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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

04/26/2021

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

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

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

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

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

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e379fa970b1  cup whole milk

5  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces

4  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

4 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/23/2021

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

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

The Pullman loaf is the quintessential white sandwich loaf:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/20/2021

~ Peanut Butter, Oatmeal & Chocolate Chip Cookies ~

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

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

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

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon sea salt

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

1  teaspoon pure chocolate extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup dark brown sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup creamy or crunchy peanut butter

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/17/2021

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

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

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

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

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

1/2  cup shredded yellow cheddar cheese per hot dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/14/2021

~ Baked Hot Dog Cheesies & Creamy Tomato Soup ~

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

What to expect when ordering a cheesie: 

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

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

IMG_06112  slices soft white sandwich bread*

4  teaspoons mayonnaise

1  teaspoon ballpark mustard

1/8  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

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

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

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

1  tablespoon salted butter, melted in the microwave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/11/2021

~ Unembellished Perfection -- Classic Cheese Toast ~

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

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

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

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

IMG_05701  slice White bread

2  teaspoons mayonnaise

1/2  teaspoon ballpark mustard

2  drops Worcestershire sauce

1/8  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

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

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

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

Serve immediately w/a side of creamy tomato soup: 

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

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

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

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

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

04/08/2021

~ Bone-Suckin'-Sauced Boneless Chicken Paillards ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This easy winner winner chicken dinner is awesome:

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

6-8  tablespoons water (3-4-ounces)

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

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

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

Bone Suckin' Sauce Seasoning and Rub 

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

6 tablespoons corn or peanut oil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/05/2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

3  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces

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

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

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

1  tablespoon finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

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

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

1-2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves (optional)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

04/02/2021

~ Easiest Ham & Cheesy Boxed Scalloped Potatoes ~

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

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

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

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

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

2  tablespoons salted butter, sliced or cubed

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

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

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

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

Scoop out a heaping helping & gobble up the goodness:

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

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

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

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

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

03/30/2021

~ Easy One-Skillet Teriyaki Chicken-Thigh Paillards ~

IMG_0350As a lover of Asian fare, teriyaki-in-general is one of my favorite ways to cook.  Teriyaki is as well known outside of Japan as sushi or ramen is, so, most American people, kids included, will give "teriyaki anything" a try.  A bottle of teriyaki sauce has been a staple condiment in my pantry for as long as I've had a pantry, standing right next to the elites:  Heinz ketchup, French's mustard, Hellman's mayonnaise, K.C. Masterpiece barbecue sauce, and, Lee & Perrin's worcestershire sauce.  That said, teriyaki sauce is seriously simple to make, and, it can be customized to suit your family's taste.  I typically prepare a double- or triple-sized batch, then keep what I don’t use in the refrigerator (stored in there it keeps almost forever), so it's ready to reheat the next time a "teriyaki anything" craving hits me or mine -- sometimes as often as once a week.

Teriyaki sauce was invented by Japanese settlers to Hawaii.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e997f5f1200bTeriyaki (tehr-uh-yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beefchicken, ribs, 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 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, pork, fish or seafood) is marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for a more pronounced flavor, then cooked.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e997f63d200bHomemade 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.

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

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

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

Teriyaki chicken-thigh paillards are one of my favorite things.

IMG_03091 1/4-1 1/2  cups Panda Express Mandarin teriyaki sauce, plus, additional teriyaki sauce for dipping or drizzling at tableside

6-8  tablespoons water (3-4-ounces)

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

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

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

nothing -- add no seasoning

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

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, and, 2  tablespoons sesame oil 

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

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec6fcf6200c 6a0120a8551282970b0263e999ac40200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e999ac40200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e999ac4f200b~Recap:  Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic.

IMG_0310 IMG_0316 IMG_0320 IMG_0322 IMG_0326 IMG_0329 IMG_0333 IMG_0334 IMG_0336 IMG_0340 IMG_0345 IMG_0348~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the (now fragrant) hot oil in the skillet.  Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 8-9 minutes per side.  Add the teriyaki sauce to the chicken in the skillet, followed by the water.  Quickly heat the teriyaki sauce to bubbling, stirring in and around and under the paillards constantly for a moment or two to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  Adjust the heat to a very gentle simmer (steady yet very gentle), and continue to simmer very gently, uncovered, about 20 more minutes.

This recipe is so good it put take-out teriyaki in my past:

IMG_0349Try my Barbecue-Sauced Chicken-Thigh Paillard Salad too:

IMG_0253Easy One-Skillet Teriyaki Chicken-Thigh Paillards:  Recipe yields 6 main-dish servings.

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

IMG_0203Cook's Note: A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a boneless chicken thighs as an example: ~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- & Define a Paillard ~.

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

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

03/27/2021

~The Lunch Special BBQ-Sauced Chicken Sandwich~

IMG_0291More than a few foodie people I know, me included, secretly fantasize about owning a small-town, mom-and-pop-type diner -- a simple little eatery, with a dozen or so counter stools, plus a few booths lined up in front of a row of windows too.  A safe harbor where the local clientele can meander in almost any time of day for a cup of coffee and breakfast, the lunch or dinner special, or, a slice of lemon meringue pie.  A big piece of juicy barbecued chicken, hot out of the skillet, slathered in a copious amount of semi-caramelized barbecue sauce served up in a brioche roll with a side macaroni or potato salad would be one such special on Mel's Diner menu.

Mom-&-pop diner fare is perhaps some of my favorite food.

IMG_02624-6  hot-out-of-the skillet, whole barbecue-sauced chicken-thigh paillards

4-6  brioche hamburger-type rolls, preferably toasted, 1 roll per sandwich

8-12  slices yellow American or yellow cheddar cheese, 2 slices cheese per sandwich

2  cups baby romaine leaves, 1/3 cup lettuce per sandwich

1-1 1/4  cups thin-sliced red onion pieces, 1/4 cup onion pieces per sandwich

4-6  sliced Campari tomatoes, 3-4 small, Campari tomato slices per sandwich

IMG_0264 IMG_0266 IMG_0269 IMG_0270 IMG_0275 IMG_0276 IMG_0278 IMG_0280~Step 1.  To assemble each sandwich, place the bottom of a toasted roll on a plate.  Arrange two slices of cheese atop the warm roll, followed by a hot, barbecue chicken-thigh paillard.  Place a generous layer of baby romaine atop the the chicken, followed by a scattering of onion pieces and 3-4 small slices of Campari tomatoes.  Add the toasty top of the roll and eat ASAP.   

Add a BBQ-sauced chicken sandwich to your diner menu:

IMG_0282Try my Barbecue-Sauced Chicken-Thigh Paillard Salad too:

IMG_0256The Lunch Special BBQ-Sauced Chicken Sandwich:  Recipe yields 4-6 chicken sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; serrated bread knife; toaster or toaster oven

IMG_0203Cook's Note: A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a boneless chicken thighs as an example: ~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- & Define a Paillard ~.

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

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

03/24/2021

~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- and Define a Paillard ~

IMG_0203A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  In certain areas of the United States, paillards are simply referred to as "cutlets".  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound.  I'm using a few boneless, skinless chicken thighs as an example.   

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dPaillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word dating back to the 19th century means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded, large-and-flat cut or portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that will cook quickly.  A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness so as to break down the fibers, tenderize it, and, make it cook evenly.  It's best done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it -- a skillet might be fun, but, it won't do an expert job -- it's amateurish.  Taking the time to paillard correctly produces a professional outcome end ensures a pretty presentation, not to mention a perfectly-cooked end product.  Be professional.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an easy extra step that is well worth the effort. In the long run, I often find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it took to pound these six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.  Experience has taught that it is best to paillard the protein du jour while it is cold and easier to control the thickness.  On another note, I like to place "the victim" between two pieces of plastic wrap to paillard.  This enables me to see clearly what is happening with every strike of the meat mallet.  Others prefer wax paper or parchment paper  -- both work.

IMG_0180 IMG_0181 IMG_0184 IMG_0186Example:  Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic. Proceed with recipe as directed, as, there are several options, each depending on the method being used to cook them (sauté in a skillet, grill indoors or out, bake in the oven, deep-fry, etc):  

At the very least, the tops of the tenderized and delicate paillards typically get seasoned with sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sometimes, the paillards are placed in a marinade to season them (marinades are flavorizers not tenderizers).  Other times, a stuffing is placed on top of them and the paillards get rolled and secured prior to cooking.  Still other times, the paillards go through a classic breading process -- dredged in flour, dipped in eggs, coated in bread crumbs.

To paillard or not to paillard -- always a step worth taking:   

IMG_0203"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

03/21/2021

~Easy One-Skillet Barbecued Chicken-Thigh Paillards~

IMG_0256Next to Buffalo-style chicken anything, a big piece of juicy barbecued chicken, hot off the outdoor grill grids, slathered in a copious amount of semi-caramelized barbecue sauce is one of my favorite things.  There's more.  I like to take that seething hot piece of barbecued chicken and plop it atop a cold, crisp salad.  Yes, of course, the hot chicken semi-wilts some of those greens, but when I put a knife-and fork to this barbecued chicken salad meal, I can't stop eating.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09c6f476970dA bit about paillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that gets quickly sautéed. A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness --  to break down the fibers, to tenderize it, and, to make it cook evenly.  It's done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it to do a truly expert job.

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

Chicken-Thigh Paillards + Barbecue Sauce + Salad = Happy Me.

IMG_01961 1/4-1 1/2  cups K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, additional barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling at tableside

6-8  tablespoons water (3-4-ounces)

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09c74648970d6  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Note:  This is approximately the equivalent of 3, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied to form 6 pieces/portions.)

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

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2ae80a4970c~ Step 2. Remove and discard the top layer of plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle the tops of paillards with:

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

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

6 tablespoons corn or peanut oil

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

IMG_0180IMG_0180IMG_0184IMG_0184IMG_0190~Recap:  Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic.  Season tops of paillards with sea salt and peppercorn blend.  

IMG_0214 IMG_0214 IMG_0222 IMG_0222 IMG_0233 IMG_0236 IMG_0240 IMG_0243 IMG_0243~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.  Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 7-8 minutes per side.  Add the barbecue sauce to the chicken in the skillet, followed by the water.  Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring in and around and under the paillards constantly for a moment or two to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  Adjust the heat to a very gentle simmer (steady yet very gentle), and continue to simmer very gently, uncovered, about 20 more minutes.

Serve alongside or atop a generous helping of a nicely-dressed salad w/additional barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_0253Easy One-Skillet Barbecued Chicken-Thigh Paillards:  Recipe yields 6 main-dish servings.

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

6a0120a8551282970b026bdebbeec1200cCook's Note: When my kids were little kids then teenagers, barbecue-sauced pork chops, served up atop a bed of my easy-to-make recipe for better than store-bought stovetop macaroni and cheese was one of their favorite weeknight meals.  No one needed to be called to the table twice on barbecued pork chop night, and, I didn't have to spend all afternoon cooking in order to reap the reward of their accolades.  All I had to do was brown the chops on both sides and then let them slow simmer in a mixture of barbecue sauce and water for about 30 minutes until fork tender.  One-skillet perfection.  Try my ~ Easiest One-Skillet Barbecued-Sauced Pork Chops ~.

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

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

03/18/2021

~ In a Jiffy Corn Pancakes -- The Best of Both Worlds ~

IMG_0159The best of both worlds -- corn pancakes.  They're a combination of pancake batter and Johnny cake batter mixed together in one bowl to make:  corn pancakes.  They're wonderful -- slightly sweeter and considerably-lighter than typical Johnny cakes.  In a perfect world, I'd get up in the wee hours of the AM and make 'em from scratch.  Well, newsflash, it's not a perfect world, and, I can still make a great corn pancake breakfast by combining store-bought pancake mix and store-bought corn-muffin mix.  No eye rolling please -- once you stick a fork in one of these and take a taste, the outlook on the day ahead of you is going to improve.  Served with pure maple syrup and country sausage -- early morning breakfast perfection with no stress and no mess.

Johnnycakes.  The precursor to American pancakes.

Dating back to the early 1600's, Johnny cakes are said to be the precursor to the pancake.  The origin of the name is a mystery, and, likely has nothing to do with the name John.  We know they were originally called journey cakes because they were packed into saddlebags to take on long trips.  They were sometimes called ash cakes, because they could be baked or reheated in the hot embers of a fire, and, hoe cakes, are ash cakes that are placed on a hoe and also cooked over a fire.  Corn cakes were first made by Native Americans,  who called them janiken, and that sounds suspiciously close to Johnny cake to me. They used ground corn as an ingredient in a lot of their food, and some historians believe it was the colonists who slurred the words "Shawnee cakes" into "Johnny cakes".  It's no surprise that these cornmeal cakes are associated with New England, as it was the Native Americans who taught the Pilgrims how to grind corn (because their supply of wheat flour had spoiled during their voyage from England) back in 1620.

0ebda5e1-45d3-44d6-a586-dc5cb97fb591 2In their purest form, Johnny cakes are made from yellow or white corn meal, boiling water, salt and sometimes sugar.  The corn meal gives them their unique, kinda gritty dense texture, but, they get most of their flavor from what they are cooked in, so, bacon drippings or butter, or either, combined with some oil are always used.  The batter has the consistency of loose mashed potatoes, and, while many versions contain milk and egg, unlike pancakes they don't contain any leavening (baking powder or baking soda), which is great because you can mix 'em in advance.

Corn pancakes.  Light like pancakes w/the flavor of corncakes:

IMG_01031  cup whole milk or buttermilk

1  large egg

3/4  cup Aunt Jemima original pancake & waffle mix

1/2  cup Jiffy corn muffin mix

corn or vegetable oil, for frying

salted butter pats, for topping pancakes

pure maple syrup, for drizzling over pancakes

country sausage patties, for accompaniment 

IMG_0107 IMG_0107 IMG_0112 2 IMG_0112 2 IMG_0116 IMG_0116 IMG_0120~Step 1. To make the batter, in a 2-cup measuring container, place and whisk together the milk (or buttermilk) and egg.  Measure and add the dry Jiffy mix mixture to the wet mixture and whisk it in. Measure and add the dry pancake mix to the wet mixture and whisk it in -- there is no need to worry about getting out all of the lumps.  Cover and set the batter aside for about 5-10 minutes. Afterward, check the consistency, and, if the mix seems too thick, whisk in a splash of milk or buttermilk.

IMG_0124 IMG_0124 IMG_0131 IMG_0131 IMG_0138 IMG_0138 IMG_0142 IMG_0142~Step 2.  To cook/fry the corn pancakes, in any size nonstick skillet, place a thin coating of corn or vegetable oil.  Place skillet over medium- medium-high heat.  For each pancake, pour about 4 tablespoons batter into the hot the oil.  The pancake will form itself.  Once bubbles form across the surface, and the perimeter of the pancake looks slightly-dryer than the middle, use a spatula to flip the pancake over -- this will take about 1 1/2-2 minutes. After flipping, cook pancake on the second side, for about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Pancakes will be lightly golden with slightly-crispy edges.

Note:  For evenly-shaped, evenly-cooked pancakes, I like to fry them individually, in 1-2, 8" skillets -- two skillets on the stovetop at once.  After each 1-2 cook, I add a splash of additional oil to each pan, and, continue to cook until all of the batter has been used.  Try it my way -- each pancake comes out perfect every time.  Trust me -- one pancake per skillet is the ticket to perfection.

Tea for two & two for tea & two of everything for me:

IMG_0176In a Jiffy Corn Pancake & Sausage Patty Breakfast:  Recipe yields 10, 3 1/2"-4" round corn pancakes/2-4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; whisk; 8" nonstick skillet; 2-ounce ladle; spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4acbc41200cCook's Note: Sausage and eggs. It might sound kind-of 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 loose or link sausage at the store, it's pretty darn close, AND, trust me, after one taste of, 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 2021)

03/15/2021

~ Open Sesame -- Easiest Teriyaki Pork Tenderloins ~

IMG_0088Can a really, I mean REALLY good dinner entrée be made using three ingredients?  Yes, on occasion it can, and, let's be honest, whether your food world moves at a fast pace or a slow pace, a three-ingredient dinner entrée recipe in-the-style of this one (meaning you're proud to plate and serve it to your family, or, to a few guests), is: a recipe worth having -- it's "the stuff" good home cooks are made of.  There's no shame in shortcuts as long they are high-quality ones. For example:  Using a bottle of seriously-good store-bought teriyaki sauce, instead of making it from scratch.  If it looks and tastes great, does anyone really need to know?  I think not.

As a lover of Asian fare, teriyaki-in-general is one of my favorite ways to cook.  Teriyaki is as well known outside of Japan as sushi or ramen is, so, most American people, kids included, will give "teriyaki anything" a try.  A bottle of teriyaki sauce has been a staple condiment in my pantry for as long as I've had a pantry, standing right next to the elites:  Heinz ketchup, French's mustard, Hellman's mayonnaise and Lee & Perrin's worcestershire sauce.  That said, teriyaki sauce is seriously simple to make, and, it can be customized to suit your family's taste.  I typically prepare a double- or triple-sized batch, then keep what I don’t use in the refrigerator, so it's ready to reheat the next time a "teriyaki anything" craving hits me or mine -- as often as once a week.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e95ca6aa200bTeriyaki (tehr-uh-yah-kee):  Teriyaki is a Japanese term referring to a method of cooking beefchicken, ribs, 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 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, pork, fish or seafood) is marinated for a minimum of 30 minutes, longer for a more pronounced flavor, then cooked.

6a0120a8551282970b026be408b9ea200dHomemade 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.

