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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

09/13/2020

~ That's a Wrap -- A Week's Worth -- 5 Tortilla Wraps ~

IMG_5361Whether it's for for a back-to-school lunchbox, a back-to-work brown-bag it, or, an at-the-stadium tailgate, tortilla wraps are, in my opinion, the perfect make-it-and-take on-the-run meal.  In almost all cases, wrap sandwiches can be assembled and refrigerated the night before, which is a real time-savor on a harried weekday morning.  That said, the reverse is true too.  Whether it's for a home-schooled or work-from-home lunch break, or, for a sports-or-movie-watching event in front of the TV, tortilla wraps are, a quick and satisfying solution to some much needed chaos control.

Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey & Jalapeño Jack Wrap:

IMG_5284Rare Roast Beef, Crispy Bacon & Horseradish-Cheese Wrap:

IMG_5439Pepper Ham, Jarlsberg Swiss & Whole-Grain Mustard Wrap:

IMG_5525There's Something about a Salami & Provolone Cheese Wrap:

IMG_5368Blazing RedHot Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wrap:

IMG_5619That's a Wrap -- A Week's Worth -- 5 Tortilla Wraps:  Recipe yields instructions and guidelines for assembling and wrapping tortilla wrap sandwiches, plus 5 delicious tortilla wrap sandwich recipes.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

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

09/10/2020

~Blazing Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wrap~

IMG_5619I'll admit, I don't buy deli-style chicken breast very often -- I'm more of a deli-turkey-breast sandwich kinda gal.  That said, when I do, nine-out-of-ten-times it is Boar's Head Blazing-Buffalo-style chicken.  Why?  Because my family loves my Buffalo-style chicken wrap sandwiches and every slice of Boars Head Buffalo-style chicken is full of classic RedHot Buffalo-chicken flavor -- it's downright addicting.  Inspired by hot and spicy Buffalo chicken wings, Boars Head Blazing Buffalo Chicken Breast is coated with cayenne red pepper, vinegar and spices for a distinctly piquant taste that delivers the kick of America's popular tailgate treat without the mess.

Lucky lovers of all things Buffalo wings:  it comes in many forms.

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e99602200dIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken  Tacos, and, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili are ALL wing-night or game-day options.  Tonight Buffalo chicken wraps are on the menu.  

Boar's Head Blazing Buffalo Chicken Breast is irresistible.

IMG_5570For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

2-3  tablespoons Frank's RedHot wing sauce

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  tablespoons Boar's Head blue cheese crumbles

12  whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head Buffalo-chicken

6  tablespoons creamy cole slaw

4  tablespoons rough-chopped matchstick carrots

IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578 IMG_5578~Step 1. To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of RedHot wing sauce evenly over the entire surface of the burrito. Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the spicy sauce, followed by a scattering of blue cheese crumbles, followed by two, single, flat layers Buffalo chicken (12 slices).

IMG_5573 IMG_5573 IMG_5573~Step 2.  Fine dice and mix the carrots into the coleslaw.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center), arrange a strip of 10 tablespoons coleslaw across the surface of the sandwich.  Tip from Mel:  Because creamy coleslaw is technically a wet ingredient, I place it on a paper-towel-lined plate for a few moments, to remove the excess moisture.

IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5597 IMG_5361~Step 3. Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5631RedHot Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese & Slaw Wrap:  Recipe yields  instructions to make as many Italian-style salami and cheese wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

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

09/07/2020

~ There's Something about a Salami & Cheese Wrap ~

IMG_5368 2I love the combination of salami and cheese -- more specifically Boar's Head's hard salami and picante provolone cheese.  Let's talk salami for a moment.  Lots of folks prefer genoa salami, but, I am not one of them, and, the answer might lie in my Eastern European ancestry.  Genoa salami is an Italian salami which originated in Genoa, where porcine is more prevalent than cattle.  On the other hand, hard salami originated in Central Europe, where cattle are more prevalent.  It's the more-pork-to-less-beef ratio in cured-but-not-smoked Genoa salami that renders it a bit too soft and, for lack of a better work, "greasy" for my taste. Hard salami, which is smoked, is coarser, dryer, and, for me, has a more palatable "to the tooth" chew to it.  All that said, feel free to substitute genoa salami for hard salami in any sandwich if that is what you like better.

Genoa-Salami-vs-Hard-Salami

Genoa Salami Hard Salami
- Originated in the hilly interior of Genoa, Italia - Originated in Central Europe
- Primarily uses pork, may contain some beef as well - Uses more beef than pork
- Seasoned with peppercorns and wine - Doesn’t use peppercorns
- Not smoked - Smoked
- Has a softer texture - Usually coarser and drier

Hard salami & picante provolone are staples in my refrigerator:

IMG_5567For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

3-4  tablespoons Wish-Bone light Italian dressing

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head picante provolone cheese

12 whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head hard salami

3  tablespoon small diced red onion 

3  tablespoons seeded and small-diced Campari tomatoes

1-2  tablespoons Cento hot hoagie spread

IMG_5312 IMG_5312 IMG_5312 IMG_5312 IMG_5312~Step 1. To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of the Italian dressing evenly over the entire surface of the burrito.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the dressing, followed by a single, flat layer of provolone cheese (6 whole slices), followed by a second single, flat layer of hard salami (10-12 slices).

IMG_5333~ Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 3 tablespoons diced red onion, followed by a layer of 3 tablespoons diced tomato, followed by a layer of 1-2 tablespoons of the hot hoagie spread (all stacked atop each other to form one strip of flavorful small-diced-filling for the center of wrap sandwich).

IMG_5338 IMG_5338 IMG_5338 IMG_5354 IMG_5354 IMG_5354~Step 3. Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5383There's Something about a Salami & Cheese Wrap: Recipe yields instructions to make as many Italian-style salami and cheese wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368 2Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

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

09/04/2020

~Make-My-Day Peppered-Ham, Swiss & Slaw Wraps~

IMG_5525Interestingly, or not so interestingly, when it comes to a ham sandwich, I like various types of super-thin-sliced deli-ham better than baked ham of the type leftover from a holiday meal (which I prefer to make use of in a few breakfast and dinner casseroles).  I've never met a deli-ham that I seriously didn't like (unless it isn't sliced thin enough), and, my three favorites are (in this order): Boar's Head pepper ham, deluxe ham, and, sweet deli ham.  There's more.  For me, ham goes hand-in-hand with mustard, and, my three favorites are (in this order) Bookbinder's whole-grain, Guldon's spicy brown, and, Grey Poupon dijon. I'm a little less picky when it comes to the mandatory Swiss cheese on a deli-ham sandwich, but, hand's-down, buttery and mild Jarlsberg, thin-sliced fresh off the wheel or a wedge, which I always have in my refrigerator, is my favorite.

As for slaw in the center of a wrap sandwich?  You betcha!

IMG_5485For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

3-4  tablespoons Bookbinder's whole-grain mustard

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  whole, thin-sliced slices Jarlesberg Swiss cheese

6  whole, thin-sliced slices Boar's Head peppered ham

8  tablespoons creamy cole slaw (1/2 cup)

IMG_5486 IMG_5491 IMG_5491 IMG_5491 IMG_5491~Step 1. To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of whole-grain mustard evenly over the entire surface of the burrito.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the mustard, followed by a single, flat layer of Swiss cheese (6 whole slices), followed by a single, flat layer of peppered ham (6 slices).

IMG_5505~Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 8 tablespoons (about 1/2 cup) cole slaw across the surface of the sandwich.  Tip from Mel:  Because creamy coleslaw is technically a wet ingredient, I place it on a paper-towel-lined plate for a few moments, to remove the excess moisture.

IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510 IMG_5510~Step 3. Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5550Make-My-Day Peppered-Ham, Swiss & Slaw Wraps:  Recipe yields Recipe yields instructions to make as many peppered ham, Swiss & slaw wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; paper towels (optional); serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

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

09/02/2020

~ Roast Beef, Bacon and Horseradish-Cheese Wraps ~

IMG_5442Fly me to the moon.  As a card-carrying carnivore, a thin-sliced deli roast beef sandwich is one of my favorite things.  Slather the bread with some horseradish cheese spread or horseradish mayonnaise (or both) and I'll follow you anywhere.  Once upon a time, I made a tray of exactly 60 of these wrap sandwiches (there were 120 halves on the platter). I served them to our PSU tailgate group.  They were intended to be a snack, with bloody's Mary's, for an early morning tailgate-at-the-stadium, for a Noon kickoff. Fourteen men plus roughly fourteen women polished off the entire tray, in, oh I'm guessing, 15-20 minutes -- that's an average of four halves each. Over the years, I've found that slicing these sandwiches into 6 pieces each makes for a very popular appetizer at cocktail parties too -- roast beef, bacon and horseradish is simply a win-win. 

Those tailgaters would have eaten more had there been more.

IMG_5399For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

4-6  tablespoons horseradish cheese spread, your favorite brand

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

12  thin slices Boar's Head rare roast beef

3  tablespoon small diced red onion 

3  tablespoons seeded and small-diced Campari tomatoes

3  tablespoons crisp-fried thick-sliced small-diced bacon, your favorite brand

IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403 IMG_5403~Step 1.  To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center. Using a butter knife, slather a thin layer of horseradish cheese spread evenly over the entire surface of the burrito.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the cheese spread, followed by a single, flat layer of roast beef (6 whole slices), followed by a second single, flat layer of roast beef (6 more slices).

IMG_5421~Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 3 tablespoons diced red onion, followed by a layer of 3 tablespoons diced tomato, followed by 3 tablespoons diced bacon (all stacked atop each other to form one strip of flavorful small-diced-filling for the center of wrap sandwich).

IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5424 IMG_5361~Step 3.  Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving.  Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5461Deli-Roast Beef, Bacon and Horseradish-Cheese Wraps: Recipe yields instructions to make as many roast beef, bacon and horseradish-cheese wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

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

08/31/2020

~ The Best Way to Assemble & Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~

IMG_5368The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  That said, generally speaking, when ordering a tortilla wrap, most folks expect to receive a cold sandwich -- this makes sense, since hot ingredients are mostly associated with burritos. Here in my Happy Valley kitchen, we've been eating wrap sandwiches for a couple of decades, and, burrito-sized flour tortillas are alway on-hand in my kitchen for that specific purpose.

General Rule:  Any sandwich or salad can be made into a wrap.

Be Happy:  Layer everything on a big burrito-size flour tortilla.

The Big Fat No-No:  Overstuffing any wrap.  Just don't do it.

I first encountered wraps back in the latter 80's, in a downtown State College joint named "That's a Wrap" -- a clever name.  It was located across an alley, right at the exit from the parking garage where you walked out of the garage to start your trek into the shopping district. They passed your wrap and beverage (fabulous, fresh-squeezed boardwalk-style lemonade) out the window while you slid your cash in through the window.  One could eat on chairs right there on the sidewalk, or, eat on your way towards your destination.  It didn't matter where one decided to eat it, it was well-constructed and stayed in place from first to last bite.  It wasn't fancy, it was just good.

Place burrito-size flour tortilla atop a piece of plastic wrap:

IMG_5312Slather burrito w/dressing, mayo, sauce or sandwich spread:

IMG_5317Add a flat, thin layer of soft mixed or baby greens:

IMG_5321Add a layer, about 6 slices, thin-sliced cheese:

IMG_5326Add a thin layer, about 6-12 slices, thin-sliced deli meat:

IMG_5329Add a strip of diced tomato, onion, &/or relish-type filling:

IMG_5333Lift & tightly roll end closest to you up & over strip of fillings:

IMG_5338Continue to tightly roll until tortilla sits seam-side-down:

IMG_5342Lift & tightly pull plastic wrap up & over tortilla:

IMG_5346Continue rolling until wrapped tortilla sits seam-side-down:

IMG_5354Crimp & tuck ends under to encase tortilla: 

IMG_5349Slice sandwich at a 30º angle holding knife at a 30º angle:

IMG_5361That's a wrap -- The best way I know to wrap a wrap:

IMG_5383The Best Way to Assemble & Wrap a Tortilla Wrap:  Recipe yields instructions to assemble and wrap deli-style wrap sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5284Cook's Note: This is not your average deli-style turkey- or turkey-club- wrap sandwich -- bacon need not apply. Inspired by the food culture of the American Southwest, Boars Head Salsalito Turkey Breast is a bold, flavored-packed taste of Southwestern flavors.  Boar's Head Ovengold Turkey Breast had been my go-to staple in the deli-drawer of my refrigerator for years -- a slice here, two slices there, I snacked on some every day.  This new-to-me "flavor" of deli-turkey was suggested ("this one's VERY popular"), when my grocer ran out of Ovengold.  Try my ~ Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey Breast Wrap ~.

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

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

08/29/2020

~ Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey Breast Wraps ~

IMG_5284This is not your average deli-style turkey- or turkey-club- wrap sandwich -- bacon need not apply. Inspired by the food culture of the American Southwest, every slice of Boars Head Salsalito Turkey Breast is a bold, flavored-packed taste of Southwestern flavors.  Boar's Head Ovengold Turkey Breast had been my go-to staple in the deli-drawer of my refrigerator for years -- a slice here, two slices there, I snacked on some every day.  This new-to-me "flavor" of deli-turkey was suggested as a substitute ("this one's VERY popular"), when my grocer ran out of Ovengold.

093806-600x600-A-1As it was explained, the entire Boar's Head breast gets coated with a mixture of spicy salsa, jalapeño peppers, onions, sundried tomatoes and cilantro -- all flavors I like.  Well, I'm here to report, it's downright addicting, and, after deciding to try a half-pound of it, to nibble on two weeks ago, I brought home a full-pound this week, and, I couldn't wait to come up with the perfect way, a wrap sandwich, to showcase it.  For me, returning to plain 'ole deli-style turkey anytime soon will be next to impossible -- I don't even want to think about it.  On a side note, be sure to ask your deli-person to slice this product as thin as possible.

Boar's Head Salsalito turkey -- It's simply irresistible.

IMG_5234For each wrap sandwich, in order of assembly:

1  Mission brand burrito-size super-soft flour tortilla

2  tablespoons Brianna's cilantro-lime dressing

1  thin, flat layer Nature's Promise Spring mix

6  thin slices Boar's Head jalapeño Jack cheese

6  thin slices Boar's Head very-thin-sliced Salsalito turkey breast, no substitutions

3  tablespoon small diced red onion 

3  tablespoons seeded and small-diced Campari tomatoes

3  tablespoons small-diced Hass avocado

IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239 IMG_5239~Step 1.  To assemble each wrap sandwich, over a large cutting board, drape a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place one flour tortilla in the center.  Place 2 tablespoons of cilantro-lime dressing in the center, and use a butter knife to evenly distribute it over the surface of the tortilla.  Arrange a single, flat layer of the Spring mix atop the dressing, followed by a single, flat layer of jalapeño Jack cheese (5 whole slices and 1 slice broken into quarters, for a total of 6 slices), followed by a single, flat layer of Salsalito turkey breast (6 slices).

IMG_5256 IMG_5256 IMG_5256 IMG_5256~Step 2.  Towards the upper-end of the lower-third of the tortilla (meaning, not directly across the center, or, slightly lower than the center), arrange a strip of 3 tablespoons diced red onion, followed by a layer of 3 tablespoons diced tomato, followed by 3 tablespoons diced avocado (all stacked atop each other to form one strip of flavorful diced-filling for the wrap sandwich).

IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5264 IMG_5361~Step 3.  Starting at the side closest to you, lift the tortilla up and tightly over the top of the diced fillings.  Continue to tightly roll the tortilla until it is sitting, seam-side-down, near the top of the plastic wrap.  Lift the plastic wrap up and tightly over the rolled tortilla, and continue to roll, until the tortilla is sitting, seam-side-down, near the bottom of the plastic wrap. Seal the left and right ends of the plastic wrap, folding the ends of the tortilla, on both sides underneath the tortilla, to tightly encase and seal the wrap sandwich at both ends.  Set aside for 5-10 minutes, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator, prior to slicing into desired-sized pieces and serving. Slice the sandwich in half at a 30° angle while holding the knife at a 30° angle.  

Tightly wrapping the tortilla in plastic, &, giving it a short rest, will make the sandwich very easy to slice & serve.

IMG_5308That's a wrap -- A spicy Southwestern Salsalito turkey wrap, served w/crispy red hot blue tortilla chips! 

IMG_5300

Spicy Southwestern Salsalito Turkey Breast Sliders:  Recipe yields instructions to make as many Salsalito turkey wraps as you want to/1 main-dish serving serving each wrap sandwich/6 appetizer-sized servings each wrap sandwich.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; butter knife; serrated bread knife

IMG_5368Cook's Note: The exact origin of the tortilla wrap is not known, but several sandwich shops in various regions of California claim to have created the first one.  None of their stories can be verified, but, one thing that is, for the most part, agreed on:  the tortilla wrap was inspired by the burrito.  When making a tortilla wrap, the general rule of thumb is: any salad or sandwich ingredient combo that can be slapped between two slices of bread or shoved into a pocket bread, can be wrapped in a flour tortilla.  Be sure to get my tips on ~ The Best Way to Assemble and Wrap a Tortilla Wrap ~.

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

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

08/26/2020

~ Street-Food-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich ~

IMG_5218In the event you're not familiar with this particular Chicago-style pork sandwich, it's known as The Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich (Maxwell Street being a all-day Sunday outdoor market). Not to be confused with any type of pulled-pork sandwich, this sandwich, strange to most folks outside the city limits, places an entire bone-in pork chop on a nice soft roll, along with a heaping-helping of sautéed onions.  The pork chops are cooked on a flat-top griddle right next to a never-ending pile of thick-sliced onions.  Embellishments are an optional slather of mustard and/or a few pickled sport peppers.  Sold by the street venders, these are bona fide eat-on-the-street food.

Chicago's Maxwell Street Market -- a Sunday-only tradition.

Worldfamous-0x0For 100 years, Maxwell Street has been Chicago’s most renowned but unconventional business and residential district.  About a mile long, and sitting in the shadow of city skyscrapers, it's still a Sunday-only affair and place for new businesses to sell their wares, and, with a bit of luck, grow and thrive -- Maxwell Street Market was the precursor to open-air flea markets.  Fledgling entrepreneurs in need of cash came to Maxwell Street to try to earn a livelihood.  From clothes, to produce, to cars, appliances, tools, and virtually anything anyone could want, Maxwell Street offered discount items to consumers -- it was an economic hub for poorer people looking to get ahead.  The Maxwell Street Market, located at 800 S. Desplaines Street and open from 7:00AM to 3:00PM every Sunday, is a Chicago tradition with an eclectic mix of handmade crafts, resale housewares and clothing, live music, family fun and some of the best street food in Chicago.

All I did was replace the mustard w/some barbecue sauce.

IMG_5194My recipe started out as a straight-forward copycat of The Maxwell Street Pork Chop Sandwich. It evolved into Mel's Maxwell-Street-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich because, after making them a second time for our Penn State tailgate group (which genuinely loved them), a couple of the guys mentioned they'd like to try them with a slather of barbecue sauce (instead of mustard). Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and, truth told, once coated in barbecue sauce, everyone unanimously agreed they preferred them that way.  That's my story and I'm sticking with it! 

IMG_50476  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops (Note:  You can substitute boneless pork loin chops, but, if you're doing it because you think it will make eating this unique sandwich more manageable, it will not.  The etiquette is to get a grip on the sandwich by picking it up at the bone-end, then eat your way inward, toward the bone.  Haha -- Holding that bone-in end actually helps to hold the whole thing together and makes the sandwich really easy to eat.)

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

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

1  cup K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, the rest of the 18-ounce bottle for dipping or drizzling at tableside

1  pound, 1/2"-thick-sliced yellow or sweet onion, sliced into half-moon shapes

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

6  soft brioche hamburger-type rolls

IMG_5062 IMG_5062~ Step 1.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick spray.  Slice onion into 1/2"-thick rounds, then slice rounds in half to form half-moons. Separate the onion pieces, arranging them in bottom of prepared casserole.  Set aside.

IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051 IMG_5051~Step 2. In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 6-7 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 6-7 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Transfer chops to a plate and set aside.

IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088~Step 3.  Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.  Return heat to 225°. Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring constantly to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  This will take less than 1 minute.  Turn the heat off.  Return the chops to the skillet and coat them generously, on both sides, in the barbecue sauce.

IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106~Step 4.  One-at-a-time, transfer pork chops to  casserole, arranging them on top of the onions as you work.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, place about 2 tablespoons of the remaining barbecue sauce on top of each chop (and continue  on with any remaining sauce if there is any left in the skillet).  Note:  At this point, the casserole may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to proceeding with recipe.

IMG_5119 IMG_5119 IMG_5119~Step 5.  Tightly cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 40 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and reset oven to broil.  Uncover casserole and place 6" under preheated broiler until bubbling and showing signs of charring, about 2-3 minutes, watching carefully during the broiling process because the sugar in the barbecue sauce can and will go from brown to burned very quickly.  Remove from oven.  To assemble and serve the sandwiches:

IMG_5185 IMG_5185 IMG_5185~ Step 6.  Place one steaming hot, juicy, tender pork chop on each roll and top with a generous heap of flavorful onions.  I like to serve these sandwiches with my creamy-crunchy cole slaw and dill pickle spears.  That said, they pair well with potato chips, French fries or my stovetop macaroni and cheese too.

Put a lid on it & enjoy this truly unique sandwich encounter:

IMG_5224Street-Food-Style Barbecued Pork Chop Sandwich:  Recipe yields 6 hearty sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork; spatula; tablespoon; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47dc58e200cCook's Note:  While I rarely spend any time in the drive-thru lane of fast-food chains, on those rare occasions when McDonald's returns the McRib to its menu for a limited time, I'm not ashamed, well maybe a little ashamed, to admit to making the pilgrimage to the golden arches. For the ten or twelve minutes it takes to sit in the parking lot and eat it with a large side of fries and a diet Coke, I lock my nutritional conscience in the glove compartment and indulge in what I believe to be their greatest achievement.  Perhaps the "blush would come off the rose" if it were available whenever I wanted one, and, "if wishing made it so", I'd be willing to find out.  Live dangerously folks, try ~ Mel's Bone-Suckin' Copycat-McRib & Onion Sub Sandwich ~.

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

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

08/23/2020

~Easy K.C-Style Oven-Baked Barbecued Pork Chops~

IMG_5169Unless I'm staring-down a 1 1/2"-2" double-cut pork chop, complete with a pocket full of stuffing inside, that has been painstakingly stovetop- or oven-braised, I pretty much believe pork chops all taste better slathered with some sort of barbecue sauce.  So, for the purpose of this post, my reference to barbecued pork chops refers to pork chops slathered in barbecue sauce, not pork chops prepared in traditional barbecue-style (low and slow over smoldering coals or embers for a long period of time).  As long as the end justifies the means, I'm super-easy to get along with.

Literally fork tender & everything one could ask for:

IMG_5173Sixty short minutes to dinner:  12-14 minutes to brown the chops, 1 minute to "doctor-up" the store-bought sauce, 40 minutes in the oven to bake, plus, 2-3 minutes under the broiler.

