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10 posts from May 2021

05/29/2021

~Dijonnaise -- Mayonnaise, Dijon Mustard and Spices~

IMG_1628As far as mayonnaise-based condiments go, this is the condiment that makes everything taste fancy schmancy in a French kinda way.  It is sooooo good on sooooo many things.  To name a few: French fries, steamed or grilled vegetables, an ordinary ham or turkey sandwich, and, of course, a mouth-watering cheeseburger.  There's more.  It's great used as a dressing for potato salad.  Make a big batch or a small batch, whatever you need, it's only going to take five minutes.

Make a big batch or a small batch -- whatever you need:

IMG_1494For my French-style Dijonnaise:

6  tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise

3  tablespoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_1501 IMG_1501 IMG_1501~ Step 1.  Measure and place all ingredients in a 1-cup-size food-storage container.  Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours prior to serving time to allow flavors to marry.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

Try it on my French Onion Burgers w/Caramelized Onions:

IMG_1594Dijonnaise -- Mayonaise, Dijon Mustard and Spices:  Recipe yields about 3/4 cup.

Special Equipment List: 1 cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon

IMG_1239Cook's Note: For me, it's salad season the entire year, however, now that the warm weather has finally arrived, it's real-deal salad season.  I'm talking Summer salads made with a wider variety of higher-quality vegetables from local farmers' markets, and, in the upcoming weeks and months, veggies picked from my own garden.  These are salads I love to serve next to my favorite grilled meats, poultry, and, yes, even seafood...For that reason, I find myself taking the time to scratch-make dressings and vinaigrettes on a regular basis.  For another Dijon-based dressing, try my ~ Sweet & Tangy Honey-Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette ~.

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

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

05/26/2021

~ Pan-Seared French-Onion Burgers with Dijonnaise ~

IMG_1594Easy and decadent?  Yes, decadent.  That's how I describe these cheeseburgers.  Trust me.  All the steps are truly easy -- very, very easy.  That said, it will take a bit of time, not energy, to properly caramelize the onions, about 40 minutes, but, on average, that's how long it takes onions to properly caramelize on the stovetop, and, after all, one can't serve French onion anything without properly caramelized onions -- quite frankly, they're the star of the French onion show. The words I use to describe caramelizing onions on the stovetop:  a super-easy babysitting job.  

IMG_1628As for the contents of envelope of the store-bought French onion soup mix that I (along with many others) fold into the meat mixture, don't leap into the food-snob mindset over the addition this ingredient because, this dry mix really takes the flavor of the burger meat over-the-top, and, the small packet of granulated beef bouillon that I throw in too beefs up the flavor even more.  As for the Gruyère (groo-YAIR) cheese, it's a bit of a splurge price wise, but, as far as cow's milk Swiss cheeses go, this one, with its slightly-nutty flavor, is their premiere melting cheese.  In the case of French onion burgers, I've determined that bigger is better, so, it's 6-ouncers that I make, and, my roll of choice is made of enriched Brioche -- although an onion roll works nicely too.  As for the Dijonnaise, a combination of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and spices:  it completes this burger-eating experience in true French style.

French onion burgers -- perfect for any Summer get-together:

IMG_1512For the French onion burgers:

1 1/2  pounds 90/10 ground beef

1  envelope French onion soup

1  packet granulated beef bouillon

2  cups shredded Gruyère cheese

3/4  cup Dijonnaise dressing*

1 very large sweet onion*

1 1/2-2  cups baby arugula leaves

4  brioche hamburger buns, toasted or untoasted, your choice

2  tablespoons salted butter + 2  tablespoons olive oil, for pan-searing 'burgers

* Prepare the Dijonnaise, and, slice and caramelize the onion as directed in the recipe below.

IMG_1514 IMG_1514 IMG_1514~ Step 1. In a medium bowl, place the ground beef, along with the contents from the envelope of onion soup mix and the contents from the packet of granulated beef bouillon.  Using your hands, thoroughly incorporate the dry soup mix and the bouillon into the meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 1 hour or refrigerate for several hours (or overnight), to give the flavors time to marry.  Using a hand-held box grater, shred the cheese.  Cover and refrigerate cheese until assembly time.

IMG_1494For the Dijonnaise:

6  tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise

3  tablespoons Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_1501 IMG_1501 IMG_1501~ Step 1.  Measure and place all ingredients in a 1-cup-size food-storage container.  Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours prior to serving time to allow flavors to marry.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3cf4c1e200bFor the caramelized onions:

1 pound (after peeling) 1/8"-1/4"-thick-sliced half-moon-shaped sweet onion  

2  tablespoons salted butter

2  tablespoons olive oil

1  teaspoon granulated sugar 

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

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

IMG_7374 IMG_7374 IMG_7374 IMG_7388 IMG_7388 IMG_7388 IMG_7388~Step 1.  Peel and slice onions.  Over low heat, in a 12" skillet, melt butter into olive oil.  Add onions to skillet.  Season with sugar and salt.  Using a slotted spoon or spatula, stir until the onions are coated in oil/butter.  

