood together), and, kids (or at two out of my three) eat steamed vegetables drizzled with it.  I rest my case.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3ad8985200dBoursin is classified as a "specialty" cheese, but, I classify it as "party cheese" -- serve it at a party with crackers or toasts and people flock to it.  This cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, similar to cream cheese, which makes it perfect to serve with wine or cocktails.  The Boursin brand is available in five flavors, (Garlic & Fine Herbs is my favorite). Whichever one you choose, there are two constants in each variety of Boursin:  garlic and peppercorns.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3ce3d7c200bBoursin was the creation of François Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own palate. Here's one last bit of trivia: When you are purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese on it", it is not authentic Boursin.  "Gournay" is the word François Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France using the slogan, "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin".

IMG_7519For my, Boursin cheese sauce:

2  tablespoons salted butter

1/2  teaspoon each: dehydrated minced garlic and onion, garlic and onion powder, sea salt and white pepper

1  cup whole milk

2  5.2-ounce wheels Boursin cheese

IMG_7521 IMG_7521 IMG_7521 IMG_7521 IMG_7521 IMG_7521 IMG_7521 IMG_7521~Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the spices.  Add the milk and adjust heat to steaming -- do not simmer or boil.  Add one wheel of Boursin to the milk mixture, break it up into pieces with the side of a large spoon and stir until Boursin has melted into the mixture.  Add the second wheel of Boursin and repeat the process.  Remove from heat.

Toss 3/4-1 cup sauce into 12-16 ounces cooked pasta:

IMG_7554Easy Boursin Sauce for Pasta, Seafood & Veggies:  Recipe yields 2 cups/16 ounces cheese sauce, which is enough to sauce 1 1/2 -2 pounds pasta.  Reheat sauce gently on the stovetop or microwave.  Does not freeze well.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; 1 1/2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3ad8985200dCook's Note: While I am almost never without Boursin in my refrigerator, my ~ Buttery-Rich and Cream Cheesy Copycat Boursin ~, is almost as quick to make as Boursin sauce. Making a case for making Boursin is easy:  Sans the spices (which I have on hand all the time), you can make twice as much for half the price.  Example:  One wheel of store-bought Boursin costs almost $8.00.  I can make two wheels for slightly less than $4.00. Suffice it to say, "it makes cents".

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/12/2019

~ Herbaceous Caramelized-Onion & Boursin Burgers ~

IMG_7487Eating à la Française, in the the style of the French people, is a remarkable experience.  As a person who is 100% willing to throw calories under the bus for outstanding fare, dining in France is literally at the top of my food chain.  Speaking of chains, over the past few decades, "le fast food chaînes" have indeed invaded France, but, only to the point of being easier to find without replacing "haute cuisine" (fine dining) or interrupting eating "en famille" (family-style meals).  

That said, for a culture that loves "pissaladière" (the French answer to pizza) and has long-established ties to "pommes frites" (French fries), a "hambourgeous-fromage" (a hamburger with cheese), unless it is purchased at a "Quick" (a fast-food chain), is different from the American-style hamburger or cheeseburger in that it is made with "biftek haché" (chopped beefsteak), which gives it a coarser, slightly dryer, not to be confused with dried-out texture -- it's wonderful.  One more bit of trivia: It's not a "Royale with cheese", juste "le Royale cheese".  C'est la vie!

As the French say:  "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin."

Translates to:  "Some bread, some wine, some Boursin."

6a0120a8551282970b022ad386a1bc200cBoursin is classified as a "specialty" cheese, but, I classify it as "party cheese" -- serve it at a party with crackers or toasts and people flock to it.  This cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, similar to cream cheese, which makes it perfect to serve with wine or cocktails.  The Boursin brand is available in five flavors, (Garlic & Fine Herbs is my favorite). Whichever one you choose, there are two constants in each variety of Boursin:  garlic and peppercorns.  

IMG_7362Boursin was the creation of François Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own palate. Here's one last bit of trivia: When you are purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese on it", it is not authentic Boursin.  "Gournay" is the word François Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France using the slogan, "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin".

