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12 posts from September 2019

09/30/2019

~ Making PA Deutsch-Style Square Pot-Pie Noodles ~

IMG_1097In PA Deutsch country, their pot pie starts as a thin, brothy beef, chicken, ham or turkey soup stock containing simply celery, onion, parsley and seasoning. Large, thickish square-cut shortening-based noodles get rolled, cut and added, or, soft doughy balls of a similar mixture get dropped, into the pot to cook in the simmering soup (the latter is often referred to as chicken and dumplings).  As the noodles or dumplings cook in the soup, they thicken the broth to a sauce-like consistency.  While a bit prosaic looking, this soup is indeed luscious and luxurious.

When I was eighteen, Nana was my fiance's grandmother, and, she was as PA Deutsch.  She was a marvelous cook, baker and cross-stitcher. On nights when she was making ~ Pennsylvania Dutch-Country Chicken and Waffles ~ or her "bot-boi" ~ Nana's Bare Bones PA Deutsch Chicken Pot Pie ~, she invited the entire family because: she roasted two chickens to make the stew for the waffles, or, put a huge pot of two-chicken stock on the stovetop to make the pot pie -- these meals are an event.  Pot pie is bare bones good eating -- it's a celebration of tender noodles swimming in a pool of flavorful thickened stock with fall-off-the-bone tender meat.

Making real-deal PA Deutsch-style pot-pie noodles:

IMG_1044For every 2-quarts (8 cups) pot-pie stock-of-choice and 4 servings of chicken pot pie you will need:

1 1/2  cups cake flour

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  tablespoons shortening

1/2  cup milk

1/4  cup additional bench flour IMG_1048

Having the right equipment on-hand and ready to go makes these noodles super-easy to make:

large wooden pastry board; pastry blender; paring knife; small rolling pin; 12" ruler; pizza cutter; baking pan; parchment

IMG_1050 IMG_1050 IMG_1050 IMG_1050 IMG_1065~Step 1.  In a large bowl, place and stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Using a pastry blender and a paring knife, cut the shortening into the flour mixture until small grains form.

~ Step 2.  Add half of the milk. Using a spoon, stir until  crumbs begin to form.  Add the rest of the milk and stir until a rough dough comes together.  Do not overmix.

IMG_1074 IMG_1069~ Step 3. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of flour over the surface of pastry board.

IMG_1070Gather up the dough in your hands, shape it into disc and place it on the board.  Pat and press it into a rectangular shape.

IMG_1082 IMG_1077~ Step 4. Using a small roller, gently roll dough into a 12" x 8" rectangle.  This size insures proper thickness. I use a ruler to measure and by bumping it up against the sides  every now and then, to shape the rectangle.

IMG_1087 IMG_1090~ Step 5. Using the ruler as a guide, cut the rectangle into 24, 2" squares.

IMG_1102Transfer the noodles to a baking pan lined with parchment and sprinkled with flour.  Cover with a towel and set aside 1-6 hours.

IMG_1126 IMG_1118~ Step 6. With the pot-pie stock of choice simmering gently but steadily, begin dropping the noodles into the liquid, 1-2 at a time.  When all noodles have been added, lower heat and continue to simmer for about 15-16 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot and allow to steep and thicken a bit more, about 15-16 minutes.

Ladle pot-pie & pot-pie noodles into bowls & serve...

IMG_1135... garnished w/salt, pepper &, of course, parsley:

IMG_1166Making PA Deutsch-Style Square Pot-Pie Noodles:  Recipe yields instructions to make 24 pot-pie noodles, enough for 8 cups pot-pie stock-of-choice, and 4 servings pot-pie.

Special Equipment List: large wooden pastry board; pastry blender; paring knife; small rolling pin; 12" ruler; pizza cutter; baking pan; parchment paper; soup ladle

Illo-06Cook'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". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania welcomed everyone.  Proud to say we were the first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life.

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

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

09/28/2019

~The Easiest Way to Oven-Roast a Tied Chuck Roast~

IMG_4640The chuck roast is an inexpensive cut of beef that comes from the chuck -- the shoulder part of the steer.  It's a heavily exercised muscle, which gives it lots of beefy flavor, but, it also makes it tough.  Because beef chuck roasts are irregular in size and shape, which leads to uneven cooking, it's common practice to find them rolled into a uniform roundish shape and tied.  Chuck roasts are indeed best prepared via braising the whole roast or stewing small uniform pieces of chuck roast on the stovetop and/or in the oven in a well-seasoned liquid for a long period of time, which breaks down the tough connective tissue, rendering the roast, literally, fork-tender.

Anatomical_diagram_of_american_primal_beef_cuts_poster-r4d519012737d4504a2dfd293062c6566_azxzp_8byvr_512A pot roast is not a chuck roast, meaning it is not a specific cut of beef, it's a method of preparing beef, but, in the home kitchen, mine included, making pot roast is the number one reason to purchase a chuck roast.  The next best reason to buy a chuck roast in the home kitchen, mine included, is to make beef stew.  Because of its high meat to fat ratio, 80% meat to 20% fat (considered ideal for making hamburgers), chuck is typically the cut that gets ground for ground beef.  While only a few home cooks purchase a chuck roast for grinding 'burger beef at home, it can indeed be done with a large-capacity food processor, and yields excellent results.  

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2c20c43970cYes, a chuck roast can be oven-roasted and it's easy to do.  It will emerge brown and beautiful, and tasty and tender, and, there will be enough drippings in the bottom of the roasting pan to make some great gravy, which brings me to my next point.  That said, I roast a tied chuck roast for two reasons:  1) Making some of the best open-faced sandwiches, served up on my homemade bread machine brioche, you'll ever eat, or;

IMG_47052) When I want/need some "leftover" shredded or diced beef to add to a brothy beef soup.  Allow me to continue.  While an oven-roasted chuck roast can indeed be sliced and eaten as a meal with mashed potatoes, gravy and a vegetable (it tastes wonderful), it has some untoward pockets of fat running through it, which, while easy to avoid when slicing for sandwiches or dicing for soup, means I wouldn't slice it to serve "as is" to guests.

The Easiest Way to Oven-Roast a Tied Chuck Roast: 

IMG_4624 IMG_4624 IMG_4624 IMG_4624Place a 5 1/2-6 pound tied chuck roast on a rack in a roasting pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Use a pastry brush to paint the entire surface of the roast with a bit of vegetable oil, then season the roast liberally with a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend. Set aside to come to room temperature, for about 1 hour.  Roast, uncovered, on center rack of 350º for 2 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and allow to rest 45-60 minutes prior to slicing.

Slice & serve or use as directed in specific recipe: 

IMG_4656The Easiest Way to Oven-Roast a Tied Chuck Roast:  Recipe yields instructions to oven-roast a tied chuck roast.