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

IMG_7417Note:  From this point on, do not leave the stove.  The onions will require almost constant stirring, and, they can and will go from browned to burned quickly.  My onions cooked for another 5 minutes today, with me stirring constantly, before I added the wine and quickly (30-45 seconds) deglazed the pan, or, for a total of 35 minutes.  Deglazing the pan is an important step that takes caramelized onions from ordinary to extraordinary, so, don't skip it.  Transfer  the caramelized onions to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

Ready, set, go -- it's time to make French onion cheeseburgers:

IMG_1528 IMG_1528 IMG_1528~ Step 1.  Divide the meat mixture into four equal parts (6 ounces each). Using your hands and fingertips, form, pat and press each part into a 4 1/2"-round disc about 3/4"-thick.  I use a kitchen scale to be sure all four weigh the same.  Common sense says:  Equal weight + even size and thickness = even cooking.

IMG_1540 IMG_1540 IMG_1540 IMG_1548 IMG_1548 IMG_1548 IMG_1548~Step 2.  In the same 12" skillet used to caramelize the onions, melt the 2 tablespoons salted butter into the olive oil over low heat.  Place the burger patties in the skillet.  Increase heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until lightly-golden brown on both sides, about 5 minutes per side, turning only once.

IMG_1572 IMG_1572~ Step 2.  Turn heat under burgers to low. Heap 1/2 cup shredded Gruyère atop each patty and place a lid on the skillet.  Wait a few seconds, 30-45-60, until cheese melts.  Remove burgers from skillet and assemble as directed in next step.

IMG_1562 IMG_1562 IMG_1562 IMG_1578 IMG_1578~Step 3.  Slather a toasted or untoasted Brioche roll (I highly recommend lightly-toasting the roll) on bottom half with some of the Dijonnaise.  Place a handful of baby arugula leaves atop the tangy dressing.  Place a cheeseburger atop the arugula, followed by a generous mound of caramelized onions.  Put the top on and serve immediately.

Take a bite, a big bite -- you won't stop 'till it's gone.  You won't.

IMG_1609Pan-Seared French-Onion Burgers with Dijonnaise:  Recipe yields 4 large cheeseburgers.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup food-storage container w/tight-fitting lid; spoon; plastic wrap; hand-held box grater; plastic wrap; cutting board; chef's knife; 12" nonstick skillet w/lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; paper towels; kitchen scale (optional)

IMG_1490Cook's Note: Rain or shine, Winter or Summer -- I make these potato nuggets often (although, sometimes, I cut them into French fries instead of bite-sized nuggets), and, experience has taught two things:  I can never make enough, and, no one cares that an envelope of store-bought onion soup mix is used. You gotta try these ~ Oven-Roasted French-Onion Gold-Potato Nuggets ~.  Amongst other things, they're the perfect side-dish to today's French onion burgers.

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

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

05/23/2021

~ Oven-Roasted French-Onion Gold Potato Nuggets ~

IMG_1477When raindrops require moving your outdoor-cooked get-together into the dry, warm comfort of the great indoors, a toaster oven or two, in addition to your full-size oven or two, can be your best friend.  When this scenario played out for me this weekend, in a properly-timed manner, I simply put four ribeye steaks under the broiler in one of my two ovens, put my marinated chicken quarters in the other one to roast, and, transitioned my baked potatoes into something fanciful: French-onion toaster-oven-roasted gold potato nuggets (affectionately named such by my kids back in the 80's).  Rain or shine, Winter or Summer -- I make these often (sometimes I cut them into French fries instead of bite-sized nuggets), and, experience has taught two things:  I can never make enough, and, no one cares that an envelope of store-bought onion soup mix is used. 

IMG_1490Gold potatoes + onion soup mix + olive oil = gold nuggets: 

IMG_14511 1/4-1 1/2  pounds peeled and 3/4" bite-size diced gold potatoes

3  ounces yellow or sweet onion, very-thinly-sliced into half-moon shapes (about 3/4 cup)

1  1-ounce envelope from 1, 2-ounce box dry onion soup mix

2  tablespoons olive oil

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454~Step 1.  Peel the potatoes, slice each into 4 wedges and cut the wedges into 3-5 bite-sized pieces, placing them in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Slice the onions as directed and place them in the bag with the potatoes along with the contents from the envelope of onion soup mix.  Seal bag and toss to thoroughly incorporate the dry mix with the vegetables.  Open the bag, add the olive oil, seal the bag and toss again, until everything is lightly-coated in olive oil.

