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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

11/15/2022

~ Chicken or Game -- What is a Cornish Game Hen ~

5dc197498cab24e6117c9bc6_115511 Cornish HenThe Cornish game hen, also known as the Rock Cornish game hen, is the USDA's approved name for a particular variety of  broiler chicken. Connecticut farmers Jacques and Alphonsine Makowsky cross-bred the standard Cornish chicken with a White Plymouth Rock hen and a Malayan fighting cock in the 1950s. They were bred to mature quickly and develop a large breast and weigh no 2 pounds max uncooked (with the most common weight  about 1 1/4 pounds).

6a0120a8551282970b02af148657e5200c-320wiDespite the "game hen" in the name, the Cornish hen is not a game bird.  While the "hen" in the name implies a female bird, males and females are sold and served as Cornish hens, meaning, many aren't hens.  Once cooked, the Cornish hen is known for its tender meat which loves to absorb flavors from creative marinades or spice rubs.  The pianist and comedian, Victor Borge was an early investor and promoter of this single-serving bird, leveraging his popularity to transition the Cornish hen from an exotic item to a common household meal who's petite size and young age give it a unique flavor and succulent texture that bigger chickens simply do not have. That said, it's as versatile as a regular-sized chicken, so, any recipe for any chicken is easily adapted to the mini-chicken (which will cook more quickly).  The small size makes it easier to achieve a crispy skin with perfectly-cooked meat simultaneously with no real need for basting.

Elegantly Easy -- The Rock Cornish Game Hen:

Istockphoto-606234472-612x612Elegantly Easy -- The Roasted Cornish Game Hen:

IMG_6250Easy Cranberry Glazed Rock Cornish Game Hen:

IMG_6224"We are all in this food world together. ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022

11/10/2022

~A Brief History of Potatoes & French Fries in France~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3816da6200dIf I told you that potatoes were once illegal to eat in France, would you believe me? It's true and I admit to gasping when I learned this.  Where would be be without French fries in our food world? The absolute best French fries I have ever eaten are at places like church festivals, county fares and carnivals.  They're not too thick, not too thin, twice-fried, and, never frozen.  When you stand in line and wait for these fries to to come seething-hot out of the deep-fryer, get a quick drain, a sprinkling of salt and handed-off to you in a paper cone, you just know these French fries are going to be awesome.  They are the ideal American French fry.  Ever wondered why?

The best French fries in the USA are in fact Belgian fries.

6a0120a8551282970b017d3cf431d0970cA bit about French fries:  It may come as a surprise to you to find out that "pommes frites", meaning "fried potatoes" in French, were not invented by the French, even though, like many other foodie pleasures, the French played a part in making them famous here in the United States.  In 1802, my favorite founding foodie, Thomas Jefferson, after a trip to France, served "potatoes in the style of the French", at a White House dinner party.  All hell broke loose after that, and, as the story goes, before long, these golden strips of glorious goodness were nicknamed:  French fries.

Interesting side note:  Culinarily, the words "to French" mean "to cut food into long thin strips". In French, the word "frite" indicates "to deep-fry", and, my research shows they were serving fried potato strips in the White House, but no one can confirm they were deep-fried.  Click on the photo at the left to read a Historical Note from the book Dining at Monticello.

The story behind "The French Connection" to fries in the USA:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a13a15200bIn 1756, war broke out between France and Great Britain.  During The Seven Years War, as it is called, a medical officer by the name of Antoine-Augustine Parmentier was given nothing but potatoes to eat in a prisoner-of-war camp.  In 1748, potatoes were banned by the French government because it was believed they caused leprosy and death (the birth of government regulation, which is fine by me).

Because he did not die, after the war, Parmentier spent the better part of his life changing the minds of government officials regarding potatoes, and, in 1772, potatoes were declared edible for humans and it was made legal to cultivate them. Parmentier began hosting dinner parties and serving potatoes to dignitaries like King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette, and, our very own Benjamin Franklin, BUT, there is no documentation to confirm they were deep-fried either. Potatoes soon became very trendy in French social circles, which is where Thomas Jefferson tasted them and the rest is American history.  Long live the beloved potato.

If they're Belgian, how did the French find out about them?

6a0120a8551282970b017c32c5b74b970bIn 1742, The Franco-Austrian War, known as The War of Austrian Succession was going on, and, much of it took place in and around modern day Belgium.  It is believed that the French soldiers were introduced to "les frites" (Belgian fries) by French speaking Belgians and Belgian soldiers.  A couple of decades later, when potatoes were declared edible in France, this was the cooking method the French imitated. This is the explanation that I believe gives Belgians the right to claim the title of: Inventors of French fries.  Why?

The French were not a frying culture prior to this period in history, the Belgians were.

Moreover, a Belgian journalist named Jo Gerard claims that potatoes were fried as early as 1690 in the Meuse valley of the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium), and, it was the Spanish who introduced the potato to Europe.  Gerard writes, "the inhabitants, especially the poor people, of Dinant and Liege had the custom of fishing in the Meuse river for small fish to fry. When the river was frozen, they would cut potatoes in the form of strips and fried them."  That being said, experts concur that those fries were most likely not deep-fried, because the quantity of fat necessary for deep-frying would have been almost impossible for the peasants to get.

Who REALLY invented twice-fried strips of potatoes?

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a13a4e200bDid the Belgians invent real-deal, deep-fried, twice-fried fries, or, did the French invent the twice-fried technique and teach it to them? No one knows for sure, but, when it comes to food, the French are known for perfecting everything, so I'm not ruling this theory out.  That being said, nowadays, Belgians consume more fries than any country in Europe... with mayonnaise or flavored mayonnaise being their topping of choice (I'll have mine with garlicky, rich, smooth, classic aioli).  

Modern-day Belgians will be quick tell you that after WWI, American soldiers were served fries by Belgians who, once again, coincidentally, all spoke French.

It was these American veterans who named the potatoes French fries. This is probably true, but, because of the "fry" history preceding WWI (mentioned above), it's not how we Americans came to name them French fries.  It does, however, explain the post war boom in the marketing of French fries across the United States.  Always remember:  French fries are not fried potatoes, they are twice-fried potatoes.

French Fries aren't fried potatoes -- they're twice-fried potatoes:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3816da6200d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

11/06/2022

~ Gobble, Gobble -- Cranberry-Walnut Banana Bread ~

IMG_6194It happens every November, and, I'm reasonably certain I do not stand alone.  Us ooks can't wait to heat our ovens and bake some goodies.  In my kitchen, quick breads and pies are perfect for November -- cookies and confections can wait their turn until December.  A loaf or three of banana bread or pumpkin bread, followed up by a short-list-selection of pies appropriate for the Turkey Day holiday (apple, pumpkin, pecan, sweet potato, etc.) keeps me happily occupied.

Luscious anytime of year, but, perfect for November:

IMG_6153For the dry ingredients:

1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

For the wet ingredients:

1 1/2 cups mashed bananas, from 3-4 very-large, very over-ripe bananas

1/2  cup salted butter, melted (1 stick)

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

2  teaspoons pure banana extract

2  teaspoons pure cranberry extract

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  teaspoons pure black walnut extract

1/2  cup granulated sugar, stirred together with:

1/2  cup dark brown sugar

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pan

For the add-ins:

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (Craisins)

1 1/2 cups coarse-chopped, lightly-toasted walnuts

6a0120a8551282970b02788060f1f2200d~ Step 1.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Coarsely-chop the walnuts, placing them on a small baking pan as you work.  When oven is preheated roast the nuts on center rack of oven until lightly-toasted and fragrant, 5-6 minutes. Watch carefully because they can go from fragrant and toasted to burned quickly  Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.

6a0120a8551282970b026bdefe9a00200c 6a0120a8551282970b0282e12ef6c5200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bdefe9a06200c 6a0120a8551282970b0282e12ef6cc200b~Step 2.  Spray an 8" x 4" loaf pan with no-stick -- I use a glass loaf pan, so I can keep an eye on what's going on.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. Place one banana in a 2-cup measuring container and use a fork to mash it -- keep adding bananas (one-at-a-time) to container and mash until you total 1 1/2 cups mashed bananas.  Place the butter in a 1-cup measuring container to gently melt it in the microwave.

6a0120a8551282970b0282e12ef763200b 6a0120a8551282970b0278805678b5200d 6a0120a8551282970b026bdefe9af0200c 6a0120a8551282970b0282e12ef770200b IMG_6159 IMG_6159~Step 3.  Place mashed bananas, melted butter, eggs and extracts in a large bowl.  Using a hand-held rotary beater, beat to combine.  Add sugars and beat again.  Using a large spatula, add and fold in the dry ingredients.  Using the spatula, fold in the dried cranberries and lightly-toasted walnuts.  Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan.

IMG_6165 IMG_6165~ Step 4.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350° oven 45-50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the highest part of the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, in pan, for 5-6 minutes.  Invert pan to remove bread from loaf pan to cool completely, on rack, 1-2 hours, prior to slicing and serving.

Try a slice toasted for breakfast or brunch:

IMG_6185Try my ~ Cranberry, Walnut & White Chocolate Cookies ~ too:

6a0120a8551282970b02788060f6b6200dGobble, Gobble -- Cranberry-Walnut Banana Bread:  Recipe yields 1 standard-sized loaf/10-12 slices or servings.

Special Equipment List: 8" x 4" loaf pan, preferably glass; fork; 2-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held rotary beater or hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; cake tester; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b026bdefe9b91200cCook's Note: Quick bread is an American term that refers to bread that is quick to make because it doesn't require kneading or rising time.  It originated during the American civil war, when the demand for food and bread was high.  Cooks began rapidly producing bread and baked goods that were leavened with baking soda rather than yeast.  Nowadays, the leavening agent is predominately double-acting baking powder, or, a combination of baking powder and baking soda.  For more detail, read ~ What is Quick Bread and What Defines Quick Bread ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022

10/31/2022

~ One Potato, Two Potato -- Russet, Red and/or Gold ~

IMG_6150Potatoes.  Not the most exciting foodie topic, but, in our food world, potatoes, are not created quite equally.  "Honey, pick up a bag of potatoes while you're at the store."  It's an innocent request, but, depending on what type of potato comes home in that bag could mean the difference between a great outcome or a mediocre one.  There are a lot of potato varieties, but, for us everyday cooks, I'm gonna focus on the three most common ones -- Russets, reds and golds).  I've come to appreciate the subtle differences between these three, and now, to make a long story short and easy to understand: Russets (baking potatoes/starchy potatoes), Reds (boiling potatoes/waxy potatoes) and Golds (all-purpose potatoes/middle-of-the road potatoes).  

Russet or baking potatoes.  This ruddy-skinned, pleasantly-bland tasting potato is known for its high-starch content.  It's your best friend for baking. The flesh is quite dry and the skin is thick, so, it bakes up crisp on the outside while the inside gets fluffy -- perfect to soak up those pats of butter.  It's the best potato for French fries too.  The starch cooks up a crispy outside while getting that fluffy-light interior that makes for the perfect bite.  There's more.  The high starch content makes Russets ideal for making mashed potatoes because the drier texture keeps them light and fluffy when mashed -- instead of getting pasty or gluey like other potatoe varieties. 

Red or boiling potatoes. This red-fleshed, slightly-sweet tasting potato is considered waxy, meaning, it holds its shape during the boiling process.  This trait makes them, skins-left--on-or-taken-off, great for potato salad, but, makes them undesirable for mashing because they get lumpy and heavy.  They're terrific in shredded or layered applications where they cook through but still hold shape, like hash browns or potato pancakes.  There's more.  They will also soak up all the creaminess in a baked gratin/scalloped potato dish without getting mushy.  The bit of natural sugar in this potato also makes it brown nicely when sliced and fried.  This is potato of choice for potato salad as it holds its shape when cooked and and mixed with the other ingredients.

Gold or all-purpose potatoes. This yellow-fleshed, slightly-buttery-tasting potato is perhaps my favorite of the three varieties because it is the most forgiving in any application  -- I simply adore golds.  They are moister than the Russet and less waxy than the red, plus, their naturally yellow-gold color is so danged pretty to look at.  They are are just waxy enough to stand up in any sliced-or-cubed potato application, yet fluffy enough to make some of the best mashed potatoes you've ever tasted.  You can use a gold potato in any application you would use a red potato, but not vise versa -- red potatoes are simply too waxy for mashed potatoes as they just get gluey.

One potato, two potato -- Russet, red and/or gold: 

IMG_6150"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Reipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

10/25/2022

~ Let's Talk an Easy Turkey Breast for Thanksgiving ~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c48035200dThe frost was on the pumpkins, the leaves are off the trees, and Thanksgiving will be here in a few blinks of the eyes.  If you are one of the many trying to scale back on cost without sacrificing taste or tradition, or have no need to cook an entire bird, or simply have no desire for all the fanfare, or, simply want some white-meat turkey for a few simple turkey sandwiches (in place of over-salted deli-meat), it's worth considering purchasing 1-2 turkey breasts this year in place of a giant bird.  Two whole breasts will yield almost twice as much meat for about the same price (sans the dark meat of course), and, will yield enough of flavorful drippings to make a nice amount of gravy too.  Don't want to make gravy?  No worries.  That's optional.  Relax and enjoy.

Lots of tender all-white turkey in less time w/lots less mess:

IMG_60471  whole turkey breast, completely thawed if frozen, and, removed from refrigerator 2 hours prior to roasting so it is not remarkable cold when placed in the oven

1  14 1/2-ounce can chicken stock (if you want to make gravy), or, 2 cups water (if you don't want to make gravy)

1  medium onion, coarse-chopped

2  medium stalks celery, coarse-chopped

1  teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, or, 2 medium sprigs fresh rosemary

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

IMG_6050 IMG_6050 IMG_6050 IMG_6050~Step 1.  In the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan, place the chicken stock (or water), chopped onion, celery and rosemary (the aromatics will impart flavor and moisture into the bird).  Insert a rack into the pan and place the turkey breast, skin side up, on the rack.  Generously season the top of the turkey with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend. Cover and tightly seal the pan with a large sheet of aluminum foil, being careful to prevent any rips or tears in the foil, which would allow steam to escape during the roasting process.  If you do rip or tear the foil, no matter how small it appears to be, be sure to start over with a new piece.

On lowest rack of preheated 350 degree oven, roast:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 hours (for a 9-10-pound whole turkey breast)

IMG_6063~ Step 2.  Remove roasting pan from oven and allow to rest about 15 minutes.  Slowly and carefully remove the foil -- hot steam is going to escape which can burn you. Place the same sheet of foil, "wet" side up on the counter, transfer the turkey to the foil, tightly seal the foil up and around it, and patiently allow the turkey breast to rest about 30-45-60 minutes prior to slicing and serving hot, warm, room temperature or cold the next day. Do not be inclined to skip this step.

IMG_6076 IMG_6076 IMG_6076~ Step 3.  While the turkey breast is resting, pour the flavorful pan drippings through the strainer of a fat-lean separator.  You will have about 3 1/2 cups of flavorful drippings to make gravy.  After the turkey has rested, remove each breast half from the breast bone on both sides.  With the aid of a sharp paring knife, these will pull away from the bones cleanly and easily. Slice and serve warm, at room temp or cold.

Served hot or cold, tender all-white turkey meat can't be beat:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c73b0210970bLet's Talk an Easy Turkey Breast for Thanksgiving: 3-4 hearty servings from each breast half, and, 4-6 sandwiches from each breast half.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 13" x 9" x 4" disposable aluminum roasting pan; wire rack; aluminum foil; fat-lean separator; paring knife

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07d02735970dCook's Note:  'Tis the season for mashed potatoes:  the Thanksgiving turkey feast, then, the Christmas prime rib feeding frenzy, and, shortly after, the clock ticks down to the mother-of-all pork festivals:  New Year's Day.  In a moment of reflection, it occurred to me that the combined total of these three holidays equates to approximately 50-60 pounds of heavy hunks of roasted meat, and, about 25-30 pounds of potatoes mashed.  Read my post:  ~ Basic Machinations for Mashed Potato Perfection ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

10/20/2022

~ Fall Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Ground Beef Chili ~

IMG_6124Generally speaking, I'm not a Crockpot kinda gal, unless the end absolutely justifies the means with no compromise.  In the case of this recipe, and almost any chili recipe, because chili is best when cooked low and slow over a long period of time, the end definitely justifies the means -- because that's what slow cookers are designed to do.  There's more.  This chili recipe, which is chocked full of sweet potatoes slow-cooked in a scrumptious blend of tomatoes mixed with aromatic spices is perfect for Fall.  Which is why my family refers to this chili as my "Fall chili".

Sweet potato, black bean & ground beef chili -- perfect for Fall!

IMG_60801  28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1  14-ounce can diced tomatoes

1  14-ounce can black beans, well-drained and rinsed

1  40-ounce can red-skinned kidney beans, undrained

4  tablespoons dark brown sugar

2  tablespoons chile powder

1/2  teaspoon ground cloves

2  tablespoons ground cumin

2  teaspoons smoked paprika

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

10  pounces large-diced  yellow or sweet onion (about 3 cups)

5  ounces each large-diced green and red bell pepper (medium-sized 1 green and 1 red bell pepper)

16  ounces peeled and 3/4"-1" chopped sweet potato (about 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes)

2 1/2-3  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

IMG_6082 IMG_6082 IMG_6082 IMG_6089~Step 1.  Place the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, black beans and kidney beans in the Crockpot followed by the brown sugar and all the spices (the chile powder, cloves, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and red pepper flakes).  Prep the onion, bell peppers and sweet potato* as directed, adding them to the Crockpot as you work.  Do not add the ground beef at this time.  Using a large spoon, stir all the ingredient together.  Wipe any drips from the rim of the Crockpot and place the lid on.  Cover the Crockpot and set it to cook on high for 4 hours.  In the meantime:

*Note:  Error on the side of the vegetables being chopped too large as they shrink while cooking.

IMG_6093 IMG_6093 IMG_6093~ Step 2.  In a 10" skillet, place the ground beef. Lightly season beef with a very light sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Adjust heat to sauté, stirring constantly, while breaking up the meat into small chunks and pieces with the side of a large spoon or spatula. Cook until meat is just cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.  Do not brown the meat.  Remove from heat.  Drain and discard all excess liquid from the skillet.

IMG_6099 IMG_6099 IMG_6106 IMG_6110~Step 3.  Stir the cooked and drained meat into the vegetable mixture in the Crockpot.  Cover the pot and continue to to cook for the remainder of the 4 hours. After 4 hours of cooking, give the chili a thorough stir and take a taste or two.  If the sweet potatoes are soft and tender, the chili is done and ready to serve.  If they are not cooked to your liking, reduce heat on Crockpot to low and cook for 30-60 additional minutes.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen.

Full of sweet potatoes slow-cooked in a scrumptious blend of tomatoes, beans, aromatic spices & sautéed ground beef:

IMG_6119Fall Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Ground Beef Chili:  Recipe yields 5 quarts/10, 2-cup servings.