Three ingredients + two quick sides = one wonderful Asian entrée:

IMG_00341  vacuum-packed package of 2 whole pork tenderloins, about 3 1/2-4 pounds total

1/2  cup Mandarin brand teriyaki sauce, or your favorite brand

about 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

steamed basmati rice, suggested accompaniment

steam-in-bag Asian vegetables, suggested accompaniment

IMG_0036 IMG_0036 IMG_0041 IMG_0041 IMG_0049~Step 1.  One-at-a-time remove the tenderloins from the vacuum packaging, using a few paper towels to pat each one dry, placing them together in a 1-gallon food storage bag as you work.  Add 1/2  cup of teriyaki sauce to the bag, then securely seal the bag.  Using your fingertips, "smoosh" the bag around to make sure both tenderloins are fully-coated in the teriyaki sauce.  Refrigerate 4-8 hours or overnight -- overnight is best.

IMG_0052 IMG_0052 IMG_0052~ Step 2.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with aluminum foil, then place a piece of parchment paper atop the foil.  Remove the tenderloins from the marinade, shaking each one gently, to allow excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag.  Place the tenderloins, side-by-side, on prepared baking pan.  Sprinkle sesame seeds evenly over the surface of both tenderloins.  Discard the bag and the marinade.

IMG_0066 IMG_0066~ Step 3.  Bake tenderloins, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350° oven, about 30-35 minutes, or until the desired degree of doneness is reached.  I always use an instant-read meat thermometer and remove them when they have reached 138°-140°.  When the tenderloins are removed from the oven, tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil rest for 15-30 minutes, during which time carryover heat will continue to work its magic.  For best results, follow my instructions, meaning, do NOT cook past 140° or they will dry out (you were warned).  While tenderloins are resting, prepare the recommended side-dishes.

Slice & serve tenderloins w/steamed basmati rice, steam-in-bag vegetables & additional teriyaki sauce for dipping & drizzling:

IMG_0079This is a meal I like to serve plated in perfect-sized portions:

IMG_0095Open Sesame -- Easiest Teriyaki Pork Tenderloins:  Recipe yields 8-12 servings/4-6 servings each pork tenderloin.

Special Equipment List: paper towels; 1-gallon food storage bag; 1 cup measuring container; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; aluminum foil; instant-read meat thermometer (optional but recommended); chef's knife

6a0120a8551282970b0263e95cb855200bCook's Note: Americans 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.  For another super-easy recipe, try my ~ Japanese-Teriyaki-Style Roasted Chicken Quarters ~.

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

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

03/12/2021

~A Slice of Hometown Pie -- My Hometown Pizza Pie~

IMG_9978When I was three, my parents built a home in the suburbs of Tamaqua, PA -- Hometown, PA. Hometown, was/is a community of mostly one-story ranch and bi-level homes that is best described as where the post-WWII generation built their dream homes in the latter 1950's, 60's and 70's -- homes with one or two car garages or an occasional car port, well-maintained lawns with backyard patios, swing sets and badminton nets, barbecue grills, etc. -- a great neighborhood to raise kids.  Amongst other things, Hometown had its own fire company, elementary school, a couple of gas stations, a diner, a small hotel and restaurant with a doctor's office on the top floor, a great drive-up place to buy burgers and hand-dipped ice-cream, a weekly farmers' market, a bowling alley, and, a pizza place -- all five-minutes from home, no matter where you lived.

It was an idillic lifestyle -- a real slice of Americana.

6a0120a8551282970b027880189f70200dIt's worth mention, nine-out-of-every-ten-times, I mix and first-proof my pizza dough in my bread machine.  The bread machine, in 55 minutes from beginning to end, does a superb job with pizza dough, and frees up my hands to prep ingredients for the toppings.  Feel free to proof your yeast, mix, knead and proof your dough in the traditional manner, but, don't tell me it's better. It's simply a different method producing the same result.  

Hometown:  Complete w/a signature "upside down" pizza.  

Vitale's restaurant.  What I write in the following paragraphs are the recollections of a girl (me) who's family of four ordered Vitale's pizza often -- and we adored it.  That said, they are the recollections of a girl (me) from elementary school through to high school, so, they span just shy of two decades.  Vitale's operated for almost 50 years, and, as I recall, the famous "upside down" pizza remained, sort of, for the most part, unchanged.  That said, after moving out of the area in 1974, I began serving my own version of Vitale's pizza, as per my recollections of what it looked and tasted like, so, no criticisms please.  Their recipe remains a secret to this day.  Mine does not.

169177953_10208288972459527_2048124597350509320_nVitale's Country House, an Italian-American restaurant and pub, located on Route 54 in Hometown, PA, opened in 1959.  Besides their unique "upside down pizza" (cheese on the bottom and sauce on top), great pasta dishes and classic dinner favorites like veal parmigiana and lasagna, they were known for steaks, veal chops, lobster tails, and steamed clams too -- my dad loved the clams, my mom loved their veal. My brother and I were there for the pizza.  In the early 1960's a fire caused the restaurant to close, but, the owner, Louie Vitale rebuilt and reopened, until sadly, it closed its doors permanently in 1994. Their recipe for their pizza crust, sauce, and toppings was, sadly, never shared. My recollections are:

IMG_9987Vitale's pizza crust was thin and crispy -- not super-thin and cracker-like, simply thin and crispy. The cheese(s), common to the era, would have been limited to provolone and/or mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan, so, that's what I use -- not too much, not too little, just enough.  The sauce was dark in color, deep-flavored and not too sweet, probably a slow-simmered cooked sauce -- not too much, not too little, just enough. The sauce got dolloped on top of the cheeses, and, for a period in time, was "smooshed" around with a spoon to spread it atop the cheese as best one could -- somewhere along the line the "smooshing" stopped and the sauce remained in dollops (which I honestly didn't like as well).  A light sprinkling of powdery Parmesan went on top, along with a sprinkling of oregano -- I assumed it was oregano because small shaker-type containers of oregano could be found on every table (along with Parmesan cheese) throughout the restaurant -- simply oregano.

My version of Vitale's Pizza -- the way I remember it.

IMG_9870For the dough for two 12-round thin-and-crispy light-and-airy pizzas:

3/4  cup + 2 tablespoons flat beer or water (Note:  I like the yeasty-flavor that flat beer adds to the crust, but, water works just fine.  Your choice.)

1  tablespoon olive oil

2 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon dried oregano

1  teaspoon salt

1  teaspoon sugar

1  packet granulated yeast

For the toppings:

6-7  very-thin (paper thin) slices provolone cheese per pie

1 1/4-1 1/2  cups shredded mozzarella cheese per pie

3/4  cup pizza sauce per pie

1-1 1/2  tablespoons finely-shredded Parmesan cheese per pie

a sprinkling of dried oregano leaves per pie, for seasoning pizza 

IMG_9876 IMG_9876 IMG_9881 IMG_9881 IMG_9885~Step 1. Place the beer and olive oil in the the bread pan of the bread machine.  Add the all-purpose flour, followed by the sugar, salt and optional oregano.  Note:  When making any type of bread machine bread or bread machine dough, it's very important to always add the wet ingredients (anything liquid or pourable) first and the dry ingredients last.

IMG_9887 IMG_9887 IMG_9891 IMG_9891~Step 2. Insert the bread pan into the machine.  Close lid and push the "select" button.  Choose the "pizza dough" cycle. Push "start".  When the machine signals the dough is done (it will have risen once too), remove pan of dough from the machine.  In my machine this takes 55 minutes.

IMG_9934 IMG_9934 IMG_9939~ Step 3. Place 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of olive on each of two 12"-round pizza pans and use a paper towel to oil the inside surface of the pans.  Use a few drops of olive oil to lightly oil your fingertips and use your fingertips to turn the ball of dough out of the bread pan and into your hand.  Divide the dough in half, then place each half onto a prepared pan.  Allow the dough to rest on the pan about 15-20 minutes.  Note:  This 15-20 minute rest will make dough easy to pat onto pizza pan. Using your fingertips and a light touch, pat and press dough across bottom of pan.  I do this in 3 parts taking 5-10 minutes, allowing dough to rest 3-4 minutes each time before patting and pressing again.

IMG_9944 IMG_9944 IMG_9944 IMG_9952 IMG_9952 IMG_9952 IMG_9960~Step 4.  To top the pizza, arrange 6-7 very thin slices provolone cheese in a single layer across the surface of each pie. Scatter 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella over the provolone on each pie.  Using a tablespoon, dollop the sauce, atop the shredded cheese, onto each pizza.  Using the tablespoon and a light touch, "smoosh" the sauce around over the cheese or don't -- your choice, but, I like it "smooshed".  Sprinkle the Parmesan over the the sauce, followed by a sprinkling of oregano.

IMG_9964~ Step 5.  Baking one-at-a-time, place a pan of pizza on pizza stone on center rack of preheated 350° oven for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, lift a corner of the pie up and using your other hand (via a pot holder or mitt), tilt pan and slide pie off the pan onto the stone.  Continue to bake for 3-4 more minutes.  Crust will be nicely-brown and nice-and-crispy on the bottom and cheeses will be bubbling up through sauce. 

Transfer to a wooden or high-heat-safe board & slice:

IMG_9967Thin crust pizza waits for no one -- slice & serve ASAP:

IMG_9979A Slice of Hometown Pie -- My Hometown Pizza Pie:  Recipe yields 2, 12"-round pizza pies/6-8 slices each.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; bread machine; paper towel; 1, 12"-round pizza pan; paper towel; tablespoon; pizza stone; large metal spatula; pizza peel; large cooling rack; pizza wheel 

6a0120a8551282970b017c3545a504970bCook's Note: On New Years Eve 2012, my husband reminisced to me about a pizza he used to eat when he was growing up:  Pioneer Club Pizza. He asked if I would try to replicate a version of this thin-crust pizza, which was unique in itself, and, to his hometown of Jessup, PA. Developing a recipe for something that you've never seen or tasted, as well as a product that hasn't existed for 30 years, is:  tricky business.  I began by asking Joe to write down his recollections of the Pioneer Club and their pizza.  He did, and, after a few attempts on my part: ~ A Blast from Jessup PA's Past:  Pioneer Club Pizza ~.

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

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

03/09/2021

~ Put the Beer in the Pizza Dough Thin-Crust Pizza ~

IMG_0018If you're a fan of, or prefer, a thin-and-crispy light-and-airy crust as the foil for your pizza or pizza creations, this is the recipe you've been searching for.  Thanks to a pizza-pro friend who schooled me on the virtues of beer in his pizza dough (by emptying almost an entire bottle of beer into his flour mixture in place of water), all it took was one taste when his pizza was done for me to try it in my own home kitchen.  It changed one of my pizza dough recipes forever -- my thin crust recipe.  

One ingredient, one substitution, one change-of-heart.

6a0120a8551282970b027880189f70200dIt's worth mention, nine-out-of-every-ten-times, I mix and first-proof my pizza dough in my bread machine.  The bread machine, in 55 minutes from beginning to end, does a superb job with pizza dough, and frees up my hands to prep ingredients for the toppings.  Feel free to proof your yeast, mix, knead and proof your dough in the traditional manner, but, don't tell me it's better. It's simply a different method producing the same result.

Beer in place of water.  Why didn't I think of that?

IMG_9872For the dough for two 12-round thin-and-crispy light-and-airy pizzas:

3/4  cup + 2 tablespoons beer

1  tablespoon olive oil

2 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon dried oregano (optional)

1  teaspoon salt

1  teaspoon sugar

1  packet granulated yeast

IMG_9876 IMG_9876 IMG_9881 IMG_9883 IMG_9885~Step 1. Place the beer and olive oil in the the bread pan of the bread machine.  Add the all-purpose flour, followed by the sugar, salt and optional oregano.  Note:  When making any type of bread machine bread or bread machine dough, it's very important to always add the wet ingredients (anything liquid or pourable) first and the dry ingredients last.

IMG_9887 IMG_9887 IMG_9891 IMG_9891~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the machine.  Close lid and push the "select" button.  Choose the "pizza dough" cycle. Push "start".  When the machine signals the dough is done (it will have risen once too), remove pan of dough from the machine.  In my machine this takes 55 minutes. Note:  You will have a total of 1-pound 2-ounces dough (18 ounces/9-ounces per pie).

IMG_9934 IMG_9934 IMG_9939~ Step 3. Place 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of olive on each of two 12"-round pizza pans and use a paper towel to oil the inside surface of the pans.  Use a few drops of olive oil to lightly oil your fingertips and use your fingertips to turn the ball of dough out of the bread pan and into your hand.  Divide the dough in half, then place each half onto a prepared pan.  Rest dough on the pans about 10-15 minutes. Note:  This 10-15 minute rest will make dough easy to pat onto the pizza pans. Using your fingertips and a light touch, pat and press dough across bottom of pan.  I do this in 3 parts taking 5-10 minutes, allowing dough to rest 3-4 minutes each time before patting and pressing again.  

IMG_9997 IMG_9997~ Step 4. Top your pizza in your favorite way, and, while today's subject is not toppings, FYI, each pizza is topped w/6 slices provolone cheese, 3/4 cup pizza sauce, 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of dried oregano. Baking one-at-a-time, place a pan of pizza on pizza stone on center rack of preheated 350° oven for 10 minutes. Using a spatula, lift a corner of the pie up and using your other hand (via a pot holder or mitt), tilt pan and slide pie off the pan onto the stone. Continue to bake for 3-4 more minutes.  Crust will be nicely-brown and crispy on the bottom and cheese will be molten on the top. Using a pizza peel, transfer pizza to cutting board.  Slice and serve immediately.

Transfer to a wooden or high-heat-safe board & slice:

IMG_0008Thin crust pizza waits for no one -- slice & serve ASAP:

IMG_0021Put the Beer in the Pizza Dough Thin-Crust Pizza:  Recipe yields dough for 2, 12"-round pizzas/6-8 servings each pizza.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; bread machine; paper towel; 1, 12"-round pizza pan; paper towel; pizza stone; large metal spatula; pizza peel; high-heat-safe board

IMG_9586Cook's Note: Experimenting with pizza dough is not something I do often.  Why?  Because one has to be willing to run the risk of sacrificing a pizza in the event it doesn't work.  Let's put it another way, one has to be of the mindset to experiment with a new dough or a variation on an existing one, and (chuckle if you want to but it's really not a laughing matter if you're wed to eating pizza), for a few short hours, one must throw caution to the wind and live dangerously.  I did this today.  Ya gotta try my recipe for ~ Beer in the Pizza Dough & a Semolina Pizza Crust ~.

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

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

03/06/2021

~ Quick-to-Fix Ground-Beef Chili Sauce for Hot Dogs ~

6a0120a8551282970b0134892e6577970cI was a hot dog in a past life.  A hot dog a day keeps the doctor away.  I say silly stuff like this all the time.  But, why wouldn't I?  I am the hot dog queen in my kitchen.  My husband's an aficionado of Italian-American-style sausage, pepper and onion sandwiches (which I can take-or-leave).  In my food world, the hot dog reigns supreme, and, I like all kinds too -- from New-York-style Dirty Water Dogs, to New Jersey-style Italian hot dogs, to, last but not least, Chicago-style hot dogs.  That said, my hands-down favorite is:  Texas-Style.  Read on:

Texas chili dogs are slathered with yellow mustard and topped with an ever-so-slightly chunky, to-the-tooth chewy, aromatic all-meat chili.  You'd think they were from Texas, but they actually were the invention of an unnamed Greek gentlemen who owned and operated a small restaurant in Paterson, New Jersey.  In 1924, he devised a chili sauce that drew upon flavors and spices of his heritage.  Much like Cincinnati chili, a dish also created by Greek immigrants, Texas chili sauce included cloves as well as garlic and other spices.  According to legend, because the chili was made with hand-ground steak, not ground beef, it earned the "Texas" part of its name.

Steak is always great, but, ground beef is super-good too:

IMG_98042  pounds high-quality 90/10 ground beef, no substitutions

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

8  ounces diced celery

1  cup ketchup

1  cup chili sauce

2  tablespoons yellow mustard

1  tablespoon cayenne pepper sauce

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon ground cloves

IMG_9819 IMG_9819~ Step 1. Dice the celery and onion as directed, placing them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, as you work.  Using a series of 30-35 rapid on-off pulses, finely mince and combine the two.  You want the veggies to be as finely minced as possible without puréeing them or becoming soupy.  Set aside.

IMG_9806 IMG_9808 IMG_9810 IMG_9810 IMG_9812~Step 2. To make the sauce, in a 2-cup measuring container or a small mixing bowl (the measuring container is easier), use a spoon to stir together the ketchup, chili sauce, yellow mustard, cayenne pepper sauce and Worcertershire sauce. Add and stir in the chili powder, garlic powder and ground cloves.  Stir until smooth and uniform in color.  Set aside.

IMG_9828 IMG_9828 IMG_9836 IMG_9836 IMG_9842 IMG_9846~Step 3.  Place the ground beef in a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan.  Add and stir in the onion-celery mixture. Over medium- medium-high heat, cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the meat has lost all of its red color and is steamed through.  Keep your heat adjusted so that at no time, no browning occurs.  Continue to cook, again, stirring frequently, until almost no moisture/liquid remains in the bottom of pan, about 30 minutes.

IMG_9849 IMG_9851 IMG_9855 IMG_9856 IMG_9861 IMG_9734~Step 4.  Add the ketchup/chili sauce concoction to the skillet and give the mixture a thoroughly stir. Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently (to avoid any chance of scorching), 15 more minutes.  Turn the heat off and cover the pan.  Allow the mixture to steep, another 15-30 minutes, or up to 1-2 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator) prior to serving or freezing for several more chili dog dinners.