IMG_50476  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

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

1  cup K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, the rest of the 18-ounce bottle for dipping or drizzling at tableside

1  pound, 1/2"-thick-sliced yellow or sweet onion, sliced into half-moon shapes

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

IMG_5062 IMG_5062~ Step 1.  Spray a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole with no-stick spray.  Slice onion into 1/2"-thick rounds, then slice rounds in half to form half-moons. Separate the onion pieces, arranging them in bottom of prepared casserole.  Set aside.

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e9c611200d 6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e9c611200d IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056 IMG_5056~Step 2. In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 6-7 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 6-7 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.  Transfer chops to a plate and set aside.

IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088 IMG_5088~Step 3.  Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.  Return heat to 225°. Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring constantly to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  This will take less than 1 minute.  Turn the heat off.  Return the chops to the skillet and coat them generously, on both sides, in the barbecue sauce.

IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106 IMG_5106~Step 4.  One-at-a-time, transfer pork chops to  casserole, arranging them on top of the onions as you work.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, place about 2 tablespoons of the remaining barbecue sauce on top of each chop (and continue  on with any remaining sauce if there is any left in the skillet).  Note:  At this point, the casserole may be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated several hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to proceeding with recipe.

IMG_5119 IMG_5119 IMG_5119~Step 5.  Tightly cover the casserole dish with aluminum foil.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 40 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and reset oven to broil.  Uncover casserole and place 6" under preheated broiler until bubbling and showing signs of charring, about 2-3 minutes, watching carefully during the broiling process because the sugar in the barbecue sauce can and will go from brown to burned very quickly.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

These chops are great served over green beans along w/my Crispy-Topped Baked Sweet Potato Casserole:      

IMG_5131Easy K.C.-Style Oven-Baked Barbecued Pork Chops:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork; spatula; tablespoon; aluminum foil

IMG_4669Cook's Note: A nice big piece of perfectly-cooked fall-off-the-bone-tender barbecued chicken, hot of the grill grids and dripping with a fresh slather of tangy barbecue sauce, is one of my favorite meals.  That said, timing is everything, and the slightest time delay, as little as three short minutes, can cause the chicken to go from juicy and succulent to dry and tough -- this is further complicated if a combination of various-sized chicken parts (breasts, legs and thighs) are cooking at the same time.  Sure, it's easily controlled, by babysitting each piece during the last five minutes of the cooking process, but, it's never correctable once the damage is done.  Trust me, oven-roasting removes all room for error, and, chicken leg-thigh quarters are my favorite pick for a quick weekday meal.  Try my ~ Easy Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken Quarters ~.

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

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

08/20/2020

~Mel's Savory Crispy-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole~

IMG_5021I keep sweet potatoes on-hand all year.  I could, and occasionally do, make a meal just for me out of a pillowy-soft steaming-hot baked sweet potato (dripping with a few pats of melting butter and seasoned with a generous grinding of sea salt and a flavorful peppercorn blend).  It's simple, straightforward, scrumptious, and, oh-so-satisfying.  Even if it weren't super-nutritious, I'd simply slide the humble sweet potato off my "favorite foods list" and onto to my "guilty-pleasures-food-list", and go right on eating them anyway.  I love baked sweet potatoes.  That said:

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the gnarly sweet potato isn't the prettiest of foods. Better stated, it's not something I typically serve to guests, unless everyone's eating grill-to-fix-your-own-plate in the great outdoors (where presentation is not my responsibility).  That's why I came up with this particular sweet potato casserole recipe.  It brings all the flavors of baked sweet potatoes to the table, dressed up in a pretty casserole -- simple, straightforward and scrumptious.

Flavorful, baked sweet potatoes, served-up casserole-style: 

IMG_4984When it comes to sweet potato casseroles in general, I wish folks would try to think "savory side-dish" not "sweet dessert" and season them accordingly.  Sweet potato casseroles do not need sugar, brown sugar or honey added to them, and, just-say-no to marshmallows -- sweet potatoes are full of flavor, texture and they're naturally sweet.  When served as a savory side-dish to a meal, it's my opinion, they shouldn't contain commonly used pie spices -- no cinnamon or nutmeg please.  Dehydrated garlic and onion, herbes de Provence, salt, and black pepper do it for me.

An inconvenient truth:  A sweet potato is not a yam.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37affb9200cA bit about sweet potatoes:  Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root (which belongs to the morning-glory family) is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" (the true yam is not even related to the sweet potato).  The pale potato has a thin, light yellow skin and pale yellow flesh. Its flavor is not sweet, and, after being cooked, the pale sweet potato is dry and crumbly, similar to that of a Russet potato. The darker variety (pictured above) has a thicker, dark-orange skin and vivid-orange, sweet flesh.  When cooked it has a very sweet flavor and a creamy texture. The dark-skinned, orange-colored variety is the only kind I use in my recipes.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a12658200dWhen buying sweet potatoes, choose plump, firm even-sized ones with no cracks. Like regular potatoes they should never be stored in the refrigerator, but do need to be stored in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. If the temperature is above 60 degrees, they'll begin to sprout, get woody and/or shriveled.  Cooked sweet potatoes, if stored in the refrigerator, last about a week.  Like regular potatoes, sweet potates are always eaten cooked, never raw.

For my savory crispy-topped sweet potato casserole:

IMG_4930For the sweet potato casserole:

6  cups smashed sweet potatoes, removed from 6 pounds sweet potatoes after baking or microwave-baking the potatoes

6  tablespoons salted butter (3/4 stick)

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic

1  generous teaspoon dehydrated minced onion

2  teaspoons herbes de Provence (a blend of dried rosemary, marjoram, thyme and savory) 

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarse-grind black pepper

4  large eggs

1 cup heavy or whipping cream

For the topping:

4  dozen Ritz crackers, no substitutions

8  tablespoons salted butter (1 stick)

IMG_4925Step 1.  Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, pierce tops of sweet potatoes in 4-5 spots.  Microwave-bake them until soft -- in my microwave this takes about 18 minutes.  Set aside until cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, 15-20 minutes.  Using the paring knife and an ordinary tablespoon slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork.  Set aside.  

Note:  This task can be done several hours or a day or two in advance.

IMG_4932 IMG_4932 IMG_4932~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter.  Remove from microwave and stir in the dehydrated garlic and onion, herbes de Provence, sea salt and coarse-grind pepper.  Set aside about 5-6 minutes.

IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938 IMG_4938~Step 3.  In a large bowl, starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer and working up to medium, beat eggs and cream, until smooth and uniform in color, about 45 seconds.  Add and beat in the seasoned butter mixture, about 45 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes.  Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until soft and smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula throughout the process. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart casserole that's been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954 IMG_4954~Step 4. To prepare the topping, 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 2-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the cracker crumbs to the melted butter.  Stir with a fork, until crumbs are all coated in the butter.  

IMG_4969 IMG_4973~Step 5.  Using the fork, evenly distribute topping atop sweet potato mixture.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 325° oven until golden on top, bubbling slightly around the edges and puffed up through to center, 40-45 minutes, being sure to place a sheet of foil loosely over top of the casserole after 30 minutes of the baking process.

A crowd-pleasing year-round side-dish for poultry or pork:  

IMG_5045Mel's Savory Crispy-Topped Sweet Potato Casserole:  Recipe yields 12-16 servings.

Special Equipment List:  microwave oven; cutting board; paring knife; tablespoon; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-quart casserole; 1-gallon food storage bag; small rolling pin; 2-cup measuring container; fork; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3c11477200bCook's Note: As a gal who eats sweet potatoes all year long, I pay particular homage to them at Thanksgiving. Sometimes I present them as a cup of sweet potato soup as the starter to the meal, sometimes they arrive in the form of a side-dish sweet potato and caramelized apple casserole, other times they're the sweet potato, apple and sausage stuffing/dressing side-kick to my turkey, and, always but always, my traditional Turkey Day feast includes a sweet potato pie.

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

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

08/17/2020

~ Alfredo alla Primavera Parmesan-Chicken Quarters ~

IMG_4911In Italian, fettuccine means "little ribbons", which is why stranded pasta is always used in its preparation.  In Italian, primavera implies "Spring", and culinarily, primavera simply means that fresh vegetables (raw or blanched) have been added to the dish during, or at the end, of its preparation.  Long story short, fettuccini Alfredo that has vegetables added to it is simply referred to as Alfredo alla primavera.  Alfredo and Alfredo primavera can be served as either a pasta course during a meal, a side-dish with a meal, or, (in a larger portion) as a main-course, and, in Italian-American restaurants, because we Americans like protein with our pasta, it's common to find a lightly-pounded, breadcrumb-and-Parmesan-coated, quickly-sautéed Parmesan-chicken breast (not to be confused with chicken Parmesan) as an add-on to this rich, creamy pasta dish.

IMG_4568Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

Creamy, rich pasta w/tender vegetables served w/tender, juicy chicken encased in a crunchy breadcrumb & cheese coating:

IMG_4924Six on-hand ingredients + 1 hour, 15 minutes = dinner:

IMG_48444  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

4  tablespoons salted butter

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

1  large egg

3/4  cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4850 IMG_4866~Step 1.  Melt the butter in the microwave.  Set aside to cool slightly, 5-6 minutes.  In a small bowl or ramekin, whisk the egg with a fork.  In a medium bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and cheese, then, if you have a pizzeria-style cheese-shaker-type container, transfer the mixture to the shaker.  When the butter has cooled, whisk the egg into the melted butter and set aside.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b IMG_4871 IMG_4871 IMG_4871 IMG_4871 IMG_4871~Step 2. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Using a pastry brush, paint the entire surface of all four quarters with all of the butter/egg mixture.  Generously season tops of chicken with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Shake the breadcrumb/cheese mixture onto the chicken, and, using a spoon on your fingertips to pat and press it onto the entire surface of each one.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour, 15 minutes.  During the last 30 minutes of the roasting process, prepare my nice and easy spaghetti Alfredo all primavera.

Portion Alfredo primavera into 4, large, shallow serving bowls:

IMG_4889Top each portion w/an entire chicken quarter & serve ASAP:

IMG_4896Alfredo alla Primavera Parmesan-Chicken Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; fork; small bowl or ramekin; pizzaria-style cheese-shaker-type container (optional); spoon; wire cooling rack; large disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3e1d465200bCook's Note:  Would you like garlic bread with that?  Of course you would.  Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  A double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates every now and then never hurt anyone, and, eating this winner-winner Parmesan-chicken dinner wouldn't be complete without a big basket of garlic bread to go with it.  We'll have a salad too, because it too goes great with this meal. Try my recipe for ~ A Great Garlic Bread Spread for Great Garlic Bread ~.

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

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

08/15/2020

~ Nice & Easy Spaghetti Alfredo alla Primavera-Style ~

IMG_4813It was November, 1981 or 1982 -- one or two days before Thanksgiving.  It would turn out to be one of the worst-ever total snowfall years in the history of State College, and this storm snuck up on everyone.  The snow piled high that afternoon, leaving over two feet on the ground. Trees came down and power lines snapped.  Lights went out all over town.  Our house at the time had a soapstone wood-burning stove in our family room.  I hated that stove and the mess involved with it, but, it did help with the heating bill, so, Joe kept it going.  Sans electricity, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil and wrapped a loaf of frozen garlic bread in foil, and, grabbed a bag of frozen peas and carrots out of the freezer (nowadays I use a bag of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower). Using what I had on hand, we five enjoyed this makeshift version of Alfredo, by candlelight, in a warm house, for dinner -- afterwards, my boys started asking me to make "spaghetti Alfredo".

In Italian, fettuccine means "little ribbons", which is why stranded pasta is always used.  In Italian, primavera means "Spring" and culinarily, primavera just means that fresh vegetables (raw or blanched) are added to the dish during or at the end of its preparation.  Long story short, fettuccini Alfredo that has vegetables added to it is simply referred to as Alfredo alla primavera.

A bit of history about the iconic fettuccine Alfredo:  

6a0120a8551282970b0263e959a590200bAlfredo is an Italian pasta dish in which any type of stranded pasta, most famously "fettuccine" (which means "little ribbons" in Italian), is enrobed in a rich sauce usually made from butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper.  A Roman restauranteur, Alfredo di Lelio first created this dish for his pregnant wife in 1914.  As the story goes, she had lost her appetite or was having trouble keeping food down, either while she was pregnant or after the birth of their son.  Alfredo, set out to create a dish that would not only appeal to his wife, but would be nutritious (calorie and carbohydrate packed) as well.  He developed his dish based on the traditional pasta al burro, which was simply paper-thin ribbons of hand-made pasta with butter.  Alfredo made egg fettuccine, tripled the amount of butter and laced it with copious amounts of Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese.  His wife loved it, so, he added it to his restaurant menu.

As the story goes, as fate would have it, in 1927, the American silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, while honeymooning in Italy, stopped into di Lelio's Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant, ate the dish and the two lovebirds adored it.  They loved it so much, before they departed, they presented him with a golden fork and spoon along with a picture of them eating in his restaurant.  When the famous newlyweds returned to Hollywood, they began serving fettuccine Alfredo at their dinner parties.  It didn't take long for the news to spread throughout Hollywood, making di Lelio's restaurant and his pasta dish world famous.

IMG_4828Alfredo alla Premavera -- A perfect one-pot side- or main-dish:

IMG_431612  ounces thick spaghetti

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

8  tablespoons salted butter, cut into bite-sized pieces, at room temperature, the softer the better

1 1/2  teaspoons garlic powder

1  teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste (optional)

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1-1 1/4-1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

2  16-ounce bags frozen vegetables, your favorite combo, freshly-prepared (simmered, steamed or microwaved), well-drained, and, ideally, still slightly warm

IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add the 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 10-11 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Thoroughly, drain the pasta into a colandar, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.

IMG_4328 IMG_4328 IMG_4328~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces, along with the spices:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and pasta is evenly coated in a flavorful butter and spice mixture.

IMG_4336 IMG_4336 IMG_4336 IMG_4804 IMG_4810~Step 3.  Toss in the cheese followed by the cream.  Again, using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Gently toss the cooked and drained vegetables into the mixture.  Cover and let rest, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, to allow pasta and veggies time to absorb all of the cream mixture.  

Portion into desired-sized serving bowls & serve immediately.  

IMG_4826Nice & Easy Spaghetti Alfredo all Primavera-Style: Recipe yields 2-4 larger main-dish servings and 4-6 smaller side servings.

Special Equipment List:  Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; two forks or two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec2b6e28200cCook's Note: The Italians came up with the cure for the late-night snack-attack centuries ago: Pasta al burro con formaggino (pasta with butter and cheese).  It's a no-nonsense, feed-me-now-snack, a quick-to-make side dish, and, it's a delicious foil for flavorful pasta sauces too.  Choose any shape of pasta (short, fork-friendly shapes work best), and, if you have a link or a patty of breakfast sausage on-hand, not only do the flavors melt into the mixture like they were born to be there, without almost any extra effort, it transforms the dish into a hearty meal for one or two.  Try my ~ Pasta with Butter & Cheese and Sweet Sausage ~.

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

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

08/12/2020

~ Japanese-Teriyaki-Style Roasted Chicken Quarters ~

IMG_4742Americans adore teriyaki-style almost anything.  This is not an assumption on my part.  Beef or chicken teriyaki appear as a skewered appetizer option on menus in almost all Japanese-American and Chinese-American restaurants.  Make no mistake, teriyaki is a 100% Japanese-invented method of cooking (read paragraph three), and, once Americans here in the states got a taste for its soy- and ginger-based flavors (thanks to our soldiers returning to the homeland after WWII), Chinese-American restaurants adopted it, to please the palates of their customers.

Incredibly easy to prepare, perfectly portioned, &, 100% guaranteed better than take-out, eat-out or delivery:

IMG_4767Teriyaki is true East-meets-West cuisine that started in Hawaii:

IMG_4568Chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight). No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal (5 minutes).  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.  In the case of tonights dinner, once I get the chicken in the oven, my electric rice cooker with get turned on to steam some white rice and a medley of frozen broccoli, carrots, snow peas and water chestnuts.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c94a9feb970bTeriyaki (tehr-uh-yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beef, chicken or seafood that has been marinated (in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic and/or ginger) prior to being grilled, broiled or stir-fried. "Teri" is the Japanese word for "luster", and it is the sugar in the marinade that gives the food its "teri" or shiny glaze.  It's interesting to note that in Japan, there is no official teriyaki sauce.  Teriyaki sauce was invented by the early Japanese settlers to the islands of Hawaii.  They created:

A slightly-sweet nicely-thickened marinade/basting sauce using local, readily-available, easy-to-acquire Hawaiian products.  For example: pineapple juice (in place of the mirin or sake of their homeland) and wild garlic (in conjuction with ginger they brought with them), mixed with soy sauce and thickened with cornstarch.  The subject at hand (beef, chicken, fish or seafood) is marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for a more pronounced flavor, then cooled.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e8615d7d200dHomemade teriyaki sauce is thick and drizzly.  At its thinnest, it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and, at the discretion of the cook, in many cases thicker than that.  That said, many store-brought brands are watery (similar in consistency to soy sauce), and, they will not work in this recipe.  Ideally, the teriyaki sauce should be similar in consistency to a hearty barbecue sauce.  What I keep on-hand and recommend is: Panda Express Mandarin brand teriyaki sauce.

There's no shame in owning a bottle of this teriyaki sauce.

IMG_4703For the teriyaki-style chicken leg-thigh quarters:

4  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

1 1/2-2  cups Panda Express Mandarin brand teriyaki sauce or homemade teriyaki sauce, about 1/2 cup for basting chicken quarters 3-4 times while it's in the oven, plus  enough to be served for dipping or drizzling at the table

IMG_4715 IMG_47153-4 cups uncooked jasmine or basmati rice, steamed in a rice steamer (optional)

2  steam-in-bags Asian vegetables (broccoli, carrots, snow peas and water chestnuts), microwaved per directions (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e95a63a9200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bde87f32e200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bde87f32e200c IMG_4704 IMG_4704 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2 IMG_4720 2~Step 1. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Generously season tops of chicken with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour, 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, use a pastry brush to baste each chicken quarter with teriyaki sauce, and return pan to oven to roast for 5 more minutes.  Repeat this basting process 2-3 more times, for a total roasting time of 1 hour, 15-20 minutes.  Prepare the optional rice and vegetables during the last 20-30 minutes of the chicken roasting process.

Three on-hand ingredients + 1 hour, 15 minutes = dinner:

IMG_4763Two side dishes, in 20 minutes while chicken roasts:

IMG_4781Japanese-Teriyaki-Style Roasted Chicken Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: wire cooling rack; large disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; pastry brush; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f5d2e8970dCook's Note: Chicken wings are modern-day all-American pub grub and teriyaki is a long-established all-Japanese method of cooking beef, chicken, fish or seafood.  Lucky for us Americans, Japanese teriyaki sure does turn out a really good version of American chicken wings, but, unlike our traditionally-prepared wings, which are typically plunged into the hot oil of a deep fryer, teriyaki wings, in order to render their signature fall-off-the-bone tender interior with a slightly-crispy, sticky exterior, they require a kinder, gentler "oven treatment".  Try my  ~ Japanese Teriyaki Meets American Chicken Wings ~.

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

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

08/09/2020

~How to Season & Roast Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters~

IMG_4595Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing these with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

Chicken quarters:  Meaty, easy to prepare, &, inexpensive.

IMG_4568Chicken leg-thigh quarters are, seriously folks, really inexpensive -- quite a bit less than separated leg and/or thigh portions. In fact, it's almost double the meat and it's not reflected in the price. Why?  it's because it's one less step at the butchering/processing end.  It's the same reason why you can buy an entire chicken for almost the same price as a couple of chicken breasts.     

Four pieces, four portions & four-ish pounds for about $4.00:

IMG_44714  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

honey, for dipping or drizzling at table side (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d 6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d IMG_4574 IMG_4574 IMG_4581~Step 1. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Generously season tops of chicken with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour, 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven, plate and serve.

Remove from pan, plate, & serve the family ASAP:

IMG_4605Try 'em w/honey & Spiced Couscous w/Golden Raisins:

IMG_9164Buffalo-Style w/Jalapeño Jack Mashed Potatoes:

IMG_4546

Barbecue-Style w/Mel's Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese:

IMG_4662Japanese Teriyaki-Style w/Steamed Rice & Veggies:

IMG_4763Crispy Outside, Tender Inside, Oven-Fried Chicken Quarters:

IMG_9395Alfredo alla Primavera-style Parmesan-Chicken Quarters:

IMG_4911How to Season & Roast Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters:  Recipe yields instructions to season and roast 4 chicken leg-thigh quarters/4 servings.

Special Equipment List: wire cooling rack; large disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200cCook's Note: Mexican rice became a staple on our family's table back in the 1980's.  Whenever we ate in a Mexican restaurant, our three kids would eat all the side-dishes:  the multi-colored veggie-bejeweled rice, the murky-earthy slightly-soupy refried beans, and, the bright-green garlic-laced guacamole.  Without prodding, they'd slather and scoop 'em onto tacos, fajitas, carnitas (whatever they were eating), along with red or green salsa and the bottled hot-sauce du jour.  Go figure, and, "shut my mouth wide open." Super-easy to prepare,  ~ Mexican-Style Adobo Rice (Meatless Spanish Rice) ~ (as pictured in the top photo of this post), is another one of my favorite side-dishes to serve with oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters.

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

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

08/06/2020

~ Easy Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken Quarters ~

IMG_4662A nice big piece of perfectly-cooked fall-off-the-bone-tender barbecued chicken, hot of the grill grids and dripping with a fresh slather of tangy barbecue sauce, is one of my favorite meals.  That said, timing is everything, and the slightest time delay, as little as three short minutes, can cause the chicken to go from juicy and succulent to dry and tough -- this is further complicated if a combination of various-sized chicken parts (breasts, legs and thighs) are cooking at the same time.  Sure, it's easily controlled, by babysitting each piece during the last five minutes of the cooking process, but, it's never correctable once the damage is done.  Trust me, oven-roasting removes all room for error, and, chicken leg-thigh quarters are my favorite pick for a quick meal.

IMG_4669Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing them with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

Three on-hand ingredients + 1 hour, 15 minutes = dinner:

IMG_4622For the Barbecued-style chicken leg-thigh quarters:

4  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, or, your favorite barbecue seasoning blend

2  cups K.C.-style barbecue sauce, your favorite brand or favorite homemade K.C.-style recipe, about 1/2 cup for basting chicken quarters 3-4 times while it's in the oven, plus  enough to be served for dipping or drizzling at the table

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d 6a0120a8551282970b0264e2ec6c52200d IMG_4624 IMG_4624 IMG_4624 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636 IMG_4636~Step 1. Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of parchment has been placed atop rack.  Season tops of chicken freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, or with your favorite barbecue seasoning.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour.  Remove the pan from the oven, use a pastry brush to baste each chicken quarter with wing sauce, and return pan to oven to roast for 5 more minutes. Repeat this basting process 2-3 more times, for a total roasting time of 1 hour, 15-20 minutes.