Special Equipment List: 6 1/2-quart crockpot; cutting board; chef's knife; large spoon; 10"-12" skillet; spatula; ladle; 5, 1-quart-size freezer-safe food storage containers w/tight-fitting lids 

6a0120a8551282970b027880409b88200dCook's Note: Sweet potatoes were first introduced to North America when Columbus brought them over from the island of St. Thomas, where this large edible root, which belongs to the morning-glory family, is native to the tropical regions of the Americas.  There are many varieties of sweet potato, but the two most widely grown commercially are a pale sweet potato and a dark-skinned variety Americans erroneously call "yam" -- the yam is not even related to the sweet potato. Read: ~ An Inconvenient Truth - A Sweet Potato is Not a Yam ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

10/15/2022

~ Simply Slightly-Spicy Pasta with Butter and Garlic ~

IMG_6033No matter what you might imagine, people who cook all day have little-to-no desire to cook again at the end of a hectic work day -- and that's not a bad thing.  Yet, these are at the same people who conjure up the best no-fuss, no-mess, simply-delicious stuff to eat.  Trust me I know.  There was a time in my life when I did cook all day.  I won't lie, I'm rally happy those crazy days are over, but, I still love to sit in front of a movie or three to relax and enjoy one of my easy conjurings.

Four ingredients (five if you want cheese) & 12-15 minutes:

IMG_6020For 2 large servings or 4 smaller servings:

12  ounces farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

2  quarts water, for cooking pasta

2  teaspoons sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

6  tablespoons salted butter

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

2-3  tablespoons finely-grated Parmesan cheese, for garnishing pasta (optional)

For 1 individual serving:

4  ounces farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

2 1/2-3  cups water

3/4  teaspoon salt, for seasoning pasta water

2  tablespoons salted butter

1/4-1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1  teaspoon Parmesan cheese, for garnishing pasta (optional)

IMG_5976 IMG_5976 IMG_5980 IMG_5980~Step 1.  In an appropriately-sized stockpot or saucepan place the of water.  Add the sea salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and give it a stir.  Adjust heat to a rapid simmer and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, about 9-10 minutes -- do not overcook pasta.  Drain pasta into a colander and set aside -- do not rinse pasta.

IMG_5984 IMG_5984 IMG_5984 IMG_6024 IMG_6024~Step 2.  Return the still hot pan to the stovetop. Over low heat melt the salted butter, then, stir in the garlic powder, sea salt and 1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Add the cooked pasta.  Stir until pasta is enrobed in butterand mixture is steaming.  Transfer to serving bowl(s), garnish with optionalParmesan and serve immediately.

Nothing fancy, definitely not gourmet, simply delicious:

IMG_6042Simply Slightly-Spicy Pasta with Butter and Garlic:  Recipe yields 2 hearty servings/4 side-servings, or, 1 small-but-filling just-for-me serving.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot or 2-quart saucepan; colander; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b02a308e425f5200cCook's Note: Meet one of my fifteen-minutes-to-make pasta-craving-at-midnight meals.  Truth told, it's more akin to my I-just-got-home and I'm starving what-can-I-make-really-fast meal -- a hot, hearty, comforting feed-me-now meal.  That said, it's also one of my go-to side dishes to serve with roasted chicken, broiled fish or sautéed seafood too -- I simply love it alongside some buttery, garlicy shrimp.  If you have homemade marinara sauce on-hand in your freezer, feel free to use it, but, trust me, when store-bought marinara sauce gets a bit of cream stirred into it, you'll get no complaints.  Try my ~ Buttery Pasta in a Silky Tomato-Cream Sauce ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

10/10/2022

~ Just Buttery Pasta in a Silky Tomato-Cream Sauce ~

IMG_6014Meet my fifteen-minutes-to-make pasta-craving-at-midnight meal.  Truth told, it's more akin to my I-just-got-home and I'm starving what-can-I-make-really fast meal -- a hot, hearty, comforting feed-me-now meal.  That said, it's also one of my go-to side dishes to serve with roasted chicken, broiled fish or sautéed seafood too -- I simply love it alongside some buttery, garlicy shrimp.  If you have homemade marinara sauce on-hand in your freezer, feel free to use it, but, trust me, when store-bought marinara sauce gets a bit of cream stirred into it, you'll get no complaints.

A tasty little side-dish for chicken, fish or seafood:

IMG_5973For 2 large servings or 4 smaller servings:

12  ounces farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

2  quarts water, for cooking pasta

2  teaspoons sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

6  tablespoons salted butter

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

2  cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce, your favorite brand

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream

2-3  tablespoons finely-grated Parmesan cheese, for garnishing pasta

For 1 individual serving:

4  ounces farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

2 1/2-3  cups water

3/4  teaspoon salt, for seasoning pasta water

2  tablespoons salted butter

1/4-1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon red pepper flakes

3/4  cup marinara sauce

3  tablespoons cream

1  teaspoon Parmesan cheese, for garnishing pasta

IMG_5976 IMG_5976 IMG_5976 IMG_5976~Step 1.  In an appropriately-sized stockpot or saucepan place the of water.  Add the sea salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and give it a stir.  Adjust heat to a rapid simmer and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, about 9-10 minutes -- do not overcook pasta.  Drain pasta into a colander and set aside -- do not rinse pasta.

IMG_5984 IMG_5984 IMG_5984 IMG_5984 IMG_5992 IMG_5992 IMG_5992~Step 2.  Return the still hot pan to the stovetop. Over low heat melt the salted butter, then, stir in the garlic powder, sea salt and 1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes.  Add the marinara sauce and cream to pan.  Using a large spoon, stir until sauce is uniform in color.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook about 1 minute.  Turn the heat to low and add the cooked pasta.  Stir until pasta is enrobed in sauce and mixture is steaming.  Transfer to serving bowl(s), garnish with Parmesan and serve immediately.

Nothing fancy, definitely not gourmet, simply delicious:

IMG_6012Just Buttery Pasta in a Silky Tomato-Cream Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 hearty servings/4 side-servings, or, 1 small-but-filling just-for-me serving.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot or 2-quart saucepan; colander; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b02acc60fb885200bCook's Note: Why is this is one of my favorite in-a-hurry shrimp-loving dishes?  Glad you asked.  In my food world, lightly-sautéed shrimp are perfect when paired with some perfectly-cooked pasta that's been enrobed in a slightly-spicy tomato-cream sauce.  There's more.  It only requires few on-hand ingredients, and, there's little-to-no prep -- all of us cooks like to hear those words. Try my ~ One-Pan Shrimp & Shells in Tomato-Cream Sauce ~, it's good enough to serve to guests too.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

10/05/2022

~ One-Pan Shrimp & Shells in Tomato-Cream Sauce ~

IMG_5969Why is this is one of my favorite in-a-hurry shrimp-loving dishes?  Glad you asked.  In my food world, lightly-sautéed shrimp are perfect when paired with some perfectly-cooked pasta that's been enrobed in a slightly-spicy tomato-cream sauce.  There's more.  It only requires few on-hand ingredients, and, there's little-to-no prep -- all of us cooks like to hear those words.  Thirty minutes later, this quick-and-easy super-delicious family-friendly meal is on the dinner table.  I like to serve it with garlic bread, and sometimes I make a salad too, but, even if this is the only thing on the table, there won't be any complaints.  PS: it's good enough to serve to impromptu guests too.

A few-hand ingredients = one simply scrumptious meal:

IMG_59648  ounces medium-shell pasta

2  quarts water, for cooking pasta

2  teaspoons sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

3  tablespoons salted butter

3  tablespoons olive oil

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

12  ounces large shrimp (28-30 shrimp), peeled, deveined, tails on or off, your choice

2  cups homemade or store-bought marinara sauce, your favorite brand

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream

1/2  teaspoon additional garlic powder

1/4  teaspoon additional sea salt

1/4-1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

additional red pepper flakes, for garnishing finished dish

IMG_5934 IMG_5934 IMG_5934 IMG_5934~Step 1.  In a shallow, 3 1/2-quart wide-bottomed Dutch oven, place two quarts of water.  Add the 2 teaspoons sea salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and give it a stir.  Adjust heat to a rapid simmer and cook, according to package directions, until al dente, about 9-10 minutes -- do not overcook pasta.  Drain pasta into a colander and set aside.

IMG_5906 IMG_5906 IMG_5906 IMG_5906 IMG_5915 IMG_5915 IMG_5915~Step 2.  Return the still hot pan to the stovetop. Over low heat melt 3 tablespoons salted butter into 3 tablespoons olive oil, then, stir in the 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4  teaspoon sea salt.  Add the shrimp to the pan, arranging them side-by-side and in a single layer across the bottom.  Increase heat to medium-low.  Gently sauté shrimp in the butter until opaque and just cooked through, about 1 1/2-2 minutes per side, using a fork and/or a small spatula to flip them over.  Transfer shrimp to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving all the flavorful butter in bottom of pan.  Set shrimp aside.

IMG_5922 IMG_5922 IMG_5925 IMG_5925 IMG_5925 IMG_5925 IMG_5944 IMG_5944~Step 3.  Add the 2 cups of marinara sauce and 1/2 cup of cream to pan, along with 1/2 teaspoon additional garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon additional sea salt and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Using a large spoon, stir until sauce is uniform in color.  Adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook about 1-2 minutes.  Turn the heat to low and add the cooked pasta.  Stir until pasta is enrobed in sauce and mixture is steaming.  Turn the heat off.  One-at-a-time add the shrimp to the pasta, distributing them evenly over the surface.  Do not stir the shrimp in.  Serve immediately.

One pan & stovetop-to-table in 30 minutes (no cheese please):

IMG_5952One-Pan Shrimp & Pasta in Tomato-Cream Sauce:  Recipe yields 2-3 large servings or 4 smaller servings.

Special Equipment List: 3 1/2-quart Dutch oven or 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot w/lid; colander; fork and/or small spatula; paper towels; larger spoon

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeb8b365200cCook's Note:  Every 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 trick everyone into thinking I cooked all day.  For example:  ~ Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli w/Tomato-Cream Sauce ~.  Give it a try!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

09/30/2022

~ History of Canned Tuna and Tuna Salad in America ~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a473fda2200cTuna or chicken salad is nothing fancy -- and it's ertainly not gourmet.  Just a quick and easy-to-make lunch made from ingredients you most-likely have on hand in your pantry -- and it'll keep you smiling all afternoon too.  Why? Because besides being loaded with fat-free protein (from tuna packed in water or the meat from leftover chicken breasts, plus hard-cooked eggs), it's filling and packed-full of flavor (from all the wonderful spices in your favorite "lite" Italian dressing). There's more. It's light -- a refreshing respite from calorie-packed carbohydrates.

We Americans have been eating tuna salad for over a hundred years. The first reference to tuna salad appeared in 1907, and by 1914 dozens of recipes had been published.  Tuna salad, classically made with with celery and mayonnaise, was a spin off of  chicken salad,  with tuna salad being touted as more convenient (due to the use of canned tuna) -- a big reason for its rise in popularity.  Because of its nutritional value, it was marketed as diet food during the 1960s.

6a0120a8551282970b02acc60eb440200bUntil the 1800s, the sardine was the canned fish Americans ate.  Tuna was available, but, what did arrive on our shores was imported by and for Italian immigrants.  That remained the case until 1903 when poor ocean conditions made for terrible sardine fishing -- the sardine-packing industry almost went under. It was then that Albert P. Halfill, an executive at the Southern California Fish Company in Los Angeles decided to look for an alternative. After experimenting with halibut, rock fish and albacore tuna (the latter of which was abundant off the California coast), he decided on albacore tuna packed in California olive oil.  The next task was to sell a product there was no market for.  

The selling point for Albacore tuna was to compare it to the mild white-meat chicken breast.  Via a combination of free tastings at county fairs and free tin giveaways with the purchase of coffee in grocery stores, it caught on and went on to become a pantry staple and convenience food in American kitchens, and, a special at lunch-counters everywhere.  By 1913 there were nine plants operating along the California coast and that grew to thirty-six canneries in five years.

~ Creamy, Chunky & Crunchy Classic Tuna Salad ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308e27c28200c~ Classic-Style Tuna, Egg & Shell Pasta Salad ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308e2982a200c~ Super-Easy Light & Skinny Tuna or Chicken Salad ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02acc60eb613200b~ Lighten Up w/a Refreshing Tuna-Mac Garden Salad ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0282e142ebaa200b~ Greek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna & Tomato ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eed88253200d~ Super-Easy Skinny Tuna Salad Pita Sandwiches ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308e27c76200c~ The Only Way You Will Get Me to Eat a Tuna Melt ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308e27c7d200c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

09/25/2022

~Classic-Style Chunky Tuna, Egg & Shell Pasta Salad~

IMG_5900We Americans have been eating tuna salad for over a hundred years. The first reference to tuna salad appeared in 1907, and by 1914 dozens of recipes had been published.  Tuna salad, classically made with with celery and mayonnaise, was a spin off of  chicken salad,  with tuna salad being touted as more convenient (due to the use of canned tuna) -- a big reason for its rise in popularity.  Because of its nutritional value, it was marketed as diet food during the 1960s.

IMG_5893Until the 1800s, the sardine was the canned fish Americans ate.  Tuna was available, but, what did arrive on our shores was imported by and for Italian immigrants.  That remained the case until 1903 when poor ocean conditions made for terrible sardine fishing -- the sardine-packing industry almost went under. It was then that Albert P. Halfill, an executive at the Southern California Fish Company in Los Angeles decided to look for an alternative. After experimenting with halibut, rock fish and albacore tuna (the latter of which was abundant off the California coast), he decided on albacore tuna packed in California olive oil.  The next task was to sell a product there was no market for.  

The selling point for Albacore tuna was to compare it to the mild white-meat chicken breast.  Via a combination of free tastings at county fairs and free tin giveaways with the purchase of coffee in grocery stores, it caught on and went on to become a pantry staple and convenience food in American kitchens, and, a special at lunch-counters everywhere.  By 1913 there were nine plants operating along the California coast and that grew to thirty-six canneries in five years.

Tuna salad, to tuna sandwiches, to tuna pasta salad:

IMG_58581  12-ounce can solid white Albacore tuna packed in water, well-drained

3  cups al dente cooked medium-shell pasta

3-6  hard-cooked extra-large eggs, 1-2 eggs per 1 cup cooked pasta

3/4  cup medium-diced celery

1/2  cup thin-sliced onion, cut into half-moons, half-moons cut in half

3/4  cup high-quality store-bought mayonnaise

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2  tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind pepper

IMG_5861IMG_5861Step 1.  Open the tuna and invert it onto a paper-towel-lined plate to drain thoroughly, about 5 minutes.  Using a fork, carefully break/flake the tuna into large, chunky bite-sized pieces.  Do your best to avoid mashing or smashing the tuna.

IMG_5865IMG_5865IMG_5865IMG_5865~Step 2. In a large bowl, measure and place the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, celery seed, salt and pepper.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold these ingredients together.  Add the diced celery and sliced onion and fold them into the dressing.

IMG_5868 IMG_5868 IMG_5875 IMG_5875 IMG_5875 IMG_5875 IMG_5884 IMG_5884~Step 3. Add the cooked shell pasta to the dressing mixture in the bowl  Using the same spatula, gently fold in the pasta until it is thoroughly enrobed in the dressing mixture.  Slice the hard-cooked eggs into wedges, adding them to the bowl as you work.  Using the spatula, gently and thoroughly, fold the eggs into the pasta salad. Cover and refrigerate several hours to overnight.

An American pantry staple & convenience food that's here to stay:

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eed83e1a200dClassic-Style Chunky Tuna, Egg & Shell Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 6 cups/6 servings.

Special Equipment List: paper towels; fork; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b02a30d4f6505200bCook's Note: Wish-Bone Italian dressing.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  To name a few: drizzled on my garden salad or slathered on my turkey sandwich, as a dip for my vegetables, as a marinade for my chicken, and, as the dressing for ~ The Retro & Original Wish-Bone Italian Pasta Salad Recipe ~.  It isn't gourmet, but, when prepared correctly, it is remarkably delicious -- try making this salad with a can of well-drained tuna folded into it too.  Just do it!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

09/20/2022

~ Classic-Style Creamy & Chunky Rotini & Egg Salad ~

IMG_5852Classic-style, old-fashioned macaroni salad.  I like it a lot, almost as much as potato salad, and in my kitchen, just like potato salad, it's not restricted to Summertime eating.  That said, when macaroni salad is made with elbow macaroni, I often lose interest in it after a few bites.  Why? Texturally, in a to-the-tooth sort of way, it misses the mark, which is why I've always liked potato salad better.   Then came the day I discovered that my creamy, mayonnaise-dressed macaroni salad recipe, if made with larger pasta and chunkier pieces of eggs, puts it on the same level as potato salad.  It's the perfect accompaniment to a deli sandwich, a  'burger, or a steak.

It's classic-style macaroni salad made better:

IMG_57594  cups al-dente cooked rotini pasta

6  hard-cooked extra-large eggs

1/2  cup medium-diced celery

1/2  cup thin-sliced onion, cut into half-moons, half-moons cut in half

3/4  cup high-quality store-bought mayonnaise

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

2-3  tablespoons sweet pickle relish, more or less to taste

1/2  teaspoon celery seed

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarse-grind pepper

IMG_5762 IMG_5762 IMG_5762 IMG_5762~Step 1.  In a large bowl, measure and place the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, celery seed, salt and pepper.  Using a large rubber spatula, thoroughly fold these ingredients together.  Add the diced celery and sliced onion and fold them into the dressing.

IMG_5775 IMG_5775 IMG_5775 IMG_5775~Step 2.  Add the cooked rotini pasta to the dressing mixture.  Using the spatula, fold it in until it is thoroughly enrobed in the dressing mixture.  Cut the hard-cooked eggs into wedges, adding them to the bowl as you work.  Using the spatula gently and thoroughly fold them in the salad.  Cover the macaroni salad and refrigerate until well-chilled, several hours to overnight.  Serve cold.

Meet the macaroni salad that's as good as potato salad:

IMG_5848Classic-Style Creamy & Chunky Rotini & Egg Salad:  Recipe yields 6 cups macaroni salad/6 servings.

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

6a0120a8551282970b0240a48aa3bd200dCook's Note: Wish-Bone Italian dressing.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  To name a few: drizzled on my garden salad or slathered on my turkey sandwich, as a dip for my vegetables, as a marinade for my chicken, and, as the dressing for ~ The Retro & Original Wish-Bone Italian Pasta Salad Recipe ~.  It isn't gourmet, it isn't even particularly exciting to look at, but, because when prepared correctly, it is remarkably delicious -- a time-tested family  favorite.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022) 

09/15/2022

~ Hail to the Grill-Panned Shrimp Caesar Pasta Salad ~

IMG_5847We Americans love our Caesar salad.  Over the course of the past four decades, the Caesar salad has overwhelmingly become America's favorite salad.  If you are a lover of a crisp and tangy classic Caesar salad, and, you love your Caesar salad with plump, tender grilled shrimp (or chicken) tossed into it, there's more.  If you are a lover of pasta salads too, you are gonna fall in love with this recipe.  Adding pasta and a protein to a Caesar salad makes sense on many levels.  Besides stretching it to feed a crowd, it turns it into a hearty and refreshing main-course salad perfect to serve at any almost any gathering -- a picnic, potluck or tailgate.

