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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

03/21/2017

~Bierock: A Savory Meat, Cabbage & Onion Turnover~

IMG_7006In the case of the Eastern European bierock, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.  Unlike pizza, hot dog, hamburger and taco, the word bierock conjures up no image in the mind of many foodies.  It's worth mention there is no mention of it in The Food Lover's Companion or The Oxford Companion to Food.  There's more.  Even if you did grow up in or around an Eastern European household or community (I did), there is a good chance you have no idea if a bierock is animal, vegetable or mineral (I didn't).  The reason is:  the rather obscure bierock is credited specifically to the German-Russian Mennonites that lived along the Volga River of Russia.

Experts say we have Russia's most famous empress, Catherine the Great, to thank for the bierock.  In 1763, she offered incentives for Germans to settle in the portion of her empire along the Volga River. Things changed for them, when, in the 1870's, Alexander II decreed that these now German-Russian citizens would have to pay higher taxes than others and spend years serving in the military.  They moved to regions of Argentina and the Plains States of America (Nebraska, the Dakotas, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma).

IMG_6969Bierock (pronounced bürrock not beer-rock), is an enriched, sweetened yeast-dough, portable pocket sandwich.  The bread dough (similar to brioche because is contains milk, egg and sugar), fully-encases a savory filling containing seasoned and cooked ground or minced meat (usually beef or pork), shredded cabbage or sauerkraut, diced onions and sometimes grated carrots.  The loose-meat filled sandwich, approximately the size and  shape of a round hamburger bun, gets baked in the oven until golden, and, because the crust is bread rather than pastry, it can be eaten hot, warm, at room temperature, and, it reheats well too.  While a bierock can be shaped in almost any way the cook desires (to resemble a small elongated hot-dog roll, a half-moon or a crescent), it is worth mention that a square-shaped bierock is often referred to as a runza -- especially in Nebraska where it is trademarked by Nebraska-based Runza Restaurants.

IMG_6983A bit about my "byurek" recipe for "bierocks":

My first encounter with a bierock came in the 1990's, except, I had no idea I was eating a bierock. Joe and I were invited for cocktails by new acquaintances, a couple we met at the tennis courts. Ed hailed from Chicago.  Ed was a mathematician and a tournament level chess player, and, his father, who owned a butcher shop, was of this specific German-Russian heritage -- the meats, sausages and cheeses from Ed's dad were amazing.  Ed's wife served "byureks" that evening (her spelling), along with an amazing sour-cream dressed chopped potato salad -- both paired great together along with our beer and vodka-based cocktails. It wasn't until a few years later, while in a bar in Illinois, that I saw the word "bierock" on the pub grub menu and "put two and two together".  In retrospect, I now wonder if her spelling, byurek, was phonetic -- an intentional attempt to help me to pronounce the word properly.   My filling recipe (below) is the one Lubov gave to me.  The bread dough is my own, as, Lubov used frozen bread dough.

Part One:  Preparing the Bierock Filling

IMG_6900Whatever recipe you use, bierock filling, which contains just three basic ingredients and seasoning, is quite easy to make.  In the case of my recipe, it's easy to commit to memory "two" ("too" -- pun intended).  I have two tips to offer too:  #1)  Liberally season the mixture -- nothing is worse than a bland-tasting bierock.  #2)  Prepare the filling several hours in advance -- it's best if the filling is at room temperature at assembly time.  There's more.  The filling can be made in large batches, portioned into 1-quart size food-storage containers and frozen.  Once thawed and at room temperature, this is enough to fill 1 1/2 dozen bierocks (1/4 cup filling per sandwich).

IMG_6853For my easy-to-remember two of everything bierock filling:

2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

2  pounds green cabbage, prior to coring and shredding

2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion (1, 12-ounce onion)

2  teaspoons garlic powder

2  teaspoons each:  sugar & salt

2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

Note:  If you've never tasted a bierock, think of it as a well-seasoned loose-meat sandwich. Purists like me will be the first to tell you NOT to add cheese to the sandwich under any circumstances -- it's just wrong.  That said, if, after the cabbage cooks down, you feel the need to add a bit of extra seasoning to the meat mixture, purists like me will look the other way if you add 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce to the filling mixture near the end of the cooking process.

IMG_6757 IMG_6760 IMG_6855 IMG_6860 IMG_6863~Step 1.  Note:  I'm using one-half of a 4-pound head of cabbage, sliced into 2 quarters today.  Alternatively, a 2-pound head, sliced into 4 quarters is the same thing.  