Want caramelized onions on your 'burger?  Make 'em first:

6a0120a8551282970b017d3bf9e9ba970cOnions contain a lot of sugar and slowly cooking them on the stovetop draws out their natural sweetness. The longer and slower they cook, the sweeter they get.  When lightly-browned or browned, they take on a pleasant, nutty taste.  When caramelized to a deep amber color, they get sweet.  Caramelizing onions is easy, but, if it's a deep caramel color you want, you'll need to allow a good 35-45 minutes.  

IMG_7417Technically, any onion can be caramelized, but I think sweet onions work best, with yellow onions being my second choice -- I don't recommend caramelizing red onions.  My favorites are: Vidalia, Walla Walla, Maui, Texas Sweet and NuMex.  Here are two tips:

1)  To insure even cooking, slice to a consistent thickness.

2)  Onions will loose about 2/3 of their volume, so start with a lot more than you think you need.

IMG_73801 1/2 pounds (after peeling) 1/8"-1/4"-thick-sliced half-moon-shaped sweet onion (6 cups) 

3  tablespoons olive oil

3  tablespoons salted butter

1  teaspoon granulated sugar 

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2-4  tablespoons sweet white wine, for deglazing pan (vegetable stock or plain water may be substituted)

6a0120a8551282970b017d3bf9e9ba970c IMG_7370 IMG_7370 IMG_7374 IMG_7386 IMG_7386 IMG_7386 IMG_7386~Step 1.  Peel and slice the onions as directed.  Over low heat, in a 12" skillet, melt the butter into the olive oil.  Add the onions to the skillet.  Season with the sugar and salt.  Using a large slotted spoon or spatula, toss until the onions are evenly coated in the oil/butter mixture.  

IMG_7394 2 IMG_7394 2 IMG_7394 2 IMG_7394 2 IMG_7401 IMG_7401 IMG_7401 IMG_7401~Step 2.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Continue to slowly cook, stirring occasionally.  After 10 minutes, onions will have lost a lot of volume and will be limp and steamed through.  There won't be any browning just yet.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 10 minutes. It's now that you are going to start to see what I refer to as light browning.  Continue to cook, stirring more frequently, another 10 minutes. Now onions are nicely-browned and truly beginning to caramelize.

Note:  From this point on, do not leave the stove.  The onions will require almost constant stirring, and, they can and will go from browned to burned quickly.  My onions cooked for another 5 minutes today, with me stirring constantly, before I added the wine and quickly (30-45 seconds) deglazed the pan, or, for a total of 35 minutes.  Deglazing the pan is an important step that takes caramelized onions from ordinary to extraordinary, so don't be inclined to skip it.

Parameters for my American-French cheeseburger:

IMG_7512Every once in a while I like to pretend I'm from France.  Today, my inner-French-self decided to come up with a to-die-for American-French-style cheeseburger that would make any Frenchican or American proud to eat.  My parameters were quickly established.  Start with a 2:1 ratio of American, store-bought ground beef to French-style processor-minced steak (flank steak). Liberally season the meat mix plenty of dried/dehydrated garlic, onion, salt, pepper, French herbes de Provence + a boost of granulated beef bouillon.  The steaky-textured 'burgers get pan-seared, relatively-quickly in a bit of melted butter, then topped with a creamy, flavor-packed French cheese, Boursin, and, caramelized onions.  Served on a French roll (there is no substitute for brioche) with green-leaf-lettuce, these moist, juicy burgers need no special sauce.

IMG_7421For the beef and seasoning mixture:

2  pounds 85/15 (85% lean/15% fat) ground beef

1  pound flank steak

2  teaspoons herbes de Provence

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced onion

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  generous teaspoon granulated beef bouillion (1 packet)

IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661 IMG_4661~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_7425 IMG_7425 IMG_7425 IMG_7425 IMG_7425~Step 2.  In a small bowl, thoroughly stir the herbs and seasonings together.  Sprinkle the seasoning blend over the top of the meat mixture. Using your hands, thoroughly combine the two.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator 1-2 hours, or overnight, to allow the flavors time to marry -- if you have the time, overnight is terrific.

