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12 posts from January 2020

01/31/2020

~ Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili Burritos ~

IMG_8730The day my Buffalo-style chicken chili met Texican-style burritos was a memorable one.  It wasn't my idea, but, it sure was a tasty one.  As the story goes, my pot of almost-effortless Buffalo-style chicken chili was steeping on the stovetop -- having made it a few hours earlier, I was allowing the flavors time to marry and would be reheating it for dinner.  Our three boys trickled in after school, Joe got home after work, I ladled the chili into bowls, put a basket of tortilla chips on the table and we sat down.  A few minutes into our meal, our middle son said, "I think this chili would be great inside a burrito."  Chicken chili burritos were on the menu the next night.

"I think this chili would be great inside a burrito."

IMG_8592Indeed it is, and, here are my top five ways of explaining why:  #1.  A flour tortilla is a perfect foil for any type of chili*.  #2.  When assembling the burritos, the first layer, refried beans, complements any type of chili or chili con carne.  #3.  The second layer, shredded cheese or combination of cheeses can be chosen to complement any type of chili.  #4. The earthy and slightly-spicy Spanish-style rice, soaks up the excess juice in any type of chili and melts right into the flavor profile. #5. Served with flavor-appropriate sauces or garnishes (in the case of Buffalo-chicken chili, I go with creamy Ranch dressing and Frank's RedHot wing sauce), chili-burritos are a neat way to turn flavor-packed bowls of hearty chili into a heartier, kid-friendly, family-style, knife-and-fork meal.

*Try my steak-my-day Texas-Style Bowl-of-Red Steak ChiliWendy's copycat ground beef chili con carne, hatch green chile chili with pork and white beans, white-out white chicken 'n corn chili, slow-cooker sweet potato and ground beef chili, and, Cincinnati-style chili.

IMG_8759Chili-burritos are a neat way to turn flavor-packed bowls of hearty chili into a heartier, family-style, knife-and-fork meal.  

IMG_8694For each Buffalo-style chicken chili burrito (listed in order of assembly):

1  large, 9 1/2"-10" burrito-sized soft flour tortilla

1/4  cup creamy-style refried beans

1/2  cup shredded Monterey-Jack cheese

1/4  cup blue cheese crumbles

1/2 cup Goya Spanish rice (Note:  Prepare one rice and seasoning packet as package directs adding 2 tablespoons salted butter, 1 tablespoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to 2 1/2 cups water.)

1/2  cup Buffalo-style chicken chili, drained of excess liquid

Frank's RedHot Buffalo wing sauce, for garnish

Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, for garnish

IMG_8697 IMG_8697 IMG_8697 IMG_8697 IMG_8697 IMG_8697~Step 1.  To assemble each burrito, place one tortilla on a plate or flat work surface.  Using a butter knife, distribute the refried beans evenly over surface  Sprinkle the shredded Montery-Jack cheese evenly over the refried beans, followed by a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles.  Scatter the rice over the surface.  Using a slotted spoon, thoroughly drain, then place the chili, in a tubular-shaped mound, in the center of the tortilla.

IMG_8715 IMG_8715 IMG_8715~Step 2.  To wrap each burrito, lift side closest to you up and over top enough to tuck the end under the chili on the opposite side.  Next, fold left and right sides of tortilla up and towards the center, to seal the burrito at either end.  Last, roll the tortilla over, so that it sits, fully-encased, seam side down.  

IMG_8724~Step 3.  To finish-cook burritos, wrap individually in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, then heat, one-at-a-time or all together, in the microwave for 1-1 1/2 minutes, or, in 350º oven 6-8 minutes, just long enough to warm through and melt the cheeses.  Plate and serve hot, drizzled with Frank's RedHot wing sauce and Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.

Serve hot drizzled with RedHot wing sauce & Ranch dressing:  

IMG_8747Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili Burritos: Recipe yields instructions to make 2 large burritos/2 large servings or 4 smaller servings.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held box grater; 2-quart saucepan w/lid (for cooking rice); butter knife; slotted spoon; plastic wrap or aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4b6e83e200cCook's Note: What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY,  Deep-Fried Chicken Wings, is now found in many forms.  In my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, and, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs are favorite wing-night options.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/28/2020

~A Basic Italian Semolina Bread in the Bread Machine~

IMG_8640The option to get my sandwich served to me on semolina bread. I wish it would happen oftener. Because it happens so rarely, when it does happen, it's cause for rejoicing. When I happen to come across an entire loaf in a bakery, it's cause for much rejoicing.  Soft and chewy with an open crumb, same-day-made golden-yellow semolina bread is great dipped in olive oil or marinara sauce, or, used as a foil for a soft, buttery cheese.  The next day, it's great lightly-toasted and slathered with a copious amount of sweet cream butter, or, used as a base for various crostini.

IMG_8671Golden semolina bread = soft & chewy w/an open crumb. 

IMG_8616Semolina bread is bread made entirely or partially from semolina flour -- the more semolina flour used, the more golden the color. Semolina flour is most famously used to make pasta.  Semolina itself is derived from durum wheat, which is the hardest wheat available, and, whether used to make pasta or bread, it lends a rich flavor and a distinctively chewy texture.  In Italy, semolina bread (known as pane di semola) is, like many traditional Italian breads, often made with a starter known as a biga, which many bakers believe is worth the extra effort.  I won't argue that point.  I've tasted semolina bread made both ways, and using the biga does result in a more complex flavor. That said, sans a starter, a high-quality semolina loaf can be achieved in the home kitchen, and, in my kitchen, I decided to transition my recipe to the bread machine so we could enjoy the luxury of this bread regularly. 