Using a large chef's knife remove the cores from the cabbage quarters.  Slice each quarter into 1/4" slices, then chop through the slices to cut the cabbage into chards and pieces.  This appears to be a lot of cabbage but it will lose most of its volume during the cooking process. Dice the onion as directed.

IMG_6868 IMG_6871 IMG_6872 IMG_6877~Step 2.  Place the ground beef, onion, and 1 teaspoon each of the the garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot over medium-high heat.  Cook until the beef, using a spatula to break it up into small bits and pieces as it cooks, until it's just cooked through -- until it has lost its pink color but shows no signs of browning -- about 8-9 minutes. Using a small ladle, remove and discard the liquid from the bottom of the pot, about 8-12 tablespoons.

IMG_6881 IMG_6885 IMG_6886 IMG_6889~Step 3.  Add the cabbage and season it with the remaining 1 teaspoon each of the garlic powder, sugar, salt and pepper.  Continue to cook, using a large spoon to keep the mixture moving, until cabbage has lost most of its volume, yet is green, sweet and tender, about 10-12 minutes. Taste after 8-9 minutes -- now is the time to add the optional 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce if you think it's necessary.  Do not allow the cabbage or the meat to brown. Cover the pot, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature, 4-6 hours.

Part Two:  Preparing the Brioche-type Bread Dough

Put down that package of frozen bread dough.  I am proud to say I have simplified this process so everyone, folks who don't have a clue how to bake bread and those who don't want to bake bread, can make beautiful bierocks from scratch.  In my opinion, the perfect bread for any type of soft sandwich roll is brioche -- an enriched dough made from butter, eggs, milk, salt, sugar and flour.  I make and rise my own recipe for brioche dough in the bread machine, which turns making bierocks (or any bread or rolls) from a chore to a breeze.  It doesn't get any easier than this.

IMG_68941  cup whole milk

6  tablespoons salted butter, cut into cubes 

5  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2  extra-large eggs

4 1/4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour

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

IMG_9056Step 1.  Always follow the instructions that came with your bread machine -- they all vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.  This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the kneading), has been inserted.  The instruction manual states to always insert the paddle  in this exact  position before adding any ingredients, so I do.

IMG_9059IMG_9062IMG_9064IMG_9065IMG_9068IMG_9073~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, heat the milk until steaming.  This is quickly and easily done in the microwave.  Add the sugar, salt and butter to the hot milk.  Using a fork, stir until butter has melted.  Pour  this mixture into the bread pan.

IMG_9076IMG_9083Step 3.  In the same 1-cup measure and using the same fork, whisk the egg to lightly beat it.  Add the beaten egg to the milk mixture in bread pan. Note:   "Wet ingredients first/dry ingredients second" is a rule in bread machine baking.

IMG_9085IMG_9087IMG_9099Step 4.  Add the flour to bread pan.  Do not mix or stir.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation in the top of the flour, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Add/pour the yeast into the indentation.

IMG_9102IMG_9104IMG_9105Step 5.  Insert bread pan into machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely in place. Close lid and plug machine in. Press "select" and click through the list of options until you reach the "dough" option. Press "start".  In my machine, my dough will have been kneaded and have gone through a first rise in 1 1/2 hours.

IMG_6905Step 6.  While the bread machine is preparing the bread dough:

Line 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans with parchment paper, ready a pastry board, a small rolling pin, a 1/4 cup measure, and, if you have one, get out your kitchen scale. Preheat oven to 350° with oven rack positioned in the center.

Part Three.  Assembling & Baking the Bierocks 

IMG_9114 IMG_6911 IMG_6912Step 1.  When the dough cycle is done, lightly oil your fingertips with some vegetable oil, remove the dough from the bread machine's bread pan (which will not be hot), briefly knead the dough in your oiled fingertips to form it into a smooth ball, then, place it on a kitchen scale.  You will have 2 pounds, 4 ounces of dough.  Divide the dough into 18, 2-ounce pieces -- I simply tear it into pieces with my fingertips.

IMG_6925 IMG_6929 IMG_6930 IMG_6934~Step 2.  Do not over think this.  Using a small rolling pin or your fingertips, on a pastry board, pat and press each piece of dough into a 4 1/2'-5"-round, about 1/4" thick.  Measure and place 1/4 cup of firmly-packed filling mixture in the center.  Pick up the North and South sides of the dough and overlap them. Pick up the East and West sides of the dough and overlap them.