IMG_5668A bit about the shrimp.  When it comes to grilling shrimp, the larger they are the better the finished product.  Jumbo shrimp are my hands-down favorite.  It the time it takes to get some nice browning on the outside, about 2 1/2 minutes per side, they cook just through to their centers without overcooking them -- this will not happen with smaller sized shrimp.  Jumbo shrimp emerge plump, juicy and succulent.

Hail to the Grill-Panned Shrimp Caesar Pasta Salad:

IMG_5665For 1 very large family-style salad or 6 smaller-but-hearty main-dish salads:

3  pounds peeled, deveined and thawed raw jumbo shrimp, tails-on, (16-20 count), 4-5 dozen shrimp (6-8 shrimp per salad)

IMG_56013/4-1  cup homemade creamy Caesar dressing, or, your favorite store-bought brand, for seasoning shrimp (Note:  There's no shame in using your favorite brand of store-bought dressing to make this family-friendly salad.  Mine is made by Wish-Bone.   It's bold and tangy, and, it's got aged Parmesan cheese in it.  You'd be wise to give it a try!)

12  ounces rotini pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions, then, drained and cooled according to my directions (12 ounces uncooked pasta = 9 cups cooked pasta = 1 1/2 cups cooked pasta per salad)

1  tablespoon sea salt, for adding to pasta water

1 1/2 cups creamy Caesar dressing, for tossing into salad, divided in half, 3/4 cup to be tossed in with the pasta, then 3/4 cup more to toss in when lettuce, onion and cheese are added as directed below (2 tablespoons per salad to toss in with the pasta, then 2 more tablespoons per salad to toss in when lettuce, onion and cheese are added)

12  cups, torn into bite-sized pieces, romaine lettuce leaves (2 cups per salad) 

2  cups thinly-sliced, slices cut into half-moons, red onion (1/3 cup per salad)

6  tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (1 tablespoon per salad)

2  cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half, for garnishing salad (1/3 cup per salad)

2  cups Caesar-style croutons, for garnishing salad (1/3 cup per salad)

all the grill-panned shrimp (6-8 shrimp per salad)

6  tablespoons additional cheese, for garnishing salad (1 tablespoon per salad)

additional creamy Caesar dressing for drizzling on salads, if desired, at tableside

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill pan

IMG_5785 IMG_5785 IMG_5785Step 1.  Thaw shrimp as package directs. Using a pastry brush, paint tops of shrimp with a scant teaspoon of dressing.

IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5799 IMG_5799 IMG_5799~Step 2.  Spray the surface of a grill pan with no-stick cooking spray. Working in batches of 16-24 shrimp at a time, so as not to overcrowd the grill pan, pick the shrimp up by their tails and place them, slightly apart and dressing-coated side down, in the grill pan.  Paint the new top-side surfaces (the second sides) of the shrimp with a scant tateaspoon of the creamy Caesar dressing.  Adjust heat to medium- medium-high.  Cook until shrimp are turning opaque and lightly golden on the first side, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Flip the shrimp over and cook until golden on the second side and cooked through, 2-2 1/2 additional minutes.  Repeat process with remaining shrimp.  Don't have a grill pan?  Worry not, use a large nonstick skillet.  Transfer shrimp to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

IMG_5810 IMG_5810 IMG_5810 IMG_5810 IMG_5816 IMG_5823~Step 3. Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with plastic wrap and a layer of parchment paper.  Set aside.   In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts water to a rolling boil and add the salt.  Add the pasta to the boiling water.  Cook the pasta to al dente, as directed, in salted water, about 9-10 minutes -- do not overcook the pasta, meaning: error on the side of ever-so-slightly undercooking it.  Drain it into a colander, and, immediately rinse it under cold water.  Why?  Bringing it quickly to room temperature halts the cooking process, and, pasta that is rinsed of its starch will not get sticky or gummy.  Thoroughly drain and transfer pasta to a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" parchment-lined baking pan to cool completely and "dry", meaning, just long enough to dry free from water, not completely dry out, about 30 minutes.

Note:  To this point, both the shrimp and the pasta can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

IMG_5804 IMG_5804 IMG_5804 IMG_5804~Step 4.  Before assembling the salad, tear the romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Slice the red onion as directed and set aside.  Slice the grape tomatoes.  Set aside.  Proceed with assembling the salad as directed.

IMG_5826 IMG_5826 IMG_5826 IMG_5831 IMG_5831 IMG_5831 IMG_5831~Step 5.  To assemble one large salad or six smaller salads, place the pasta in appropriately-sized bowl(s).  Add the first half of the Caesar dressing and toss to thoroughly enrobe the pasta in it's own layer of flavorful dressing.  Add the torn lettuce, sliced onion and Parmesan cheese and second half of the dressing.  Toss again to thoroughly combine.  Garnish the top of the salad with the halved cherry tomatoes, the crispy croutons, the shrimp and a scattering of additional shredded cheese.

Hail to the Grill-Panned Shrimp Caesar Pasta Salad: 

IMG_5839Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad too: 

IMG_5743Hail to the Grill-Panned Shrimp Caesar Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 1 large family-style salad or 6 smaller-but-hearty main-dish salads.

Special Equipment List: pastry brush; nonstick grill pan or skillet; paper towels; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ddaaa9200dCook's Note: How does shrimp sizing work?  In a shrimp shell -- it doesn't.  Why?  There is no industry standard for it. One vendor's medium, may be another vendor's extra-large and vice versa.  This explains why many new-to-shrimp buying cooks are confused by these seven words:  extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal.  When purchasing shrimp, the most important words to know aren't words, they are numbers.  Read ~ Purchase Shrimp by their Count, Not by their Size ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

09/10/2022

~Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad~

IMG_5749If you are a lover of a crisp and tangy classic Caesar salad, and, you love your Caesar salad with juicy, grilled chicken tossed into it, there's more.  If you are a lover of pasta salads too, you are gonna fall in love with this recipe. Adding pasta and a protein to a Caesar salad makes sense on many levels. Besides stretching it to feed a crowd, it turns it into a hearty and refreshing main-course salad perfect to to serve at any almost any gathering -- a picnic, potluck or tailgate.   

We Americans love Caesar salad.  Over the past four decades, the Caesar salad has overwhelmingly become America's favorite salad.  It altered the lettuce industry too, as the demand for romaine has skyrocketed.  Then, the grilled-chicken-topped Caesar salad option turn this salad into the most ordered chicken item on restaurant menus -- more popular than chicken wings and chicken fingers.  Add a handful of cooked pasta to it too?  What's not to love!

IMG_5577A bit about the chicken:   Experience has taught that chicken sandwiches made with boneless, skinless breast are usually a "miss", meaning they are typically overcooked, dry, and tough -- not even close to the juicy, tender protein we were expecting. While the boneless, skinless chicken tenderloin is indeed a step up in terms of tenderness, for me no matter how you cook it, the more flavorful dark-meat boneless, skinless chicken thigh is the ticket -- even if you manage to overcook it a bit, it's still naturally tender and juicy.

Hail to the grill-panned chicken Caesar pasta salad:

IMG_5663For 1 very large family-style salad or 6 smaller-but-hearty main-dish salads :

6  boneless, skinless chicken-thigh paillards  (Note:  If grilled chicken tenderloins are more to your liking, feel free to make that substitution using the directions contained in this link.) (1 chicken thigh per salad)

IMG_56011/2 - 3/4  cup homemade creamy Caesar dressing, or, your favorite store-bought brand, for seasoning chicken (Note:  There's no shame in using your favorite brand of store-bought dressing to make this family-friendly salad.  Mine is made by Wish-Bone.   It's bold and tangy, and, it's got aged Parmesan cheese in it.  You'd be wise to give it a try!)

12  ounces rotini pasta, cooked al dente according to package directions, then, drained and cooled according to my directions (12 ounces uncooked pasta = 9 cups cooked pasta = 1 1/2 cups cooked pasta per salad)

1  tablespoon sea salt, for adding to pasta water

1 1/2 cups creamy Caesar dressing, for tossing into salad, divided in half, 3/4 cup to be tossed in with the pasta, then 3/4 cup more to toss in when lettuce, onion and cheese are added as directed below (2 tablespoons per salad to toss in with the pasta, then 2 more tablespoons per salad to toss in when lettuce, onion and cheese are added)

12  cups, torn into bite-sized pieces, romaine lettuce leaves (2 cups per salad) 

2  cups thinly-sliced, slices cut into half-moons, red onion (1/3 cup per salad)

6  tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese (1 tablespoon per salad)

2  cups grape tomatoes, sliced in half, for garnishing salad (1/3 cup per salad)

2  cups Caesar-style croutons, for garnishing salad (1/3 cup per salad)

6 grilled chicken thighs, thin-sliced or diced (1 thigh per salad)

6  tablespoons additional cheese, for garnishing salad (1 tablespoon per salad)

additional creamy Caesar dressing for drizzling on salads, if desired, at tableside

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill pan

IMG_5579 IMG_5579 IMG_5579~Step 1.  Cover the top surface 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" -- do not pound chicken thighs to smithereens.

IMG_5601 IMG_5601 IMG_5601 IMG_5601~Step 2.  Using a pastry brush, paint the top surface of each chicken-thigh paillard with a scant tablespoon of the creamy Caesar dressing.  FYI:  Since marination works as a favorizor, NOT, a tenderizer, there is no need to marinate the chicken thighs in dressing for any length of time.

IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591~Step 3.  Spray the surface of a grill pan with no-stick cooking spray. Working in batches of 2-3 chicken thigh paillards at a time, so as not to overcrowd the grill pan, place the paillards, dressing-coated side down, in the grill pan.  Paint the new top-side surfaces (the second sides) of the paillards with a scant tablespoon of the creamy Caesar dressing.  Adjust heat to medium- medium-high.  Cook until paillards are deep golden on the first side, about 8-10 minutes.  Flip the paillards over and cook until deep golden on the second side and cooked through, 8-10 additional minutes.  Repeat this process with remaining paillards.  Don't have a grill pan?  Worry not, use a large nonstick skillet.

IMG_5694 IMG_5694 IMG_5694 IMG_5694 IMG_5694 IMG_5694 IMG_5694~Step 4.  Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with plastic wrap and a layer of parchment paper.  Set aside.   In a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts water to a rolling boil and add the salt.  Add the pasta to the boiling water.  Cook the pasta to al dente, as directed, in salted water, about 9-10 minutes -- do not overcook the pasta, meaning: error on the side of ever-so-slightly undercooking it.  Drain it into a colander, and, immediately rinse it under cold water.  Why?  Bringing it quickly to room temperature halts the cooking process, and, pasta that is rinsed of its starch will not get sticky or gummy.  Thoroughly drain and transfer pasta to a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" parchment-lined baking pan to cool completely and "dry", meaning, free from water, not dried out, about 30 minutes.

Note:  To this point, both the chicken and the pasta can be covered and refrigerated overnight.

IMG_5717 IMG_5717 IMG_5717 IMG_5717~Step 5.  Slice, dice or chop the grill-panned chicken thighs to your liking.  Set aside.  Tear the romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces and set aside.  Slice the red onion as directed and set aside.  Slice the grape tomatoes.  Set aside.  Proceed with assembling the salad as directed.

IMG_5723 IMG_5723 IMG_5723 IMG_5732 IMG_5732 IMG_5739 IMG_5739~ Step 6.  To assemble one large salad or six smaller salads, place the pasta in appropriately-sized bowl(s).  Add the first half of the Caesar dressing and toss to thoroughly enrobe the pasta in it's own layer of flavorful dressing.  Add the torn lettuce, sliced onion and Parmesan cheese and second half of the dressing.  Toss again to thoroughly combine.  Garnish the top of the salad with the halved cherry tomatoes, the crispy croutons, the sliced chicken and a scattering of additional shredded cheese.

Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad: 

IMG_5743Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwich too:

IMG_5650Try my Grill-Panned Shrimp Caesar Salad too:

IMG_5839Hail to the Grill Panned Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad:  Recipe yields 1 large family-style salad or 6 smaller-but-hearty main-dish salads.

Special Equipment List: large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; cutting board; chef's knife; pastry brush; nonstick grill pan or skillet; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b02a308dfaf27200cCook's Note:  Whether you're sending kids off to school, looking for something different to lunch on at the office, or yeah baby, a sandwich that will be the hit of your next tailgate party -- this sub has got your back.  It's on my short-list of most-popular house-made deli-style  submarine-type sandwiches.  It's easy-to-make and user-friendly too.  Chop and toss the ingredients together in a bowl, stuff 'em into a sub roll then go to town. It's akin to feasting on a tuna sub, only full of classic Caesar salad flavors and textures.  Try my ~ Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Subs ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

09/05/2022

~ Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Sandwich ~

IMG_5650 3Over the past four decades, the Caesar salad has become America's favorite salad.  It altered the lettuce industry, as the demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and, it turned the chicken-topped Caesar salad into the most ordered chicken item on restaurant menus -- even more than chicken wings and chicken fingers.  If you are a lover of Caesar salad, and, you love your Caesar salad with juicy, grilled chicken tossed into it, you are gonna fall in love with my sandwiches.

IMG_5577A bit about the chicken:   Experience has taught that chicken sandwiches made with boneless, skinless breast are usually a "miss", meaning they are typically overcooked, dry, and tough -- not even close to the juicy, tender protein we were expecting. While the boneless, skinless chicken tenderloin is indeed a step up in terms of tenderness, for me no matter how you cook it, the more flavorful dark-meat boneless, skinless chicken thigh is the ticket -- even if you manage to overcook it a bit, it's still naturally tender and juicy.

Hail to the grilled, juicy & tender chicken Caesar sandwich:

IMG_5572For 6 sandwiches:

6  boneless, skinless chicken-thigh paillards  (Note:  If grilled chicken tenderloins are more to your liking, feel free to make that substitution using the directions contained in this link.)

IMG_56011/2 - 3/4  cup homemade creamy Caesar dressing, or, your favorite store-bought brand (Note:  There is no compromise in using a store-bought bottle of your favorite creamy-Caesar dressing to make these sandwiches. Mine is made by Wish-Bone.   It's bold and tangy, and, it's got aged Parmesan cheese in it.  You'd be wise to give it a try!)

2  cups, torn into bite-sized pieces, romaine lettuce leaves

6  small Campari tomatoes, thinly-sliced 

1/2  of 1 red onion, thinly-sliced, slices cut into half-moons

additional creamy Caesar dressing, for for slathering and drizzling on each sandwich

finely-shredded Parmesan cheese, for sprinkling on each sandwich

6  brioche hamburger/sandwich rolls, lightly-toasted or not, your choice

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill pan

IMG_5579 IMG_5579 IMG_5585 IMG_5585~Step 1.  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" -- do not pound them to smithereens. Remove and discard top layer of plastic.  Slice the red onion as directed and set aside.

IMG_5601 IMG_5601 IMG_5601 IMG_5601~Step 2.  Using a pastry brush, paint the top surface of each chicken-thigh paillard with a scant tablespoon of the creamy Caesar dressing.  FYI:  Since marination works as a favorizor, NOT, a tenderizer, there is no need to marinate the chicken thighs in dressing for any length of time.

IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5591 IMG_5611 IMG_5611 IMG_5611~Step 3.  Spray the surface of a grill pan with no-stick cooking spray. Working in batches of 2-3 chicken thigh paillards at a time, so as not to overcrowd the grill pan, place the paillards, dressing-coated side down, in the grill pan.  Paint the new top-side surfaces (the second sides) of the paillards with a scant tablespoon of the creamy Caesar dressing.  Adjust heat to medium- medium-high.  Cook until paillards are deep golden on the first side, about 8-10 minutes.  Flip the paillards over and cook until deep golden on the second side and cooked through, 8-10 additional minutes.  Repeat this process with remaining paillards.  Don't have a grill pan?  Worry not, use a large nonstick skillet.

IMG_5620 IMG_5620 IMG_5620 IMG_5620 IMG_5627 IMG_5627 IMG_5627 IMG_5627~Step 4.  To assemble each sandwich, slather the bottom of a (toasted or untoasted) brioche hamburger-type roll with some creamy Caesar dressing.  Sprinkle a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese over the dressing, followed by a scattering of red onion.  Cover the onion pieces with a generous layer of romaine, then, place one grilled chicken-thigh pillared atop the lettuce.  Top with 2-3 slices of tomato and serve with additional dressing for drizzling on sandwiches at table side.

Serve perfectly grill-panned chicken Caesar sandwiches ASAP:

IMG_5640w/addition creamy Caesar dressing for drizzling on top:

IMG_5648Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad too:

IMG_5749Hail to the Grill-Panned Chicken Caesar Sandwich:  Recipe yields 6 sandwiches/6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; cutting board; chef's knife; pastry brush nonstick grill pan or skillet

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c333c2200bCook's Note: Whether you're sending kids off to school, looking for something different to lunch on at the office, or yeah baby, a sandwich that will be the hit of your next tailgate party -- this sub has got your back.  It's on my short-list of most-popular house-made deli-style  submarine-type sandwiches.  It's easy-to-make and user-friendly too.  Chop and toss the ingredients together in a bowl, stuff 'em into a sub roll then go to town. It's akin to feasting on a tuna sub, only full of classic Caesar salad flavors and textures.  Try my ~ Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Subs ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/31/2022

~What is Corned Beef & Corned Beef Brisket Exactly~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51e1d8e200bI cook corned beef regularly -- three-four times a year.  It's always available at our local Sam's Club, and it has a long shelf-life too, meaning the expiration date is often a month or more out on the calendar.  I always buy two and I always cook two.  After discarding the seasoning packets, I cook them my way, slowly in the crockpot, in a tomato mixture laced with aromatic allspice, cinnamon and cloves.  When done, I cover the tops with brown sugar and bake them in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes until the sugar crust is bubbly and caramelizing.  It is amazing.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51e1833200bMy brown-sugar-crusted corned beef sandwiches served on my homemade bread machine caraway-seeded rye bread have, literally, been described by many as "the best corned beef sandwich you'll ever eat".  That said, I typically don't serve them Rueben-style (with the 'kraut).  We two prefer to eat ours made grilled-cheese-style with a big scoop of Russian- or Thousand Islands-dressed potato salad or cole slaw to the side.  What's not to love.

What does "corned" mean & what is a corned beef brisket? 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51e1d74200bA bit about corned beef:  Corned beef is beef brisket that has been brine-cured in a solution of salt and water typically used for pickling or preserving food.  Brisket is the cut of beef taken from the breast section under the first five ribs.  It is sold without the bone and divided into two sections.  The flat-cut has minimal fat and is more expensive than the more flavorful point-cut. 