6a0120a8551282970b0133f466ce08970bA bit about bread-machine bread in general.  Bread baked in a bread machine is rectangular in shape.  No matter what size loaf you elect to bake (most machines give you 3 options: 1-pound loaf; 1 1/2-pound loaf; 2- pound loaf), they will all get baked in the shape of the standard-size pan that comes with that machine.  What is wrong with that?  Nothing.  Even though bread machine bread rises nicely and browns beautifully (all thanks to the many options the bread machine makes available to you), it "plainly" is not going to win any "bread beauty contests".  This is a give-and-take you will realize is well worth the sacrifice the moment you slice and taste the bread.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the machine-kneading) has been inserted into it. When making bread in a bread machine, the protocol for adding ingredients to the bread pan is: wet ingredients first, dry ingredients second (on top of wet ingredients), granulated yeast last.

IMG_8665Put all ingredients in pan & let the machine do the work.

IMG_8612For a 1-pound loaf:

3/4  cup warm water

3  tablespoons olive oil

2  tablespoons barley malt syrup

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup

1  cup + 2 tablespoons semolina flour

1  teaspoon granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1/2 packet)

For a 2-pound loaf:

1 1/2  cups warm water

6  tablespoons olive oil

4  tablespoons barley malt syrup

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  cups bread flour

2 1/4  cups semolina flour

2  teaspoons granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1 packet)

IMG_8621~ Step 1.  To prepare the dough, place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in the order listed, except for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  It is important to keep the dry yeast away from the wet ingredients until it is time for the machine to knead them together, because the liquid ingredients will prematurely activate the yeast.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c95310e2970b~ Step 2. Insert bread pan into bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely into place.  Close the lid and plug the machine in.  Press "select" choose "white bread".  Press the "loaf size" button to select "2-pound loaf".  Press the "crust control" button and select "light crust".  Press "start".  Depending on the make and model of your bread machine, you will have a 2-pound, fully-baked loaf of herbed-pizza-dough bread ready and waiting for you in 3 hours.

IMG_8627~ Step 3.  Walk away.  Do not lift the lid to check in on the kneading, rising or baking process.  Don't do it. When  machine signals bread is done, carefully open the lid.  Using a pot holder, remove the bread pan from machine by using the handle to lift it up and out.  Turn bread pan at a 30-45º angle and gently shake/slide the loaf out onto its side.  Turn loaf upright and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

IMG_8636Note:  If the kneading paddle (which is steaming hot) happens to remain in the loaf after you've removed the loaf from the pan, unless you have a pair of culinary tweezers, completely cool the loaf before removing it.

~ Step 4.  This is a photo of a 2-pound loaf taken the moment it has been removed from the bread machine.  At first glimpse it's a bit overwhelming, but I assure you, you're going to fall in love with this bread.  Once cooled, which takes about 3 hours:  Starting at the top, slice the loaf in half, to form 2 smaller, 1-pound loaves.  Two for one:  eat one, freeze one for later.

Breakfast lunch or dinner, bread's better slathered w/butter: 

IMG_8677A Basic Italian Semolina Bread in the Bread Machine:  Recipe yields 1, 2-pound loaf.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; bread machine; wire cooling rack; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39d9649200bCook's Note:  The #1 reason many folks stop using their bread machine is the recipes that come with machine are: not very good. Not so with my bread machine specialties: ~ Bread Machine Basics & Melanie's Brioche Recipe ~, ~ Try My Rye:  It Homemade in the Bread Machine ~, ~ Bread Machine Herbed-Pizza-Dough Sandwich Loaf ~, Bread Machine Basics and Cinnamon-Raisin Bread ~, ~ Eggnog Breakfast Brioche in the Bread Machine ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/25/2020

~Almost-Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili~

IMG_8591Culinarily, the power of these two words, Buffalo-style, are not to be underestimated.  What's for dinner? In my family, all I have to do is preface my answer with "Buffalo-style", and, everything and everyone is simpatico.  Buffalo-style.  These two words imply that, in some form, chicken and wing sauce will served.   We eat in-the-style of Buffalo once or twice a month, and, past saying "Buffalo-style", I can't be certain they really care what specific Buffalo-Style dish I'll be serving.  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49ba23f200dWhat started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY,  Deep-Fried Chicken Wings, is now found in many forms.  In my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, and, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs are favorite wing-night or game-day options.

Tonight it's my Buffalo-Style chicken chili I'm making:

IMG_85512  pounds boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, sliced into bite-sized pieces

3-4  tablespoons vegetable oil

2  tablespoons Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Ranch seasoning blend

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/4  cups peeled and 1/4'-sliced carrots

1 1/4  cups peeled and 1/4"-sliced celery

3/4  cup 1/4"-sliced green onions, white and light green parts only

2  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

2  4-ounce jars fire-roasted diced green chilis

1  cup chicken stock

1/2-3/4-1  cup Frank's RedHot Buffalo wing sauce

2  15 1/2-ounce cans cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed

1  cup blue cheese crumbles, for garnish

tortilla chips for accompaniment

IMG_8553 IMG_8553 IMG_8553 IMG_8553 IMG_8553 IMG_8553~Step 1.  Heat the vegetable oil in the bottom of a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot placed over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the chicken, carrots, celery, green onion, Buffalo-Ranch seasoning, chili powder, cumin and salt.  Sauté, using a large spoon to stir almost constantly, until chicken is just cooked through, 6-8 minutes.

IMG_8567 IMG_8567 IMG_8567 IMG_8567~Step 2.  Add and stir in the fire-roasted diced tomatoes and fire-roasted green chilis, followed by the chicken stock and 1/2  cup of the Buffalo wing sauce.  Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook about 6-8 minutes.  Take a taste of the broth.  Add additional wing sauce, in small increments, at your discretion, 1/4-1/2 cup.  For my taste, 1/2 cup is enough, so, I add none.

