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10 posts from April 2021

04/29/2021

~Steak My Day - Summer-Up & Try Pork Blade Steak~

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1The pork blade steak is my new-to-me muse -- in my own words, it's a bone-fide kick-butt man-sized pork chop.  Known as pork steak, pork butt steak or pork blade steak, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork. Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs*, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare-rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask the Sam's Club butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-to-our-locale steaks for me.  Perhaps this post will help them to catch on "out here in the counties".

*Country-style ribs are cut from the blade end of the loin close to the shoulder. They're meatier than other ribs.  They contain no rib bones, but contain parts of the shoulder blade bone.

6a0120a8551282970b0224df30e276200b-1"Pork butt" or "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog. Smoked or barbecued, Boston butt is a southern tradition.  This cut of meat got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

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

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1Steaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

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

The four steaks pictured above, weighing a total of 6.48 pounds, cost $10.87.  That's a whole lot of economical porcine wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family with big appetites. Depending on the recipe du jour, sometimes I marinate these steaks, sometimes I don't.  When it comes to pork blade steaks, absorb this: marination (which does not affect the cooking time), is a flavorizer not a tenderizer.  Please know: these steaks are super-tender with zero marination. As for seasonings, salt and pepper is all they require, but, they play well with dry seasoning blends or wet marinades too -- and, hear this, they love to be slathered with BBQ sauce at the end.

Because overcooking renders them tough, this quick-cooking pork steak is perfect for the grill, grill pan, sauté pan or broiler.  

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d8d4d3970c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/26/2021

~How to Bake a Pullman Loaf in a Pullman Bread Pan~

IMG_0868The Pullman loaf is the quintessential white sandwich loaf. The name "Pullman" comes from its use in the kitchens of the Pullman Company's railway cars of the 1800s, and, the Pullman company is credited with inventing the rectangular-shaped lidded baking pans (which coincidentally resembled the shape of the railroad cars).  Baking bread in a pan with a lid is, functionally a bit different than baking bread in an open-topped pan, which, of course, affects the crumb structure.  The confined space, which doesn't allow most of the steam to escape, prevents big air bubbles from forming, which keeps the crumb fine and tight, which renders it easy to slice thin, and, it keeps the crust to a minimum too. There's more. Because the Pullman loaf produces perfectly square slices, it's hands-down the bread-of-choice for making sandwiches, plus, the thin crust means there's very little waste when a perfect presentation requires trimming off the crust.

IMG_0849The traditional Pullman loaf is an enriched white bread.  This means besides yeast and white flour, the dough is enriched with butter, sugar and salt, and, milk is often used in place of water.  The ratios of ingredients depend on the level of sweet or savory desired, at the discretion of the baker, but, only judicious amounts of each are used to keep the bread's signature mild, buttery flavor.  Once the dough is kneaded and proofed, it goes into the Pullman pan to rise again prior to sliding the lid on the pan and baking it in the oven.

I use my bread machine brioche recipe to mix & proof the dough:

Feel free to use your own recipe and feel free to mix and proof it in the traditional manner, but, in my kitchen, the bread machine is my tool-of-choice for these tasks.  It takes me five-to-ten short minutes to prep and get the ingredients in the bread pan, and after that, the machine does all the kneading.  About an hour-and-a-half later, my dough is proofed and ready to go into the Pullman pan for its last rise.  It's such a convenience, I have no desire to do it the old-fashioned way.  

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e379fa970b1  cup whole milk

5  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces

4  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

4 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

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

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bca29970b 2~ Step 1. Always follow the instructions that came with your bread machine -- they all vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the kneading), has been inserted.  The instruction manual states to always insert the paddle this this position before adding any ingredients, so I do.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d205a25d970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bca44970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a10970d 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bca68970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a2e970d 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a36970d~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, heat the milk until steaming.  This is quickly and easily done in the microwave.  Add the sugar, salt and butter to the hot milk.  Using a fork, stir until butter has melted.  Pour this mixture into the bread pan.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bcab5970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a6e970d~ Step 3.  In the same 1-cup measure and using the same fork, whisk the egg to lightly beat it.  Add the beaten egg to the milk mixture in bread pan. Note:   "Wet ingredients first/dry ingredients second" is a rule in bread machine baking.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4ad1970d-120wi 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d205a339970c-120wi 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4af1970d-120wiStep 4.  Add the flour to bread pan.  Do not mix or stir.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation in the top of the flour, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Add/pour the yeast into the indentation.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bcbcd970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bcbd6970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4b40970d~ Step 5.  Insert bread pan into bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely in place. Close the lid and plug the machine in.  Press "select".  Next, select the "loaf size" and choose the 2 pound option. Lastly, choose the "dough" cycle.  Press "start".  In my machine, my dough will have been kneaded, proofed, and, have gone through a first rise in 1 1/2 hours -- the dough is now ready to go.