Plate 'em up along w/side-servings, then, call all to the table:

IMG_4666I serve 'em w/my better than store-bought mac & cheese:

IMG_4699Easy Oven-Roasted Barbecued Chicken Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; wire cooling rack; large disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; pastry brush 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970cCook's Note: I love my oven-roasted barbecued chicken served with my hot-off-the-stovetop macaroni and cheese.  I also love my oven-roasted barbecued chicken served with cold, crunchy and creamy macaroni salad.  How do I decide which to serve?  A flip of the coin. 

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

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

08/04/2020

~ Roasted Buffalo-Style Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters ~

IMG_4546Oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters are on my weeknight meal rotation two or three times a month.  They're tender and juicy, and, sigh-oh-my, that gorgeous, golden, crispy skin.  Each one is a one-piece drumstick and thigh, which means each piece is the perfect one portion, so, no guesswork involved, you never have any leftovers (unless you want leftovers, then you roast six-eight).  No matter what you're seasoning or saucing them with (the possibilities are almost endless), the upfront prep-work is minimal.  Into the oven they go for 1 hour, 15-20 minutes, and, your hands are, for the most part, free to make an easy side-dish or two and set the table.

IMG_4537Lucky lovers of all-things wings:  They come in many forms.

What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and applying Buffalo wing sauce to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters is the perfect way to transition a game day snack into a main-dish meal.  But, are they as good as, or as enjoyable as, eating chicken wings?  As a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of my own home (where I'm free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), yes, while different, this knife-and-fork main-dish is every bit as enjoyable as chicken wings.

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e99602200dIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos, and, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili are favorite wing-night or game-day options.  Tonight, it's a main-dish option I'm serving.  

Buffalo-Style Chicken Quarters w/Jalapeño Jack Mashed Potatoes:

IMG_4459For the wing sauce (Note:  This makes 2 cups, which is enough for basting the chicken 3-4 times while it's in the oven, plus  enough to be served for dipping or drizzling at the table.  Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.):

1  12-ounce bottle Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce, or your favorite brand of wing sauce

6-8  tablespoons honey

4  tablespoons salted butter

6a0120a8551282970b0263e946afae200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e946afae200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e946afae200b~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan place wing sauce, honey and butter over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until the butter has melted into the wing sauce and the mixture is uniform in color, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a 2-cup measuring container.  Yield:  2 cups sauce.

IMG_4465For the Buffalo-style chicken leg-thigh quarters:

4  chicken leg-thigh quarters, about 4-4 1/2 pounds

a generous sprinkling Frank's RedHot Original Seasoning Blend, for seasoning chicken quarters

a portion of the wing sauce (from above recipe), for basting chicken quarters 2-4 times while roasting

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b35f09f200c IMG_4466 IMG_4466 IMG_4479 IMG_4481 IMG_4483 IMG_4483 IMG_4483 IMG_4483 IMG_4483~Step 1.  Arrange chicken quarters in a large disposable roasting pan into which a wire rack has been inserted and a sheet of apartment has been placed atop rack.  Generously season tops of chicken with Frank's seasoning.  Roast on center rack of 350° oven, 1 hour.  Remove the pan from the oven, use a pastry brush to baste each chicken quarter with wing sauce, and return pan to oven to roast for 5 more minutes.  Repeat this basting process 2-3 more times, for a total roasting time of 1 hour, 15-20 minutes.

Plate 'em up, atop your side-servings, then, call all to the table:

IMG_4535I serve 'em w/jalapeño mashed potatoes & steamed carrots:

IMG_4557Roasted Buffalo-Style Chicken Leg-Thigh Quarters:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  1 1/2-quart saucepan; whisk; 2-cup measuring container; wire cooling rack; large disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; pastry brush

IMG_4431 2Cook's Note: Steaming hot mashed potatoes.  I love them, you love them -- doesn't everyone?  In my food world, about the only thing that can be better than a forkful of pure, unadulterated creamy-rich, mashed potatoes is:  a forkful of creamy-rich mashed potatoes with a flavorful cheese added -- American, cheddar and gruyère are my favorites.  Jalapeño Jack cheese is one such cheese too, and trust me, if you and yours enjoy a little spicy heat, you will not have to call anyone to the table twice if they know you're serving these.  ~ Yukon Gold Rush Jalapeño Jack Mashed Potatoes ~ are the perfect side-dish foil for my Buffalo-style chicken leg-thigh quarters.

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

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

08/02/2020

~ Yukon Gold Rush Jalapeño-Jack Mashed Potatoes ~

IMG_4431Steaming hot mashed potatoes -- I love them, you love them, I know you do, doesn't everyone? In my food world, about the only thing that can be better than a forkful of pure, unadulterated creamy-rich, mashed potatoes is:  a forkful of creamy-rich mashed potatoes with a flavorful cheese added -- American, cheddar and gruyère are favorites in my house.  Jalapeño Jack cheese is one such cheese too, and, oh-my-sigh, trust me, if you and yours enjoy a little spicy heat, you will not have to call anyone to the table twice if they know you're serving these.

Trust me, if you enjoy cheese & spicy heat: try these!

IMG_43782-2 1/2  pounds peeled and 3/4-1" cubed Yukon gold potatoes (2-2 1/2 pounds after peeling)

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning the water

6  ounces shredded jalapeño Jack cheese (about 3 cups)

1  cup cream, preferably at room temperature, plus up to 1/4 cup additional cream to reach desired consistency

6  tablespoons salted butter, preferably at room temperature

1  teaspoon dehydrated, minced garlic

2  teaspoons dehydrated, minced onion

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_4380 IMG_4380 IMG_4380 IMG_4380 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398 IMG_4398~Step 1. Peel and cube the potatoes as directed, placing them in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot as you work.  Add enough cold water to cover. Add the 1 tablespoon salt.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are fork-tender, but not mushy and overcooked, about 8-9 minutes.  Drain potatoes into a colander.  Return the steaming-hot potatoes to the still hot stockpot and place pot back on the still warm stovetop.  Add the cheese, thoroughly stir, then cover the pot for 1-2 minutes.

IMG_4390 IMG_4390Step 2.  While the potatoes are simmering, place cream, butter, minced garlic, minced onion and salt in a 2-cup measuring container.  Place in microwave to warm up gently, until butter has melted.  Remove from microwave and set aside.

IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411 IMG_4411~Step 3.  Add the warm cream mixture to potatoes and cheese in stockpot.  Using a hand-held vegetable masher, mash the potatoes, while scraping down the sides of the pot with a rubber spatula until smooth and creamy, about 3-4 full minutes, adding a bit of additional cream, only if necessary, to reach desired consistency.

5-6 cheesy & spicy servings of mashed potato happiness:

IMG_4456Yukon Gold Rush Jalapeño-Jack Mashed Potatoes:  Recipe yields Recipe yields a generous 5-6 cups/5-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: kitchen scale; cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; 2-cup measuring container; colander; hand-held vegetable masher; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3bf2c9f200dCook's Note: It's right up there with pizza, cheeseburgers and hot dogs.  ~ The Machinations of Mashed Potatoes ~ is one of my favorite topics to discuss.  One can never have too many recipes for any of them.  It's hard to imagine my food world without mashed potatoes. They are an institution -- a way of life. They're the quintessential side-dish served year-round at elegant celebrations, casual get-togethers and weekday meals.  They're revered by young and old alike -- they make everyone happy.  

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

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

07/31/2020

~ All-in-the-Pantry One-Pot Creamy Spaghetti Alfredo ~

IMG_4357Any time of year, at the end of a bad day or a great day, served as a side-dish or a main-course, a creamy-dreamy bowl of luxurious Alfredo-sauced pasta can be just what the doctor ordered.  A few pantry ingredients, cheese and cream, plus, one-pot on the stovetop.  Fifteen minutes later, you stick a fork in it and all is right with the world.  There is no trick to Alfredo.  About the only thing one can do wrong is to purchase a jar of bottled glop, which, never mind, let's not go there.

A bit of history about the iconic fettuccine Alfredo: 

6a0120a8551282970b014e8bb97814970dAlfredo is an Italian pasta dish in which any type of stranded pasta, most famously "fettuccine" (which means "little ribbons" in Italian), is enrobed in a rich sauce usually made from butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and black pepper.  A Roman restauranteur, Alfredo di Lelio first created this dish for his pregnant wife in 1914.  As the story goes, she had lost her appetite or was having trouble keeping food down, either while she was pregnant or after the birth of their son.  Alfredo, set out to create a dish that would not only appeal to his wife, but would be nutritious (calorie and carbohydrate packed) as well.  He developed his dish based on the traditional pasta al burro, which was simply paper-thin ribbons of hand-made pasta with butter.  Alfredo made egg fettuccine, tripled the amount of butter and laced it with copious amounts of Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese.  His wife loved it, so, he added it to his restaurant menu.

As the story goes, as fate would have it, in 1927, the American silent film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, while honeymooning in Italy, stopped into di Lelio's Alfredo alla Scrofa restaurant, ate the dish and the two lovebirds adored it.  They loved it so much, before they departed, they presented him with a golden fork and spoon along with a picture of them eating in his restaurant.  When the famous newlyweds returned to Hollywood, they began serving fettuccine Alfredo at their dinner parties.  It didn't take long for the news to spread throughout Hollywood, making di Lelio's restaurant and his pasta dish world famous.

A bit of history about my famous spaghetti Alfredo:

IMG_4371It was November, 1981 or 1982 -- one or two days before Thanksgiving.  It would turn out to be one of the worst-ever total snowfall years in the history of State College, and this storm snuck up on everyone.  The snow piled high that afternoon, leaving over two feet on the ground. Trees came down and power lines snapped.  Lights went out all over town.  Our house at the time had a soapstone wood-burning stove in our family room.  I hated that stove and the mess involved with it, but, it did help with the heating bill, so, Joe kept it going.  Sans electricity, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil and wrapped a loaf of frozen garlic bread in foil.  Using what I had on hand, we five had this pantry version of  "spaghetti Alfredo", by candlelight, in a warm house, for dinner.  

IMG_431612  ounces thick spaghetti

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

8  tablespoons salted butter, cut into bite-sized pieces, at room temperature, the softer the better

1 1/2  teaspoons garlic powder

1  teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste (optional)

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1-1 1/4-1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream, at room temperature

IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4318 IMG_4324 IMG_4324~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Add the 1 tablespoon sea salt.  Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, about 10-11 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Thoroughly, drain the pasta into a colandar, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.  

IMG_4328 IMG_4328 IMG_4328~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces, along with the spices:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Using two forks or two spoons, toss like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and pasta is evenly coated in a flavorful butter and spice mixture.

IMG_4336 IMG_4336 IMG_4336~Step 3.  Toss in the finely-grated cheese followed by the cream.  Again, using two forks or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until the mixture is thoroughly combined.  Cover and let rest, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, to allow pasta to absorb all of the cream mixture.  Portion into desired-sized serving bowls.

Top w/a light sprinkling of red pepper flakes & serve:

IMG_4354All-in-the-Pantry One-Pot Creamy Spaghetti Alfredo:  Recipe yields 2-4 larger main-dish servings and 4-6 smaller side servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; two forks or two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2e8758b970cCook's Note: The Italians came up with the cure for the late-night snack-attack centuries ago: Pasta al burro con formaggino (pasta with butter and cheese).  It's a no-nonsense, feed-me-now-snack, a quick-to-make side dish, and, it's a delicious foil for flavorful pasta sauces too.  Choose any shape of pasta (short, fork-friendly shapes work best), and, if you have a link or a patty of breakfast sausage on-hand, not only do the flavors melt into the mixture like they were born to be there, without almost any extra effort, it transforms the dish into a hearty meal for one or two.  Try my ~ Pasta with Butter & Cheese and Sweet Sausage ~.

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

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

07/29/2020

~ When You Say PA Dutch, Why We Say PA Deutsch ~

IMG_5895Let me make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German-speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist".  They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany to avoid religious persecution and established several communites in the Lehigh Valley. Pennsylvania in general was a haven for them  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an official "State" religion. Pennsylvania was the first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life.

Pennsylvania - America's first "melting pot":

6a0120a8551282970b019afff1e930970cWilliam Penn (the man our state is named after), a Quaker, believed that everyone had the right to seek God in his or her own way, calling it "liberty of conscience".  He and other free thinkers of the time felt it would create a stronger government and a wealthier society.  Imagine that.  While all of the other colonies had established an official church, Mr. Penn decided not to do this with his. Instead, he extended an open invitation to any and all religious groups suffering oppression in Europe.  When they arrived, he gave everyone land, and, while only Christians could hold political office, any person (from any ethnic, racial or economic background) could take part in all the social activites and economic benifits PA offered. Pennsylvania became known for being America's diverse colony.

Folk-art-valentine-s-day-heart-love-wedding-birthday-greetings-card-vector-black-flowers-birds-isolated-white-72340859The first groups to arrive in Pennsylvania were German Quakers and Mennonites. They arrived in 1693 and named their settlement Germantown. Lutherans, Schwenkfelders, Dutch Reformed, Moravians and Swiss Amish soon followed.  By 1730, a large populous had established communities in Lancaster County. All these peoples fall into the category of PA Dutch because they were Deutsch (German) speaking. They arrived with food staples of their heritage that were brought because they would survive unspoiled over the long voyage:  pickled and fermented eggs and vegetables, various dried meats, grains and cured sausages, milled flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt and various spices.  Upon their arrival in their new home, especially if it occurred in the Fall or Winter, they came prepared to make due with what they had in the larder until the next growing season.

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

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

07/26/2020

~ My Beat-the-Heat Sweet-Heat Deli-Ham Sandwich ~

IMG_4274Sometimes the simplest things are the best, and, many times, they conjure up great memories. When I was growing up in Eastern, PA, in our family, if any one of us was coming or going for any reason, we could always count on a supply of sliced ham, hard salami, Swiss and American cheese, in mom's pastel-yellow refrigerator.  Sliced as thin as she could get the deli-guy to slice them, all four of us liked all four, and, on white-or-rye or not, we were free to get as creative with the condiments as we wanted.  When it came to ham, dad insisted on Guldon's brown mustard, mom was a Miracle Whip kinda gal, I liked Tallarico's hot red-pepper spread, and, my brother, well, he just enjoyed plain 'ole unadulterated ham and cheese rollups sans bread.    

Retrooriginalfridge-buttercupyellow-mainInterestingly (or not so interestingly) when it comes to a ham sandwich, I like various types of super-thin-sliced deli-ham better than baked ham of the type leftover from a holiday meal (which I prefer to make use of in a few breakfast and dinner casseroles).  I've never met a deli-ham that I seriously didn't like (unless it isn't sliced thin enough), and, depending on what store I'm in, my top three favorites (Boar's Head or Deitz or Watson) are:  sweet deli ham, deluxe ham, and, peppered ham.  There's more.  While I make great grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, I prefer to put my feet up and snack on this no-fuss, relish-it-cold sammie with a few chips and a frosty Amstel Light to wash it down -- with fond memories of mom's pastel-yellow refrigerator.

1 baguette + 4 ingredients = a sweet-heat sandwich combo:

IMG_4229For 4 larger sandwiches or 8 smaller sandwiches:

1  12-ounce, 18"-ish, French baguette

1-1 1/2-2  5-ounce containers Alouette creme de Brie spread w/garlic and herbs

8  tablespoons sweet 'n spicy Amish-style red pepper jam

1/2  (approximately) a 5-ounce box organic Spring mix

12  ounces super-thin-sliced Boar's Head sweet deli ham

IMG_4237 IMG_4237 IMG_4237 IMG_4237 IMG_4250 IMG_4250 IMG_4250 IMG_4250 IMG_4250~Step 1.  Slice the bread section in half horizontally, to form two flat halves.  Spread the Brie atop both halves.  Place a small handful of Spring mix atop the Brie on the bottom half of the sandwich, then pile it high with the super-thin-sliced ham.  Spoon and gently spread the pepper jelly atop the Brie on the top half of the bread.  Put the top on the sandwich.  

IMG_4267 IMG_4269 IMG_4269~Step 2.  Wrap the entire length of the baguette sandwich in plastic wrap. At this point, the sandwich may be refrigerated for a few hours (1-2) prior to slicing and serving -- which makes this a perfect sandwich to make and take to a Summer get-together or Fall tailgate, but, it is best serve at room temperature, so, no complaints please, play by those rules.  At serving time, slice the sandwich into quarters (for larger sandwiches), or eighths (for smaller sandwiches), plate, and serve ASAP.

Slice, serve & savor each meaty sweet-heat bite

IMG_4290My Beat-the-Heat Sweet-Heat Deli-Ham Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to make 4 larger sandwiches or 8 smaller sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  serrated bread knife; butter knife; teaspoon; plastic wrap sandwich picks

6a0120a8551282970b0240a48f402b200cCook's Note: Can one ever have too many grilled cheese-type sandwich recipes?  The answer is an unequivocal no.  High-quality, super-thin-sliced deli-ham on caraway-seeded rye is one of my favorite sandwiches.  Crispy, thin-sliced apples with a chunk of white or yellow cheddar cheese is one of my favorite snacks.  As a fan of sweet and savory combinations, when I combine the two with a slather of apple butter and some delicate, slightly-peppery greens in between, magic happens.  Try my recipe for ~ Grilled Ham-on-Rye w/Cheddar Apple and Arugula ~.

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

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

07/23/2020

~Grands Apple-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups~

IMG_4191When it comes to breakfast or bunch, I am always looking for the easiest way to serve good food. Mornings in the average family tend to have a lot of things happening at once.  I love my family and I enjoy my guests, but, back in the days when I was trying to get three kids off to meet the school bus and my husband out the door to the office, or, fast forward to when I happen to be organizing breakfast for a few overnight guests, no one appreciates having a few time-saving recipes that taste as good as they look as much as I do.  This recipe is worth its weight in gold.

440px-Pillsbury_logo.svgPillsbury and their adorable dough boy have been a part of my life over fifty years (and they've been around a lot longer than that).  Breakfast, lunch or dinner, when mom made their crescent rolls, we paced around in front of the oven until they came out.  During the years when they televised the Pillsbury Bake-Off, I always watched, and, learned something creative. When Pillsbury came out with cinnamon rolls, my kids knew I would be an easy sell on this product, and, truth told, they earned a place in my refrigerator. Then, when they came along with Grand's cinnamon rolls, complete with cream cheese icing, I didn't hesitate to pick up a few canisters.

There came a time when I did what I often do with a product I like (a lot). I went to their website (Quick & Easy Recipes by Pillsbury) and searched by ingredient (cinnamon rolls). Amongst several creative ways to to use them, I came across Two-Ingredient Peach Pie Cups, which used smaller-sized canisters of cinnamon rolls + peach pie filling, baked in standard-sized muffin tins. For my own "bigger has got to be better" take, I used Grand's cinnamon rolls + apple pie filling, baked in jumbo-sized muffin tins.  They're like a cinnamon doughnut stuffed with apples!   

The combo of cinnamon rolls & apple pie filling is grand.

IMG_4209Topped w/cream cheese frosting too?  You betcha.

IMG_41232  17.5-ounce canisters Pillsbury Grands cinnamon rolls w/cream cheese icing (for a total of 10 cinnamon rolls)

1  21-ounce can apple pie filling, your favorite brand

no-stick cooking spray

~ Step 1.  Spray the inside cups of two jumbo-sized muffin tins (12 cups) with no-stick cooking spray.

IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124 IMG_4124~Step 2.  Remove both canisters of Grands cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator.  Peel back the wrapping and give them a whack on the side of the countertop to open the package.  Remove and set aside the cream cheese icing.  One-at-a-time, remove the cinnamon rolls, placing them in each of ten of the muffin cups.  Using a tart tamper placed in the center of each cinnamon roll, press down on the center to fit each cinnamon roll flatly into the bottom of its cup.  Using your fingertips, press the sides of each roll into the sides of each cup, to form a cup about 3/4 up the sides of each cup.

IMG_4151 IMG_4151 IMG_4169 IMG_4169 IMG_4169 IMG_4181~Step 2.  Open the can of pie filling.  Using an ordinary tablespoon, distribute pie filling to the top of each cinnamon-roll cup (there's enough filling to fill each one to the top), doing your best not to drip any filling on the edges of the cinnamon-roll cups or sides of pan.  Bake both pans, at once, on center rack of preheated 325° oven for 18-20 minutes, or until cinnamon rolls are golden around sides.  Remove from oven and cool in pan 1-2 minutes. Use a sharp paring and your fingertips to gently lift each apple-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cup onto a wire rack to cool to slightly-warm or room temperature, 30-45 minutes.   

IMG_4163 IMG_4185 IMG_4185~ Step 3.  While the cinnamon roll cups are baking, stir about 1/2 teaspoon of water into both containers of the reserved cream cheese icing, to thin it down to a drizzly, rather than a spreadable consistency.  For a prettier presentation, transfer the icing to a small squirt-type condiment container.  When cinnamon roll cups are cooled, slowly drizzle icing over top of each one.  Plate and serve.

Store-bought seriously "CAN" be simply delicious!

IMG_4197Two canisters cinnamon rolls + one can of apple pie filling?

IMG_4219One taste & you'll be completely convinced.  

IMG_4221Grands Apple-Pie-Filling Filled Cinnamon-Roll Cups:  Recipe yields 10 individual (jumbo sized muffin sized) apple-pie-filling filled cinnamon-roll cups.

Special Equipment List:  1, 12-cup jumbo-size muffing tin; tart tamper; spoon; paring knife; wire cooling rack; small squirt-type condiment bottle (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4dd44f5200d-800wiCook's Note:  Back in the 1960"s, my brother and I loved when my mom made her "little hot dogs wrapped in pastry dough".  She'd let me help to roll them up, and, she'd make lots of them too, usually around 100, because she knew they would be the first thing devoured at one of her cocktail parties. People would grab them so fast you'd think she had money rolled up in them. To this day I love these fun to make ~ Cocktail Pigs in a Blanket: Pillsbury Crescent Dogs ~.

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

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

07/20/2020

~My Aunt's Apple-Pie Pork-Chop & Stuffing Casserole~

IMG_3954The sweet and savory act of combining porcine and apples is classic.  Every whole roasted pig that I've ever seen had an apple in its mouth.  I honestly can't remember where I read it or heard this, but, my recollection is: this centuries old custom had to do with pigs being fattened by feeding them apples, so, this was considered a show of respect for the animal, representing it eating apples in life and into eternity (hogs were typically slaughtered in the Fall and apples were in season).  All I know for certain is pork and apples go hand-in-hand, it's one of my favorite combinations, and, this easy, family-friendly casserole is a recipe everyone should try.  Why?

The only thing better than applesauce w/a pork chop, is apple pie filling under a  pork chop w/stuffing heaped on top of it!

IMG_3947This decades old, now-retro, family-favorite recipe is made from few ingredients (3/4"-1"-thick bone-in pork chops, apple-pie filling, stuffing mix, chicken broth, celery and onion).  It came from my favorite Aunt, "Tootsie", (my mother's sister and our family's pet name for Marie).  It couldn't be easier, and, I wouldn't consider changing it for love nor money.  It's the best, easy-pork-chop recipe there is, and, everyone, kids and adults, love it.  There's more.  If you are one of the many home cooks in search of a foolproof recipe that guarantees juicy, fork-tender chops, this is it.