IMG_8576 IMG_8581 IMG_8581 IMG_8581 IMG_8581~Step 3.  Stir in the cannellini beans and continue to simmer 6-8 minutes. Turn heat off and cover pot.  Allow chili to steep for 30-60 minutes, to allow flavors time to marry.  Ready the garnishes during this time.  Gently reheat the chili, portion into bowls and serve garnished with blue cheese crumbles and a dollop of blue cheese or Ranch dressing or sour cream.

Serve each portion garnished w/a scattering of blue cheese crumbles accompanied by tortilla chips.  Game on:

IMG_8592Got leftovers?  Try my Buffalo-style chicken chili burritios:

IMG_8730Almost-Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili:  Recipe yields 3 1/2 quarts/14 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; small colander; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; large spoon; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94a4a0b970bCook's Note:  During the Winter months I make chili several ways. My Tex-Mex-style January White-Out Chicken 'n Corn Chili is my "other" chicken chili recipe, which is decidedly different from my Wendy's Copycat Ground-Beef Chili Con Carne, Hatch Green Chile Chili with Pork and White Beans, Steak-My-Day Texas-Style Bowl-of-Red Steak ChiliSlow-Cooker Sweet Potato and Ground-Beef Chili, and, Cincinnati-Style Chili.   

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/22/2020

~Pretty-in-Pink Tiny-Shrimp Dip, Salad & Sandwiches~

IMG_8508Americans love shrimp.  Shrimp, the fruit of the sea, is America's favorite seafood.  When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making many appetizers and hors d'oeuvres (shrimp dip,  shrimp salad, tea sandwiches, various canapés, etc.).  Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are sweet, tender and adorable, so, when serving fingerfood, think small, because the extra flavor is important.

IMG_8252Once upon a time, people bought salad shrimp packed in cans (similar to tuna).  That's ok.  That's how things were done before flash freezing came along, and freezer- trucks and train-cars criss-crossed our country.  It was also before in-home refrigerators had an ample freezer section and households invested in chest- or stand-type freezers.  When my mom got a freezer IT was a big deal. When frozen salad shrimp became available to her, she never bought the canned again.  Why?  Next to fresh, flash-frozen is superior.

If given the choice between between flash-frozen or canned shrimp, always choose flash frozen. Flash-frozen shrimp have better texture than canned shrimp (which are soft from immersion in water).  Flash-frozen shrimp taste better than canned shrimp (which are salty, even after rinsing).

IMG_8260Flash-frozen extra-small shrimp (a 90/200 count), are fully-cooked and ready to use upon thawing, which is a relatively quick and easy process. According to all package directions, there are two options for thawing:

#1)  Place frozen shrimp in a bowl of room temperature water for 10 minutes.  #2)  Place frozen shrimp in a colander under cold running water until thawed, about 15 minutes.

The first option renders cold-to-room temperature shrimp, which is great for making a shrimp dip or a spread. The second option renders ice-cold shrimp, which is great when tossing shrimp directly into a salad.  

Thawed and thoroughly-drained salad shrimp store nicely in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Puttin' on the Ritz, Retro Salad-Shrimp Dip Revisited:

IMG_8315Time out for Tiny Salad-Shrimp-Salad Sandwiches:

IMG_8404Time out for Tiny Shrimp & Tiny Shells Pasta Salad:

IMG_8451Spicy Tiny Salad-Shrimp Mini Shrimp-Cocktail Cups:

IMG_8542"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/20/2020

~ Spicy Tiny Salad-Shrimp Mini Shrimp-Cocktail Cups ~

IMG_8542Shrimp cocktail.  Two ingredients.  Shrimp and cocktail sauce.  To be more specific, succulent, perfectly-cooked and chilled tails-on shrimp served with a spicy ketchup and horseradish concoction for dipping.  When it comes to shrimp for classically prepared shrimp cocktail, big is always better. That said, if you're looking for an impressive addition to your next appetizer buffet, put out a tray of mini shrimp-cocktail cups.  Count the seconds until they disappear. 

IMG_8252Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are sweet, tender and adorable, so, when serving fingerfood, think small, because the extra flavor is important. Flash-frozen extra-small shrimp (a 90/200 count), are fully-cooked and ready to eat or use in recipes upon thawing, which is a relatively quick and easy ten-minute process.  

One ounce of thawed salad shrimp contains approximately 8-10 salad shrimp, so, one 12-ounce bag is enough to make and serve one dozen two-three bite appetizers. 

IMG_852312  ounces salad shrimp, thawed as directed below

1/2  cup Heinz chili sauce 

1/4  cup Heinz ketchup

2  tablespoons horseradish

1  teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or high-quality bottled lemon juice not from concentrate

1  teaspoon Worcestershire 

1/4  teaspoon Tabasco sauce, more or less, to taste

mini-flatbread or crackers, for accompaniment & garnish

IMG_8260 IMG_8260~ Step 1. To thaw the shrimp, place the frozen shrimp in a colander in the sink.  Run cold water through them for 3-5 minutes.  Set aside for 3-5 minutes, or, a minute or two longer if necessary. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry.

IMG_8526 IMG_8526 IMG_8526 IMG_8526 IMG_8526~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the ingredients for the cocktail sauce: the chili sauce, ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and tobasco.  Transfer the shrimp to a medium bowl.  Using a rubber spatula, add and fold the cocktail sauce into the shrimp.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Serve chilled garnished w/mini-flatbread or crackers:

IMG_8546Spicy Tiny Salad-Shrimp Mini Shrimp-Cocktail Cups:  Recipe yields 1 dozen mini shrimp cocktails.