IMG_0800 IMG_0807~ Step 6.  Open the lid of the machine and remove the pan of dough.  Using your fingertips, pull the dough away from the sides of the pan, punching it down as you work, then remove the dough from the pan.  Between the palms of your hands form the bread into a loaf-looking shape, and, proceed with the Pullman bread as directed below. 

Spray the inside of an 8.35" x 4.5" x 4/5" Pullman half-loaf pan & inside of lid w/no-stick:

IMG_0796Gently place the once-proofed bread dough in the bottom of prepared pan:

IMG_0809Cover the top of the loaf pan w/plastic wrap & rise 25-30 minutes:

IMG_0812When the center of the highest point of dough is just below top of pan, remove plastic:

IMG_0819Slide lid on pan & bake on center rack of 350° oven 25-30 minutes:

IMG_0823Remove pan from oven & slide lid open to check doneness by gently tapping on the top of the loaf w/knuckle of index finger -- it will have a hollow sound when bread is done.  Slide the lid back on the pan & invert pan (lid on the bottom) onto a wire rack:

IMG_0827Slide lid off bottom of pan (pictured above), remove top pan from loaf & cool completely:

IMG_0829How to Bake a Pullman Loaf in a Pullman Bread Pan:  Recipe yields instructions to bake one half-loaf in an 8.35" x 4.5" x 4/5" Pullman loaf pan.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine; 2-cup measuring container; fork 8.35" x 4.5" x 4/5" Pullman loaf pan w/lid; wire cooling rack 

IMG_0851Cook's Note: A flat-topped loaf of white sandwich bread that gets baked in a square-sided loaf pan with a lid is, culinarily, known as a Pullman loaf.  The technical term for the loaf pan itself is a Pullman pan. The French terms for a Pullman loaf are "pain-de-mie" ("pain" meaning "bread", and "mie" meaning "the soft white inner part of the loaf"), and, "pain anglais" (meaning "English loaf").  It's a loaf of firm-yet-soft enriched white bread with perfectly square sides and minimal crust.  It slices easily, making it the quintessential sandwich loaf.  To learn more, read my post: ~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf and a Pullman Loaf Pan ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/23/2021

~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf & Pullman Loaf Pan ~

IMG_0851A flat-topped loaf of white sandwich bread that gets baked in a square-sided loaf pan with a lid is, culinarily, known as a Pullman loaf.  It goes without saying, the technical term for the loaf pan itself is a Pullman pan.  The fancy French terms for a Pullman loaf are "pain-de-mie" ("pain" meaning "bread", and "mie" meaning "the soft white inner part of the loaf"), and, "pain anglais" (meaning "English loaf").  It's a loaf of somewhat-firm-yet-soft enriched white bread with perfectly square sides and minimal crust.  It slices easily, making it the quintessential sandwich loaf.

The Pullman loaf is the quintessential white sandwich loaf:

IMG_0849The history behind the Pullman pan & the story of the loaf:

R4312The name "Pullman" comes from its use in the kitchens of the Pullman Company's  railway cars of the 1800s.  The company is credited with inventing the rectangular-shaped lidded baking pans (which coincidentally resembled the shape of the railroad cars).  Baking bread with the lids on the pans created flat-topped loaves, which made it possible to efficiently stack more loves in a smaller space compared to loaves with rounded tops -- three flat-topped Pullman loaves occupied about the same amount of space as two standard round-topped loaves in the small Pullman kitchen. 