This easy recipe guarantees flavorful, fork-tender, chops:

IMG_40036  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops

4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

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

1  22-ounce 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

IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863 IMG_3863~Step 1.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat to 225º (medium-high), add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Continue to sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 8 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until golden on the bottom, about 8 more minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_3885 IMG_3885~ Step 2.  Open the can of apple pie filling and use a spoon to scoop it into the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Use a spoon to spread it evenly in the bottom.  Arrange the pork chops atop the pie filling, overlapping them slightly.  Set aside.

IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3890~Step 3.  Return heat in skillet to 225º and wait 30-60 seconds, just long enough to reheat the perfectly-seasoned pork 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_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910 IMG_3910~Step 4.  Uncover the skillet.  Using a 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop, place 6 well-packed, heaping and generous scoops of stuffing, one scoop on each chop.  Using a spoon or a fork, scatter remainder of stuffing around the sides and in between the larger scoops.  Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on center rack of 325° oven 1 hour. Uncover and continue to bake another 15 minutes, or until stuffing is turning golden on top. Remove from oven, allow casserole to rest 10-15 minutes, to allow juices to settle, then serve.

This childhood favorite & adulthood indulgence:

IMG_3949Is the apple pie of my stuffing-topped pork-chop eye:

IMG_3999My Aunt's Apple-Pie Pork-Chop & Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 16" electric skillet w/lid; spatula; large spoon; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; aluminum foil

IMG_9993Cook's Note: When my mom announced she was making pork and beans for dinner, she didn't mean she was literally opening a can of pork and beans -- in a way, kinda sorta she was, but, there was a bit more to it. It meant she had asked Vince, the butcher at The Valley Meat Market, to slice 8, 1/2"-3/4"-thick bone-in pork loin chops, plus a pound of bacon, so she could make her recipe for ~ Pork Chop & Baked Bean Casserole -- Pork & Beans ~.

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

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

07/17/2020

~ Light & Easy Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~

IMG_4095What started in 1964 as late-night pub grub at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, deep-fried chicken wings, is now found in many forms.  Truth told, there's not much that Buffalo-style chicken can't do, and tacos are the perfect marriage of two of our favorite foods.  But, are these tacos as good as, or as enjoyable as, eating chicken wings?  As a lady who loves wings, but, only in the privacy of my own home (where I'm free to lick my fingers, smack my lips, get goo stuck in my teeth, and, drip sauce on my blouse), yes, while different, these are as enjoyable as chicken wings.

Lucky lovers of all-things Buffalo-wings: it comes in many forms.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4b6e83e200cIn my family alone, Nacho Mama's Buffalo Chicken Sheet-Pan Nanchos, Buffalo-Style Shredded Chicken 'n Slaw Sliders, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Style Chicken Dip, Spicy Blue-Cheesy Buffalo-Chicken Quesadillas, Batter-Dipped Buffalo Chicken & Blue Cheese Subs, Sweet-and-Savory-Glazed Buffalo-Chicken Meatballs, and, Almost Effortless Chunky Buffalo-Style Chicken Chili are favorite wing-night or game-day options.  Tonight: It's Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos that are on my dinner menu.

Diced chicken doused in Buffalo sauce w/celery & carrots:

IMG_4052For the sauce, chicken & veg sauté, tacos shells, &, garnishes:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d22f43d0970cFor the Buffalo-style sauce:

In a 2-cup measuring container, in the microwave, melt:

2  ounces salted butter (1/2 stick)

whisk in (honey 1st, RedHot 2nd):

6  tablespoons honey

1  cup Frank's RedHot

Set aside and prepare the chicken sauté as directed below.

IMG_4005For the chicken & vegetable sauté:

2  pounds small-diced, boneless, skinless chicken chicken thighs* 

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

1  tablespoon each:  Frank's Original Redhot Seasoning and Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Ranch Seasoning

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2  cups each:  peeled and 1/4'-sliced carrots, 1/4"-sliced celery, and, 1/4"-sliced green onions, white and light green parts only

all sauce, from above recipe

*Note: The easiest way to get a nice dice out of bonelesss thighs is to lay them flat on a parchment-lined pan and freeze them for about 30 minutes, just long enough to firm them up a bit.

IMG_4056For the taco shells & garnishes:

16  fresh corn tortillas, deep-fried in corn oil to a crunchy-but-still-pliable state, 45 seconds each

2  cups shredded iceberg lettuce

all the sautéed chicken and vegetable mixture

1  cup blue cheese crumbles

Hidden Valley Ranch dressing

Ready, set, go.  It's time to make some Buffalo chicken tacos:

IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4007 IMG_4023 IMG_4023 IMG_4023 IMG_4023 IMG_4023~Step 1.  Heat the oil in a 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron skillet over low heat.  Add the diced chicken to the skillet and season it with the RedHot and Buffalo-ranch seasonings and salt.  Increase heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until chicken is firming up, 3-4 minutes.  Add the sliced carrots, celery and green onions. Continue to sauté, stirring constantly until vegetables are softening but still crunch tender, 3-4 minutes.  Using the spoon remove (and discard) all but a thin layer of juices from bottom of pan.  

IMG_4035 IMG_4035 IMG_4035 IMG_4035~Step 2.  Add and stir in 1 cup of the sauce (there will be 1/2 cup remaining, which I serve at table side for those who want to live dangerously).  Turn heat off, cover skillet and set aside for 45-60 minutes, to allow chicken and vegetables to soak up the sauce and flavors of the sauce.

IMG_3711 IMG_3711 IMG_3711~ Step 3.  While chicken is steeping, now is the time to deep-fry the corn tortillas. In a deep-fryer containing corn or peanut oil and preheated to 360° according to manufacturer's specifications (or, in a sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer on  stovetop), deep-fry each tortilla to a crunchy-but-still-pliable state, 45 seconds. Remove tortilla from oil, place it on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and season with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Arrange finished tortillas in a wooden taco rack or on a  serving platter.

IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4059 IMG_4078 IMG_4078 IMG_4078~Step 4. To assemble the tacos, evenly distribute the shredded lettuce into bottom of the prepared taco shells. Evenly distribute  chicken and veggie mixture atop lettuce in each shell. Scatter cheese crumbles over the chicken mixture, followed by a drizzle of dressing.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature -- like you would eat a refreshing Summertime sandwich.

Light & easy?  I can't eat just three. So much for my diet. 

IMG_4096Light & Easy Buffalo-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups sauce and 5 generous cups filling, enough generously fill 16 tacos.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup measuring container; whisk; cutting board; chef's knife; deep-fryer or 4-quart saucepan; paper towels; wooden taco rack or serving platter; 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron skillet or 12" cast-iron skillet; large spoon or spatula

IMG_3792Cook's Note: Mexican food is a favorite of mine, but I often wish it wasn't.  Don't misunderstand me -- I can and will gobble up all its flavor-packed goodness with the best of 'em.  It's next to impossible for anyone me to resist the melty or crumbly cheeses along with the creamy-rich refried beans, guacamole and crema.  That said, more often than not, when dinner is done, I find myself wishing I'd exercised (pun intended) even a modicum of restraint.  Hence my recipe for  ~ Light & Easy Tex-Mex-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~.

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

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

07/15/2020

~ Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell ~

IMG_3734An over-fried corn tortilla can be like eating broken glass.  That super-crispy-crunchy state is best left for frying tortilla wedges or wisps to serve as tortilla chips with dips, or wisps to garnish various Mexican-style soups or main-dishes.  No one wants to pick up a taco only to take a bite and have the taco shell shatter all over the plate.  This is not a blog post I ever intended to write, but, based on the number of times I get asked how I fry my taco shells, in order to achieve the perfect crisp-yet-pliable texture, I guess I should.  While it will be short and sweet, here goes.

IMG_3833When it comes to corn tortillas, nothing is as good as made-from-scratch tortillas, hand-mixed (using a mixture of masa harina and water) and hand-pressed.  That said, store-bought fresh corn tortillas are, in fact, a high-quality convenience product.  On the other hand, nothing is quite as bad as a taco shell that comes out of a box -- just don't do it. While making tortillas from scratch is not hard (not to mention fun), it is messy and time consuming, and, for as many tacos as my family eat, that is simply not a task I am willing to undertake on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, so, we are focusing on deep-frying taco shells using store-bought, fresh corn tortillas. 

IMG_4265 2The best taco shells are deep-fried. Period.  End of discussion.  Yes, they can be baked in the oven, I know, I've done it, but, BIG but, they're not as good, so, there's no time like the present to get over your fear of frying.  My grandmother and mother used to deep-fry foods in a 4-quart stockpot filled half-way with corn oil and a candy thermometer clipped to the side to control the temperature.  It's an option that works but it's smelly and messy.  

IMG_3839To avoid that, a small investment (about $60.00) will buy a deep-fryer that controls the heat perfectly, and, has a filter to catch all spatter and control any smell.  There's more. Presentation is everything, so, for evenly shaped tacos, I recommend spending a bit more (about $10.00) on a taco former, which shapes the soft tortilla until it crisps up, and, one or two taco holders (about $20 ) which hold the taco shells in place for super-easy assembly and a pretty as a picture presentation.

To deep-fry the perfect crisp-yet-pliable corn tortilla:

IMG_3711 IMG_3846 IMG_3846 IMG_3846 IMG_3846 IMG_3846~Step 1.  Remove the fryer-basket from the deep-fryer -- it's just in the way when frying taco shells. Preheat a deep-fryer that has been filled (according to manufacturer's specifications) with corn or peanut oil, to 375º.  Place a wire rack atop a few layers of paper towels and ready a grinder of sea salt.  Place one fresh corn tortilla in the taco former and lower it into the hot oil.  Without losing your grip on the taco former, close the fryer lid and continue to fry the tortilla for exactly 45 seconds.  Lift the fryer lid, remove the taco former, and release the taco shell onto  the wire rack.  Sprinkle the inside of the taco shell with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Wait 5-6 seconds, no longer, and fit the taco shell into the taco rack. Repeat this process until desired number of taco shells have been fried and cooled.  

Taco shells made from fresh corn tortillas are a perfect vessel for many cultures, or any cuisine, to rest its food.

IMG_3720Store-Bought Corn Tortillas & the Perfect Taco Shell:  Recipe yields instructions to form and deep-fry the perfect crisp-yet-pliable taco shells.

Special Equipment List:  electric deep-fryer or a 4-quart saucepan and a candy thermometer; taco former; taco rack; wire cooling rack; paper towels

IMG_3792 2Cook's Note: Mexican food is a favorite of mine, but I often wish it wasn't.  Don't misunderstand me -- I can and will gobble up all its flavor-packed goodness with the best of 'em.  It's next to impossible for anyone me to resist the melty or crumbly cheeses along with the creamy-rich refried beans, guacamole and crema.  That said, more often than not, when dinner is done, I find myself wishing I'd exercised (pun intended) even a modicum of restraint.  Hence, my recipe for ~ Light & Easy Tex-Mex-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~.

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

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

07/12/2020

~ Light & Easy Tex-Mex-Style Skinny Chicken Tacos ~

IMG_3792Mexican food is a favorite of mine, but I often wish it wasn't.  Don't misunderstand me -- I can and will gobble up all its flavor-packed goodness with the best of 'em.  It's next to impossible for anyone me to resist the melty or crumbly cheeses along with the creamy-rich refried beans, guacamole and crema.  That said, more often than not, when dinner is done, I find myself wishing I'd exercised (pun intended) even a modicum of restraint, but, let's face it, despite the array of fresh ingredients used in Mexican food, Mexican fare doesn't offer any genuinely light options -- even a taco salad can contain up to 1200 calories. What's a girl who values her waistline to do? She takes matters into her own hands and makes "skinny" tacos -- a take on "baja-style tacos" (which implies a larger ratio of lower-calorie and fresher ingredients to calorie-packed ones).

It's worth mentioning that I often serve these as appetizers.  Why?  They're not your typical taco. Besides not being overstuffed or overly-messy, they are at their best when served slightly-warm or at room temperature -- they're eaten much like any other sandwich served in the heat of the Summertime.   There's more.  They maintain their crunchy-munchy integrity for several, 3-4 hours (if they last that long), which means you can assemble them and put them out just before your cocktail or tailgate party begins and let everyone help themselves to one, two or three. 

IMG_3778My basic but flavor-packed 5-minute Mexican marinade:

6a0120a8551282970b0223c846f14d200c6  tablespoons achiote vegetable oil, or any plain (clear) ordinary corn or vegetable oil*

3  tablespoons white vinegar

3  tablespoons lime juice, fresh or high-quality organic lime juice not from concentrate

1 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2  teaspoons dried Mexican oregano and Mexican-style chili powder

1  teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  cup minced cilantro leaves

*Note:  Achiote oil, which is readily available everywhere, has annatto added to it, which is what gives it its signature pretty orange color, and, ever-so-slight hint of earthy, musty, peppery flavor. Annatto is the seed of the achiote tree, which is indigenous to Central and South America.  The seeds are usually ground to a powder or steeped in oil prior to adding to all sorts of Spanish-style fare.  If you don't do a lot of this type of cooking, don't buy it, or, if you don't want the orange color added to the dish you are serving, simply substitute corn or vegetable oil without compromise.

6a0120a8551282970b0224df2eb2e0200b 6a0120a8551282970b0224df2eb2e0200b 6a0120a8551282970b0224df2eb2e0200b 6a0120a8551282970b0224df2eb2e0200b~Step 1. In a small-capacity food processor, measure and place all ingredients as listed, except for cilantro.  Mince and add cilantro. Process until smooth and emulsified, 15-20 seconds.

Light & easy.  For my version of skinny tacos:

IMG_3686For the chicken:

all marinade, from above recipe 

2  pounds chicken tenderloins, sliced into skinny strips

For the vegetable sauté:

4  cups green, red and yellow bell pepper strips (about 1 each:  medium-sized green, red and yellow bell pepper)

2  cups sliced red onion strips  

1 1/2 teaspoons each: ground cumin, Mexican-style oregano and Mexican-style chili powder

1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

2  cups sliced grape or cherry tomatoes, total used throughout recipe (2/3 for the vegetable sauté and 1/3 for garnish

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, total used throughout recipe (2/3 cup for the vegetable sauté and 1/3 for garnish)

2  tablespoons achiote, corn or vegetable oil, for sautéing vegetables

For serving and garnishes (in order of assembly):

16  fresh corn tortillas, deep-fried in corn oil to a crunchy-but-still-pliable state, about 45 seconds per tortilla

2  cups finely-shredded iceberg lettuce

all the sautéed chicken, pepper and onion mixture

1/3 of the sliced grape or cherry tomatoes, reserved from above, for garnish

1/3 of the minced, fresh cilantro leaves, reserved from above, for garnish

high-quality, store-bought, cilantro-lime dressing, for garnish

1/4  cup finely-shredded cotija cheese, for garnish (Note:  Cotija cheese is salty and dry, very resemblant of Parmesan, so, use sparingly.)

IMG_3692 IMG_3692 IMG_3692 IMG_3692 IMG_3692~Step 1.  Slice chicken as directed and place in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Add marinade and seal bag.  Using your fingertips, massage the bag, "squishing the chicken around", until chicken is coated in marinade. Set aside, at room temp 30-60 minutes, or, 3-4 hours in the refrigerator (overnight is too long).  Remove from refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking.

IMG_3701 IMG_3679 IMG_3679 IMG_3679 IMG_3679 IMG_3679~Step 2.  Slice onion and peppers and place in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  In a small bowl, stir together the spices:  ground cumin, Mexican-style oregano, Mexican-style chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and black pepper. Add the spice blend to the veggetables, seal the bag and toss to coat veggies in spices.

IMG_3711 IMG_3711 IMG_3711~ Step 3.  While the chicken is marinating, and after the vegetables have been coated in the spice mixture, now is the best time to fry the corn tortillas.  In a deep-fryer containing corn or peanut oil and preheated to 360° according to manufacturer's specifications (or, in a sauce pan fitted with a candy thermometer on the stovetop), deep-fry each corn tortilla to a crunchy-but-still-pliable state, for 45 seconds. Remove tortilla from oil, place it on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain and season with a fresh grinding of sea salt.  Arrange finished tortillas in a wooden taco rack or on a large serving platter.

IMG_3737 IMG_3737 IMG_3737 IMG_3737 IMG_3737 IMG_3737~Step 4.  Transfer chicken and all of its marinade to a 3 1/2-quart enameled cast iron skillet and adjust heat to medium-high.  Sauté chicken until just cooked through, 5-6 minutes, stirring almost constantly with large spoon or spatula, until almost no liquid remains in the bottom of skillet.  Turn heat off and transfer chicken to a medium bowl and set aside while sautéing the vegetables as directed in Step 5 (see below).  Note:  There is no need to add oil to the skillet prior to sautéing the chicken because the marinade has oil in it.

IMG_3749 IMG_3749 IMG_3749 IMG_3749 IMG_3749 IMG_3784~Step 5.  Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and adjust heat to high. Wait about 30 seconds. Add the vegetable melange.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crunch-tender, 1-2 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Turn the heat off. Return the still warm chicken to the skillet and toss to combine.  Remove from heat and set aside for 30-40 minutes, to cool (a bit more than) slightly.  Stir in about 2/3 of the sliced tomatoes and 2/3 cup of the minced cilantro, reserving the remaining tomatoes and cilantro for garnish. 

IMG_3787 IMG_3787 IMG_3787~Step 6.  To assemble the tacos, evenly distribute the shredded lettuce into the bottom of the sixteen prepared taco shells. Evenly distribute the chicken and vegetable mixture atop the lettuce in each one.  Scatter a few tomatoes and a sprinkling of cilantro atop the meat and vegetable mixture, followed by a drizzle of the flavorful cilantro-lime dressing and a light sprinkling of the shredded cotija cheese.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature -- like you would eat a refreshing Summertime sandwich.

Light & easy?  I can't eat just three. So much for my diet.

IMG_3817Light & Easy Tex-Mex-Style Chicken Taco Stir-Fry:  Recipe yields  1/2 cup marinade and enough filling for 16 tacos.

Special Equipment List:  small-capacity food processor; cutting board; chef's knife; 2, 1-gallon food storage bags; deep-fryer or 4-quart saucepan; paper towels; wooden taco rack or serving platter; 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron skillet or 12" cast-iron skillet; large spoon or spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7d2d12e970b 2Cook's Note: My favorite fish taco is the one that is in front of me, and, the first one I ever ate was so good I've declined to debate this issue with anyone -- if you bring it up, I'll just hit the mute button.  It was 1986, and, there was a day trip from San Diego, CA to Tijuana, Mexico on our agenda.  As I recall, the trip took about an hour and I'd ordered a "Baja Fish Taco" at a taco stand, which I ate en route -- I wish I'd ordered two. ~ Beer-Batter-Dipped Baja-Style Cod-Fish Tacos ~.

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

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

07/09/2020

~ Betty Crocker's 1950 Sour Cream Cookie Recipe ~

IMG_3659Sour cream cookies have been a favorite in households for decades -- mine included.  They are the perfect little not-too-sweet cookie.  They're soft, a bit chewy and need no adornment or intervention.  They only require a few on-hand ingredients (unless you're out of sour cream) and take moments to mix.  They're good hot, warm, at room temp, and, they keep for days in the cookie jar.  I can't think of a better use for a cup of sour cream, shortening and two eggs. I have two recipes for sour cream cookies (see Cook's note below), and both or great.  The first of the two recipes, the one I'm posting today, is the one my mom made.  It came straight from the pages of the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook and appears on page 182.

The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook (1950) is said to be the most-sold cookbook in modern-day American culinary history.

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec27886e200cWith well over 6,000 hard and soft-cover volumes in my cooking library, on my short list of favorites, two, written Betty Crocker and General Mills quality for "tattered-spine, stained-page" status:  The 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook (which belonged to my mother/see photo below), and, the 1972 edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook (which was a bridal shower gift to me in 1974). Appearance wise, by celebrity-driven, modern-day, glossy-paged, pro-photographed standards, both are unsophisticated and plebeian.  If one can get past first impressions, one would know: These books were written for the ages. They're full of kitchen-tested never-goes-out-of-date recipes written for success.

IMG_3622The Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, with it's signature bright red cover, is said to be the most-sold cookbook in American history.  It was the brain-child of General Mills in order for them to sell more flour -- and the reason for the imaginary "Betty Crocker" persona to be invented.  As it turned out, the General Mills test kitchens turned out to be the best-of-the-best when it came to writing recipes for anyone of any experience level to use (again and again) and appreciate.  It meant that any young bride of 1950 with a stove and an oven and an interest in cooking could become the family's culinary virtuoso -- the family's own "Betty Crocker".

The Betty Crocker Picture cookbook was written in an era when 30% of the family budget went toward food.  Housewives shopped several times a week, in several stores (the butcher, the baker, the all-purpose small-by-today's-standards grocery store).  They cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner.  On special occasions and holidays, they entertained friends and family too.  They had no concept of take-out, eat-out and delivery on the scale we have become accustomed to.  At all times, they had relatively no access to out-of-the ordinary ingredients.  They made due nicely thanks to the Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, that taught that marvelous meals could be prepared, by anyone with a desire to cook, using ordinary, readily-available ingredients.

From the pages an iconic book full of user-friendly recipes:  

IMG_3671Betty Crocker's 1950 Picture Book Sour Cream Cookie Recipe.

IMG_36283  cups all-purpose flour  (Note:  The recipe calls for 2 3/4 cups of flour and that measurement works just fine.  I use 3, which yields puffier, rather than flatter cookies.)

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/2  cup shortening

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  large eggs

1  cup sour cream

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract (Note:  The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, which is great.  I used two because who doesn't like double vanilla?)

Note before starting:  I've written the recipe in my own words, making my own minor changes. For example:  They refrigerate the bowl of cookie dough for 1 hour.  I refrigerate it for a shorter 15-30 minutes, then refrigerate each pan of unbaked cookies for 15 minutes prior to baking them.  My way gets me started baking sooner, finished baking faster, and eating cookies quicker.

IMG_3548 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632 IMG_3632~Step 1. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, place and cream together shortening, sugar and eggs, until light and fluffy, 1-1 1/2 minutes, using a large rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl constantly.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in sour cream and vanilla, about 30 seconds.  In 2-3 increments, incorporate the flour mixture into the sour cream mixture, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Cover bowl with plastic and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.  Do not refrigerate any longer.

IMG_3646 IMG_3646 IMG_3653~Step 2. Working one pan at a time, using a 1 1/2" cookie scoop as a measure, drop balls of dough, about 2" apart onto a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment (15 per pan).  Refrigerate pan of unbaked cookies for 15 minutes.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven, until cookies are just set and barely-browning around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and use a spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.  Repeat process until all cookies are baked.

All baked, cooled & ready for any family to enjoy:

IMG_3666Betty Crocker's 1950 Sour Cream Cookie Recipe:  Recipe yields 4 dozen 2"-round cookies.