Special Equipment List:  colander; 1-cup measuring container; spoon; rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a5027bfb200bCook's Note: How does shrimp sizing work?  In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't.  There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa.  This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these seven words:  extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal.  When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words at all, they are numbers: ~ Purchase Shrimp by their Count, not by their Size ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/18/2020

~ Time out for Tiny Shrimp & Tiny Shells Pasta Salad ~

IMG_8451Got a mid-day snack attack?  Think small. Pretty in pink, tiny salad shrimp are sweet, tender and adorable.  I only use them occasionally in very specific recipes, like shrimp dip to serve as an appetizer, and shrimp salad for making sandwiches, but, sometimes I like to turn my shrimp salad into a pasta salad, and tiny shell-shaped pasta are the perfect foil to make it happen. Served in a small bowl, this little nosh staves off hunger pangs without almost any guilt. 

Once upon a time, people bought salad shrimp packed in cans (similar to tuna).  That's ok.  That's how things were done before flash freezing came along, and freezer- trucks and train-cars criss-crossed our country.  It was also before in-home refrigerators had an ample freezer section and households invested in chest- or stand-type freezers.  When my mom got a freezer IT was a big deal. When frozen salad shrimp became available to her, she never bought the canned again.

Americans love shrimp.

IMG_8446Shrimp, "the fruit of the sea", is America's favorite seafood.

IMG_8252When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making shrimp dip or shrimp salad.  Interestingly, small shrimp are sweeter, and, when mixed into a shrimp dip or a salad, the extra flavor is important. There's more.  Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are seriously easy to work with. They're fully-cooked and flash-frozen, and, they thaw under cold running water (in a colander) in 8-10 minutes.

To make my tiny shrimp & tiny shells pasta salad:

IMG_835012  ounces salad shrimp, thawed as directed below

8  ounces small-shell pasta, cooked, drained, rinsed and "dried" as directed below (2 cups)

3/4  cup small-diced celery (12 tablespoons)

1/3  cup small-diced onion (about 6 tablespoons)

1/3  cup red bell pepper (about 6 tablespoons)

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce

1  teaspoon Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon high-quality, not from concentrate, lemon juice

1/4  teaspoon each:  celery seed, sea salt and ground cayenne pepper

IMG_8260 IMG_8260~ Step 1. To thaw the shrimp, place the frozen shrimp in a colander in the sink.  Run cold water through them for 3-5 minutes.  Set aside for 3-5 minutes, or, a minute or two longer if necessary. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry.

IMG_8384 IMG_8384 IMG_8384 IMG_8384~Step 2.  To cook, drain and dry the pasta, in a 4-quart saucepan, bring 2 1/2-3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add pasta shells.  Adjust heat to simmer until shells are al dente, 8-9 minutes.  Do not overcook pasta.  Drain into a colander and immediately rinse pasta under cold water, combing through it with your fingers to be sure all the starch rinsed out of it. Place the colander over a plate and set aside to drain and "dry" the pasta of all moisture, about 10-15 minutes, giving the colander a thorough shake every 2-3 minutes throughout the process.

IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8357 IMG_8423 IMG_8423~Step 3. Place shrimp in a medium-large bowl. Small dice the celery, onion and bell pepper as directed, adding them to the bowl as you work.  To make the dressing, in a small bowl, place and stir together the mayo, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and seasonings.  Add dressing to bowl of shrimp and veggies.  Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly fold the dressing into the shrimp while tossing the vegetables throughout the salad.  Add and fold the pasta shells into the mixture.  Cover and refrigerate two hours or overnight, to allow flavors time to marry.

Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days...

IMG_8433... & stave off snack attacks in small portions for 4-5 days.

IMG_8499Time out for Tiny Shrimp & Tiny Shells Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 5-5 1/2 cups pasta salad.

Special Equipment List: colander; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; rubber spatula; 4-quart saucepan

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ddaa51200dCook's Note: How does shrimp sizing work?  In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't.  There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa.  This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these seven words:  extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal.  When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words at all, they are numbers: ~ Purchase Shrimp by their Count, not by their Size ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/15/2020

~ Time out for Tiny Salad-Shrimp-Salad Sandwiches ~

IMG_8404I grew up in an era when tea sandwiches were in vogue.  At every festive gathering, one could count on at least one three-tier tray of tea sandwiches.  Some might argue they're still in vogue, but, I can't remember the last time I was offered a tea sandwich.  These tiny shrimp salad sandwiches aren't exactly tea sandwiches (which are made using crustless white bread), but, I'm willing to classify them as such, as, they're too classy to classify in the slider-sandwich category.

Once upon a time, people bought salad shrimp packed in cans (similar to tuna).  That's ok.  That's how things were done before flash freezing came along, and freezer- trucks and train-cars criss-crossed our country.  It was also before in-home refrigerators had an ample freezer section and households invested in chest- or stand-type freezers.  When my mom got a freezer IT was a big deal. When frozen salad shrimp became available to her, she never bought the canned again.

America loves shrimp.

IMG_8397Shrimp, "the fruit of the sea", is America's favorite seafood.

IMG_8252When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making shrimp dip or shrimp salad.  Interestingly, small shrimp are sweeter, and, when mixed into a shrimp dip or shrimp salad, that extra flavor is important. There's more.  Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are seriously easy to work with. They're fully-cooked and flash-frozen, and, they thaw under cold running water (in a colander) in 8-10 minutes.

To make my tiny, dainty, salad-shrimp tea sandwiches:

IMG_835512  ounces salad shrimp, thawed as directed below

3/4  cup small-diced celery

1/3  cup small-diced onion (about 6 tablespoons)

1/3  cup red bell pepper (about 6  tablespoons each)

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce

1  teaspoon Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon high-quality, not from concentrate, lemon juice

1/4  teaspoon each:  celery seed, sea salt and ground cayenne pepper

2  16-ounce containers Pillsbury Grand's Southern-homestyle biscuits, baked as directed below (Note:  Biscuits are best served within a few hours or the same day they are baked, meaning, if refrigerating the salad overnight, do not bake the biscuits a day ahead too.)