IMG_0862Baking bread in a pan with a lid is, of course, functionally a bit different than baking bread in an open-topped pan, which, of course, affects the crumb structure.  The confined space, which doesn't allow most of the steam to escape, prevents big air bubbles from forming, which keeps the crumb fine and tight, which renders it easy to slice thin, and, it keeps the crust to a minimum too. There's more.  Because the Pullman loaf is a perfectly square loaf, uniform in shape throughout its length, it's hands-down the bread-of-choice for making user-friendly sandwiches, plus, the thin crust means there's very little waste when a perfect presentation requires trimming off the crust.

The Pullman loaf pan = A rectangular pan w/straight sides & lid.  Full-loaf-size pan (yields a 2-pound loaf) = approx. 13" x 4.8" x 4.8".  Half-loaf pan (yields a 1-pound loaf) = approx. 8.35" x 4.5" x 4.5":

IMG_0865The Pullman loaf = A flat-topped sandwich loaf w/minimal crust & square, fine-&-tight-crumbed easy-to-slice-thin slices: 

IMG_0868Try my recipe & learn to bake a Pullman loaf in a Pullman pan:

IMG_0854"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/20/2021

~ Peanut Butter, Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Cookies ~

IMG_0767Everyone I know loves a basic chocolate-chip cookie.  I've never met a person who'd refuse an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie, and, unless one has an allergy to peanuts, the classic peanut butter cookie has earned its place in the cookie jars of America.  Three great reasons for me to combine the flavors of three great cookies into one great cookie.  No out-of-the-ordinary ingredients list and certainly not gourmet -- just a very special kid-tested mother-approved recipe.

Take a step into that well-stocked pantry & open the refrigerator.  You've probably got all the ingredients on-hand.

IMG_07011 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon sea salt

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

1  teaspoon pure chocolate extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 1/2-3  cups milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips, your choice (Note:  I use milk chocolate chips -- a full 3 cups.)

IMG_0709 IMG_0702 IMG_0706~ Step 1. Line four large (17 1/2" x 12 1/2") baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.  In a medium bowl, measure and stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350°.

IMG_0714 IMG_0718 IMG_0720 IMG_0724~Step 2.  Place the butter, eggs and extracts in a large bowl.  Over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream ingredients together, about 1 full minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula the entire time.  Add the sugars and thoroughly incorporate them, 30-45 more seconds, again, scraping down the sides of the bowl with the rubber spatula.  Add the peanut butter and continue to beat until mixture is smooth and uniform in color, about 30 seconds.

IMG_0727 IMG_0727 IMG_0733 IMG_0733 IMG_0736 IMG_0741~Step 3.  Lower the mixer speed to low.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl (the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Over low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl constantly with the spatula, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, about 1 full minute. Remove the mixer (you will not need it any more). Use the spatula to add and thoroughly fold in the rolled oats, followed by the chocolate chips.

IMG_0742 IMG_0746 IMG_0751~ Step 4.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop balls of cookie dough, well-apart, onto each prepared pan, 12 on each pan.  Bake cookies, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 350° oven, for 13-14 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges and bottoms. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for about 1 minutes, then, use a spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Slightly-salty & satisfyingly not too sweet -- what a treat:

IMG_0770Peanut Butter, Oatmeal & Chocolate-Chip Cookies:  Recipe yields 44-46 (not quite 4 dozen), 2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List:  4, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; spoon; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; thin spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3c74e03200bCook's Note: ~ My Favorite Sugar Cookie is:  The Snickerdoodle ~. A traditional snickerdoodle is a flat, golden, crispy on the outside, slightly-chewy on the inside, sugar cookie made with butter and shortening, then dusted with cinnamon and sugar prior to baking.  It doesn't contain chocolate or white chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, other embellishments or flavorings. Spare me any recipes that attempt to make this cookie gourmet.  As for the name:  it's believed it's  German in origin, from the German word "Schnickennudeln", which is a cinnamon-dusted sweet roll.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021

04/17/2021

~All in the Family Oven-Baked Cheddar Cheese Dogs~

IMG_0912When a family as a unit unanimously agrees that hot dogs require cheese, assembling them upfront, then baking them all at once in the oven, as many as the family can eat at one sitting, makes short work of getting lunch or dinner for the entire family on the table.  Once assembled and lined-up slightly apart on a baking sheet, it only takes 10-12 minutes in a 375° for the cheese to melt, the hotdogs to heat through and the buns to toast.  When they come out, everyone gets to top theirs with their own personal-favorite toppings -- let the family-style funtime begin. 

