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7 posts from February 2020

02/18/2020

~ Baked Lemon-Pepper Cod w/Ritz Cracker Topping ~

IMG_9248In New England, baked cod with crunchy Ritz-cracker topping is everywhere.  The first time I tasted this delightful dish was in the restaurant of the Killington Resort's, VT ski slope.  Most eateries, from big city restaurants to small town diners, have it on their menu.  Recipes for this cracker-topped fish-dish don't vary much.  Butter-soaked coarse-crushed Ritz crackers get patted atop fresh cod fillets (or other white fish).  Into the oven they go for 15-20 short minutes.  The dish is so popularly commonplace, many fish markets sell plastic containers of preprepared butter-and-crumb mixture.  The end result gets garnished with some minced parsley and a squirt of fresh lemon juice.  It's super-easy to make and is often described as soul-satisfying comfort-food.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d14796ef970cBecause the fish portions are topped with a healthy-dose of rich, crunchy-buttery cracker crumbs, it doesn't require much in the way of a starchy side-dish. That said, should you want one, my recipe for ~ Fluffy Lemon & Pepper Rice for Fish &/or Seafood ~ does complement it nicely.  I, however, prefer to serve my version of the dish with a side or atop some steam-in-bag green beans along with a dollop of spicy stewed-tomato sauce and a lemon wedge.  Despite the decadent topping, it's flaky, flavorful and refreshingly light.

IMG_9188This main-dish fish-dinner couldn't be easier to prepare.  That said, every cod fillet varies in thickness -- one end is thicker than the other. Once portioned, the thick sections take 1-2 minutes longer to bake than the thin sections.  For this reason, I prepare this dish in individual au gratins rather than in a casserole. This allows me to remove the thinner portions from the oven 1-2 minutes prior to the thicker portions.

Four ingredients & an awesome fish dinner 30-minutes later:

IMG_91896-8  4"-5" cod fillet portions (2, 1-pound cod fillets)

3  dozen Ritz crackers, no substitutions that I'm aware of

6  tablespoons salted butter (Note:  The common ratio is 2 tablespoons melted butter to every 1 dozen crackers.)

lemon-pepper seasoning

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole or au gratin dishes

lemon wedges and parsley sprigs, for garnishes

steamed green beans and stewed tomato sauce, for accompaniments

IMG_9197 IMG_9197 IMG_9197 IMG_9199~Step 1.  Using a few paper towels, pat the fish fillets dry.  Check the fillets for pin bones by running your fingertips along the mid-to-edge of the top surface.  To remove any pin bones, give each one a gentle tug with a pair of needle nose pliers -- they are easy to remove.  Using a large chef's knife, slice each cod fillet into 3-4, 4"-5" portions, for a total of 6-8 servings.

IMG_9203 IMG_9203 IMG_9203~ Step 2.  Arrange fillets in casserole or au gratin dishes that have been sprayed with no-stick. Sprinkle with seasoning.

IMG_9227Tip from Mel:  This works really well.  When you get to the thin portions of the fillet, if you trim and stack them (two thin pieces of fish, one on top of each other) instead of one thin one all by itself) you can achieve the volume of one thick portion and all the fillets will cook at the same time. The presentation will be pretty and the end result won't be compromised.

IMG_9208 IMG_9208 IMG_9208 IMG_9208 IMG_9208~Step 3.  Place the crackers in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Using a small rolling pin, crush them to the size of coarse breadcrumbs.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave.  Pour the butter into the bag of cracker crumbs.  Using your fingertips, massage the bag until butter is evenly incorporated into the still-loose cracker crumbs.

IMG_9225 IMG_9230 IMG_9230 IMG_9230 IMG_9230~Step 4.  Using a 2-tablespoon measure, evenly distribute and pack 3-4 tablespoons crumb mixture atop the fillets.  Bake fillets, uncovered, in preheated 350º oven until just cooked through, 15-17 minutes, keeping in mind that thinner fillets will cook faster than thicker fillets.  Fish will be opaque throughout and will flake easily with a fork.  Serve immediately.