IMG_1463 IMG_1463 IMG_1463 IMG_1463~Step 2.  Line a toaster-oven-sized baking pan with aluminum foil and place a piece of parchment paper atop the foil.  Empty the potato-onion mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer.  Lightly-season the top of potatoes with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend. Bake, without tossing or stirring, on rack of preheated 425° toaster oven for 30 minutes, or until a nice golden brown.  Remove from oven, transfer to individual plates or a bowl and serve ASAP.

As easy as 1-2-3 basic ingredients & 30-minutes: 

IMG_1476Oven-Roasted French-Onion Gold Potatoes Nuggets:  Recipe yields 2 large or 4 smaller side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food-storage bag; toaster-oven-size baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51bba18200bCook's Note: ~ Would You Like Onion-Laced Steak Fries with That? ~.  Of course you would, and these couldn't be easier.  All you need is two pounds of your favorite gold, red or Russet potatoes, some olive oil and one packet of the onion soup mix you forgot you had in your pantry.  It's a souper seasoning for oven-roasted steak fries, and, after five minutes of prep time, they'll need 1 hour, 15 minutes to roast in a 350° oven, which frees of your hands for other tasks.  Because steak fries are best served hot out of the oven, plan for them to be the last item to go on the table.

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

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

05/20/2021

~ Esther's Buttery Sugar-Topped Pecan Shortbread ~

IMG_1447Esther's been a friend of ours for over 40 years.  Last Tuesday morning she stopped over for coffee -- after a year of quarantine, it was not only great to see her again, it felt great to invite a friend into the kitchen for a person-to-person visit.  I made some of my super-easy Grand's cinnamon-rolls cups, which got the two of us chit-chatting about quick-and-easy sweet treats that go great with the first cup of AM caffeine.  Esther mentioned a shortbread recipe she makes a lot, as in: for all occasions.  I asked her for the recipe and I wrote it down as she dictated it.

A bit about shortbread & shortbread cookies in general: 

Throughout the United Kingdom, shortbread has been a tradition at tea time since medieval days. As the name implies, shortbread contains shortening in the the form of butter, plus sugar and flour -- more specifically, one part sugar, two parts butter, and, three parts white flour.  After this super-easy to make dough is mixed together, it can be be baked in several forms.  Many home cooks pat the dough into one or two flat, round discs that get cut into wedges as soon as they emerge from the oven.  Most manufacturers bake it in rectangular molds then cut it into fingers.  Because the dough holds shapes very well, it's ideal for either cut- or drop- cookies that can be patterned/decorated with the simple tines of a fork or an elaborate stamp.  It's common for various extracts, citrus oils and/or aromatic spices to be used as subtle flavorings.  In all cases, shortbread is baked in a moderate oven to render its signature pale ever-so-slightly brown color.

Ready, set, mix & in the oven to bake in less than 15 minutes.

IMG_13812  cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2  cup sugar

6  tablespoons cornstarch, do not pack it, just measure it

2  sticks salted butter

2  teaspoons pecan flavoring

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  cup small-chopped lightly-toasted pecans, or, honey-glazed candied pecans, your choice (4 ounces)

IMG_1370 IMG_1370 IMG_1370~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave.  Stir in the pecan flavoring, vanilla extract and salt.  Set aside.

IMG_1385 IMG_1385 IMG_1385 IMG_1393 IMG_1393 IMG_1393 IMG_1403 IMG_1403~Step 2.  Place the flour, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir the dry ingredients together.  Add the melted, flavored butter to the dry ingredients.  Esther said to use a hand-held electric mixer to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, but, I didn't find it necessary -- I used the rubber spatula to incorporate the butter and it alone worked just fine.  You will have a ball of somewhat-sticky dough.  Add and fold in the toasted or candied pecans. 

IMG_1411 IMG_1411 IMG_1419~Step 3.  Transfer dough to an 11" x 7 1/2" x 2" 2-quart casserole.  Using the back of rubber spatula, press  dough evenly into bottom of dish.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven until just set and barely brown, 25-30 minutes.

IMG_1419 IMG_1419 IMG_1419 IMG_1427 IMG_1427~Step 4.  Remove from oven and place casserole on a wire cooling rack. Using a large chef's knife, slice the shortbread, while it is hot, into 24 squared, then, while it is hot, sprinkle with a light coating of granulated sugar.  Allow shortbread to cool to room temperature about 1-2 hours prior to slicing through it a second time and removing from casserole.