My American-French cheeseburger -- the Boursin burger:

IMG_7452For the 'burgers, the toppings & the buns:

3  pounds Mel's-meat mixture, divided into 8, 6-ounce portions, each portion (initially) formed into, 4"-round 'burgers

1 5-ounce wheel garlic-and-fine-herb-flavored Boursin cheese, cut into 8 wedges, at room temperature, very soft

1-1 1/2 cups caramelized onions, from above recipe

8  4"-round brioche hamburger rolls, sliced in half horizontally, toasted or untoasted, your choice

1  head, soft Bibb lettuce, 2-4 leaves per sandwich

3 tablespoons salted butter, divided in half, for preparing electric skillet

IMG_7446 IMG_7446 IMG_7256 IMG_7256~Step 1.  Divide the meat mixture into 8 portions, then using your hands and the aid of a 4"-round food-ring, pat and press them into thick discs, about 4"-round (they will get flattened more during cooking process).  Set aside, to come to room temp, about 30 minutes.  Cut Boursin into wedges and set aside, covered with plastic wrap, to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

IMG_7458 IMG_7458 IMG_7458 IMG_7458~Step 2.  In electric skillet, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter over low heat.  When melted, using a pastry brush, paint bottom of skillet. Increase the heat to 385° and wait 30 seconds.  

IMG_7469 IMG_7469 IMG_7474 IMG_7474 IMG_7474~Step 3.  Place four 'burgers in the skillet and using a grill press or a spatula, firmly press each 'burger down, lifting and lowering the press 2-3 times to make sure the surface has been evenly pressed (into a free-form, craggy-edged 4 1/2"-5"-sized patty).  Sauté for 2 minutes.  Flip the 'burgers over and cook for another 2 minutes (1 1/2 minutes for rare-ish, 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.  Repeat process with remaining four 'burgers.

Brioche bun, lettuce, 'burger, Boursin, onions, eat:

IMG_7498Herbaceous Caramelized-Onion & Boursin Burgers:  Recipe yields 1-1 1/2 cups caramelized onions/8 Boursin burgers.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; kitchen scale; 12" nonstick skillet; large spoon; paper towels; plastic wrap; 4"-round food ring (optional); 16" electric skillet; pastry brush; 'burger press or spatula; wide spatula;  serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3ce3e35200bCook's Note: Mashed, smashed or whipped potatoes, made from Russets, reds or golds, skins on or skins off, baked in the oven, boiled on the stovetop or cooked in the microwave -- a case can be made, and a recipe developed, for each and every scenario, and, as long as the end justifies the means, the basic machinations for potato perfection is, for the most part, personal. ~ Buttery-Rich & Boursin-Cheesy Whipped Potatoes ~ are a personal favorite.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/09/2019

~ Buttery-Rich and Cream-Cheesy Copycat Boursin ~

IMG_7362Hospitality at-the-drop-of-a-hat -- it's the name-of-the-game friends, and no self-respecting cook gets caught without a block of semi-soft-, wedge of soft-, or a spreadable-cheese on-hand. Get out the cheese board, the corkscrew, and voila, instant hospitality.  A little effort and as little as thirty short minutes of spirited conversation (tick, tock) can build friendships that last a lifetime. Next to the port wine cheese, you'll find Boursin in my refrigerator -- both have relatively long shelf lives.  That said, given enough time and/or notice I make my own copycat versions*.

*Note:  Making a case for making your own port wine cheese and Boursin is easy:  In the case of both, sans the spices for the Boursin (which I have on hand all the time), you can make twice as much for half the price.  Example:  One wheel of store-bought Boursin costs almost $8.00.  I can make two wheels for slightly less than $4.00.  Suffice it to say, "it makes cents".

IMG_7355As the French say:  "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin."