Baked cod fillets will be opaque & flake easily w/a fork:

IMG_9268

Savor this quintessential fish-dish of New England:

IMG_9277Baked Lemon-Pepper Cod w/Ritz Cracker Topping:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; needle nose pliers or tweezers; cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole or 6-8 individual sized au gratin dishes; 1-gallon food storage bag; small rolling pin; 1-cup measuring container; 2-tablespoon measure

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d28064ff970cCook's Note: As a kid, I adored frozen fish sticks and canned stewed tomatoes -- I still do.  That said, as a grownup, I much prefer the taste of a sweet, fresh, white fish fillet paired with a few acidic, fresh tomatoes.  Sometimes I bake them in parchment with thyme and white wine, and sometimes I broil them drizzled with melted butter and a bit of lemon and pepper. Tonight I'm using a method similar to shallow poaching, except:  extra-virgin olive oil is used in place of the traditional liquid.  This recipe is simple enough to serve for a weeknight meal at the kitchen island, and, elegant enough to serve for a fancy-schmancy dinner in the dining room:  ~ Luxurious Cod Bathed in EVOO w/Fresh Tomatoes ~.

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

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

02/15/2020

~Five EZ All-Purpose Starchy Weeknight Side-Dishes~

IMG_9182Choose from any number of proteins we American cooks make for dinner via various methods on a busy weeknight.  Examples:  roasted chickengrill-panned steaks or pork chops, slow-cooker spareribs, pan-seared ham slices, broiled fish fillets, steamed or poached shellfish, etc.  I refer to these as flash-in-the pan meals because they go from oven or cooktop in relatively short order.  All you need is a side-dish -- a seriously scrumptious all-purpose side-dish.

Rice is nice & potatoes are great.

Rice is nice and potatoes are great.  Rice is nice.  That said, looking at the above example-list of proteins we American cooks make for dinner via various methods on a busy weeknight, for me, there's one or two items that, meh, rice doesn't do it for me.  Potatoes are great.  When it comes to potatoes, I adore them, but, unless it's a microwave-baked potato, potato dishes in general require more machinations than the average person has patience for at the end of a workday. Me?  Lazy?  No, I'm not, but, after a full day of work and housework, peeling potatoes?  Nah.  

Pasta is fine, noodles are perfect & couscous is awesome. 

Pasta is finenoodles are perfect, and couscous is awesome.  Pasta is fine.  That said, once again, looking at the above example-list of proteins we American cooks make for dinner via various methods on a busy weeknight, for me, there's one or two that, meh, pasta doesn't do it for me.  Noodles are perfect.  They cook and drain in short order, and, a few pats of butter plus a spice or three turns them into a side of go-with-almost-anything comfort food at it's best. Couscous is all-to-often overlooked, but, these tiny little grains of semolina pasta literally go from stovetop to table in five short minutes and are the easiest option for all occasions.

Nice & Easy Basic All-Purpose 30-Minute Rice Pilaf:

IMG_9083EZ Small-Batch Quick-Chill Sheet-Pan Potato Salad:

IMG_8878Better than Store-Bought Stovetop Mac & Cheese:

IMG_8987Egg Noodles & Broccoli in Spicy Garlic-Butter Sauce:

IMG_8809Sweet & Savory Spiced Couscous & Golden Raisins

IMG_9156"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

02/12/2020

~Sweet & Savory Spiced Couscous & Golden Raisins~

IMG_9157My pantry always has a container of couscous in it.  Funny thing is, I went from not knowing what the heck it was, to serving it a lot, in a very short period of time.  Living in a large college town is a wonderful thing -- all the specialized markets and eateries reflect its diversity.  Back in the 1980's I walked into a newly-opened Middle Eastern market and walked out with a couscousiere and two boxes of couscous.  That same day, I fell in love with couscous literally, "instantly".

6a0120a8551282970b014e891c5978970dCouscous is often referred to as Moroccan, but this is incorrect.  It is equally a dish of Algeria, Turkey, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, which all claim to be the home of couscous. Couscous, resemblant of and often confused with grain, is actually tiny coarsely-ground semolina pasta. Making and cooking couscous in the traditional manner is a time consuming process. It requires time and patience, 2-3 rounds (2-3 hours) in a special steamer to achieve this. The steamer, called a couscousiere, is similar to a colander placed over a large pot. Simply put, while a thick, hearty stew slow simmers in the large lower pot, the couscous steams on the top.  Perfectly-cooked to-the-tooth (al dente) couscous is light, fluffy and loose-grained, not sticky, gummy or gritty.    

Unless couscous is being served with warm milk as a porridge for breakfast, cold in a salad, or, incorporated into a dessert, it is served underneath the above mentioned stew which contains a meat or poultry, plenty of vegetables, toasted almonds, dates, currants and/or raisins, along with an array of fragrant spices.  Moroccans often add saffron, Algerians like to add tomatoes, and Tunisians spice theirs up with the fiery hot-pepper-based harissa sauc", which is sold in in Middle Eastern markets.  The steamed couscous is heaped onto a common platter with the stew ladled on top of it.  Diners typically use pieces of flatbread to scoop it from the common platter.