IMG_8325 IMG_8325 IMG_8325 IMG_8325 IMG_8325 IMG_8325 IMG_8325 IMG_8325~Step 1.  To bake the biscuits, line 2 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper.  Open one packages of the biscuits.  Working one a time, place each biscuit on a cutting board.  Using a small rolling pin and and a VERY light touch, flatten the top "just a bit".  Using a 1 1/2" biscuit cutter, cut each biscuit into three discs, placing the discs on the prepared pan (I place 2 dozen on each pan).  Bake on center rack of preheated 360º oven 11-12 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Repeat process with second package of biscuits.

IMG_8260 IMG_8260~ Step 2. To thaw the shrimp, place the frozen shrimp in a colander in the sink.  Run cold water through them for 3-5 minutes.  Set aside for 3-5 minutes, or, a minute or two longer if necessary. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry.

IMG_8357 IMG_8362 IMG_8362 IMG_8362 IMG_8362 IMG_8362~Step 3.  Place shrimp in a medium-large bowl. Small dice the celery, onion and bell pepper as directed, adding them to the bowl as you work.  To make the dressing, in a small bowl, place and stir together the mayo, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and seasonings.  Add dressing to bowl of shrimp and veggies.  Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly fold the dressing into the shrimp while tossing the vegetables throughout the salad.  Cover and refrigerate two hours or overnight, to allow flavors time to marry.  

Place a 3-4 shrimp-sized dollop onto each biscuit sandwich. 

IMG_8411Time out for Tiny Salad-Shrimp-Salad Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 2 1/2-3 cups shrimp salad/4 dozen appetizer-sized sandwiches; toothpicks

Special Equipment List:  2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment; small rolling pin; 1 1/2" biscuit cutter; wire cooling rack; colander; paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ddaa51200dCook's Note: How does shrimp sizing work?  In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't.  There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa.  This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these seven words:  extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal.  When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words at all, they are numbers: ~ Purchase Shrimp by their Count, not by their Size ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020) 

01/13/2020

~Puttin' on the Ritz, Retro Salad-Shrimp Dip Revisited~

IMG_8315Pretty in pink, tiny salad shrimp are sweet, tender and adorable.  Once upon a time, people bought them packed in cans (similar to tuna).  That's ok.  That's how things were done before flash freezing came along, followed by freezer- trucks and train-cars criss-crossing our country.  It was also before in-home refrigerators had an ample freezer section and households started investing in chest- or stand-type freezers.  When my mom got her freezer IT was a very big deal. When frozen salad shrimp became available to her, she never bought the canned shrimp again.

Americans love shrimp.

IMG_8288Shrimp, "the fruit of the sea", is America's favorite seafood.

IMG_8252When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making shrimp dip or shrimp salad.  Interestingly, small shrimp are sweeter, and, when mixed into a shrimp dip or shrimp salad, the extra flavor is important. There's more.  Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are seriously easy to work with. They're fully-cooked and flash-frozen, and, they thaw under cold running water (in a colander) in 8-10 minutes.

My Mom's circa 1960's-style Salad-Shrimp Dip: 

IMG_82598-ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temp, very soft

1/2  cup Hellman's mayonnaise

1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce

1  teaspoon Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon high-quality, not from concentrate, lemon juice

1  teaspoon dehydrated  minced onion

1/4  teaspoon each:  celery seed and ground cayenne pepper

12  ounces salad shrimp

IMG_8260 IMG_8260~ Step 1.  To thaw the shrimp, place the frozen shrimp in a colander in the sink.  Run cold water through them for 3-5 minutes.  Set aside for 3-5 minutes, or, a minute or two longer if necessary. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and pat dry.

IMG_8266 IMG_8266 IMG_8266 IMG_8266~Step 2.  Place the thawed shrimp in the work bowl of a medium-size food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Using a series of 10-12 rapid on-off pulses, mince the shrimp.  Do not over process.  Using a large rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the processor work bowl.

IMG_8277 IMG_8277 IMG_8277~ Step 3.  Add all remaining ingredients: cream cheese, mayo, chili sauce, lemon  juice, dehydrated onion, celery seed and cayenne pepper.  With motor running, process until smooth, 20-30 seconds.  Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate, 1 hour or overnight*, to allow the flavors time to marry.

*Note:  Dip that has been refrigerated for several hours or overnight will thicken slightly.  That said, worry not.  The mayonnaise and chili sauce keep it luxuriously smooth and spreadable.

Pretty in pink, sweet & tender & luxuriously wonderful:

IMG_8318Puttin' on the Ritz, Retro Salad-Shrimp Dip Revisited: Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups.

Special Equipment List:  colander; paper towels; medium-size food processor; rubber spatula; food storage container w/tight fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7f32485970bCook's Note: How does shrimp sizing work?  In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't.  There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa.  This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these seven words:  extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal.  When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words at all, they are numbers: ~ Purchase Shrimp by their Count, not by their Size ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/10/2020

~ Smokie Cocktail Wieners in a Bourbon BBQ Sauce ~

IMG_8237Aside from an occasional glass of Austi Spumante, mom didn't drink a drop, but, as a cook she wasn't opposed to adding boozy flavor to certain dishes.  If a recipe required a splash of sherry or wine, she didn't scurry around looking for substitutions -- she added it.  In the case of bourbon, which is a common addition to recipes containing sweet and savory tomato-based barbecue sauces, she put the bourbon in.  As parents, mom and dad (who did enjoy a beer or two and an occasional cocktail), a little bourbon in the cocktail wieners didn't mean we kids had to miss out. No harm, no foul, game on, gobble 'em up, go to bed.  Gotta love those kinder, gentler times.

No harm, no foul, game on, gobble 'em up, go to bed.

IMG_8228Made in a small batch, or made in a large batch...

