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08/25/2014

~Country-Style Downhome-Delicious Creamed-Corn~

IMG_2128School bells are ringing and school buses are running -- kids and parents alike are in the unenviable position of frantically adjusting to the Fall regimen.  This morning, while laying in bed watching CNN at 7:30AM with my three poodles, I heard the school bus pull up to the stop across the street. I couldn't help but "smile a sigh" of relief.  So, what does this have to do with creamed corn?  I started thinking about my favorite Fall after-school meals as a child!

Allow me to briefly reminisce about childhood & creamed corn:

IMG_2169When I was growing up, our family of four had a highly-organized after-school agenda: playtime, dinner, homework, TV, bed.  It changed as we got older, but, in our house there was always a plan and it required everyone to help make it work.  To this day I am an advocate of raising kids to know what to expect, when to expect it, and, show respect for it.  End of speech -- back to creamed corn.  I grew up eating creamed corn out of a can and I loved it -- I still do -- and there's nothing wrong with that either.  It's good, and, for the most part, manufacturers have left the ingredients unadulterated too:  sweet corn, water, salt, sugar and food starch (thickener).

My dad cooked dinner once, sometimes twice a week.  He made and we ate spaghetti and meatballs every Tuesday.  That was that and what's not to love about that.  The other meal he made was "skinny" pan-fried pork chops, and, he made those twice a month, always on a Thursday (mom made meatloaf on the other two Thursdays).  He always served them with baked beans and creamed corn or applesauce and home-fried potatoes.  That was that!

Corn Chronicles #1"Fried Corn" or "Country-Style Corn":  It's all "Creamed Corn".

Creamed corn:  In the Midwestern States,  sweet corn isn't just a crop, it is a lifestyle.  They'll be the first to tell you they grow the best, produce the most, and have invented more creative ways to prepare it than anywhere.    In the Midwest, when you shave corn kernels from a cob of  IMG_2090corn, smash them up a bit to release their milky juices, and, cook them in a shallow pan with fresh midwestern dairy-fresh butter and cream:  your making creamed corn!

Fried corn:  In the Southern States they refer to creamed corn as "fried corn".  It's a misconception that Southerners fry or deep-fry everything, but, the word "fried" didn't get into the phrase "southern-fried" for nothing, and, because creamed corn is made in a cast-iron skillet in the South, they call it "fried corn".  They also make theirs using bacon drippings in place of butter, which is understandable, since, as we all know, pork fat rules the culinary roost down there!

Country-style corn:  We grow a lot of sweet corn and raise a lot of dairy cows here in the rural Northeastern states too.  Here in Central Pennsylvania, more specifically Amish country, you'll find fields of sweet corn growing next to dairy farms throughout the picturesque landscape .  Like many foods associated with the Amish, Mennonite and Quaker communities, "country-style" is the catch-phrase everyone uses to describe their back-to-basics methods of processing and preparing it!

Whatever you call it, it is simply downhome delicious!

IMG_19104  cups fresh, cooked corn kernels, shaved from 8 large ears of blanched corn

2  tablespoons sugar, for sweetening blanching water

5  tablespoons salted butter, cut into 5 tablespoon-sized pieces

1/2  cup heavy or whipping cream

2  tablespoons sugar, for seasoning corn

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

2  teaspoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

IMG_0822 IMG_0837 IMG_0838 IMG_0842 IMG_0854~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the sugar to the water. One-at-a-time, lower the corn into the water. When the water returns to a boil, blanch the corn for 1 minute. While the corn is blanching, use a pair of tongs to dunk the tops down into the water.  Do not overcook. Using the tongs, remove the corn to a large plate and set aside until corn can be easily handled with your hands, about 20-30 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6ce352f970b~ Step 2.  When the corn has cooled to the point where you can comfortably hold it with your hands, it's time to shave the kernels from the cobs.  This is quite easy.  For details and tips, click on the Related Article link below to read my post ~ How to:  Shave Corn Off the Cob with No Mess!!! ~.  Note: Corn shaving is not a precise sport. Six cobs will yield about 3 cups. Eight cobs will yield a bit more than needed, but, it insures enough.