Brisket requires long, slow cooking and is best when braised.  The term "corned" comes from the English use of the verb "corn", meaning: a process in which small particles, such as grains of salt have been added to liquid.  Two types of corned beef are available and depend upon the butcher and/or the region.  Old-fashioned corned beef is grayish-pink in color and very salty.  New-style, the kind that is vacuum-sealed that most of us purchase, has less salt and is a bright rosy red.

Try my ~ Cheesy Corned-Beef on Rye Rueben Casserole too~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51e8910200bAlong w/my ~ Lazy Lady's Homemade Corned Beef Hash ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1be3dad970cAnd, ~ My New-England-Style Corned Beef & Cabbage ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c82c6307970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/27/2022

~ What are Bread-&-Butter or Sweet-'n-Sour Pickles ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09cc3a79970dBread-and-butter pickles also known as sweet-and-sour pickles are on the sweet end of the pickle spectrum, but not quite as sweet as sweet pickles, and, decidedly different than the sharp bite of dill pickles.  They're typically crinkle-cut sliced, which makes them ideal for topping hamburgers and a variety of sandwiches.  I often serve them as a side-dish, and, occasionally, dice them to add to salads or mince them to add to relishes.  Interestingly enough, my family never made homemade bread and butter pickles.  There was no need.  We lived in Eastern Pennsylvania, the land of the Pennsylvania Deutsch (the German-speaking people who immigrated to PA and surrounding areas, along with their many, many, pickle recipes).  It was wonderful.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9290cc1970bIn the tradition of Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, the Wos-Wit brand has been canning delicious relishes, dressings, preserves and various garden vegetables. Beginning in the 1940's, as a small farm producing Pennsylvania Dutch products by canning the excessive vegetable bounty, the Pennsylvania Dutch label "WOS-WIT" ("what do you want") has a rich and extensive history. Originally owned by John and Dorothy Kresge, in 1983 the business was sold to Paul Zukovich, a long time farmer who now operates the canning facility on his 80 acre farm: Grouse Hunt Farms. His family continues to use all of the Kresge's original recipes. 

Wos-Wit Bread & Butter Pickles contain all the traditional ingredients and no artificial preservatives:  sliced cucumbers, vinegar, sugar, onions, red peppers, salt, tumeric and spices.

Try my ~ Quick & Easy Bread & Butter Refrigerator Pickles ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2b3cec3970cAnd, my ~Homemade Bread & Butter Pickle Hot Dog Relish ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c92a5b3c970bPlus ~ The Difference between Pickling & Quick Pickling ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0282e1276f41200b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/24/2022

~All About the All-American Cheeseburger in Paradise~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39e3491200dA cheeseburger, eaten anywhere in the good old USA -- each one a cheeseburger in paradise. It's become the quintessential American food.  There are two claims* as to who slapped that first slice of processed American cheese on the lonely hamburger, but, we can all agree it was the best marriage of food since sliced white bread married peanut butter and jelly.  And, we've come a long way baby -- nowadays the cheeseburger is eaten in fast food chains, fine-dining restaurants and all points in between.  Cheeseburgers are for pick-up, delivery, drive-thru, eat-in, eat-out, eat-alone or invite-some-friends from sea to shining sea.  They're kind of patriotic.

*Most historians credit the all-American cheeseburger to Lionel Sternberger, a 16-year-old fry-cook from Pasadena, CA, who, in kindness, placed a piece of American cheese on a sizzling hamburger at the request of a hungry, homeless man.  This occurred in his father's sandwich shop, the Rite Spot, in 1924 or 1926.  He named his new menu item the "cheese hamburger", and some claim this small technicality disqualifies Lionel from having invented the cheeseburger.  (Some things never change.)  The first sandwich to actually be called a "cheeseburger" was at a restaurant in Louisville, KY, called Kaelin's, in 1934.  Charles Kaelin claims he wanted to add some a tang to a hamburger, so he topped it with a slice of cheese.

PICT0040Over the years, the American 'burger & cheeseburger went global.

Nowadays hamburgers and cheeseburgers can be found in almost every corner of our planet. That said, depending on your destination, you shouldn't be surprised to find the traditional ground beef replaced with other meats, poultry, grains and/or vegetables -- to satisfy the dietary restrictions and taste preferences of that culture.  For the same reasons, toppings, condiments and cheese choices will be different too.

Try my ~ All-American All-Purpose Hamburger Seasoning ~:

PICT0040

And ~ My Perfectly-Steasoned 16-Min. Broiled Cheeseburger ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4adc635200dOr, ~ For the Love of 'Burgers, the Smashed Cheeseburger ~:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39e2eff200dAnd, ~ The Juicy-Lucy Cheese-Stuffed 'Burger ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e811c8200bOr, ~ The McDonald's-Style Big Mac Cheeseburger Salad ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c95a5bf5970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/21/2022

~All About Chinese Hotpot & Japanese Shabu Shabu~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d22086b2970cFrom my American foodie's vantage point, I found hot pot and shabu shabu to be more alike than different.  A literal hot pot of mild- to spicily-seasoned, simmering, meat- or vegetable-based broth is placed in the center of the communal table. Depending on the country and region of the country, an array of thinly-sliced meats, vegetables, dumplings or noodles and dipping sauces are positioned around the pot.  Via a pair of chop sticks, each person picks up and cooks their food by gently bathing it in the simmering broth.  The words "shabu shabu"  mean "swish swish", and, double-dipping (using the same pair of chopsticks to cook and eat) is common practice.

What are the differences between the two?  The obvious one is the flavor profile.  Hot pot is full of Chinese flavors and shabu shabu is full of seasonings common to Japan.  That said, I found the actual dining experience to be the biggest difference.  In China, hot pot was a casual, inexpensive, family-style meal.  In Japan, shabu shabu was a dress-up, expensive, special-occasion feast.  While I adored the spicy, slightly-chewy Szechuan beef version in China, the more subtle, melt-in-my-mouth kobe beef version in Japan absolutely blew me away.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d220bf38970cDon't have a fancy hot pot?  A fondue pot or electric skillet will do.

While I love my copper hot pot, nowadays, it's mostly a showy conversation piece in my kitchen.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb093a6ab8970dIt's a pretty prop to have on-hand to explain the ancient-Asian history behind this modern-day now-retro method of cooking, which is more-often-than-not singularly associated with the famous French and Swiss cheese fondue.  That said, when I'm serving any type of fondue (savory meat, poultry or seafood, creamy cheese or sweet chocolate), 6a0120a8551282970b01bb093a6ac4970dor throwing a fondue party, like everyone else in America today, I use my much easier-to-clean sterno-driven pots.  I have a few small electric fondue pots too, which come in handy for all sorts of other culinary purposes (like keeping sauces and gravies at the perfect temperature).

6a0120a8551282970b01bb086c5071970dThere's more than one way to cook a very-thinly-sliced steak to perfection and "a la" ("in the style of") Chinese "hot pot" or Japanese "shabu shabu" ("Asian fondue") is a method that doesn't occur to most American cooks.  It wouldn't have occurred to me either if I hadn't eaten hot pot in China and shabu shabu in Japan.  Joe and I enjoyed both of these encounters so much, he arranged to have a copper hot pot shipped from China to my American Happy Valley kitchen.

In the case of the following crowd-pleasing recipe, which technically is a type of hot pot, shabu shabu or fondue, I prefer to use my electric skillet, which controls the heat perfectly.  Why?  My family or guests won't be cooking their own food.  I'm cooking the steak all at once, for a mere 1-1 1/2 minutes, then heaping it onto some soft, slider-sized dinner rolls to serve to them.

Try my ~ Asian Hot-Pot-Style Steak Sliders w/Broccoli Slaw ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d221395d970c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/18/2022

~ Four Fab Recipes Using Lipton Onion Soup Mix ~

IMG_5570It's said to have been created by an unknown French cook in Los Angeles in 1954 and was intended to mimic the taste of French onion soup.  The recipe became such a popular addition to the fare served in martini-drinking social circles, it got printed in a local newspaper.  Shortly after, in 1955, the Lipton company promoted it on the TV show "Arthur Godfry's Talent Scouts", touting it as "Lipton California Dip", and followed that up with ad campaigns in supermarkets and on television.  In 1959, the recipe was added to the Lipton instant onion soup package, where it remains today.  By the 1960's, the name transitioned to "French onion dip", as it remains today.

Try ~ Mel's Amped-Up Ultimate French Onion Dip ~: 

6a0120a8551282970b02a30d4942d9200bAnd my ~ Pan-Seared French-Onion Burgers w/Dijonaisse ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308dbdd9d200cOr my ~ Kid's Stuff Souper Fix-Quick Bowling-Night Meatloaf ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eed1e340200dAnd ~ Would you Like Onion-Laced Steak Fries with That? ~:

6a0120a8551282970b02a30d494374200b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/15/2022

~ The Lipton 1954 Classic French Onion Dip Recipe ~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37da464200cLipton's Classic French Onion Dip.  It's made from one packet of Lipton's boxed French Onion Soup Mix stirred into one 16-ounce container of sour cream   This beloved all-American flavor-infused concoction is meant as a dip for potato chips and vegetables -- it deserves to be served with a sense of pride.  The packed contains a mix of dehydrated onion, onion powder and other herbs and seasonings, which can be used to flavor burgers, meatloaf and roasted potatoes too.

IMG_5566From California Dip in 1954 to French Onion Dip in 1960 -- Lipton cornered the market on it. 

IMG_5567It's said to have been created by an unknown French cook in Los Angeles in 1954 and was intended to mimic the taste of French onion soup.  The recipe became such a popular addition to the fare served in martini-drinking social circles, it got printed in a local newspaper.  Shortly after, in 1955, the Lipton company promoted it on the TV show "Arthur Godfry's Talent Scouts", touting it as "Lipton California Dip", and followed that up with ad campaigns in supermarkets and on television.  In 1959, the recipe was added to the Lipton instant onion soup package, where it remains today.  By the 1960's, the name transitioned to "French onion dip", as it remains today.

Note:  Mayonnaise may be substituted for the sour cream in order to turn the dip into a tangy sandwich spread, but, for the love of mankind, please do not add cream cheese to this dip.

Try ~ Mel's Amped-Up Ultimate French Onion Dip ~: 

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37da442200cAnd my ~ Pan-Seared French-Onion Burgers w/Dijonaisse ~:

6a0120a8551282970b026bded5c217200cOr my ~ Kid's Stuff Souper Fix-Quick Bowling-Night Meatloaf ~:6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a9986d200b

And ~ Would you Like Onion-Laced Steak Fries with That? ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a51bba18200b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/12/2022

~ How to Make Crème Fraîche w/Whole Buttermilk ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8d60061970bCrème fraîche, pronounced fresh and meaning fresh cream -- it's delightful.  In technical terms, it's a French-invented soured cream containing 30%-40% butterfat and a pH of about 4.5.  While its name is French, soured creams are common in most of Eastern and Northern Europe.  Similar to sour cream, which contains about 15%-20% butterfat, it's soured with bacterial culture found in buttermilk.  In cooking it's preferred over sour cream because its higher fat content prevents "breaking" or becoming unstable when stirred into sauces or soups.  Because crème fraîche is less tangy than sour cream, it can be sweetened with powdered sugar and flavored with vanilla and ladled over desserts or fresh fruit -- it can be whipped to soft peaks as well.

Crème fraîche is seriously, astonishingly easy to make.  

Simply stir a bit of buttermilk into some heavy cream and let it sit at room temperature until it thickens, which takes 12-24 hours.  The standard ratio is 1:16, or 1 tablespoon buttermilk: 1 cup heavy cream.  Within reason, the ratio can be adjusted too.  For example:  If you want to hasten the thickening process or desire a more drizzly consistency (similar to Mexican-style crema), just add an extra tablespoon of buttermilk.  Every time the discussion of crème fraîche arises, someone always asks, "won't the cream spoil if left at room temperature?"  Worry not.  The good bacteria in the buttermilk multiplies and overtakes the bad bacteria which prevents that from happening.  That's why is why I prefer whole buttermilk to lowfat to make crème fraîche.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8d5846b970b3  cups heavy or whipping cream

3-6  tablespoons whole buttermilk

In a 2-quart saucepan, stir cream and buttermilk.  Over low heat, stirring constantly, heat to 85°F.  Remove from heat, partially cover and set aside at room temp 12-24 hours. Gently stir, cover and refrigerate for up to 10 days.  At any time during the 10 days, crème fraîche or leftover crème fraîche can be used in place of whole buttermilk to start a "fresh" supply.

Simply, scrumptious & a delightful treat: 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2604e2d970cHow to Make Crème Fraîche w/Whole Buttermilk:  Recipe yields 3-3 1/2 cups old-fashioned buttermilk and 3 cups crème fraîche.

Special Equipment List:  2-quart saucepan w/lid; instant-read thermometer

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8d5fc29970bCook's Note:  Another product that many folks don't know about and fits into this discussion, which is perfect for cooks who use so little buttermilk that all they need is an occasional cup to bake or cook with is: ~ Buttermilk Powder:  What it is & How to Use It ~.  It a great product to keep on hand in your pantry.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/09/2022

~ How to Steam Fragrant Rices in the Rice Steamer ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d21af85e970cMy electric rice steamer is one of my most used countertop appliances -- it's one of the best investments I ever made, and, it's something I just can't fathom living without.  I bought it because I cook a lot of fragrant rice, specifically basmati and jasmine rice.  Electric rice steamers come in all different sizes, and, depending on which one you choose, range in price from $25 - $125. They all operate basically the same way, and, they all make cooking rice foolproof.

Jasmine rice is a polished, long-grain silky, white rice known for its fragrance, aroma and scent. It was named after the sweet-smelling jasmine flower of Southeast Asia, and, as jasmine rice cooks, it releases its perfumy scent.  When properly cooked it is soft, white and fluffy.  Its very distinctive flavor complements all Asian fare in particular.  Basmati rice, which is also a fragrant, long-grain white rice, is aged before being sold and has a delicious, nutty flavor.  When properly cooked, it too is soft, white and fluffy.  While both rices cook the same (using less water than conventional long-grain white rice) to produce fluffy, slightly-chewy grains, I personally do not use the two rices interchangeably.  I prefer to use jasmine rice exclusively when I am serving Asian fare, and basmati rice exclusively when I am serving Indian or Middle Eastern fare. 

PICT3936When I need cooked basmati or jasmine rice for any reason, I use my electric rice steamer exclusively. Simply add the rice, add the water, close the lid and turn it on.  In about the same time it takes to cook long-grain white rice standing at the stovetop, this miracle machine does all the work.  It's completely foolproof -- as long as you read the instructions and follow them. There's more: ~ Steaming Fresh Broccoli or Cauliflower in a Rice Steamer ~, is just as easy.  And, if you find cooking rice the traditional way (on the stovetop) hard to do, it can be cooked in a rice steamer too, making a rice steamer the appliance for you.  Trust me on these points.

6a0120a8551282970b01774373855f970d 2Prior to cooking, fragrant rice should be rinsed under cold water.  Place it in a colander and while the water is running, move it around with your fingertips until the water running through it comes out clear.  Set the colander aside and let it drain a bit, about 5-10 minutes, before cooking:

2  cups uncooked jasmine or basmati rice, rinsed and drained as explained above

6a0120a8551282970b0176168dafd7970cStep 1.  Using the cup/measure from an electric rice steamer, place 2 cups of rinsed, uncooked jasmine rice in the steamer.  Using the same cup/measure, add an equal amount of water, or a 1-to-1 ratio of rice-to-water, + 1/4 cup water.  Briefly stir the rice, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  Do not uncover or stir during the steaming process.  When the steamer turns itself off or signals that it is done, the rice is done. Promptly unplug the machine.*

6a0120a8551282970b0176168dd6a2970c*Note:  If the machine is not unplugged, it will keep the rice warm for several hours.  While this is convenient, I find that if left on warm for too long a time, the rice tends to get sticky.

Step 2.  Uncover/open the lid of the steamer and fluff, meaning:  rake through the rice with a fork to separate the grains.

~ Step 3.  Plate or transfer to a serving bowl as serve immediately. 

Try my ~ Grilling & Chilling Rice-is-Nice Salad ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0934b922970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

08/06/2022

~ History of Classic Italian-American Clams Casino ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096ca88a970dClams casino is considered a classic Italian-American dish. Interestingly, clams casino is also considered a clams "on the halfshell" dish, and, the name has little to do with the gaming industry per se, although every casino restaurant or restaurant in the vicinity of a casino seems to have their variation of the dish on their menu.  Let's me put it this way, I've never been to a casino restaurant that didn't have it on the menu.  Clams casino, which means "big mess" in Italian, is a basic concoction of clams, bacon, butter, and breadcrumbs that work spectacularly together. Onion, garlic and bell peppers are common additions along with various herbs and seasonings.

It's a classic all-American dish with its roots in New England:

According to legend the recipe was developed in 1917 by Julius Keller, the maître d'hôtel of the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, for a Mrs. Paran Stevens, who wanted to treat her guests to a special appetizer.  The dish was named "Casino" after the hotel and quickly became a signature appetizer throughout New England, then throughout the United States, including New Orleans, where oysters are substituted for clams.  It's worth mention that in the early decades of the last century, if a restaurant wanted to be well-known, they came up with a signature dish that involved the baking of shellfish, often with the meat taken out of the shell, prepared with a sauce, then returned to and served in the shell.  This dish became extremely popular with Italian-Americans, and to this day, has a spot on just about every trattoria menu.

Try my ~ Classier Classic Clams (on the half shell) Casino ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c99756970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2o22O 

08/03/2022

~ Clam Sizing, Buying, Burping and Perfect Steaming ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096d0ac9970dSteamed clams are one of my favorite Summertime treats.  It's not unusual for us to pick up a few dozen, meaning three-four dozen.  We mostly enjoy them as a quick pre-dinner snack, but, we've been known to make an entire meal out of them too.  We simply sit around and fork-shuck 'em out of their open shells while they're plump and steaming -- as soon as they emerge from the liquid. One-at-a-time, each morsel gets dipped in some melted garlic-tarragon butter before eating. 

Clams come in many sizes, from quite large to quite small:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096c85d7970dThe enjoyment of clams was an early passion predating America and even the European exploration of North America.  The Algonquin word for clams, “poquauhok”, eventually morphed into “quahog”, a now common term for hard clams.  Clams were so common in the New World that in 1641 the New Netherland Colony (the first Dutch colony to settle in North America) passed an ordinance stating that polished clam shells, strung as beads or belts and used by the surrounding local tribes as wampum (currency/money), would also serve as money in the colony.