Recipe makes 6 cups sauce, &, each 1 cup tops 4-6 chili dogs:

Texas Chili Dogs #1 ( 2 Dogs Intro Picture)Texas-Style Ground-Beef Chili-Sauce for Hot Dogs:  Recipe yields 6 cups/enough to sauce 24-36 hot dogs.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 2-cup measuring container; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; spatula; large spoon; 6, 1-cup freezer-safe food-storage containers (or containers of desired size) 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c947fa7f970bCook's Note: Mexi-Hots is a Pennsylvania, registered, fictitiously-named business, originally filed on February 4, 1948 (the company will celebrate it 70th birthday on February 4th, 2018).  The filing status is active.  The company's principal address, originally on the the corner of College Avenue and Pugh Street in downtown State College and owned by the Carelas family, is currently located at 2390 South Atherton Street -- Pop's Mexi-Hots are now made by and sold at Meyer's Dairy.  Try my recipe for ~ Happy Valley PA's Pop's Mexi-Hots Hot Dog Sauce ~.

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

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

03/03/2021

~Slow-Cooker Buffalo-Style St. Lewis-Style Spareribs~

IMG_9771Try as I might, I can't let more than a month or two go by without either:  succumbing to the craving to deep-fry and eat Buffalo-style chicken wings, or, experiment with a new way to enjoy the sweet-heat of Buffalo-sauced anything.  Today, I decided to try my hand at low-and-slow cooked Buffalo-style pork ribs -- when they were done, I finished them off under the broiler, just to crisp the fat cap and caramelize the sauce a bit.  Remember the famous ad-man line, "pork -- the other white meat"?  Well, I'll be making these again, and often.  Life in the 'burbs -- burp.

IMG_9376What 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 as a glaze to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into some previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), while different, my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as classic wings.

A bit about the rack of meaty pork ribs I use to make these:

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).

6a0120a8551282970b0263e9553c34200bBabybacks 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.

A bit about the crockpot I use to slow-cook them in:

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec1abf5d200cMeet 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 one small rack of St. Lewis-style ribs, to slowly cook in sauce, evenly and in comfort -- spa-style.

My slow-cooker method for Buffalo-style St. Lewis-Style ribs:

IMG_96251  smallish-sized rack St. Lewis-style spareribs, about 3 pounds

Frank's RedHot Ranch, dry seasoning blend, for seasoning ribs

1  12-ounce bottle Frank's RedHot wing sauce

6  tablespoons salted butter

1/2  cup honey

IMG_9601 IMG_9601 IMG_9606 IMG_9606 IMG_9606~Step 1.  To make my special sweet-heat wing sauce from the bottle of wing sauce, in a 2-quart saucepan, place: the contents of the bottle of wing sauce and the butter.  Over medium-low heat, melt the butter into the wing sauce.  Add the honey and whisk until the honey is thoroughly incorporated into the wing sauce/butter mixture.  Sweet heat.

IMG_9631 IMG_9631 IMG_9637 IMG_9637 IMG_9645 IMG_9645 IMG_9653~Step 2. To prep and season the rack of ribs, 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 off.  This choice is yours -- I leave it on as I adore these "bonus bites".  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.  Next, cut the rack of ribs in half.  Now, lastly, season the ribs liberally on both sides with the RedHot Ranch seasoning -- don't skimp.

IMG_9657 IMG_9660 IMG_9660 IMG_9668 IMG_9668~Step 3. Arrange the ribs to fit in bottom of crockpot, in a single layer, slightly-overlapping the two sections is just fine (and will probably by necessary).  Using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle 3/4 cup wing sauce over the tops of the ribs. Cover the crockpot. Cook on high for 2 hours, then, low for 2 hours. The tip of a knife or the tines of a fork, when pierced between any two ribs will easily glide through and come out on the other side.  If desired, adjust heat to keep ribs warm for up to 1 hour prior to finishing them as directed in the next step.

IMG_9676 IMG_9676 IMG_9682 IMG_9682 IMG_9689~Step 4. Preheat broiler with oven rack positioned about 5" under the heat.  Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, then place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of pan.  Open crockpot and remove the ribs, arranging them slightly apart on the baking pan.  Using a large pastry brush generously slather the the tops with additional wing sauce.  Finish ribs off under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and just starting to to show signs of light browning.  Watch carefully  -- ribs can and will go from lightly-browned to burned quickly.

Serve 'em up atop a bed of my recipe for RedHot-Ranch Slaw:

IMG_9764Slow-cooked to tender perfection & gnawsomely awesome:

IMG_9785Slow-Cooked, Buffalo-Style St. Lewis-Style Spareribs:  Recipe yields one rack of ribs/4 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart saucepan; whisk; paper towels; chef's knife or kitchen shears; paring knife; Crockpot casserole; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e7a029200dCook's Note: Not everyone is a master of the barbecue 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 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, you're gonna love the ribs I'm making in the cool oasis called "Melanie's Kitchen". Ya gotta try my ~ Broiled & Baked Rack of St. Lewis-Style Spareribs ~.

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

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

02/28/2021

~ Mom's No-Nonsense Elbow Macaroni & Egg Salad ~

IMG_9748Mom's macaroni salad.  This, now retro, 1950's era recipe is nothing fancy, nothing special, and, certainly not gourmet.  It's simply old-fashioned, pull-a-chair-up-to-the-kitchen-table lip-smacking goodness.  There's more, if one keeps this easy--to-make, creamy-crunchy picnic-and-potluck side-dish staple in their refrigerator, it only takes one scoop from the bowl to a plate to turn anything, from a lunchtime sandwich to a dinnertime pork chop, into a delightful meal.

A bowl of no-nonsense, easy-to-make old-fashioned goodness:

IMG_96933/4  cup high-quality mayonnaise

2  tablespoons ballpark-style yellow mustard

4  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

6  ounces diced celery (about 1 3/4 cups)

3  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion (about 3/4 cup)

6  large or extra-large eggs, hard-cooked, peeled and chopped

12  ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained as directed below

IMG_9695 IMG_9698 IMG_9704 IMG_9705~Step 1.  In a large bowl, use a rubber spatula to stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, relish, celery seed, salt and pepper.  Dice the celery and onion, adding them to bowl as you work.  Add the chopped, hard-cooked eggs.  Fold the veggies and eggs into the mayo mixture. Set aside.

IMG_9714 IMG_9714 IMG_9719 IMG_9719 IMG_9721~Step 2.  In a 4-quart stockpot, bring 2 1/2-3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the macaroni, adjust heat to simmer steadily, and cook according to package directions, until macaroni are al dente, about 9-11 minutes -- do not overcook.  Drain macaroni into a colander and rinse under cold running water, to halt cooking process and cool to room temperature.  Set aside to drain, in colander 2-3 minutes.  In the meantime line a large baking pan with parchment paper.  Transfer and spread the macaroni across the parchment-lined pan and set aside for 15-20 minutes, to dry, meaning: not to dry out, just to dry of excess moisture.

IMG_9727 2 IMG_9729~ Step 3.  Add the "dried" macaroni to the bowl with the vegetables and eggs.  Use the spatula to gently fold and thoroughly incorporate the macaroni into the mixture.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate until well-chilled, 1-2 hours or overnight.

Macaroni salad turns any meal (anything from a lunchtime sandwich to a dinnertime pork chop), into a meal: 

IMG_9745Mom's No-Nonsense Elbow Macaroni and Egg Salad:  Recipe yields 2 quarts. 8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: large rubber spatula; cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart stockpot; colander; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e2ff8f200dCook's Note: For most of us, potato salad conjures up memories of exactly what our grandmothers made.  And, for the most part, those recipes for 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.  Here's another oldie-but-goodie favorite that my mom made often.  Try the recipe for ~ Hellmann's Original Eight-Ingredient Potato Salad ~.

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

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

02/26/2021

~ Beer in the Pizza Dough & a Semolina Pizza Crust ~

IMG_9586Experimenting with pizza dough is not something I do often.  Why?  Because one has to be willing to run the risk of sacrificing a pizza in the event it doesn't work.  Let's put it another way, one has to be of the mindset to experiment with a new dough or a variation on an existing one, and (chuckle if you want to but it's really not a laughing matter if you're wed to eating pizza), for a few short hours, one must throw caution to the wind and live dangerously.  I did this today, and, I gotta say, I came through it victorious.  So victorious, this is my new favorite pizza dough recipe.

6a0120a8551282970b026bde9755bf200cIt's worth mention, nine-out-of-every-ten-times, I mix and first-proof my pizza dough in my bread machine.  The bread machine, in 55 minutes from beginning to end, does a superb job with pizza dough, and frees up my hands to prep ingredients for the toppings.  Feel free to proof your yeast, mix, knead and proof your dough in the traditional manner, but, don't tell me it's better. It's simply a different method producing the same result.

Crispy on the outside soft & tender on the inside:

IMG_9578Light as a feather w/a to-the-tooth, New-York-style chew too!

IMG_95203/4 cups + 2 tablespoons at-room-temperature beer

1  tablespoon olive oil

2  tablespoons barley malt syrup

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup semolina flour

1  packet granulated yeast

1 1/2-2 additional tablespoons olive oil, for preparing pizza pan

IMG_9521 IMG_9521 IMG_9528 IMG_9528 IMG_9533~Step 1. Place the beer, olive oil, barley malt syrup and sea salt in the the bread pan of the bread machine. Add the all-purpose flour and semolina flour. Using your index finger, make a well in the top of the flour and add the yeast to it.  Note:  When making any type of bread machine dough, always add the wet ingredients first and the dry ingredients last.

IMG_9534 IMG_9534 IMG_9542 IMG_9544~Step 2.  Insert the bread pan into the machine.  Close lid and push the "select" button.  Choose the "pizza dough" cycle. Push "start".  When the machine signals the dough is done (it will have risen once too), remove pan of dough from the machine.  In my machine this takes 55 minutes.

IMG_9551 IMG_9551 IMG_9551Step 3.  Place 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of olive on a 12"-round or 13" x 9"-rectangular pizza pan and use a paper towel to oil the inside surface of the pan.  Use a few drops of olive oil to lightly oil your fingertips and use your fingertips to turn the ball of dough out onto the prepared pan.  Allow the dough to rest on the pan about 15-20 minutes.  Note:  This 15-20 minute rest will make dough easy to pat onto pizza pan.

IMG_9558 IMG_9558 IMG_9563 IMG_9563~Step 4.  Using your fingertips and a light touch, pat and press dough evenly across bottos and evenly up sides of pan.  I do this in 3 parts taking 10-15 minutes, allowing dough to rest 3-4 minutes each time before patting and pressing again.  Top your pizza in your favorite way, and, while today's subject is not toppings, FYI, this pizza is topped w/6 slices provolone cheese, 3/4 cup pizza sauce, 2 cups shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of dried oregano.  Cover the topped pizza with a lint-free cotton (flour-sack-type) towel.  Set aside to proof the pizza a second time:  one, two or three hours -- one hour is good, two hours is better, three hours is best.

IMG_9575~ Step 5. Place pan of pizza on pizza stone on center rack of preheated 350° oven for 12-14 minutes. Using a spatula, lift a corner of the pie up and using your other hand (via a pot holder or mitt), tilt pan and slide pie off the pan onto the stone. Continue to bake for 2-3 more minutes.  Crust will be lightly-brown and cheese will be molten. Using a pizza peel, transfer pizza to a wire rack to cool for 3-5 minutes.

Slice, grab a piece, eat, repeat, repeat again & again:

IMG_9588Beer in the Pizza Dough & a Semolina Pizza Crust: Recipe yields dough for 1, 12" round, or, 1, 13" x 9" rectangular pizza.

Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; bread machine; paper towel; 1, 12"-round pizza pan, or, 1, "13" x 9" baking pan; paper towel; lint-free flour-sack-type towel; pizza stone; large metal spatula; pizza peel; large cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0263e8602140200dCook's Note: Wouldn't it be great if the moment the smooth, round ball of pizza dough was kneaded we could slap it on the pan, pat it out, slather it with sauce, layer it with toppings and pop it in the oven? It sure would, but, unfortunately, we can't -- well, we can, but the end result is somewhat less than palatable. "Proofing" pizza dough, meaning, "the time it takes for the dough to rise after it has been kneaded and initially proofed", it's the most important step in the pizza making process.  Sadly, it's all-too-often not taken seriously. Great crust comes to those who wait. ~ How and Why to Proof Pizza Dough Two Easy Ways ~.

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

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

02/23/2021

~ Homestyle Beef Tips, Gravy & Amish Egg Noodles ~

IMG_9493Beef tips and gravy.  It's one of those humble-yet-hearty, frugally-inexpensive, weeknight meals our moms and grandmoms served to a hungry family after purchasing a pound or three of cheap-at-twice-the-price odds-and-end chunks of beef cubes (aka "stew beef") at the butcher shop.  No one had to be called to the table twice when this dinner was goin' on the table.  Some families preferred their meal ladled atop white rice, others liked it ladled atop mashed potatoes, and, still others served it ladled atop buttered egg noodles.  My family fell into the egg noodle category.

My recipe came via my mother and her recipe came from her mother, which means this recipe has been kitchen-tested and mother-approved through three generations.  I doubt it differs much from most family recipes for beef tips and gravy.  That said, it's worth mention that neither my mom or my grandmother used the type of prepackaged "stew beef" we find in our grocery stores today.  Why?  What we buy today is a random sampling of various beef cuts.  Some are marbled with fat and others are not, and, that can only mean one thing, some of the cubes will end up tender and others will end up shoe leather.  It's frustrating, so, for that reason, I recommend using inexpensive chuck steak exclusively.  Of course it is your choice, but, you've been warned.    


IMG_9406For prepping, seasoned-flour dredging & lightly-browning the beef
:

2 1/2-3  pounds 3/4"-1"-cubed beef chuck steak or chuck roast

1/2  cup Wondra quick-mixing flour for sauces and gravy

1  packet granulated beef bouillon

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon onion powder

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarse-grind pepper

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

2  tablespoons salted butter

IMG_9482For the vegetable add-ins:

1  cup medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup peeled and thinly-sliced carrot

1  cup thinly-sliced celery

1  4-ounce can sliced mushrooms, well-drained, liquid reserved to be added to beef stock mixture below

IMG_9459For the liquids to make the gravy:

3  cups beef stock

1/4  cup reserved liquid from the can of mushrooms

1/4  cup port wine

1  tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

~ Step 1.  Add the beef stock, reserved liquid from the can of mushrooms, port wine and Worcestershire sauce to a 1-quart measuring container.  Set aside.

IMG_9360 IMG_9364 IMG_9364 IMG_9414 IMG_9417~Step 2.  Using a large chef's knife, cube the beef as directed, discarding any large fat pockets you will find along the way.  To dredge the beef, place the flour, granulated bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper in a 1-gallon food storage bag.  Toss to incorporate the spices throughout the flour.  In three batches, add the beef cubes to the seasoned flour, thoroughly tossing to coat the beef cubes in flour on all sides after each addition.

IMG_9400 IMG_9407 IMG_9421 IMG_9424~Step 3.  Place oil and butter n a 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven.  Over low heat, melt butter into the oil.

IMG_9426 IMG_9426 IMG_9434 IMG_9437 IMG_9442~Step 4.  Increase the heat under the Dutch to medium-high and wait a moment for butter and oil to get hot.  Add all the flour-dredged beef cubes. Using a large slotted spoon or spatula to keep the meat moving around almost constantly, sauté until beef is ever-so-slightly browned and swimming in a flavorful gravy, about 10-12 minutes.

IMG_9448 IMG_9450 IMG_9454~ Step 5.  Add all of the vegetables to the beef in the Dutch oven (the diced onion, sliced carrot, sliced celery and drained mushrooms).  Continue to cook, stirring frequently with the slotted spoon or spatula, until onions are tender and all vegetable are steaming and cooked through, about 10-12 more minutes.

IMG_9460 IMG_9460 IMG_9468 IMG_9473 IMG_9475 IMG_9478 IMG_9400~Step 6.  Add the 3 1/2 cups of liquid (the beef stock, liquid from the mushrooms, wine and Worcestershire sauce) to the Dutch oven.  Give the mixture thorough stir.  When the mixture returns to a boil, adjust (lower) the heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, for 45-60 minutes.  The gravy will be nicely thickened and the beef tips will be tender.  Partially cover the Dutch oven and allow the mixture to steep, about 30 minutes, to allow all the flavors time to marry.

While beef is steeping, prepare noodles (or potatoes or rice): 

IMG_9499Homestyle Beef Tips, Gravy & Amish Egg Noodles:  Recipe yields 6-8 hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-quart measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-gallon ziplock bag; 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven or 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot w/lid; large slotted spoon or spatula; soup ladle  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4d83358200bCook's Note: Soups and stews.  We can't seem to get enough of them this time of year -- I know I can't. The difference between the two is easy to describe.  If you started by simmering meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a pot of seasoned water-, wine-, juice- or milk- based liquid, you've made soup.  If it is thickened at the end of the process, a soup can be stew-like.  If you started by cooking/sautéing meat, poultry, seafood and/or vegetables in a small amount of seasoned oil, butter or fat, then added just enough of flour and liquid or thickened liquid to it to bring it to an almost gravy-like consistency, you've made a stew.  If only a small amount of flour is used, a stew can be quite soupy.  Soup or stew?  Thick or thin, it's all about how you began the process.  ~ My Pennsylvania Deutsch-Style Beef Noodle Soup ~.