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

IMG_3616Cook's Note: McCall's Cookie Collection was the first in a darling series of eighteen, 7 1/2" x 9", paperback books (McCalls Cookbook Collection*), 64 pages each.  I bought the collection, once-a-month, in the grocery store, for $1.40 each.  At our Riverside market, they'd display them near the checkout so we couldn't miss it -- and they sold out quickly.  Their recipes were tested, and, of the many I tried (several from each book each month), we, of course, liked some things better than others, but, I can report no recipe fails.  This personal favorite-of-mine cookie recipe appears on Page 23. ~ McCalls 1974 Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies ~.

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

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

07/07/2020

~ McCall's 1974 Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies ~

IMG_3599Nineteen Seventy-Four.  I was nineteen years young, a new bride, and, living in our first apartment here in downtown Happy Valley.  I was the secretary to the Vice-President of Lending for our towns premier bank.  I drove a hot, little lime-green Fiat, got my first miniature poodle and named him Caesar, and, I loved to cook.  Life was good (and it still is).  While times change and people change, a good recipe does not -- it just gets better and better with age.  This is one such recipe, and, these cookies evoke these and more memories every time I bake them.

IMG_3542McCall's Cookie Collection was the first in a darling series of eighteen, 7 1/2" x 9", paperback books (McCalls Cookbook Collection*), 64 pages each.  I bought the collection, once-a-month, in the grocery store, for $1.40 each.  At our Riverside market, they'd display them near the checkout so we couldn't miss it -- and they sold out quickly.  Their recipes were tested and worked -- of the many I tried (several from each book each month), we, of course, liked some things better than others, but, I can report no recipe fails.  This personal favorite-of-mine cookie recipe appears on Page 23.

*Titles:  Cookie collection, casserole cookbook, cookless cookbook, salads and salad dressings, cakes and pies, marvelous meats, dessert discoveries, family-style cookbook, company cookbook, do-ahead party cookbook, coast-to-coast cooking, world-wide cooking, fish 'n' fowl, show-off cookbook, cocktail time cookbook, home-baked breads, book of merry eating, picnic and patio cookbook.  A plastic cookbook holder and recipe index could be purchased anytime for $2.25.

From the pages a little book full of fun, user-friendly recipes:

IMG_3604These are the perfect little not-too-sweet cookie -- soft, a bit chewy and need no decoration or intervention.  They only require a few on-hand ingredients (unless you're out of sour cream) and take moments to mix.  They're good hot, warm, at room temp, and, they keep for days in the cookie jar.  I can't think of a better use for a cup of sour cream, a cup of butter and two eggs!

IMG_3546For the cookies:

3 1/4  cups all-purpose flour (Note:  The recipe calls for 3 cups of flour and that measurement works just fine.  I use 3 1/4 cups, which yields puffier, rather than flatter cookies.)

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon salt

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

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  large eggs

1  cup sour cream

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract (Note:  The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon, which is great.  I used two because who doesn't like double vanilla?)

For the topping:

store-bought Sugar 'n Cinnamon mixture (Note:  The recipes says to mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  Store-bought Sugar 'n Cinnamon is simply easier.)

Note before starting:  I've written the recipe in my own words, making my own minor changes. For example:  They refrigerate the bowl of cookie dough for 1 hour.  I refrigerate it for a short 15 minutes, then refrigerate each pan of unbaked cookies for 15 minutes prior to baking them.  My way gets me started baking sooner, finished baking faster, and eating cookies quicker.

IMG_3548 IMG_3551 IMG_3551 IMG_3551 IMG_3551 IMG_3551 IMG_3551~Step 1.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and baking soda.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, place and cream together butter, sugar and eggs, until light and fluffy, 1-1 1/2 minutes, using a large rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl constantly.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in sour cream and vanilla, about 30 seconds.  In 2-3 increments, incorporate the flour mixture into the sour cream mixture, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Do not refrigerate any longer.

IMG_3575 IMG_3575 IMG_3575 IMG_3575 IMG_3575~Step 2.  Working one pan at a time, using a 1 1/2" cookie scoop as a measure, drop balls of dough, about 2" apart onto a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan that has been lined with parchment (15 per pan).  Sprinkle tops with sugar 'n cinnamon.  Refrigerate pan of unbaked cookies for 15 minutes.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven, until cookies are just set and barely-browning around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and use a thin spatula to transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.  Repeat  process, until all cookies are baked.

Yes, overall, 1974 was a very, very good year:

IMG_3616McCall's 1974 Old-Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies:  Recipe yields 4 dozen 2"-round cookies.

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

IMG_3030Cook's Note: While this is one of the easiest cookie recipes in my repertoire, it is also one of the most used.  After the butter and cream cheese come to room temp, start-to-finish, I can be done baking them in under an hour (including cleanup). The end result is a not-too-sweet, melt-in-your-mouth cookie that takes-the-edge-off any cravings for overly-indulgent sweets.  For me, nibbling on one after breakfast in the morning, on the run in the middle of the day, or parked in front of the television in the evening, is a sweet spot during a busy day.  Try my ~ Melt-in-Your-Mouth Tangy Cream Cheese Cookies ~.

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

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

07/05/2020

~ Broiled & Baked Rack of St. Lewis-Style Spareribs ~

IMG_3508Not everyone is a master of the barbecue grill or smoker.  Newsflash.  Not everyone wants to be. While I'm more than competent on a gas grill, charcoal gives me fits and the smell of smoke gives me a blinding headache.  There's more.  When the temperature in the great outdoors is threatening to blow the top off my thermometer, you won't find me outside torturing myself in the blazing heat just to prepare a rack of ribs.  It's the AC for me baby, and, trust me when I tell you, you're gonna love the ribs I'm making in the cool oasis called "Melanie's Kitchen".

When it comes to purchasing pork spareribs, we cooks almost always have a choice to make: babyback (sometimes labeled "pork back ribs"), or, St. Louis-style (sometimes labeled "breastbone-off, pork ribs").  To the eye, babybacks are smaller (which appeals to many home cooks because they're more manageable), but, please know, this has nothing to do with the size of the pig (meaning, for those spreading false information: they're not taken from baby pigs).  

20140904-001-spares_and_BB_2.0Babybacks are cut from where the rib meets the spine after the loin is removed.  Each rack weighs about 1 1/2-2 pounds and averages 10-13 curved, 4"-5"-long ribs.  In our house, one rack will feed 2 people. St. Lewis- Style refers to the way the ribs are cut, not a style of barbecue.  They are larger, meatier, and cut from the belly after the belly is removed.  They get trimmed in the style of St. Lewis butchers, by cutting away the breastbone and cartilage to form a rectangular shape.  Each rack weighs about 2 1/2-3 pounds and averages 12-14 flatfish, 6"-7"-long ribs.  When serving these, I plan on one rack feeding 3-4 people.

My broiled & baked method for cooking St. Lewis-Style ribs:

IMG_34251  rack St. Lewis-style spareribs

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

2  cups water

1 1/4-1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce of choice, used in 3 increments (6-8 tablespoons, 6-8 tablespoons and 6-8 tablespoons) throughout recipe

IMG_3430 IMG_3430~Step 1.  Remove ribs from packaging and pat dry in paper towels.  Flip the rack, bottom side up and place it on a large work surface.   Using a chef's knife or a pair of kitchen shears either remove the flap of meat that's up against the bone or trim it of excess fat.  This choice is yours -- I trim off the excess fat and leave it on.  Using a sharp-tipped paring knife, gently raise and loosen the membrane (called the silver skin) from the first rib, then, using a paper towel or two to get a grip on the membrane, slowly, but firmly, tear it off.

IMG_3427 IMG_3427 IMG_3445 IMG_3447 IMG_3447 IMG_3447~Step 2.  Insert a wire rack into a 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum broiler pan and place a piece of parchment atop the rack.  Transfer the ribs to the parchment, placing them bottom side up.  Generously season with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Place the pan on an oven rack that has be positioned 8" underneath preheated broiler.  Broil ribs until golden, 18-20 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Flip ribs over, season top side with sea salt and peppercorn blend and return to broiler 18-20 more minutes.

IMG_3459 IMG_3459 IMG_3459~Step 3.  Remove from oven and reset the oven to 350°.  Without moistening the ribs, add 2 cups of water to bottom of pan. Using a pastry brush, generously paint the rack of ribs, on both sides with the barbecue sauce, using about 6-8 tablespoons per side.  Cover and tightly seal the pan with aluminum foil -- if the foil rips or tears, start over with a new piece of foil.  Return ribs to the oven and bake 1 hour.

IMG_3468 IMG_3471 IMG_3471~Step 4.  Remove pan from oven, reset the oven to broil, and position the oven rack to 6" underneath the heat source.  Paint top of ribs with the last 6-8 tablespoons of the barbecue sauce.  Place the pan under preheated broiler and broil the ribs again, until sauce is bubbling, turning golden brown (caramelizing) and, showing slight signs of charring across the surface, about 5-6 minutes.  Watch carefully. The sugar in any type of barbecue sauce can and will go from brown to burned very quickly.

Remove from oven & transfer to a large board:

IMG_3479Slice & serve hot, warm or at room temperature: 

IMG_3485Broiled & Baked Rack of St. Lewis-Style Spareribs:  Recipe yields 1 rack of perfectly-cooked, large, meaty St.-Lewis-style spareribs/4 servings.

Special Equipment List: paper towels; chef's knife or kitchen shears; paring knife; 20" x 12" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; wire cooling rack; parchment paper; 2-cup measuring container; pastry brush; aluminum boil

6a0120a8551282970b01a511797d9b970cCook's Note:  Country-style spareribs are taken from the rib end of the pork loin, and, like baby backs and St. Lewis ribs they are fatty, flavorful, and, very meaty.  While all three are suited perfectly for the dry, high heat of the grill, country-style ribs take to the oven like ducks to water.  I love them, but, more importantly, so does my entire family. ~ Broiled & Baked:  K.C. BBQ'D Country-Style Ribs ~.

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

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

07/03/2020

~The Story Behind Macaroni & Yankee Doodle Dandy~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970c-1Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni. Fun song to sing?  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain.  Sans the folks who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree that here in the United States, it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought while in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America.

A bit about macaroni:  Macaroni is a small, fork-friendly often tubular-shaped pasta made from durum wheat and water (it does not contain eggs).  It's generally mass produced, as the extruder machine used to make the tube is difficult to use and clean.  The word "macaroni" comes from the Italian "maccheroni", which, in Italy doesn't just refer to the ever-popular bent-elbow macaroni (common to the US).  It includes other shapes, such as shells, twists, spirals. penne and ziti. Because short and stubby macaroni is generally thicker than stranded pasta, it can be used in a wider variety of ways, such as simmering in soups or baking in casseroles.

Why did Yankee Doodle Dandy call the feather in his hat macaroni?  

Gettyimages-463929691-612x612So -- why did Yankee Doodle Dandy stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni?  Was he some sort of a nut?  In the time period, this British pre-revolutionary war song was nothing more than the British making full-blown fun of American colonists, who they deemed to be poor, backward, lowly, uneducated, country bumpkins or hicks. The British slang word for an idiot was "doodle", hence the name Yankee Doodle (or Yankee Idiot).  It was a nasty name and an insulting song.

Back in the 1700's, both European men and women prided themselves in making a fashion statement whenever they were in public, and, a man who was a fashion leader was called "dandy".  So, was Yankee Doodle actually a dandy?  Not by the British standards.  In the song they have the poor idiot, Yankee Doodle, riding into town on a pony, not even a proper horse, and, sticking a feather in his tattered three-cornered tricorne or coonskin hat in the hopes of making a respectable fashion statement equivalent to that of a stylish man of Europe.

Men in the business of importing macaroni from Italy to Britain & France proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

6a0120a8551282970b0154336c5b21970cBut why would he call his feather macaroni?  Well, he (himself) didn't -- remember, the British wrote this song, and back then, "macaroni" was yet another derogatory term used to describe men who dressed in outrageously excessive clothes, which included tall, heavy, expensive white wigs laden with hundreds of small, tight curls.  In extreme cases, the wigs were custom built upon and around heavy wire forms.  These wigs were worn by the salesmen in the business of importing macaroni from Italy to Britain and France, and, they proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

What does this mean for us foodies? Well, whether macaroni was named after the wigs, or the wigs were named after the curly little Italian pasta remains a "chicken or the egg" mystery, but for me: every year on the Fourth of July, I find myself proudly humming this tune and preparing macaroni salad in honor of it.

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

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

06/30/2020

~ Southwestern-Style Macaroni, Bean & Corn Salad ~

IMG_3393Macaroni salad has always been a staple at our Fourth of July feast -- just call me a Yankee Doodle.  That said, depending on what I'm serving, I don't make it the same way every year.  My recipe for classic macaroni salad goes on the table when we're serving all-American hamburgers and hot dogs.  This year because Texican-style BBQ'd chicken and ribs (the ribs on Saturday evening and the chicken on Sunday afternoon) will be in the center of the table, my Southwestern-style macaroni, bean and corn salad will the star of the side-dishes on both days.

While easy to prepare, this is not just "this and that".  This salad is a well-balanced, thoughtful, combination of flavor & texture:

IMG_3390A bit about the combination of ingredients in this recipe:  Beans and sweet corn kernels, common to the Southwest, add great flavor, texture and color to this macaroni salad.  Briny olives and acidic tomatoes, plus aromatic red onion and cilantro add to all the Southwestern flavor one could possible ask for.  There's more.  The creamy dressing gets store-bought fresh salsa stirred into it, which in itself, is full of more flavor-packed ingredients (onion, garlic, cilantro, jalapeño, tomato, lime juice, etc.). As for bell peppers, I don't add them because they tend to take over the subtly-blended taste of this salad. As for avocados, as much as I love them, I avoid the urge to add them, except, to say, if you want to add them, dice them and add them at the last minute and just to the individual servings.  Why?  In less than an hour they start to turn color, in a few hours they start to get mushy, and, longer than that, they muddle up the color and texture beyond recovery.

Simple to make.  Flavor-packed.  Best made a day ahead:

IMG_3368For the macaroni salad:

1  pound macaroni, your favorite shape (Note:  I chose to use nuvole/"clouds", which is a small, roundish, coiled pasta with plenty of grooves to hold the dressing.

1  15-ounce can black beans or red kidney beans, rinsed and well-drained (about 2 cups beans)

1  15-ounce sweet corn kernels, well-drained (about 2 cups cooked corn kernels)

1  2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, well-drained (about 1/2 cup)

1  10-ounce box grape tomatoes, sliced in half (a generous 1 cup)

1  cup small-diced red onion (while green onion may be substituted, it really doesn't have enough flavor to hold its own in this salad)

1/2  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some stems are ok

IMG_3353For the dressing:

1  cup store-bought fresh salsa

3/4  cup sour cream or Mexican crema

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoons fresh lime juice, or, high-quality organic not-from-concentrate lime juice

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_3370~ Step 1. To cook, drain and properly dry macaroni, in an 8-quart stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil.  Add 1  tablespoon sea salt. Add pasta and cook as package directs until al dente, usually 9-11 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Drain into colander and rinse under cold water to halt cooking process and remove the starch (which makes it gummy). Transfer to and spread pasta out on a baking pan lined with parchment.  Drain and "dry" (meaning free from moisture, not dried out), about 20-30 minutes.

IMG_3373 IMG_3373~ Step 2.  Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.  Add the beans, corn, olives, tomatoes, red onion and cilantro.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the vegetables into the macaroni.  Set aside while preparing dressing as directed in the next step.

IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356 IMG_3356~Step 3.  To prepare  dressing, using a slotted spoon measure 1 cup of salsa from the jar, allowing excess liquid to drain back.  Transfer cup of salsa to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain of excess liquid, 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, place and stir together the sour cream, mayo, lime juice, cumin and sea salt.  Add and stir in the drained salsa.

IMG_3379 IMG_3379~ Step 4.  Transfer all of the dressing to the large bowl containing the macaroni mixture.  Using the large rubber spatula, gently fold the dressing into the pasta mixture, until ingredients are completely enrobed in the creamy dressing.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours (6-8) or overnight -- overnight is best.

Perfect served w/barbecued chicken or any type of ribs: 

IMG_3417Southwestern-Style Macaroni & Black Bean Salad:  Recipe yields 12 cups/3 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; large colander; baking pan; parchment; large rubber spatula; large slotted spoon; paper towels; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970cCook's Note: "Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni."  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain.  Sans the folk who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni press which he bought in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America, more importantly, macaroni and cheese.  Try my ~ Fourth of July Yankee Doodle Dandy Macaroni Salad ~.

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

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

06/28/2020

~ Italian-Style Fried Pasta Pancake -- Pasta a Frittata ~

IMG_3331 2Fried spaghetti at midnight.  It's kind-of a joke in our house, but, when it comes to late-night snacking in ten minutes or less, reheating a slice of cold pizza in a skillet or frying a portion of leftover spaghetti are at the top of my short list.  It goes without saying, frying spaghetti in less than ten minutes does require having cooked, lightly-seasoned, spaghetti in the refrigerator. For reasons unknown to me, this dish works better with day-old pasta (any type can technically be used), and, while the pasta can be lightly-sauced, I prefer it made with unsauced spaghetti. 

Pasta a frittata is an age-old, very traditional Neapolitan dish that, depending on the family or the area it's prepared in, can be made in various ways -- it lends itself to almost all interpretations. Like many Italian dishes, it was a poor man's dish.  Leftovers were never thrown away, they were repurposed.  In the case of (sauced or unsauced) leftover pasta, it was thrown into a skillet with some beaten egg and bits of whatever was on-hand (sometimes crisply-fried bacon or guanciale, other times bits of salami or sopressata and/or cubes of mozzarella, and always, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese).  After a few short minutes, this crispy-and-golden-on-the-outside, soft-and-creamy-in-the-center comfort-food got gobbled up for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

My basic 10-minute 5-ingredient recipe for pasta a frittata:

IMG_32758  cups my recipe for slightly-spicy garlic & italian-herbs buttered pasta (Note:  1 pound thick spaghetti cooked to al dente, drained and tossed with 1 stick salted butter, 1  teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend, 3/4  teaspoon sea salt, and, 1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes.), 24-28 ounces

8  large eggs

8  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1  tablespoon salted butter

1  tablespoon olive oil

IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280 IMG_3280~Step 1.  In a large bowl, using a hand-held egg beater or a whisk, beat the eggs until smooth. Beat in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Add spaghetti.  Use a large rubber spatula to fold, until spaghetti is thoroughly coated in the liquid.

IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277 IMG_3277~Step 2.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt the butter into the oil over low heat. Pour noodle mixture into pan.  Increase heat slightly and allow it to setup on the bottom, about 1 minutes.  Increase heat to medium.  Continue to cook, running a thin spatula around sides, and gently lifting from time to time, until pancake is golden on the bottom, 4-5 minutes.  Flip the pancake over by using a wide nonstick spatula to help slide it onto a plate.  Next, invert skillet on top of plate, then, using pot holders (the skillet is hot), flip the plate and the pan over.  Return to heat and cook on second side until golden on bottom and center has firmed up, 2-3 minutes.

Got leftovers?  Store in the refrigerator.  Slice & eat cold, at room temperature, or, reheat in microwave.  Perfect for a school lunch box, brown bag lunch to the office, or late-night snack: 

IMG_3314Italian-Style Fried Spaghetti Pancake -- Pasta a Frittata:  Recipe yields 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held egg beater or whisk; microplane grater; 10" nonstick skillet; thin nonstick spatula; wide nonstick spatula; 9" dinner plate

IMG_3257Cook's Note: The perfect foil means, the perfect background.  Paint anything edible into this photo and it will be great meal.  Tick, tock.  In the case of this super-versatile, 15-minute to make side-dish (Slightly-Spicy Garlic & Italian-Herbs Buttered Pasta), truer words were never spoken. When you have no time to make another run to the grocery store but still have a hungry family to please ASAP, this is the perfect side to serve -- everyone loves pasta.  It goes great with a broiled chicken breast, a grilled pork chop, a pan-seared steak, a handful of steamed shrimp, etc.  Add a steamed green vegetable or whip up a simple garden salad and dinner is on the table, and, your day (pour the wine) is done. 

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

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

06/25/2020

~ Slightly-Spicy Garlic & Italian-Herbs Buttered Pasta ~

IMG_3262The perfect foil means, the perfect background.  Paint anything edible into this photo and it will be great meal.  Tick, tock.  In the case of this 15-minute to make side-dish, truer words were never spoken. When you have no time to make a run to the grocery store but still have a hungry family to please, this is the perfect side to serve -- everyone loves pasta.  It goes great with a broiled chicken breast, a grilled pork chop, a pan-seared steak, a handful of steamed shrimp, etc.  Add a steamed green vegetable or garden salad and dinner is on the table, and, your day is done. 

True story.  When I was a kid, my kid brother would only eat pasta with butter.  While the rest of us were slurping our marinara sauced and Parmesan cheese topped mounds, he'd sit and watch those yellow pats melt over his bowl of steaming hot spaghetti, tossing and twirling it until it was enrobed and glistening.  Sometimes he'd add cheese, other times, not.  I swear, he could eat his weight in it.  And you know what?  It got the best of us.  It became so mouth-watering to watch him do it, mom started tossing ALL of our spaghetti with salted butter, a few dried spices and a pinch of red pepper flakes, BEFORE she added the sauce -- pasta simply loves to suck up all those flavors.  To this day, everyone asks me why my pasta tastes better than anyone elses.

My brother's favorite pasta the way mom made it for him:  

IMG_32231  pound thick spaghetti

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

8 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick, cut into 8-12 pieces)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, slightly more or less, for heat

IMG_3226 IMG_3226 IMG_3226 IMG_3226 IMG_3240 IMG_3240 IMG_3240~Step 1.  In a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven or a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon salt, followed by the spaghetti.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 10-11 minutes.  Turn heat off and remove pot from heat.

IMG_3248 IMG_3248 IMG_3248 IMG_3248 IMG_3248~Step 2.  Drain pasta into a colander and immediately return the steaming hot pasta to the still hot pot and place the pot back on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter pieces, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes.  Using a large spoon stir until butter has melted and pasta is enrobed in a flavorful garlic-butter and herb sauce.  

Plate & serve immediately with or without cheese:   

IMG_3257Slightly-Spicy Garlic & Italian-Herbs Buttered Pasta:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven or 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; colander; cutting board; paring knife; large spoon; microplane grater (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2dbc0e3200dCook's Note: Choose from any number of proteins we make for dinner.  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. Try my ~ Egg Noodles & Broccoli in Spicy Garlic-Butter Sauce ~.

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

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

06/23/2020

~Old-School One-Skillet Golden Home-Fried Potatoes~

IMG_3199Home-fried potatoes, also known as cottage fries -- potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, sliced into thinnish discs, lightly-seasoned and pan-fried with some sliced onion in a bit of oil and/or butter (shredded or diced potatoes are called hash browns).  Home fries are as delicious for breakfast as they are with dinner.  That said, when it comes to making home fries, there are two schools of thought.  One is to pan-fry par-cooked (steamed, boiled or microwaved baked) potatoes.  The other is to pan-fry raw potatoes.  In my food world, be it for breakfast or dinner, I don't need the added step of par-cooking the potatoes.  In a diner/restaurant, yea, I get it, this task can be done ahead of time and actually saves time.  In my home kitchen, par-cooking misses the point.

