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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 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

02/16/2018

~ Warm and Cozy Crockpot Casserole Rice Pudding ~

IMG_4654Hear me out -- rice pudding made in the crockpot or slow cooker is never, EVER going to be competitive in a contest with the super-creamy-textured stovetop-cooked rice pudding made with Arborio-type rice simmered in a custard-esque cream and tempered-egg mixture.  It won't happen and ignore those who promise it will -- but, don't let this information lower your expectations.  Rice pudding made in the crockpot is simply scrumptious, and, seriously easy to make too, so:

On the days when the machinations of hovering over rice pudding made on the stovetop is just too much fuss...

IMG_4642... simply allow the crockpot to do the work for you.

IMG_45861  cup fragrant jasmine rice, or long-grain white rice

1  cup dark raisins

1  cup sugar

5  cups half-and-half, plus up to 1/2 cup additional cream, if desired

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1  tablespoon butter-rum flavoring

1/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

4  tablespoons salted butter, melted

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing crock casserole

IMG_4630 IMG_4630 IMG_4630 IMG_4630~Step 1.  In a fine mesh strainer, thoroughly rinse the rice under cold running water for one full minute, gently shaking the strainer as you rinse to make sure all the grains get rinsed and drained.  Spray the inside (bottom and sides) of crock casserole with no-stick spray.  Add the rinsed rice, raisins, sugar, half-and-half, vanilla extract, butter-rum flavoring, cinnamon and salt to the crock.  Using a large spoon, give the mixture a gentle but thorough stir.

IMG_4600 IMG_4600 IMG_4600 IMG_4600 IMG_4636 IMG_4636~Step 2.  In microwave, melt the butter and drizzle it over the top of the rice mixture.  Do not stir. Place the lid on the crock, adjust heat to high and cook for 3 hours.  Turn the crockpot off, and allow the mixture to steep for 1 more hour, to allow rice to absorb excess moisture.  Give the mixture a stir.  If you want it a bit creamier, stir in up to 1/2 cup additional half-and-half.  Serve warm or at room temp.  Reheat individual portions gently in the microwave along with a splash of additional half-and-half stirred into each one (if desired).

Curl up on the sofa w/a good book or a great movie...

IMG_4658... & 4 hours later, enjoy a bowl of warm & cozy happiness:

IMG_4664Warm and Cozy Crockpot Casserole Rice Pudding:  Recipe yields 6 cups.

Special Equipment List:  fine mesh strainer; Crockpot casserole or another 3 1/2-4-quart slow-cooker; 1-quart measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b017d42943ffe970c-800wiCook's Note:  ~ My Creamy, Orange-Kissed Arborio Rice Pudding ~.  Technically, while rice pudding is not a custard per se, this type of rice pudding is prepared in the manner of custard, which is:  a sweetened egg/milk mixture that has been cooked gently on the stovetop or baked in a low oven. Stirred custards are usually made in a double boiler, while baked custards get cooked in a warm water bath, which is not the case in most rice pudding recipes. That said, "custard" was the best term I could think of to describe its preparation.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018) 

02/14/2018

~ Creamy-Coconut & Spicy-Hot Jamaican Pork Curry ~

IMG_4558Throughout the Caribbean, porcine reigns supreme, and, when it comes to perfectly-balanced, bright, slightly-sweet and spicy-hot curry blends, the Jamaicans have cornered the market.  That said, the world is full of curries, they are all different, and, for the home cook, it's almost impossible to prepare an authentic curry outside of the region it's prepared in, within its country of origin.  Why?  Because outside of the United States, curry is not a store-bought dried spice blend or wet paste that produces a predictable end result.  They're hand-made, mortar-and-pestle pulverized, dry or pasty concoctions of spices or herbs, the amounts of which vary to suit the palate of each family or cook -- on a daily basis -- Jamaican cooks are no exception.

Curry is anything but generic.  Culinarily, it's a complex topic:

"Curry" is a catch-all English (British) term used in Western cultures to denote stewike dishes from Southern and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa and the Caribbean. Dishes called curry are relatively easy to prepare and can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish. Seasonal vegetables can be included, or, the dish can be made only of vegetables (vegetarian). Some curries cook quickly, others cook slowly, some are thick, some are thin, many are economical weeknight meals, while others are expensive and reserved for celebrations.  Most curries are cooked in large shallow skillets or woks with lids, and, most curries are paired with some type of white rice.  