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

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

02/20/2021

~ Fry the Entire Danged Thing -- Unsectioned Wings ~

IMG_9376Chicken wings.  While not even close to the top of my list of healthy-eating snacks or meals, they are at the top of my list of favorite snacks or meals, and, much like the greater percentage of the rest of the population of the United States, from time-to-time I get a craving for them.  Also, much like the greater percentage of the rest of the population of the United States, I am in agreement, deep-fried wings, as opposed to air-fried oven-roasted or barbecue-grilled, are the best wings.

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 as a glaze to oven-roasted chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, stirring it into some previously roasted or poached chicken is the perfect way to transition this iconic game day snack into all sorts of other appetizers, sandwiches, main or side-dish salads, or, main-dish meals.  Trust me, as a lady who loves her deep-fried wings, but, only in the privacy of her own home (where she's free to lick fingers, smack lips, pick teeth, and, drip sauce), while different, many of my Buffalo-Style delicacies are every bit as enjoyable as classic wings.

Fresh chicken wings 101 -- each wing has three parts:

Screen Shot 2021-02-20 at 6.24.57 AMThe drummette, the flat wingette, &, the wing tip.

Wings_tray_packaged-image-2019-1024x673As you shoppers all know, there are two ways to purchase fresh wings: sectioned (sold as wingettes or party wings, which contain only the drumettes and the flats, not the wing tips) and unsectioned (sold as chicken wings). Sectioned wings are more expensive for a reason.  One doesn't have to get out the poultry shears to cut them apart at their two joints, or, get out the cleaver to hack them apart at their two joints.  In my girly-girl food world, both quality as disagreeable tasks that I prefer to deligate to family menfolk.

Perhaps it was the last two months of intolerable weather (many snow storms mixed with a few shots of freezing rain for good measure), or, perhaps it's after a year of isolation against Covid-19. Perhaps it was the TGIF gin-and-tonic that was talking to me, but, yesterday, standing in my kitchen all by myself and faced head-on with the task of sectioning a four-pound package of chicken wings with my own two hands, I resisted.  "Screw this", said I.  "Damned the torpedoes, full steam ahead."  "Throw these suckers into the hot oil of the deep-fryer just as they are." Seventeen minutes later, the first batch of three emerged, and, sigh-oh-my.  I will NEVER, EVER, section wings again.  Some days are better than others, and, this old dog just learned a new trick.

Fried & salted -- each one pulls-apart perfectly & easily:

IMG_9384Try it my way.  Life's too short to section chicken wings:

IMG_9395"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

02/17/2021

~Jiffy Mix Cornbread, Corn Casserole & Corn Pudding~

IMG_9352Three distinctly-different recipes with three decidedly-different results, all using one, inexpensive common-to-us-all, ingredient:  Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix.  At 59 cents for each eye-catching blue-and-yellow box, it's been a time-saving staple in my pantry for over four decades.  I am not alone.  A week ago, there was discussion, on one of my Facebook friend's pages, about store-bought cornbread mixes.  We discussed the rising cost of them, and, which one us "cheaters" consider the best.  As it turned out, almost unanimously (Martha White gets honorable mention), it was the Jiffy brand.  We went on to share our favorite ways to "doctor it" up.  Fun, yum and don't tell anyone it's a mix.  It's the hands-down preferred brand amongst all of us card-carrying cheaters.

~ In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Double-Delicious Cornbread ~:

IMG_9121~ In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Triple-Corn Corn Casserole ~:

IMG_9208~ In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Creamed-Corn Pudding ~:

IMG_9320"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

02/14/2021

~ In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Creamed-Corn Pudding ~

IMG_9320 2A few snow storms ago, more than three storms and within 7-10 days, but, truth told, there've been so many snow events, I've lost track, there was discussion, on one of my Facebook friend's pages, about store-bought cornbread mixes.  We discussed the rising cost of them, and, which one us "cheaters" consider the best.  As it turned out, almost unanimously, it was the 59-cent-a-box Jiffy brand. We went on to share our favorite ways to "doctor it" up.  Fun, yum and don't tell anyone it's a mix.  Jiffy corn muffin mix, has been a staple in my pantry for over four decades, and, it's the hands-down preferred brand amongst all of us card-carrying cheaters.

When the end justifies the means, I'm all for shortcuts.

IMG_9264Jiffy corn muffin mix-- a staple in my pantry for over 40 years:

IMG_92134  tablespoons salted butter

1 1/2  cups buttermilk

2  tablespoons sugar

3/4  teaspoon  sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse black pepper

2  large eggs

2  14 1/3-ounce cans cream-style corn

1  8 1/2-ounce box Jiffy corn muffin mix

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

IMG_9216 IMG_9216 IMG_9220 IMG_9220 IMG_9230 IMG_9232 IMG_9234~Step 1.  Spray a 2-quart casserole with no-stick spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350º with oven rack in center.  Place butter in a 2-cup measuring container and melt in microwave. After shaking the container of buttermilk (to make sure it's an even consistency throughout), stir 1 1/4 cups buttermilk into butter, followed by the sugar, salt and pepper.  Lastly, crack in the eggs and whisk them in too.

IMG_9239 IMG_9239 IMG_9245 IMG_9250 IMG_9251~Step 2. IMG_9257Transfer the butter-buttermilk mixture large bowl.  Add and fold in the contents of both cans of cream-style corn.  Add the contents of the box of Jiffy corn muffin mix and fold until ingredients are moistened -- having a few lumps in this mixure is just fine.  Transfer mixture to prepared casserole -- casserole will be very full.

IMG_9257 IMG_9257~ Step 3.  Bake casserole on center rack of preheated 350° oven 45-50 minutes, until puffed through to center and just set.  Casserole will still be slightly "jiggly" in the center, so, do not over bake.  Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and allow to cool about 15 additional minutes prior to scooping onto plates or into bowls and serving -- casserole will firm up a bit during the 15 minute rest time, so, do not skip this step.

Go ahead, get a scoop, take a taste.  It's amazing all by itself, or:

IMG_9301Try corn pudding served w/a side of nachos topped w/chili:

IMG_9333A cross between corn bread & corn pudding = corn casserole:

IMG_9200And, don't forget the recipe for double-delicious cornbread:

IMG_9118In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Creamed-Corn Pudding:  Recipe yields 8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart casserole; 2-cup measuring container; fork; large rubber spatula; wire cooling rack
 
6a0120a8551282970b01bb0984a3a7970dCook's Note:  Cornbread, corn casserole, or, corn pudding. Whatever Jiffy recipe you choose, besides fried chicken or barbecued spareribs, my favorite thing to serve any one of them with is chili.  In the latter 1980's, my mom came across a copycat recipe for Wendy's chili in Women's Day magazine.  Except for the addition of the Tostitos salsa, which I added at the behest of our middle son, the recipe is unchanged.  I won't lie.  I have several recipes for chili in my repertoire, but, this one, kid-tested and mother approved, like Dave Thomas, is a success story.  It pleases everyone.   Try my ~ Kids' Stuff:  Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne ~.
 
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
 
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

02/11/2021

~In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Triple-Corn Corn Casserole~

IMG_9208Baked corn casserole is a side-dish staple throughout the Midwest.  Baked corn casserole with some self-rising cornmeal (or cornmeal plus baking soda and/or baking powder) whisked into it is a Southern side-dish staple.  If you can imagine a loaded-with-corn casserole with the flavor and some of the texture of a corn muffin or wedge of cornbread added to it, you're no doubt salivating right now -- it's a "crossing of the streams" so to speak, the best of both, baked into one delicious side-dish.  Jiffy corn muffin mix, has been a staple in my pantry for over four decades, and, at 59-ish cents a box, it's the hands down preferred brand amongst us card-carrying cheaters.

When the end justifies the means, I'm all for shortcuts.

IMG_9187Jiffy corn muffin mix-- a staple in my pantry for over 40 years:

IMG_91493  large eggs, lightly beaten

1  cup buttermilk

2  tablespoons sugar

3/4  teaspoon  sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse black pepper

1  14 1/2-ounce can corn kernels, well-drained

1  14 1/3-ounce can cream-style corn

1  8 1/2-ounce box Jiffy corn muffin mix

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

IMG_9154 IMG_9154Step 1.  Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350º with oven rack in center.  Open the corn kernels, drain off the excess water, then, empty the contents onto a plate that has been lined with two-three layers of paper towels.  Set aside so corn kernels can drain thoroughly.  

IMG_9156 IMG_9156 IMG_9163 IMG_9163 IMG_9167 IMG_9167 IMG_9174 IMG_9174 IMG_9179~Step 2.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk, sugar, salt and pepper. Using a large spatula, fold in the corn kernels followed by the the creamed corn.  Lastly, add and fold in the contents of the box of corn muffin mix.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole -- it will be quite full, but this won't bake up over the top..

IMG_9182 IMG_9190~ Step 3.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350° oven, about 45 minutes.  Casserole will be golden brown and puffed up through to center.  Remove from oven and allow to rest about 10-15 minutes prior to serving.  This casserole with firm up slightly as it cools, so, take advantage of this time.  Tick, tock. 

A perfect side to chili w/cheese on a chilly day:

IMG_9200Try In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Double-Delicious Cornbread too:

IMG_9121In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Triple-Corn Corn Casserole:  Recipe yields 8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart casserole; paper towels; whisk or fork; large rubber spatula; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01a73e0c7a6f970dCook's Note: Corn casserole.  It's a midwest staple.  If there was ever a side-dish recipe you need to have, this is it.  To quote my son, "this casserole will change your life".  If you have never tasted a traditional corn casserole, there is nothing ordinary about it.  It's a scoop of steamy, creamy, crunchy, sweet, peppery, corn kernel goodness.  It's one of the best comfort foods known to sweet corn lovers.  Be sure to try my ~ My Rich & Creamy Baked Sweet Corn Pudding ~.

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

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

02/08/2021

~In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Double-Delicious Cornbread~

IMG_9121Breakfast, lunch or dinner, more-often-than-not, a corn muffin or wedge of cornbread is a welcome addition to the table.  Served hot or warm slathered with butter and/or a drizzle of honey, puts it over-the-top.  That said, while corn muffins and cornbread are easy enough to make from scratch (if you use enough yellow cornmeal on a regular basis to justify keeping a bag in your pantry), there is a popular and inexpensive way to speed the process up and still produce a seriously-delightful loaf of this beloved Southern staple.  It's called Jiffy corn muffin mix, and, at 59-ish cents a box, it's the hands down preferred brand amongst us card-carrying cheaters.

When the end justifies the means, I'm all for shortcuts.

IMG_9112Jiffy corn muffin mix-- a staple in my pantry for over 40 years:

IMG_90401  8 1/2-ounce box Jiffy corn muffin mix

4  tablespoon salted butter, melted (1/2 stick)

1/2  cup buttermilk, shaken prior to measuring for proper consistency

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted corn kernels, well-drained

1  4-ounce can fire-roasted green chiles, well-drained (optional but highly-recommended)

2  tablespoons sugar

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole

IMG_9044~ Step 1.  Spray a 2-quart casserole with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Open the fire-roasted corn kernels and optional fire-roasted chiles, drain the excess water from both, then, empty the contents of both onto a plate that has been lined with two-three layers of paper towels.  Set aside so veggies can drain thoroughly.

IMG_9046 IMG_9049 IMG_9052 IMG_9057 IMG_9061 IMG_9061 IMG_9071~Step 2.  Place butter in a 1-cup measuring container and melt in microwave. Stir the sugar into the butter, then, after gently-shaking the container of buttermilk (to make sure the buttermilk is an even consistency throughout), stir 1/2 cup buttermilk into the melted butter-sugar mixture.  Transfer to a large bowl.

IMG_9075 IMG_9077 IMG_9081 IMG_9081~Step 3.  Crack the eggs into the same 1-cup measuring container and use a fork to lightly-beat them.  Add to the buttermilk mixture and use a rubber spatula to thoroughly incorporate the eggs.

IMG_9087 IMG_9087 IMG_9098 IMG_9098~Step 4.  Add, fold, and thoroughly incorporate well-drained corn and chiles into the buttermilk-egg mixture.  Add the box of corn muffin mix and fold again, until thoroughly incorporated.

IMG_9105 IMG_9105 IMG_9105Step 5.  Transfer the mixture to prepared casserole dish.  Bake on centre rack of preheated 350° oven about 30 minutes, or, until puffed through to the center and a cake tester inserted into two-three spots in the centre comes out clean.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool about 15 minutes prior to serving warm, or, cool completely, about 1 hour, to serve at room temperature.

Slice while warm or at room temperature:

IMG_9118Go ahead, take that first taste.  You'll be wowed:

IMG_9131It's full of flavor, cornbread crumbly, &, delightfully moist:

IMG_9145In a Jiffy-Cornbread-Mix Double-Delicious Cornbread:  Recipe yields 8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; 1-cup measuring container; fork; large rubber spatula; 2-quart casserole; wire cooling rack; cake tester or toothpick

6a0120a8551282970b017c372c8a5b970bCook's Note: How seriously does one take their cornbread recipe?  I take mine very seriously, but, I'm not proclaiming it the best recipe.  Why? If I walked into a room full of people right now and struck up a conversation about cornbread, the cornbread lovers would all chime in unision, "I have the absolute best recipe and I'd be happy to share it with you."  If there were a Southerner or two in the room with us Yankees, there'd be a lecture about Southern cornbread being the only "real" cornbread.  The  discussion would revolve around the rights and wrongs of cornbread baking, and, Northern- vs. Southern-style cornbread. With one or two minor deviations, I classify my ~ Triple-Corn Jalapeño Corn-Muffins ~ as Southern.

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

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

02/05/2021

~ Easiest Skillet-Fried Barbecue-Sauced Pork Chops ~

IMG_9029When my kids were kids, barbecue-sauced pork chops, served up atop a bed of my easy-to-make recipe for better than store-bought stovetop macaroni and cheese was one of their favorite weeknight meals.  No one needed to be called to the table twice on barbecued pork chop night, and, I didn't have to spend all afternoon cooking in order to reap the reward of their accolades.  All I had to do was brown the chops on both sides and then let them slow simmer in a mixture of barbecue sauce and water for about 30 minutes until fork tender.  One-skillet perfection.

Pork chops, barbecue sauce & mac & cheese = happy kids.

IMG_89894  3/4"-1" thick, bone-in pork loin chops

3-4  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing chops

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

1 1/4  cups K.C. Masterpiece original barbecue sauce, plus, additional barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling at tableside

1/4  cup water

IMG_8991 IMG_8991 IMG_8996 IMG_9002~Step 1. In a 12" nonstick skillet, heat the corn or peanut oil over low heat. Increase heat medium-high, add the chops, then, season their tops with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Sauté the chops until they're browning nicely on the bottom, about 10-12 minutes.  Using a spatula, flip the chops over and season the second side with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Lower the heat slightly, to medium, and continue to sauté the chops on their second sides until nicely golden on the bottom too, about 10-12 more minutes.

IMG_9006 IMG_9011 IMG_9013 IMG_9017 IMG_9023~Step 2.  Add the barbecue sauce to the chops in the skillet, followed by the water.  Quickly heat the barbecue sauce to bubbling, stirring in and around and under the chops constantly for a moment or two to incorporate the sauce into the flavorful pan drippings.  Adjust the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cover skillet and simmer until chops tender, 20-30 minutes.

Serve alongside or atop a generous helping of mac & cheese w/additional barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling:

IMG_9033Easiest Skillet-Fried Barbecue-Sauced Pork Chops:  Recipe yields 4 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List: 12" skillet, preferably nonstick w/lid; 1-cup measuring container; fork and/or spatula; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0263e960981a200bCook's Note: Unless I'm staring-at a 1 1/2"-2" double-cut pork chop, complete with a pocket full of stuffing inside, that's been painstakingly stovetop- or oven-braised, I believe all pork chops taste better slathered with 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).  As long as the end justifies the means, I'm easy to get along with.  For another way to make ~ Easy K.C.-Style Oven-Baked Barbecued Pork Chops ~, try this recipe.

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

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

02/02/2021

~ Jamaican-Style Shrimp and Scallop Coconut Curry ~

IMG_8966I'm no expert, but, I do know just enough about Jamaican cooking to NOT be dangerous.  I know that a dish consisting of ackee fruit and salt cod is their National Dish.  Alas, even if I could get my hands on an ackee here in the states, I wouldn't touch it. Parts of the ackee are toxic, so, my better judgement tells me to leave that recipe to the experts.  And, while I love salt cod and fresh cod too, I like seafood (like crab, shrimp, scallops and lobster) better, so, I'm confidant I can create a luscious Jamaican-style dinner tonight that's well within my culinary wheelhouse.     

6a0120a8551282970b01a73dae3659970dIn case you've never had the opportunity to try Jamaican fare, from barbecue to jerk, the Jamaicans make some of the best fish, chicken, pork, beef and lamb dishes in the world. They make some magnificent curries too, so, tonight, for our N'or Easter snowstorm dinner, I decided to make a Jamaican seafood curry -- shrimp and scallops are always in my freezer.  It's easy to prepare, full of great Caribbean flavor, and, the only "special ingredient" you'll need:

Jamaican-Style Curry Powder!

Jamaican curry powder contains allspice and Indian-style curry powder does not.  Indian curry powder contains cardamom and mace, Jamaican curry powder does not.  All Jamaican curries contain coconut milk, but only South Indian curries do.  Jamaican curries tend to be spicy and sweet while Indian curries are mild and slightly tart.

"Curry" is a catch-all English (British) term used in Western cultures to denote stewike dishes from Southern and Southeast Asia, as well as, Africa and the Caribbean.  Curry powder (the commercially marketed blend of spices we buy in our American markets) doesn't really exist in any of these places.  Hand-made pulverized blends of dried spices, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of each family or cook are prepared in a mortar and pestle.  Dishes called curry are relatively easy to prepare and can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish.  Seasonal vegetables can be included, or, the dish can be made of vegetables (vegetarian).