Slightly-salty & slightly-sweet -- shortbread squares go great w/coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk &/or ice-cream:

IMG_1444Esther's Buttery Sugar-Topped Pecan Shortbread:  Recipe yields 24, 1 1/2"-1 3/4" squares.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer (optional); large rubber spatula; 11" x 7 1/2" x 2", 2-quart casserole; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0263e9818d18200bCook's Note:  Shortbread is one of my top three cookies, and, for that reason a box of Lorna Doone's is always in my pantry.   Making a cheesecake pie is a quick way to quell a craving for classic cheesecake.  Sometimes known as poor man's cheesecake, this particular easy-to-make, lightly-baked cheesecake pie is remarkably resemblant of a New York-style cheesecake, complete with a two-ingredient, Lindy's-type short-pastry cookie-type crust -- meaning, not a run-of-the-mill graham cracker crust:  ~ Cheesecake Pie w/Lorna Doone Shortbread Crust ~.

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

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

05/17/2021

~ Sweet Potato Salad w/Apples and Candied Pecans ~

IMG_1365If you'd like to try, or are in search of, a uniquely-different delightfully-delicious starchy side-dish to serve with those barbecued spareribs, smoked pork chops or perfectly-grilled chicken at your upcoming outdoor get-together, this vinegar-based sweet potato salad, in place of traditional mayonnaise-based potato salad, is the ticket.  Porcine or poultry, sweet potatoes, and apples, are a common, not to mention very popular, trio.  The pickiest of eaters mostly agree they all taste great on the same plate because the flavors and textures simply put: all complement each other.  

The vinaigrette for this salad remarkably easy to make, as well as remarkably popular -- after all, almost everyone likes the sweet-and-savory combination of honey-and-mustard.  It requires few ingredients and takes just a few minutes.  In true vinaigrette style, it's thin and drizzly, but, it contains just enough Dijon mustard to keep it emulsified for a longer time, meaning, it doesn't separate like typical oil-and-vinegar mixtures.  It's fantastic on any cold vegetable salad or any hot roasted or grilled vegetable medley, and, it goes particularly well with grilled pork or poultry. There's more.  Because it's mayonnaise free, it's simply perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Because it's mayo free, it's perfect for outdoor entertaining:

IMG_12705-6 cups peeled and 1/2"-cubed sweet potatoes, cooked as directed below (1 1/2-1 3/4 pounds after peeling)

1  cup small-diced celery

1/2  cup fine-diced yellow or sweet onioin

1 generous cup skin-on thin-sliced honey-crisp apples, slices cut in half  (1 large apple)

1/2  cup small-chopped honey-glazed pecans, with 6-8 whole candied pecans reserved for garnishing each portion (1, 4-ounce bag honey-glazed pecans total)

3/4  cup my recipe for Sweet and Tangy Honey-Dijon White Balsamic Vinaigrette, total throughout recipe (1/2 cup for tossing into the initial sweet potato mixture, 1/4 cup for tossing in with apples and pecans just prior to serving.)

baby arugula leaves, one big handful

IMG_1266 IMG_1266 IMG_1266 IMG_1284 2 IMG_1284 2 IMG_1284 2~Step 1.  Peel, slice and cube the sweet potatoes as directed.  In a 4-quart saucepan, bring 3-quarts lightly-salted water (1 teaspoon sea salt) to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the cubed sweet potatoes and adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer.  Continue to cook until just fork tender, 4-5 minutes, checking often after 3 1/2 minutes.

IMG_1290 IMG_1290 IMG_1290 IMG_1301 IMG_1301~Step 2.  Drain the potatoes into a colander and run cold tap water through them to halt the cooking process and cool them to below room temperature.  Place a few layers in the bottom of a large bowl and add the potatoes to the bowl.  Let potatoes rest, about 15 minutes, to drain of all excess moisture and cool a bit more.  Remove the paper towels.

IMG_1309 IMG_1309 IMG_1309 IMG_1318 IMG_1318~Step 3.  Add the diced celery and onion to the bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold them into the sweet potatoes.  When the vegetables are thoroughly combined, drizzle in 1/2 cup of the honey-mustard white-balsamic vinaigrette and fold again.  When all of the veggies are enrobed in the flavorful dressing, cover the bowl and refrigerate about 1 hour prior to serving time (or overnight if not serving salad until the next day).

IMG_1324 IMG_1324 IMG_1324 IMG_1330 IMG_1330 IMG_1330 IMG_1330~Step 4.  Remove the sweet potato, celery and onion mixture from the refrigerator.  Prep the onions and pecans as directed.  Using the large rubber spatula, gently fold in the apples, followed by the pecans.

IMG_1345 IMG_1345 IMG_1345 IMG_1345~Step 5.  Add the remainder of the vinaigrette to the salad and fold again, until all the ingredients are coated in even more of the flavorful dressing.  Add a heaping handful of baby arugula to the bowl -- no measurement here, just grab a big handful and throw it in.  Using a pair of salad servers, toss until the arugula is coated in dressing too.  The salad is ready to serve, and, leftovers, with very little compromise, will store, tightly covered, nicely in the refrigerator overnight.