IMG_9128Cooking traditional couscous is NOT what I am focusing on here today. For the most part, the couscous sold in our Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed, then dried, and is referred to as instant couscous, and there is no shame in this kind of easy -- especially when it is so versatile and down right delicious.  Unlike its counterpart, it cooks very quickly, in about five short minutes, so be certain to check to make sure this is the product you are purchasing. Just like its counterpart, when properly-cooked instant couscous is very light, fluffy and loose-grained.  

Meet my basic, five-minute recipe for instant couscous: 

IMG_912110  ounces instant couscous (about 2 3/4 cups)

2  cups water

4  tablespoons salted butter

1  tablespoon honey

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1  cup golden raisins

IMG_9122 IMG_9122 IMG_9122~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan bring the water, butter, honey, cinnamon, salt and  raisins to a full boil over high heat.

IMG_9140 IMG_9140 IMG_9140 IMG_9140 IMG_9140 IMG_9151~Step 2.  Gradually add the couscous to the boiling mixture.  Using a large spoon, give the couscous a brief, thorough stir.  Turn heat off. Cover saucepan and allow to sit 5-6 minutes. Uncover.  Using a fork, gently "fluff"  couscous -- gently rake through it to separate the "grains" and incorporate air, which imparts volume.

Try it served w/fried or roasted chicken drizzled w/honey:  

IMG_9164Sweet & Savory Spiced Couscous & Golden Raisins:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  1 1/2-2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; fork

6a0120a8551282970b01538f29344b970bCook's Note: Instant couscous is the cousin to the larger-sized Israeli couscous (pictured here), which is sometimes referred to as pasta pearls.  It is often toasted in a skillet with a bit of EVOO and/or butter to bring up a lovely nutty flavor when cooked.  Israeli couscous is similar in size to the pasta shape called acini di pepe.  While cooked couscous and acini di pepe can be used interchangeably in a lot of applications, do not confuse the two when it comes time to cook them.

Here's why:  While couscous is considered a pasta, pasta is not considered couscous and cannot be cooked like couscous.  Unlike how pasta is prepared (a mixture of semolina and water), couscous is not kneaded, which means the gluten is not released.  So, while pasta requires a lot of boiling water for it to tumble in while cooking and absorbing moisture, couscous does not. Cooking acini de pepe in the same manner as couscous would result in a starchy, sticky product.

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

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

02/09/2020

~ Nice & Easy Basic All-Purpose 30-Minute Rice Pilaf ~

IMG_9083In my Eastern European family, the entire lot of us, I have no recollection of anyone placing a bowl of plain white rice on the dinner table.  That said, we ate rice quite often.  I never heard it referred to as a pilaf (I would learn that term years later), but it was.  In a saucepan, my mom, who learned it from her mom, would lightly-toast a cup or two of white rice in a few pats of melted butter.  In went some diced onion, carrot. celery, salt and pepper.  When the veggies began to soften, steaming hot chicken or vegetable stock went in, the lid went on the pot, then, the mixture gently simmered until the rice was cooked.  After 20-25 minutes, and a quick "fluff" plus a parsley garnish, voila:  our rice dish was served.  Technically, our rice pilaf was served.

Dad's pork chops & mom's pilaf was a favorite of mine. 

IMG_9101That's my experience with pilaf, also referred to as pilau in many culinary circles.  Pilaf is an ancient dish dating back to the 5th Century BCE (before common era), likely in the Middle East, although some credit the Persian Empire with its creation.  Due to extensive trading with the Persians, the dish was popularized in Mediterranean and parts of Eastern Europe.  Pilaf is recognized as a method of cooking, and, while mostly associated with rice, it's worth mention that is can be prepared as a side-dish using almost any grain -- as long as the rice or grain is simmered in seasoned stock instead of plain water.  If additional ingredients are stirred into it (beef, poultry or pork), pilaf can be served as a hearty one-plate or bowl main-dish too.