This spicy, delightful, snowstorm meal is just perfect:

IMG_89071 1/2  pounds peeled and deveined extra-large shrimp (26/30 count), tails off (about 2 pounds unpeeled shrimp to start)

1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops

1 1/2-2  cups each: green bell pepper, red bell pepper and sweet onion, cut into 1/4" strips, strips cut into halves

1  cup chopped cilantro leaves + additional leaves for garnish

6  tablespoons hot or mild Jamaican-style curry powder

1  tablespoon garlic paste

2  tablespoons ginger paste

1  teaspoon sea salt

1/4-1/2  teaspoon Scotch bonnet pepper powder (optional) (Note:  Jamaicans typically use fresh, Scotch Bonnet chilies for extra heat.  I don't often have them on hand, but, the slightly citrusy flavor of the incendiary powder, which I keep in my pantry, is a marvelous substitute.)

2  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes, very well-drained

2  14-ounce cans coconut milk that has been well-shaken prior to opening

3-4  tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil, for preparing skillet

5  cups uncooked basmati rice, or, 10 cups steamed basmati rice, cooked via your favorite method (Note:  I use an electric rice cooker, and, I steam the rice before I start prepping.)

IMG_8936 IMG_8936 IMG_8944 IMG_8944~Step 1. Using the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker, measure and place 5 cups uncooked basmati rice, followed by 5 cups cold water, into the steamer container.  Stir.  Close the lid and turn the steamer on to steam the rice -- this will take 18-20 minutes.  When machine signals the rice is done, open the lid and rake through it to separate the grains -- I use my vintage pasta fork to rake.  Close the lid and set aside to keep warm while preparing the curry.

IMG_8910 IMG_8910 IMG_8910~ Step 2.  Prep the green and red bell peppers, onion, and cilantro, placing them in a large bowl as you work.  Add the spices: the curry powder, garlic paste, ginger paste, salt and Scotch bonnet pepper powder.  Using a large spoon, give the mixture a thorough stir, to coat all the vegetables in all the spices. 

IMG_8922 IMG_8922 IMG_8922 IMG_8930 IMG_8930 IMG_8930~Step 3. Add the well-drained diced tomatoes and stir again.  Add the coconut milk and stir again. Add the shrimp and scallops and stir again to thoroughly combine.  Set aside, 10-15 minutes (30 maximum), to give flavors time to marry.

IMG_8934 IMG_8956 IMG_8956~Step 4. Heat the vegetable oil in an 8-quart chef's pan with straight, deep sides over medium-high.  Add the seafood mixture to skillet, increase heat to high, and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 5-6 full minutes. Turn heat off and allow mixture to rest on the stovetop 3-5 minutes, to finish cook the seafood -- sauce will be nicely thickened, the seafood will be perfectly cooked.  Portion steamed rice into 6-8 soup- or pasta-type bowls and ladle steaming-hot curry over rice.  Serve immediately.

Serve steaming-hot seafood curry ladled over rice.  

IMG_8974Jamaican-Style Shrimp and Scallop Coconut Curry:  Recipe yields 6-8 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List: electric rice steamer; cutting board; chef's knife; colander or strainer; large bowl; large spoon; 8-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b9e210200dCook's Note: Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of serving cheese or cheese sauces with fish or seafood, but, there are exceptions to every rule, so, for those who, like myself, do appreciate the divine goodness of dishes like lobster macaroni and cheese, you've gotta try my creamy-dreamy Island-Style Jamaican-Italian-American Rasta Pasta with succulent, butter-poached lobster meat added to it.  In the event you've never heard of rasta pasta, you might want to try my ~ Jamaican-Style Butter-Poached Lobsta Pasta Pasta ~.

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

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

01/30/2021

~ Broiled & Baked St. Louis-Style Sparerib Sandwich ~

IMG_8895An episode of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives left me salivating in the middle of the night last night. Guy Fieri's Triple D visited a place in Southern California that featured a barbecued sparerib sandwich.  The eatery, of course, smoked their signature-cut of St. Louis-Style ribs, removed the meat from the bones, fried it up on a flat-top (kinda like burnt ends) then piled it high on a nice soft bun with slices of sweet onion and bread-and-butter pickles -- my kinda sandwich.  As luck would have it, I had a package of St. Louis-Style ribs in my freezer, which have thawed on my counter most of the morning, and, I'm making these sandwiches for dinner tonight (sans the smoker).

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).  

6a0120a8551282970b0263e9553c34200bBabybacks 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.  If you're so inclined to make a rack for the sole purpose of making these sandwiches, plan on feeding 6-8.

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

6a0120a8551282970b0263e9553fff200b1  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_3430Step 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_3445 IMG_3450 IMG_3450~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 6a0120a8551282970b0263e9554671200bStep 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_3468 IMG_3468Step 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 ribs while hot, warm or at room temperature:

IMG_3485Remove meat from rib bones & chop into bite-sized pieces:

IMG_8879Place 3/4-1 cup rib meat, tossed w/2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (per sandwich), in a nonstick skillet, on the stovetop.   

IMG_8884Sauté over medium-high heat for 1-1 1/2 minute:

IMG_8886Assembly = roll + onion slices + meat + bread & butter pickles: 

IMG_8901Broiled & Baked St. Louis-Style Sparerib Sandwich:  Recipe yields Recipe yields 1 rack of perfectly-cooked, large, meaty St.-Lewis-style spareribs/enough meat for 6-8 sandwiches.

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 2021)

01/27/2021

~ Paring 3 Store-Bought Ravioli w/3 Perfect Sauces ~

IMG_8867Let's be honest, even those of us who can and do make ravioli from scratch, don't typically serve them for a family-friendly weeknight meal.  Why?  Making ravioli from scratch is a lot of work. That's why these one-to-two-bite labors-of-love are usually reserved for holidays and celebrations. That said, high-quality store-bought ravioli can be found in the average grocery store.  Rana is my go-to brand, and, you won't find them in the frozen food aisle -- they're found in the refrigerated section where fresh pasta is sold.  When paired with an easy-to-make-from-scratch sauce, ravioli can and should be added to every pasta-loving family's weeknight meal rotation:  It's ravioli night!

Nice & Easy Mushroom Ravioli Alfredo alla Primavera:

IMG_8725Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli w/Tomato-Cream Sauce:

IMG_8803Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli w/Florentine Sauce:

IMG_8845"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

01/24/2021

~ Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Florentine Sauce ~

IMG_8845Creamy cheese sauces have a place in my food world -- not a big place, but a place.  My attitude toward them is to use them judiciously, in a manner that does not overpower the dish being served, and, in moderation, so as not to tip the scale.  To my credit, I have developed my own versions of more than a few:  Easy Boursin, Trendy Rasta PastaClassic Mornay, Silky Parmesan-Sherry, Dreamy Gorgonzola, Basic Asiago, and a Kid-Friendly Cheddar.  It is my opinion that, for the most part, all store-bought cheese sauces are a compromise, so, don't debate it, just grate it -- take the few minutes required to make your cheese sauce from scratch.

"A la Florentine" = in the style of Florence, Italy.

"A la Florentine" is an Italian term which refers to egg, fish or seafood dishes prepared "in the style of Florence, Italy", meaning:  they are presented on a bed of spinach and topped with a creamy sauce, usually Mornay sauce, which contains Parmesan cheese.  What about the chicken Florentine we all love?  Well, it originated here in America and was made famous by upscale French restaurants back in the 1960's, where it remains ensconced today.  I for one am a spinach lover, and I am here to tell you:  eating spinach in this context is a downright decadent, indulgent, somewhat noble experience.  If you are convinced you don't like spinach -- get over it.

The green thing called Florentine = spinach (fresh vs. frozen):

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b43db8200dAs a spinach lover, I'm grateful to whomever developed the process for industrially cleaning and packaging it washed, dried and in bags. Why? Handling spinach "au natural" is labor intensive from the standpoint it must be meticulously cleaned of sandy grit, and, it can't get overly-wet while doing that because it loses its integrity quickly. Then, the tough stems need to be snipped.  While I recommend using fresh spinach for most Florentine recipes, if all you have is frozen spinach, worry not, all sorts of Florentine-style dishes turn out uncompromisingly fine using frozen, and, it's perfect for this creamy, full-flavored, cheese sauce.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3d305c5200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad38d50c8200c~ Step 1.  I can think of many instances to use fresh spinach, but this quick-and-easy weeknight-meal sauce is not one of them -- frozen chopped spinach yields the right amount every time with no need to cook it.  Thaw the spinach overnight in the refrigerator or in a colander placed in the sink with cold water dribbling over it.  Once thawed, wad the spinach up in several layers of paper towels and squeeze as hard as possible to remove as much liquid as possible.  Kept covered in the refrigerator, this task can be done a day ahead. 

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3d3e7c4200bFor the Florentine Sauce:

4  tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon each:  dehydrated minced onion and garlic, and, garlic and onion powder

1/2-3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and red pepper flakes, to taste

1-1 1/2  cups heavy or whipping cream cream, to control consistency

1  cup whole milk ricotta cheese

4  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1, 10-ounce box frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained

IMG_7578 IMG_7580 IMG_7583 IMG_7588 IMG_7589 IMG_7594 IMG_7595 IMG_7599~Step 2.  In a 12" nonstick skillet over low, heat the olive oil.  Add and stir in the dry seasonings. Add cream to skillet and increase heat to bring it to the point of steaming or barely simmering. Stir in the ricotta and the Parm-Regg.  Simmer very gently for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in the spinach and continue stirring until spinach is heated through.  Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

IMG_8817For the ravioli:

2  10-ounce bags high-quality spinach & ricotta ravioli, preferably at room temperature

4-6  tablespoons salted butter, cut into bite-sized pieces (cubed or sliced), at room temperature, the softer the better

1 1/2-2 cups Florentine sauce, from above recipe, + any leftover sauce for serving at table side 

IMG_8757 IMG_8822 IMG_8830~Step 1.  In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the sea salt. Add ravioli and cook until al dente, 3-4 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Thoroughly, drain the ravioli into a colander, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.

IMG_8832 IMG_8837 IMG_8840 IMG_8843~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces.  Using one or two spoons, ever-so-gently gently toss, like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and ravioli are evenly coated in the slightly-salty butter.  Add 1 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and toss again until the ravioli are evenly enrobed in the buttery-rich Spinach-laced sauce. Cover and set aside about 4-5 minutes, to allow the ravioli to absorb the excess sauce.  Uncover, gently stir, then, add more sauce, if and as necessary, in small increments, until desired consistency is reached.  Serve leftover sauce at table side.

In a world full of so much wrong, one thing is very right: 

IMG_8852Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Florentine Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups sauce, enough to coat 1-1 1/4 pounds ravioli/6-8 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  small colander; paper towels; microplane grater; 12" nonstick skillet; large spoon; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b0278800f7e74200dCook's Note: Cook's Note: Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  When serving any sort of Italian-American fare, a double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates, in the form of garlic bread, is huge hit.  Why?  Because eating Italian-American fare without a great big basket of garlic bread on the table is, gulp, culinarily criminal. Make a salad too, because it too goes great with it too (and makes one feel a bit less guilty). 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 2021)

01/21/2021

~Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Tomato-Cream Sauce~

IMG_8803Every once in a while, my ability to cook is overshadowed by my desire to cook something remarkably easy, yet good enough to serve to guests -- no special skills, tools or knowledge required.  Today is such a day.  This simple, straightforward and scrumptious recipe, taken from the pages of absolutely nowhere, goes from stovetop to table in less time than it takes to cook spaghetti, and, when beautifully plated, will bamboozle everyone into thinking I cooked all day.

"I dream of stirring cream into marinara sauce." ~ Melanie

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c818686a970bThe only thing more rewarding than having a freezer shelf full of my perfectly-seasoned ~  Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~ (made from our own garden's tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil), is being able to use it as a base for this decadent tomato-cream sauce.  My recipe is remarkably similar to most recipes, so, feel free to use your own homemade marinara  if you've got it.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08bd3352970dStore bought?  I think not, but, nonetheless, that choice is yours to make.  My ratio is 2:1, or:

2  cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

This can be changed to suit your taste, but, do not substitute half and half or milk.  Just don't do that.

IMG_8740 IMG_8744 IMG_8746 IMG_8750~Step 1. Place the marinara in a 2-quart saucepan.  Add and stir in the cream. Over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, heat until sauce is steaming.  Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Pretty, pink & perfectly-seasoned sauce.  Easy enough so far?

IMG_8754For the shrimp & lobster ravioli:

2  10-ounce bags high-quality shrimp and lobster ravioli 

1  tablespoon  sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

4-6  tablespoons salted butter, cut into bite-sized pieces, at room temperature, the softer the better

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, well-drained

the tomato-cream sauce

IMG_8757 IMG_8759 IMG_8763 IMG_8766~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 ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3-4 minutes.  Turn heat off. Thoroughly, drain the ravioli into a colander, then immediately return the steaming-hot ravioli to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.

IMG_8768 IMG_8771 IMG_8772 IMG_8774 IMG_8779 IMG_8782~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces and the diced tomatoes.  Using one or two spoons, ever-so-gently gently toss, like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and ravioli are evenly coated in the slightly-salty butter.  Add 1 1 1/2 cups of the sauce and toss again until the ravioli are evenly enrobed in the buttery-rich sauce. Cover and set aside about 4-5 minutes, to allow the ravioli to absorb the excess sauce.  Uncover, gently stir, then, add more sauce, in small increments, until desired consistency is reached.  

Portion & serve immediately.  No cheese please:

IMG_8811Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Tomato-Cream Sauce:  Recipe yields 6-8 main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; two spoons

6a0120a8551282970b0278800f7e74200dCook's Note: Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  When serving any sort of Italian-American fare, a double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates, in the form of garlic bread, is huge hit.  Why?  Because eating Italian-American fare without a great big basket of garlic bread on the table is, gulp, culinarily criminal. Make a salad too, because it too goes great with it too (and makes one feel a bit less guilty). 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 2021)

01/18/2021

~So Easy -- Mushroom Ravioli Alfredo alla Primavera~

IMG_8725I'm not a vegetarian, but, as a card-carrying carnivore, I can tell you, if I were, this easy-to-make creamy-dreamy pasta dish would be at the top of my weeknight menu rotation.  Why?  Because when I indulge in this decadent dish, I don't miss the meat for a second.  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 -- and it is awesome.

A bit of history about the iconic fettuccine Alfredo:  

6a0120a8551282970b026bde8a8b22200cAlfredo 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.

High-quality store-bought mushroom ravioli makes this a super-easy-to-make, decadent, weeknight, family-friendly meal:

IMG_86872  10-ounce bags high-quality mushroom ravioli

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

1  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_8685 IMG_8694 IMG_8695 IMG_8699 IMG_8701~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 ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3-4 minutes.  Turn heat off.  Thoroughly, drain the ravioli into a colander, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot and place the stockpot back on the still hot stovetop.

IMG_8704 IMG_8705 ~Step 2.  Add the butter pieces, along with the spices:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning, nutmeg, black pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Using one or two spoons, ever-so-gently gently toss, like you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and ravioli are evenly coated in a flavorful butter and spice mixture.

IMG_8709 IMG_8711 IMG_8714 IMG_8717 IMG_8720 IMG_8722~Step 3.  Toss in the cheese followed by one cup of the cream.  Again, using oe or two spoons, gently 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.  Continue adding additional cream, in small 1/4 cup increments, until desired consistency is reached -- the longer the ravioli sit prior to serving, the more cream will be needed.

Portion into desired-sized serving bowls & serve immediately.  

IMG_8738So Easy -- Mushroom Ravioli Alfredo alla Primavera:  Recipe yields 6-8 main-dish servings.

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

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3e1d465200bCook's Note: Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.  When serving any sort of Italian-American fare, a double-whammy of calories and carbohydrates, in the form of garlic bread, is huge hit.  Why?  Because eating Italian-American fare without a great big basket of garlic bread on the table is, gulp, culinarily criminal. Make a salad too, because it too goes great with it too (and makes one feel a bit less guilty). 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 2021)

01/15/2021

~ Doctoring Up a Box of Stovetop-Type Stuffing Mix ~

IMG_8669I'm no different than a lot of you when it comes to weeknight dinners.  Sometimes I put a small chicken in the oven to roast, other times I fry a few pork chops, sometimes I roast or poach a turkey tenderloin -- easy to make, minimum-fuss fare.  Stuffing goes great with all of them.  That said, on a busy week day, many times, all I  have the time or inclination to make are two easy-peasy satellite side-dishes -- a bag of our favorite steam-in-bag vegetables, and, a box of "doctored up" Stovetop-type stuffing -- and there's no shame in either one.  That's why I keep Stovetop brand stuffing in my pantry at all times -- there are other brands, I like Stovetop.

IMG_8658Great stovetop stuffing from a box -- what the doctor ordered:

IMG_86321  6-ounce box Stovetop brand stuffing mix, or your favorite brand of stovetop-type stuffing

4  tablespoons salted butter

1/4  teaspoon poultry seasoning

3/4  cup diced celery

3/4  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

1/4  teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 3/4  cups chicken stock, microwaved until steaming

IMG_8636 IMG_8637IMG_8640 IMG_8642~Step 1.  Place a 2-quart saucepan over low heat.  Add the butter and poultry seasoning.  When the butter has melted, add the diced celery and onion.  Adjust heat to medium-high, and, stirring frequently, lightly-sauté the vegetables until crunch tender, about 2 1/2-3 minutes -- not overcook.  