IMG_1923 IMG_1916~ Step 3. Place 2 cups of corn in work bowl of processor fitted with steel blade.  

IMG_1918Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and  1/2 cup of cream. Using a series of 40-45 rapid on-off pulses, process the corn to a chunky, thick puree.  Set aside.

IMG_1941 IMG_1948 IMG_1954 IMG_1956~Step 4.  In a 3 1/2-quart chefs pan or 10" skillet, melt the remaining butter (3 tablespoons) over low heat.  Stir in the sugar, salt, white pepper and flour.  A thick paste will form.  Increase heat to medium and continue to stir constantly until the roux gets foamy, but not browned.  Add the whole corn kernels (not the puree), enjoy the sizzle, and thoroughly stir them into the mixture.

IMG_1963 IMG_1960~ Step 5. Add and thoroughly stir in the corn puree. Increase heat to medium-high, and, stirring constantly, cook until mixture is steaming and beginning to simmer, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Serve immediately or cover and reheat just prior to serving time.

IMG_1981In my perfect food world, there will always be creamed corn:

IMG_2137Country-Style Downhome-Delicious Creamed-Corn:  Recipe yields 3 cups or 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; tongs;  cutting board; chef's knife; bundt pan (optional); food processor; 1-cup measuring container; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides, or 10" skillet; large spoon 

6a0120a8551282970b017c35054dd0970b-800wiCook's Note:  For another Midwestern-style sweet corn recipe, click into Catetories 4, 10 or 17 to get ~ My Rich & Creamy Baked Sweet Corn Casserole ~.  It is super-easy to make, and, because you can substitute canned corn for freshly shaved corn kernels, you and your family can enjoy it all year round -- my family sure does!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

08/23/2014

~ Oh My Thai: Savory Minced Pork Stuffed Omelette~

IMG_1822Eggs are universal, and, as a person who loves eggs, whenever I travel to a foreign country, I make it a point to try at least one of their egg dishes.  Almost every country offers some version of "the omelette", and, unlike here in America where we associate eggs with breakfast or brunch, eggs are considered a filling, healthy, nutritious meal any time of the day.  For an egg lover like me, eating an omelette in a foreign country is also a tasty way to indoctrinate myself to the herbs, spices and seasonings I'll be encountering "full-strength" in their other dishes!

IMG_1018 IMG_1372 IMG_1542 IMG_0810

 

 

 

 

Over the past week, I've added some of my favorite Thai recipes, more specifically Thai street food recipes, to Kitchen Encounters.  We've feasted upon ~ Spicy Red Curry Sweet Corn Fritters ~, ~ Quick, Easy and Classic Thai Fish Cakes ~, and, a  ~ Thai Crispy, Airy, Puffy Fluffy Omelette -.  I even made ~ Spicy Quick-Pickled Cucumber Relish ~ to serve with all of them.  You can find all of the recipes, and more, by clicking on the Related Article links below!

Now my friends -- it's time to meet the "hot pocket" of Thailand!

IMG_1860Before taking a break from Thai food for a while, I want to share a second Thai omelette recipe with you:  the minced or ground pork omelette, known as kai jad sai, which means "stuffed eggs".  It it absolutely amazing.  Once again, this is an omelette that isn't necessarily eaten for breakfast, nor is it one that is typically made and sold on the streets either.  It just plain old, home-cooked good Thai eats.  Similar to the French omelette, this Thai omelette is thin, and, it can be prepared in a wok, a classic omelette pan or an ordinary nonstick skillet.  It is filled with a sauted mixture of minced pork and diced vegetables (garlic, onions, tomatoes and beans or bell peppers) seasoned with fish sauce or oyster sauce, seasoning soy sauce and sugar.  

IMG_1837Once filled, it is folded into a square, to encase it on all sides.  It is typically served with steamed jasmine rice, Sriracha sauce and sometimes, cucumber relish.  