IMG_6935 IMG_6942 IMG_6945 IMG_6948~Step 3.  Arrange the bierocks, well-apart and seam side down, on the parchment-lined baking pans.  Allow to rise, uncovered, for 45 minutes.  Do not shorten or skip this second rising time.

IMG_6906 IMG_6951 IMG_6957 IMG_6968 IMG_6961~Step 4.  Just prior to baking, using a fork, whisk 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon water.  Using a pastry brush, paint the entire surface of each bierock.  Place pan of rolls in preheated 350° oven, until golden brown, 16-18 minutes -- the seams will seal themselves as they bake. Using a thin spatula, transfer rolls to a cooling rack to cool 15-20 minutes or longer, prior to serving hot, warm or at room temperature.

Attention Happy Valley residents.  "Beer-rocks" have nothing to do w/The All-American Rathskeller or Rolling Rock beer -- but they'd be perfect pub grub served in that iconic joint!

IMG_6996Bierock:  A Savory Meat, Cabbage & Onion Turnover:  Recipe yields 8 cups/2 quarts filling and 2 pounds, 4 0unces brioche bread dough.  One quart (4 cups) of filling and two pounds, 4 ounces of dough is enough to make 1 1/2 dozen sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; spatula; small ladle; large spoon; bread machine; 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; kitchen scale; pastry board; small rolling pin; pastry brush; thin spatula; wire cooling rack

IMG_4021Cook's Note:  If you are wondering if pizza dough can be substituted in place of brioche bread dough, in honesty, it cannot.  If you want to stuff pizza dough with something, try my recipe for ~ Mel's Rotolo di Pizza (Stuffed Pizza Rolls/Bread) ~.  You can find this recipe in Categories 1, 2, 11, 12, 17, 18 or 22.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/18/2017

~ Simply: My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles ~

IMG_6830Throughout Eastern Europe, cooks make a side-dish that basically consists of green cabbage and egg noodles.  It's quick-and-easy, totally-delicious, unpretentious, old-world comfort food.  I simply refer to it as "cabbage and noodles" or "cabbage noodles", because every country has their own ethnic name and spelling for it and every cook is adamant that "their people" invented it -- the Eastern Europeans are no different than the French or the Italians in that respect.  Sigh.

IMG_1863Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to halusky, haluski, halushki, haluska etc.  They define them as "thick, soft, dumplings or noodles", and, "the name can refer to the dumplings themselves or the complete dish.".  I grew up eating the old-world ~ Slovak Grated Potato & Onion Dumplings ~, and we called them haluski.  When we were eating today's recipe, the version containing egg noodles and cabbage, we called them "easy haluski". You can find my haluski recipe in Categories 4, 12 or 14.

Cabbage is a staple in the Eastern European diet.  It's cheap, available all year, and, it stays fresh in the root cellar or vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for a long time.

IMG_6742In any given Eastern European household, the cabbage is braised using the same basic stovetop method, but, past that, it's made to that family's liking.  Some cooks braise it in bacon fat and add crisply-fried chards of bacon to the dish.  Other cooks, like my mom and grandmother, braise the cabbage in butter, because, believe it or not, some folks don't think everything tastes better with bacon -- we think everything tastes better with butter. Almost everyone adds onions and some folks add bits of garlic too. Everyone seasons the dish with salt and pepper, and, occasionally a few caraway seeds.  In my family's kitchens, freshly-sliced or a jar of well-drained sliced mushrooms are often added -- because we are mushroom lovers. 

IMG_6750In any given Eastern European household, the egg noodles, which are cooked separately and often made from scratch, are typically flat, wide-ish strands.  That said, for a simple weeknight side-dish, cooking a bag of store-bought egg noodles isn't a compromise.  Please try to use egg noodles, not pasta, and, if you've got cooked noodles leftover from soup, this is a tasty way to use them up.  Once cooked, the noodles are tossed with the cabbage and the dish is served, many times with a dollop of sour cream on top.  In my grandmother's kitchen, it was her go-to side-dish for ham, roast pork, pork chops, pork sausage or kielbasa. Feel free to add sliced or diced cooked meat to the mixture to serve it as a main-dish as well.