Clams are found all along the eastern seaboard from Canada to Florida.  They are all the same species, they just vary in sizes.  There are no official regulations pertaining to how big a clam has to be to be labeled, but, because they are such slow growers (it takes 2-3 years for a clam to reach littleneck size and large chowder clams can be 30-40 years old), there are rules prohibiting harvesting of clams that are too small (less than 1" at the hinge).  Purchase what's available or what suits your purposes best.  My favorites are cherrystone (3"-4") and topneck (2"-3".

To soak & burp clams (to purge them of gritty sand):

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c9e845970bSoaking clams in cold water helps them burp out or purge the sand.   All clams, which live on the ocean floor, contain sand.  It's caused by their constant siphoning the sandy ocean water through their shells. One of the least appetizing foodie experiences is to eat a forkful of perfectly-cooked clams and end up with grit in your teeth -- a clear sign that the cook or chef didn't burp or purge the clams.  Its an easy process but requires a couple of hours, so include that in your game plan (or do it the day before). 

Gently tap each uncooked clam whose shell is open against your countertop. It should close immediately upon tapping. If it does not, it's dead and should be discarded.  Rinse the clams under cold running water and use a stiff brush to scrub the shells of dirt or grit.  Place the clams in a large bowl and cover with a mixture of 1 gallon of water + 1/4 cup sea salt per 2 pounds of clams.  Let soak for 30-45 minutes, then remove the clams individually and place in a colander. Discard the water in the bowl, replace with a fresh water and salt mixture, then return the clams to soak for another 30-45 minutes. Repeat process another 2-3 times, until water is clear of sand. 

To perfectly-steam the clams -- my easy-peasy method:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096d0ac9970dThe shells on clams should be closed when you buy them, or, they should close when tapped (as explained above).  A clam that will not close when prodded is a dead clam.  Throw it away.  Fiction:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a dead clam. Fact:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a live clam that needs to be cooked longer.  I've got 48 live topneck clams which have been purged as directed above -- that works out to 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541d1b970cbe a generous 2-cups of shucked clams -- enough for two to four servings.  Feel free to change the amount to suit your purposes.  

I am giving them a basic steam in plain water today,  until each one opens up wide.  I like to use my electric skillet for this task because it controls the heat perfectly, and, it has a glass lid which acts as a window -- allowing me to remove each clam the moment it opens up, so it doesn't overcook.  I do this in two batches of 24 clams each so as not to overcrowd the skillet.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2541cbf970c~Step 1.  Place 1 quart water in bottom of electric skillet and insert the rack.  Close the lid and adjust the heat to high (400° on this skillet).  In the meantime, drain and discard the water from the bowl of clams.  When the water in the skillet is boiling, open the lid and place 24 clams on the rack.  Close the lid and steam clams until each one pops open. Opening and closing the lid on the skillet as you work, use a pair of tongs to remove the steamed clams as they open, transferring them to a plate or a bowl to cool.  Repeat this process with the second 24 clams, adding 1-2 cups more water to the skillet to make up for what evaporated.  When cool enough to handle, pluck the clams from their shells and place in a bowl.  You will have 2+ cups.

Try my ~ Classic Clams (Clams on the Halfshell) Casino ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c99756970bAnd my ~ Butter me Up Capellini a la Clams Casino ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8c9f982970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/31/2022

~ Pasteurized Crab -- What's in the can for that Cost ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d25c0837970cA couple days ago I restocked my supply of pasteurized crabmeat for the upcoming tailgate and holiday season.  I do it every year around this time, and, I was down to my last can, so, I bought three more.  Like most folks, I love to eat crabmeat, and, while fresh crab is indeed a delicacy, for my purposes pasteurized crab is my first choice.  Like fresh crabmeat, it must be stored in the refrigeratory, but unlike fresh crab it has a very long shelf life -- up to 18 months. What's not to love about that.  Because it's pasteurized, it's fully-cooked and ready-to-use as-is in hot or cold dishes.  How convenient is that.  Lastly, while it isn't cheap, it's less expensive than fresh crabmeat.  Prices range from $30 to $50 per one-pound can, and the price depends on what's packed in the can -- to know that, you need to familiarize yourself with the label.

What is Pasteurized Crab MeatColossal-, Jumbo- and Lump- crabmeat all come from the two largest muscles connecting the swimming legs of the crab. Colossal and Jumbo are whole, unbroken pieces with the latter being smaller.  Lump consists of broken pieces of jumbo lump. Backfin crabmeat consists of flakes of white meat from Lump and Special (meat from the body cavity). Claw is pink in color and the meat from the swimming fins and Claw Fingers are the pink meat tips of the pinchers.

In terms of processing, after the crabmeat is extricated from the shells, the meat is carefully sorted into pieces of various sizes and textures:  claws, legs, body meats, swimming fins, etc. This initial  "sorting" is the most important step, since pasteurized canned crab is categorized into grades from colossal, to jumbo, to lump, to claws and flaked meat.  The price varies from category to category, with colossal and jumbo (there are only two lumps per crab) being the most expensive.  It's sold in 8- or 16-ounce cans or plastic tubs.  That said, the pasteurization process is not the same heat process for other canned products, so, even though it has a long shelf life, it must be stored in the refrigerator, and once opened, must be eaten within three days.

Try my ~ Old English Cheese Spread & Crabmeat Canapés ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09bebca1970d-800wiAnd, my ~ Cold & Creamy Crab Rangoon Dip w/Wonton Cups ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d25c649e970cOr, my ~ Crab Rangoon w/More Crab than Cream Cheese ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0971d7c6970dOr, my ~ Slightly-Spicy Creamy Cajun-Creole Hot Crab Dip:

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeeaa3d8200cOr, my ~ Crunchy Crabmeat Crostini w/Secret Seafood Sauce ~:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad364e3ec200cOr, my ~ Holiday Appetizers 101 -- Make Lots of Crab Balls ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09608754970dOr, my ~ Exquisite Crabmeat Stuffed Omelette a la Benedict ~:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0812ab20970dPlus, my ~ Maryland Crabcake, Tomato & Mayo Sandwich ~:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad38a1bfc200d-800wi"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/27/2022

~ Raise Your Hands in Praise for all Pepperoni Pizza ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e8a675970bPepperoni.  It's easy to assume it's 100% Italian, but it's as American as apple pie.  Food writer and historian John Mariani writes, "like jazz and baseball, pepperoni is purely an Italian-American creation, like chicken parmesan."   While it's exact origin is unknown, long story short, it's our spicy version of their salami (salame), and, no surprise to anyone, thinly-sliced or finely-diced, pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in every pizzeria across the United States. That said, it's wonderful eaten in and on all sorts of other things too.  It's made from cured pork and beef (in a ratio of approximately 70% lean to 30% fat) and seasoned liberally with paprika (to give it is signature red color), as well as sugar, garlic and other aromatic spices to amp the flavor. 
 
Pepperoni.jpgAfter air-drying and curing, the finished product is medium-grained, slightly-smokey, a bit chewy, and, in terms of dried sausages, relatively soft, with edges that tend to curl up (and even char a bit) in the heat of the pizza oven. Referred to as "cupping", the curled-up crispy edges provide a spot for the salty, tangy, spicy sausage juices to pool up in (rather than spread out across the surface of the cheesy pizza).
 
IMG_5557Whole pepperoni sticks or packaged slices can be purchased in every large grocery store and small mini-markets.  It's also available sliced to suit your needs at all deli-counters, specialty meat shops, butcher shops and delicatessens.  Since it's a cured sausage, technically it doesn't require refrigeration and can be frozen up to six months too.  That said, I do keep mine stored in the deli-drawer of my refrigerator and do not freeze it.  A quick Google search will reveal too many brands to mention by name, but, for my purposes, with respect to what is available to me, my favorite is Boar's Head sliced and stick pepperoni, along with Hormel's packages of sliced mini-pepperoni.
 
6a0120a8551282970b0240a4cb40bb200bThe term "pepperoni" was borrowed from the Italian word "peperoni" (the plural of peperone), which is the Italian word for "a large pepper", referring to a bell pepper.  Read on:
 
Italian immigration into the USA increased dramatically in the early 20th Century and it was these immigrants who began combining their traditions with our American ingredients.  The first reference to pepperoni in print appears in 1919 (around the approximate time when mom-and-pop Italian butcher shops and pizza parlors began popping up in lower Manhattan. Then, during the World War I, the word was being used by Italian-American soldiers as a synonym for sausage -- after the war, it began to appear as a pizza topping in NYC pizzerias.
 
Since the 1960s, there's no looking back -- pepperoni is imbedded in our culture and here it will stay.  You say "pizza topping" and most Americans will answer "pepperoni".  Americans consume over 250 million pounds of this slaty, spicy, tangy sausage on 35% of all pizza nationally.  Sliced or diced, besides pizza it can be used in lots of specialty dishes, as well as in casseroles, on cold- or hot-sandwiches pasta salads, charcuterie boards, and unique bread products.
 
 
 
 
6a0120a8551282970b022ad37710b6200c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
 
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/24/2022

~Broiled & Baked Oven-Method for Cooking Spareribs~

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba2a02200c 2I adore spareribs.  That said, I do not like spending time outside in the heat or the cold tending to them for the lengthy period of time it takes them to properly cook (and, because of their fat content, they do require careful and almost constant tending to avoid fiery flare-ups).  For that singular reason, I decided to figure out my own way to make perfectly-cooked babyback or St. Lewis-style spareribs in the comfort of my own kitchen.  I am demonstrating with a rack of St. Lewis-style ribs today, but, trust me when I say: , this method works the same for babybacks too.

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).  

6a0120a8551282970b0263e98cd9a4200bBabybacks 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 indoor method for cooking babyback or St. Lewis-Style ribs:

6a0120a8551282970b02788011feca200d1  full rack babyback spareribs or St. Lewis-style spareribs, your choice

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

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba291f200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba291f200cStep 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.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e98cda29200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba294b200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba294b200c 6a0120a8551282970b02788011ff38200d 6a0120a8551282970b02788011ff38200d 6a0120a8551282970b02788011ff38200d~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.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e98cda4e200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e98cda4e200b 6a0120a8551282970b0263e98cda4e200bStep 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.

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba2995200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba2995200c 6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba2995200cStep 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:

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba2a02200cSlice & serve ribs while hot, warm or at room temperature:

6a0120a8551282970b026bdeba2a0c200cBroiled & Baked Oven-Method for Cooking Spareribs:  Recipe yields 1 rack of perfectly-cooked, large, meaty babyback or St.-Lewis-style spareribs.

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 & Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyrighe 2022)

07/21/2022

~ Babyback Spareribs vs St. Lewis-Style Spareribs ~

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec212cb200cWhen 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).

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec212cb200cBabybacks 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.

6a0120a8551282970b01a511797d9b970cCountry-style spareribs , which are also porkribs, 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.  Give my method for ~ Broiled & Baked K.C. BBQ'D Country-Style Spareribs ~, (Kid-friendly and mother approved).

Try my favorite way to make Slow-Cooker Babyback Spareribs:

6a0120a8551282970b02788040f2af200dAnd, my Broiled & Baked Rack of St. Lewis-Style Spareribs:

6a0120a8551282970b0264e2e7a029200dOr, my Broiled & Baked St. Lewis-Style Spareribs Sandwich:

6a0120a8551282970b02788012123b200d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/18/2022

~ Rethink Plain Rice -- Make a Flavorful Pilaf Instead ~

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b32cca6200cWhen I was growing up, in a saucepan, my mom would lightly-toast a cup or two of white rice in a few pats of melted butter.  In went some diced onion, carrot. celery, salt and pepper.  When the veggies began to soften, steaming hot chicken or vegetable stock went in, the lid went on the pot, then, the mixture gently simmered until the rice was cooked.  After 20-25 minutes, and a quick "fluff", voila:  our rice side-dish was served.  Technically, our rice pilaf was served.

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

My mom's all-purpose recipe for this classic side-dish:

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b32c164200c2  cups extra-long-grain white rice (14 ounces), long-grain white rice may be substituted

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

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

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

2  whole bay leaves

2  teaspoons sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

fresh parsley sprigs, for garnish

IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9033 IMG_9047 IMG_9047 IMG_9047~Step 1.  Over low heat, melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan, preferably a saucepan with a glass (see-through) lid. Add the rice and increase heat to medium- medium-high.  Stirring constantly, very-lightly-toast the rice, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the diced onion, celery and carrot.  Stirring constantly, cook until vegetables begin to soften (and rice toasts a bit more), about 2-3 additional minutes.

IMG_9060 IMG_9060 IMG_9060 IMG_9060 IMG_9072 IMG_9072 IMG_9072~Step 2.  While the rice is toasting and vegetables are softening, heat stock, bay leaves, sea salt and black pepper to steaming -- I do this in the microwave, in about 2 minutes.  Add the seasoned stock to the saucepan.  Give the mixture a thorough stir and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, cover the saucepan and lower the heat to a gentle, steady simmer.  Continue to cook, covered and without opening the lid, until rice has absorbed the liquid, is cooked al dente, and, small holes appear across the surface of the pilaf, about 15 minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow to rest, covered, 10 additional minutes. Open (remove) the lid and use a fork to rake through the rice to fluff and separate the grains.

Rethink plain rice -- make mom's flavorful piaf instead:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4e8662c200dRethink Plain Rice -- Make a Flavorful Pilaf Instead:  Recipe yields 8 cups/4-6 servings.

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

6a0120a8551282970b025d9b32d142200cCook's Note: A carefully-chosen side-dish really can turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. Recipes for side-dishes aren't the most exciting thing to write home about, but, I can say with certainty that home cooks routinely conduct searches that clearly inquire: "What to serve with (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, etc.)?"  That said, it's not uncommon to have narrower searches include the word(s) "vegetable" or "starch", and/or, "quick" or "easy" -- it seems that people don't like to spend a lot of time hovering over recipes for complicated side-dishes.  In my opinion, while pilaf is great as a side to beef, poultry or pork, when it comes to seafood, I like lighter fare.  Example:  my recipe for ~ Fluffy Lemon & Pepper Rice for Fish &/or Seafood ~

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/15/2022

~How to Indoor-Grill Amazing Whole Pork Tenderloins~

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e5bc200cI recently purchased a countertop grill in order for me to grill a few things indoors -- not everything, just a few things.  I am here to tell you, I love it.  It controls the heat perfectly, it's easy to clean, and, most importantly, I am no longer at the mercy of, hot or cold, the weather, to grill a few of my favorite proteins --  boneless-skinless chicken tenderloins, whole pork tenderloins and shrimp. In honesty, I am simply not an outdoor kinda gal, so indoor grilling is perfect for me.

A bit about indoor grilling on indoor grills in general:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d75f6d200cLet's start with nothing is perfect -- nothing.  It's important to know that just like outdoor grilling (or any other method of cooking for that matter), when you are dealing with a heat source, you can't just walk away and take a nap.  Indoor grilling requires attention. It's super-important to remember that you are indoors, and, there can and will be smoke resulting from food that are rich in fat -- highly-marbled steaks, fat-rimmed pork chops, bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, etc.  To reduce smoke generated on your indoor grill, trim all excess fats from all proteins, and/or choose lean cuts -- chicken tenderloins or boneless-skinless breasts and pork tenderloins are my favorite, but,  flank steaks, shrimp and, of course, all vegetables work great too.  Some open grills can let fat or excess marinade drippings drip down into heating elements, and, while the risk of fire is minimal, be cautious because it can happen.

Indoor grilling is simple, straightforward & quite successful:

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eecd684f200dTo marinate or not to marinate -- that's completely your choice.  Marinades are flavorizers not tenderizers.

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eecd6840200dA common misconception is:  to marinate is to tenderize.  It doesn't work that way.  In the food world, marinades for proteins act as flavorizers, not as tenderizers, meaning:  the longer you marinate, the more flavor will be infused into the protein.  Even 15-minutes will go a long way to flavoring the finished dish.  Moral of the story:  The tenderness of the protein being cooked is dependent upon knowing the proper cooking method.

How to indoor-grill whole pork tenderloins.

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eecceba4200d2-4 pounds whole pork tenderloins, 2-4 tenderloins

1  cup of your favorite marinade for pork (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b02a30d4447c2200b 6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccebc3200d6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccebc3200d6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccebc3200d~Step 1.  Using a thin, sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears, judiciously trim or snip tenderloins of any thick silverskin or excessive fat from their surfaces.  In a 1-cup measuring container or a small bowl, stir together all of the marinade ingredients as listed.  Pour the marinade into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add the  tenderloins, seal the bag and toss to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours prior to grilling. 

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e56f200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e56f200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e56f200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e56f200c~Step 2. Spray grill grids of  electric countertop grill with no-stick cooking spray and heat grids over medium. Remove tenderloins from marinade (allowing excess to drizzle back into the bag), place tenderloins, side-by-side on hot grill grids and cook until golden and just cooked through on both sides, turning only once, about 6-7 minutes per side (for an initial total of 12-14 minutes).

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e591200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccec4a200d 6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccec4a200d 6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccec4a200d 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e5b2200c~Step 3.  With the aid of a spatula or a pair of tongs, working one-tenderloin-at-a-time, roll each tenderloin, left then right, onto its two un-seared sides, to put a quick sear on them as well, about 1 minute per tenderloin. Lower the heat to medium-low and, once again, continue to cook tenderloins on both sides, turning only once, about 6-7 minutes per side, or, until a meat-thermometer inserted into the thickest part of their centers reads 145º-150º.  

The total cooking time for four tenderloins is approximately 28-32 minutes.  

Turn the grill off and allow pork to remain on warm grill grids 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally during this rest period, prior to slicing, thick or thin, and serving as directed in specific recipe.

Use any way you want, or, as directed in specific recipe.  Great in sandwiches, on salads or as a main-dish w/all sorts of sides. 

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e5b2200cHow to Indoor-Grill Amazing Whole Pork Tenderloins:  Recipe yields 2-4 pounds pork/2-4 pork tenderloins/8-16 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container (optional); 1-gallon food-storage bag (optional); electric countertop grill; spatula or tongs; instant-read meat thermometer

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccec96200dCook's Note:  If you are a lover of Tex-Mex fare too, I just happen to have a go-to marinade for that too. Try my garlic & onion powder, Mexican oregano, chili powder and lime laced ~ Tex-Mex Marinade for Beef, Poultry or Pork ~.

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

Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/12/2022

~ How to Indoor-Grill Amazing Chicken Tenderloins ~

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e4e2200cI recently purchased a countertop grill in order for me to grill a few things indoors -- not everything, just a few things.  I am here to tell you, I love it.  It controls the heat perfectly, it's easy to clean, and, most importantly, I am no longer at the mercy of, hot or cold, the weather, to grill a few of my favorite proteins --  boneless-skinless chicken tenderloins, pork tenderloins and shrimp. In honesty, I am simply not an outdoor kinda gal, so indoor grilling is perfect for me.