Special Equipment List:  13" x 9" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; wire rack; parchment paper; pastry brush; chef's knife; fat/lean separator (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7ca358f970bCook's Note: Every cut of beef has an ideal purpose.  An ~ Oven-Roasted Eye-of-Round Roast ~ makes fabulous cold deli-style meat sandwiches.  Too many people waste too much time trying to coax this lean, tough, economically-priced-for-good-reason cut of beef into doing something that it is not cut out to do:  Be fall-apart, pot-roast-tender.  Be aware, marinating is not tenderizing it (it is flavorizing it) and braising or slow cooking it to "pot roast kind of tender" will NOT improve its flavor, it will render it flavorless.  Roasting it past rare- or medium-rare will produce a product suitable for boot-making.   People who claim to making a great pot roast out of this cut of beef have never tasted it side-by-side a pot roast made with a fat-marbled tied chuck roast.

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

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

09/25/2019

~ My Pennsylvania Deutsch-Style Beef Noodle Soup ~

IMG_4705Soups and stews.  We can't seem to get enough of them this time of year -- I know I can't.  The difference between the two is easy to describe.  If you started by simmering meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  If it is thickened at the end of the process, a soup can be stew-like.  If you started by cooking/sautéing meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  If only a small amount of flour is used, a stew can be quite soupy.  Soup or stew?  Thick or thin, it's all about how you began the process.   

Every culture, and, I mean every culture, makes wonderful soups and stews using ingredients and seasonings familiar to them and local to their climate.  Everywhere you go, soups and stews are served in a cup or a bowl, and, depending on the culture, it's not unusual for them to be ladled over a starch (bread, couscous, rice, potatoes, egg-noodles or other types of noodles, etc.), to turn a light meal into a hearty meal, or, under certain circumstances, a knife-and-fork meal.    

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1955322970cThe PA Deutsch are known for their egg noodles and noodle dishes.  In their farming communities, noodle soups and stews and noodle dishes aren't just a meal -- they're a relaxing, comforting, pull-up-a-chair-after-a-hard-days-work way of life. Today's recipe is not to be confused with Pennsylvania Deutsch Pot Pie, which is a thickened soup, contains their signature pot-pie noodles.

If you don't have time for making homemade stock, worry not.  I've written this w/a store-bought stock option too. 

Today's recipe is my somewhat-simplified version of their beef noodle soup, which is a clear, nicely-seasoned soup, containing chards of beef and chunky vegetables leftover from the making of the stock, plus, their signature square egg noodles in store-bought form -- which cook right in the soup.  There's more. Don't shy away from making this soup with high-quality store-bought stock -- I know you're busy, so I won't criticize.  I've written the instructions to include that option.

IMG_46612  quarts beef stock, preferably homemade (8 cups), or high-quality store-bought stock (Note:  When using my homemade stock, I don't need to season it.  When using your own homemade beef stock, you may or may not need to season it.  When using unsalted store-bought beef stock, season it with:  2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves1 tablespoon sea salt and 1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper)  

1-1 1/2 pounds cooked beef, preferably from the making of the stock, pulled into bits and pieces, or, leftover oven-roasted beef chuck roast if using store-bought stock

12-16 ounces peeled and 3/4" chunked gold potatoes

6-8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

12-16  ounces peeled and 3/4" sliced cooked carrots, from the making of the stock, or, fresh if using store-bought stock  

6-8  ounces 3/4" sliced cooked celery, from the making of the stock, or fresh if using store-bought stock

6-8  ounces uncooked square or extra-wide Pennsylvania Dutch egg noodles

minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish 

~Step 1.  To make the soup using homemade stock and previously cooked vegetables:  In a wide-bottomed 6-quart stockpot, bring the homemade stock to a gentle simmer.  Add the potatoes and onions and simmer gently until potatoes are just cooked through, 12-15 minutes.  Add the cooked carrots and celery.  Return to a gentle simmer. Stir in the beef.  To this point, the soup can be prepared several hours in advance -- simply turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow it to steep on the stovetop, then, return it to a simmer and proceed when ready.  Stir in the uncooked noodles and simmer until tender, about 8-9 minutes.  Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4664 IMG_4690 IMG_4690 IMG_4690 IMG_4690~Step 2.  To make the soup using store-bought stock and fresh vegetables:  In a wide-bottomed 6-quart stockpot, bring the store-bought stock and additional seasonings to a gentle simmer.  Add the potatoes, onions, carrots and celery.  Return to a gentle simmer and cook until carrots and potatoes are both tender 12-15 minutes.  Stir in the beef.  To this point, the soup can be prepared several hours in advance -- simply turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow it to steep on the stovetop, then, return it to a simmer and proceed when ready.  Stir in the uncooked noodles and simmer until tender, about 8-9 minutes.  Ladle into soup bowls and serve immediately.

Serve & savor each & every scrumptious soupy slurp!

IMG_4707If it's an Old Fashioned Beef Stew you prefer:

IMG_4541My Pennsylvania Deutsch-Style Beef Noodle Soup:  Recipe yields 5 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 6-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; soup ladle 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1956dbd970cCook's Note: I was born and raised in Eastern, PA, the Lehigh Valley region, which has a large Pennsylvania Dutch community.  For the past forty years, I've lived here in Central PA, which has a large Amish population, both known for their pot pie.  Lucky am I to have learned how to make both styles. Recipes do vary from cook to cook, and, yes there are cross-over versions because people and their recipes migrated throughout our state and USA, but, if you're interested in a tale of two pot-pies:  ~ Nana's Bare Bones PA Deutsch-Style Pot Pie ~.

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

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

09/23/2019

~ A Simpler Straightforward No-Nonsense Beef Stock ~

IMG_4612The case for making homemade beef stock is easy to make.  Store-bought beef stock, with the exception of one or two brands, all too often has a medicinal smell and taste.  That said, store-bought stock does have a place in my pantry and plays a part in recipes that don't rely on it as one of the main components.  For those "special" recipes, homemade beef stock is always on-hand in my freezer to insure I'm never in danger of compromising my end result.  This time-saving recipe is my all-purpose recipe.  In 5 minutes it's simmering on the stovetop and results in a full-bodied moderately-seasoned clear stock with a lot less muss and fuss than other recipes.      

A bit about stock:  By definition, a stock is a moderately seasoned, strained, clear liquid resulting from the simmering of water, bones and/or vegetables.  Stock is the basis for almost all soups and stews, and, when reduced, is the basis for many sauces and gravies. In order of versatility, beef, chicken and veal are the classic stocks, with seafood and vegetable coming in a close second and third, and, in my kitchen Thai-Asian chicken stock comes in very hand too.  The same basic guidelines apply to the preparation of all stocks: minimal boiling, maximum simmering and moderate seasoning.  The single goal of each and every stock is the same:  clarity.

The single goal of each & every stock is the same:  clarity.

IMG_4604Historically, the first recorded stocks were exclusively by-products of poached meat, poultry, fish and/or vegetables, and, a stock made with a large proportion of meat in it will have magnificent flavor.  Debate over the inclusion of meat (on bones) instead of just raw bones or roasted bones (in the case of brown stocks) exists.  The challenge for the restaurant chef, who requires large quantities of stock, is to get maximum flavor with minimum expense, so, their stocks are made using primarliy bones, which is quite practical because they have a lot of bones at their disposal. The challenge for the home cook, who uses lesser quantities of stock, is also to achieve maximum flavor with minimum expense, BUT, is problematic because we don't always have large quantities of bones at our disposal or available to us when we want or have a need to make stock (and, it can take months for them to accumulate in the freezer).  I justify the expense of using bone-in cuts of meat to make some of my stocks, because I put the meat to good use.