IMG_8643 IMG_8646 IMG_8648 IMG_8650 IMG_8652~Step 2. Add and thoroughly stir in the the dry stuffing mix, being sure to stir until the sautéed vegetables are throughly incorporated throughout.  Add the steaming hot chicken stock.  Do not stir.  Cover the saucepan and allow to rest 3-5 minutes.  Uncover the saucepan and rake through the stuffing with a fork, to "fluff" it up.  Serve immediately.

Every now & then, it's OK to enjoy thinking inside the box:

IMG_8654Doctoring Up a Box of Stovetop-Type Stuffing Mix:  Recipe yields 4 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; fork

6a0120a8551282970b0263ec2929ef200cCook's Note: The 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 is pork and apples go hand-in-hand, and, this easy, family-friendly casserole is a recipe everyone should try: ~ My Aunt's Apple-Pie Pork-Chop & Stuffing Casserole ~.  Trust me, it's wonderful.

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

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

01/12/2021

~ Doctoring Up a Box of Spanish-Style Yellow Rice ~

IMG_8623Mexican rice became a staple on our family's table back in the 1980's.  Whenever we ate in a Mexican restaurant, remarkably, our three kids would eat the side-dishes:  the muli-colored veggie-bejeweled rice, the murky-earthy slightly-soupy refried beans, and, the bright-green garlic-laced guacamole.  Without complaint or prodding, they'd slather and scoop 'em onto and into tacos, fajitas, carnitas (or whatever else they were eating), along with red or green salsa and the bottled hot-sauce du jour.  Go figure, and, "shut my mouth wide open."  I started stocking my pantry with whatever Texican-type ingredients I could find in our Central, PA grocery stores. 

I know I'm not alone on this point,  C-19 has changed what I store in my pantry -- it's not bad, just different.  In preparation for the lock down a few months ago, I stocked several boxes of Rice-a-Roni, four boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, a big box of Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes, a few boxes of Stovetop stuffing mix, Betty Crocker cheesy scalloped potatoes, and, because my family loves to eat Mexican-style food often, lots of Goya Spanish-style yellow rice mix.  Why?  I knew these easy-to-make convenience-food side-dishes not only have a long shelf life, they're tasty, and, with little effort I can make any of them taste really good.

Great Spanish-style rice from a box -- what the doctor ordered:

IMG_85721  7-ounce box Goya Spanish-style yellow rice

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted corn kernels

1  14 1.2-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

3  tablespoons salted butter

1/2  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

IMG_8573 IMG_8575 IMG_8581 IMG_8585 IMG_8587~Step 1.  Into a 2-cup measuring container, drain as much liquid as possible from the corn and the tomatoes -- be sure to get as much liquid out of the cans as is possible.  Add enough water to total 2 1/2 cups.  Pour the liquid into a 2-quart saucepan.  Add the butter, ground cumin and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer over medium- medium-high heat.

IMG_8588 IMG_8593 IMG_8596Step 2.  Add the rice-and-seasoning packet to the simmering liquids. Cover the saucepan and lower the heat to a steady, very gentle simmer.  Cook, covered, until rice has absorbed the liquid and small holes appear across the surface -- 20-22 minutes.  Do not uncover the saucepan during the cooking process.

IMG_8599 IMG_8603 IMG_8605 IMG_8608~Step 3.  Using a fork, rake through the steaming hot rice to separate the grains.  Add and rake in the corn, followed by the diced tomatoes.  Serve immediately with your favorite Mexican food.

Every now & then, it's OK to enjoy thinking inside the box:

IMG_8626Doctoring Up a Box of Spanish-Style Yellow Rice:  Recipe yields, 4 generous cups/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; 1-quart saucepan w/lid; fork

6a0120a8551282970b0223c849deb2200c-800wiCook's Note: The biggest difference between Mexican rice and Spanish rice (as per me) is akin to the difference between a side-salad and a chef's salad.  Both contain similar ingredients, but, the first gets eaten alongside the main course, while the latter is the main course. If anyone has a better description, I'm all ears, but, the bottom line:  both are Spanish.  When I think "Mexican rice", I think "tawny-red-tinged, onion-and-garlic laced, side-dish riddled with bits of vegetables (beans, corn and/or tomatoes, or peas and carrots)".  When I think "Spanish rice", I think "protein-packed Mexican rice full of chards or chunks of meat, poultry or shellfish as a main-dish".  Try my ~ Mexican-Style Adobo Rice (Meatless Spanish Rice) ~.    

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

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

01/09/2021

~ Doctoring Up a Box of Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes ~

IMG_8546I know I'm not alone on this point,  C-19 has changed what I store in my pantry -- truth told, it's not bad, just different.  In preparation for the lock down that occurred a few months ago, I stocked several boxes of Rice-a-Roni, four boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, a big box of Hungry Jack instant mashed potatoes, and, a few boxes of Stovetop stuffing mix and Betty Crocker cheesy scalloped potatoes.  Thanks to them being staples in my mom's pantry, I knew these easy-to-make convenience-food side-dishes not only have a long shelf life, they're tasty.

Steamy & creamy on the inside w/a crispy top: 

IMG_8549In the case of the scalloped potatoes, my mom always, always, always made them, even for company and holidays.  She had her method for "doctoring up" (her words) these boxes of dehydrated potatoes.  There were never any complaints and never any leftovers -- everyone gobbled them up.  I so forgot how much like them, I've taken to making them occasionally.  In my kitchen, they're no longer "just in case" food.  They're scrape-the-casserole-clean comfort food.

Prepare two boxes in a 1 1/2-quart casserole.

Skip the water, use whole milk (4 1/2 cups).

Give the potatoes ample time to soften prior to baking.

Rest the casserole about 15 minutes prior to serving.

Better boxed scalloped potatoes -- what the doctor ordered:

IMG_85092  7-ounce boxes Betty Crocker's cheesy scalloped potates

4 1/2  cups whole milk, heated on the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming

4  tablespoons salted butter, sliced or cubed

Place dehydrated potatoes in bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole:

IMG_8510Slowly add the steaming hot milk:

IMG_8517Add the sliced or cubed butter:

IMG_8518Wait for the butter to melt, 1-2 minutes:

IMG_8524Sprinkle in dry cheese sauce mixture from the packets:

IMG_8527Using a spoon, slowly stir dry cheese sauce into all:

IMG_8528Set aside for 60 minutes, then bake @ 350°, 30-40 minutes:

IMG_8532Every now & then, it's OK to enjoy thinking inside the box:

IMG_8542Doctoring Up a Box of Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes:  Recipe yields 6-12 side-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-cup measuring container; 1 1/2 quart casserole

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

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

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

01/06/2021

~ The Difference Between Pancake and Waffle Batter ~

IMG_8504Pancakes or waffles, waffles or pancakes.  Everyone loves them, and, once you make the decision to make one of these two common breakfast foods, in the culinary scheme of things, no two dishes that start out fundamentally same (with a flour, milk and egg batter), could possible emerge so different.  When it comes to pancakes and waffles, the number one mistake folks make it assuming they can use the same batter for both -- perfectly underderstandable, but wrong. Waffle batter is thicker than pancake batter and requires more eggs, fat and sugar in order to render the unique, signature texture.  It's not rocket science, but, it is important to know.

Pancakes are thin, tender, fork-friendly discs.  They're cooked in some fat (melted butter or oil), in a skillet or on a flat griddle.  Waffles are quite different.  Waffles, which are, well, waffled, are cooked on a special-gridded two-sided device that allows them to emerge crispy on the outside, yet, soft and steamy on the inside.  Waffles are usually served side-by-side, on a plate with a knife-and-fork.  Both taste great with traditional maple syrup and butter, but, both go great with fresh fruits, jam, or, ice-cream too.  Once you have a foolproof recipe for both, and try it once or twice, to grasp the technique, you'll be making both like a pro.  Don't stress -- read on to learn:

How to make the best, basic, classic, pancake batter:

IMG_8492How to make the best, basic, classic waffle batter:

IMG_8433"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

01/03/2021

~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic, Pancake Mix ~

IMG_8492We all do it.  Why not.  Wake up in the morning, go into the pantry, and pull out a time-saving box of Bisquick or Aunt Jemima pancake mix.  Whether it gets mixed with milk or buttermilk, the pancakes are quick to make, they taste great, and, in this busy world, there's no shame in it.  My attitude is "morning food should be easy food".  That said, dry pancake mix can be made in minutes at home and stored in a tightly-sealed jar or ziplock bag, in the pantry, for up to six months.  Just add some milk or buttermilk, an egg, and, a touch of vanilla extract.

IMG_8449For the dry pancake mix:

6  cups unbleached all-purpose flour

6  tablespoons sugar

3  tablespoons baking powder

1  tablespoon baking soda

2  teaspoons sea salt

~ Step 1. in a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.  Transfer to an airtight container.  Store in the pantry for up to six months.

IMG_8451For the pancakes:

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup whole milk or 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (Note:  Buttermilk is quite a bit thicker in consistency than whole milk, so a bit more is required.)

1  large egg

2  teaspoons vanilla extract

corn or vegetable oil, for frying the pancakes

IMG_8460 IMG_8461 IMG_8464 IMG_8466 IMG_8469~Step 2.  To make the pancake batter, in a medium bowl, place and whisk together the milk (or buttermilk) egg and extract -- I like to use a hand-held rotary egg beater to do this.  Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Beat the ingredients together, and, there is no need to worry about getting out all of the lumps.  Cover and set aside for about 5-10 minutes. Check the consistency, and, if the mix seems too thick, whisk in a splash of milk or buttermilk.

IMG_8470 IMG_8473 IMG_8479 IMG_8483~Step 3.  To cook/fry the pancakes, in any size nonstick skillet, place a thin coating of corn or vegetable oil.  Place skillet over medium- medium-high heat.  For each pancake, pour about 6 tablespoons into the hot the oil.  The pancake will form itself.  Once bubbles form across the surface, and the perimeter of the pancake looks slightly-dryer than the middle, use a spatula to flip the pancake over -- this will take about 2 1/2-3 minutes. After flipping, cook pancake on the second side, for about 1 1/2-2 minutes.  Pancakes will be lightly golden with slightly-crispy edges.

Note:  For evenly-shaped, evenly-cooked pancakes, I like to fry them individually, in 1-2, 8" skillets -- two skillets on the stovetop at once.  After each 1-2 cook, I add a splash of additional oil to each pan, and, continue to cook until all of the batter has been used.  Try it my way -- each pancake comes out perfect every time.  Trust me -- one pancake per skillet is the ticket to perfection.

Serve w/butter & maple syrup, or, your favorite toppings:  

IMG_8495 2How to Make the Best Basic Classic Pancake Batter:  Recipe yields 7 cups pancake mix/each cup yields 8 pancakes.

Special Equipment List:  whisk; air-tight food storage container or ziplock bag; hand-held rotary egg beater; any size nonstick skillet; spatula

IMG_8433Cook's Note: In my kitchen, a snowy morning with buttermilk in the fridge adds up to one of two things: pancakes or waffles.  I'm not sure if there is a better way to fritter away some time on a cold morning.  This morning we decided to go the waffle route.  They're a little more involved than pancakes, mostly because a waffle iron is involved, but, what the heck, my foolproof buttermilk waffle recipe only takes a few minutes to whisk together, and, they emerge from the waffle iron light-and-fluffy with crispy edges -- exactly how a waffle should be.  Learn ~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic Waffle Batter ~. Oh yum.

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

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

12/31/2020

~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic Waffle Batter ~

IMG_8433In my kitchen, a snowy morning with buttermilk in the fridge adds up to one of two things: a big plate of pancakes or a big plate of waffles.  I'm not sure if there is a better way to fritter away some time on a cold Thursday morning.  This morning we decided to go the waffle route.  They're a little more involved than pancakes, mostly because a waffle iron is involved, but, what the heck, my foolproof buttermilk waffle recipe only takes a few minutes to whisk together, and, they emerge from the waffle iron light-and-fluffy with crispy edges -- exactly how a waffle should be.

IMG_8272Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.  It's a waffle morning: 

IMG_8341For the dry ingredients:

2  cups all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

2  tablespoons sugar

1/2  teaspoon salt

For the wet ingredients:

2 1/2  cups buttermilk

1/4  cup vegetable oil

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract

4  large eggs, separated

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing waffle grids

IMG_8347 IMG_8347 IMG_8347 IMG_8356 IMG_8362 IMG_8362 IMG_8362 IMG_8362~Step 1.  Ready the ingredients:  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.  In a 2-cup measuring container, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla.  In a small ramekin, use a fork to thoroughly whisk the egg yolks.  In a medium bowl, using a hand-held rotary egg beater, whisk the egg whites until frothy and white.

IMG_8380 IMG_8384 IMG_8386 IMG_8388 IMG_8392 IMG_8399 2 IMG_8404~Step 2.  In a large bowl (I use an 8-cup measuring container), using a hand-held rotary beater, place and thoroughly combine the dry ingredients with the buttermilk mixture.  Add the egg yolks and beat again.  Add the frothed egg whites and beat again.  Set aside for about 10-15 minutes -- do not skip this step.

IMG_8411 IMG_8415 IMG_8417 IMG_8425 IMG_8430~Step 3.  Preheat the waffle iron, according to manufacturer's directions -- I preheat my CuchinaPro waffle iron at setting #4, which is a medium heat. I also like to place my waffle iron atop a few layers of paper towels, so the towels can catch the inevitable drips of batter that occur as each batch of waffles cook.  When the waffle iron signals that it is ready, open the iron and spray a light coating of no-stick over the grids, then, place a scant 1/3 cup of batter into each of the grids.  Close the iron and cook the waffles until they are golden, about 3 1/2-4 minutes (the cook time will vary from waffle iron to waffle iron).  Use a large spatula to transfer and serve the waffles immediately, or, place them, in a single layer, on a wire cooling rack, to cool completely.  

To reheat, pop one or two in the toaster to crisp them up.

IMG_8443How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic Waffle Batter:  Recipe yields 16 waffles.

Special Equipment List:  spoon; 2-cup measuring container; fork; 8-cup measuring container; hand-held rotary beater; 3-ounce ladle; electric classic-waffle iron (not an iron for making yeast-risen Belgian waffles); paper towels; large spatula; large wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b0263e97a2c39200b-800wiCook's Note:  I accidentally put a bag of shredded hash brown potatoes in the refrigerator instead of the freezer.  I was in a hurry. Mistakes happen.  I am so glad I decided to open the bag before discarding the to-the-touch soggy mess this morning, because there was a nice surprise inside: glistening-white, ready-to-use, slightly-wet, shredded potatoes -- without all the time-consuming mess of doing it from scratch.  I may never shred fresh potatoes again. My breakfast menu changed ASAP. Joe's sunny side up eggs with two sausage patties, stayed the same, but, his toasted English muffin turned into a side of ~ My Shredded Hash-Brown Potato-Pancake Waffles ~.

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

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

12/29/2020

~Home for the Holidays Eggnog Brioche French Toast~

IMG_8329When the Christmas and New Year holidays roll around, depending on who's coming to breakfast, lunch or dinner, my menus vary from year-to-year.  That said, eggnog is a constant, a staple in my refrigerator, and it's offered to guests at any time of day.  Interestingly, since I moved to Happy Valley (State College), Central Pennsylvania, in 1974, I've neither needed to make eggnog from scratch, nor, buy the all-too-many-times cloyingly sweet stuff sold in the grocery stores.  We have a local dairy that sells their own special blend of pasteurized eggnog and eggnog ice cream -- both are marvelous.  Meyer's Dairy eggnog and eggnog ice cream part of my tradition.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a7a3c6200dMeet Meyer Dairy.  Founded in 1970 by two  brothers and located just four short miles from my kitchen door, I have been buying milk and ice cream from these folks since the day I moved to Happy Valley in 1974.  Joseph Meyer, the owner explains, "We're farmers, so we produce our own milk.  We put in a drop tank to bring it up from the farm to process and bottle it in our shop."  Over the years they added many varieties of ice-cream, and the flavors change daily. Besides one of their generous cones of the creamy-dreamy stuff, there's plenty of room to sit down and enjoy a hot dog or a hamburger too.  They sell lots of other local and PA based products too:  grilled stickies from The College Diner, apple butter from the Lions Club and Middleswarth potato chips -- everyone loves Meyer Dairy!

Making French toast using eggnog in place of cream (or half-and-half or milk) is by no means rocket science.  There are only two things you need to know.  The first:  Classic French toast recipes typically add sugar to the egg-and-cream vanilla-flavored custard. Because eggnog contains sugar, there's no need to add more -- simply omit the requisite sugar from the original recipe.  The second:  Classic French toast recipes always add vanilla extract to the custard, and, most add cinnamon.  In order to make the custard mixture "noggy", in addition to the vanilla and cinnamon,  I like to add some butter-rum flavoring and a touch of nutmeg.

Eggnog French toast in four steps:  whisk, dip, soak, cook:

IMG_82796,  3/4"-thick slices, 2-3 day old, my recipe for bread machine eggnog brioche, or, bread machine brioche

4  large eggs

1 1/2  cups pasteurized eggnog

2  teaspoons butter-rum flavoring

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

4-5  tablespoons corn-, peanut- or vegetable-oil (not olive oil), for frying the French toast

6a0120a8551282970b026be431629b200d~ Step 1.  Using a serrated bread knife, slice the bread.  This is a picture of my bread-machine brioche.  If you have a bread machine, I obviously encourage you give this recipe a try.  If you are not using my brioche, I recommend that whatever bread you are using be sliced to the thickness of 3/4".  If it is thinner or thicker, it will affect the frying time and texture.  In my opinion:  All French toast starts with properly, 3/4"-thick sliced bread.