My Eastern European-style recipe for this classic side-dish:

IMG_90322  cups extra-long-grain white rice (14 ounces), long-grain white rice may be substituted

4  tablespoons salted butter or vegetable oil, or a combination of both

1/2  cup each: diced yellow or sweet onion, carrot and celery

4  cups unsalted beef, chicken, seafood or vegetable stock, selected to complement the main-dish being served, heated to steaming (on the stovetop or in the microwave)

2  whole bay leaves

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish

IMG_9037 IMG_9037 IMG_9037 IMG_9037 IMG_9037 IMG_9037 IMG_9037~Step 1.  Over low heat, melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan, preferably a saucepan with a glass (see-through) lid. Add the rice and increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Stirring constantly, very-lightly-toast the rice, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the diced onion, celery and carrot.  Stirring constantly, cook until vegetables begin to soften (and rice toasts a bit more), about 2-3 additional minutes.

IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033~Step 2.  While the rice is toasting and vegetables are softening, heat stock, bay leaves, sea salt and black pepper to steaming -- I do this in the microwave, in about 2 minutes.  Add the seasoned stock to the saucepan.  Give the mixture a thorough stir and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, cover the saucepan and lower the heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  Continue to cook, covered and without opening the lid, until rice has absorbed the liquid, is cooked al dente, and, small holes appear across the surface of the pilaf, about 15 minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow to rest, covered, 10 additional minutes. Open (remove) the lid and use a fork to rake through the rice to fluff and separate the grains.

Rethink plain rice.  Consider a flavorful pilaf instead:

IMG_9104Nice & Easy Basic All-Purpose 30-Minute Rice Pilaf:  Recipe yields 8 cups.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3-quart saucepan w/lid (preferably a glass lid), large spoon; fork

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d14796ef970cCook's Note: A carefully-chosen side-dish really can turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. Recipes for side-dishes aren't the most exciting thing to write home about, but, I can say with certainty that home cooks routinely conduct searches that clearly inquire: "What to serve with (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, etc.)?"  That said, it's not uncommon to have narrower searches include the word(s) "vegetable" or "starch", and/or, "quick" or "easy" -- it seems that people don't like to spend a lot of time hovering over recipes for complicated side-dishes.  In my opinion, while pilaf is great as a side to beef, poultry or pork, when it comes to seafood, I like lighter fare.  Example:  my recipe for ~ Fluffy Lemon & Pepper Rice for Fish &/or Seafood ~

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

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

02/06/2020

~ Better than Store-Bought Stovetop Mac & Cheese ~

IMG_8993In my food world, three meals require a side of orange-and-cheddary creamy-dreamy macaroni-and-cheese:  meatloaf, fish sticks, and, chili dogs.  There's more.  If you're looking for the perfect side-dish to turn Buffalo chicken wings into dinner, set your sights on mac and cheese. When I was growing up, when we sat down to eat meatloaf, fish sticks or chili dogs, my mom indulged my brother and I in a side-serving of mac and cheese.  Interestingly, she didn't buy the stuff in the blue box.  She refused.  She made her own copycat version of it on the stovetop.  It was quick-to-make and fabulous -- it's also the same retro recipe I used to indulge my kids.     

IMG_8998Do I add any secret ingredients to my stovetop mac & cheese?

IMG_8938If you consider cheddar cheese powder a secret ingredient, then, yes, I suppose I do.  I discovered it while meandering around a downtown street fair.  I stopped at a vendor selling popcorn.  An employee happened to be stirring a powdery orange substance into some melted butter. The container read:  dried yellow cheddar cheese powder.  Minus the spices, it is the main ingredient in the foil envelope contained in boxed macaroni and cheese mixes. Shortly afterward, I ordered some via a catalog source.  Nowadays I purchase it on Amazon.com.  If you don't have it or don't want to use it, worry not.  Mom didn't and her mac and cheese was wonderful.

IMG_8915For the macaroni:

16 ounces elbow macaroni or medium shells pasta

8  tablespoons salted butter

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

IMG_8918~Step 1. Thin-slice or cube the butter and set aside.

IMG_8912 IMG_8912 IMG_8912 IMG_8912 IMG_8929 IMG_8929 IMG_8929 IMG_8929~Step 2.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add macaroni, give water a stir, and cook until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain macaroni into a colander and immediately return them to the hot stockpot on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes.  Stir until the butter melts and spices are incorporated throughout the macaroni.  Cover the pot and briefly set aside.