IMG_45635-6  pounds beef shanks, preferably large, meaty ones

6  quarts water

3/4-1  pound peeled yellow or sweet onion

12-16  ounces peeled carrots, whole or thick-coined

6-8  ounces celery stalks, whole or thick sliced

1  ounce fresh parsley (Note:  I like to take one bunch of parsley and cut it in half, using the lower leafy stems, which contain loads of flavor, to make the stock, and reserve the delicate leafy tops for garnishing other recipes.)

4-5  large bay leaves

1  tablespoon garlic powder

2  tablespoons sea salt

1 tablespoons coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_4566 IMG_4566 IMG_4566 IMG_4566 IMG_4566 IMG_4586~Step 1.  Place all ingredients in a 12-quart stockpot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to a simmer, and, using a skimmer, remove all of the white and brown foam as it collects on top.  This process will take about 10 minutes. After removing the foam, remove the parsley.  It will be limp and losing its bright green color.  This herb has done its job*.  The result will be a stock that is lightly and pleasantly flavored with it.

*Note:  Fresh herbs all loose their "flavoring power" after about 10-12 minutes of simmering.

IMG_4588 IMG_4588 IMG_4588 IMG_4588~Step 2.  Reduce heat to simmer gently, uncovered, for 3 hours. Stock will be reduced by about one-quarter and meat will be falling off the shank bones. Remove from heat, cover and allow to steep for 3 hours.  Steeping is important to stock making.  It allows all of the flavors to develop.  

IMG_4602 IMG_4604 IMG_4604 IMG_4604~Step 4. Ladle stock through a mesh strainer, into desired-sized food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of headspace at the top of each (to allow for expansion if you're freezing the stock). Repeat this process until all stock has been strained.  Using a slotted spoon, remove meat from pot, using your fingertips to pull and discard the fat and bones, placing the meat on a plate as you work.  Remove the carrots and celery, placing them on a plate as well.  Refrigerate stock overnight and/or freeze.  Use stock, beef and vegetables as directed in specific recipes.

Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes:

IMG_4543My Mother-in-Law's Philly Hamburger Pepper Pot:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09265b77970dDecadent & Divine Silky Shiitake Mushroom Soup

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07ebb4be970d

French Onion Soup (Soup a l'mignon) a la Mel:

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fb36aa03970bA Simpler Straightforward No-Nonsense Beef Stock:  Recipe yields 4 quarts stock.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 12-quart stockpot; mesh strainer; soup ladle; fat/lean separator; slotted spoon; desired-sized food storage containers, preferably glass

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c91bccc0970bCook's Note: As unappetizing as the two words chicken carcass sound, culinarily, those are the words that describe what's left of a boned chicken (what's left after the meat has been removed from the bones), and, truth told, whether the carcass is raw or has been roasted, there is a ton of flavor in those bones. There's more. Discarding a chicken carcass without extracting the flavor is such a waste it makes me sad. Here's ~ How to Make Roasted Chicken Carcass Soup Stock ~.

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

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

09/20/2019

~ Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Carrots & Potatoes ~

IMG_4543My mom, like all cold-climated Eastern Europeans, made great beef barley- and beef noodle-  and beef vegetable- soup. Mom made great beef stew and Euro-style Hungarian goulash too (not to be confused with the American-style ground beef and macaroni type goulash).  As a card-carrying carnivore, I enjoy these hearty beefy concoctions as much, if not more than, any kind of chicken soup.  That said, when it comes to beef vs. chicken soups and stews in general, one must start by recognizing that a strong-flavored meat like beef requires bold-flavored herbs and seasonings, as opposed to soups or stews made with mild-flavored poultry which do not.  Past that, while the best soups and stews are indeed made with homemade beef stock or chicken stock, I'm not going to call the food police on anyone who chooses to use the store-bought alternative -- I understand you're busy (who isn't) and I refuse to criticize on this point.  

IMG_4560Let's begin by discussing the difference between soup & stew:

Soup:  If you've simmered meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  Soups can be thin, chunky, smooth, or, if you've thickened it in some manner after the fact (by adding potatoes, rice, beans, vegetables, or, used a mixture of cream or water mixed with cornstarch, flour or eggs), thick, meaning: having a stew-like consistency.  Soups in general (there are exceptions) tend to be refined and light tasting, using shreds of meat and/or small diced ingredients, or, pureed to a thin or thick, smooth consistency.  In many cases they can be prepared in less than 1-1 1/2 hours, and sometimes, as little as 15-30 minutes.  Soups can be served as an appetizer, side-dish, main course or dessert, but, are always, without exception, served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon.  

Stew:  If you've cooked/sautéed your meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  Stews tend to be full of chunky ingredients and full of bold herb and/or spice flavors.  Stews are hearty and filling and are almost always served as the main course.  Stews, because they require a longer, slower cooking time than a soup, sometimes 3-4 hours or longer, often in a tightly-covered vessel, are great for tenderizing tough cuts of meat.  Stews, while usually served in a bowl, can be spooned over a starch (couscous, rice, potatoes, egg noodles, etc.) and turned into a knife and fork meal.

IMG_4561Old-Fashioned Eastern-European-Style Beef Stew:

IMG_4457For prepping/dredging the beef:

2 1/2-3  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck roast or chuck steak, not stewing beef, from 1, 3-3 1/2 pound chuck roast or chuck steak

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

6  tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing all-purpose flour for sauces and gravy

For browning the dredged beef:

3  tablespoons salted butter

3  tablespoons vegetable oil

all of the dredged-in-seasoned-flour beef

For preparing the stew, listed in order of when they get added:

2  tablespoons salted butter

8-10  ounces 3/4"-1" diced yellow or sweet onion

8-10  ounces 3/4"-1" diced white button mushroom caps

3/4  cup port wine, for deglazing pan

all of the browned beef cubes

6  cups beef stock, preferably homemade or high-quality unsalted store-bought stock

4  tablespoons tomato paste, about 1/2 of a 6-ounce can

2  packets Herb-Ox granulated beef bouillon

2  whole bay leaves

"the seasonings", aka, 1 teaspoon each:  garlic powder, dried parsley flakes, dried rosemary leaves, dried thyme leaves, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

1  pound peeled and 3/4"-1" coined carrots

8  ounces 1/2" sliced celery stalks

1  10-ounce bag finely-shredded green cabbage

1 1/2-2  pounds peeled and 3/4"-1" cubed gold potatoes

1/2-3/4  cup minced fresh parsley, for garnishing soup

IMG_4444 IMG_4444 IMG_4444 IMG_4468 IMG_4468~Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, cube the beef as directed, discarding any large fat pockets you will find along the way.  To dredge the beef, place the 6 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Add the beef and toss to coat the beef cubes in the seasoned flour on all sides.