IMG_8282 IMG_8287 IMG_8290 IMG_8292~Step 2.  To prepare the egg custard mixture, in a small bowl, crack and place the eggs, the cream, sugar, butter-rum flavoring, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and sea salt.  Using a hand-held rotary egg beater, thoroughly whisk the eggs, cream and seasonings together until uniform in color.  Transfer the custard mixture to the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.

IMG_8295 IMG_8296 IMG_8300 IMG_8302~Step 3. Arrange the bread slices in the 13" x 9" x 2" casserole containing the egg custard -- overlapping is ok.  Patiently wait 2-3 minutes.  Flip bread slices over on their second sides and wait another 2-3 minutes.  Flip the bread over again, then, maybe once more, to make sure each slice is thoroughly coated and almost all liquid has been absorbed.  Briefly set aside.

IMG_8305 IMG_8309 IMG_8313 IMG_8318 IMG_8322~Step 4. Preheat just enough oil, 4-5 tablespoons, to thinly-coat the bottom (about 1/16") of a 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat on the stovetop.  Add 3 slices of the egg-custard-soaked bread and gently sauté, about 3-4 minutes per side, using a spatula to flip it over only once, until golden on both sides.  Transfer the French toast to a paper-towel-lined plate.  Repeat the process with the remaining 3 slices of egg-custard-soaked bread.

Out w/the old, in w/the new -- ring in the New Year in style:

IMG_8338Home for the Holidays Eggnog Brioche French Toast:  Recipe yields 6 slices French toast/2-3 servings. 

Special Equipment List: cutting board; serrated bread knife; hand-held rotary egg beater; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 12" nonstick skillet; spatula; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09626d7c970dCook's Note:  Besides sipping on eggnog throughout the days leading up to the holidays, I bake and cook with it too.  To name a few, I make great eggnog cookies, eggnog pound cake and eggnog shortbread, and, when it comes to breakfast or brunch on Christmas or New Years Day, either eggnog pancakes, French toast or waffles always make an appearance.  There's more. I love bananas, and, caramelized bananas, the kind used to make Bananas Foster, are my favorite topping for this festive, eggnoggy start-to-the-holiday: ~ Eggnog Pancakes w/Butter-Rum 'n Nog Bananas ~.

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

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

12/27/2020

~ How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic French Toast ~

IMG_8247The French words for French toast are pain perdu, meaning lost bread, because it is a way of reviving bread which becomes dry after a day or two.  The basics of any French toast recipe are pretty simple:  Thickly-sliced, two-three-day-old bread is dipped into a vanilla-flavored egg-and-cream custard mixture.  The bread is allowed to soak up the custard for a few moments, then it gets fried in a skillet containing a coating of oil.  When executed correctly, it emerges from the skillet crisp and golden brown on both sides with a creamy, almost pudding-like, center.

Use any semi-firm textured bread, but, make sure it's stale.

IMG_8249The origins of French toast were likely born out of the necessity to use up stale bread, and, sopping stale bread in milk is a tradition that dates back to the Middle ages.  The dish itself, French toast, is thought to be referred to as "French" because French breads like baguettes, sourdoughs and brioche, which are meant to be eaten on the same day they are baked, go stale quickly.  No one knows who's idea it was to whisk an egg or two into the milk and fry the bread in some fat, but, whoever it was, was onto one of our worlds most loved comfort food breakfasts -- French toast.  All that said, almost any type of semi-firm bread or quick-bread (challah, pannetone, banana bread, etc.) can and will turn an ordinary breakfast into a celebration.

French toast in four easy steps:  whisk, dip, soak, cook:

IMG_81836,  3/4"-thick slices, 2-3 day old bread machine brioche

4  large eggs

1 1/2  cups cream

1/4  cup sugar

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

4-5  tablespoons corn, peanut or vegetable oil, for frying French toast

6a0120a8551282970b0147e0e131e0970b 9.58.04 AM~ Step 1.  Using a serrated bread knife, slice the bread.  This is a picture of my bread-machine brioche.  If you have a bread machine, I obviously encourage you give this recipe a try.  If you are not using my brioche, I recommend that whatever bread you are using be sliced to the thickness of 3/4".  If it is thinner or thicker, it will affect the frying time and texture.  In my opinion:  All French toast starts with properly, 3/4"-thick sliced bread.

IMG_8185 IMG_8194 IMG_8196 IMG_8202 IMG_8205~Step 2.  To prepare the egg custard mixture, in a small bowl, crack and place the eggs, the cream, sugar, vanilla extract, ground cinnamon and sea salt.  Using a hand-held rotary egg beater, thoroughly whisk the eggs, cream and seasonings together until uniform in color.  Transfer the custard mixture to the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.

IMG_8207 IMG_8208 IMG_8218~ Step 3. Arrange bread slices in the casserole atop the custard -- overlapping is ok. Wait 2-3 minutes. Flip bread slices over and wait another 2-3 minutes.  Flip the bread over again, then, maybe once more, to make sure each slice is thoroughly coated and almost all liquid has been absorbed.  Briefly set aside.

IMG_8222 IMG_8223 IMG_8226 IMG_8229 IMG_8233~Step 4. Preheat just enough oil, 4-5 tablespoons, to thinly-coat the bottom (about 1/16") of a 12" nonstick skillet over medium heat on the stovetop.  Add 3 slices of the egg-custard-soaked bread and gently sauté, about 3-4 minutes per side, using a spatula to flip it over only once, until golden on both sides.  Transfer the French toast to a paper-towel-lined plate.  Repeat the process with the remaining 3 slices of egg-custard-soaked bread.

Serve ASAP & don't forget the butter & maple syrup:

IMG_8243How to Make the Best, Basic, Classic French Toast:  Recipe yields 6 slices French toast/2-3 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; hand-held rotary egg beater; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 12" nonstick skillet; spatula; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4829507200dCook's Note: Once a year, the day after Eastern European Orthodox Easter to be specific, my mother made one of my favorite breakfasts: savory French toast.  She soaked thick slices of the round loaf of leftover paska (a brioche-type bread enriched with milk, eggs, butter, sugar and salt) in a whole-grain mustard-laced milk-and-egg mixture. She served it with sliced and fried baked ham (also leftover from Easter), soft-yolked, sunny-side-up eggs, and a fresh chive garnish (which grew in dad's garden).  Mom made this but once a year because that was when she had the very-specific ingredients.  Try my ~ Savory Brioche French Toast w/Fried Ham & Eggs ~.

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

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

12/24/2020

~ Creamy-Dreamy Old-Bay Shrimp Shell-Pasta Salad ~

IMG_8161This main-dish pasta salad is made by adding cooked and well-drained shell-shaped pasta to my mother's shrimp salad recipe.  It makes the perfect quick lunch or light supper.  Simply portion it into a shallow bowl atop a bed of crispy-crunchy lettuce leaves accompanied by a few tomato wedges and pour a glass of your favorite wine.  Add a slice of crusty rustic bread, a fancy-schmancy flakey croissant or a brioche roll slathered with butter and lunch or dinner is served.

Shrimp cocktail has been a traditional appetizer at my family's holiday gatherings and celebrations for as long as I can remember.  Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, bridal showers, baby showers, christenings, anniversary parties, etc. -- when my family celebrates, a big bowl or platter of perfectly-cooked jumbo shrimp with two-types of cocktail sauce (classic and creamy) are on the table when we start the festivities.  On occasion, we'd have some leftover.  Under the supervision of my mom, back into the refrigerator they went, so our family of four could all enjoy a shrimp salad sandwiches the next day.  Truth told, I'm convinced mom planned on the leftovers.

IMG_8118To many folks, Old Bay Seasoning represents the quintessential Summer seafood seasoning -- it really kicks the flavor up a few notches.  It’s the seasoning-of-choice on blue crabs, tossed into a bowl of peel n' eat shrimp, and in Maryland, they shake it on everything from fried chicken to sweet corn and some add it to their crab cakes and potato salad too. That said, whatever the season or the occasion, like mom, I can't resist adding it to her shrimp salad recipe.

Make & chill the spicy shrimp salad as directed.  Then add:

IMG_80416 cups my recipe for Spicy Old-Bay-Seasoned Shrimp Salad, well-chilled

6  ounces uncooked medium-sized shell pasta (about 2 cups)

2  teaspoons sea salt, for seasoning water for pasta

6  tablespoons high-quality mayonnaise, I use either Hellmann's or Duke's 

2  teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

2  teaspoon lemon juice, fresh or high-quality organic juice not-from-concentrate

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1-1 1/2 cups torn iceberg or romaine lettuce leaves, for serving each portion

4-5  small Campari tomato wedges, for serving each portion 

IMG_8046 IMG_8051 IMG_8051 IMG_8056 IMG_8056 IMG_8064~Step 1.  In a 3-4-quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.  Add the salt.  Add the pasta and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, 9-11 minutes.  Do not over cook the pasta. Drain pasta into a colander, rinse it thoroughly under cold running water (to remove excess starch and halt cooking process), then, spread it out onto a baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper.  Set aside for 10-15 minutes, to dry and cool, meaning:  dry free of excess moisture (not dry out), and, cool to room temperature.

IMG_8048 IMG_8048 IMG_8074 IMG_8076~Step 2.  While the pasta in draining and drying, in a small bowl, place and stir together the mayonnaise, Old Bay Seasoning, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.  Transfer pasta to a medium bowl.  Add the mayonnaise mixture to the pasta.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the mayonnaise mixture into the pasta, continuing to fold until the pasta is evenly coated. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for 45-60 minutes.  

IMG_8082 IMG_8144 IMG_8144~ Step 3.  Remove the shrimp salad and the pasta mixture from the refrigerator. Transfer both mixtures to a large bowl. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the two mixtures together.    Portion and serve on luncheon-sized plates or shallow bowls atop a bed of torn lettuce leaves accompanied by tomato wedges.

Serve atop lettuce leaves accompanied by tomato wedges:

IMG_8150Try my Spicy Old-Bay-Seasoned Shrimp Salad Sandwiches too:

IMG_8133Creamy-Dreamy Old-Bay Shrimp Shell-Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 10 cups pasta salad.

Special Equipment List:  kitchen scale; 3-4-quart saucepan; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4"; parchment paper; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0240a502fd82200bCook's Note: Americans love shrimp.  Shrimp, the fruit of the sea, is America's favorite seafood.  When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making many appetizers and hors d'oeuvres (shrimp dip,  shrimp salad, tea sandwiches, various canapés, etc.). Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are sweet, tender and adorable, so, when serving fingerfood, think small, because the extra flavor is important.  Try my ~ Pretty-in-Pink Tiny-Shrimp Dip, Salad or Sandwiches ~.

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

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

12/21/2020

~Spicy Old-Bay-Seasoned Shrimp Salad Sandwiches~

IMG_8128Shrimp cocktail has been a traditional appetizer at my family's holiday gatherings and celebrations for as long as I can remember.  Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, bridal showers, baby showers, christenings, anniversary parties, etc. -- when my family celebrates, a big bowl or platter of perfectly-cooked jumbo shrimp with two-types of cocktail sauce (classic and creamy) are on the table when we start the festivities.  On occasion, we'd have some left over.  Under the supervision of my mom, back into the refrigerator they went, so our family of four could all enjoy shrimp salad sandwiches the next day.  Truth told, I'm convinced mom planned on the leftovers.

IMG_8118To many folks, Old Bay Seasoning represents the quintessential Summer seafood seasoning -- it really kicks the flavor up a few notches.  It’s the seasoning-of-choice on blue crabs, tossed into a bowl of peel n' eat shrimp, and in Maryland, they shake it on everything from fried chicken to hot dogs and popcorn, and, they add it to everything from Bloody Mary's to deviled eggs and potato salad -- there are few foods that Marylanders don't add Old Bay seasoning to.  You can find it on the tables of eateries everywhere, right next to the salt and pepper shakers.  That said, whatever the season or the occasion, like mom, I can't resist adding it to her shrimp salad recipe.  It rocks.  

This salad makes the perfect quick lunch or light supper.  Pile it into a sliced croissant, on a lightly-toasted brioche hamburger-type roll, wrap it in a flour tortilla, or, simply scoop it over into a bowl atop a bed of crispy-crunchy lettuce leaves.  There's more.  You can stir cooked shell-shaped pasta into it for a spice-is-nice shrimp pasta salad too.  Mince the shrimp:  shrimp dip.

One last thing, make plenty.  No on can resist it:

IMG_80011  pound jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked, chilled, tails taken off, and, cut in half horizontally

1/2  cup high-quality mayonnaise, I use either Hellmann's or Duke's

2  teaspoons Old Bay seasoning, divided (1 teaspoon for seasoning the shrimp and 1 teaspoon for seasoning the mayonnaise)

2  teaspoon lemon juice, fresh or high-quality organic juice not-from-concentrate, divided (1  teaspoon for seasoning the shrimp and 1 teaspoon for flavoring the mayonnaise)

2  teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, divided (1 teaspoon for seasoning the shrimp and one teaspoon for flavoring the mayonnaise)

3/4  cup small-diced celery

3/4  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

6  brioche hamburger-type rolls

1 1/2  cups chiffonade of iceberg or romaine lettuce, divided 4 ways, to use as a bed for the shrimp salad on each of 4 sandwiches

6  Campari tomatoes, each tomato sliced into 3-4 thin slices, to use as a topper for the shrimp salad on each of 4 sandwich

IMG_7992 IMG_7992 IMG_8006 IMG_8006 IMG_8006 IMG_8006~Step 1.  Slice the shrimp as directed, placing them in a medium bowl as you work.  Toss with 1 teaspoon of the Old Bay seasoning, followed by 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of the Worcestershire sauce.  Set the shrimp aside.

IMG_8019 IMG_8022 IMG_8022~ Step 2.  In a small bowl, place and thoroughly stir together the remaining 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning, followed by the remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and, the mayonnaise.

IMG_8028 IMG_8028 IMG_8028 IMG_8028~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold the mayonnaise mixture into the shrimp, followed by the diced celery and onions.  Cover and refrigerate until well-chilled 1-2 hours or overnight.

Portion onto brioche rolls atop a bed of lettuce & tomatoes: 

IMG_8133Try my Creamy-Dreamy Old-Bay Shrimp & Shell-Pasta Salad:

IMG_8161Spicy Old-Bay-Seasoned Shrimp Salad Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 6 cups shrimp salad and 6 large sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a502fd82200bCook's Note: Americans love shrimp.  Shrimp, the fruit of the sea, is America's favorite seafood.  When it comes to shrimp, while big is always better served in a shrimp cocktail, when making deep-fried shrimp, and, in specialty dishes like firecracker shrimp, that's just not so when it comes to making many appetizers and hors d'oeuvres (shrimp dip,  shrimp salad, tea sandwiches, various canapés, etc.). Extra-small shrimp, also known as "salad shrimp", are sweet, tender and adorable, so, when serving fingerfood, think small, because the extra flavor is important.  Try my ~ Pretty-in-Pink Tiny-Shrimp Dip, Salad or Sandwiches ~.

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

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

12/18/2020

~Old Bay -- Maryland's Staple in a Classic Yellow Can~

IMG_8102 2Newsflash -- There are two reasons to never consider trying to make Old Bay Seasoning at home.  The first:  You can't do it, you'll never get the proportions right, and, those of us who recognize the signature taste -- we'll hate you for yours.  The second: Old Bay Seasoning is a source of Marylander pride.  It's a staple -- it's found, right next to the salt and pepper shakers, on the tables in eateries everywhere.  If you wouldn't try pawning some off-the-rails homemade salt or pepper off on your guests (or customers), don't try it with Old Bay seasoning either.  Don't do it.

Old Bay -- Named after The Old Bay Line of passenger ships:

Card00578_frOld Bay Seasoning was named after the Old Bay Line, a passenger-ship line that steamed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore, Maryland, to Norfolk, Virginia in the early 1900's. Old Bay Seasoning, which is marketed in the United States by McCormick & Company, was created in Baltimore, Maryland.  It's a sophisticated blend of herbs and spices that include (as per the can): celery salt (a blend of salt and pulverized celery seed), dry mustard, red pepper, black pepper, Laurel bay leaves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon and paprika.

Old Bay -- Created in 1939 by a spice & seasoning wholesaler, Gustav Brunn, a Jewish-German immigrant to the USA:

Old Bay Seasoning is the creation of Gustav Brunn, a Jewish-German immigrant to the United States who started The Baltimore Spice Company in 1939.  The origins of his company began in Wertheim, Germany, where he started a wholesale spice and seasoning business, selling to the food industry during a time when spices were in short supply due to the hyperinflation in the aftermath of World War I. Due to rising antisemitism as the Nazi's rose to power, he moved his family, and his company to Frankfurt, Germany, where, on the night of November 10, 1938 (Kristalnacht), Brunn, was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Gustav's wife paid a large sum of money to a lawyer to get her husband released, and, because they had previously applied for and received American visas, they and their two children were able to escape to New York City, and later to Baltimore, Maryland, where Brunn had living relatives.  Having brought with him a small spice grinder, it was in Baltimore, in 1939 (just two days after being fired from his job at McCormick because his boss found out he was Jewish), where he began selling the "Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning", which was later renamed Old Bay Seasoning.  McCormick purchased the rights from the family in 1990.