Ready, set, assemble & bake as many as you want to make!

IMG_08771-2-3  high-quality Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs per person

1-2-3  top-split hot dog bun per person

1/2  cup shredded yellow cheddar cheese per hot dog

1-2  tablespoons finely-diced yellow or sweet onion per hot dog (optional)

IMG_0883 IMG_0885 IMG_0890Step 1.  Preheat oven to 375°.  Depending on how many cheese dogs you're baking, ready an appropriate-sized baking pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment paper, or, in an appropriately-sized casserole that has a been sprayed with no-stick spray.  Arrange the rolls, side-by-side, in the prepared pan, about 2" apart (so the bread will toast on the sides).  Open each roll and place about 2 tablespoons shredded cheese in the bottom.  Place a hot dog on top of the cheese in each bun.  

IMG_0894 IMG_0899 IMG_0909 IMG_0915~Step 2.  Top each hot dog with a generous/heaping 1/4 cup shredded cheese and 1-2 tablespoons optional diced onion.  Bake on center rack of 375° oven 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and buns are lightly-toasted.  Remove from oven and add desired toppings.  

Toasty, cheesy & steaming -- ready, set, add the toppings:

IMG_0908All in the Family Oven-Baked Cheddar Cheese Dogs:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many baked cheddar cheese dogs as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately-sized baking pan or casserole; parchment paper

IMG_0673Cook's Note: Cheesies.  That's the name.  If you're in your sixties or older, you know a slice of white bread is a perfect substitute for a hot dog roll.  Truth told, sometimes I prefer the bread, and, cheesies, kid-tested mother-approved blast-from-my-past snack sandwiches are the reason.  There's more.  They're not just a blast from my past.  My husband Joe told me when he was student at Penn State in the 60's, the lines were long in the campus' dining halls on the nights cheesies were served.  For a variation on the baked hot dog theme, try my ~ Baked Hot Dog Cheeses & Creamy Tomato Soup ~ recipe.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/14/2021

~ Baked Hot Dog Cheesies & Creamy Tomato Soup ~

IMG_0673Cheesies.  That's the name.  If you're in your sixties or older, you are well aware how, without compromise, a slice of white sandwich bread is a perfect substitute for a hot dog roll.  Truth told, sometimes I prefer the slice of bread to the roll, and, cheesies, kid-tested mother-approved blast-from-my-past snack sandwiches are the reason.  There's more.  They're not just a blast from my past.  My husband Joe told me the tale of how, when he was student at Penn State during the latter 60's, the lines were long in the campus' dining halls on the nights cheesies were served.

What to expect when ordering a cheesie: 

IMG_0670Order a cheesy and you're going to receive a hot dog that has been placed atop and wrapped in a slice of white sandwich bread (that has been slathered with a mayonnaise and ballpark mustard concoction) plus a slice or two of white or yellow American cheese.  Occasionally, diced onions are added right after the hot dog goes on.  Most cheesies are lightly-painted with a bit of melted butter just before baking in a 375° oven -- long enough for the cheese to melt, the bread to slowly toast and hot dogs to heat through, about 10-12 minutes.  My mom served them to my brother and I with baked beans and home-fried potatoes, my kids loved them with a side of mac and cheese.  Nowadays, I'm satisfied with one or two sitting next to a cup of tomato soup.

Set 'em down next to a cup of tomato soup and call it a day.

IMG_06112  slices soft white sandwich bread*

4  teaspoons mayonnaise

1  teaspoon ballpark mustard

1/8  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

2  tablespoons finely-diced yellow or sweet onion (optional)

2  hot dogs (Note:  My favorite brand is Hebrew National all-beef franks.)

2  tablespoons finely-diced yellow or sweet onion (optional)

1  tablespoon salted butter, melted in the microwave

IMG_0615*The Little Miss Sunbeam Story: Created by children's book illustrator Ellen Segner in the 1940's, Little Miss Sunbeam was drawn from real life and based on a little blue-eyed blond girl Ellen saw playing in New York City's Washington Square Park. From her  drawings, Ms. Segner developed the original oil painting that became the Sunbeam trademark. Little Miss Sunbeam on the label has meant quality baked bread and bread products for over three generations of bread buyers.