IMG_4551Curries can be "wet" or "dry".  What is common to wet curries is the use of cream, coconut milk or yogurt, and occasionally stock, to prepare the sauce ("kari" is the Indian word for "sauce").  They don't tend to be overly-thickened (gravylike), and, they aren't spicy hot (although they can be). This evolved out of necessity.  Water was often scarce and/or its use in cooking had to be avoided, so, the "creamers" were used as a silky, rich, substitution for water, not as a thickener. Dry curries are cooked in very little liquid in sealed pots.  Almost all of the liquid evaporates during the lengthy cooking process, leaving the ingredients heavily coated in the spice mixture.

The case for using commercial curry powders or pastes.

There are kitchen decisions that only the cook can make, and, in the American kitchen, for the average American cook, convenience typically triumphs over authenticity.  That said, it's not because the average American cook is lazy or uncreative.  In my case, I purchase high-quality blends or pastes because, on any given day, all the ingredients necessary to make a dry blend or a wet paste are not always available at the same time.  There's more.  Some concoctions contain ten or more sometimes-pricey ingredients, which after being mixed together, do not have a long shelf life, so, a portion of my investment and hard work can end up being thrown away.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d287a355970cCurry powders and pastes cannot be used interchangeably.

Curry blends and pastes are not created equal.  For example:  When I make curry, sometimes I make Thai curry (which requires green, red or yellow paste), sometimes I make Indian curry (which relies on garam masala), and, sometimes I make Jamaican curry, which has its own flavor profile.  Know the country of the curry you're preparing and don't substitute one type for another.

Jamaican-Style Curry Powder.

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

Tonight, creamy, spicy Jamaican curry is what I am craving:

This four-season recipe makes a good-sized quantity, twelve dinner-sized servings (or sixteen+ luncheon-sized servings). That sounds like a lot, but, leftovers reheat perfectly, so the little bit of extra slicing and dicing is worth the extra effort -- plus, it freezes well too.  There's more.  Like many stews, it tastes even better the second day, so, it can be made ahead and served with freshly-steamed rice without compromise -- which is convenient if you're entertaining. That said, if you don't want leftovers, cut the recipe in half (and prepare it in a smaller skillet).

IMG_33711  bone-in Boston butt pork roast, about 7-8 pounds total

4  tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil, for preparing skillet

2  teaspoons sea salt, total throughout recipe, 1 teaspoon for seasoning meat and 1 teaspoon for seasoning vegetables

2  cups each:  1/2" diced green and red bell pepper

IMG_45401-1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

1  cup chopped cilantro leaves + plus additional leaves for garnish

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

6  tablespoons hot Jamaican curry powder

2  teaspoons garlic paste

2  teaspoons ginger paste

1/2  teaspoon habanero powder IMG_4227(Note:  Jamaicans typically use fresh Scotch Bonnet chilies for heat, which I don't always have access too, but, the slightly-citrusy flavor of incendiary habanero powder, which I keep on my spice rack, is a marvelous substitute.)

3  14-ounce cans coconut milk, shaken or stirred prior to using

6  cups uncooked jasmine rice, or, 12 cups steamed jasmine rice, cooked via your favorite method

IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376 IMG_3376~Step 1.  Remove pork from packaging.  Trim off "fat cap" layer. Starting at bone-free-end, cut into 3/4"-1"-thick steaks, then, cut steaks into 1"-1 1/4" chunks.  When you get to the bone-in-end, do your best to cut around the bone, cutting the meat into 1"-1 1/4" chunks.  As you work, discard any chunks that are almost all fat.  When finished, there will be 4+ pounds of trimmed, nicely-marbled pork.  The goal is to have well-marbled pieces, not, fat-laden chunks.

IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411 IMG_3411~Step 2.  Place and heat the 1/4 cup oil in a 14" chef's pan over medium-high heat.  Add the pork cubes and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt.  Adjust heat to sauté, using a large spatula to stir frequently, until meat is lightly-browned on all sides, and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pan, about 18-20-22 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

IMG_4225 IMG_4225 IMG_4225 IMG_4225~Step 3.  Prep the green and red bell peppers, onion and cilantro as directed, placing them in the chef's pan as you work.  Add the diced tomatoes, curry powder, garlic paste, ginger paste and remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Add the coconut milk and stir to thoroughly combine.

IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243 IMG_4243~Step 4.  Over medium- medium-high heat bring mixture to a rapid simmer, stirring frequently.  Once simmering, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently for 40-45 minutes, until nicely thickened.  Turn heat off, cover pan, and allow the curry to steep on the warm stovetop, another 40-45 minutes to allow the flavors time to marry.  Steam rice while curry steeps and serve warm curry over steamed rice.