Serve it rain or shine, w/your favorite poultry or porcine:

IMG_1364Sweet Potato Salad w/Apples and Candied Pecans:  Recipe yields 6-8 side-servings.

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

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a8531d200dCook's Note: Horseradish.  It's powerful stuff and most folks aren't on the fence about it.  They either love it or hate it.  If you are a lover of the stuff, you know you've got to carefully pick and choose what you pair it with and how you do it too. For my taste, freshly-grated horseradish, prepared horseradish and horseradish- cream, mustard or mayo go best with beef and ham. Some folks like it with lamb, not me, but it's an option.  If it's beef or lamb your planning on cooking for your upcoming outdoor gathering, consider serving my  ~ Beef Eatin' Horseradish-Mayo Red-Skinned Potato Salad ~.  Fire up the grill! 

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

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

05/14/2021

~ Sweet and Tangy Honey-Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette ~

IMG_1239For me, it's salad season the entire year, however, now that the warm weather has finally arrived, it's real-deal salad season.  I'm talking Summer salads made with a wider variety of higher-quality vegetables from local farmers' markets, and, in the upcoming weeks and months, veggies picked from my own garden.  These are salads I love to serve next to my favorite grilled meats, poultry, and, yes, even seafood -- no other side dishes need apply.  For that reason, I find myself taking the time to scratch-make dressings and vinaigrettes oftener, meaning, on a regular basis.

This vinaigrette is remarkably easy to make, as well as remarkably popular -- after all, almost everyone likes the sweet-and-savory combination of honey-and-mustard.  It requires just a few ingredients and takes just a few minutes.  In true vinaigrette style, it's thin and drizzly, but, it contains just enough Dijon mustard to keep it emulsified for a longer time, meaning, it doesn't separate like typical oil-and-vinegar mixtures.  It's fantastic on any cold vegetable salad or any hot roasted or grilled vegetable medley, and, it goes particularly well with grilled pork or poultry. There's more.  Because it's mayonnaise free, it's simply perfect for outdoor entertaining.

After all, who doesn't like combination of honey & mustard.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09c2342e970dA bit about honey:  The earliest written reference to honey dates back to the Egyptians in 5500 B.C., but, honeybees were making honey long before historical records were written.  Only relatively recently, mid 19th Century, did sugar become available and affordable to the average Westerner.  Prior to that, it was a very expensive luxury for the wealthy, because it had to be imported over long distances. Honeybees native to Asia, were brought to the New World by the Colonists in 1622, and honey was their primary sweetening agent for tea, cakes, cookies and candies. Once it got introduced to the Native Americans, honey became a popular item to trade too.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2a9567d970cA bit about mustard:  Mustard is the world's oldest manmade condiment. There are recipes for mustard that date back to 42 A.D. in Roman writings, but, it wasn't popularized until their seeds were exported to Gaul (France).  By the 13th Century, food peddlers were selling their homemade mustard concoctions all over France, and, in the 16th Century, legal protection was given to the mustard makers and their secret recipes (which varied greatly from maker to maker).  In time, a few mustard makers began experimenting with substituting green grape juice ("verjus" -- "green juice") for vinegar, which produced a milder taste we now associate with their white-wine-made Dijon.

A bit about honey-mustard:  It was only a matter of time before the mustard makers added a bit of honey to sweeten their Dijon a tad, to gentle it down even further.  Next, French chef's began adding honey-and-mustard to their mayonnaise-based dressings and oil-and-vinegar-based vinaigrettes, along with other ingredients: various herbs (basil, dill, rosemary, thyme), garlic and onion.  I'd say that was the beginning of the honey-mustard dressing/vinaigrette/sauce industry.

White balsamic vinegar -- it's the key ingredient in my very special sweet-&-savory honey-mustard vinaigrette:

IMG_12156  tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

6  tablespoons olive oil

6  tablespoons honey

3  tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2  teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1/2  teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind pepper

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_1218 IMG_1218 IMG_1236~ Step 1.  Measure and place all ingredients, as listed, into a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Secure the lid and shake vigorously until the vinaigrette is smooth and emulsified, about 30 seconds.  Store, covered and at room temperature, until serving time.  Shake the dressing again briefly just prior to serving.  For long-term storage, place in the refrigerator.  Return to room temperature prior to shaking and serving.

Drizzle over your favorite salad -- a little goes a long way:

IMG_1264Try it on my Sweet Potato Salad w/Apples & Candied Pecans:

IMG_1364Sweet and Tangy Honey-Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette:  Recipe yields a generous 3/4 cup. 