IMG_0618 IMG_0619 IMG_0625 IMG_0629 IMG_0632 IMG_0628~Step 1. In a small ramekin, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pepper.  Set aside.  Dice the optional onion and set aside.  In a second small ramekin, melt the butter, set aside and ready a pastry brush.  Line a small, toaster-oven-sized baking pan with parchment paper and preheat toasted oven to 375°.

IMG_0634 IMG_0634 IMG_0639 IMG_0639 IMG_0647 IMG_0647~Step 2.  To assemble the cheesies, place two slices of white sandwich bread on a work surface. Using a small knife, slather the top surface of each bread slice with the mayo-mustard mixture.  Place a slice of white or yellow American cheese atop each bread slice.  Place one hot dog, on the diagonal (corner-to-corner) atop the cheese.  If desired, scatter a few of the optional diced onions to one side of each hot dog.  Lift the two open corners of the bread up and over the hot dog, then secure it closed with a sandwich pick or two.

IMG_0655 IMG_0656~Step 3.  Using a pastry brush, paint the surface of the parchment paper with some of the melted butter, then, place the hot dogs, slightly apart on the parchment.  Use the pastry brush and a light touch to paint (dab) the surface area of the sides (the white part) of the sandwich with the rest of the butter.  Bake on center rack of preheated toaster oven 10-12 minutes, or until bread is very lightly browned and cheese is bubbling.

Remove from oven, say "cheesie" & eat 'em up:

IMG_0676Baked Hot Dog Cheesies & Creamy Tomato Soup:  Recipe yields instructions to make 2 cheesies/1-2 servings.

Special Equipment List: 2 small ramekins; small knife; cutting board; chef's knife; small, toaster-oven-sized aluminum baking pan; parchment paper; 2-4 wooden sandwich picks; pastry brush

IMG_0603Cook's Note:  I can't prove this, meaning, no research reveals it, but, it's my guess that cheesies evolved directly from humble cheese toast. It's just common sense.  One fine day a mother, while making cheese toast for her kids, decided to transition their snack to a hearty meal by adding a hot dog to the cheese toast and fold it up.  After all, necessity is the mother of invention. ~ Unembellished Perfection -- Classic Cheese Toast ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/11/2021

~ Unembellished Perfection -- Classic Cheese Toast ~

IMG_0582Cheese toast served with a side of tomato soup.  Also known as cheese-on-toast, these two go hand-in-hand together, and, truth told, I enjoy dipping this munchy-crunchy oven-toasted side-dish into my creamy-steamy soup better than the overwhelming favorite amongst the masses: the slightly-greasy skillet-fried grilled cheese sandwich (served with a side of tomato soup).  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it's because my dad preferred cheese toast to grilled cheese, or, perhaps it's because it was one of the first meals my mom allowed me to prepare sans supervision.

To a budding young cook -- kitchen independence is bliss.

IMG_0603Everyone makes cheese toast a bit differently, but, the worst thing you can do is overthink it.  It's cheese on toast.  Period -- and ordinary white bread will do just fine.  My mom started by stirring a bit of mayonnaise, ballpark (yellow) mustard, a drop or two of Worcestershire sauce and a scant amount of black together in a small bowl.  Sometimes she used two slices of white American cheese, sometimes she used two slices of yellow American cheese, sometimes she used one slice of each -- whatever she had on hand was fine.  There's no need to take the time to slice the cheese slices into thin strips, but, she did, and for some reason, the cheese seems to melt better.

It's cheese on toast.  Period.  Please don't overthink it:

IMG_05701  slice White bread

2  teaspoons mayonnaise

1/2  teaspoon ballpark mustard

2  drops Worcestershire sauce

1/8  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

2  slices American cheese, white or yellow or one slice of each, slices cut into thin strips

IMG_0558 IMG_0563 IMG_0567 IMG_0575~Step 1.  In a small ramekin, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pepper.  Using a chef's knife, slice the cheese into thin strips and set aside.  Place the slice of bread in the toaster and lightly-toast it, just until barely brown, about 45-60 seconds.  Keep an eye on it because you do not want to over-toast the bread.  Remove the toast from the toaster and place it on a small broiler pan that will fit in the toaster oven.  Preheat the toaster oven to broil.