IMG_8249Most times mom made half a batch (1-2 packages) in a saucepan on the stovetop.  For the four of us, it was a hearty snack/dinner for a family-time evening in-front-of the TV or Parcheesi board. She'd slice or cube some colby-Jack cheese (which is a great accompaniment as it is fantastic dipped into the sweet and savory barbecue sauce), grab some Ritz crackers and got the box of toothpicks out of the kitchen drawer and put them in the everyday toothpick holder.  

Whenever she was entertaining, she made the full batch (3-4 packages) in her electric skillet (which would keep them warm during the course of the evening). She'd get the box of FRILLY toothpicks out of the kitchen drawer, put them in the fancy toothpick-holder, and everyone would help themselves.

... get out the toothpicks & enjoy some retro food fun.

IMG_81953-4  14-ounce packages LIT'L Smokies or All-Beef LIT'L Smokies (about 3 dozen cocktail wieners per package), your choice

1  20-ounce bottle Heinz sweet-honey barbecue sauce (Note:  Mom's recipe calls for Heinz original barbecue sauce + 2 tablespoons honey.  Feel free to make that substitution.)

1/4  cup water

1/2  cup Heinz chili sauce or ketchup, your choice

1/2  cup firmly-packed dark or light brown sugar

1/4  cup Kentucky bourbon whiskey, your favorite brand

2  tablespoons A-1 steak sauce or L&P steak sauce, your choice 

2  tablespoons Lea & Perrin's Worcestershire sauce

IMG_8198IMG_8198IMG_8198Step 1.  Place the barbecue sauce in a 4-quart saucepan on the stovetop.  Add 1/4 cup of water to the empty barbecue-sauce bottle and give it a shake, so as not to waste the remaining goodness and add it to the saucepan.  Add all remaining ingredients except for the Lit'L smokies.  Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.  Simmer slowly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.

IMG_8212 IMG_8212 IMG_8212 IMG_8212 IMG_8212~Step 2.  Add 2-3 packages of Lit'L smokies and continue to simmer gently and slowly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, another 10 minutes. Regulate heat carefully as these will boil over if the heat is too high.  Turn off the heat, cover the saucepan, and allow to steep, another 20-30 minutes, or up to 2-3-4 hours.  Gently reheat and serve immediately.

Get out the frilly toothpicks & everyone help yourself:

IMG_8242Smokie Cocktail Weiners in a Bourbon BBQ Sauce:  Recipe yields 9 dozen (3 packages)/12-18 servings, or, 12 dozen (4 packages)/18-24 servings @ 6-8 pieces per person.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart saucepan w/lid; toothpicks or frilly toothpicks

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c89bef75970bCook's Note:  Cocktail wieners are enjoyed by everyone and addicting too.  My brother and I loved when my mom entertained and made her "little hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough" too.  She'd let me help to roll them up, and, she'd make lots of them too, usually around 100, because she knew they would be the first thing devoured. People would grab them so fast you'd think she had money rolled up in them.  ~ Cocktail Pigs in a Blanket: Pillsbury Crescent Dogs ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/07/2020

~No Soup for You Home-Style Chicken-Noodle Bowls~

IMG_8171It gets made in a pot of stock but it's not a soup.  It's not a stew either.  This heartwarming, down-home comfort-food dish is the great-grandmother of all noodle bowls.  Some refer to it as Southern, my experience with it is as an Eastern European, and, I know from first-hand experience the Pennsylvania Deutsch make it too.  I suspect they make it in Midwest as well.  It's bite-sized pieces of tender chicken cooked in well-seasoned chicken stock with aromatic carrots, celery, onion and potatoes.  Egg noodles go directly into the pot to cook and absorb almost all the flavorful broth.  When executed properly, there's no need for a slurry (a bland-tasting thickener) -- the starch in the noodles does the work.  The end result is rich, thick and hearty goodness.

It's the great-grandmother of all noodle bowls:

IMG_8178Unlike my great-grandmother and grandmother (who turned out scratch-made egg noodles like a piece of fine-tuned machinery), my mom never made this dish with her homemade chicken stock and from-scratch egg noodles -- she reserved her liquid gold and oodles-of-noodles for Sunday's heavenly chicken soup or special-occasion chicken pot-pie.  Mom worked (as in had a nine-to-five job), so, understandably, she took a few short-cuts in order to transition this (and other meals) into a relatively quick-to-make kid-friendly simply-scrumptious weeknight dinner. Allow me to suggest this meal originated as a way fill-up a hungry family for pennies.

IMG_81212  pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into small, bite-sized pieces (Note:  I like to use thighs because they have a richer flavor than tenderloins or breasts, and, they have just enough fat on them to enhance the flavor of the dish.)

2  tablespoons salted butter

1  generous cup and up to 1 1/2 cups each: small diced sweet onion, carrot and celery (4-6 ounces each)

2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade (8 cups) (Note:  Click on this link to get my recipe for ~ It's National Chicken Stock Day in Melanie's Kitchen ~.)

Note:  When using my homemade stock, I don't need to season it.  When using your own homemade chicken stock, you may or may not need to season it.  When using store-bought chicken stock, season it with:  1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, 1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1-2 teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2-2  cups peeled and small-diced gold potatoes  (8-12 ounces)

16  ounces Mrs. Weiss kluski (rustic-style enriched egg noodles), to be cooked in the stock

IMG_8124 IMG_8124 IMG_8124 IMG_8124~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 6-quart stockpot, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the the chicken, onion, carrot and celery.  Lightly season it with a sprinkle of salt and pepper (I use 20-25 grinds each of sea salt and black pepper). Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly until the chicken is turning opaque and just short of being cooked through, about 8-9 minutes.