IMG_4465 IMG_4471 IMG_4471 IMG_4471 IMG_4471 IMG_4486~Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot, over low heat, melt the butter into the oil.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add the dredged beef cubes.  Using a large slotted spatula to keep the meat moving around, sauté until ever-so-slightly-browned on all side and swimming in a flavorful gravy, about 6-8 minutes.  Use the slotted spatula to transfer the beef to a plate, leaving all of the flavorful brown fond in the pot.  Set beef aside.

IMG_4487 IMG_4487 IMG_4487 IMG_4487 IMG_4487~Step 3.  Add the diced onion and mushroom caps to the pot.  Give them a thorough stir and continue to sauté, over medium- medium-high heat until onion is soft and translucent but not browned or browning, and mushrooms have exuded about three-quarters of their moisture and earthy flavor into the mixture, 6-8 minutes -- oh yum.

IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501 IMG_4501~Step 4.  Add the port wine.  Using the spatula, continue to sauté, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot with spatula until all of the luscious brown fond has released itself into the mixture, 1-2 minutes. Continue to simmer another 1-2 minutes, perhaps 3.  Don't rush it.  Return the beef to the pot. Add and stir in the beef stock, granulated beef bouillon, bay leaves and seasonings.  Reduce heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover pot, and continue to simmer for 1 hour.

IMG_4517 IMG_4517 IMG_4517 IMG_4524~Step 5.  During the last 15-20 minutes of the simmering process, peel and dice the potatoes as directed.  Increase the heat to medium-high.  Add and stir in the coined carrots, sliced celery, shredded cabbage and diced potatoes.  When the mixture returns to a simmer, reduce heat to a gentle steady simmer and continue to simmer, uncovered for 45-60 minutes, until carrots, celery and potatoes are all perfectly cooked through.  Remove from heat, cover pot and allow to steep for 1 hour prior to serving, or, overnight in the refrigerator -- which renders it ridiculously good.  

Garnish w/minced parsley & serve immediately:

IMG_4541No need to call me to the dinner table twice:

IMG_4553Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Potatoes & Carrots:  Recipe yields 5 quarts beef stew.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 1-gallon food storage bag; wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; large slotted spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcd8fbfd970bCook's Note: Every time my mother had a meaty ham bone in her hand, she'd make "ham and cabbage".  It is a brothy concoction of ham, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes seasoned with nothing but salt and pepper.  I grew up loving cabbage and I adore this "boiled dinner".  ~ My Mom's Traditional Ham, Cabbage & Potato Soup ~ is yet another example of Eastern European comfort food.

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

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

09/18/2019

~ Mrs. T's Pierogy, Kielbasa & Sauerkraut Casserole ~

IMG_4413One doesn't need Eastern European roots to enjoy pierogi, but, if you are of Eastern European heritage, you grew up knowing they're much more than a potato-and-cheese stuffed, half-moon shaped dumpling.  Pierogi can be stuffed with all sorts of savory or sweet fillings to serve as a snack, side-dish, main-dish or dessert.  They can be boiled, baked, sautéed, deep-fried or grilled -- some recipes can be transitioned to the microwave or slow-cooker.  They can be made ahead and frozen too.  About the only thing you can't do with pierogi is put them in a sandwich.  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4d35df2200bPierogi (singular and plural, meaning:  one pierogi, three pierogi, a dozen pierogi), along with the holubki (stuffed cabbage rolls) are a staple in my life   Between my maternal great-grandmother, both grandmothers, two great-aunts, four aunts, my mother, the ladies at our church and the ladies at all the other churches, my family was never at a loss for homemade pierogi.

AboutustruckMrs. T's Pierogy (intentionally spelled by them with a "y" instead of an "i"), was founded in 1952 by Ted Twardzik in the town of Shenandoah, PA -- which interestingly, is a short "stones throw" from my Hometown of Hometown, PA.  Ted's mom, Mary Twardzik, aka Mrs. T., loved to cook for her family and everyone loved her handmade pierogi.  After graduating from college with a IMG_4357degree in business and working at a New York accounting firm, Ted, who fondly remembered the ladies sitting around his mother's kitchen table making pierogi, and the lines of people wrapped around the local churches to buy their pierogi*, decided it was the perfect food to mass-market in grocery stores.  He moved back to Shenandoah and named his company after his mother.  A true success story.

*Ted's fond memories of pierogi making were no different than mine or pretty much anyone else of Eastern European heritage.  My grandmother used to take orders and sell hers by the dozens from the mom and pop grocery store she owned and operated.  Everyone does loves pierogi.  

As my family called it, "Mrs. T's One-Skillet Casserole":

IMG_4421By the 1960's Mrs. T's Pierogy would, on occasion, make their way onto my family's dinner table, but, only in the form of a popular and easy-to-throw-together one-skillet casserole.  I don't know if it was a recipe that appeared on the Mrs. T's box, but, I do know that lots of local-to-our-area cooks were serving it during that era.  A crockpot version eventually came along, which, my dad's sister tried.  It tasted good, but, due to the addition of chicken stock (which I find oddly out of place), it turned out a bit "soupy" -- my Aunt and my mom agreed that wasn't an ideal result. 

IMG_43622  ounces/1/4 cup/1/2 stick salted butter

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

3/4-1  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  12 1/2-ounce box frozen (do not thaw) Mrs T's classic-cheddar mini-sized pierogi (28 to a box), or, 1 16-ounce box Mrs. T's full-size pierogi (12 to a box)

1  12-ounce ring Polish kielbasa, cut into 28-30, 1/2"-thick slices

1  pound high-quality sauerkraut, undrained

1-1 1/2 cups Colby-Jack cheese blend (4-6 ounces)

1/2  cup sour cream, stirred together with 2 tablespoons water to a drizzly consistency, for topping casserole

1/4  cup minced, fresh parsley leaves, for garnishing casserole

IMG_4368 IMG_4368 IMG_4368 IMG_4368 IMG_4368~Step 1.  Dice the onion and mince the parsley as pictured.  In a small bowl or ramekin, thoroughly stir together the sour cream and water until its a smooth, drizzly consistency.  If you have a small plastic squirt/condiment bottle, transfer the sour creamy mixture to it -- it makes for a prettier presentation.  Slice the kielbasa as directed and set aside. 

IMG_4359 IMG_4359 IMG_4384 IMG_4384 IMG_4384 IMG_4384 IMG_4392 IMG_4392 ~Step 2.  In the bottom of a large, deep, 12" skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Stir in the onion powder, salt and pepper, to season the butter. Add the frozen pierogi, kielbasa and onion. Increase heat to medium- medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly with a slotted spoon or spatula until onion is soft, translucent and just short of browning, about 4-5 minutes.  

IMG_4397 IMG_4397~ Step 3.  Add the sauerkraut.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook until pierogi are fully-cooked, another 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over top, adjust heat to low, cover skillet and allow the cheese to melt, about 1 minute.

IMG_4412~ Step 4.  Remove skillet-casserole from stovetop.  Place on the table, drizzle with sour cream and garnish with minced parsley.  Use a large slotted spatula to scoop onto plates and serve immediately.  My mom always served it accompanied by a loaf of high-quality seeded or unseeded rye bread and butter.  Leftovers reheat nicely in the microwave.