IMG_0575 IMG_0576 IMG_0579~ Step 2.  Slather the bread with the mayonnaise concoction.  Scatter the thin-sliced cheese slices on top. Place under the broiler of toaster oven until cheese is bubbly and melted, 30-45 seconds. Watch carefully as the the cheese will go from melted and bubbly to browned and burned quickly. Serve immediately.

Serve immediately w/a side of creamy tomato soup: 

IMG_0607Unembellished Perfection -- Classic Cheese Toast:  Recipe yields instructions to make 1 slice cheese toast.

Special Equipment List:  small ramekin; spoon; cutting board; chef's knife; small, disposable, toaster-oven-sized aluminum broiler pan, preferably the kind with a corrugated bottom

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d01ceb970cCook's Note:  ~ Say Cheese Please:  Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit ~. It's the original cheese toast and worth mention that I've only eaten what I believe to be the real-deal once.  It was in the latter 1990's, in Wales, in the exquisite Coed-Y-Mwstwr Hotel (coy-dee-moo-ster).   It came to me as a complimentary side to a lovely salad (which I ordered after returning from shopping in the city of Cardiff).  The cheese toast, along with everything else in this hotel, was perfect.  I kicked off my high-heels and enjoyed it in my lavish room, overlooking the How-Green-was-My-Valley countryside, with a very English G&T too.  After that trip, I not only gave cheese toast a lot more thought, I started taking it seriously.  Unembellished perfection.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/08/2021

~ Bone-Suckin'-Sauced Boneless Chicken Paillards ~

IMG_0544Bone Suckin' Sauce.  If this is product you've never tried, I suggest you make the pilgrimage to your nearest Lowe's (yes folks, our local Lowe's home improvement and appliance retailer is the only place we can buy it here in Happy Valley -- they sell the sauce in the same spot they sell barbecue grills, which, makes sense), or, get it on-line on their website.  My son in Pittsburgh introduced me to Bone Suckin' Sauce about fifteen years ago, and, without exaggeration, the first taste changed my life.  Before long, I was buying this sauce, on-line, by the case.  Over the years, their Bone Suckin' Seasoning & Rub, Bone Suckin' Steak Seasoning & Rub, and, Bone-Suckin' Lemon-Pepper Seasoning have earned a permanent spot in my pantry. 

Bone Sucking' Sauce is non GMO, gluten free, &, fat free:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09ea441d970dBone Sucking' Sauce:  Tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoked flavor, natural spices, salt and xanthan gum.  It's the xanthan gum, which they used in place of cornstarch as a thickener, that makes it gluten-free and keeps it a transparent light-red color.  Bone Suckin' Sauce hails from Raleigh, NC, and, is the brainchild of Phil Ford. Back in 1987, Phil was trying to copy his mother's recipe for a western North Carolina-style barbecue sauce.  His creation was so delicious his sister-in-law, Sandi Ford, convinced Phil to partner with her and her husband to sell it. It was coined "bone suckin' " because it made Sandi suck on the rib bones to glean every last drop of flavor from them.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d147c0970cBone Suckin' Sauce and Bone Suckin' Seasoning and Rub -- together.  Oh.  My.  Sigh.

My pantry nor I would never be caught without this dynamic duo in it -- I buy the sauce by the case.  My family would simply disown me. Created to go together, they're an addictive, well-balanced blend of sweet-savory BBQ perfection -- both are bright, fresh and crisp with a hint of smokey flavor.  For sprinkling and rubbing to dipping, drizzling, slathering, or basting, there isn't anything, from A-Z in the world of barbecue, they're not fantastic on.

Paillard is a fancy French word, a verb, meaning "to pound":

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dA bit about paillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that gets quickly sautéed. A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness --  to break down the fibers, to tenderize it, and, to make it cook evenly.  It's done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it to do a truly expert job.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an extra step well worth the effort. I find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it takes to pound six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.