IMG_6841My family's version of butter-braised cabbage & egg noodles:

IMG_67721  stick salted butter

8  ounces yellow or sweet onion, sliced into thin, half-moon shapes

1  4 1/2- or 6-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, well-drained (optional)

2  teaspoons garlic powder

2  teaspoons sea salt

1-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

1  small, 2-pound head green cabbage or 1/2 of a large 4-pound head

12  ounces wide, flat egg-noodles, cooked and drained as package directs

sour cream, for serving tableside

IMG_4955Note:  I like to use my 16" electric skillet to make cabbage and noodles.  It controls the heat perfectly, and, has the capacity to hold a voluminous amount of raw cabbage (which shrinks as it wilts), along with the cooked and drained egg noodles when they get tossed in at the end.  If you don't have one, use a wide-bottomed, 8-quart stockpot on the stovetop.

IMG_6774 IMG_6777 IMG_6780 IMG_6783~Step 1.  Slice the onion, as directed into 1/4"-thick half moon shapes, then cut the half moons in half to shorten them up a bit.  In skillet over low heat (150°), melt the butter.  Add the sliced onions, optional mushrooms, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Increase heat (200°) to gently cook, stirring frequently until the onion begins to soften.  While onions and mushrooms are cooking: 

IMG_6757 IMG_6760 IMG_6763 IMG_6764~Step 2.  Cut the head of cabbage in half and cut each half into quarters.  Slice each quarter into 1/2"-wide strips, then, cut some of the particularly longs strips in half to shorten them into fork-friendly pieces, keeping in mind they will lose moisture and shrink a bit when cooked.

IMG_6786 IMG_6787~ Step 3.  Add the cabbage to the onion mixture. Using two large spoons, toss, like a salad, to coat the cabbage in butter and onions.  Put lid on skillet.  Adjust heat to medium (225º) and cook, stirring frequently until cabbage is tender and "to the tooth", about 15-18 minutes.  Lower heat if necessary to keep the cabbage from browning.

Note:  Some versions of this recipe do call for browning the cabbage a bit.  Feel free to do so, but know that unlike onions, which, due to their high sugar content get sweeter as they caramelize, cabbage, does not.  Cabbage which contains some sugar but not a lot, gets a bitter edge to it when fried -- I don't care for it.  I like my cabbage cooked until just tender, still sweet and green.

IMG_6789 IMG_6790 IMG_6795 IMG_6800 IMG_6808~Step 4.  While cabbage is braising, on the stovetop bring 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to the water.  Add the noodles and cook, according to package directions, until "to the tooth".  Drain noodles into a colander and give it a few vigorous shakes to remove excess water.  Add the hot egg noodles to the cabbage mixture and toss to thoroughly coat the noodles in the buttery cabbage mixture.

Cover skillet & allow to rest 5 minutes prior to serving.  

IMG_6813Totally-delicious, unpretentious, comfort food:

IMG_6815Simply:  My Butter-Braised Cabbage & Egg Noodles:  Recipe yields 4-6 side-servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife;  16" electric skillet or wide-bottomed 8-quart stockpot; two large spoons; wide-bottomed 4-quart stockpot; colander

IMG_2890Cook's Note:  Another side-dish I just love is:  ~ My Grandmother's Braised Cabbage and Carrots ~. In this recipe, the raw ingredients are placed in a casserole dish and and put in the oven to braise.  You can find the recipe by clicking into Categories 4, 12, 19 or 20.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

03/15/2017

~ Kids' Stuff: Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne ~

IMG_6712Quality time.  Sitting at Wendy's with one, two or all three of our kids for lunch.  When school was out for the Summer, I did that about twice a week.  We'd all get in my car to run errands, drive a short mile to the traffic light that exited our neighborhood and intersected with our town's busiest four-lane main thoroughfare, and there, to the left of that light sat:  Wendy's.  I've always contended its placement was purposeful.  Our Park Forest neighborhood was a well-planned maze of tract houses on tree-lined streets with sidewalks, and, almost every house contained: children.  On our cul-de-sac alone, six of the eight dwellings housed a total of 22 children, and, no matter what street you lived on, unless you were willing to travel in the opposite direction which added 4-5 miles to the trip, no one could escape the neighborhood without passing:  Wendy's.