Thoughts & musings about home fries in my kitchen:

IMG_3174Some folks use Russet potatoes, and, that's fine. That said, over the years, I've fallen in love with Yukon golds, and, I adore home fries made with them. There's more. While salt and pepper are the only seasonings I use on my humble home fries, feel free to substitute garlic- or onion-salt for salt.  I fry in a mixture of butter and oil (to prevent the butter from burning).  My potatoes get peeled and sliced to a thickness of about 1/4".  Using peeled or unpeeled potatoes, making home fries with raw potatoes takes 28-30 minutes.

No razzle, no dazzle, just humble home fries:  

IMG_31762  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons corn or vegetable oil

2 1/4-2 1/2 pounds gold potatoes, peeled and thinly, 1/4"-thick sliced, 5-6 potatoes

1 1/2-2  cups 1/4"-thick sliced yellow or sweet onion, cut into half-moon shapes, half-moon shapes cut in half

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_3179 IMG_3179 IMG_3179 IMG_3179 IMG_3179 IMG_3179 IMG_3179~Step 1.  In a 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or 12" cast-iron skillet, melt the butter into the oil over low heat. Season the mixture with about 15 grinds each of sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Distribute about half of the potatoes in the bottom of the pan.  Scatter the onions over the potatoes and season with another 15 finds of sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Distribute the second half of the potatoes atop the onions and, once again, season with 15 grinds each of sea salt and peppercorn blend.

IMG_3198 IMG_3198~ Step 2.  Increase heat to medium, cover the skillet and allow potatoes to cook, covered, for 12 minutes.  This will start to steam the potatoes and onions.  Remove the lid and increase heat to medium-high.  Continue to cook, uncovered, until potatoes are browning to a golden color on the the bottom, about 8 minutes.  Using a large spatula, work your way around the pan, flipping the potatoes over.  Continue to cook on second sides until potatoes are browning to a golden color on the bottom, about 8 additional minutes.

The best 30-minutes you'll ever spend cooking a side-dish: 

IMG_3202Old-School One-Skillet Golden Home-Fried Potatoes:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler (optional); cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or 12" cast-iron skillet w/lid; spatula

IMG_3158Cook's Note: When I was growing up, one of my favorite dinners was pork chops served with my dad's home-fried potatoes and my mom's ~ Campfire or Stovetop -- Dutch-Oven-Baked Beans ~.  It was a three-skillet dinner that I never had to be called twice to the table to eat!

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

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

06/21/2020

~ Campfire or Stovetop -- Dutch-Oven-Baked Beans ~

IMG_3159Manifest Destiny, the 19th-century doctrine that the United States had the right and duty to expand throughout the North American continent, brought the cowboys and their cattle drives up through Mexico and Texas and into the wide-open grazing spaces of Colorado and northward into the Midwest.  These (often accidental) East-meets-West crossover points are where Easterners, bound for the Southwest and West, often encountered their first tastes of their final destinations.

Dutch-oven-baked beans were a chuck-wagon staple.

Fresh and dried peppers native to Mexico, dried beans, corn and rice, cornmeal and flour, salt, honey and/or unrefined sugar, coffee, cured ham, bacon and dried meats, which traveled well over the long haul, were all staples of a well-stocked chuck wagon.  Live chickens were usually brought along by the cook ("cooky"), so, eggs as protein were common too.  Wild onions and an occasional herb or two got picked along the way.  Next to a hot pot of coffee, Dutch-oven-baked beans were a daily chuck-wagon staple.  The cattle needed to be watched 24/7, so cowboys worked in shifts, meaning, they were constantly coming and going from wherever base camp was.  Those riding into camp were exhausted.  Before getting some shuteye and heading out again, they filled their plate full of hearty and hot bacony beans and wiped it clean with a piece of corn or soda bread.  One of cooky's responsibilities was to keep the beans going low and slow over the campfire's coals, adding more beans, bacon and water to the pot almost nonstop.  

Lots of smoky bacon = the main flavoring for these beans.

IMG_31161  pound, thick-sliced applewood- or  hicory-smoked bacon (8-9 slices)

1  40-ounce can butter beans (limas), well-drained

1  28-ounce can pork & beans, your favorite brand, undrained

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

1 1/2  cups ketchup, or, barbecue sauce for BBQ-style beans

6  tablespoons yellow mustard

4  tablespoons pure maple syrup

3/4-1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_3119 IMG_3119 IMG_3119 IMG_3119 IMG_3119~Step 1. Slice bacon into 2" pieces, placing them in bottom of 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven as you work.  Place this heavy, enameled cast iron piece of equipment over medium-high heat.  Fry bacon, using a large slotted spoon or spatula to keep it moving in the pan until crisp and golden, 12-14 minutes.  Transfer bacon to paper-towel-lined plate to drain and cool.

IMG_3129 IMG_3129 IMG_3129 IMG_3129 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3139 IMG_3157~Step 2. Add the onions to the bacon drippings remaining in the skillet.  Fry onions until soft and translucent, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the butter beans, baked beans, ketchup, maple syrup, mustard and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  Partially cover the pot and continue to cook until mixture is thickened and reduced by about 1/4, 45-60 minutes.  

Stir in bacon pieces & serve ASAP or reheated the next day:  

IMG_3158Campfire-Style One-Skillet Bacony Barbecue Beans:  Recipe yields 2 quarts baked beans/14, 1/2-cup side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or large cast iron skillet w/lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; paper towels

IMG_9993Cook's Note: When my mom announced she was making pork and beans for dinner, she didn't mean she was opening a can of pork and beans -- in a way, kinda sorta she was, but, there was a bit more to it. It meant she had asked Vince, the butcher at The Valley Meat Market, to slice 8, 1/2"-3/4"-thick bone-in pork loin chops, plus a pound of smoky bacon, so she could make her very special recipe for ~ Pork Chop & Baked Bean Casserole -- Pork & Beans ~.

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

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

06/18/2020

~Ham and Cheese in a Folded Egg Pocket Sandwich~

IMG_4586This is the breakfast sandwich I send my husband carrying in-hand out the door with a to-go cup of coffee when he's leaving on a business trip at 4:30AM.  This is the breakfast I made for my three boys, one-at-a-time, as they took turns in the shower, dressed, and straggled down the stairs before school -- our 'Johnny-come-lately' would eat his while walking to the school bus stop. This is the one I make for myself when everyone has left the building and I'm (finally) home alone. Making these to order ("with or without", meaning cheese) on my little camp stove for early morning Penn State tailgates at Beaver Stadium was hugely popular -- they pair great with a Bloody Mary (most men wanted seconds).  Once you make one, you won't need a recipe. 

IMG_45111  teaspoon salted butter

2  extra-large eggs

2-3  tablespoons water

a literal pinch of sea salt

2 very-thin slices lean, deli-syle ham, your favorite kind

2  tablespoons finely-grated (not sliced) cheddar or Swiss cheese

1  English muffin, split and toasted

IMG_4516 IMG_4516~ Step 1. Place eggs in a 1-cup measuring container plus add enough water to total 1/2 cup liquid, about 2-3 tablespoons.  Add a pinch of sea salt -- there is no need to measure salt.  More than a pinch is too much salt.  In a 10" nonstick skillet, melt 1 teaspoon salted butter over medium heat.

IMG_4523 IMG_4523 IMG_4523 IMG_4523~Step 2.  In a gentle, slow, steady stream, add the beaten eggs to the moderately hot skillet.  Do nothing for 10-15 seconds, until the eggs just start to set up on the bottom.

IMG_4528 IMG_4528 IMG_4528Step 3.  In a series of "skillet on and off an on the heat" moves, lift the skillet up and off the heat, swirl the pan to distribute the egg mixture up and around the sides of the pan and return the skillet to the heat. Repeat this 4-6 more times, until the remaining liquid doesn't want to move around in the pan.  Without swirling, spend about 15-20 more seconds lifting the pan on and off the heat until the remaining eggs START to look dry on the surface and steam bubbles are building up underneath.

Note:  All the "on and off lifting" keeps the eggs from overcooking and browning.  Browning = Dry.

~ Step 4.  Filling and folding eggs goes super-fast so pop that English muffin into the toaster now.

IMG_4628 IMG_4628 IMG_4628 IMG_4628 IMG_4628 IMG_4628 IMG_4628~Step 5. Place two slices of deli-style ham on top of the eggs, leaving a 1 1/2" border around the perimeter of the pan.  If you like cheese on your breakfast sandwiches (Joe does, I do not) now is the time to add 2 tablespoons of grated, not sliced, cheddar or Swiss.  Sprinkle it in a 4" circle over the ham. To fold, using a large spatula, fold the side closest to you up and into the center.  Fold the left side into the center, followed by the right side into the center.  Fold the last remaining side, the one farthest away from you, to the center to form a perfect square w/filling(s) encased.

Note:  Wouldn't it just be easier to slap a slice of cheese on top of the ham?  Well, yes it would, but, when it comes time to fold the eggs, you would find that a square of not-yet completely melted cheese causes the fragile eggs to crack around the corners, and, the most beautiful part about this sandwich is how the fillings stay totally encased in the eggs until it is time to eat.

IMG_4661 IMG_4566 2~ Step 6. Flip the egg pocket over. Place the bottom of the hot English muffin on a piece of foil, place the egg pocket on top, followed by the hot muffin top.  Seal foil around the sandwich, to allow bread to steam a bit, about 1-minute.  Use this time wisely:  wash and dry the skillet.

Ok -- open the foil -- take a look, take a second look too:

IMG_4667Welcome to McMel's early morning kitchen:

IMG_4705Ham and Cheese in a Folded Egg Pocket Sandwich:  Recipe yields instructions to make 1 egg pocket sandwich at a time.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; fork; 10" nonstick skillet; spatula; toaster; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3950339200dCook's Note: There's nothing like waking up to the ethereal smell of freshly-baked cinnamon rolls.  That said, if you're the cinnamon-roll baker, unless your family sleeps until Noon, "pulling that off" means getting up long before dawn -- yawn. My happy little twist on classic cinnamon rolls, which lets a pre-programmed bread machine mix and proof my recipe for cinnamon-raisin bread dough, will get you an extra 55-minutes of AM snooze time.  Tick, tock.  It's smooth and stress-free sailing after that.  The super-manageable dough pats out easily, store-bought cinnamon-sugar gets sprinkled on top, roll, slice and in the muffin tins they go to proof.  Poof -- bake and your done. To try another one of McMel's breakfast kitchen favorites:  ~ Cinnamon 'n Raisin Cinnamon-Swirl Muffins ~.

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

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

06/15/2020

~ No-Pain Stay-Sane Pantry-Cooking Pork Lo-Mein ~

IMG_3094Lo mein.  In Chinese it literally means "tossed noodles", and, it implies a method in which cooked wheat noodles get tossed into almost any type of stir-fry at the end of the cooking process.  As a result, the noodles absorb some sauce and stay soft while the other previously-cooked ingredients (meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables) get distributed evenly throughout. An example of the opposite would be chow mein, which means "fried noodles", and implies a method in which the noodles are fried to a crispy state at the beginning of the cooking process.

Lo-Mein.  Like spaghetti, I want it when I want it.  ASAP.

Noodles are universally popular and lo mein is extremely popular in Chinese restaurants all over the world.  I for one have eaten in Chinese restaurants all over the world and have never encountered a Chinese menu sans lo mein.  That would be the equivalent of walking into an Italian restaurant and not being able to order a simply-sauced bowl of stranded pasta.  It's unthinkable.  The same goes in my home kitchen too, and it's why this lo-mein lover came up with a quick-to-make pantry-staple-recipe to quickly satisfy my cravings for lo-mein any time of the day or night.  Just like eating a bowl of spaghetti at midnight, I want it when I want it -- ASAP.

Get out a few pantry staples, slice pork & cook noodles:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb095ecaf4970dFor the marinade/sauce (1 1/4 cups -- 1/2  cup for marinade/3/4 cup to sauce stir-fry) & noodles: 

8  tablespoons tablespoons Chinese soy sauce

3  tablespoons each:  hoisin sauce, oyster-flavored sauce, Sriracha sauce and sesame oil

16  ounces lo-mein noodles or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, drained and briefly rinsed under cold running water to keep them from sticking together 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8bbdde3970bFor the stir-fry:

2  pounds pork tenderloin, prepped and marinated as directed below

1/2  cup marinade/sauce, from above recipe, for marinating pork

2  tablespoons sesame oil 

1  tablespoon bottled minced garlic or garlic paste

2  tablespoons bottled minced ginger or ginger paste

1  generous cup thinly-sliced sweet onion, half-moon shapes cut into halves

1 1/2-2  cups frozen peas and carrots

1  4 1/2-6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, well-drained

cooked lo-mein noodles and marinade/sauce, from above recipe

6a0120a8551282970b01bb095ecdd9970d IMG_3035 IMG_3035 IMG_3035 IMG_3035~Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the ingredients for the marinade/sauce.  Slice the tenderloins into thin, 1/8"-1/4"-thick disks, then cut the disks into thin strips, placing them in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Add 1/2 cup of the marinade/sauce mixture to the pork and close the bag.  Using your fingertips, "massage" the bag of pork until the meat is evenly coated in marinade and set aside.  Dice the onion and set aside.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8bbd680970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8bbd680970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8bbd680970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8bbd680970b~Step 2.  While pork is marinating, cook lo-mein noodles as directed, drain into a colander and rinse under cold running water.  For a moment or two, give the colander several vigorous shakes to insure excess water is removed.  Set aside to thoroughly drain while preparing stir fry.

Note:  While spaghetti may be substituted for lo-mein noodles without any compromise in taste or texture, be aware that lo-mein noodles cook to al dente in a short 3-4 minutes  and  spaghetti will take a bit longer, 10-11 minutes.  Be sure not to overcook either one.

IMG_3044 IMG_3044 IMG_3049 IMG_3049 IMG_3049 IMG_3049~Step 3.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat sesame oil to 325° (medium-high).  Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook, stirring constantly, until bubbling and fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the pork and all of it's marinade in the bag.  Stir-fry, stirring constantly, until pork is turning opaque and just short of being cooked through, about 3 minutes.  

IMG_3061 IMG_3061 IMG_3061 IMG_3061 IMG_3061 IMG_3061~Step 4.  Add the onion, frozen vegetables and mushrooms. Continue to stir-fry, stirring constantly, until veggies are just thawed, about 3 more minutes.  Drizzle in 1/2 cup of the sauce and stir until all ingredients are completely and evenly coated.  Note:  There will be a generous 1/4 cup marinade/sauce left for the next and last step.

IMG_3078 IMG_3078 IMG_3078~ Step 5.  Add the cooked lo mein noodles to the skillet.  Using two large spoons or two forks, toss, like you would a salad, until noodles are coated in sauce, adding the additional sauce, until the noodles are evenly coated and heated through, about 1-2 minutes.  Portion into warm bowls & serve ASAP.

Portion into warm bowls & serve ASAP:

IMG_3099Skip the take-out or delivery -- get it from your pantry!

IMG_3109No-Pain Stay-Sane Pantry-Cooking Pork Lo-Mein:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon food storage bag; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; colander; 16" electric skillet, or, 12" stir-fry pan or skillet, preferably nonstick; two large slotted spoons or forks

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8bbe5d6970bCook's Note:  The secret to a great stir-fry is a great sauce and the concoction I used in this recipe, a 2:1  ratio of soy sauce to equal parts hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, Sriracha sauce and sesame oil takes a back seat to none.  I use it as an easy-to-make go-to Asian brown sauce in all sorts of stir-fries.

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

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

06/12/2020

~ Melt-in-Your-Mouth Tangy Cream Cheese Cookies ~

IMG_3030While this is one of the easiest cookie recipes in my repertoire, it is also one of the most used cookie recipes in my repertoire.  After the butter and cream cheese come to room temperature, start-to-finish, I can be done baking them in under an hour (including cleanup).  The end result is a not-too-sweet, melt-in-your-mouth cookie that takes-the-edge-off any cravings for overly-indulgent sweets.  For me, nibbling on one after breakfast in the morning, on the run in the middle of the day, or parked in front of the television in the evening, is a sweet spot during a busy day.

Eight ingredients = One melt-in-your-mouth batch of cookies:

IMG_2970

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

4  ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (very soft)

1  cup sugar

1  extra-large egg, at room temperature

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

Confectioners' sugar, for dusting cookies (optional, but, I don't go there)

IMG_2973 IMG_2973 IMG_2973 IMG_2973~Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, over medium-high speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Lower mixer speed to medium and blend in the sugar, egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of a bowl with a large rubber spatula while mixing -- this mixture will be silky smooth.

IMG_2985 IMG_2985~Step 2.  Lower mixer speed to low.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients .  Beat until dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, maybe a minute, and again, while using the rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

IMG_2994 IMG_2994 IMG_2994 IMG_2994 IMG_2994~Step 3.  Working one pan at a time while using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop balls of dough, well apart onto 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans that have been lined with parchment.  When first pan is filled, place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.  While first pan is in the refrigerator, ready the second pan.  Bake cookies, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 350° oven until the edges are just set and starting to turn golden, 12-13 minutes. Remove from oven and use a thin spatula to gently transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Once cool, dust with a very light coating of (optional ) Confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Take a taste.  These WILL melt-in-your mouth:

IMG_3026Melt-in-Your-Mouth Tangy Cream Cheese Cookies:  Recipe yields 20-22 cookies.

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

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8f4d147970bCook's Note:  If it's a drizzle of glaze you think you'd like on these cookies (which is so much better than a dusting of Confectioners' sugar), try my ~ Five-Minute Food-Processor Cream-Cheese Glaze ~.  Pictured here on a cake, it is just as scrumptious on these cookies (just be sure to cut the recipe in half, as the full recipe makes too much for one batch of cookies).

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

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

06/09/2020

~ Hellmann's Original Eight-Ingredient Potato Salad ~

IMG_2968Want to make a country-style potato salad just like your grandmother used to make?  The kind that allows the potato to be the star of the show?  Of course you do or you wouldn't be Googling around the internet looking for a basic, vintage recipe reminiscent of kinder, gentler, traditional times -- a recipe absent of a long-list fancy-schmancy ingredients (no special heirloom potatoes, no gourmet vinegars, no crazy-hot sauces, no silly spices, no asinine add-ins), that, while exciting-to-the-palate for the first few bites, just grow old in your mouth while muddlling up the flavor of the perfectly-cooked spuds.  If you've ever watched The Waltons ready themselves for a picnic up on the mountain, you know that grandma didn't toil over the task of making the potatoe salad any longer than it took the kids to gather their things and pile in to the back of the truck.

Yes, for most of us, potato salad conjures up memories of exactly what our grandmothers made. And, for the most part, those recipes for our grandmother's potato salad do not vary much. Various quantities of the usual suspects:  potatoes, eggs, celery and/or onion, with a dressing made of mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, sometimes pickles or pickle relish and/or a dash of mustard, plus, an occasional fresh herb.  Voila:  potato salad.  While we all have our favorite recipe or recipes, when offered potato salad at a gathering, this is the kind we Americans expect to be served.  To hasten up chilling any potato salad, try my spread it on a sheet pan method.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49c3900200dThe cook in every family has a favorite potato salad recipe. From my Eastern European heritage family, in my repertoire, Classic Creamy Potato and Egg SaladBaked Russet-Potato Salad, Red Potato Salad w/Horseradish-Mayonnaise, and, Vintage Pea, Carrot & Potato Salad Olivier, are amongst my family's favorites. That said, unlike almost all of our grandmothers and grandfathers, we of subsequent generations began moving or traveling to different areas of the US and/or started traveling around the world -- we eat globally and regionally, as well as locally. Our pantries contain spices and ingredients from many cultures, and, because potatoes are a great foil for foodie creativity, it should come as no shock to anyone that potato salad has been fused with flavors from other cuisines.  Example:  My Russet & Sweet Potato Salad w/Chile-Lime Mayo, pairs great with almost any Tex-Mex-style grilled chicken, steak or spareribs.

Simple, straightforward & on point, Hellmann's potato salad:

IMG_29322  pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4" chunks

1  cup Hellmann's Mayonnaise

2  teaspoons white vinegar

1 1/2  teaspoons salt

1  teaspoon sugar

1/4  teaspoon black pepper

1  cup thinly-sliced celery

1/2  cup diced onion

IMG_2941 IMG_2941 IMG_2941Step 1.  Peel and cube the potatoes, placing them in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan with straight-deep sides. Cover potatoes with cold water and add 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Bring to a boil over high heat, adjust temperature to a steady simmer and continue to cook until al dente (to the tooth), just shy of being cooked through to their centers, about 6-7 minutes after the water boils.  Do not overcook potatoes.  Drain potatoes into a colander.  Do not rinse potatoes.  Set aside to drain and cool for 10 minutes.

IMG_2934 IMG_2934 IMG_2934 IMG_2934 IMG_2934~Step 2.  While potatoes are cooling, in a large bowl, place and stir together the mayonnaise, white vinegar, salt, sugar and black pepper. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the celery and onion.  Add and gently fold in the still-warm potatoes.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Everything tastes better with Hellmann's:  

IMG_2961Hellman's Original Eight-Ingredient Potato Salad:  Recipe yields about 5 cups.

Special Equipment List: vegetable peeler; cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; colander; large rubber spatula.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d297c03f970cCook's Note: Mayonnaise.  As a gal who loves deli-, tuna- and egg-salad sandwiches, I am never too far from my mayo.  During the picnic and tailgate season, when side-dishes like macaroni salad, potato salad, cole slaw and deviled eggs reign supreme, I purchase bigger jars, in two-packs.  When our garden tomatoes are ripe, I could (and will) eat a freshly-picked sliced-tomato sandwich, on white bread, with a big slather of mayonnaise, every day.  There's more.  I can't imagine my life without mayonnaise-based tartar and remoulade sauces in it, or, oh my Thousand Islands salad dressing, and, I'm very proficient at making homemade mayonnaise ("mayo") from scratch too.  These two ~ Spreads go Bread to Bread:  Hellmann's vs Duke's ~.  To find out who gets my #1 vote, read my post.

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

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

06/07/2020

~Sour Cherry Preserves & Balsamic Port-Wine Sauce~

IMG_2909Looking for something to liven up your pan-seared pork loin chops or grilled chicken breasts? Reach into the panty for some high-quality sour cherry preserves, or, better yet, into the freezer for some homemade sour cherry jam or preserves and you're about ten minutes away from a lip-smacking, sweet-and-savory, restaurant-quality, pan sauce.  It's worth mention the same sauce can be made with blueberry or peach jam or preserves too -- I like to serve blueberry sauce with duck or quail, and, man-oh-man, peach sauce is marvelous with ribs or chicken.

IMG_28534  thin-ish (about 1/2"-thick) bone-in pork loin chops

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

all pan drippings from pork chops

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

a sprinkling of garlic powder

a sprinkling of onion powder

1/2  cup chicken stock

1/2  cup port wine

1  teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1  teaspoon herbes de Provence

1/4  teaspoon ground allspice

3/4  cup sour cherry jam or preserves

IMG_2858 IMG_2858 IMG_2858 IMG_2858 IMG_2858~Step 1.  Over low heat, in a 12" nonstick skillet, heat oil.  Add chops and lightly-season tops with sea salt, peppercorn blend, and, a sprinkling of garlic and onion powder.  Increase heat to medium-high and sauté chops until just cooked through and light golden, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate and cover with a piece of foil to keep warm.