This easy winner winner chicken dinner is awesome:

IMG_04821 1/4-1 1/2  cups Bone Suckin' thicker-style sauce, plus, additional sauce for dipping or drizzling at tableside

6-8  tablespoons water (3-4-ounces)

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99973f3200b6  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Note:  This is approximately the equivalent of 3, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied to form 6 pieces/portions.)

~ Step 1.  Place the thighs between two large layers of plastic wrap and lightly pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to a thickness of more than a 1/4" and less than 1/2".

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec6c2a8200c~ Step 2. Remove and discard the top layer of plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle the tops of paillards with:

Bone Suckin' Sauce Seasoning and Rub 

In a 16" electric skillet on low heat, heat:

6 tablespoons corn or peanut oil

Increase heat to medium- medium-high (240°-250°).

6a0120a8551282970b027880210c7b200d 6a0120a8551282970b026bdec92284200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bdec922a1200c 6a0120a8551282970b027880210c9b200d~Recap: Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic.

IMG_0497 IMG_0497 IMG_0504 IMG_0504 IMG_0519 IMG_0519 IMG_0519 IMG_0519 IMG_0527 IMG_0527 IMG_0535 IMG_0535~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.   Season their tops (liberally) with the Bone Suckin' Seasoning and Rub.  Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 7-8 minutes per side, turning the heat down, if necessary, to prevent scorching.  Add the Bone Suckin' Sauce to the chicken in the skillet, followed by the water.  Quickly heat the sauce to bubbling, stirring in and around and under the paillards constantly for a moment or two to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  Adjust the heat to a very gentle simmer (steady yet very gentle), and continue to simmer very gently, uncovered, about 20 more minutes.

Try it served atop some slightly-spicy Mexican-style rice

IMG_0553Bone-Suckin'-Sauced Boneless Chicken Paillards:  Recipe yields 6 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sized meat mallet; 16" electric skillet w/lid; 1-cup measuring container; fork and/or spatula; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b02788021145d200dCook's Note: A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a boneless chicken thighs as an example: ~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- & Define a Paillard ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/05/2021

~ Cheese Ravioli w/Butter, Garlic & Cottage Cheese ~

IMG_0436I'm often asked what I cook just for myself, meaning:  what I eat when no one else is around or no one else is looking.  My answer is always the same:  Most times I make a sandwich or nuke some soup (which require no actual cooking), but, when I do want to place a pot on the stovetop, I treat myself to a super-quick, super-easy pasta dish that is a spin-off of a childhood favorite (my dad's version of mac and cheese) which was an odd combination of hot, buttered-macaroni tossed with cold cottage cheese and seasoned with garlic powder, salt and crushed red pepper flakes.

Steaming-hot cheese ravioli tossed w/ice-cold cottage cheese?

IMG_0449If you can't quite wrap your head around the concept of hot and cold in in the same pasta bowl, rethink your position.  Resist every urge to heat or melt the cottage cheese, or, God forbid, create a baked casserole out of this recipe (which actually might be good but totally misses the point). This meatless meal is wonderful just as it is, and, if you happen to have a tomato and/or some fresh parsley, don't hesitate to chop either or both and toss them in at the end as well.

A one-pot cheese ravioli dish that goes from stovetop-to-table in 10-15 minutes.  It's as close to instant-gratification as it gets:

IMG_04096  ounces frozen cheese ravioli (1/2 of a 12-ounce bag)

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder, more or less, to taste

1/4-  teaspoon sea salt, more or less, to taste

1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste

1  tablespoon finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/2  cup large-curd cottage cheese, somewhat cold (Note:  Just before you're ready to start boiling the water for the ravioli, remove the cottage cheese from the refrigerator and set it aside. At serving time, it will be cold, but not ice cold.)

6-8 small, sliced cherry or grape tomatoes (optional)

1-2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)

IMG_0413 IMG_0413 IMG_0419 IMG_0422~Step 1.  In an 2-quart saucepan, bring 1 1/2 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the ravioli and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, about 5-6 minutes.  Transfer to a colander. Drain well and return hot ravioli to still warm stockpot on still warm stovetop.  