Special Equipment List:  small jar w/tight-fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2a96508970cCook's Note:  Honey mustard.  It's one of the simplest condiments in the food world to make.  In my kitchen, I use it as a salad dressing, a sandwich spread, a dip for vegetables, and occasionally, a glaze for baked ham.  In the '80's, when my kids were in elementary school, there was always a jar on my refrigerator door.  When we were traveling, if an eatery had chicken tenders and honey-mustard sauce on their list of menu options, our boys were happy -- given a choice, all three preferred it to ranch dressing, so, that's quite an endorsement.  As for me, I love it on onion rings and Philly-style soft pretzels.  ~ Hey Honey -- Pass the Honey-Mustard Dressing ~.

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

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

05/11/2021

~ Three Ways to Cook Smoked Bone-In Pork Chops ~

IMG_1178Smoked porcine (bacon, ham, sausage pork chops, etc.), when properly smoked, is enhanced with a sublime slightly-smoky flavor and an enticing pinkish color, meaning the aroma is pleasant (not at all overpowering), and the visual is pretty. There's more.  The smoking process renders the meat cooked, meaning, it only needs to be heated to a safe internal temperature prior to eating and the information is indicated on the label:  125° if fully-cooked, and, 145° if not fully-cooked.  

In the case of smoked pork chops, in my kitchen there are three quick-and-easy options for cooking:  a broiler pan in the oven (for dry-heat broiling), a skillet on the stovetop (for sauté frying), or, the grill-grids of an outdoor grill or grill pan (for searing).  Whatever one chooses, the trick is not to overthink or overcook them -- which will just dry them out.  They require only a relatively short period of time to reheat, approximately fifteen minutes from start-to-finish.

Paint 1 1/4"-thick chops, both sides, w/olive oil, &, season w/S & P:

IMG_1185Broil, 5 1/2"-6" under 350° broiler, 6-8 minutes per side:

IMG_1194In a skillet, sauté over medium-high heat, 6-8 minutes per side:

IMG_1206Grill or grillpan over medium-high heat, 6-8 minutes per side:

IMG_1203"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

05/08/2021

~Making Great Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Tortillas~

IMG_1164We all have a few favorite food combinations, meaning, two foods that go hand-in-hand together. A duo you can't emotionally separate because you can't enjoy one without the other.  A few of my cheesy favorites:  a cup of tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, my mom's meatloaf with some macaroni and cheese, my favorite cheeseburger with a side of fries.  Another personal favorite:  a bowl of Wendy's-style chili with a few quick-to-make cheesy quesadilla wedges.

IMG_1160"Queso (KAY-soh)" is the Spanish word meaning "cheese", and, a quesadilla is a tortilla containing ooey-gooey melted cheese.

Quesadilla (keh-sah-DEE-yah):  A round, flat, cooked-until-soft corn or flour tortilla (even though most folks associate them with flour tortillas exclusively), folded in half to form a half-moon with a savory filling sandwiched in the center.  It is fried on a well-seasoned cast-iron comal (a flat, round griddle), using no or very little oil (although in American kitchens, mine included, a nonstick skillet or a grill pan commonly substituted.  FYI:  "Queso (KAY-soh)" is the Spanish word for "cheese", which, in turn, makes a quesadilla a container for ooey, gooey melted cheese.    

Start-to-finish:  Five minutes from stovetop-to-table:

IMG_1136For each corn-tortilla cheese quesadilla:

2  6"-round soft, fresh corn tortillas

6  generous tablespoons shredded yellow cheddar cheese

1-2  teaspoons vegetable oil, for preparing skillet

IMG_1044 IMG_1044 IMG_1051 IMG_1051 IMG_1139 IMG_1139~Step 1. Place 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil in an 8" nonstick skillet.  Use a paper towel to distribute it evenly in bottom of the skillet and absorb excess.  Do not turn the stove on.  Place one tortilla in skillet and scatter the cheese across its surface, mounding it slightly towards the center. Place second corn tortilla on top of cheese.

IMG_1148 IMG_1148 IMG_1155 IMG_1155~Step 2.  Turn heat on to medium- medium-high.  Once skillet heats up, 30-45 seconds, sauté quesadilla until sizzling and light golden on bottom, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Using a wide spatula, carefully flip quesadilla over and continue to sauté until the second side is light golden, 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Turn heat off.  The moment the taco-quesadilla is cooked, slide it from the skillet onto a cutting board.  Exercise some patience and let the cheese "set up" for about a minute -- this will prevent it from oozing out when you slice into it.  Using a large chef's knife, cut into four wedges.