This omelette can be small, to feed one, or larger, to feed two or more at the communal dinner table.  In my American kitchen, I usually do serve it for breakfast or brunch, and, I serve it without the rice.  I like to serve it to overnight guests too. Why?  The minced pork filling (even a large amount of it to feed a group of 10-12) can be prepared a day or two in advance.  At breakfast time, I simply reheat the filling then quickly make, fill and fold an individual omelette for each guest!

A Thai stuffed omelette is made at the discretion of the cook. 

Here is my favorite way to prepare it -- American Mel-style!

IMG_1658For the pork filling (enough for 12 omelettes -- do the math-- divide by 4 to make 3, etc.):

2  pounds ground pork, the leanest available (Note:  I use 2, small, 1-pound pork tenderloins.  I cut them into 1" chunks, place them in the work bowl of my large-capacity food processor fitted with the steel blade and grind the meat using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses.)

4-6  tablespoons chopped garlic

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4-6  tablespoons thinly-sliced green beans

4-6  tablespoons minced cilantro, stems included

1 1/2  cups "coined" (cut into round, flat coin-shaped discs) grape tomatoes

4  tablespoons Thai fish sauce

2  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

1  teaspoon lime juice, fresh or high-quality bottled concentrate

2  teaspoons sugar

2  teaspoons white pepper

1  teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

2  tablespoons vegetable oil, to coat bottom of a 12" skillet

IMG_1639 IMG_1151 IMG_0663 IMG_1649~Step 1.  Prep the garlic, onions, green beans, cilantro and tomatoes as directed.  Cover the tomatoes with plastic wrap and set them aside until just prior to preparing the omelettes, or, overnight in the refrigerator if preparing the filling mixture in advance (as explained above).

IMG_1675~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, white pepper and optional ground ginger.

IMG_1688Note: Ground ginger is not typically found in this omelette, but, I love the flavor and recommend you try it!

IMG_1680 IMG_1692~ Step 3.  In a 12" skillet heat the oil over low heat.  Add the garlic, onion and green beans. Increase heat to medium-high and saute, stirring frequently, until vegetables are beginning to "sweat" and soften, about 3 minutes.

IMG_1711 IMG_1699~ Step 4. Add and thoroughly stir the pork into the unseasoned vegetable mixture.  

Continue to saute, stirring frequently, until pork is cooked through and almost all moisture has evaporated from skillet, about 12-15 minutes (for this amount of pork).

IMG_1719 IMG_1734~ Steps 5 & 6.  Add the seasoning sauce to skillet. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until once again, almost no liquid remains in bottom of skillet, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.  To this point meat mixture can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated overnight.  Note:  Do not add  tomatoes at this time -- fold them into warm meat mixture (today or reheated tomorrow) just prior to stuffing omelettes.   

IMG_1763Set aside while preparing each omelette according to the following directions:

IMG_1631For each omelette (I always prepare and serve these stuffed omelettes individually:

3  large eggs, at room temperature

1  teaspoon fish sauce

1  teaspoon lime juice, fresh or high-quality bottled concentrate

1 teaspoon water

1/4-1/2  teaspoon white pepper

1  tablespoon vegetable oil, to coat the bottom of a 10" skillet

IMG_1776 IMG_1779                                           ~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place the eggs, fish sauce, lime juice water and white pepper.  Using a hand-held rotary egg beater, whisk the eggs to a frothy state.

IMG_1748~ Step 2.  In a 10" skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.

IMG_1783 IMG_1784 IMG_1785 IMG_1787~Step 3.  In a thin but deliberate steady stream, add (don't drizzle) the egg mixture to the hot oil.

IMG_1789~ Step 4.  Lift skillet from heat and begin swirling egg mixture around bottom and sides of pan until an even layer of egg mixture is distributed on bottom.  Return skillet to heat.  Using a thin spatula, quickly scrape down sides of  pan and cook omelette for 10-15 seconds.  Lift the pan and swirl again.  Continue this process of lifting, lowering and swirling until bottom of omelette is very lightly browned and top is moist and shiny, not dry.  Remove skillet from heat.