Scoop onto plates & taste some coal-cracker comfort food:

IMG_4422Mrs. T's Pierogy Kielbasa & Sauerkraut Casserole:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; ramekin; spoon; small squirt/condiment bottle (optional); large, deep 12" skillet w/lid; large slotted spoon or spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4820b9d200dCook's Note:  Known as holubki to me and many of you, stuffed cabbage rolls are beloved in every Eastern European household. Everyone makes them a bit differently, with the constants being: ground meat (beef, pork and/or lamb), cooked rice, steamed green cabbage leaves and a tomato-based sauce.  Because they are labor-intensive, too often they're reserved for holidays or special occasions. That said, those of us in Eastern European inner-circles know there are other ways to bring this knife-and-fork savory comfort food to the weekday table in almost half the time.  Here are my family's favorite ~ Five Ways to Enjoy Slovak-Style Stuffed Cabbage ~.

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

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

09/15/2019

~ The Perfectly-Seasoned 16-Minute Broiled Burger ~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ad5929200dOn busy weeknights, or when I'm just plain pressed for time, popping a flank steak, a couple of pork blade steaks, or a few burgers under the broiler frees up my hands and some time to set the table, toss a salad or fix a side-dish and collect a couple of condiments.  In exactly 18-, 22- or 16-minutes respectively (17 minutes if we want  cheeseburgers), dinner is on its way to the table. To those who contend that broiling is not the ideal method for cooking any of the above, I say "poppycock".  Position the oven rack 5 1/2"-6" underneath the heat source, purchase steaks or make burgers within my pounds/ounces recommendations, then, time them as directed.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0998dfa6970dAfter the first moist, juicy perfectly-cooked bite, you'll convert.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a481e824200cFor my all-purpose  'burger seasoning:

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

6a0120a8551282970b0240a481e9a8200c-120wiStir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c95a3ee5970bFor the burger patties:

3  pounds lean, fresh-never-frozen, ground beef (85/15)*

*Note:  The best 'burgers are made with freshly-ground meat meaning: not out of the freezer and thawed.  I am not here to tell you not to freeze ground meat.  While it works great for things like sloppy Joe's, tacos and chili, freezing does compromise the taste and texture of 'burgers.

IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2~Step 1. Using a kitchen scale, divide the meat into 6, 8-ounce portions. Form each portion into a 5"-5 1/2"- round disc, approximately 1/2" thick. Place three patties on each of two 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans (the kind with corrugated bottoms).  Using your fingertips, lightly season tops of patties with the seasoning blend.

IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211~Step 2.  To broil the 'burgers to nice, moist and juicy medium- medium-rare, place the pans of seasoned patties, side-by-side, 5 1/2"-6" underneath preheated broiler for exactly 8 minutes.  Remove from oven, use a small spatula to flip patties over, lightly-season second sides and return to broiler for 8 more minutes.  Do not overcook.  

IMG_4340 IMG_4340~Step 3.  To make cheeseburgers, remove from oven, place one or two slices of cheese-of-choice (this is yellow American) atop each burger and return to broiler, just until cheese melts, less than 1 minute, watching carefully during this time.

Serve ASAP w/favorite 'burger condiments, &, chips or fries:

IMG_4761The Perfectly-Seasoned 16-Minute Broiled Burger:  Recipe yields instructions to perfectly-broil 6, 8-ounce hamburgers or cheeseburgers/6 servings.

Special Equipment List: kitchen scale; 2, 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e448b8970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e4490f970cCook's Note: To make 1 1/2 cups of My Copycat McDonald's Special Sauce:

1  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

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

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

09/12/2019

~ My Copycat Primanti Brothers Secret Slaw Recipe ~

IMG_4281On occasion I go to Pittsburgh.  Just like every city there's plenty of sights to see, entertainment to be had, and, of course, lots of food.  While Pittsburgh offers its share of show-offy fine-dining experiences, The Steel City, in my opinion, is known more for its blue collar, working man's fare. One of the most well-known, and most popular examples is Primanti Brothers -- trendsetters in sandwich making since 1933.  When in Pittsburgh, you'll also notice that eating "alla Primanti's", "in-the-style Primanti's" (huge, overstuffed sandwiches topped with slaw and fries) surrounds you.

IMG_4298Primani's 'slaw is vinegar-based and basic.  Seriously folks.  Think basic. This slaw is an unembellished monochromatic mixture of shredded green cabbage (no carrots, bell peppers or onions) -- 100% resemblant of the many variations of Pennsylvania Deutsch (the German speaking people of Pennsylvania) coleslaw recipes.  The dressing needs no special or fancy ingredients -- as far as I can tell, just green cabbage and a well-balanced dressing containing vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, a touch of celery seed, and some generic vegetable oil.  I add a tad of whole grain German-style mustard to my recipe, to stabilize it -- I can't be certain, but they might too.  

Try my copycat -- it's damned close, & only takes 5 minutes.

IMG_4268For my easy copycat Primanti's coleslaw:

6  cups store-bought shredded green cabbage (10 ounces)

3  tablespoons each:  granulated sugar and white vinegar

1/2  teaspoon each: sea salt & coarse-grind black pepper

1/4  teaspoon celery seed

1  tablespoon whole-grain mustard

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_4269 IMG_4269 IMG_4269 IMG_4269~Step 1.  Place the shredded cabbage in a medium bowl.  In a 1-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top, add the rest of the ingredients, as listed.  Put the lid on tight and vigorously shake the container, to thoroughly combine and emulsify the dressing.  Add all of the dressing to the cabbage.  Using a large slotted spoon, stir to thoroughly combine.  Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Overnight is best.

Try it on My Copycat Primanti Brothers Pitts-burger Sandwich

IMG_4313My Copycat Primanti Brothers Secret Slaw Recipe:  Recipe yields 3 cups coleslaw.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid and pourer top; large slotted spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4d060ef200bCook's Note:  Looking for some pub grub to snack on while sipping your suds and waiting for your Pitts-burger?  Well, the 'Burgh made ~ Beer-Batter-Dipped Deep-Fried Zucchini Sticks ~ famous too. Heck, Pittsburgh is the land of deep-fried almost anything, and, I for one could make a meal of these things.

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

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

09/09/2019

~My Copycat Primanti Brothers Pitts-burger Sandwich~

IMG_4297On occasion I go to Pittsburgh.  Just like every city there's plenty of sights to see, entertainment to be had, and, of course, lots of food.  While Pittsburgh offers its share of show-offy fine-dining experiences, The Steel City, in my opinion, is known more for its blue collar, working man's fare. One of the most well-known, and most popular examples is Primanti Brothers -- trendsetters in sandwich making since 1933.  When in Pittsburgh, you'll also notice that eating "alla Primanti's", "in-the-style Primanti's" (huge, overstuffed sandwiches topped with slaw and fries) surrounds you.

Pittsburgh_Strip_District_Primanti_BrosNow a chain, the original shop is located at 46 18th Street, know as Pittsburgh's Strip District -- a stretch along the Allegheny River once filled with factories, warehouses and produce yards.  Brothers Joe, Dick and Stanley opened their diner to serve the late-night and early morning workers loading and unloading fish, fruit and vegetables, as well a the long lines of incoming and outgoing truckers carrying the products to outlying destinations. 