6a0120a8551282970b022ad386a1bc200cBoursin is classified as a "specialty" cheese, but, I classify it as "party cheese" -- serve it at a party with crackers or toasts and people flock to it.  This cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, similar to cream cheese, which makes it perfect to serve with wine or cocktails.  The Boursin brand is available in five flavors, (Garlic & Fine Herbs is my favorite). Whichever one you choose, there are two constants in each variety of Boursin:  garlic and peppercorns.  

Boursin was the creation of François Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own personal palate.  Here's one last bit of trivia about Boursin: When you are purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese on it", it is not authentic Boursin.  It seems that "Gournay" is the word François Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France and Britain using the slogan, "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin".

Translates to:  "Some bread, some wine, some Boursin."

IMG_72968  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft (1 large package)

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

1  tablespoon dried herbs de Provence

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced onion

1/2  teaspoon granulated garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon granulated onion powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

IMG_7299 IMG_7299 IMG_7307 IMG_7307~Step 1.  Place all ingredients in a medium bowl and thoroughly stir them together -- there will be 1 1/2 total cups.  Cut and line two 3/4-cup ramekins with enough aluminum foil to overhang the sides by 1 1/2".  Fill both containers (full and level with the tippy top) with the Boursin.  Cover the ramekins with the overhanging foil and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.

Note:  Boursin can be made 3-5 days in advance of serving and keeps nicely in the refrigerator for at least a week.  Remove from refrigerator about 1 hour prior to serving -- homemade Boursin softens, time wise and texturally, like butter softens (slightly-, semi-, very-soft and spreadable).

IMG_7315 IMG_7315 IMG_7315 IMG_7315 IMG_7315~Step 2.  Once Boursin has been removed from the refrigerator, loosen the foil from the top, then, use the foil as a handle to lift cheese from ramekin.  Peel back the foil.  Invert a small plate over the top, then invert the plate and Boursin to the upright position and remove the foil.  Continue to let cheese sit at room temperature until desired consistency is reached.

Cream cheese & butter + herbs & seasonings + 5 minutes:

IMG_7342Buttery-Rich and Cream-Cheesy Copycat Boursin:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups copycat Boursin cheese and two small wheels (similar in size to the store-bought wheels).

Special Equipment List:  spoon; 2, 3/4-cup-size ramekins; aluminum foil

IMG_7290Cook's Note: Mashed, smashed or whipped potatoes, made from Russets, reds or golds, skins on or skins off, baked in the oven, boiled on the stovetop or cooked in the microwave -- a case can be made, and a recipe developed, for each and every scenario, and, as long as the end justifies the means, the basic machinations for potato perfection is, for the most part, personal. ~ Buttery-Rich & Boursin-Cheesy Whipped Potatoes ~ are a personal favorite.

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

(Recipe, Copyright and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/07/2019

~ Buttery-Rich & Boursin-Cheesy Whipped Potatoes ~

IMG_7291Mashed, smashed or whipped potatoes, made from Russets, reds or golds, skins on or skins off, baked in the oven, boiled on the stovetop or cooked in the microwave -- a case can be made, and a recipe developed, for each and every scenario, and, as long as the end justifies the means, the basic machinations for potato perfection is, for the most part, personal.  Truth told, while I like some versions better than others, and, with the exception of one experience (where the gal unforgivably served unpalatably "soupy potatoes" made with chicken stock in place of cream, to cut back on fat, with a consistency that bastardized the word purée), I've never eaten mashed potatoes I didn't like -- in the end, salt, pepper, a pat of butter or some gravy can fix anything.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27640d2970c~ I Love My Mom's Old-Fashioned All-Beef Meatloaf ~, and, as we all know, like 'burgers-and-fries and steak-and-baked, meatloaf-and-mashed go hand-in-hand.  When mashing, smashing or whipping potatoes, everyone knows a goodly amount of soft or melted butter is a must.  For creaminess, some add warm cream or milk, others add buttermilk or sour cream.  Past that, common additions include:  bits of onion or garlic, bacon, and/or shredded cheddar or cream cheese.