IMG_2873 IMG_2873 IMG_2873 IMG_2879 IMG_2882 IMG_2882 IMG_2882 IMG_2882 IMG_2882 IMG_2882~Step 2.  To make the sauce, in a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the chicken stock, wine and balsamic vinegar.  Add the liquid to the hot skillet.  Using a spatula, deglaze the pan by scraping up all the flavorful browned bits.  Add the herbs de Pprovence and allspice.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until mixture is reduced by half, about 6 minutes.  Stir in the sour cherry jam or preserves.  Continue to simmer, stirring almost constantly, until mixture is reduced by half again, about 6 more minutes. Remove from heat and set pan aside about 6 more minutes -- sauce will thicken as it cools a bit. Store leftovers in refrigerator and reheat in the microwave -- sauce will loosen as it heat up.

Simply lip-smacking perfect on poultry or pork: 

IMG_2921Sour Cherry Preserves and Balsamic Pork-Wine Sauce:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup sauce and 2 large, or, 4 small servings.

Special Equipment List:  12" nonstick skillet; fork; aluminum foil; spatula; 1-cup measuring container; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08558965970dCook's Note: If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, "almost everything tastes better with a perfectly executed sauce on top of it, underneath it or to the side of it." I stand by these words with barbecue being no exception.  When I'm eating barbecue, more often than not, it's the sauce that "turns me on". For every style there is a sauce, and while I know what type of sauce to pair with which each style of barbecue, I also know when not to sauce at all (Texicans are crazy). Try my ~ Sweet and Savory K.C.-Style Cherry BBQ Sauce ~

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

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

06/05/2020

~ The Fried-Egg Sandwich from the Front Street Deli ~

IMG_2842Did you order a fried egg sandwich from the Front Street Deli?  That line from the movie The Firm, gets me salivating every time I hear it.  The Front Street Deli is the oldest deli in Memphis, Tennessee, the city in which the movie was filmed, and, the deli, which is located in a historic building built in 1853, was a featured location in the film.  This bustling eatery serves lunch and dinner plus touts a gorgeous view of the mighty Mississippi River too.  The deli has been in operation since 1976 and proudly continues "the breakfast sandwich tradition" set by the original owner: five sandwich choices, plus, a build-your-own option.  As for the rest of the menu, the deli is themed "all things Tom Cruise", with menu items being named after his many movies.

IMG_2840A bit about The Firm:  Based on the novel by John Grisham, Mitch McDeer (Tom Cruise) is a young man from a poor Southern family who struggled through Harvard Law School to graduate fifth in his class. Mitch entertains offers from firms in New York and Chicago, but, when Memphis-based Bendini, Lambert, & Locke offer him a 20% higher salary than his best offer (in addition to perks and benefits), he decides to sign on and stay in the South. Mitch's wife, Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), warns him the deal sounds too good to be true, but it's not until after several weeks of working with Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman) that Mitch discovers the vast majority of BL&L's business is tied to organized crime, with crime boss Joey Morolto (Paul Sorvino) using the firm to launder Mafia money. FBI agents Wayne Tarrance (Ed Harris) and F. Denton Voyles (Steven Hill) try to blackmail Mitch into helping them make a case against the firm, while BL&L's "security director" William Devasher (Wilford Brimley) is blackmailing him to do as he's told after Mitch foolishly allows himself to be seduced by a prostitute secretly hired by the firm.
 

Front_street_deli_patio-thumb1000x1000The build-your-own Front-Street-Deli breakfast sandwich:

BREAD:  grilled croissant, steamed biscuit, or, toasted white, wheat or rye

MEAT:  fried bacon strips, sausage patty, country ham slice, shaved turkey or pastrami

CHEESE:  one slice of American, cheddar, pepper Jack, provolone or Swiss (Note:  This is NOT a grilled-cheese sandwich, so, go easy on the cheese.)

EGGS:  two, fried-to-your liking or scrambled

ADDS:  mayonnaise, baby greens, sliced tomato and/or avocado

IMG_2817 2~ Step 1.  For my sandwich, I'm using (in order of assembly):

4 teaspoons butter

2 large eggs

2 slices brioche bread,

2-3 teaspoons mayonnaise

1 slice American cheese

3 strips oven-fried bacon

a few baby greens

4 small Campari tomato slices

IMG_2819 2 IMG_2819 2 IMG_2819 2 IMG_2819 2 IMG_2819 2~Step 2.  For each sandwich, in a 10" nonstick skillet, melt 2 teaspoons butter, then fry or scramble two eggs, to your liking (mine are soft-yolked sunny-side-up).  Transfer eggs from skillet to plate, tent with a piece of foil and briefly set aside.  Add remaining 2 teaspoons butter to the pan (and give it a few seconds to melt), followed by 2 slices bread, one of which has been slathered with mayo on the top side.  Place the cheese on the mayonnaise-topped bread slice, followed by the bacon, greens and tomato.  Top with the fried or scrambled eggs.  By the time the assembly is finished, the bread will be grilled.  Transfer to a plate and enjoy.

This IS the ULTIMATE egg-sandwich combination:

IMG_2847The Fried-Egg Sandwich from the Front Street Deli:  Recipe yields instructions to make one build-your-own fried-egg breakfast sandwich.

Special Equipment List: 10" nonstick skillet; aluminum foil; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4acbc41200cCook's Note: Sausage and eggs. It might sound run-of-the-mill, but, when the sausage is homemade, and the eggs are fried in the luscious sausage drippings, it's remarkable.  And newsflash: While making breakfast sausage is not quite as easy as picking up a package of sausage at the store, it's pretty darn close to being that easy, AND, trust me, after one taste, you'll never look at store-bought the same way again.  Period.  Try   ~ Mel's Herbaceous All-Purpose Breakfast Sausage ~.

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

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

06/02/2020

~About Fideo, the Traditional Noodle (Dish) of Mexico~

IMG_2737Fideo is a traditional noodle dish or soup.  It's popular in homes and restaurants throughout Mexico and the Southwestern United States.  No two cooks make it the same way.  Hey!  It's noodles.  Had I not had a lovely Mexican-American woman as a neighbor here in PA back in the latter 70s, I'd have missed out on this easy-to-prepare Mexican-, Mexican-American comfort food. Like noodles and pasta in general, home cooks and restaurant chefs prepare this versatile and inexpensive ingredient in all sorts of creative ways, using spices, flavorings, and/or vegetable-, protein- additions authentic to the region they live in.  Fideo is comfort food.  Fideo is said to have come to Mexico via the Spanish of Cavite (a province in the Philippines) in the 1600s. 

IMG_2789In Spanish, fideo means noodles. Fideo noodles are fine noodles, usually made with durum wheat and water, rolled, then cut into about 1"-1 1/2" pieces and dried. Depending on the region, recipes occasionally call for substituting broken pieces of vermicelli, angel hair pasta, or even spaghetti. What makes fideo uniquely different from other pastas or noodles is the method by which they get cooked. Once broken into short pieces, the noodles are always toasted in some oil and/or butter until nicely-golden and crisp.  After this all-important first step, they are either left in the pan to be further cooked in a specific main-course or side-dish recipe, or, transferred into a tomato-based soup for further cooking.

When served as a main-dish or a side-dish, the concoction, which varies from cook-to-cook, is very often referred to as "Mexican spaghetti", or, simply "fideo".  That said, more-often-than-not, all versions contain a various amount of liquid (water, stock or sauce), and almost all contain some form of tomato, plus onion, garlic and/or cilantro.  Many are made spicy or extra-spicy by adding chile powder and/or hot sauce.  When serving this starchy side-dish as a main-dish, it is usually presented as a flavorful bed for traditionally-seasoned (sliced, diced or shredded, roasted grilled or stewed), chicken, beef or pork.  When served as a soup, it's referred to as "sopa de fideo", and, while, with additions, it can be served as a main-dish, it is typically served as a starter course, or to cure a hangover or flu, or, to simply soothe the soul on a damp, cold day.

Toasted until golden & crisp, fideo noodles = the perfect foil for many Mexican-style noodle dishes & soups:    

IMG_2806"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

05/31/2020

~Souper Mexican-Style Noodle Soup (Sopa de Fideo)~

IMG_2789To the best of my knowledge, every culture has a special feel-good soup recipe known for its powers and abilities to right wrong, or, transform bad into good.  More often than not, it's a relatively easy-to-prepare recipe that is said to quickly quell hunger pangs, turn angst into calm, cure a hangover or a flu, or, simply soothe the soul on a damp or cold day. Sopa de fideo is, perhaps, Mexico's most famous comfort-soup recipe, and, it's said to have come to Mexico via the Spanish residents of Cavite (a province located in the Philippines) in the 1600s. 

In Spanish, "sopa" means "soup" & "fideo" means "noodles".

IMG_2737Sopa de fideo loosely translates to noodle soup. That said, not just any noodles can be used.  It's made with fideo noodles. These are fine noodles, usually made with durum wheat and water, rolled, then cut into about 1"-1 1/2" pieces and dried. The soup can be made with (homemade or store-bought) beef, chicken or vegetable stock (there is no right or wrong on this point) plus (fresh or canned) tomatoes and spices, but, the part that makes this Mexican noodle soup authentic is toasting the fideo noodles in a bit of oil before making the soup.

In English, a few pantry staples + fideo = fantastic Mexican-style noodle soup, in minutes, from start-to-finish. 

IMG_27392  tablespoons achiote vegetable oil (a yellow-orange hued oil that gets is color from annatto), or any plain (clear) ordinary vegetable oil

8  ounces fideo noodles

2  tablespoons fajita seasoning, homemade or store-bought*

1/4  teaspoon jalapeño pepper

6  cups unsalted vegetable stock

2  14 1/2-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

1  cup diced yellow onion

2-3  large cloves garlic

1/2-ounce bouquet garni of flavor-packed cilantro stems, reserve the leaves for garnish

1-1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt, more or less, to taste (optional) (Note:  Depending on the amount of salt in the fajita seasoning, which varies from recipe-to-recipe and manufacturer-to-manufacturer, it may or may not be necessary to add additional salt to the soup stock.)

lime wedges and/or cilantro sprigs, for garnishes

*Note:  Fajita seasoning is the perfect all-purpose seasoning blend for this Mexican-soup or almost any Mexican soup.  After all, its purpose is to season beef or chicken and all the yummy vegetables that typically season fajitas -- all the same ingredients that show up in Mexican-style soups.  When I used store-bought fajita seasoning to make this soup, I use McCormick brand.

IMG_2743 IMG_2743 IMG_2743 IMG_2743~Step 1.  In a 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed Dutch oven or similarly-shaped chef's pan with straight, deep sides, heat oil over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the fideo.  Using a large spoon, sauté the noodles, stirring constantly, until light golden in color, 3 1/2-4 minutes.  Turn heat off.

IMG_2745 IMG_2745~ Step 2.  In a food processor fitted with steel blade, place the fire-roasted diced tomatoes, diced onion, garlic cloves, fajita seasoning and jalapeño pepper powder.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses, process to a thin sauce.  Set aside.

IMG_2758 IMG_2758 IMG_2758 IMG_2758~Step 3.  Return heat under fideo to medium-, medium-high.  Add the stock, followed by the tomato sauce and the cilantro-stem bouquet garni.  Adjust heat to a gentle steady simmer.

IMG_2767 IMG_2767 IMG_2767 IMG_2767 IMG_2767~Step 4.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes, until fideo is al dente.  Turn the heat off and cover the pot.  Allow the soup to steep for 8-10 more minutes, to allow soup to thicken slightly and flavors to marry a bit.  Serve immediately.  Note:  Leftovers continue to thicken.  Reheat leftovers on the stovetop adding additional vegetable stock as required.

Meet the Mexican-style oodles-of-noodles bowl.  Cha-cha-cha.  What a perfect middle-of-, or, end-of the day pick-me-up.

IMG_2793Souper Mexican-Style Noodle Soup (Sopa de Fideo):  Recipe yields 3-quarts soup/6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List: 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed Dutch oven or chef's pan w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; food processor or blender; kitchen-safe twine; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47da212200dCook's Note: When I use my crockpot, it's not because I have no time to cook, it's because what I'm letting it cook for me, without compromise, is really good.  It's no secret, I've never been a crockpot kinda gal, but, over the past few years I've mellowed.  For one of our family's favorite Tex-Mex-style soups, try ~ Easy-Does-It: Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup ~.  Using pantry staples, this recipe takes almost no time to put in the crock and tastes reminiscent of a tasty trip South of the border.

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

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

05/28/2020

~ About Creste di Gallo or Crest of the Rooster Pasta ~

IMG_2706Coming up on eleven years of food blogging and I've never taken-on pontificating about a pasta shape. Until now, there was no reason.  After all, there are over 400 shapes of pasta in this food world.  Some are fresh, some are dried, all took shape for a reason, and all have a purpose, with some being better suited to certain dishes or sauces than others, and, everyone has their favorite. There's never been reason for me to interfere in any of the good-spirited Italian-, Italian-American banter about the best pasta for whatever the purpose -- long strands or fork-friendly count me in.

That said, over the Memorial Day weekend I made a flank-steak pasta-salad, which I shared with my neighbors across-the-way and friends a few miles away.  While we weren't sitting at the same table this year, the after-dinner phone calls were "all about the pasta."  Even though creste di gallo has been around for centuries, it seems it was new to my friends.  It was a genuine conversation starter -- a whole new topic to discuss amongst pandemic-weary foodie friends.

D556a06a9eeb47d71f7e4868d6082dd2In Italian, the word "gallo" translates to "rooster" (a male chicken). The literal translation of creste di gallo is "coxcomb", of which the crest shape of this short, fork-friendly, ruffle-edged, tubular pasta resembles. The word coxcomb dates back to the 1500s when it referenced the handsome, regal, slightly-unruly red comb of a rooster.  Unfortunately, it was also used as a derogatory slang term for the village idiot or any random fool.  Jesters played the role of fools to entertain people, and their caps were intricately fashioned to imitate the combs of male chickens.

Similarly, this is why Yankee Doodle Dandy stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.  In this time period, this British war song was their way of making fun of American colonists, who they deemed to be poor, backward, lowly, uneducated, "bumpkins" or "hicks". The British slang for idiot was "doodle", hence the name Yankee Doodle (or Yankee idiot).  It, too, was a nasty slur.

Roosters to the rescue?  This is a pasta to crow about!

IMG_2732The significance of the rooster in this legend-has-it pasta story dates back to the mid-to-latter 1400s and is tied to the Medici family* -- the most powerful family in Florence at that time.  As the story goes, another wealthy-but-jealous family, the Pazzis, came up with a plan to have the Medici brothers, Giuliano and Lorenzo, killed.  The Pazzis' hired assassins lie-in-wait for a time when the Medici brothers would throw one of their extravagant feasts -- the kind where wine flowed until the guests and guards often passed out.  When all was quiet, the killers began to sneak through the barnyard.  The plan was foiled when the roosters began to cock-a-doodle-doo with enough intensity to awaken the drunken party-participants.  In a show of gratitude, Giuliano and Lorenzo commissioned earthenware wine pitchers made in the shape of roosters, and glazed stoneware plates emblazoned with images of their cocky birds, plus, last but not least, threw a party serving a pasta resemblant of the rooster crest, to thank the angry birds for their loyalty and courage.    

While not readily found in grocery-store chains, creste di gallo pasta is easily found in specialty stores and on-line (which is where I purchase mine).  This tubular pasta with its unique ruffled edge makes it ideal for a wide-range of sauces.  Its shape will stand up to everything from a thick, hearty meat sauce, to a watery, fresh tomato sauce, to a delicate cream sauce.  It's marvelous tossed hot with something as simple as butter, salt, red pepper and a grating of cheese too.  Its resilience makes it ideal to use in hot soups or cold salads, and, it's fantastic baked in casseroles.

*FYI:  The Medici family, or House of Medici, attained political power in Florence via its success in commerce and banking starting in 1434, with the rise to power of Cosimo de’ Medici (or Cosimo the Elder).  His support of the arts and humanities turned Florence into the cradle of the Renaissance, rivaled only by ancient Greece. The Medicis produced four popes (Leo X, Clement VII, Pius IV and Leo XI), and their genes married into many of Europe’s royal families. The last Medici ruler died without a male heir in 1737, ending the family dynasty after three centuries.

Can't find rooster crest?  Substitute elbow macaroni or penne.

IMG_2719"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

05/25/2020

~ Memorial Day Road Trip to Champ's BBQ Chicken ~

IMG_2494Enjoy the long, relaxing Memorial Day holiday weekend by scoring a complete barbecue chicken dinner from Champs Sports Grill.  Located at 1611 North Atherton Street, State College, in Happy Valley, PA, this three day special event features an outdoor roadside grill and guarantees pull-up and pick up within three minutes of arrival in the parking lot.  This winner-winner chicken dinner can be preordered for a specifically-timed curbside pickup by phoning 234-7700 too.

$39.99 feeds four-six people.  It contains four perfectly-grilled, juicy and tender half-chickens with Mel's BBQ sauce, a pan of Mel's bacon-y baked beans, Champs creamy-crunchy cole slaw, Scott's macaroni salad, and, a big bag of Middleswarth BBQ chips. $10.99 feeds one person.

Available: Saturday and Sunday (5/23 and 5/24) 12:00PM-7:00PM, and, Monday (5/25) 12:00PM-5:00PM.  Come out and show your support for one of State College's all-time best eateries.

Can't make this better at home for less!

IMG_2523"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

05/22/2020

~ Platter Up a Steak, Pasta, Fontina & Catalina Salad ~

IMG_2659No special marinade, no fancy ingredients, no fuss, no muss, no stress.  Yes, you read that right, and, when you and yours sit down to this start-to-finish forty-five-minute main-dish salad, if you aren't smacking your lips while plating your second helping with a satisfied smile on your face, I'll be shocked.  Of course you can embellish it (sprinkle the flank steak your favorite steak-seasoning, grill the steak along with the tomatoes and onion outdoors, and/or make the salad dressing and crunchy croutons from scratch), but, trust me when I tell you, there is no need.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c2b5f2200dAs a lover of sweet and tanilizingly savory combinations, Catalina dressing was always on the door of my mom's refrigerator.  While she and dad didn't, for the most part, ever stray past the bottle of Wish-Bone Italian dressing, for some reason my brother and I gravitated to this red-orange concoction.  While I enjoyed it on chef-type salads that contained "the works" (lots of cheeses and meats), my brother would drench large chunks or wedges of iceberg lettuce with it.

My perfectly-broiled 18-minute flank steak is the centerpiece... 

IMG_65571  large 2-2 1/2  pound flank steak (Note:  At approximately $6.50. per pound, this $25.00-$30.00 steak when paired with a hearty salad will feed 6-8 people.)

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_6570 IMG_6570 IMG_6576 IMG_6576 IMG_6576 IMG_6576~Step 1.  Place flank steak on a corrugated broiler pan and let it come to room temperature about 20-30 minutes.  Season top with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Place 5 1/2"-6" under preheated broiler and cook for exactly 9 minutes. Remove steak from oven.  Flip the steak over and season second side with salt and pepper. Return to broiler and cook another 9 minutes.  Remove from oven and rest steak 9-10 minutes.

IMG_6587 IMG_6587 IMG_6587~Step 2.  Transfer steak to a large cutting board. Holding a large chef's knife at a 30° angle, thinly-slice steak, against the grain, into 1/4" pieces.  Arrange sliced steak atop salad (prepared as directed below while the steak was broiling and resting).  Top the salad with the crunchy croutons and serve immediately drizzled with 1/2 cup Catalina dressing, plus, additional dressing at tableside.

... atop a bed of tomatoey pasta, fontina & Catalina salad:

IMG_25921  pound fork-friendly pasta, drained, rinsed, cooled, dried and lightly-tossed in 1/2  cup dressing dressing (Note:  I'm using "creste-di-gallo", "rooster crest" pasta.  It's one of my favorite shapes, and, I describe it as a, tubular, elbow-macaroni shaped, frilly-edged fancy-shmancy version of penne.)

1  head romaine lettuce, cut into 1/2" strips

2-2 1/2  ounces spring mix greens

1/2-3/4  cup very-thinly-sliced red onion, cut into half-moon shapes

1  large seedless cucumber, peeled and thinly-sliced

10  ounces halved grape tomatoes

4-6  ounces shredded Fontina cheese

4  ounces crunchy, Parmesan- or Caesar-seasoned croutons

1 1/2  cups tomatoey Catalina dressing, store-bought or my scratch-made recipe

IMG_2536 IMG_2536 IMG_2536 IMG_2536 IMG_2536 IMG_2536 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558~Step 1.  To prepare the pasta portion of dinner, in a 5-quart stockpot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil over hight heat and add 1 tablespoons sea salt. Add pasta, adjust heat to a rapid simmer, and cook to al dente, 9-10 minutes.  Drain into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water to halt cooking process, and, slightly chill the pasta.  Place pasta on a baking pan that has been lined with plastic wrap and a sheet of parchment.  Set aside to allow pasta to dry free of excess moisture, 10 minutes.  Transfer pasta to a large bowl and add 3/4 cup Catalina dressing.  Toss to coat pasta in dressing and set aside.

IMG_2595 IMG_2595 IMG_2595 IMG_2595 IMG_2595 IMG_2595 IMG_2595~Step 2.  To assemble the salad portion of dinner, chiffonade the romaine and mound it in the center of a large platter.  Arrange the dressed pasta around the romaine.  Top the romaine and parts of the pasta with a layer of spring mix, followed by a layer of onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.  Scatter shredded fontina evenly over all and follow it up with a drizzle of about 1/2 cup dressing.  Arrange the sliced steak on top, scatter the croutons around it, then drizzle the last 1/4 cup dressing over the steak.

Top salad w/sliced steak, croutons & Catalina dressing:

IMG_2654Plate a heaping helping & enjoy some carnivorous heaven: 

IMG_2689Platter Up a Steak, Pasta Fontina & Catalina Salad:  Recipe yields instructions to broil the perfectly-cooked rare- medium-rare flank steak/6-8 servings hearty main-dish salad meals.

Special Equipment List: 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" x 1 1/4" disposable aluminum broiler pan w/corrugated bottom; cutting board; chef's knife; 5-quart stockpot; colander; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; plastic wrap; parchment paper; 1-cup measuring container: large rubber spatula; vegetable peeler; hand-held box grater

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51ae87f200bCook's Note: For those who have a family to feed, current food costs are cause to take many things off the table.  That said, by purchasing a steak and serving it portioned and sliced atop a simple, uncomplicated, well-dressed salad (alongside a side of simple, uncomplicated, well-seasoned steak fries), it turns out to be kinda economical.  For another of my family's favorite steak salads (this one made with a T-Bone and dressed with Wishbone Italian) try my ~ Steakhouse Steak Salad w/Onion-Laced Steak Fries ~.