IMG_4235The idea behind their signature sandwiches (which were ordered out-loud by the customer from a list on a chalkboard, by number not name to save time), was to combine the sandwich with the side-dish, overstuffing both into hoagie rolls, then tightly wrapping them in newspaper, so they could be handed off to each customer as they came off the line.  This was devised to accommodate the truckers, so they could drive with one hand, while eating with the other.

IMG_4247 IMG_4264Primanti Brothers puts fries and coleslaw on all of their sandwiches. On our first visit to their local Happy Valley restaurant, Joe and I ordered and split the "The Pitts-burger Big Bro". It consisted of (double the meat of The Pitts-burger Classic) two nicely-and-noticeably seasoned, provolone-topped, ample-sized all-beef patties, tomato slices, plus, skin-on real-not-frozen French fries and their signature vinegar-based cole slaw, served on thick-sliced Italian bread (not a hoagie roll). It was nicely presented, manageable without being overly messy, and we both enjoyed it a lot (I want to try their pizza next), but, I won't lie, the 'burger patties were a bit dry, and truth told: I'd much rather my fries skin-off and served to the side.  But, it's all about the experience, right?

Part One:  Make the coleslaw first -- if possible, the day before.

IMG_4281Primani's 'slaw is vinegar-based and basic.  Seriously folks.  Think basic. This slaw is an unembellished monochromatic mixture of shredded green cabbage (no carrots, bell peppers or onions) -- 100% resemblant of the many variations of Pennsylvania Deutsch (the German speaking people of Pennsylvania) coleslaw recipes.  The dressing needs no special or fancy ingredients -- as far as I can tell, just green cabbage and a well-balanced dressing containing vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, a touch of celery seed, and some generic vegetable oil.  I add a tad of whole grain German-style mustard to my recipe, to stabilize it -- they might too.  Give this recipe a try -- it's damned close, and only takes 5 minutes.

IMG_4268For my easy copycat Primanti's coleslaw:

6  cups store-bought shredded green cabbage (10 ounces)

3  tablespoons each:  granulated sugar and white vinegar

1/2  teaspoon each: sea salt & coarse-grind black pepper

1/4  teaspoon celery seed

1  tablespoon whole-grain mustard

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_4269 IMG_4269 IMG_4269 IMG_4269~Step 1.  Place the shredded cabbage in a medium bowl.  In a 1-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid and pourer top, add the rest of the ingredients, as listed.  Put the lid on tight and vigorously shake the container, to thoroughly combine and emulsify the dressing.  Add all of the dressing to the cabbage.  Using a large slotted spoon, stir to thoroughly combine.  Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.  Overnight is best.  Yields 3 cups.

Part Two:  Make the seasoning & cook the 'burgers:

IMG_4264Primanti's 'burgers are indeed nicely-seasoned -- it's part of the whole taste-bud experience.  And, once again, the seasoning, like the slaw, is a basic mixture.  Seriously basic.  I chose to use my own all-purpose 'burger seasoning, which, contains inexpensive ingredients that everyone has on hand in their pantry.  Even though I can, I'm not going to do any 'burger bashing here.  I'm just going with my own 'burgers, made my own way, with fresh, not frozen beef patties.

Primanit's refers to their all-beef patties as hamburger steak.  On that theme, I like to use 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 slightly different.

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_4197For my Pitts-burger burgers:

3 pounds beef and steak mixture from above, or, 3 pounds lean ground ground beef (85/15), your choice, either tastes great

my all-purpose 'burger seasoning (recipe below)

12  slices provolone cheese

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39dd665200dFor my  'burger seasoning:

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

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39dd66f200dStir spices together. Makes a scant 2 Tbsp.

IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2 IMG_4201 2~Step 1. Using a kitchen scale, divide the meat into 6, 8-ounce portions. Form each portion into a 5"-5 1/2"- round disc, approximately 1/2" thick. Place three patties on each of two 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans (the kind with corrugated bottoms).  Using your fingertips, lightly season tops of patties with the seasoning blend.  

IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211 IMG_4211~Step 2.  To broil the 'burgers to nice medium- medium-rare, place pans 5 1/2"-6" underneath preheated broiler for exactly 8 minutes.  Remove from oven, use a small spatula to flip patties over, lightly-season second sides and return to broiler for 8 more minutes.  Remove from oven, place two slices of provolone atop each patty and return to broiler just until cheese melts, less than 1 minute.

Note: Feel free to grill your burgers outdoors, or cook your burgers to your liking via your favorite method.  My instructions for cooking burgers in an electric skillet to imitate a flat-top griddle, or cooking burgers in a skillet on the stovetop are two other options.  That said, if you want to get these six, or even more burgers cooked at once without compromise, the broiler works great.

Bread + 'Burger + Fries + 'Slaw + Tomato = Pitts-burger.

IMG_4313Primanny's, as it is pronounced w/a fluent 'Burgh accent...

IMG_4336... is as influential to Pittsburgh's culinary history as Heinz ketchup & Klondike bars.  The entire shebang goes together.

IMG_4319My Copycat Primanti Brothers Pitts-burger Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to make 3 cups slaw and 6, large hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  small bowl or ramekin; spoon; kitchen scale; 2, 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pans w/corrugated bottoms; small spatula; 1-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid and pourer top; large slotted spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0192ac404b1a970dCook's Note:  Looking for some pub grub to snack on while sipping your suds and waiting for your Pitts-burger?  Well, the 'Burgh made ~ Beer-Batter-Dipped Deep-Fried Zucchini Sticks ~ famous too. Heck, Pittsburgh is the land of deep-fried almost anything, and, I for one could make a meal of these things.

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

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

09/07/2019

~Humble & Homemade Oaty Hobnob Biscuit Cookies~

IMG_4185One thing I know about the Brits, they love their biscuits.  Go into any shop that sells groceries and/or baked goods -- the one item you know with certainty you can find is a package of biscuits. Hobnobs is the brand name of one of the most popular British biscuits.  Essentially a crunchy-crumbly oatmeal-shortbread cookie (as opposed to a fluffy, buttery American biscuit), McVitie's launched Hobnobs in 1985 and a chocolate coated version in 1987, which is not too long ago in terms of British biscuit history.  While it's customary to enjoy 'em with tea, I love 'em with milk.

Long story short, my experience with hobnobs is limited.  Back in the latter 1990's, I ate the better part of a package on the train ride from London to Wales.  I recall buying them from a vendor-stall selling magazines.  Cued up in front of me was a woman who added a package to her reading material.  When I reached the cashier, I did the same.  "When in Rome."  They were delightful.

IMG_4193Hobnobs are definitively not your grandmother's oatmeal cookies.

IMG_4136Hobnobs get their texture from oats and their flavor from golden syrup, which is a British baking staple. Amber-colored Golden syrup, like corn syrup, prevents sugar crystals from forming, which is why either is great to use for making caramel and some candy.  Unlike corn syrup, Golden syrup, isn't blatently in-your-face sugar.  It has a rich, caramel-y buttery flavor, which makes it a great substitution for corn syrup when baking. Unlike corn syrup, Golden syrup can be hard to find outside of high-end specialty shops here in the States.  I buy it on-line, and yes, honey can be substituted, but know it won't yield the same flavor.