IMG_8135IMG_8135IMG_8135IMG_8135~Step 2.  Add the chicken stock (plus additional seasonings if applicable) and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  While mixture is coming to a simmer, peel and dice the potatoes, then, add them too.  When the stock returns to a simmer, continue to simmer 2 1/2-3 more minutes.

IMG_8151 IMG_8151 IMG_8151 IMG_8151 IMG_8151 IMG_8167~Step 3.  Add and stir in the egg noodles. Continue to cook, uncovered, until noodles are tender, 15-16 minutes.  Turn heat off, cover pot and allow to steep, about 15-16 minutes, so noodles can absorb the well-seasoned broth.  

Serve steaming hot & stick your fork in chicken-noodle heaven: 

IMG_8187No Soup for You Home-Style Chicken-Noodle Bowls:  Recipe yields 4 quarts/8-12 servings, and, leftovers reheat nicely in the microwave.

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

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09265b77970dCook's Note: Rethink your position if you think frugal fare isn't delicious. In my recipe for ~ My Mother-in-Law's Philly Hamburger Pepper Pot ~, which is a soupy version of today's recipe, hamburger takes center stage.  Some folks call it hamburger soup, I call it delicious.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/05/2020

~ Stir-Fry 101. Chinese-American Chicken & Broccoli ~

IMG_8075Want to learn how to stir-fry or teach someone how to stir-fry?  Start with Chinese-American chicken and broccoli.  It is the quintessential basic stir-fry.  One protein (chicken).  One vegetable (broccoli).  One sauce (brown).  Steamed rice (white).  Nine out of ten times, there will be some garlic, ginger and green onions in the mix too.  Chicken and Broccoli is on every Chinese take-out menu, it's one of the most popular Chinese chicken dishes, and, it is almost always the first stir-fry home cooks try to duplicate.  There's more.  No special hardware is required.  While stir-frying is typically done in a traditional wok or stir-fry pan, a skillet or an electric skillet work equally fine too.

Make the "Chinese mother sauce" (1 1/4 cups brown sauce).

IMG_7877Have you ever noticed how many of your favorite dishes at your favorite Chinese restaurant seem to be enrobed in a semi-viscous, glossy, dark-brown sauce? Examples: Beef or chicken with broccoli, chow mien or lo mein, kung pao or General Tso, etc.  It's one of every Chinese restaurant's best kept secrets: Brown sauce.  I've heard it referred to as "the Chinese mother sauce", but, even in China, recipes for it vary from region to region.  I make no claim to my concoction being authentic Chinese brown sauce -- it is not.  What it is, is:  Easy to make, full of Chinese flavors, the perfect consistency, and, unbelievably scrumptious: ~ All-purpose Chinese-American Brown Stir-Fry Sauce ~.

IMG_7873For the marinade/sauce (1 1/4 cup): ~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together: 

6  tablespoons Chinese soy sauce

3  tablespoons hoisin sauce

3  tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce

3  tablespoons Sriracha sauce

3  tablespoons sesame oil

1  tablespoon garlic paste

1  tablespoon ginger paste

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper, more or less, to taste

Slice & marinate the protein (1 1/2-2 pounds chicken tenders).  

IMG_7904Many may be surprised to learn this: in the case of marinades, they act primarily as a flavorizer, not as a tenderizer.  Keeping that in mind, marinating the chicken in 6-8 tablespoons of the brown sauce, even if only for 20-30 minutes, will add flavor.  An hour on the countertop is better, and, up to 6-8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator is even better yet (return to room temperature, about 1 hour, prior to stir-frying).  My number one stir-fry choice is the chicken tenderloin -- it is the tenderest part of the chicken. Feel free to substitute breasts.

IMG_7906 IMG_7906 IMG_7906~ Step 1.  To prep the chicken, holding your knife at a 30º angle, slice the tenders into slightly-less than 1/2"-thick pieces. 

IMG_7914 IMG_7914 IMG_7914~ Step 2.  To marinate the chicken, place the sliced chicken in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Add 6-8 tablespoons of the marinade/sauce mixture to the meat and seal the bag.  Using your fingertips, thoroughly "massage" the bag of chicken until slices are evenly coated in marinade.  Set aside.

Blanch the vegetable (3/4-1 pound broccoli).  Steam the rice.

IMG_7926When it comes to a tough, firm vegetable like broccoli, for best results is needs to be steamed or blanched to crunch tender prior to tossing it into any stir-fry.  As for prepping the broccoli, feel free to take the time to make florets out of a very large head.  That said, because I love broccoli and serve it weekly, I prefer the convenience of buying a family-sized bag that has been cut into florets for me.  That said, when really pressed for time, I've used steam-in-bag broccoli florets, and slightly under-steamed it in the microwave -- it worked just fine.

IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931 IMG_7931~Step 1.  To blanch and shock the broccoli,  in 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight deep sides, place 1 1/2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add 3/4-1-pound broccoli florets, adjust heat to simmer, and continue to cook for 1 1/2-2 minutes, or, until broccoli is bright-green and crunch-tender.  Remove from stovetop, drain into a colander and thoroughly rinse under cold running water to "shock" it, which will halt residual heat from cooking it further.  Set aside to drain thoroughly.

IMG_7381 2 IMG_7381 2 IMG_7381 2~ Step 2.  To steam the rice, using the cup/measure from the rice steamer, place 4  cups basmati rice in steamer. Again, using the same cup/measure, add 4 1/2 cups of water to the steamer.  Turn on, to steam.  When the steamer shuts off, the rice should be firm and just slightly undercooked. Open the steamer's lid rake through rice with a fork to separate the grains. "Raking rice" is term used to describe the last step of cooking rice on the stovetop.  You will have 8 cups of steamed rice. 

Stir-frying the chicken, the broccoli, &, serving the dinner.