Like cream cheese in your mashed potatoes?  

6a0120a8551282970b014e6067cfa0970cBoursin is classified as a "specialty" cheese, but, I classify it as "party cheese" -- serve it at a party with crackers or toasts and people flock to it.  This cow's milk cheese has a creamy, buttery texture and a full flavor, similar to cream cheese, which makes it perfect to serve with wine or cocktails.  The Boursin brand is available in five flavors, (Garlic & Fine Herbs is my favorite). Whichever one you choose, there are two constants in each variety of Boursin:  garlic and peppercorns.  

Boursin was the creation of François Boursin in 1957, in Normandy.  It was "his take" on the French tradition of serving cheese with an assortment of minced, fresh herbs, which guests sprinkled atop the cheese to suit their own personal palate.  Here's one last bit of trivia about Boursin: When you are purchasing Boursin, if the package does not say "all natural Gournay cheese on it", it is not authentic Boursin.  It seems that "Gournay" is the word François Boursin picked (naming it after the town he grew up in) when he was required to declare its origin to customs officials.  The Boursin brand was first advertised on television in France and Britain using the slogan, "Du pain, du vin, du Boursin", meaning, "some bread, some wine, some Boursin".

You're gonna love Boursin in your mashed potatoes.

IMG_72372  pounds small, "baby" red potatoes, as evenly-sized as possible, cut in half

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning the water

1  stick salted butter, at room temperature

3/4  cup cream

1/2  teaspoon dehydrated, minced onion

1/2  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  5-ounce wheel garlic-and-fine-herb-flavored Boursin cheese, cut into pieces, at room temperature, softened (Note:  Homemade Boursin is super-easy to make -- check out my copycat recipe -- softened butter & cream cheese, herbs & seasonings + 5 minutes.)

IMG_7236 IMG_7236 IMG_7236 IMG_7236~Step 1.  Remove the Boursin from the refrigerator.  Open the package and cut it into wedges.  Set it aside to soften, while proceeding with recipe as directed below:

IMG_7242 IMG_7242 IMG_7242 IMG_7242 IMG_7242 IMG_7242 IMG_7242~Step 2.  Slice potatoes in half and place in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot as you work.  Cover with 2-quarts cold water and add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook until potatoes are fork tender through to their centers, 16-18 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a colander to thoroughly drain.  Return steaming hot potatoes to still hot stockpot and return to still warm stovetop.  Add the Boursin, cover the pot and wait about 5 minutes.

IMG_7247 IMG_7247Step 3.  While the potatoes are simmering, place cream, butter, minced garlic, minced onion, salt and pepper in a 1-cup measuring container.  Place in microwave to warm up gently, until butter has melted.  Remove from microwave and set aside.

IMG_7270 IMG_7270 IMG_7270 IMG_7270 IMG_7270~Step 4.  Remove potatoes from stovetop and uncover pot.  On medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, incorporate the Boursin and half the butter/cream mixture.  Add the second half of the butter/cream mixture and gradually increase mixer speed to high, whipping the potatoes while scraping down the sides of the pot with a large rubber spatula until smooth and creamy (except for the pretty chards of red potato skins), about 1-2 minutes.

Smashed, mashed or whipped, try a bit of Boursin next-time:

IMG_7290Buttery-Rich & Boursin-Cheesy Whipped Potatoes:  Recipe yields about 6 cups whipped potatoes.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart wide-bottom stockpot w/lid; colander; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0dfb3b0970cCook's Note:  Lots of folks add cheddar cheese to mashed or smashed potatoes.  It's a well-documented fact that "everthing tastes betta with chedda".  That said, if you've never tasted cheddar potatoes with dried mint flakes added to them, I implore to take a page out of my playbook.  Don't roll your eyes.  I've served these potatoes to a couple of schooled restaurant chefs who have changed their menus to serve "Mel's potatoes" with lamb or lamb chops. You gotta trust me on this one. I didn't invent the pairing of potatoes, cheese and mint.  My Eastern European ancestors did that for me. Where my people came from, parts of Russia and the now surrounding countries, the climate was cold and the growing season was short.  Along with chives, dill and parsley, mint was a hearty herb that grew like a weed.  It was the first to come to life in the Spring, but, it was the last to die in the Winter.  Click here to check out my recipe for ~ Creamy Smashed Cheddar 'n Mint Gold Potatoes ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/04/2019