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

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

05/19/2020

~Eight Delightfully Delicious Rice-a-Roni Dinner Ideas~

IMG_0296Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat, was a savvy entrepreneur's son's take on rice pilaf.  Italian born immigrant Domenico (Charlie) DeDomenico moved to California in 1895 to open a fresh produce store.  After becoming a successful businessman, he married Maria Ferrigno, an immigrant from Salerno, Italy, where her family owned a pasta factory.  In 1912, Maria persuaded Charlie to set up a similar business in the Mission District of San Francisco.  Gragnano Products, Inc., was born and began delivering pasta to Italian restaurants and stores throughout the area.

Maria and Charlie's sons, Paskey, Vince, Tom and Anthony worked in the family business, and, in 1934, Paskey changed the name to the Golden Grain Macaroni Company. Tom's wife Lois fell in love with a pilaf recipe she received from an Armenian immigrant, Mrs. Pailadzo Captanian, which she served at a family gathering.  After tasting the unique pilaf, which was made by sautéing a combination rice and pasta in butter before adding chicken broth and seasonings, Vince went to work developing a new product.  In 1958, his creation, named Rice-a-Roni, was introduced to the NW United States as "The San Francisco Treat".  Four years later, in 1962, it went nationwide.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a5229337200bComing up with copycat recipes for three flavors of made-at-home Rice-a-Roni (chicken, beef and Spanish-style) made for a fun few days.  Truth told, I love developing copycat recipes -- I'm good at it too. From sea to shining sea, as items we've come to take for granted disappear from our store shelves, many have reached out to express appreciation for these recipes. There's more.  Many have reached out to request more copycat recipes. ~ Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix & My Copycat Recipe ~  is one example.

~ Spicy Creole-Style Shrimp and Rice-a-Jamba Roni ~

IMG_0911~ Cajun-Style Chicken, Sausage & Rice-a-Jamba Roni ~

IMG_1009~ Oh-My-Goodness-Good Retro Rice-a-Burger Roni ~

IMG_1156~ Homestyle Chicken and Vegetable Rice-a-Roni Pilaf ~

IMG_1459~ Oh My Long Grain & Wild Rice-a-Roni Turkey Dinner ~

IMG_2205~ Mexican-Style Rice-a-Roni and Chorizo Meatballs ~

IMG_1873~ Easy Chinese-Style Pork-Fried Rice-a-Roni Stir-Fry ~

IMG_1365~ Teriyaki-Style Chicken Wings & Rice-a-Roni Bowls ~

IMG_2469"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

05/17/2020

~ Slightly-Spicy Garlic-Butter and Herb Penne Pasta ~

IMG_2363In terms of the easiest-to-make, nicely-spiced, full-of-flavor pasta dish that serves as a foil for almost any Italian-American entrée that contains or is gonna get sauced with red gravy, this is it -- chicken, veal or eggplant Parmesan and chicken cacciatore are off-the-top-of-my-head examples. While you might be temped to toss some Parmesan cheese into this at the end, I don't recommend it.  Trust me, not everything tastes better with cheese riddled through it.  Save the cheese to top the dish in its entirety (even when serving it as a side-dish or eating by itself).

Penne for your thoughts?

IMG_2357Penne is short, tube-shaped fork-friendly durum-wheat pasta shape that originated in Campania, a region in Southern Italy.  Next to spaghetti, it's one of, if not the, most well-known and popular shapes. In Italian circles, it's sometimes referred to as mostaccioli, which references an Italian dish that features this shape.  Dishes made with penne frequently show up on restaurant menus at Italian eateries, especially here in the USA -- we Americans and Italian-Americans have a bone fide love affair with it. The name "penne" comes from the word "pen", which resemble the angled ends of the tip of a quill pen.

Everything tastes better with fork-friendly penne!

IMG_23281  pound penne pasta

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

8 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick, cut into 8-12 pieces)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, slightly more or less, for heat

IMG_2334 IMG_2334 IMG_2334 IMG_2334~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon salt, followed by the penne.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 10-11 minutes.  Turn heat off and remove pot from heat.  

IMG_2346 IMG_2346 IMG_2346 IMG_2346~Step 2.  Drain pasta into a colander and immediately return the steaming hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the pot back on the still warm stovetop.  Add the butter pieces, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes.  Using a large spoon stir until butter has melted and pasta is enrobed in a flavorful garlic-butter and herb sauce.  Plate and serve immediately. 

Try it w/my Crockpot Hunter's-Style Chicken-Thigh Cacciatore:

IMG_2392Slightly-Spicy Garlic-Butter and Herb Penny Pasta:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart stockpot; colander; cutting board; paring knife; large spoon; microplane grater

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e50139200dCook's Note: Choose from any number of proteins we make for dinner.  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. Try my ~ Egg Noodles & Broccoli in Spicy Garlic-Butter Sauce ~.

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

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

05/15/2020

~ Crockpot Hunter's-Style Chicken-Thigh Cacciatore ~

IMG_2392In the style of the hunter, aka the catcher.  Traditional cacciatore was a thick, rustic stew prepared primarily when the hunter bought home "white meat" to feed his family -- partridges, pheasants or rabbits.  In Italian, the word "cacciatore" means "hunter", and, the term "alla cacciatore" means "in the style of the hunter".  The Italian-American term infers a chicken stew prepared with mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, olives, herbs and red wine. It's pretty easy to imagine how the dish transitioned from game birds and rabbits in Italy to chicken here in America.

Traditional cacciatore is prepared on the stovetop.

Cacciatore is a slow-cooked stew that's traditionally prepared on the stovetop -- the culinary term is "stovetop-braised".  It starts by heating some olive oil in a large skillet.  The "white meat" (I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs) gets dusted with salt, pepper and flour, sautéed until golden brown on both sides, then removed from the skillet.  The pan gets deglazed with the red wine and the flavorful juices are used to sauté the earthy vegetables.  After that, the chicken is returned to the pan, tomatoes are added, and the mixture gently simmers, low and slow, for 1 1/2-2+ hours.

Chicken cacciatore, essentially a slow-cooked stovetop stew, as it turns out, is a delightful dish to cook in the crockpot too.

Because cacciatore is essentially a slow-cooked stew, it is a dish that adapts very well to the crockpot.  That said, for the best flavor, texture and presentation, begin by browning the chicken thighs in some oil in a skillet on the stovetop before putting them in the crockpot.  Past that, all the ingredients, as listed below, just get layered on top of the browned chicken.  The crockpot gets turned to high, and four hours later:  Luscious, succulent chicken thighs swimming in a thick, rich, divinely-seasoned vegetable-laced sauce are ready to serve atop of bed garlic-butter pasta. 

IMG_3106Meet Crockpot's Casserole Crock. For me, it's my latest acquisition in a long line of slow cookers.  I now currently own ten different brands, models and sizes -- which is odd because, me, not-the-queen-of-crockpot-cooking, uses a slow cooker, maybe, five-six times a year. While Crockpot rightfully peddles this one as a casserole crock (because it is essentially a 13" x 9" x 3" casserole), and, it's intended to make-and-take slow-cooked casseroles (it's got lock-in-place handles and a stay-cool handle for carrying the entire contraption), I saw it as a vehicle for 12 large chicken thighs, to slowly cook in sauce, evenly and in comfort -- single-layer spa-style.

IMG_2279To brown the chicken and sausage:

12  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1  pound country-style breakfast sausage links

Wondra quick-mixing flour for sauce and gravy, for dusting chicken thighs

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning chicken thighs

4-6  tablespoons olive oil, for browning chicken thighs

1/2  cup inexpensive port wine, for deglazing pan

For the vegetable additions:

1  cup diced onion

1  cup peeled and diced carrot

1  cup diced red bell pepper

1  4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, well-drained

1  4-ounce can sliced black olives, well-drained

For the sauce and spices:

1  6-ounce can tomato paste

1  tablespoon Italian seasoning blend

2  teaspoons dehydrated minced garlic

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1  28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

IMG_2241 IMG_2241 IMG_2241 IMG_2241 IMG_2241 IMG_2241~Step 1.  Place the chicken thighs, as is (meaning do not unroll them), smooth sides up, on a plate or platter.  Lightly dust their tops with flour, following by a grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend. Set aside. Place 4-6 tablespoons olive oil, enough to coat bottom, in a 12" skillet.  Add the sausage links. Over medium-high heat, brown the sausage, about 3-4 minutes per side.  Remove the sausage links from the skillet and set aside.

IMG_2245 IMG_2245 IMG_2245 IMG_2245 IMG_2257~Step 2.  Add the chicken thighs, smooth flour-dusted sides down, to the hot skillet.  Dust the undersides of thighs with flour and lightly-season with sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Adjust heat to sauté, until chicken is golden on both sides, turning only once, about 15-20 minutes (8-10 minutes per side.  While the chicken is sautéing, quickly slice the sausage links into 1/2"-thick coins.  Using a pair of tongs, remove the thighs from the skillet and arrange them, in a single layer, in bottom of crockpot.  Scatter the sausage coins over the chicken.

IMG_2261 IMG_2261 IMG_2261~ Step 3.  Add the wine to the drippings in the skillet. Over medium-high heat, use a large spoon or spatula to deglaze the pan by scraping the stirring to loosen the browned bits from the bottom, cooking and stirring for about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and pour the mixture over the chicken and sausage in crockpot.

IMG_2282 IMG_2282 IMG_2282 IMG_2282 IMG_2282 IMG_2295 IMG_2295 IMG_2295~Step 4.  Scatter the vegetables, the diced onions, carrots, red bell peppers over the chicken thighs and sausage, followed by the well-drained sliced mushrooms and black olives.  Dollop the tomato paste atop the vegetables, followed by the seasonings and the crushed tomatoes.  Using the back of a large spoon and a light touch, spread  crushed tomatoes to the edges of the crock.

IMG_2304 IMG_2304 IMG_2311 IMG_2317 IMG_2317~Step 5.  Cover the crockpot and cook on high for 4 hours.  Remove the lid from Crockpot casserole.  Using a large slotted spoon, gently remove the chicken thighs to a large plate or platter, allowing excess sauce to drizzle back into crock.  Give the sauce a thorough stir.  Portion and serve chicken and a ladle-full of sauce atop garlic-butter and herb pasta.

Serve sauced atop garlic-butter and herb penne pasta:

IMG_2412Crockpot Hunter's Style Chicken-Thigh Cacciatore:  Recipe yields 12 chicken thighs/6 servings and 2 quarts of sauce.

Special Equipment List: 12" nonstick skillet; tongs; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon or spatula; vegetable peeler; large slotted spoon; ladle

IMG_2363Cook's Note:  To make my slightly-spicy garlic-butter and herb penne pasta:  Over high heat, cook 1 pound penne as package directs, to al dente. Drain thoroughly and return hot pasta to hot stockpot on still warm stovetop. Add 8 tablespoons salted butter (1 stick, cut into pieces), 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend3/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Stir until butter has melted and pasta is coated.

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

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

05/12/2020

~Oh My Long Grain & Wild Rice-a-Roni Turkey Dinner~

IMG_2205As a creature of habit, Sunday is my day to roast something -- sometimes it's a long and lean eye-of-round beef roast, others times it's one or two plump roasting chickens or the biggest whole turkey breast I can find.  Oddly, this "roast du jour" is rarely our Sunday dinner.  I do it to have on hand to round-out a quick-to-make weeknight dinner or two, or to slice and eat in place of deli-meat in weekday sandwiches.  Today I'm talkin' winner-winner flash-in-the-pan turkey dinner.

Let's talk winner-winner flash-in-the-pan turkey dinner.

IMG_2223A box or three of Uncle Ben's long-grain & wild rice mix was a staple in my mom's pantry and I've carried on the tradition with Rice-a-Roni's version.  It and its seasoning packet combine to make a quick side-dish that generically (without additions) pairs well with almost anything (beef, poultry or pork).  By adding a vegetable or two to the mix during the last few minutes of the cooking process, it can be turned into a deliciously-easy one-skillet meal -- in less than 30 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a5229337200bIn the case of this long-grain & wild Rice-a-Roni turkey dinner dinner recipe, I'm not posting one of my copycat recipes for Rice-a-Roni, meaning,  I'm using the boxed mix and seasoning packet just as they are.  By simply adding several on-hand kitchen-, pantry- and freezer-staple vegetable additions. It's these additions that turn this boxed mix into an absolutely-delightful super-easy-to-make one-skillet dinner: one cup each of diced celery, onion and apple, a can of sliced mushrooms, and a bag of frozen sweet potatoes.

IMG_2131Oven-Braising a Whole Turkey Breast couldn't be easier. Oven-braising is a cooking method that combines moist and dry heat.  The process starts on the stovetop (in a Dutch oven), where it is seared in fat or oil, to seal in the juices (in the case of an oven-braised turkey breast, there is no need for this cumbersome task). The vessel of food is then placed, tightly covered, at a high, low, or combination of high and low heat, to braise in the moist heat created inside the vessel.

Long grain & wild rice + apples, celery, onion, mushrooms & sweet potatoes -- what a sweet and savory combination. 

IMG_2168For the Long-Grain & Rice-a-Roni Turkey dinner:

3  tablespoons salted butter

2  4.3-ounce boxes Long Grain & Wild Rice-a-Roni Rice + seasoning packets

1 1/2  cups peeled and diced apple

1  cup diced onion

1  cup diced celery

3 1/3  cups water, which includes 1/2 cup liquid from 1, 4-ounce can sliced mushrooms (from below), 3 1/2 total cups liquid

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon poultry seasoning

1  4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, well-drained

1  9-ounce bag brown-sugar-seasoned steam-in-bag sweet potatoes, steamed according to package directions

1  oven-braised turkey breast, sliced

homemade or store-bought turkey gravy, your favorite brand, warmed, for dipping or drizzling, for accompaniment

applesauce sauce, for accompaniment

IMG_2173 IMG_2173 IMG_2173 IMG_2173~Step 1. Over low heat, melt the butter in bottom of pan.  Prepare the long-grain and wild Rice-a-Roni according to package directions, starting by stirring the long-grain and white rice into the melted butter, while stirring constantly for about 1 minute until mixture is foamy.  Stir in the diced apple, celery and onions and cook about 1 more minute, again, stirring constantly.

IMG_2185 IMG_2185 IMG_2185Step 2. Slowly add the water to pan --  steam will billow up, so, be careful. Add the seasonings (the packet from the box, plus the 1 teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning).  Give the mixture a thorough stir and wait for it to return to a simmer, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to a simmer gently.

IMG_2191 IMG_2191 IMG_2191 IMG_2191~Step 3. Cover pan and adjust heat to gently simmer until rices are cooked through and have absorbed almost all liquid, 25-30 minutes.  Do not uncover pan during this time.  Add sweet potatoes and mushrooms.  Cover and let residual heat to heat sweet potatoes and mushrooms, about 5 minutes.  Uncover and gently stir potatoes and mushrooms into rice mixture.

Good enough to put on anyone's table for dinner:

IMG_2209Oh My Long Grain & Wild Rice-a-Roni Turkey Dinner:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container

6a0120a8551282970b0240a500475e200d 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c92e1f14970bCook's Note: Everyone and anyone who cooks has an opinion on roasting chicken, and, mine is quite basic.  Two chickens, two hours. Read all about:  This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken. For a variation on the same Rice-a-Roni theme, try my recipe for ~ Homestyle Chicken and Vegetable Rice-a-Roni Pilaf ~.

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

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

05/09/2020

~Oven-Braising a Turkey Breast without a Dutch Oven~

IMG_2131Let's talk turkey.  Whole frozen birds and whole thawed breasts, were, for the most part, always available year round, but, at present, folks seem to be noticing them more -- especially the whole breasts.  Considering the increasing scarcity, not-to-mention skyrocketing prices of beef and pork products, people are in search of relatively inexpensive alternatives that can feed an entire family. A whole turkey breast is one wise-choice item, but, based on the questions coming to me via KE recently, many first-time stay-at-home-full-time cooks find themselves overwhelmed, intimidated and confused by a product they've passed by more times than they'd like to admit.  

While almost everyone knows how to, or has some experience with, roasting a whole turkey, when in the possession of a whole turkey breast, one of two questions frequently come my way.  #1) I purchased a whole turkey breast.  What's the best way to cook it?  #2)  I roasted a whole turkey breast and it was dry.  What did I do wrong?  The answers:   The best way to cook a turkey breast is to oven-braise it.  While you roast a whole turkey, you can't roast a turkey breast. There's more.  While braising is usually done in an expensive pot called a "Dutch oven", when it comes to braising a turkey breast, there's no need to throw down your trust fund to purchase one.

A relatively expensive, not-to-mention heavy Dutch oven is not required to perfectly oven-braise a turkey breast.

IMG_2043Newsflash.  You do not need a heavy, expensive Dutch oven to successfully oven-braise a turkey breast.  Full stop.  Do not let anyone tell you you do.  Period.  Le Creuset, Staub, Lodge, Cuisinart, AmazonBasics, to name a few, they're all excellent products that all do the same thing and they do it well.  I've got a few different brands, and, as a seasoned chef, trust me, past the price differential, there is no discernible difference between any of these brands.  If you've got one, flaunt it, but, if you don't, and don't have a budget to support the purchase, worry not.  

A wire rack inserted in a $1.69 disposable aluminum pan tightly-covered with aluminum foil does the same thing.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c48035200dIn my kitchen, turkey has never been a once-a-year celebratory meal complete with pomp and circumstance.  Oven-roasted turkey, oven-braised turkey breast, and, poached turkey tenderloins get served a few times a year. Sometimes it arrives at the dinner table in the form of a simplified turkey dinner with gravy, other times it arrives at the table in the form of turkey à la king, turkey tetrazzini, turkey divan, classic hot brown sandwiches, turkey chef salads, or cold turkey sandwiches.  That said, aside from our Turkey day celebration, for the rest of the year it's a whole turkey breast that I choose to use, and, I never, EVER, bring out one of my fancy Dutch ovens to do the job.  Why?  There's simply no reason to make an already heavy pot heavier by adding a turkey breast, especially when I won't be impressing anyone by serving my turkey out of it.  Save the pot for something elegant.

What's the difference between roasting & oven-braising?  

Roasting is a cooking method that uses dry heat.  The food is placed in a roasting pan, atop a rack or a melange of vegetables (to keep it from "stewing in it's own juices").  The food is placed in the oven, uncovered, at a high, low, or combination of high and low heat, to roast in the dry heat of the oven until the desired internal temperature is reached.  The food is usually, but not always, basted regularly during the cooking process to retain moisture and enhance flavor.

Oven-Braising is a cooking method that typically combines moist and dry heat.  The process starts on the stovetop (in a Dutch oven), where it is seared in fat or oil, to seal in the juices (in the case of an oven-braised turkey breast, there is no need for this cumbersome task).  The vessel of food is then placed, tightly covered, at a high, low, or combination of high and low heat, to braise in the moist heat created inside the vessel, until the desired internal temperature is reached.

My recipe for turkey breast + drippings to make plenty of gravy:

IMG_20521  whole thawed turkey breast, at or close to room temperature

2  cups chicken stock (16 ounces)

1/2  cup diced onion

1/2  cup diced celery

3-4  small fresh rosemary sprigs

2  tablespoons butter, melted

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_2059 IMG_2059 IMG_2059 IMG_2059~Step 1.  Insert a wire rack in a 13" x 9" x 4" disposable aluminum pan to which 2 cups chicken stock, 1/2 cup diced onion, 1/2 cup diced celery and 3-4 small fresh rosemary sprigs have been added.  Stand the turkey breast upright on the rack.  If turkey breast does not want to stand upright, use a pair of poultry shears to quickly trim a few rib bones off bottom of breast.

IMG_2069 IMG_2069 IMG_2069 IMG_2069 IMG_2069 IMG_2069~Step 2.  In small bowl or ramekin, melt the butter in the microwave.  Using a pastry brush, paint the entire surface area of the turkey breast. Generously season the breast with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Using a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, cover and tightly seal the turkey, air-tight, in the pan.  In the event you accidentally perforate, tear or rip the foil, start over with a new sheet of foil.

Meet the oven-braising chart I've compiled over 40 years:

~ Step 3.  On lowest rack of 450º oven, time and cook tightly-covered turkey breast as follows:

1 hour, 30 minutes (for a 3-3 1/2-pound split, turkey breast half)

1 hour, 45 minutes (for a 4-4 1/2-pound split, turkey breast half)

2 hours (for a 5-6-pound whole turkey breast)

2 hours, 15 minutes (for a 6-7-pound whole turkey breast)

2 hours, 30 minutes (for a 7-8-pound whole turkey breast)

2 hours, 45 minutes (for an 8-9-pound whole turkey breast)

3 hours (for a 9-10-pound whole turkey breast)

IMG_2098 IMG_2098~ Step 4.  Plan A.  When breast has braised according to the specified amount of time, remove it from the oven.  Allow to rest, covered, for 30-45 minutes prior to uncovering, removing the turkey meat from the breast bones, slicing and serving.

Plan B:  When breast has braised according to the specified amount of time, remove it from the oven.  Uncover pan (reserve the foil).  Transfer breast to a plate or platter, cover it with reserved foil and set aside to rest, covered, for 30-45 minutes, while preparing the gravy as follows:

IMG_2148 IMG_2148~Step 5.  Lift up the pan and pour the flavorful drippings into a 1-quart-sized fat/lean separator. After discarding the fat portion, there will be 3-3 1/2 cups of very nicely-seasoned drippings (which may be refrigerated or frozen for a later date).

IMG_6258 IMG_6258 IMG_6258 IMG_6258 IMG_6258 IMG_6258 IMG_6258~Step 6.  To make gravy, in a 2-quart saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tablespoons salted butter over low heat.  

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0a00852d970d~ Step 6.  As pictured above, whisk in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning. Increase heat to medium and whisk until mixture is thick, pasty and foamy.  Whisk in all of the fat-free drippings.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Adjust heat to a steady simmer, while continuing to whisk constantly, and cook until gravy has has thickened to your liking and coats the back of a spoon, about 2-3 minutes.  Yield: 3-3/12 cups gravy. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Mouthwateringly moist, fork-tender all-white meat turkey breast:  

IMG_2128Oven-Braising a Turkey Breast without a Dutch Oven:  Recipe yields instructions to oven-braise one whole turkey breast and make 3-3 1/2 cups gravy/6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 2-cup measuring container; 13" x 9" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; wire rack; poultry shears (optional); small bowl or ramekin; pastry brush; heavy duty aluminum foil; 1-quart fat/lean separator; 2-quart saucepan; wire risk 

6a0120a8551282970b0263e947b836200bCook's Note:  Got chicken on your mind? Rotisserie chicken is not my "gig".  It takes all the sport out of cooking.  I roast chickens.  I have roasted many chickens in my life, and, I've been roasting chickens since before some of you were born.  I've never served roasted chicken to a guest that didn't mention how moist and perfectly cooked it was and ask how in the world I got it that way.  Everyone and anyone who cooks has an opinion on roasting chicken, and, mine is quite basic: two chickens, two hours. Try ~ This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken + My Stressfree Carving-for-Dummies Methodology ~.  Gobble, gobble.

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

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