F52b682e15cf90e54d18c7034905e46dThat meant, every mom or dad with kids in the car, every time they stopped at that light, got asked the same question, "can we eat at Wendy's?"  Most times we sat at a table inside and occasionally we used the drive-thru, but yes, promising my kids they could eat at Wendy's if they behaved themselves and physically helped me do the grocery shopping, etc., worked like a charm.  In terms of fast-food chains, which I am by no means a fan of, I rate Wendy's rather high.  Let's suffice it to say, if, to the left of that traffic light there had been a McDonald's or a Taco Bell instead of a Wendy's, my kids wouldn't have been so fortunate.  Period.

It's worth mention that to this day a large percentage of Wendy's employees are teenage kids from that neighborhood working part-time after-school or Summer jobs.  When he was sixteen years old, that included our youngest son too -- who was their employee of the month once!

Where's the beef?  Etched in American advertising history.

Clarapellar_1_Everyone's familiar with the Wendy's success story.  In 1968, at the age of 35, Dave Thomas sold his KFC restaurants back to Kentucky Fried Chicken and in 1969, fulfilled his lifelong dream by opening his own restaurant in Columbus Ohio:  Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburger Restaurant.  Named after his daughter Melinda "Wendy" Thomas, they got immediate attention from the industry because they sold made-to-order square-shaped hamburgers made from fresh, never frozen, beef -- a higher quality product at a competitive price.  They were the first to offer choices for health conscious folks, including salad bars (which came along in 1979).  In 1984, using an elderly actress named Clara Peller, Dave's "Where's the Beef" commercial took America by storm.  After appearing in over 800 Wendy's commercials himself, by 1990 Dave Thomas was a household name.

Wendy's chili:  chocked full of their beef, beans & veggies:

IMG_6659When I was lunching with my boys indoors on those lazy, crazy Summer days back in the 1980's, while they were eating their 'burgers and fries and slurping their chocolate Frosty(s), my meal consisted of the salad bar, a cup of chili and a diet cola.  I'd skip the salad dressing and spoon the chili right atop my heap of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.  I loved it and I never felt that I was eating something that wasn't healthy.  Wendy's chili was something I genuinely enjoyed.

In the latter 1980's, my mom came across a copycat recipe for Wendy's chili in Women's Day magazine.  Except for the addition of the Tostitos salsa, which I added at the behest of our middle son, the recipe is unchanged.  I won't lie.  I have several recipes for chili in my repertoire, but, this one, kid-tested and mother approved, like Dave Thomas, is a success story.  It pleases everyone.

IMG_67012 - 2 1/2  pounds lean ground beef (90/10)

IMG_65921 1/2 cups medium-diced yellow or sweet onion

3/4  cup medium-diced green bell pepper

3/4  cup medium-diced red bell pepper

2  teaspoons garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon each:  sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1  14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can tomato sauce

1  15 1/2-ounce jar Tostitos salsa, medium or hot, your choice (Note:  The original recipe did not call for salsa.  It called for 2, 15-ounce cans tomato sauce.  That choice is yours.)

1  40-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained (Note:  The original recipe called for 1, 16-ounce can red kidney beans, well-drained, and 1, 16-ounce can pinto beans, well drained. Feel free to make that substitution, however, I personally like the flavor of red kidney beans better, and, in the case of the extra 10-ounces, more is better.)  

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1/2  teaspoon black pepper 

IMG_6597IMG_6598IMG_6600Step 1.  In a 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot, place  ground beef, onion, bell pepper and garlic powder, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté, using a spatula to break the meat up into bits and pieces, until meat is cooked through and almost no liquid remains in bottom of pot, 15-20 minutes.

IMG_6602IMG_6605IMG_6607Step 2.  Add the undrained diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, drained kidney beans, chili powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, salsa and black pepper.  Adjust heat to a steady, gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to cook, 30-45 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside, to steep, 30-45 minutes.  

Note:  If you have the time to make the chili a day ahead and reheat it, it tastes even better.

Where's the beef?  In this chili "con carne".  Chili "w/meat":

IMG_6715Truth.  I've always had a secret love affair w/Wendy's chili:

IMG_6723Kids' Stuff:  Mel's Copycat Wendy's Chili Con Carne:  Recipe yields 3-3 1/2 quarts chili con carne.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; spatula; ladle

IMG_6693Cook's Note: Whether your a fan of the show or not, everyone is a fan of chili mac.  My recently posted recipe for ~ Walking Dead:  It's Chili & Mac 'n Cheese. Together ~, has always been made with my copycat Wendy's chili recipe.  My boys claim it's the best chili mac around!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)