~ Slovak-Style Butter-Bean & Mushroom Sauerkraut ~

IMG_7226This is my father's family's recipe for sauerkraut, and as Eastern Europeans, sauerkraut wasn't reserved for ringing in the New Year -- we ate it all year long.  The only thing that could improve upon the recipe would be my grandfather's home-fermented 'kraut -- which, as a young child, I remember being kept in a large, wooden, lidded barrel sitting in the corner of his dark, cool, earthen-floored basement, which I also remember being a somewhat scary place.  In the family's vegetable garden, they grew their cabbage.  In a small barn, next to the vegetable garden and also a scary place, were three or four large slaw cutters, which, once the cabbage got harvested, were used by members of the family-of-seven to make short work of the shredding process.

Butter beans & mushrooms in sauerkraut?  You betcha! 

In my family, my father picked mushrooms in the Spring, then my mother cleaned, blanched and froze them in small packages.  Amongst other things (like scrambled eggs and mushrooms for breakfast), she always added mushrooms to sauerkraut along with a can of butter beans, which neutralized some of the sauer in the 'kraut.  It is a very filling, stick-to-the-ribs combination, and it might even sound a bit odd a first too, but, it is sigh-oh-my, truly delicious.  Served with some PA Deutsch-style buttered noodles and some form of porcine (ham, sausage, roast, chops, steaks), the complete meal is fit for a king.  While this side-dish is quick to make (5-10 minutes of prep and 45-50 minutes of simmer time), it is almost better to prepare it the day before you plan to serve it, to allow the flavors to marry -- simply reheat it gently on stovetop or in microwave.  

IMG_70942  pounds fresh sauerkraut, thoroughly drained for about 10 minutes

2  15-ounce cans butter beans, well-drained, liquid reserved (about 2 generous cups)

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (about 2 cups)

3  4-ounce cans sliced mushrooms, well-drained (about 2 cups)

6  ounces salted butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1 1/2  teaspoons Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt

1 1/2  teaspoons Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097~Step 1. Drain the sauerkraut, beans and mushrooms as directed, then dice the onion.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides, melt butter over low heat.  Stir in Jane's seasonings and the black pepper.  Add the onion and increase heat to medium-, medium-high, and sauté/simmer until softened, about 5-6 minutes.

IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114~Step 2.  Add sauerkraut, beans and mushrooms.  Stir.  Add about half the reserved sauce/liquid from the beans and stir again.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook, stirring regularly, 20-25 minutes.  Add and stir in the remainder of the sauce/liquid from the beans, stir, and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, 20-25 more minutes -- the point of adding the liquid in two increments is to sauté the mixture in a scant amount sauce, not boil it in a lot of liquid, which gives the beans the time they need to absorb the excess moisture.  Remove pan from heat, cover and allow to sauerkraut time to steep, so flavors can marry, about 30-60+ minutes.

Serve in bowls or a large bowl as a side-serving...

IMG_7228... or layer it between pork blade steak & buttered noodles:

IMG_7214Slovak-Style Butter-Bean & Mushroom Sauerkraut:  Recipe yields  2 quarts/8 cups sauerkraut.

Special Equipment List:  colander; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e4ec5c970bCook's Note:  Another side-dish that often made it's way onto our family's table was ~ Pea, Carrot & Potato Salad Olivier ~.  It too was made with ingredients grown in the garden. Also known as "Salad Olivier" or "Salad Olivye", and, "Russian Salad", there are as many variations of it as there are cooks willing to take the time to do a precise job of uniformly cubing and dicing the components. For young girls, who were required to assist their mother in the kitchen, it was how they honed their knife skills for life in their own kitchens (while the father was teaching the boys to fish, hunt, gather and/or farm).