IMG_7953When I'm making a stir-fry to feed more than two people (4-6 people), I use either my 12" skillet, or, my 16" electric skillet if I'm tossing cooked lo-mein noodles in at the end (instead of serving my dish over steamed rice). Why? Because they have the surface area to sear a larger quantity of food than the average stovetop wok or stir-fry pan does, meaning:  I do not have to work in batches, and, that's a time saver.  Chicken and broccoli is traditionally served over steamed rice, so I'm using my 12" skillet .

IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7956 IMG_7971~Step 1.  Place   chicken and its marinade in skillet -- the marinade contains sesame oil, so there's no need  to add oil.  Over high heat, stir-fry the chicken, using two spoons to stir constantly, until just cooked through, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of the stir-fry sauce and cook, stirring constantly, 20-30 seconds.  

IMG_7973 IMG_7973 IMG_7973 IMG_7973~Step 2.  Add all the blanched broccoli and toss.  Add all the remaining sauce (4-6 tablespoons) and toss again.  When  mixture is steaming, 30-45 seconds, serve over steamed basmati rice.

Serve Chinese-American chicken & broccoli atop rice...

IMG_8106... serve & savor your stir-fry ASAP:

IMG_8113Stir-Fry 101.  Chinese-American Chicken & Broccoli:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; colander; electric rice steamer; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; two large slotted spoons or spatulas

IMG_7857Cook's Note: Same brown sauce, different Chinese dish:  ~ My Chinese-American Lo Mein-Style Pepper steak ~ is a dish that features thin strips of soy- ginger- and garlic-marinated flank-, sirloin- or round-steak, seasoned with a copious amount of pepper, stir-fried with crunchy water chestnuts and julienne strips of colorful bell peppers and onion. It was popularized in Chinese-American restaurants in the '40's and '50's, and home cooks have been making regional versions ever since.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)

01/03/2020

~All-Purpose Chinese-American Brown Stir-Fry Sauce~

IMG_7877Stir-frying is an ancient cooking technique.  Credited to Asian cuisine, the concept of the stir-fry is easy to grasp.  It's all about fresh flavors and textures, so, pick a protein and choose a few vegetables.  Think small.  Slice 'em thin or dice 'em into small bites, throw 'em all in wee-bit of oil in a hot wok or a skillet.  Stir and fry for a few short minutes.  It's so easy, a novice cook can master it.  That said, the secret to a great stir-fry does lie in the stir-fry sauce, and, this is where a perfectly executed stir-fry can go from excellent to atrocious.  Not too thick and not too thin, my all-purpose, slightly-spicy full-flavored soy-, garlic & ginger sauce removes all the guesswork.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2dc3428970cThere are a two solid reasons why it's hard to duplicate restaurant-quality Chinese food at home:  Their seething-hot gas-fired woks and flat-top grills, and, their knowledge of ancient techniques like velveting (tenderizing) the protein prior to cooking it.  That said, have you ever noticed or questioned how many of your favorite dishes at your favorite Chinese-American restaurant seem to be enrobed in a semi-viscous, glossy, dark-brown sauce? Examples: Beef or chicken with broccoli, chow mien or lo mein, kung pao or General Tso, etc.  It's one of every Chinese restaurant's best kept secrets.  The recipe for their brown sauce.  I have heard it referred to as "the Chinese mother sauce", but, even in China, recipes for it vary from region to region.  I make no claim to my concoction being authentic Chinese brown sauce -- it is not.  What it is, is:  Easy to make, full of Chinese flavors, the perfect consistency, and, unbelievably scrumptious.

The recipe, the ratio, the specifics & how to make adjustments:

My easy recipe makes 1 1/4 cups.  Four to six tablespoons is enough to marinate 1 1/2-2  pounds thin-sliced or diced protein (beef, chicken, pork or shrimp), and, depending upon the recipe, the rest gets added to the stir-fry during the last few seconds.  My 2:1 ratio of soy sauce to equal parts hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha sauce and sesame oil is a sumptuous mixture.  The addition of garlic- and ginger-paste (which have a long shelf life in the refrigerator) means it's not necessary to press or mince fresh garlic or ginger to the stir-fry because there's plenty in the sauce.  That said, if you're making a recipe that does not call for or is not compatible with garlic and/or ginger (it's rare in a stir-fry, but it does happen), omit one or both of them.  As for the black pepper, which lends a bold, spicy edge, it too can be adjusted or omitted to suit your palate.  To make the sauce thinner and drizzly, add up to 3 tablespoons additional soy sauce, to make it thicker and paintable (to use as a glaze), reduce the amount by up to 3 tablespoons.   

This marinade/stir-fry sauce takes a back seat to none.

IMG_7873For the marinade/sauce (1 1/4 cup -- 4-6 tablespoons for marinade/up to 1 cup to sauce stir-fry): 

6  tablespoons Chinese soy sauce

3  tablespoons hoisin sauce

3  tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce

3  tablespoons Sriracha sauce

3  tablespoons sesame oil

1  tablespoon garlic paste

1  tablespoon ginger paste

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper, more or less, to taste

IMG_7775 IMG_7775~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir all ingredients together. Use as directed in specific recipe or add to any stir-fry during the last few seconds of cooking process.  May be prepared days or weeks in advance, transferred to a food-storage container with a tight-fitting lid and stored in the refrigerator almost indefinitely.

Try it in my Chinese-American Lo Mein-Style Pepper Steak:

IMG_7857Or in my Chinese-American Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry:

IMG_8075My All-Purpose Chinese-American Brown Stir-Fry Sauce:  Recipe yields a generous 1 1/4 cups.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; spoon

6a0120a8551282970b022ad397c1b6200bCook's Note:  While brown sauce is the most popular stir-fry sauce here in America, some Chinese-American specialty dishes require a specific marinade/sauce.  My recipes for  ~ Two Basic Marinades/Sauces for Chinese Stir-Fry ~ represent two. 

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)