IMG_8941For the cheddar cheese sauce:

4  tablespoons each: salted butter and all-purpose flour

2  tablespoons cheddar cheese powder (optional)

2  teaspoons dry mustard

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 1/4  cups milk (plus 1/4-1/2 cup, if necessary)

8  ounces shredded sharp yellow cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945IMG_8945~Step 1:  In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt butter over low heat.  Add the flour, cheddar cheese powder, dry mustard, salt and cayenne pepper. Whisk until flour mix has been incorporated into the butter and a thick, pasty mixture has formed.  When mixture begins to foam, slowly, in a thin stream, add the milk, whisking the entire time to work out any lumps. Increase heat to medium and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly, then continue to simmer for 1-1 1/2 minutes, or until nicely-thickened and silky smooth.  If at any time the mixture seems thicker than you'd like, whisk in some additional milk until desired consistency is reached.

IMG_8972 IMG_8972 IMG_8972~ Step 3.  Turn the heat off.  Add the grated cheddar.  Using a large spoon, stir until the cheese has melted and a glorious cheese sauce has formed, about 1 minute.  Fold the cheese sauce into the still warm macaroni.

Serve ASAP, &, reheat leftovers gently in the microwave:

IMG_9005Better than Store-Bought Stovetop Mac & Cheese:  Recipe yields 3 cups cheese /12 cups macaroni and cheese./8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; cutting board; chef's knife; hand-held box grater (optional); 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides (a deep, wide-bottomed skillet); whisk; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3c70171200bCook's Note: Macaroni and cheese is near the top of the American favorite food list.  This ooey-gooey irresistable mix of unpretentious pasta and cheese has earned a beloved place on tables ranging from grandmothers kitchens to college dorms to gourmet restaurants.  We serve this baked version year round, indoors or out, at all sorts of gatherings, holidays and celebrations:  ~ Creamy Baked Five-Cheese Baked Macaroni and Cheese ~

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

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

02/04/2020

~EZ Small-Batch Quick-Chill Sheet-Pan Potato Salad~

IMG_8878About once a week, we eat deli-style sandwiches* or cheeseburgers for dinner.  We love 'em both and I don't feel a scintilla of guilt for taking an easy or cheesy night off from cooking a full-blown meal.  That said, I do feel guilty when the side-dish is a bag of potato chips -- that may be ok for a brown-bag lunch, but, for dinner?  Nah.  More often than not, I put a small batch of quick-to-assemble potato salad on a sheet pan in the refrigerator to chill -- it really can be done in the span of twenty short minutes.  During the time I assemble the sandwiches or cook the hamburgers, the potato salad chills and is ready to go on the table.  A short-and-sweet six easy-to-make cups is just enough for us to share one or two more times throughout the course of the week too.

*Note:  I make homemade bread every Sunday.  I make it in my bread machine, just for the purposes of toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch or dinner.  The deli-sandwich in this picture is served on my recipe for ~ A Basic Italian Semolina Bread in the Bread Machine ~.

I'm a member of the "I love eggs in my potato salad” club.

IMG_8890If you choose to omit them, substitute two more potatoes. 

IMG_88206  5-6-ounce gold potatoes, unpeeled and scrubbed (about 2-pounds gold potatoes)

4  extra-large eggs

1  cup diced onion

1  cup diced celery

1/2  cup mayonnaise

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_8826 IMG_8826 IMG_8826 IMG_8819~Step 1.  Scrub the potatoes free of any residue, then, using the tines of a fork, prick their tops in two or three spots.  Place on a plate and microwave until just short of being cooked through, about 12 minutes.  Remove from microwave and set aside to cool about 10-12 minutes.  While potatoes are in the microwave, in a 2-quart saucepan, hard-cook the eggs.  Rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle with hands.  While eggs are cooking, dice the onion and celery.

IMG_8846 IMG_8846 IMG_8846 IMG_8846~Step 2.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with parchment.  Cube the warm potatoes into 3/4" pieces.  Place potatoes, in a single layer, on prepared pan.  Peel and slice eggs into 3/4" pieces and place over surface of potatoes.  Scatter the onions, followed by the celery even over all.

IMG_8859 IMG_8859 IMG_8859 IMG_8859~Step 3.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the wet ingredients and seasonings: mayo, mustard, relish, celery seed, pepper and salt.  Drizzle dressing evenly over the layered ingredients in baking pan.  Place pan, uncovered, in refrigerator, 30-45 minutes to chill.  Just prior to serving, remove from refrigerator.  Use a rubber spatula to fold dressing into vegetables.

Make a Small-Batch of Quick-Chill Sheet-Pan Potato Salad: 

IMG_8908EZ Small-Batch Quick-Chill Sheet-Pan Potato Salad:  Recipe yields approximately 3 pounds potato salad/6 cups.