After slicing into ooey gooey quarters, serve immediately:

IMG_1176Try my Cheesy Ground-Beef Corn-Tortilla Taco-Quesadillas too:

IMG_1108Making Great Cheese Quesadillas with Corn Tortillas:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many corn-tortilla cheese quesadillas as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  8" nonstick skillet; paper towels spatula; cutting board; chef's knife

6a0120a8551282970b0282e101a064200bCook's Note: Undercover nacho tester.  I suppose it could get boring, but, because every eatery I've ever been to makes this Tex-Mex pub-grub staple a bit different, I'd be willing to risk running into some occasional repetition and hard-earned heartburn.  From nibbling on basic nachos consisting of deep-fried corn tortillas topped with melty cheese sauce, to digging-into nachos-grande, nachos-supreme, fully-loaded nachos or ultimate-nachos piled high with a plethora of enough savory stuff to qualify for full-meal status, yes, I think undercover nacho tester is a job for me.  Try my ~ Na-Cho Mama's Fully-Loaded Sheet-Pan Nachos ~.  A perfect ratio of cheese to toppings on every chip.

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

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

05/05/2021

~Cheesy Ground-Beef Corn-Tortilla Taco-Quesadillas~

IMG_1102Everyone I know loves a taco or three.  No one I know loves a taco that's been made using a taco-shell that came out of a box -- they taste like the cardboard they came packed in, and, unless the fillings sit in the shells for several minutes, the shells shatter like glass -- bring out the knives-and-forks because everyone's dinner just landed on their plate.  It's a less than ideal situation.  In a perfect world, everyone would make fresh corn tortillas from scratch, but, in today's busy real world, that time-consuming process is, frankly, unrealistic.  That's where store-bought, soft, fresh corn tortillas come into play.  That said, many home cooks have a fear of, or aversion to, deep-frying, which, causes them to resort to buying a box of cardboard-esque taco shells.  It's a viscious, frustrating circle, but, there is an easy end-around that solves the problem:

Taco quesadillas -- Quesadillas made w/corn tortillas.

In most American home kitchens, mine included, tacos are considered a relatively easy-to-make meal typically associated with dinner.  On the other hand, quesadillas, like nachos, are considered a super-fast way to quell the craving for an any-time-of-the-day cheesy snack.  There's more.  In my kitchen, like most American home kitchens, tacos are typically associated with corn tortillas and quesadillas are associated with flour tortillas -- don't ask me why because, FYI, there's no culinary rule on that point.  That said, on frequent occasions, I combine the two, by turning quesadillas into a knife-and-fork way to serve American-style ground beef tacos (using corn tortillas) into a main-dish -- because they taste the same and they're quicker to make than tacos.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a46e604b200dQuesadilla (keh-sah-DEE-yah):  A round, flat, cooked-until-soft corn or flour tortilla, folded in half to form a half-moon with a savory filling sandwiched in the center.  It is fried on a well-seasoned cast-iron comal (a flat, round griddle), using no or very little oil, although in many modern kitchens, mine included, a grill pan is a common substitution.

IMG_1122Almost any cooked and chopped or shredded meats and/or vegetables can be used as a filling for a quesadilla (fish and seafood are not typically used) -- the meats and vegetables must always be cooked first because a quesadilla cooks in a few short minutes.  That said, since "queso (KAY-soh)" is the Spanish word for "cheese":  a quesadilla is a container for ooey, gooey melted cheese.  Be sure to purchase:

your favorite brand of 6"-round yellow or white corn tortillas

After assembling the ingredients, start to finish, each taco quesadilla takes 5 minutes to layer & cook:

IMG_1131For each taco quesadilla:

2  6"-round soft, fresh corn tortillas

4  generous tablespoons shredded yellow cheddar cheese, divided

4  generous tablespoons (a generous 1/4 cup) American-style ground-beef taco filling, (Note:  All taco filling is not created equal. My chunky beef recipe is full of onion, garlic, bell pepper and tomatoes, and, seasoned with my homemade Tex-Mex taco seasoning blend.) 

1-2  teaspoons vegetable oil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a493347c200bFor my favorite store-bought and fresh toppings and garnishes:

pico de gallo or store-bought salsa fresca

fine-shredded iceberg lettuce and lime wedges

Mexican crema or sour cream

spicy avocado crema or store-bought guacamole

Choose to useall of them, none of them or some of them.  Your choice.

IMG_1044 IMG_1044 IMG_1051 IMG_1051 IMG_1057 IMG_1057 IMG_1064 IMG_1064 IMG_1070~Step 1.  Place 1-2 teaspoons oil in an 8" nonstick skillet.  Use a paper towel to distribute it evenly in the bottom of the skillet and absorb any excess.  Do not turn the stove on yet.  Place one corn tortilla in the skillet and scatter 2 generous tablespoons shredded cheese across its surface. Using a spoon dollop and distribute a generous 1/4 cup ground-beef taco filling atop the cheese.  Scatter a second 2 generous tablespoons shredded cheese atop the taco filling, then, finish the assembly by placing the second corn tortilla on top of the fillings.