A bit about indoor grilling on indoor grills in general:

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccf7b1200dLet's start with nothing is perfect -- nothing.  It's important to know that just like outdoor grilling (or any other method of cooking for that matter), when you are dealing with a heat source, you can't just walk away and take a nap.  Indoor grilling requires attention. It's super-important to remember that you are indoors, and, there can and will be smoke resulting from food that are rich in fat -- highly-marbled steaks, fat-rimmed pork chops, bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, etc.  To reduce smoke generated on your indoor grill, trim all excess fats from all proteins, and/or choose lean cuts -- chicken tenderloins or boneless-skinless breasts and pork tenderloins are my favorite, but,  flank steaks, shrimp and, of course, all vegetables work great too.  Some open grills can let fat or excess marinade drippings drip down into heating elements, and, while the risk of fire is minimal, be cautious because it can happen.

Indoor grilling is simple, straightforward & quite successful:

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e499200cTo marinate or not to marinate -- that's completely your choice.  Marinades are flavorizers not tenderizers.

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccea00200dA common misconception is:  to marinate is to tenderize.  It doesn't work that way.  In the food world, marinades for proteins act as flavorizers, not as tenderizers, meaning:  the longer you marinate, the more flavor will be infused into the protein.  Even 15-minutes will go a long way to flavoring the finished dish.  Moral of the story:  The tenderness of the protein being cooked is dependent upon knowing the proper cooking method.

How to indoor-grill boneless-skinless chicken tenderloins.

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccea72200d2-4  pounds whole, boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, about 10-20 large tenderloins

1  cup of your favorite marinade for chicken (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e438200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a30d444681200b~ Step 1. Sandwich tenderloins between two pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them to a thickness of about 1/2" -- do not smash them to smithereens.

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e452200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a2eecceadf200d~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together all the optional marinade ingredients.  Pour marinade into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add the pounded tenderloins, seal bag and toss to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for about 4-6 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours prior to grilling.

6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e4a6200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e4a6200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e4a6200c 6a0120a8551282970b02a308d6e4a6200c~Step 3.  Spray grill grids with no-stick cooking spray and heat the grids over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from optional marinade (allowing excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag), place 6-8 tenderloins, side-by-side on hot grill grids and cook until golden and just cooked through on both sides, turning only once, 7-9 total minutes, about 4-5 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the second side, regulating the heat carefully, as the honey in the marinade (like sugar) can scorch.  Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat process with remaining tenders. Only work in batches that are sized to comfortably fit the surface area of the grill without overcrowding, as well as your ability to manage the quantity, meaning:  know your own limitations.

Use any way you want, or, as directed in specific recipe.  Great in sandwiches, on salads or as a main-dish w/all sorts of sides. 

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eecceb56200dHow to Indoor-Grill Amazing Chicken Tenderloins:  Recipe yields 2-4 pounds chicken tenderloins/10-20 chicken tenderloins/6-12 servings

Special Equipment List: plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container (optional); 1-gallon food-storage bag (optional); electric countertop grill; spatula or tongs

6a0120a8551282970b02a2eeccec96200dCook's Note:  If you are a lover of Tex-Mex fare too, I just happen to have a go-to marinade for that too. Try my garlic & onion powder, Mexican oregano, chili powder and lime laced ~ Tex-Mex Marinade for Beef, Poultry or Pork ~.

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

Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/09/2022

~Guide to Indoor Grilling Chicken or Pork Tenderloins~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a36550200bHow many of you have invested in an indoor countertop grill or are considering investing in an indoor countertop grill?  I have one, and, I am here to tell you, I love mine.  It controls the heat perfectly, it's easy to clean, and, most importantly, I am no longer at the mercy of, hot or cold, the weather. to grill two of my favorite super-tender proteins:  boneless-skinless chicken tenderloins, and, pork tenderloins.  In honesty, I'm not an outdoor kinda gal, so indoor grilling is perfect for me.

A bit about indoor grilling on indoor grills in general:

71ZHALjkEVS._AC_SL1500_Let's start with nothing is perfect -- nothing.  It's important to know that just like outdoor grilling (or any other method of cooking for that matter), when you are dealing with a heat source, you can't just walk away and take a nap.  Indoor grilling requires attention. It's super-important to remember that you are indoors, and, there can and will be smoke resulting from food that are rich in fat -- highly-marbled steaks, fat-rimmed pork chops, bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, etc.  To reduce smoke generated on your indoor grill, trim all excess fats from all proteins, and/or choose lean cuts -- chicken tenderloins or boneless-skinless breasts and pork tenderloins are my favorite, but,  flank steaks, shrimp and, of course, all vegetables work great too.  Some open grills can let fat or excess marinade drippings drip down into heating elements, and, while the risk of fire is minimal, be cautious because it can happen. 

Indoor grilling is simple, straightforward & quite successful:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3824e25200dTo marinate or not to marinate -- that's completely your choice.  Marinades are flavorizers not tenderizers.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a36430200bA common misconception is:  to marinate is to tenderize.  It doesn't work that way.  In the food world, marinades for proteins act as flavorizers, not as tenderizers, meaning:  the longer you marinate, the more flavor will be infused into the protein.  Even 15-minutes will go a long way to flavoring the finished dish.  Moral of the story:  The tenderness of the protein being cooked is dependent upon knowing the proper cooking method.

Option One:  Grilling boneless-skinless chicken tenderloins.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35bca62200c2-4  pounds whole, boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins, about 10-20 large tenderloins

1  cup of your favorite marinade for chicken (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a21879200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a2187b200b~ Step 1. Sandwich tenderloins between two pieces of plastic wrap on a flat work surface.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them to a thickness of about 1/2" -- do not smash them to smithereens.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35c3ec1200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a218ce200b~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together all the optional marinade ingredients.  Pour marinade into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add the pounded tenderloins, seal bag and toss to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for about 4-6 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours prior to grilling.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3824e25200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a21903200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3824e2c200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3824e33200d~Step 3.  Spray grill grids with no-stick cooking spray and heat the grids over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from optional marinade (allowing excess marinade to drizzle back into the bag), place 6-8 tenderloins, side-by-side on hot grill grids and cook until golden and just cooked through on both sides, turning only once, 7-9 total minutes, about 4-5 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the second side, regulating the heat carefully, as the honey in the marinade (like sugar) can scorch.  Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat process with remaining tenders. Only work in batches that are sized to comfortably fit the surface area of the grill without overcrowding, as well as your ability to manage the quantity, meaning:  know your own limitations.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a4bdc0200bOption Two:  Grilling whole pork tenderloins.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7e6e200c2-4 pounds whole pork tenderloins, 2-4 tenderloins

1  cup of your favorite marinade for pork (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7dcc200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7dcc200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a3586e200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a3586e200b~Step 1.  Using a thin, sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears, judiciously trim or snip tenderloins of any thick silverskin or excessive fat from their surfaces.  In a 1-cup measuring container or a small bowl, stir together all of the marinade ingredients as listed.  Pour the marinade into a 1-gallon food storage bag, add the  tenderloins, seal the bag and toss to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for 4-6 hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours prior to grilling. 

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a359f5200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a359f5200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a359f5200b 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a359f5200b~Step 2.  Spray grill grids of  electric countertop grill with no-stick cooking spray and heat grids over medium. Remove tenderloins from marinade (allowing excess to drizzle back into the bag), place tenderloins, side-by-side on hot grill grids and cook until golden and just cooked through on both sides, turning only once, about 6-7 minutes per side (for an initial total of 12-14 minutes).

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7efb200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7efb200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7efb200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7f11200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad35d7f11200cStep 3.  With the aid of a spatula or a pair of tongs, working one-tenderloin-at-a-time, roll each tenderloin, left then right, onto its two un-seared sides, to put a quick sear on them as well, about 1 minute per tenderloin. Lower the heat to medium-low and, once again, continue to cook tenderloins on both sides, turning only once, about 6-7 minutes per side, or, until a meat-thermometer inserted into the thickest part of their centers reads 145º-150º.  

The total cooking time for four tenderloins is approximately 28-32 minutes.  

Turn the grill off and allow pork to remain on warm grill grids 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally during this rest period, prior to slicing, thick or thin, and serving as directed in specific recipe.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35ee7f2200cGuide to Indoor Grilling Chicken or Pork Tenderloins:  Recipe yields 2-4 pounds chicken or pork; 10-20 chicken tenderloins/6-12 servings; or, 2-4 pork tenderloins/8-16 servings.

Special Equipment List: plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container (optional); 1-gallon food-storage bag (optional); electric countertop grill; spatula or tongs; instant-read meat thermometer

6a0120a8551282970b022ad35c5006200cCook's Note:  If you are a lover of Tex-Mex fare too, I just happen to have a go-to marinade for that too. Try my garlic & onion powder, Mexican oregano, chili powder and lime laced ~ Tex-Mex Marinade for Beef, Poultry or Pork ~.

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

Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

07/06/2022

~It's the Season for Savory Sweet Corn & Herb Cakes~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d213bbbc970cI didn't invent adding cooked corn kernels, savory herbs and/or spices to pancake batter.  Our Native Americans are credited with that, the precursor to our present-day pancakes. They were called "nokchick", translated to mean "no (or not) cake" by the European colonists (who arrived with a host of their own pancake recipes which had existed in Europe for centuries, dating all the way back to the Romans who called them "alita docia", which is Latin for "another sweet".)

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c88a0c3c970bIn the American colonies, pancakes were known as hoe cakes or johnny cakes, and, flapjacks or slapjacks, made with buckwheat flour or cornmeal.  In Amelia Simmon's American Cookery, published in 1796, hoe cakes and johnny cakes used milk, cornmeal and molasses. Recipes for flapjacks or slapjacks dropped molasses and added eggs. George Washington's favorite breakfast was 'pancakes' literally swimming in all-American maple syrup.  By Thomas Jefferson's time, the early 1800's, griddlecakes came into play -- they were lighter due to baking soda invented by French and Belgian chemists. After the invention of baking powder by a British chemist in the 1840's, our modern-day pancake was born.

For my easy-to-make modern-day sweet corn (pan)'cakes: 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2139750970c2  cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

2  tablespoons sugar

1  tablespoon finely-chopped fresh chives (optional)

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

2  large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork

1 3/4  cups milk

4  cups cooked (boiled or grilled) sweet corn kernels 

corn or peanut oil, for frying pancakes, not butter (Note:  Frying pancakes in butter is just plain wrong.  Just in case you don't know, if you fry pancakes in oil instead, they will fry up with seriously-crispy-and-light doughnut-esque edges.  You can thank me for this tip later.)

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d213a345970c 10.07.11 AM 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c889f339970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c889f353970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d213a37a970c~Step 1.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, optional chives, salt and pepper.  Quickly whisk in the eggs, 10-15 seconds.  Don't try to thoroughly incorporate eggs. Whisk in the milk.  You'll have a smooth drizzly batter.  Using a spatula, fold in the corn.

Tip about mixing batter:  Allow batter to rest about 5 minutes -- about the time it takes to heat the skillet in the next step.  No matter what anyone else tells you or what you read elsewhere, do not mix your pancake batter any farther ahead of time than that.  In order to save time in the morning, do what I do:  Mix the dry ingredients together the night before, and, mix the wet ingredients together too.  Let the dry ingredients sit on the counter overnight and refrigerate the wet ingredients.  Mix the two together just before proceeding with the recipe as directed below.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7ebb3b5970bStep 2.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat a thin, 1/16" coating of oil, not butter, to 350 degrees (medium on my gas stovetop).  Note:  I prefer the electric skillet over the traditional griddle.  It's got a big, flat surface area, which gives me plenty of space to cook and flip 3-4-5-6 even-sized pancakes and it makes heat control a breeze.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d213a4f5970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d213a4f5970c~ Step 3.  Using a 3-ounce (1/3 cup) ladle, add ladlefuls of batter for 5 pancakes to skillet.  Do not overcrowd  skillet.  This batter, because of the chunks of corn, will not spread out on its own. Use a spoon to help it form 5, 4"-round pancakes.

Tips on cooking and flipping:  The heat should be hot enough that you hear and see an initial sizzle around the edges of each pancake, but, not hear or see a sizzle throughout the cooking process.  Sometimes it is necessary to adjust the heat as they cook, but, my skillet never leaves the 325-350- degree range.  Pancakes should not be rushed.  When bubbles rise to the surface, which can take 1-2 minutes, they are approaching being ready to gently flip -- but not quite. Pancakes are ready to flip when the bubbles begin to burst and no or little batter fills the holes back up.  When it comes to flipping, be gentle.  Skip the drama -- don't throw them up in the air or slap them over.  The object of the pancake game is to protect their hole-y-ness.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb092d4732970d~ Step 4.  Cook pancakes, in batches of 5, turning only once, until golden on both sides, about 3-3 1/2 minutes on the first side and 1 1/2-2 minutes on the second, but, once again, time is not as important as those bubbles.  This recipe yields 14 pancakes -- two are missing from the photo.  Joe and I each ate one hot right out of the skillet.

Crispy outside & creamy-corn-kernel-crunchy inside:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c88a0a9d970bIt's the Season for Savory Sweet Corn & Herb Cakes:  Recipe yields 14 pancakes and 6 servings at 2 corn cakes per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; whisk; large rubber spatula; 16" electric skillet; 3-ounce 1/3 cup ladle; nonstick spatula; ordinary tablespoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb092d5b67970dCook's Note: Skip all the cloyingly-sweet things iHOP offers and pay attention -- there is more than one way to eat a pancake, and it's not just a sugary treat for breakfast or dessert.  Brunch is served, and this savory pancake meal is full of at-their-peak, in-season ingredients, all local, many from my own backyard. Mix a batch of bloody Mary's, sit back, and savor the moment -- My ~ Garden Fresh Corn Cakes topped w/a BLT Salad ~ is a bold-flavored, fresh-tasting way to celebrate the fruit of your Summer garden.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022) 

07/03/2022

~Feel the Love for Our Native All-American Blueberry~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94db200bBlueberries are one of seven native North American food plants grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially. Before I go any further, I should mention the other six:  concord grapes, cranberries, strawberries, corn, beans and squash.  This means these plants were in existence before any of our immigrant ancestors arrived in this new world and the Native Americans were eating them and creating their own uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, blueberries were domesticated entirely in the 20th century and it did not take long for this "very American berry" to gain the unconditional love of the entire world.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94cf200bThree types of blueberries supply over 90% of the market:  lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye.

Lowbush varieties (marketed as "wild blueberries" or "huckleberries") are very small, are harvested by machine and are sold almost exclusively to processing plants who make and sell blueberry products like "wild blueberry pie filling" or "wild blueberry preserves". While this sounds like they'd be at the top of the blueberry class, their flavor is actually disappointingly bland.

Highbush blueberries are the result of the hybridization of wild native plants. They are picked by hand and are sold fresh, representing over two-thirds of the total blueberries sold in our markets everywhere.

Rabbiteyes, which are native to the Southeastern United States were/are called rabbiteyes because the berries turn pink before they turn blue -- the eye color of a white rabbit. They are very similar to highbush blueberries, which are native to northeastern North America. Rabbiteye bushes get quite high, up to 20 feet, and, they bloom earlier in the year than the highbush, which sadly, makes them susceptible to Spring frosts.  Highbush are smaller than rabbiteyes and were called highbush simply because they were/are taller than low bush varieties.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94db200bHighbush blueberries are what we grow here in Central Pennsylvania's climate.  The berries are larger and plumper than rabbiteyes and the fruit is juicier with a thinner skin. Their quality is compromised very little by freezing them (which is great for me because, every year, I have a lot to freeze), while the rabbiteye berry skin tends to get tough when frozen.  Rabbiteyes, eaten out-of-hand are a bit sweeter, but in my opinion: highbush berries are truly the best variety for the best price.

When selecting blueberries, it is noteworthy that size is not an indication of flavor, shrinkage is. Always choose blueberries that are plump and look like they are ready to burst. Berries that have begun to shrink and wrinkle, while usable, will be less flavorful.  AND, no matter what variety you choose to use, be generous -- cooked blueberry anything should be bursting with berries.

~ PA-Dutch Blueberry & Lemon-Custard Streusel Pie ~:  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49b15ee200d~ Love is a Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Pound Cake ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be99fb200b~ Pucker Up for a Very Blueberry & Lemon Cobbler ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49b51e6200d~ Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be9486200b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyrigt 2022)

06/30/2022

~ Stop Frittering Around & Fry Up A Batch of Fritters ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6ce68e2970bHere in Pennsylvania, I grew up eating savory deep-fried corn fritters in July and August, when local sweet corn is in season, and  sweet apple fritters in September and October, when local apples are in season.  I grew up eating potato pancakes as well, which are technically a type of fritter, but, we don't refer to them as such because they are pan-fried.  Doughnuts were/are made on Doughnut Day, and, even though they're deep-fried, we don't call them fritters either. Why? Like their precursor cousin, the beignet, they don't contain any chopped protein, fresh or dried fruits and/or vegetables, and, with or without holes, they're just plain old deep-fried dough.

Fritters are deep-fried.  Fritters contain protein, fruit or veggies.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad376b6db200cA bit about fritters:  Defined as small, sweet or savory, deep-fried (not pan fried), dough- or batter-based cakes (fritters contain no bread or bread crumbs) made by combining chopped food (not whole pieces or chunks) with a thick, seasoned batter, dropped into hot oil and deep-fried until crisp on the outside and cooked-through on the inside. Depending on the consistency of the batter, fritters can emerge flat (like pancakes) or round (like golf balls).  Once chopped, almost anything can be made into a fritter:  meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruits or vegetables.  

Fritters can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a snack, side-dish, main-course or dessert.  Fritters are sold on street corners and in five-star restaurants where they can be picked up and eaten with the hand or eaten with a fork.  Fritters are the original fast food and pub grub. Fritters are multi-cultural -- you can find a fritter anywhere in the world where they deep-fry food.

You can really use your imagination when it comes to fritter ingredients, but the most important thing is knowing how to properly deep fry food.  Oil that is too cold when food is added will impart an oily, greasy taste, which is undesirable.  Too hot oil can also cause less then perfect fritters or burned ones. Electric deep fryers with controllable temperature settings take all the guesswork out of deep-frying, though for experienced cooks, a simple temperature gauge and a sense of how the oil appears and smells is often enough information to produce perfectly fried food.

Try my recipe for Sweet Deep-Fried & Glazed Apple Fritters:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39cd855200dOr my recipe for Savory Deep-Fried Sweet Corn Fritters:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6ce692f970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

06/26/2022

~ Lox, Gravlax and Smoked Salmon -- Your Choice ~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39c5547200dLox, gravlax and smoked salmon -- they are all cured salmon products, and, while they look similar, they are all distinctly different.  For lovers of cured salmon, we all have a favorite.  For example, I prefer smoked salmon to lox and prefer lox to gravlax.  There's more.  In my food world, I tend to serve one or the other for breakfast or brunch -- I don't think of it much as a dinner fare.  For lovers of cured salmon, the good news is, they can, for the most part, be used interchangeably in recipes, and, they can be served any time of day for any meal.