Special Equipment List: microwave oven; 2-quart saucepan; cutting board; chef's knife; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; 1-cup measuring container; spoon; large rubber spatula

IMG_8810Cook's Note: Choose from any number of proteins we cooks make for dinner via on a busy weeknight.  Examples:  roasted chickengrill-panned steaks or pork chops, slow-cooker spareribs, pan-seared ham slices, broiled fish fillets, steamed or poached shellfish, etc.  I refer to these as flash-in-the pan meals because they go from oven or cooktop in relatively short order.  All you need is a scrumptious all-purpose side-dish. Try my ~ Egg Noodles & Broccoli in Spicy Garlic-Butter Sauce ~. 

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

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

02/02/2020

~Egg Noodles & Broccoli in Spicy Garlic-Butter Sauce~

IMG_8810Choose from any number of proteins we American cooks make for dinner via various methods on a busy weeknight.  Examples:  roasted chickengrill-panned steaks or pork chops, slow-cooker spareribs, pan-seared ham slices, broiled fish fillets, steamed or poached shellfish, etc.  I refer to these as flash-in-the pan meals because they go from oven or cooktop in relatively short order.  All you need is a side-dish -- a seriously scrumptious all-purpose side-dish.

Rice is nice and potatoes are great...

Rice is nice and potatoes are great.  Rice is nice.  That said, looking at the above example-list of proteins we American cooks make for dinner via various methods on a busy weeknight, for me, there's one or two items that, meh, rice doesn't do it for me.  Potatoes are great.  When it comes to potatoes, I adore them, but, unless it's a microwave-baked potato, potato dishes in general require more machinations than the average person has patience for at the end of a workday. Me?  Lazy?  No, I'm not, but, after a full day of work and housework, peeling potatoes?  Nah.  

... and pasta is fine, but noodles are perfect. 

Pasta is fine but noodles are perfect.  Pasta is fine.  That said, once again, looking at the above example-list of proteins we American cooks make for dinner via various methods on a busy weeknight, for me, there's one or two that, meh, pasta doesn't do it for me.  Noodles are perfect. They can be cooked and drained in short order, and, a few pats of butter plus a spice or three turns them into a side of scrumptious comfort food.  Add a steam-in-bag vegetable and in the same amount of time, the two team up to make one seriously scrumptious all-purpose side-dish.

IMG_8804To make this two-in-one perfect side-dish.

IMG_87671  12-ounce bag, wide, Pennsylvania-Dutch-style egg noodles

8  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)

1  teaspoon garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon salt

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

2  10.8-ounce bags steam-in-bag broccoli florets, steamed or,

16  ounces 3-minute blanched and drained fresh broccoli florets

IMG_8775 IMG_8775 IMG_8775 IMG_8775 IMG_8786 IMG_8786 IMG_8786 IMG_8786~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat and add 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add the noodles, give the water a stir, and cook, as package directs, until al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain noodles into a colander and immediately return them to the hot stockpot on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes.  Stir until butter melts and spices are incorporated throughout the noodles to make a scrumptious, make-shift, spicy, garlic-butter-sauce.  Briefly cover stockpot while steaming broccoli florets.

IMG_8795 IMG_8795~ Step 2.  Steam broccoli according to package directions, drain into colander, and add the steamed florets to noodle mixture.  Serve this two-for one all-purpose side-dish immediately, in place of any other starch and any other vegetable.

Indeed, a seriously scrumptious all-purpose side-dish:

IMG_8813Egg Noodles and Broccoli in Garlic Butter Sauce:  Recipe yields 8 cups/8, 1-cup servings.

Special Equipment List:  wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0224df353f41200bCook's Note: This winner of a weeknight chicken dinner is taken straight from pages of my working parents' playbook.  Before heading out the door in the morning, my mom would put four chicken breasts, doused with store-bought Italian dressing, in a bowl, and, at the end of the work day, dad would dredge the breasts in bread crumbs and sauté them in a skillet, while mom cooked a box of kid-friendly pasta and readied some fresh green beans.  It was simple and straightforward, nothing fancy, but, it was a dinner we all liked, right down to the vegetable.  If we four could look back and critique our dinner menus, all of us would agree:  we were not an easy family to feed.  At the time, no one in our family liked asparagus.  Times change, people change. Try my all-grown-up recipe for: ~ Spring Chicken w/Garlic-Butter Pasta and Asparagus ~.

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

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