Hobnobs are buttery-rich, salty-sweet oatmeal-shortbread cookies.

IMG_41401  cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup white whole-wheat flour

1 1/2  cups old-fashioned oats

1 1/2  teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

1  cup sugar

2  tablespoons whole milk

1  tablespoon Golden syrup

IMG_4142 IMG_4142 IMG_4142 IMG_4142~Step 1.  In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the all-purpose flour, white wheat flour, old-fashioned oats, baking soda and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, on medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula throughout the 2-3 minute process.  Lower mixer speed and beat in the milk and Golden syrup.  Remove the mixer -- you won't need it any more.

IMG_4150 IMG_4150 IMG_4150~ Step 2.  Using the rubber spatula, in 2-3 increments fold the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture, making sure to thoroughly combine after each addition.  A thick, somewhat crumbly cookie dough will have formed.

IMG_4159 IMG_4159 IMG_4159 IMG_4159~Step 3.  Using a 1 1/2" cookie scoop as a measure, place firmly-packed flat-bottomed balls of dough, well apart, onto each of  3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment (place 12 dough balls on each pan of this size).  Using the bottom of a glass, a ramekin, or, your fingertips, lightly press down to flatten the tops of each ball of dough.

IMG_4172 IMG_4172 IMG_4172~ Step 4.  One-pan-at-a-time, bake cookies on center rack of 300º (not a typo) oven for 24-26 minutes.  Cookies will be lightly-golden in color on their bottoms, around the edges and on their tops -- well-made hobnobs are a uniform golden color throughout.  Remove from oven and cool on pan 1-2 minutes prior to using a spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely -- cookies crisp up while they cool.

Buttery rich, salty & sweet, crunchy-crumbly perfection: 

IMG_4182Hobnobs are how the biscuit-cookie crumbles:

IMG_4188Humble and Homemade Hobnob Biscuit Cookies:  Recipe yields 3 dozen, 2 1/2"-3" round biscuit cookies.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; 3, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; wire cooling rack; thin metal spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0224df349c26200bCook's Note: Another cookie that falls into the "tea and biscuit" catagory is shortbread.  Melt-in-your-mouth, buttery-rich, slightly-salty and not-too-sweet, every bite of one of these humbly-crumbly understated cookies is akin to an extravagant indulgence -- the amuse bouche of the sweet treat kind.  ~ Buttery Candied-Pecan and Toffee Bit Shortbread ~

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

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

09/04/2019

~ Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos ~

IMG_4111Research has revealed that nachos made their debut in Northern Mexico in the 1940's when a large group of hungry servicemen wandered into a restaurant where Ignacio Anaya was cooking. The savvy chef quickly threw some cheese over a big pan of leftover tortillas.  When it emerged from the broiler, he scattered his creation with jalapeño peppers.  When he presented the soldiers with his group-sized appetizer, after devouring it, they took it upon themselves to spread the word. Popularity came fast, and, along the way, nachos acquired an assortment of toppings.

IMG_4092Nowadays, the tortilla chip, just like the pizza crust, can be used as a foil for all sorts of creative takes on traditional Tex-Mex-style nachos. Anything that can be adapted to make a pizza can be transitioned to nachos: Philly cheesesteak nachos, Cincinnati chili nachos, Carolina pulled-pork nachos, Jamaican jerk nachos, Buffalo chicken nachos, etc. There's no trick to it.  Pick one innocuous cheese with great melting qualities, Monterey Jack is my all-purpose choice, then, season the protein accordingly and pick the toppings, meaning, stick to the flavor profile. Interestingly, no one is surprised by  fusion-food nachos -- they just can't wait to try 'em.

Use homemade or store-bought ingredients, or a combo of both.

While nachos can be as homemade or semi-homemade as you want, we can all agree, you only get out of something what you put into it, but, when the hankering for nachos hits, no one wants to wait longer than the time it takes to preheat the oven, visit the pantry and open a beer. That said, if one it willing to take the time to deep-fry fresh corn tortillas, instead of opening a bag of tortilla chips, nachos become a great deal better.  There's more.  If you're willing to season, grill and shred the chicken, instead of using leftover chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken, you've just kicked them up another notch.  Finish them off with a drizzle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, and you'll feel like you scored the game-winning touchdown.

Nachos need a perfect ratio of cheese to toppings on each chip.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4907b77200bThat's easy.  That's what I said, until I watched Alton Brown (on The Food Network) make nachos, and, from him I learned how to build better nachos. First, he used a sheet pan to increase the surface area so the tortilla chips can sprawl out (no more crowding them in a 13" x 9" casserole for me).  Second, he took ample time to top them, almost one chip at a time, to make sure that every chip had the perfect ratio of cheese to toppings.  Once you do it his way once, there's no going back.

Building better nachos, one tortilla chip at a time.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a46bde46200dIn my kitchen, nachos aren't always a snack.  Sometimes they're a meal. When I serve 'em as a snack, I make them on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheet pan that's been covered with foil and a sheet of parchment -- so cleanup is a snap.  When I serve 'em as a meal, I make 'em the same way, but, layer them in my oven-safe ceramic skillets -- a bit of cleanup, but a great presentation. One sheet pan feeds 6-8 people snacks. The same ingredients feed four as a main-dish in four 6 1/2"-7" skillets.

Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos.

IMG_407430  5"-round fresh corn tortillas (about 1 pound, 4 ounces), or 1, 16-ounce bag store-bought restaurant-style tortilla chips

2-2 1/2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, 6-7 large thighs

Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Ranch Seasoning Blend, for seasoning chicken thighs

8  ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 3 cups)

3/4-1  cup chopped matchstick carrots

3/4-1  cup small-diced celery

3/4-1 cup thinly-sliced scallions, white and light green part only

3/4  cup Hidden-Valley Ranch Dressing

3/4  cup prepared Frank's RedHot Wing Sauce, not Franks RedHot, or your favorite brand of wing sauce

IMG_9304 IMG_9307 IMG_9314 IMG_9314~Step 1.  To deep-fry fresh tortillas, divide tortillas into two stacks and cut each stack into six wedges.  Heat corn or peanut oil in deep-fryer, according to the manufacturer's specifications, to 375º.  When the deep fryer is ready:  Fry 2 stacks (two sixths) of the tortilla triangles for 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Chips will be lightly-browned and puffed in spots. Transfer to a large baking pan that's been lined with 3-4 layers of paper towels. Using a spatula, quickly and randomly separate the chips into a single layer and lightly salt their tops ASAP.  Repeat process 5 more times.

IMG_4044 IMG_4044 IMG_4044 IMG_4062 IMG_4062 IMG_4067 IMG_4067~Step 2.  On a flat surface, open the chicken thighs up so they lay flat and lightly-season them on both sides with the seasoning blend. Grill thighs over medium indirect heat of outdoor gas grill (or over medium- medium-high heat in grill pan on stovetop), flipping them over every 3 minutes, until just cooked through, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from grill and dice the thighs into smallish bits and pieces -- not big chunks.