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

01/02/2019

~ Happy New Year Pork Blade Steak and Sauerkraut ~

IMG_7214Throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and into the Midwest, some form of porcine and sauerkraut is the traditional meal to properly ring in the New Year in order to receive a years worth of good luck, health and prosperity.  In my grandmothers' and mother's kitchens, they roasted a pork loin or braised a pork butt to serve with the briny sauerkraut my grandfathers' or father fermented in their 'kraut crocks for 6-8 weeks.  I never questioned why we ate this meal.  I simply assumed that Santa  dropped by everyones home with presents on Christmas Eve, and, everyone ate pork and sauerkraut (plus  leftover Christmas cookies) on New Year's Day -- both rituals were fine by me.

Why do we ring in the New Year eating pork & sauerkraut?

Anywhere you find a gathering of Pennsylvania Dutch (Dutch=Deutsch=German) or Eastern Europeans, you'll find them eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day -- it's a combination of tradition steeped in superstition backed up by practical purpose.  Where I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, we had a large population of both.  My family was Eastern European, we knew many PA Deutsch folks, and, both cuisines intersected in numerous ways, starting with:  both are porcine-raising cabbage-growing cultures who wrote the book on pork and cabbage recipes.

It's a combination of PA Dutch & Eastern European tradition...

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0b81e8f970cPractical purpose turned into tradition.  Pork and sauerkraut didn't start out as a dish associated with New Year's Day -- it evolved into one.  It was common for individuals in farming communities to raise a backyard pig or three, or raise pigs for a living.  Those who raised pigs slaughtered them in the Fall, because the time-consuming task of butchering a large animal is considerably more food-safe during cold weather months.  In turn, this meant that cuts of pork (hams, sausages, roasts, etc.) were more plentiful in the weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year (so, if one didn't raise a pig, one could purchase or barter for a choice cut).  As for sauerkraut, the cool weather months are prime cabbage-harvesting time, which resulted in pickling vats of it in order to preserve it -- timing is everything, and, after fermenting, the 'kraut was done just in the nick of time for the holidays.

... steeped in superstition & backed by a dose of practical purpose.

IMG_0840Tradition steeped in superstition.  As any PA Deutsch person will be quick to tell you, "the pig roots forward as it eats", which is a symbol of forward progress (the direction people hope to go in the new year), and, raising a big, fat pig, fed a family for a long time, a symbol of prosperity (which people hope to achieve in the new year) -- this is opposed to "the chicken and turkey scratches backward as it eats", which is a symbol of a year no better, or worse than, the previous one (undesirable to say the least).  As any Eastern European person will tell you, "the long shredded-strands of sauerkraut  symbolize a long, healthy life", and, "freshly-picked cabbage is green, which is the color of cash money, which symbolizes prosperity".  The moral of the story: Place a beautiful, well-seasoned pork roast surrounded by mounds of briny sauerkraut or cooked cabbage on your New Year Day table and you're walking on sunshine until next year.

My family's Slovak-style butter bean & mushroom sauerkraut:

IMG_7226While this is quick to make (5-10 minutes of prep and 45-50 minutes of stovetop time), it can be simmering while the pork blade steaks are broiling for 22-minutes, so, prepare it first or a day ahead.  In my family, my father picked mushrooms in the Spring, then my mother blanched and froze them. Amongst other things, she always added mushrooms to the sauerkraut along with a can of butter beans, which cut the acid from sauerkraut.  It is a very filling and stick-to-the-ribs combination, and it might even sound a bit odd a first too, but, it is sigh-oh-my delicious.  Served with some PA Deutsch-style buttered noodles and some pork, the complete meal is fit for a king.