Entire books & lots of commentary have been written about all three.  For the average cook, I'll make a long story short:

Lox is associated with breakfast or brunch -- at least for me it is.  Derived from the Yiddish word lax, meaning salmon, lox is taken from the belly of the fish then very-thinly-sliced.  It gets salt-cured about three months and does not undergo any smoking process afterward. 

Gravlax is pretty much the same thing as lox -- it undergoes the salt cure and does not get smoked. That said, gravlax has spices added to the salt cure (usually sugar, salt and dill), then it's prepped with a seasoning that often includes juniper berry, pepper, and aquavit.

Smoked salmon is salt cured and smoked afterward, one of two ways: hot-smoked (at 145º for about 8 hours) and cold-smoked (no higher than 80º for about 15 hours).  Hot-smoked salmon is dryer and smokier, while cold-smoked is moister, less smoky and more similar to lox.

Try my Smoked Salmon & Folded Omelet Bagel Sandwich:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3bbee21200bTry my Lox, Caviar & Frambled Egg Breakfast too:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad376292e200c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

06/23/2022

~ Crème Caramel -- The Ultimate Custard Dessert ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c754963a970bCrème caramel is a sophisticated dessert that is eaten around the world, but, was made famous in the later part of the 20th century in French restaurants.  It is a silky-smooth custard that is gently baked/steamed in a caramel-coated mold or in individual porcelain ramekins.  When slightly warm or room temperature the delicate custard is turned out onto its serving plate.  It emerges elegantly-glazed and exquisitely-sauced with the caramel from the bottom of the mold.

In the French language, the word crème means custard. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0dddc37970cIn French, crème means custard.  It's worth mentioning that making crème caramel in individual-sized ramekin is much easier than turning out one larger sized one, as the fragile custard easily splits.  Large ones also require more care to avoid undercooking the interior or overcooking the exterior.  The objective is to obtain a homogeneous and smooth crème on the surface of the with a liquid caramel base.  For that reason, cooking either size in a water bath (bain-marie) is essential to the success of the dessert, as  cooking it in a bain-marie avoids burning the caramel.

Crème caramel is the direct opposite of its rustic cousin, crème brûlée, which is a similarly-baked custard with a hard caramel shell on the top that is served and eaten directly out of the vessel in which it is baked.  In France, crème caramel is also referred to as "crème renversee", in Italy it is called "crèma caramella", and, if you're in Spain, it is "flan" you are looking for.  It's an exquisite dessert that comes with a built-in elegant presentation.  When prepared using individual ramekins, it is conveniently portioned as well, so serving it is a dream come true.

Try my recipe for The Ultimate Silky Smooth Crème Caramel:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c7548b4e970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022

06/20/2022

~ Fully-Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes -- Three Ways ~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0859700c970d 2A twice baked potato is exactly what the name implies:  It's a potato that gets baked in the oven twice.  After the first bake, the potato is sliced in half and the light, fluffy soft-center is carefully scooped out, leaving the shell/the potato skin undamaged. The cooked center is then mashed, mashed-potato-style, with butter, salt, pepper and/or various seasonings or seasoning blends, and, creamy options like sour cream, yogurt and/or cream cheese.  Then the fun begins:

Add-ins, absolutely anything you want, usually family-friendly favorites (like the combination of bits of crispy chopped bacon and blanched chopped broccoli topped with shredded cheddar cheese in photo above), get folded in.  The flavor-packed potato mixture is scooped back into the the potato skins and baked a second time, which makes the skin crispy and melts the cheese on top -- they're the Rolls Royce of the baked-potato world -- it's twice-baked potato perfection.

From a method standpoint, the way I make them is not the quickest, but, that does't mean it's tedious.  I simply don't take short cuts, which are a definite compromise.  For example:  The microwave, while not a no-no, is not ideal (I want crispy, not soft steamed, potato skins), I use real-deal bacon (not store-bought bacon bits), and, my broccoli is freshly chopped (not frozen and thawed).  I have no exact recipe, but here's my estimated formula:  the mashed centers from 3-4 large Russet potatoes + 3-4 cups of add-ins, then sprinkle the tops of all with additional  cheese.

Tip from Mel:  I've tasted a lot of creative versions of twice-baked potatoes in my lifetime and the best combinations always contain some type of cooked meat or porcine, a vegetable or three, and, grated cheese.  Great twice-baked potatoes are not pot-luck or a place to throw your leftovers -- they are usually very-well conceived.  That said, I've never tasted a lo-calorie version of a twice-baked potato that had a purpose.  Who in the world counts calories when eating these?

Try my Classic Broccoli & Cheddar Twice-Baked Potatoes:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49bb3c2200bOr, my Twice-Baked Fully-Loaded Taco Taters:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3a014be200dAnd My Twice-Baked Fully-Loaded Texican Sweet Potatoes:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a44e037e200c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

06/17/2022

~My All-American All-Purpose Hamburger Seasoning~

PICT0040When it comes to hamburgers, as long as mine arrives steaming-hot and medium-rare, I don't much care what you did to get it there.  Cook it anyway you like or know how -- gas-grill it, charcoal-grill it, grill-pan it, pan-sear it, flat-top it, or broil it.  Flip it once or flip it twice, that's fine with me too.  Steaming-hot and medium-rare -- that's all I ask.  I'm flexible about condiments too. Lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo?  Awesome.  Ketchup, mustard and pickles?  Count me in. With or without cheese -- it matters not to me.  Steaming-hot and medium-rare -- that's all I ask.

All that said, if you've never tried seasoning your ground beef prior to cooking your hamburgers via your favorite method, you might want to really should give it a try.  It's one of my favorite things to do and, by seasoning the ground beef, I don't mean seasoning the patties - I mean I use my hands to mix the seasoning into the ground beef prior to making the patties.  There's more.  My seasoning is just right, meaning, it will enhance the flavor of your beef not overpower it.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ac751b200dFor my all-purpose  'burger seasoning:

2  teaspoons fine sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon garlic powder

1/2  teaspoon onion powder

1  teaspoon beef bouillion

~ Step 1.  Stir all spices together in a small bowl.  Makes a scant 2 tablespoons.  Enough to mix into 3 pounds ground beef.

Try my Perfectly-Seasoned 16-Minute Broiled 'Burger:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4adc635200dAnd my Perfectly-Seasoned Pan-Seared Smashed 'Burger:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39e2eff200dMy All-American All-Purpose Hamburger Seasoning:  Recipe yields a scant 2 tablespoons seasoning blend.  Enough to stir into 3 pounds ground beef.

Special Equipment List:  small bowl, spoon

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4ad58d1200d 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4840c07200cCook's Note:  To make 1 1/2 cups of My Copycat McDonald's Special Sauce:

1  cup mayonnaise

1/4  cup each: ketchup and sweet pickle relish

1  tablespoon yellow mustard

1  teaspoon white vinegar

1/2  teaspoon each:  garlic and onion powder and paprika

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022 

06/14/2022

~ Frank's RedHot Sauce and RedHot Wing Sauce ~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d22f3f44970cFrank's RedHot is synonymous with Buffalo chicken wings.  Why? Frank's was the secret ingredient used in the original Buffalo chicken wing sauce recipe created at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY in 1964 by Frank and Teresa Bellisimo.  Fast forward to present day -- Simply wander into a bar, any bar, anywhere in America.  Buffalo wings are on the pub grub menu.  It's remarkable.  No description is necessary.  You know you're getting unbreaded, deep-fried wingettes and drumettes coated in a vivid-red vinegar-based cayenne pepper and butter sauce.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09489f1f970dThere are three stories regarding the invention of Buffalo wings and all come from members of the family, close friends and loyal bar patrons:

1)  Their son Dominic arrived late at night with a few hungry college buddies.  Teresa needed a fast snack and threw some chicken wings (which would normally be used to make chicken stock) in the deep-fryer and tossed them with some hot sauce and melted butter.  

2)  There was a mis-delivery of wings instead of backs and necks (which Teresa used to make the bar's spaghetti sauce.  Faced with tossing them out or taking up freezer space, Frank asked Theresa to come up with a use for them.  

3)  Dominic was working late in the kitchen on a Friday night and folks were still ordering a lot of drinks.  He wanted to do something nice for the patrons (who were mostly Catholic) and Teresa came up with the idea of wings, as it was after midnight and they were able to eat meat again.

In 1977, Buffalo officially declared July 29th, Chicken Wing Day.

By the 1980's, Buffalo wing sauce was being applied to a list of other food creations too: "Buffalo" chicken dip, "Buffalo" chicken quesadillas, "Buffalo" chicken salad (one of my personal favorites), "Buffalo" chicken pizza, "Buffalo" popcorn chicken and shrimp, and, "Buffalo" chicken fingers, nuggets and fries.  If it's got "Buffalo" in the name, it's got Buffalo sauce in it, on it, or alongside it. There's even "Buffalo"-flavored potato chips (sorry -- not one of my favorites).

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8a539ea970bIt was inevitable that Frank's would start bottling and mass marketing their wing sauce.  Several other brands followed suit too.  For my taste, Frank's is #1.  That said, my husband likes a brand called Texas Pete.  Crystal is popular with a lot of folks, and, of course, there's an Anchor Bar wing sauce too.

< I borrowed this photo from the Serious Eats website.  They conducted a taste test of seven brands and wrote an interesting, in-depth article about it.  Read it.

The difference between hot pepper sauce and wing sauce.

The four bottles pictured above were the top four in the Serious Eats wing sauce taste test.  Aside from their #1, Anchor Bar, (which I've not tasted), I have tried the other three (and their cayenne pepper sauces too).  I use Frank's because it is my favorite (and it's worth noting the winner of Serious Eats best hot pepper sauce taste test).  So, what is the difference between bottled hot pepper sauces and wing sauces?  Wing sauces simply have butter flavoring added to them.

While bottled wing sauce is convenient, you're getting butter flavoring rather than real butter.  If it is convenience you need, go for it -- bottled wing sauces taste just fine unless your tasting them side-by-side one made with real-deal melted butter.  Interestingly enough, if you take the time to read the back label on any bottle of cayenne pepper sauce, you'll find instructions for making wing sauce -- and it simply says to mix their hot sauce with some amount of melted butter.

Try my Frank's-Style Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09482ff0970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

06/11/2022

~Defining Neapolitan, New York & Sicilian-Style Pizza~

IMG_7184I never met a pizza I didn't like, and, pizza is one of my favorite subjects.  That said, a great pizza starts with a great crust, but, finding a pizza dough recipe to suit your requirements is not as easy as the ingredients list indicates:  flour, water, salt, yeast, and sometimes sugar and/or olive oil. Cooks who take pizza making seriously have more than one pizza dough recipe in their repertoire because certain pizzas require a certain type of crust -- there's no getting around it.  Beyond that, within each type, everyone who takes pizza making seriously, professionally or at home, makes their dough a bit differently -- there's no getting around that.  Pizza dough and pizza is personal -- there's no getting around that either.  That said, if you are new to pizza dough, sans a lot of the chemistry and science behind pizza dough, here's a bit of helpful background:  

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d16f592d970cThe three best-known Italian-style pizzas are:  1)  Neapolitan Pizza:  A simple dough containing high-gluten flour, water, salt and yeast that gets a long 2-3 day rise in the refrigerator.  Baked hot and fast, in 1-2 minutes, it's got a thin crispy bottom and a super-airy, chewy center.  2)  New York-Style Pizza: A more complex dough containing all-purpose or bread flour, water, olive oil, salt, sugar and yeast that gets a shorter 8-12 hour rise in the refrigerator.  Baked in a slightly more moderate oven for a longer period of time, 12-15 minutes, while crisp, it's tender, slightly-chewy center makes it pliable enough to fold in half.  While still a thin crust pizza, it is slightly thicker than its Neapolitan cousin.  3) Sicilian-Style Pizza:  Containing the same ingredients as New York-Style pizza, this distinctively thick-crust, square-shaped pizza gets baked with little or no rising time and is the easiest of the three to duplicate in the home kitchen.  It gets patted out into a rectangular pan or sheet tray that has been slathered with olive oil, which when baked in a moderate-for-pizza oven (350-375 degrees) for 12-15 minutes literally fries the bottom of the crust to a crispy state.  With a golden, crisp-fried bottom and a thick, soft, chewy center, this one is, perhaps, my favorite.

Try my favorite Sicilian-Style Semolina Pizza dough recipe:

6a0120a8551282970b026bdec0a27b200cTry my A-1 All-Purpose Bread-Machine Pizza Dough Recipe:

6a0120a8551282970b026bde9755bf200c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022

06/08/2022

~Detroit-Style Brick Cheese Pizza is All About the Pan~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098b4233970dLong story short, Detroit-style pizza is a rectangular-shaped deep-deep-dish pan pizza -- it is a descendent of the rectangular-shaped Sicilian-style pizza.  That said, in the case of this specialty pizza, it really is all about the pan -- the man pan.  Without the pan, one can't really appreciate the full experience.  Luckily, the pans are easy to fine online and very affordable too.  Read on:

Lloyd Pans & Kitchenware, a Wisconsin-based company, manufacturers several styles of pans for pizzerias all over the world, including all of the top 10 pizza chains in the USA.  Their pans revolutionized how pizzas are baked -- their pans improve the quality of the pizza by providing the ability to achieve excellent results by all who use them.  From thin crust to pan pizza, deep dish and flatbread, their pans make great pizza.  They require no seasoning, minimal or no oiling, and, the permanent, Dura-Kote, easy-release finish, safe to 700° F., will never flake or chip off.

Detroit-Style Pizza =  A Rectangular, Deep-Deep-Dish, Pan Pizza.  Detroit-Style Pizza = A Descendant of Sicilian-Style Pizza. 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e8a675970bThe history of Detroit-style pizza is a tale about a man and his (idea of a) pizza pan, and, pizza-loving residents of the Motor City have been fighting over a corner slice of this pizza since 1946. Gus Guerra, owner of a neighborhood bar, Buddy's Rendezvous, decided to "throw" his wife Anna's mother's Sicilian-style pizza dough into a unique, rectangular-shaped, deep-sided, blue-steel pan that was originally used to hold auto parts. Topped with pepperoni, Wisconsin brick cheese and sauce (in that order), Gus's pizza emerged with a thick, soft, airy crust with a crispy exterior and caramelized edges.  It would soon be affectionately named Detroit Pizza. The legend is that Gus was given his initial pans from a friend and customer who worked in an auto factory.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098b4073970dBrick cheese, which is native to Wisconsin, is also available on-line, and, while you don't need it to make Detroit-style pizza, it's fun to order some and try it along with your new pan.  It's white to pale yellow in color and can range from sweet, buttery and mild when young, to strong, sharp and savory when aged.  It  melts great, which means it can be used in a wide variety of of other dishes too.  For starters, it goes great with crackers and fruit. It's the kind of cheese you want on your pizza, in your mac n' cheese, in your grilled-cheese sandwich, and, potatoes gratin.

Try my Detroit-Style Brick Cheese & Pepperoni Pan Pizza:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e8a64b970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kichen/Copyright 2022)

06/05/2022

~Welsh Rarebit or Rabbit = the Original Cheese Toast~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d01e02970cSay cheese please -- lots and lots of hot and bubbling, oooey, gooey cheese please.  If those words got you salivating, try these on for size:  a savory cheese sauce made from sharp cheddar cheese, egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, English mustard and beer slathered onto thick-slices of toasted bread and broiled until bubbly.  Here in America, when a cheesy craving hits us, we treat ourselves to an all-American grilled cheese sandwich.  The British have a different twist on it, and Welsh rarebit is referred to as the original cheese toast (or cheese on toast).

Welsh rarebit (pronounced rabbit) is a traditional British dish made by ladling a thickened, sometimes roux-based, cheese sauce over crustless, thick-sliced ever-so-slightly-toasted bread, then quickly broiling the two until the sauce is bubbling and barely-light-golden.  Basic rarebit sauce is made by melting a hard English cheese (like cheddar, gloucester, cheshire or lancashire) with cayenne pepper, English mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, milk and beer.  Another, easier (cheaters) method, it to simply melt sliced cheese atop lightly-toasted bread that has been slathered with mixture of softened butter, mustard, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper. 

Welsh rabbit is the original name, and, the dish is Welsh in origin, dating back to the 1700's.  The Welsh, who are famous for their love of cheese, claim to be among the first to use cheese in various dishes and sauces.  In their food world, the original name, rabbit, was an affectionate way to say, "we prefer eating cheese to eating rabbit".  In their real world, Wales was an impoverished nation and many a Welshman couldn't afford even the cheapest meat.  Others claim the original name, after making its way into English kitchens, was meant to cast aspersions on the Welsh, who were allegedly not adept at catching rabbits -- and "rabbit" changed to "rarebit" spurred by the need for political correctness.  Still others claim the Welsh peasants, who weren't allowed to eat the rabbits caught during the hunts on the estates of the nobles, eating melted cheese and bread as a substitute, named the dish.  Culinary authorities, like Auguste Escoffier, say the spelling was changed from "rabbit" to "rarebit" merely to emphasize it not being a meat dish.

Say Cheese Please -- Try my recipe for Perfect Welsh Rarebit:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d01ceb970c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

06/02/2022

~My Frittata Formula -- To Feed Two, a Few or a Crew~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d26904a1970cLearning to make a frittata is a valuable culinary lifeskill.  Commonly referred to as the Italian version of an omelette, a frittata is a concoction of whisked eggs and cream, sliced, diced or chopped previously-cooked vegetables, meat or seafood and/or grated cheese.  I prefer to compare it to a custard-like quiche without a crust rather than an omelette because, like a quiche, a frittata is traditionally round and rather thick -- not at all elongated and comparatively flat (like the French and American omelettes).  There's more.  I think of an omelette as something that goes from stovetop to table in a few short moments -- something that will get you fed in a hurry with no stress and little mess.  That's not the case with frittata, which takes 30+ minutes.

With a formula, a frittata can be made for two, a few or a crew.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09809192970dThe Italian word frittata derives from the word friggere, which roughly means "fried.  This is why frittata is traditionally associated with a skillet, namely a cast-iron skillet.  If a casserole dish is more convenient, by all means use one -- simply season and sauté your fillings ingredients in a skillet, and toss them into the bottom of a casserole that has been sprayed with no-stick spray, add the whisked egg and cream mixture and bake as directed.   To make three sizes of frittata in either an oven-safe, deep-sized cast-iron skillet or in a casserole, measure as follows:

10" cast-iron skillet or 3-qt. casserole = 12 ex.-large eggs, 1 cup cream, 6 cups add-ins*

8" cast-iron skillet or 2-qt. casserole = 9 ex.-large eggs, 3/4 cup cream 4 1/2 cups add-ins*

6" cast-iron skillet or 1 1/2-qt. casserole = 6 ex.-large eggs, 1/2  cup cream 3 cups add-ins*

*I don't include grated melting cheese (American, cheddar, gruyère, fontina or mozzarella) or crispy-fried bacon bits in the add-ins total because neither adds a lot of overall volume.  Add 1 cup, 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup cheese, &/or, 1/2 cup, 1/4 cup or 2 tablespoons bacon bits.