IMG_0425 IMG_0428 IMG_0431 IMG_0431~Step 2.  Add the butter, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes, followed by the Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese.  Using two forks or two spoons, gently toss as you would a salad, until butter is melted and ravioli are evenly coated.  Add the cottage cheese along and lightly toss, just to distribute the creamy cheese throughout ravioli.  Remove from stovetop and serve immediately.

Toss in some sliced cherry tomatoes &/or parsley too:

IMG_0464Dig into some cheesy, creamy & slightly-spicy comfort food:    

IMG_0467Cheese Ravioli w/Butter, Garlic & Cottage Cheese:  Recipe yields 1 hearty main-course servings, or, 2 smaller side-servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-quart saucepan; colander; large spoon; cutting board; chef's knife

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7f6a67a970bCook's Note: My dad's mac & cheese is a comforting, flavor-packed dish that will provide almost instant gratification because it goes from stovetop to table in the time it takes to cook the macaroni.  His unusual combination of hot, spicy, buttered elbow macaroni, tossed with cold cottage cheese (he liked farmers' cheese but began substituting cottage cheese as farmers' cheese started to get hard to come by) literally bursts with flavor.    ~ Dad's Mac & Cheese, or:  What I cook Just for Me ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021) 

04/02/2021

~ Easiest Ham & Cheesy Boxed Scalloped Potatoes ~

IMG_0396I know I'm not alone on this point, C-19 has changed what I store in my pantry -- truth told, it's not bad, just different.  In preparation for the lock down that occurred a few months ago, I stocked several boxes of Rice-a-Roni, four boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, a big box of Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes, and, a few boxes of Stovetop stuffing mix and Betty Crocker cheesy scalloped potatoes.  Thanks to them being staples in my mom's pantry, I knew these easy-to-make convenience-food side-dishes not only have a long shelf life, they're tasty.

In the case of the scalloped potatoes, my mom made them often, sometimes even for company and holidays.  She had her method for "doctoring up" (her words) these boxes of dehydrated potatoes.  There were never any complaints and never any leftovers -- everyone gobbled them up.  I so forgot how much like them, I've taken to making them occasionally.  In my kitchen, they're no longer "just in case" food.  They're scrape-the-casserole-clean comfort food.  Today, I'm adding some ham (leftover from the Easter holiday) to turn this side-dish into a main course.

Steamy & creamy w/a crispy top & loaded w/smokey ham:

IMG_03581  7-ounce box Betty Crocker's cheesy scalloped potates

2 1//4  cups whole milk (in place of water)

2  tablespoons salted butter, sliced or cubed

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

8-10  ounces sliced or diced ham (a generous 2 cups)

IMG_0360 IMG_0360 IMG_0365 IMG_0365 IMG_0370~Step 1.  Open the box and empty the packet of dry cheese-sauce mix into the bottom of a 1 1/2-quart casserole.  Place the milk in a 2-cup measuring container along with the butter and nutmeg and heat it, in the microwave, to steaming.  Give the liquid mixture a thorough stir, add it to the dry mixture in the casserole, then, thoroughly stir the two together.

IMG_0374 IMG_0374 IMG_0385~ Step 2.  Add the dehydrated potatoes and the ham to the casserole and stir them into the hot liquid.  Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, to allow the potatoes to start to soften, then, stir again.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of 350° oven 35-40 minutes.  Casserole will be bubbling throughout and potatoes will be golden brown.  Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool slightly, 5 minutes.  Serve hot.

Scoop out a heaping helping & gobble up the goodness:

IMG_0398Easiest Ham & Cheesy Boxed Scalloped Potatoes:  Recipe yields 4 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; 8" x 8"-square, 1 1/2-quart casserole; spoon; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0278800f01c5200dCook's Note: I'm no different than a lot of you when it comes to weeknight dinners.  Sometimes I put a small chicken in the oven to roast, other times I fry a few pork chops, sometimes I roast or poach a turkey tenderloin -- easy to make, minimum-fuss fare.  Stuffing goes great with all of them.  That said, on a busy week day, many times, all I  have the time or inclination to make are two easy-peasy satellite side-dishes -- a bag of our favorite steam-in-bag vegetables, and, a box of "doctored up" Stovetop-type stuffing -- and there's no shame in either one.  That's why I keep Stovetop brand stuffing in my pantry at all times -- of course there are other brands, I like Stovetop.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)