IMG_70942  pounds fresh sauerkraut, thoroughly drained for about 10 minutes

2  15-ounce cans butter beans, well-drained, liquid reserved (about 2 generous cups)

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (about 2 cups)

3  4-ounce cans sliced mushrooms, well-drained (about 2 cups)

6  ounces salted butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1 1/2  teaspoons Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt

1 1/2  teaspoons Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Pepper

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097 IMG_7097~Step 1.  Drain the sauerkraut, beans and mushrooms as directed, then dice the onion.  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides, melt butter over low heat.  Stir in Jane's seasonings and the black pepper.  Add the onion and increase heat to medium-, medium-high, and sauté/simmer until softened, about 5-6 minutes.

IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114 IMG_7114~Step 2.  Add sauerkraut, beans and mushrooms.  Stir.  Add about half the reserved sauce/liquid from the beans and stir again.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook, stirring regularly, 20-25 minutes.  Add and stir in the remainder of the sauce/liquid from the beans, stir, and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, 20-25 more minutes -- the point of adding the liquid in two increments is to sauté the mixture in a scant amount sauce, not boil it in a lot of liquid, which gives the beans the time they need to absorb the excess moisture.  Remove pan from heat, cover and allow to sauerkraut time to steep, so flavors can marry, about 30-60+ minutes, while broiling the blade steaks as directed below and preparing (optional, but recommended) the buttered noodles.

The pork blade steak -- a German-Midwest invention & staple.    

IMG_7201A few things did rock my food world in 2018, and, the pork blade steak was one of them. It quickly became my new-to-me muse -- in my own words, it's a bone-fide kick-butt man-sized pork chop.  Known as pork steak, pork butt steak or pork blade steak, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork.  Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare-rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask the Sam's Club butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-to-our-locale steaks for me.  Perhaps this post will help them to catch on "out here in the counties".  Trust me when I tell you, this cut of porcine makes short work out of serving pork and sauerkraut for New Year's Day, especially if you are short on time and/or neither want or need a lot of leftovers.

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

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

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200cSteaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

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

The four steaks pictured above, weighing a total of 6.48 pounds, cost $10.87.  That's a whole lot of economical porcine wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family with big appetites. Depending on the recipe du jour, sometimes I marinate these steaks, sometimes I don't.  When it comes to pork blade steaks, absorb this: marination (which does not affect the cooking time), is a flavorizer not a tenderizer.  Please know: these steaks are super-tender with zero marination.

* Note:  I have electric ovens and none of mine have a hi or low setting for the broiler.  With the door cracked (which is how broiling, a from-the-top-down dry-heat-method of cooking, is done in an electric oven), an oven-thermometer reads 325-ishº throughout the cooking process.

IMG_7401 IMG_7401~ Step 1.  Place 2, 3/4"-1"-thick, bone-in pork butt blade steaks, about 1 1/2-1 3/4-pounds each on a corrugated broiler pan -- allow to come to room temperature, 20-30 minutes.  Season tops with freshly-ground sea salt & peppercorn blend.

IMG_7430 IMG_7430 IMG_7430 IMG_7430 IMG_7430 IMG_7430~Step 2.  Place steaks 5 1/2"-6" underneath preheated broiler for exactly 11 minutes -- 5 1/2"-6" is a key measurement when broiling pork blade steaks.  Remove steaks from oven, flip steaks over, season the second sides with a bit (not too much) more sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Return to oven and broil for exactly 11 more minutes.  Remove from oven, set aside, and allow steaks to rest, in pan, for 10-12 minutes.

IMG_7454 IMG_7456 IMG_7456Step 3.  To slice steaks, slice each rested-but-warm blade steak, on a diagonal, in half lengthwise -- half bone-in, the other boneless.  If desired, thinly-slice the boneless half across the grain while holding the knife at a 30° angle, into (1/8"-1/4"-thick) strips.  If desired, strips can be diced and tossed into the sauerkraut. Carve meat away from bone on the second half, then slice and/or dice that meat too.

Serve pork steak atop a bed of sauerkraut & buttered noodles:

IMG_7211Happy New Year Pork Blake Steak and Sauerkraut:  Recipe yields 8 generous servings.

Special Equipment List:  colander; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2"-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon; 2, 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcafef88970bCook's Note: I am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist", and, oh boy, they knew how to cook!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)