IMG_1791^^^The sort of ragged looking inside of the omelette will look like this.^^^

IMG_1797 IMG_1800 IMG_1803 IMG_1808~Step 5.  Place 1/2 cup of meat mixture into the center of omelette.  Fold two sides toward the center, with or without overlapping them.  Fold two more sides toward the center with or without overlapping -- sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, but forcing them to overlap can cause the omelette to tear.  I do however "fuss-budget" around with this for an extra few seconds to form a perfect square.  Invert a medium-sized plate over the top of omelette. Lightly place your fingertips on top of the plate, just enough to hold it in place (you do not want to squish the omelette to smithereens).  Lift up the skillet, invert it, and, invert the omelette onto the plate.  

If you feel like a schooled chef right now, you should!

IMG_1818Dress this baby up w/a splash of Sriracha & a sprig of cilantro...

IMG_1839... and for the love of Thai -- grab your fork dig in!

IMG_1894Oh My Thai:  Savory Minced Pork Stuffed Omelette:  Recipe yields 6 cups pork filling, enough for 12 omelettes, and, insructions to make individual omelettes.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; 1-cup measuring container; fork; 12" skillet, preferably nonstick; large spoon and/or spatula; hand-held rotary egg beater; 10" skillet, preferably nonstick; thin spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6d1fc54970bCook's Note:  I call Thai Sriracha sauce "the ketchup of the Asian food world" and my refrigerator has a bottle of it in it at all times.  To learn more about this delightfully spicy condiment, read my post ~ Would You Like Red 'Rooster Sauce' With That ~.  You can find it in Categories 8, 13 or 16.  If you are already a lover of Sriracha, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Sriracha Cookbook!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

08/21/2014

~ Oh My Thai: Crispy, Airy, Puffy & Fluffy Omelette ~

IMG_1577A Thai omelette is comfort food at its best.  The Thai people satisfy hunger with Kai Jeow (Khai Jiao) the same way we Americans satisfy it with pizza or macaroni and cheese -- which -- is why --  Kai Jeow is a very popular snack or street food too.  Why?  Unlike America, in Thailand an omelette is not primarily associated with breakfast -- omelettes are for eating any time of the day!

IMG_1521A bit about Kai Jeow-style omelettes:  Aside from the fact that they are made with eggs, they are quite a bit different than the thin, light-colored, creamy French-style omelette.  This Thai omelette is prepared in a wok with quite a bit of very hot oil (at least 1").  When the frothy, lightly-seasoned egg mixture is poured into the oil, it puffs up, causing it to become browned on the surface and crispy around the edges while remaining soft, fluffy and multi-layered inside.  The egg mixture is seasoned with Fish sauce (the salt of Thailand), a squirt of lime juice, and occasionally some white pepper.  It's not uncommon to find some minced green onion, shallot and/or cilantro or Thai basil whisked in either.  And -- just like we Americans often add bits of crisp bacon to our egg mix, in Thailand, it's bits of minced pork (everything tastes better with a bit of oink).  

When taken out of the wok, the entire, perfectly-cooked golden-colored affair is placed over a bed of slightly-warm, steamed Jasmine rice and served drizzled with Thai Sriracha sauce.   The kai jaow omelette may not win any beauty contests,

IMG_1542but, it is decadent and marvelously addicting darling!

IMG_1825That said, don't throw everything you know about French- or Western-style omelettes out the window just yet.  Thai cooks make a stuffed omelette too.  Called kai yad sai, they're less common on the streets than kai jeow.  Like the French omelette, it is thin, filled with diced, lightly-sauted vegetables (onion, tomato and beans or bell peppers)  and/or minced pork or shrimp, then folded into a square.