IMG_1075 IMG_1075~ Step 2.  Turn the heat on to medium- medium-high.  Once the skillet heats up, 30-45 seconds, sauté the quesadilla until it is sizzling and light golden on bottom, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Using a wide spatula, carefully flip the quesadilla over and continue to sauté until the second side is light golden, about 2-2 1/2 minutes.  Turn heat off.

IMG_1081 IMG_1082 IMG_1084 IMG_1096~Step 3.  The moment the taco-quesadilla is cooked, slide it from the skillet onto a plate.  Without delay, spread a generous dollop (about 2 tablespoons) pico de gallo or fresh salsa over the top. Scatter some shredded lettuce (about 1/4 cup) atop the salsa, followed by a dollop of crema or sour cream, a dollop of avocado crema or guacamole, and, a lime wedge.  Serve ASAP.

As pretty as a picture, &, hearty & satisfying too:

IMG_1108Pick up your knife, pick up your fork & dig in ASAP:

IMG_1118Cheesy Ground-Beef Corn-Tortilla Taco-Quesadillas:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many 6"-round taco quesadillas as you want to.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8" nonstick skillet; paper towel; wide nonstick spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a442e6e9200cCook's Note: Undercover nacho tester.  I suppose it could get boring, but, because every eatery I've ever been to makes this Tex-Mex pub-grub staple a bit different, I'd be willing to risk running into some occasional repetition and hard-earned heartburn.  From nibbling on basic nachos consisting of deep-fried corn tortillas topped with melty cheese sauce, to digging-into nachos-grande, nachos-supreme, fully-loaded nachos or ultimate-nachos piled high with a plethora of enough savory stuff to qualify for full-meal status, yes, I think undercover nacho tester is a job for me.  Try my ~ Na-Cho Mama's Fully-Loaded Sheet-Pan Nachos ~.  A perfect ratio of cheese to toppings on every chip.

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

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

05/02/2021

~ Apple-Pie Chicken Paillards and Stuffing Casserole ~

IMG_0996Chicken and stuffing.  The two go hand-in-hand, and I can't fathom my food world without this combination.  As a young girl, roast chicken with mom's stuffing and gravy was our Sunday dinner twice-a-month.  Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, be it a Sunday or a weeknight, it's always prime-time for chicken and stuffing on my dinner table, and, this super-easy casserole is a spin-off of my Aunt's apple-pie pork-chop and stuffing casserole recipe -- which, uses two boxes of Stovetop stuffing mix in place of classic white bread stuffing, plus, a can of apple pie filling is added to the bottom of the casserole for an added, sweet-and-savory surprise. 

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.

IMG_0983This quick & easy sweet & savory chicken dinner is applicious:

IMG_09274  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing paillards

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning paillards

2  22-ounces can apple pie filling

2  6-ounce boxes Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

1  generous cup diced celery

1  generous cup diced onion

2  cups chicken broth

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfa26200b6  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".

6a0120a8551282970b026bdecb4568200c~ 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°).

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaba200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bdecb4600200c 6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaea200b 6a0120a8551282970b027880233296200d~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_0930 IMG_0930 IMG_0940 IMG_0940 IMG_0948 IMG_0948~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.   Season their tops (liberally) with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend. 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. Turn the heat off.  Using a fork, transfer the paillards from the skillet to a plate and briefly set aside (leave drippings in bottom of skillet).

IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3896 IMG_3896 IMG_3903 IMG_3903 IMG_3908~Step 4.  Return heat in skillet to 225º and wait 30-60 seconds, just long enough to reheat the chicken drippings,  Add the celery and onion.  Sauté the vegetables, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until crunch tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and the stuffing mix.  Stir until the stuffing is thick and has absorbed the broth.  Turn the heat off, cover the skillet, and let sit for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_0922 IMG_0922 IMG_0960 IMG_0960~Step 5.  Open one can of apple pie filling and use a spoon to scoop and distribute it evenly in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Uncover the skillet.  Use the spoon to scoop and evenly distribute the stuffing atop the apple pie filling.  Open the second can of pie filling and distribute it evenly atop the stuffing.  Arrange the still warm chicken paillards atop the pie filling.    

IMG_0966 IMG_0970~Step 6.  Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on center rack of 325° oven 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake another 15 minutes, or until stuffing is turning golden on top. Remove from oven, place it on the table and serve ASAP.

Place it on the table & serve it up.  Leftovers reheat great too:

IMG_0981Apple Pie Chicken Paillard and Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List: large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sized meat mallet; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork and/or spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaaa200bCook'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)