Old Bay -- How do we love thee?  Let's count the many ways:

IMG_8118Marylanders have proudly taught us in the Mid-Atlantic States, Southern States, New England States and the Gulf Coast to use Old Bay Seasoning in or on almost anything we can think of.  To name many:  Blue Crabs.  Crab cakes.  Crab dip.  Crab salad.  Cream of crab soup.  Clam chowder.  Oyster stew.  Tomato soup.  Scallops.  Shrimp.  Shrimp salad.  Crawfish boil.  Seafood Batter mixes.  Tartar sauce.  Salad dressing.  Deviled eggs.  Chicken wings.  Fried Chicken. Maryland-style hot dogs.  Baked potatoes.  French fries.  Tater tots.  Potato salad.  Macaroni Salad.  Corn on the cob.  Steamed vegetables.  Popcorn.  Potato Chips.  Chex mix.  Bloody Mary's.  Essentially, there few foods Marylanders haven't put Old Bay Seasoning in or on.

Most recently, in 2020, McCormick created Old Bay Hot Sauce in advance of the Super Bowl.  It sold out within 30 minutes of its launch, causing the website to temporarily crash.  Some customers resold the 10-ounce bottles, which retailed for $3.49 for between $50 and $200.

Old Bay -- Don't try to fake it by making it 'cause you can't:

IMG_8108"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

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

12/15/2020

~ Cheesecake Pie w/Lorna Doone Shortbread Crust ~

IMG_7986Making a cheesecake pie is a quick way to quell a craving for classic cheesecake.  Sometimes known as poor man's cheesecake, this particular easy-to-make, lightly-baked cheesecake pie is remarkably resemblant of a New York-style cheesecake, complete with a two-ingredient, Lindy's-type short-pastry cookie-type crust -- meaning, not a run-of-the-mill graham cracker crust.    

New York-style cheesecake is always a cream-cheese based cheesecake that incorporates cream or sour cream along with eggs, vanilla and/or lemon.  It's gently baked in a deep springform pan that has been placed in a baine marie (a water bath) to prevent it from browning. The typical New York-style cheesecake is thick and very rich with a dense, smooth, and creamy consistency -- a small wedge goes a long way to filling one up.  A popular addition is a lavish layer of sour cream topping, applied after the cheesecake is baked.  It gets mixed with vanilla and sugar and returned to the oven, making this cheesecake twice-baked.  Served with or without a fruit topping (cherry or blueberry is common), it is, hands down, my favorite type of cheesecake.

Three cheers for this easy New York-Style cheesecake pie:

IMG_7898For the crust:

1  10-ounce box Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, processed to crumbs

6  tablespoons salted butter, melted (3/4 stick)

For the cream cheese layer:

1  8-ounce block cream cheese, at room temperature, very soft

1  large egg, at room temperature

1/4  cup sugar

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the sour cream layer:

1  16-ounce container sour cream

1/4  cup sugar

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

IMG_7851 IMG_7851 IMG_7851 IMG_7851~Step 1.  To prepare the shortbread cookie crust, break the cookies into small pieces and place them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses process them to crumbs, then, with the motor running, process them to fine crumbs, about 10 more seconds. Transfer the shortbread cookie crumbs to a medium bowl.  

IMG_7863 IMG_7863 IMG_7863 IMG_7863~Step 2.  Melt the butter in the microwave then add it to the cookie crumbs.  Using a spoon, thoroughly incorporate the butter until a moist, grainy, semi-cohesive, crumb mixture forms.

IMG_7875 IMG_7875 IMG_7875 IMG_7875~Step 3.  Transfer crumbs to a 9" pie dish. Using a tablespoon, spread mixture evenly across bottom and partially up sides of dish.  Using a wooden tart tamper, flatten/compress crumbs to form a crust across the bottom.  When the bottom is firmly in place, use the tamper (in conjunction with fingertips) to press crumbs against, and to the top of, sides of the dish.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool 45-60 minutes.

IMG_7958 IMG_7958 IMG_7958 IMG_7958 IMG_7924 IMG_7924 IMG_7924~Step 4.  To prepare the cream cheese layer, place the cream cheese, egg, 1/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a medium bowl.  On medium speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until all ingredients are smooth and thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.  Transfer to cookie crust and gently spread to form an even layer.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven, 15 minutes.  Do not overbake.-- the cream cheese layer should show no signs of browning and be barely set.  Remove from oven.

IMG_7903 IMG_7903 IMG_7903 IMG_7933 IMG_7933~Step 5.  To prepare the sour cream layer (while the cream cheese layer is baking), in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla extract, until smooth and uniform in color.  Using a large spoon, dollop the mixture in the center of the cream cheese layer, then, gently spread it to within 1/2" of the perimeter of the cream cheese layer.  Return to oven to bake on center rack of 325° oven for 15 more minutes.  Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool to room temp, about 2 hours, then refrigerate, uncovered, 6-12 hours.

Slice & serve chilled w/-or-w/o fruit topping:  

IMG_7966Cheesecake Pie w/Lorna Doone Shortbread Crust:  Recipe yields 1, 9" pie/8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: food processor; 9" pie dish or tin; tablespoon; tart tamper; wire cooling rack; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 2-cup measuring container

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1a60fe9970cCook's Note: Cheesecakes, cream pies, many layered bar-type cookies, and, some refrigerated pudding and frozen ice-cream desserts call for using a graham cracker or cookie crumb crust as a buttery, crunchy base.  While homemade graham crackers, sugar cookies, gingersnaps and chocolate wafers make exceptional crumb crusts, I won't lie, it would have to be one heck of an insanely over-the-top dessert for me to bake any of them for the sole purpose of starting with a real-deal scratch-made base.  That said, I don't at all care for the quality of ready-made store-bought crumb crusts. Learn why by reading all about ~ Making Graham Cracker & Cookie Crumb Crusts ~.

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

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

12/13/2020

~An E-Z Two-Ingredient Shortbread-Cookie Pie Crust~

IMG_7888 2Cheesecakes, cream pies, many layered bar-type cookies, and, some refrigerated pudding and frozen ice-cream desserts call for using a graham cracker crumb crust or cookie crumb crust as a buttery, crunchy base.  While homemade graham crackers, sugar cookies, shortbread cookies, gingersnaps and chocolate wafers make exceptional crumb crusts, I won't lie, it would have to be one heck of an insanely over-the-top dessert for me to bake any of them for the sole purpose of starting with a real-deal scratch-made base.  That said, I learned early in my baking life that I don't at all care for the quality of any ready-made crumb crusts. They taste bland to me, and that's primarily due to the fact that they're made with vegetable shortening instead of butter.  The good news is, all crumb crusts are super-quick and easy to make -- and full of buttery-rich flavor.

Crushed shortbread cookies + melted butter = a cookie crust.

IMG_7851 21  10-ounce box Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, processed to crumbs (Note:  The texture of shortbread cookies vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.  I find the delicate texture of Lorna Drooe cookies perfect for making cookie crusts.

6  tablespoons salted butter, melted (3/4 stick)

IMG_7851 IMG_7851 IMG_7851 IMG_7851~Step 1.  To prepare the shortbread cookie crust, break the cookies into small pieces and place them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of 25-30 rapid on-off pulses process them to crumbs, then, with the motor running, process them to fine crumbs, about 10 more seconds. Transfer the shortbread cookie crumbs to a medium bowl.

IMG_7863 IMG_7863 IMG_7863 IMG_7863~Step 2.  Melt the butter in the microwave then add it to the cookie crumbs.  Using a spoon, thoroughly incorporate the butter until a moist, grainy, semi-cohesive, crumb mixture forms.

IMG_7875 IMG_7875 IMG_7875 IMG_7875~Step 3.  Transfer crumbs to a 9" pie dish. Using a tablespoon, spread mixture evenly across bottom and partially up sides of dish.  Using a wooden tart tamper, flatten/compress crumbs to form a crust across the bottom.  When the bottom is firmly in place, use the tamper (in conjunction with fingertips) to press crumbs against, and to the top of, sides of the dish.  Bake on center rack of 325° oven for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool 45-60 minutes.

A buttery rich shortbread cookie crust -- ready for pie filling: 

IMG_7893 2An E-Z Two-Ingredient Shortbread-Cookie Pie Crust:  Recipe yields 1, 9"-round crumb crust.

Special Equipment List: food processor; tablespoon; 9" pie dish or tin; tart tamper; wire cooling rack

IMG_7966Cook's Note: Making a cheesecake pie is a quick way to quell a craving for classic cheesecake.  Sometimes known as poor man's cheesecake, this particular easy-to-make, lightly-baked cheesecake pie is remarkably resemblant of a dense, smooth, cream-cheese- and sour-cream-based New York-style cheesecake, complete with a two-ingredient, short-pastry cookie-type crust -- made with shortbread cookies.  Try my ~ Cheesecake Pie w/Lorna Done Shortbread Crust ~. 

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

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

12/10/2020

~ Dark Chocolate Chip & Coconut Mounds Cookies ~

IMG_7829When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate-chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.  There's more.  When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who prefer milk chocolate, and those who prefer dark chocolate.  I'm more of a milk chocolate kinda gal.  My husband is a more of a dark chocolate kinda guy -- neither of us will turn either down though.  That said, we are both lovers of coconut, so, with or without nuts, we both go crazy for my Almond Joy and Mounds cookies.    

Who doesn't remember the Peter Paul Candy Company's 1970's TV jingle:  Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't, Almond Joy's got nuts, Mounds don't.  Ok, if you weren't of the era, you don't remember it, but the rest of us do.  Besides the packaging (blue for Almond Joy bars and red for Mounds bars), there's another, and very important, difference between these two candy bars too:  Almond Joys bars are coated in milk chocolate, Mounds bars are coated in dark chocolate.  I mention this because all the Almond Joy Cookie recipes I've seen recently call for semi-sweet chocolate morsels -- this is just plain wrong.  A wrong I am here to right -- today.

IMG_7727Almond Joys = milk chocolate.  Mounds = dark chocolate.

IMG_7734Almond Joy cookie recipes contain milk chocolate chips.  Mounds cookie recipes contain dark chocolate chips.  Got it?

IMG_77732 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

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

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  teaspoons each: pure coconut extract, chocolate extract and vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

20  ounces Nestlē dark chocolate chips

5  ounces sweetened, flaked coconut

IMG_7782 IMG_7782 IMG_7782 IMG_7782 IMG_7795 IMG_7798 IMG_7803~Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_7780 IMG_7805 IMG_7810 IMG_7814 IMG_7816 IMG_7818 2 IMG_7824~Step 2.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dark chocolate chips, followed by the coconut.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 5, parchment-lined baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_7826 IMG_7826~ Step 3.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 11-12 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and cool cookies on pan, about 2-3 minutes prior to using a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely.

For those times when you don't feel like a nut -- go Mounds:

IMG_7842For those times when you feel like at nut -- be Joyful:

IMG_7742Dark Chocolate Chip & Coconut Mounds Cookies:  Recipe yields 6 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 5, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0263e96d7872200bCook's Note:  For lovers of dark chocolate, ~ My Nestle Toll House Sea Salt & Caramel Cookies ~, and, ~ My Nestle Toll House Sea, Salt, Carmel, Pecan Cookies ~, are examples of one cookie made two ways: with and without nuts. When it comes to Toll House cookies, aka, chocolate chip cookies in general, there are two kinds of people:  those who add nuts (usually pecans or walnuts), and, those who do not.  I'm a nutty kinda gal.  My husband is not a nutty kinda guy.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie Preschutti/Copyright 2020)

12/07/2020

~Milk Chocolate Chip & Coconut Almond Joy Cookies~

IMG_7742Who doesn't remember the Peter Paul Candy Company's 1970's TV jingle:  Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't, Almond Joy's got nuts, Mounds don't.  Ok, if you weren't of the era, you don't remember it, but the rest of us do.  Besides the packaging (blue for Almond Joy bars and red for Mounds bars), there's another, and very important, difference between these two candy bars too:  Almond Joys bars are coated in milk chocolate, Mounds bars are coated in dark chocolate.  I mention this because all the Almond Joy Cookie recipes I've seen recently call for semi-sweet chocolate morsels -- this is just plain wrong.  A wrong I am here to right -- today.

IMG_7727Almond Joys = milk chocolate.  Mounds = dark chocolate.

IMG_7734Almond Joy cookie recipes contain milk chocolate chips.  Mounds cookie recipes contain dark chocolate chips.  Got it?

IMG_76642 1/4  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon each:  baking powder, baking soda and salt

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

3/4  cup granulated sugar

3/4  cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar

2  teaspoons each: pure almond extract, chocolate extract and vanilla extract

2  large eggs, preferably at room temperature

18  ounces Nestlē milk chocolate chips

4  ounces sliced almonds

3  ounces sweetened, flaked coconut

IMG_7667 IMG_7673 IMG_7673 IMG_7673 IMG_7673 IMG_7685 IMG_7685~Step 1.  In a small bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and, salt.  In a large bowl place the butter, both sugars, and both extracts.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the two eggs, about 1 minute.  Lower mixer speed, add the flour and gradually incorporate it into the mixture, until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_7689 IMG_7689 IMG_7689 IMG_7689 IMG_7701 IMG_7701 IMG_7701 IMG_7701~Step 2.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold in the milk chocolate chips, followed by the coconut, followed by the sliced almonds.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, well-apart, onto each of 5, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans (15 per pan).

IMG_7718 IMG_7718~ Step 3.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time on center rack of 325° oven, 11-12 minutes, until light-golden. Remove from oven and cool cookies on pan, about 2-3 minutes prior to using a small spatula to transfer to a wire cooling rack, to cool completely.

For those times when you feel like at nut -- be Joyful:

IMG_7758

For those times when you don't feel like a nut -- go Mounds:

IMG_7829Milk Chocolate Chip & Coconut Almond Joy Cookies:  Recipe yields 6 dozen 2 1/2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 5, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; wire cooling rack; small spatula

6a0120a8551282970b026bde9a8ba7200cCook's Note: The Nestlē Crunch Bar -- creamy milk chocolate chocked full of crunchy-crisped rice.  It, along with the Reese's peanut butter cup (milk chocolate and peanut butter) is at the top of my "favorite candy bars list".  As with several other favorites, for an adult activity, I prefer to chop up said candy bars and bake cookies with their bits and pieces -- I prefer a cookie to a candy bar and I adore a candy bar in a cookie. Try my ~ Milk-Chocolate-Lovers Nestlē-Crunch-Bar Cookies ~.

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

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

12/05/2020

~ Turkey Breast Rachel on Shredded Potato Pancake ~

IMG_7639Perhaps it's a girl thing, but, when I'm lunching in a deli, I'm more inclined to order a Rachel sandwich, made with turkey breast, than I am a Reuben, made with corned beef.  There's more. While I usually order potato salad with my sandwich, if potato pancakes are on the menu, they're on my plate.  If you're a fan of a classic Rachel sandwich, and, if you love potato pancakes as much as I do, you're gonna go wild over this open-faced sandwich served on one of my pan-fried shredded hash-brown potato pan-cakes, instead of between to slices of rye bread. 

My hash brown potato pan-cakes were a happy accident:

IMG_7456I accidentally put a bag of shredded hash brown potatoes in the refrigerator instead of the freezer. What can I say, I was in a hurry that day.  Mistakes happen.  I am so glad I decided to open the bag before discarding the to-the-touch soggy mess this morning, because there was a nice surprise inside for me: glistening-white, ready-to-use, slightly-wet, shredded potatoes -- without all the time-consuming mess of doing it from scratch.  I may will never shred fresh potatoes again. It didn't take but a few minutes to deduce that my supposed shredded hash brown potato tragedy, could easily, in reality, be a triumph, which played out at the dinner table that evening.  My family gobbled them up.

They're the perfect foil for this incredible open-faced sandwich:

IMG_7611For each open-faced sandwich:

1  shredded hash brown potato pan-cake

2  ounces thin-sliced mild Swiss cheese, cut into thin julienne strips

3-4  ounces very thin-sliced deli-style turkey breast, close to room temperature (Note:  If the turkey breast is cold, it will not heat properly when the sandwich goes under the broiler.)

1-2  tablespoons Russian dressing

3-4  tablespoons creamy Russian- or Thousand Islands-dressed coleslaw, or your favorite creamy deli-style slaw

IMG_7612 IMG_7612 IMG_7612 IMG_7612~Step 1. To make each sandwich, on a broiler-safe plate (or on a baking pan lined with parchment if making multiple sandwiches), place 1-ounce of Swiss cheese julienne atop one crispy potato pan-cake.  Top with 3-4 ounces thin-sliced turkey breast, followed by another 1-ounce of Swiss.

IMG_7624 IMG_7624 IMG_7624Step 2.  Place the sandwich(es) 8"-9" underneath preheated broiler (too close and the cheese will burn) for 3-5 minutes, or until the top and bottom layer of cheese is melted.  Remove from oven.  Drizzle with some Russian dressing and top with a generous scoop of creamy coleslaw.  Serve immediately.

Grab your knife, pick up your fork, &, dig in:

IMG_7632 2Try my Corned Beef Reuben on Potato Pancake Waffle too:

IMG_7586Turkey Breast Rachel on Shredded Potato Pan-Cake: Recipe yields instructions to make as many open-faced turkey breast Rachel sandwiches as you want to.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; broiler-safe plate(s); baking pan (optional); parchment paper (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b0240a47161a8200dCook's Note: I crave a Reuben sandwich once or twice a year.  The Rachel sandwich, on the other hand, is: standard operating procedure in my kitchen.  My refrigerator is rarely without some thin sliced deli-turkey and/or pastrami, and, my favorite Lacey Swiss cheese -- it often has a container of semi-homemade or deli-style coleslaw in it too.  That means, with a slice or two of toasted Jewish-style rye bread, a Racheal sandwich is only a few short minutes away. ~ The Secret's in the Slaw Rachel-on-Rye Sandwich ~.

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

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