IMG_1860The stuffed omelette can be small, to feed one, or larger, to feed two or more.  It too is served with jasmine rice and Sriracha, but because of the onions and tomatoes, it's a bit runny (kai jeow isn't). While the Thai stuffed omelette is not the subject of this post, they are just as delicious. Click on the Related Article link below to get ~ Oh My Thai: Minced Pork Stuffed Omelete ~ recipe!

Ready?  From start to finish, this takes less than 5 minutes:

IMG_16142  jumbo eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2  teaspoons fish sauce

1 1/2  teaspoons water

1/2  teaspoon lime juice, fresh or high-quality bottled concentrate

1  tablespooon cornstarch

1/2  teaspoon sugar

2  tablespoons sesame oil, for frying

3/4  cup peanut oil, for frying, more or less, depending on the size of the wok

1  cup steamed jasmine rice per omelette, a bit more or less, for accompaniment (Note: Each omelette, from start to finish, takes less than 2 minutes to prepare, so, be sure to steam your rice, and, allow it to cool a bit prior to making and serving the omelettes.  The rice should be slightly-warm, not steaming hot, when the finished omelette gets placed on top of it.)

1/4  cup Sriracha sauce per omelette, per omelette, more or less, for dipping or drizzling

IMG_1425 IMG_1432 IMG_1436~ Step 1.  Place 2 tablespoons of sesame oil in the bottom of a medium-sized wok.  Add enough of peanut oil to total 1" of oil.  

Note:  In my 10" All-Clad wok, this requires 3/4 cup of peanut oil.  Using a bigger wok?  Plan on adding more oil.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.  While oil is heating:

IMG_1452 IMG_1456 IMG_1462~ Step 2.  Place the eggs, fish sauce, water, lime juice, cornstarch and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat/whisk until frothy.

IMG_1485The Thai Kai Jeow Technique:

~ Step 3.  Transfer the frothy egg mixture to a 1-cup measuring container.  Doing this will help you to control "the pour" into the oil.

Note:  The kai jeow omelette is known for its signature freeform shape and somewhat raggedy edges.  The only way to achieve that is to pour the liquid into the wok in a thin, steady stream holding the vessel several inches (6"-12") IMG_1489above the seething hot oil.  The higher you hold it the better.

It's kitchen drama, but it is safe.

Because the oil is so hot, the liquid in the eggs turns to steam instantly, causing the eggs to puff up right before your eyes.  Kids and adults love to watch the performance so invite them to stand around the stove.  If you're worried about hot oil spatter, don't be -- it's so minimal there is almost no cleanup.

IMG_1490The rest goes really fast so pay attention!

IMG_1624~ Step 4.  In 30-45 seconds the omelette will be golden and ready to be flipped. With the right kitchen tools, this is surprisingly easy to do. You will need two large slotted spatulas, or, as pictured here, one large slotted spatula and one Asian spider-type utensil.  Slide one or the other underneath the omelette, lift it out of the oil, place the other over the top, invert the omelette and place it back down in the oil.

Cook on the second side another 30-45 seconds:

IMG_1506Lift omelette out of the wok (leaving the excess oil behind), place it on a plate that has a bed of steamed jasmine rice on it and serve immediately with plenty of Sriracha sauce for dipping or drizzling: 

IMG_1541Oh my Thai:  I think I need an invervention!

IMG_1588Oh My Thai:  Crispy, Airy, Puffy, Fluffy Omelette:  Recipe yeilds instructions to make one Thai kai joew omelette, or, one serving.  Trust me, you will eat the entire thing.

Special Equipment List:  medium-sized wok; 1-cup measuring container; hand-held rotary egg beater or whisk; 2 large slotted spatulas or, 1 large slotted spatula and an Asian spider

6a0120a8551282970b017ee7d25972970dCook's Note:  I call Thai Sriracha sauce "the ketchup of the Asian food world" and my refrigerator has a bottle of it in it at all times.  To learn more about this delightfully spicy condiment, read my post ~ Would You Like Red 'Rooster Sauce' With That? ~.  You can find it in Categories 8, 13 or 16.  If you're already a lover of Sriracha, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Sriracha Cookbook!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)