A bit about add-in vegetables.  Sautéed vegetables or a medley of vegetables can be added, as long as they are cooked in some manner first.  Why?  Vegetables, particularly those that contain lots of liquid, unless cooked first, will render the frittata watery.  Root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots, won't fully-cook if not given a head start on the stovetop.  Onions and/or garlic are almost always added. Other options include asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, peas, and/or mushrooms.  They all work great.  Extremely watery vegetables, like tomatoes, summer squash and and zucchini work well too, but the extra step of seeding prior to sautéing is recommended.

A bit about add-in meats or seafood.  When it comes to meat or seafood, the same rules apply:  if it's cooked first it can be added.  Leftover diced porcine, like ham or sausage crumbles, along with crispy-fried bacon bits are my three meaty favorites, and, crab meat or shrimp, or both, are divine. My kids liked frittata made with diced salami or pepperoni as a late night snack.   That said, if you like to eat steak with your eggs, by all means, throw in slivers of that leftover roasted or grilled red meat. Feel free to disagree, but, for my taste, poultry has no place in a frittata -- there is just something about chicken or turkey in an egg dish that I find unappealing (save it for a sandwich).

Bake @ 325º:  6" skillet/20 min.; 8" skillet/25 min.; 10" skillet/30 min.

Add 6-8 minutes extra baking time for any frittata baked in a casserole dish.  Why?  A frittata started in the skillet is hot -- a frittata assembled in the casserole is not.

Tips from Mel:  You can substitute half and half or whole milk, but anything less than full-fat dairy renders a rubbery rather than an unctuous frittata.  The worst mistake to make is to overbake a frittata.  If it's deep-golden on top, it's over-cooked in the center.  It should light in color and barely set, so, be sure to check it often during the cooking process.  Season your filling ingredients appropriately when sautéing them, to taste, with salt, pepper and/or herbs or spices. The same goes for the egg mixture:  whisk in the salt and pepper before pouring it into the skillet or casserole. Adding cheese?  Choose one with a good melting quality.  Aged cheeses, like Parmesan or Pecorino, which add sharp, salty flavor, don't melt great, but work nicely grated over the top of the finished frittata.  Never stir the frittata after the egg mixture has been added.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09810388970d

Start it on the stovetop in a oven-safe skillet & finish it in the oven, or:

assemble the ingredients in a casserole & bake it in the oven. 

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09810334970dThe egg mixture is poured into the same oven-safe skillet (usually cast-iron), the vegetables and or meats have been cooked or placed in.  The Frittata is started on the stovetop for a few moments, just long enough to allow the bottom of the mixture to solidify a bit, then finished in a moderate oven for 30-45 minutes depending on its size and the recipe.  That said, a frittata can be prepared in the skillet entirely on the stovetop, or, in a casserole entirely in the oven (usually to make a large-size frittata).  Frittata can be served directly from the pan, but, family-friendly-sized frittata is often inverted onto a platter, to reveal its golden crust, then sliced into wedges.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09810344970d

 

Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or late night snack, a frittata is a relatively-easy quick-to-make, hunger-satisfying meal.  It tastes great served hot, warm, at room temperature or cold, and, leftovers reheat beautifully in the microwave, which make it perfect for those who brown bag lunch.  A bit of slicing, dicing or chopping is typically required, but it's minimal, and, since frittata can be a tasty way to use up yummy leftovers, there are times when no knife is necessary.

For those times when you just gotta have frittata, try my recipe for:  Italian Sausage, Bell Peppers 'n Onions Frittata:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8ddd4d0970b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/29/2022

~ Mel's Savory Bread-Machine-Brioche French Toast ~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a734c2200bBecause I make brioche in my bread machine about once a week, the long task of baking brioche from scratch is a non-issue for me.  Not only do I have great bread on-hand all the time, this enables me to make remarkably awesome French toast any damned time I want to.  That said, not being a sweet-seeking kinda morning girl, I love to make a savory version of French toast by soaking thick slices of the brioche (which is enriched with milk, eggs, butter, sugar and salt) in a tangy, whole-grain mustard-laced milk and egg mixture.  It's marvelous served with grilled ham slices, fried bacon or sausage, along with eggs cooked in any manner I fancy them.

In the event you haven't learned this by now, the 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, 2-3-day old bread is dipped into a flavored egg/cream sweet or savory mixture, then fried in a skillet containing a coating of oil or a combination of butter and oil.  When executed correctly, it emerges from the skillet crisp and golden brown on both sides with a creamy center.  It's a decadent indulgence.

Great bread + three easy-peasy steps = a terrific breakfast. 

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4828282200dFor my savory French toast:

6,  3/4"-thick slices, 2-3 day old bread machine brioche

4  jumbo eggs

1  cup half and half

2  tablespoons whole-grain mustard

1  teaspoon each:  dry English mustard, Herbes de Provence and sea salt

1/2  teaspoon peppercorn blend 

4-6   tablespoons peanut or corn oil, for frying

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a722df200b 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a722df200bStep 1.  In a 2-cup measuring container, use a fork to whisk the eggs, half and half, whole grain mustard, English mustard, herbes de Provence, sea salt and peppercorn blend.  For six slices of bread, the magic measurement is 2 cups of liquid.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a7259f200b 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4828818200d 6a0120a8551282970b0240a45958df200c 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4828bdf200d 6a0120a8551282970b0240a45958e7200c~Step 2.  Arrange bread slices in 13" x 9" x 2" casserole -- overlapping is ok.  Pour egg mixture over bread and 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.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4828c78200d 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a72a3f200b 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a72a43200b 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a72a47200b 6a0120a8551282970b0240a4a72a4b200b~Step 3.  Preheat just enough oil to thinly-coat the bottom (about 1/16") of a 16" electric skillet over 260°-275° (medium on the stovetop).  Add the egg-soaked bread and gently cook, about 2-3 minutes per side, using a spatula to flip it over only once, until golden on both sides.  Turn the heat off and transfer the French toast to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Great bread + 3 easy-peasy steps = great breakfast for dinner!

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4596295200cMel's Savory Bread-Machine-Brioche French Toast:  Recipe yields 3 large servings or 6 smaller servings. 

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; serrated bread knife; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 2-cup measuring container; fork; 16" electric skillet; spatula; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b0240a48299aa200dCook's Note:  I won't lie, I don't love steak and eggs for breakfast.  I don't hate it, I just like bacon, sausage or ham better in the morning -- there is just something about porcine in the AM that makes me happy.  That said, I do like a steak omelette for dinner.  In fact, it's one of my favorite 'breakfast for dinner' meals. Don't try to psychoanalyze this -- it makes no sense.  Let's move on. ~ Steak, Peppers & Cheddar Chimichurri Omelette ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/26/2022

~Curry-Up with a Summertime Curried Chicken Salad~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad36f72e5200cJust like I have preferences in movies, I have preferences in chicken salads. I prefer white-breast- over dark-thigh- meat, roasted chicken over poached, greasy rotisserie chicken makes me cringe, and, I want my chicken hand-pulled instead of diced or cubed, because the latter looks plasticy and fake.  Error on the side of under-dressing mine, as I want to taste the chicken, but yes, by all means, please add some lightly-toasted seeds or nuts for crunch.  I enjoy it served as a forkable salad or as a sandwich, but, if served as a salad I want it on tender soft lettuce leaves, and if served as a sandwich, I want it on soft-textured bread --  bibb lettuce and croissants are ideal.

When it comes to chicken salad, it's all about the chicken.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c92e1f14970bJulia Child said, "you can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by their roast chicken." I concur. If chicken is dry, I won't touch it.  It's gotta be moist, fork tender, nicely-seasoned, and, for chicken salad, snowy white. Poaching breasts or tenders in a mild court bouillon accomplishes that (and feel free to do it), but, there is nothing tastier than the juicy white meat pulled away from the breast bone of a perfectly-roasted whole chicken:  ~ This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken ~.

My recipe is written to make two servings.

Because I prefer to eat chicken salad after being chilled 2-4 hours or the same day it's prepared, although the next day is ok too, I don't much enjoy it past that point, so I only make as much as I need, which is enough for 2 days.  As written, my recipe makes two very generous servings -- three smaller servings.  Want to make more?  Do the math with the help of this:

1/2 of a whole chicken breast split in half = about 8-9 ounces

8-9 ounces chicken breast = about 2 cups pulled chicken

2  cups pulled chicken breast = about 2 servings

2  servings my curried chicken salad = about 2 3/4-3 cups

2 servings = enough to generously fill 4 mini or 2 large croissants

6a0120a8551282970b022ad36f67e4200c1/2 of a whole roasted chicken breast, pulled into bite-sized pieces, about 2 cups

1/2  cup medium-diced celery

6  tablespoons raisins, golden or dark, your choice

3  tablespoons  small-diced roasted & salted cashews

1/2  cup high-quality mayonnaise

2  tablespoons Patek's sweet mango chutney

2  teaspoons Madras curry powder

1/2  teaspoon dehydrated onion flakes

2-4  soft bibb lettuce leaves per salad or sandwich, depending on size of lettuce leaves

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3959bb1200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad36f6ac6200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad36f6ad3200c 6a0120a8551282970b022ad3959bbc200d 6a0120a8551282970b022ad36f6adc200c~Step 1.  Place chicken, celery, raisins and cashews in a medium bowl. Set aside.  In a small-capacity food processor fitted with steel blade, place mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder and onion flakes.  With motor running, process until thoroughly combined, 45-60 seconds.  Using a rubber spatula, transfer mayo mixture to chicken mixture and gently fold all the ingredients together.  Cover and place in the refrigerator until well-chilled, 2-4 hours or overnight.

Serve in a pretty bowl on a bed of lettuce leaves with a fork:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad36f94cc200cCurry-Up with a Summertime Curried Chicken Salad:  Recipe yields 2 3/4-3 cups curried chicken salad.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small capacity food processor; rubber spatula; 3-4-cup size food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3b52270200bCook's Note:  ~ A Peachy All-White-Meat 'Melanie' Chicken Salad ~ is another example of how persnickety I am about my chicken salad.  This one is modeled after the famous Marshall Field's department store's chicken salad dressed with their Maurice dressing.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/23/2022

~My Simon & Garfunkel Seasoning for Poultry or Pork~

6a0120a8551282970b01bb090a6a0d970dStore-bought seasoning blends and bottled sauces.  Every home cook has their favorite brands and there is no shame in that.  I am no exception.  When pressed for time, some days I reach for a container of Chef Paul Prudhomme's Meat Magic and other days a bottle K.C. Masterpiece will do just fine.  When correctly paired together, a high-quality store-bought spice blend and bottled sauce can be a busy cook's best time saver.  That said, all serious cooks make the time to prepare their favorite homemade concoctions too.  I am no exception, and, at any given time, if you peek into my pantry or refrigerator, you're bound to find a few that I keep on-hand.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1f01c61970cSimon & Garfunkel Seasoning.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme + a little granulated garlic, sea salt and pepper too.  Quickly mix them all together and you've got a dynamite seasoning blend for pork -- it's great on the other white meat, poultry, and, vegetables too.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0909c696970dPair it with any type of sweet and savory sauce and you've got the makings for all sorts of great grill-meals -- chops, ribs & kabobs (and I love it on potatoes too).  To be honest, it's a pleasant change-of-pace from the typical chile-powder-based blends that hook up with tomato-based barbecue sauces in the end to flavor our porcine and poultry. Everyone loves them, including me, but, let's face it, it's going to be a long, hot Summer.  It's time to add something new to your grill-meal rotation:  A unique seasoning blend with your favorite sauce combination

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0909c851970d2 teaspoons each: dried parsley flakes, rubbed dalmatian sage, crushed rosemary, thyme leaves, granulated garlic powder and cracked black pepper

4 teaspoons sea salt

Tip from Mel:  Don't throw those empty bottles of dried herbs and spices away.  Hang onto them to use for your own concoctions.

Try my Herbed Chicken or Pork Kabobs:

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0909e769970dAnd my Herbaceous Simon & Garfunkel Roasted Potatoes:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1c1204b970cMy Simon & Garfunkel Seasoning for Poultry or Pork:  Recipe yields about 6 tablespoons herbed seasoning blend for poultry, pork or vegetables.

Special Equipment List: small bowl; spoon; shaker-type spice container container 

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87ff653970bCook's Note: While I like fruit desserts as much as the next person, I like savory fruit sauces just as much, and, peaches lend their sweet and tart flavor to barbecue sauce, which complements poultry or pork, amazingly well.  I make peach preserves every year, so I have them on-hand in my freezer all year -- it's a delicious way to make use of an overabundance in a hurry. Peach preserves, combined with bits of sweet onion star in my luscious recipe for ~ Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce for Poultry or Pork ~.

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

(Recipe, Photos and Commentary courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/20/2022

~The Difference between Frozen-Custard & IceCream~

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3992021200bThe Summer holidays are just around the corner.  Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day -- they are indeed our country's Summertime patriotic big-three, but, all are also associated with laid-back atmospheres full of fun activities shared family, friends and, of course, food.  Whether it be an outdoor picnic in the grass under a shade tree at the park, or on a blanket on a sandy beach, or eating from grill-to-table around the backyard pool or on the patio, or, simply story-telling in the night-air gathered around the campfire, nothing screams Summer like a scoop or two of home-churned ice-cream or custard heaped into a crispy cone or atop a slice of pie.

During June, July and August and into September, we will all most likely eat more ice cream than we did during the past nine months.  In my kitchen, during the next few months, I'll be making more than I did during the past nine too.  Whatever flavor I've got churning, vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, everyone I know (myself included) will generically refer to it as ice cream.  That said, what I'll technically be making is frozen custard, and, if you make homemade ice cream, I'm betting you're most likely making old-fashioned frozen custard (or a version of it), too.

The difference between ice cream & frozen custard:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3992047200bStore-bought ice cream is made from milk or skim milk, or a combination of milk or skim milk with a bit of cream added, corn syrup or sugar, and flavorings.  Egg yolks are sometimes added, but are not required.  Ice cream is made in a machine that pumps lots of air into it while it churns, which yields a light mouthfeel.  It is federally defined as:  a frozen dessert containing 10% milk fat. That said, the old-fashioned simplicity of making home-churned ice cream has been so convoluted by high-tech machinery (to insure its consistent, signature, hand-scoop-able texture), not to mention the additives, preservatives and stabilizers (for a long and palatable shelf life in the freezer), one couldn't reproduce it adequately in the home kitchen, even if one was inclined to try.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39931a4200bFrozen custard is made from whole milk, or a combination of milk and cream, egg yolks, sugar and flavorings.  Egg-yolks are a requirement, and regulations require 1.4% egg yolks by weight.  The higher fat content (from milk and/or cream) gives it a rich, luxurious taste.  Whether made in a hand-crank or commercial machine, frozen custard is churned at a slow pace, to incorporate little air, giving it its dense texture.  Because it melts almost on contact with the lips (similar to soft serve ice cream), it is best served immediately, directly from the machine it was made in.

Frozen-custard and ice-cream  recipes are not created equal.  Sometimes the consistency is too soft, sometimes its too dense, or worse, sometimes it's full of nasty ice crystals.  Some recipes are cloyingly sweet, and other times, there's simply not enough flavoring added.  Frozen custard and ice-cream are both emulsions with two components (fat and water) that need lots of encouragement to meld, by adding components that absorb water (sugar, starch and protein).

A bit of rich & creamy frozen-custard history:

Frozen custard was invented on Coney Island, NY, in 1919.  Two ice-cream venders, Archie and Elton Kohr, discovered that when they added egg yolks to their home-made ice-cream base, they produced a richer, creamier, smoother ice cream.  On the first weekend they sold 18,460 cones. They had invented the precursor to our present-day soft-serve ice cream, with one exception: little air was pumped into their product.  As described above, true frozen custard is quite dense.  The mixture enters a refrigerated tube, and, as it freezes, blades scrape the frozen product from the sides of the barrel walls.  Unlike hand-scooped ice cream, the mixture stays in the machine, being discharged directly into cones or cups, on an as-needed basis, to be served immediately.

Try my Old-Fashioned Vanilla-Custard Ice-Cream Base:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3794919200dAnd my Old-Fashioned Chocolate-Custard Ice-Cream Base:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39a9394200bOr, my Old-Fashioned Very Strawberry-Custard Ice-Cream Base:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37bb114200d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)

05/17/2022

~Retro Casseroles: àla King, Divan, Tetrazzini & Tuna~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d24259f9970cNow retro, chicken àla king, chicken divan, chicken tetrazzini and tuna-noodle casserole are four of my favorite vintage recipes.  When one writes a cooking blog long enough, one learns that sharing vintage recipes is as important as sharing trending, innovative new ones.  Experience has taught, "what's old is always new to someone", and cooks of all experience levels appreciate learning about it.  Experience has also taught: "what's old has often been lost to someone", as many times, these retro classics, which evoke fond memories, have been lost (grandma never taught it, shared it, or worse, never wrote it down), or, it got tossed (instead of being handed down from generation to generation).  I am grateful mom and grandma gave me their recipes.

My recipe for All-American Chicken à la King:

6a0120a8551282970b0278807e25c1200dÀ la king is a refined, American restaurant dish consisting of poached white-meat chicken or turkey stirred into a silky sherry-cream béchamel-type sauce containing mushrooms, and, green peppers (peas are substituted by people who don't care for peppers).  Classically, it's served served over toast points, puff pastry or rice (noodles or pasta are acceptable substitutions). 

My recipe for Classic & Comforting Chicken Divan:

6a0120a8551282970b0282e1551868200bChicken divan is a baked casserole containing poached white-meat chicken and blanched broccoli florets enrobed in béchamel sauce (it's called Morney sauce if cheese is added).  It was invented in the 1940's and was a popular, medium-budget chicken entrée on the menus of fine-dining restaurants and country club catering menus during the 1960's and 70's,

Get tangled up in my recipe for Chicken or Turkey Tettrazini:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c72478200dTetrazzini is a rich dish of cooked, stranded pasta (angel hair or thin spaghetti) tossed with chards of cooked poultry (all-white chicken or turkey breast) or pieces of succulent seafood (never red meat) enrobed in a sherry-cream Parmesan-cheese sauce.  Lightly sautéed mushrooms (a requirement for the dish) get tossed in, along with some optional steamed peas and carrots too.

Tune into my Made-from-Scratch Tuna Noodle Casserole:

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8b89322970bTuna Noodle Casserole is a classic 1950's retro dinner made from canned tuna, peas, onions, noodles and a creamy sauce (that in the past meant using canned cream of mushroom soup -- not in my recipe). Once in the casserole, it gets topped with with a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  It was touted as a dish that was ready to eat in under 45 minutes.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2022)