Serve warm curry over freshly-steamed white rice:

IMG_4559A creamy-rich & spicy hot bowl of Jamaican love: 

IMG_4564Creamy-Coconut & Spicy-Hot Jamaican Pork Curry:  Recipe yields 4-5 quarts/16-20 cups pork curry mixture/12 large dinner-sized servings or 16+ smaller luncheon-sized servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 14" chef's pan w/straight, deep sides & lid; large spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fc4526c4970bCook's Note: I do not profess to knowing a lot about India or being an authority on authentic Indian cuisine.  I have never had the opportunity to travel there, however, I have had the pleasure of having been entertained, on several occasions back in the early 1980's, in the home of a neighborhood couple, who just happened to hail from India.  My recipe for ~ Easy Indian Curry in a Hurry w/No Worry ~, is a testament to one of the many wonderful dishes I was introduced to at their dinner table.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

02/11/2018

~Pork Butt Blade Steaks w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce~

IMG_4501Known as pork steaks, pork butt steaks or pork blade steaks, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork.  Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs*, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask my butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-here steaks for me.  Perhaps this post will help them to catch on "here in the counties", and start showing up in our local markets.

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

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d35058970c"Pork butt" or "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog. Smoked or barbecued, Boston butt is a southern tradition.  This cut of meat got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

Butcher's in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork 6a0120a8551282970b01bb09ec4b35970dshoulder then packed and stored the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies.  Simply stated:  the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, evolved into the name "Boston butt".

IMG_4424Steaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

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

Note:  These 8 steaks, weighing a total of 8.05 pounds, cost $14.33.  That's a whole lot of economical wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family with big appetites to feed.

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

IMG_4462As for seasonings, salt and pepper is all they require, but, they play well with dry seasoning blends or wet marinades too -- and, they love to be slathered with BBQ sauce at the end.

Choose side-dishes to complement the seasonings used & set the table:

Pork steaks cook to an internal temp of 145° in a short 5-6 minutes per side.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87ff653970bThere are no words to tell you how well my Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce for Poultry or Pork, which is made with my Perfect Peach Preserves from the Bread Machine (which I keep on hand in my freezer) and a host of aromatic spices (allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and mace to name a few), pairs with these pork steaks. Store-bought peach preserves will work just fine too, so, don't let that sway you from taking the few minutes to make this divine sauce for your pork blade steaks.

How to cook great pork steak indoors on a grill pan:

IMG_4426 IMG_4426 IMG_4426Step 1.  I'm demo-ing one steak today, so I'm using my 10"-round grill pan.  To cook 4 steaks at once, I use my bigger double-burner-sized grill pan.  To cook 8 steaks at once, I use both of my double-burner grill pans.

IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432 IMG_4432~Step 2.  Spray a grill pan with no-stick spray and place over medium-high heat.  Place a 3/4"-thick, room-temperature pork butt blade steak on the hot grill grids.  Season with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, about 5 grinds of salt and 10 grinds of peppercorn blend.  If you have a bacon press, place it on top of steak -- this will hold it closer to the heat which makes for prettier grill marks -- if you don't have a bacon press, no big deal.  Cook steak on first side for 5 minutes, or until golden grill marks appear, but do not cook it longer than 6 minutes.  Flip steak over.  Season the cooked first side with salt and pepper, place the optional bacon press back on top and cook for 5 (and no more than 6) more minutes.  Turn the heat off and allow steak to rest, in pan, for 3 minutes.

Slice in half on a diagonal (half bone-in, half boneless)...

IMG_4478... & top w/a big dollop of Peachy Keen Barbecue Sauce:

IMG_4475Serve w/a side of my Creamy Crunchy Cole Slaw & dig in!

IMG_4531Pork Butt Blade Steaks w/Peachy Keen BBQ Sauce:  Recipe yields instructions to cook 3/4"-thick pork steaks indoors on a grill pan.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately sized grill pan (a sauté pan may be substituted); large spatula or bacon fork (for flipping steaks over); bacon press (optional)

IMG_3530Cook's Note:  Pork shoulder or pork butt, when trimmed and cut into 3/4"-1" cubes makes marvelous chili.  For one of my favorite New-Mexico-Style versions, try my recipe for Hatch Green Chile Chili with Pork and White Beans.  Make a big batch because it freezes great.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)