IMG_4076 IMG_4076 IMG_4076 IMG_4076 IMG_4076~Step 3.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with aluminum foil and a sheet of parchment.  To assemble the nachos, arrange chips across bottom of pan, in a semi-single layer, allowing them to overlap and double-up occasionally.  Scatter the shredded Jack cheese evenly over the chips, followed by the chicken, sliced green onion and blue cheese crumbles.

IMG_4096 IMG_4096 IMG_4096 IMG_4096~Step 4.  To bake and properly garnish the nachos, place on center rack of 350º oven and bake until Jack and blue cheeses are melted and bubbly, about 9-10 minutes. Remove from oven. Without any hesitation, scatter the diced carrots and celery over the top, followed by a drizzle of Ranch dressing and a drizzle of RedHot wing sauce.  Serve immediately.  Go eat!

Make movie night or TV tailgate special w/fully-loaded nachos.

IMG_4107Place pan on table or cocktail table & get out the napkins:

IMG_4115Snack your way from the outside of pan to center of pan:

IMG_4131Perfect ratio of chips & cheese to toppings?  You be the judge!

IMG_4129Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nachos:  Recipe yields 6-8 snack-size servings/4 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer (optional); hand-held cheese grater; outdoor gas grill or grillpan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" sheet pan or 6, 8" oven-safe ceramic skillets; aluminum foil; parchment

6a0120a8551282970b0240a442e6e9200cCook's Note: Undercover nacho tester.  I suppose it could get boring, but every eatery I've ever been to makes this Tex-Mex pub-grub staple a bit different  From nibbling on basic nachos topped with melty cheese sauce, to digging-into nachos-grande, nachos-supreme or ultimate-nachos piled high with a plethora of enough stuff to qualify for full-meal status, yes, I think undercover nacho tester could be my dream job.~ Na-Cho Mama's Fully-Loaded Sheet-Pan Nachos ~

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

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

09/02/2019

~ Old-Fashioned Applesauce and Spice Bundt Cake ~

IMG_4035There's nothing like the aroma of a spice cake baking on the eve of the Fall season.  We can all agree that an applesauce and spice cake is even better.  A one-bowl cake that can be mixed in minutes with just the aid of a whisk and a rubber spatula is better yet.  This recipe appeared in our local newspaper 20+ years ago (it was that long ago because we lived in another house).  It was our local Grange Fair's baking contest winner.  It touted a gingerbread-like texture containing all the flavors of Fall (cinnamon, ginger and cloves), and, it was so spot-on, I made no changes to it, except for one substitution:  Please Pass My Homemade Crockpot Applesauce.  As for the addition of a drizzly caramel-apple flavored glaze, 'twas my idea* and it came later, but is not a requisite to enjoying this delightful cake with your AM coffee, in your lunchbox, or after dinner.

* The original recipe called for a dusting of Confectioners' sugar, and, that is all the cake needs. 

This cake is simple, straightforward, no nonsense & on point.

IMG_4016Bundt cakes are perhaps my favorite cakes to bake.  Even the words "bundt cake" sound warm and inviting.  Simply saying "bundt cake" evokes happy, fond memories from kinder, gentler times. I'm not saying that humble sheet cakes and grandiose layer cakes don't have a place in this food world -- they do and they're delicious.  I'm merely suggesting that bundt cakes have more gravitational pull (haha) than other cakes -- even an unembellished bundt cake will pull more people to the dessert buffet than the other cakes.  That said, a 13" x 9" x 2" pan will work fine.  

Don't' have a bundt pan?  A 13" x 9" x 2" pan will work just fine.

IMG_3957For the cake:

2 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon salt

2  teaspoons baking soda

1  teaspoon baking powder

2  teaspoons ground cinnamon

1  teaspoon ground ginger

1/2  teaspoons ground cloves

3/4  cup sugar

3/4  cup dark brown sugar

2  cups applesauce, preferably homemade

6  tablespoons vegetable oil

2  teaspoons pure apple extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  large eggs

no-stick spray, for preparing bundt pan

IMG_3997For the (optional but highly recommended) drizzly caramel-apple drizzle:

1 1/2  cups Confectioners' sugar

1  tablespoon caramel flavoring

1  teaspoon pure apple extract

3-4  tablespoons whole milk, 3 tablespoons will be needed, add the rest, in small increments, if necessary, to control consistency

IMG_3959 IMG_3959 IMG_3959 IMG_3959 IMG_3959 IMG_3959~Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the unbleached flour, baking soda and baking powder.  Add and whisk in the ground spices (cinnamon, ginger and cloves), followed by both the granulated and brown sugars.  Using the whisk, push the dry ingredients to the sides of the bowl to form a large empty well in the center.

IMG_3972 IMG_3972 IMG_3972 IMG_3972 IMG_3972 IMG_3972~Step 2.  Into the well, place the applesauce, oil, both extracts and eggs.  Starting in the center of the well, whisk so as to beat the eggs and blend the wet ingredients.  Using wider strokes, gradually whisk in all of the flour and spice mixture.  Whisk until a thick smooth batter forms, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Using a large rubber spatula transfer/dollop the batter into the bottom of a 10" bund pan that has been sprayed with no-stick.

IMG_3988 IMG_3988~ Step 3.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in several spots throughout the deepest part of the center comes out clean,  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, in pan, 20-30 minutes, prior to inverting cake out onto rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

IMG_4000 2 IMG_4000 2 IMG_4000 2 IMG_4000 2 IMG_4000 2 IMG_4000 2~Step 4.  To prepare the glaze, in a 2-cup measuring container, stir together the Confectioners' sugar, extracts and 3 tablespoons of milk.  Add additional milk, if and as necessary, by teaspoonfuls until a smooth, drizzly consistency is reached.  Cover with plastic wrap and set glaze aside for about 15 minutes -- this will ensure an extremely smooth glaze.  If you have a plastic squeeze bottle, transfer the glaze to it.  To glaze the cake, using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle the glaze over the surface of the cake.

Allow the glaze to "dry" (harden up a bit -- about 2 hours):

IMG_4022Slice, serve & savor the first taste of Fall:

IMG_4042Old-Fashioned Applesauce and Spice Bundt Cake: Recipe yields 1, 10" bundt cake, and, depending on how thick or thin you slice it, 16-20 servings.

Special Equipment List: whisk; large rubber spatula; 1, standard-size 12-cup bundt pan; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack; 2-cup measuring container; spoon; plastic wrap; plastic squeeze bottle (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b022ad373eeb6200cCook's Note: Spice is always nice, but, let's all admit, when the cool weather hits, the aroma of spices baking in the oven or braising on the stovetop simply smell better -- they go from smelling mouth-wateringly good to ethereal.  As for my ~ Apple Candied Pecan & Cheesecake Bundt Cake ~, tender, calories-be-damned.  In this cake you'll find a batter loaded with diced tart apples and candied pecans sandwiched between two slightly-sweet cream cheese, cheesecake-esque layers.

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

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