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04/27/2015

~ Russet & Sweet Potato Salad w/Chile-Lime Mayo ~

IMG_6627One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four -- make enough potato salad, they're coming back for more.  While we're playing the counting game, I don't think one can have too many recipes for  potato salad -- people love the stuff.  Baked, boiled or roasted, gold, red, russet or sweet, potatoes, when paired with the right dressing, can complement a meal from a multitude of cuisines -- in fact, every culture that eats potatoes makes a version of potato salad.  Here in America, potato salad recipes vary from region-to-region and our American Southwest is no exception.  Today's recipe is the one I make when I want potato salad with a Tex-Mex zing to it.

IMG_6486This easy-to-make potato salad goes great with quickly-grilled South-of-the-Border-type fare: beef, poultry or pork (typically marinated in concoctions of lime juice, cilantro, chile peppers and cumin).  It's also awesome with low-and-slow Lone-Star-State-type BBQ (slathered with tomato-based sauces made with cumin and chili powder), and, if you're ever looking for something to serve Buffalo-style chicken wings with (to turn this beloved snack into a meal), this is your side-dish. There's more.  I always serve this potato salad with my ~ Chili Cheddar Cheeseburgers w/Chile-Lime Mayo ~.  The same mayo that dresses the salad gets slathered on the burgers.  Just click on the Related Article link below to get the 'burger recipe!

IMG_6402For the chile-lime mayo:

Note:  Prepare & chill several hours or a day ahead of cooking potatoes.

1  cup mayonnaise

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro (Note:  Since the cilantro is going to be processed, including more stem in your minced cilantro than you normally would in other recipes is just fine.)

1  8-ounce jar sliced, pickled jalapenos, well-drained

1  large lime, all of its zest and 1  tablespoon of its juice

1  teaspoon sugar

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d10929c9970c-320wi1/4  teaspoon sea salt

~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  With motor running, process until smooth, 30-45 seconds.  Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate until well-chilled 2-24 hours.  

Note:  This mayonnaise thickens as it chills, and, its flavor intensifies with time as the flavors marry. Overnight truly is best.

IMG_6570For the potatoes:

4-4 1/2 pounds potatoes, all Russets, all sweet potatoes, or, a combination of both

~ Step 2.  Microwave potatoes until just fork tender yet slightly-undercooked in the center. Cool to room temperature, then peel IMG_6577and slice into 3/4"-1" chunks.

Note:  Do not boil the potatoes as boiling causes russets to get crumbly and sweet potatoes to get mushy.  Microwaving truly is the best method.  I microwave my russets separately from my sweet potatoes, and, in my microwave, my potatoes cook in about 11-12 minutes.  I test for doneness often IMG_6587after 8 minutes by inserting a knife in the thickest part of the center. When the center is slightly-undercooked, I remove the potatoes and allow carryover heat to continue to cook them while they are cooling to room temperature.

~ Step 3.  In addition to the potatoes, thinly slice:

3/4-1 cup green onions, white and light green parts only (reserve dark green tops for garnish)

~ Step 4.  Place the potatoes and IMG_6594green onons in a large bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in 1 cup of the chile-lime mayo.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well-chilled, 4-6 hours or overnight.

Note:  You will have about 1/2 cup of mayo left.  Refrigerate until serving time.  After you remove the potato salad from the refrigerator, taste it and add a bit more mayo if you feel you need to.  Otherwise keep this all-purpose Tex-Mex condiment in your refrigerator to slather on sandwiches!

Simply-Savory, Slightly-Sweet, Nicely-Spicy, Addictively-Citrusy: Seize this day to add this potato salad recipe to your repertoire!

IMG_6630Russet & Sweet Potato Salad w/Chili-Lime Mayo:  Recipe yields 8 servings of potato salad and a generous 1 1/2 cups of chile-lime mayo (with the possibility of some mayo leftover).

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; microplane grater; rubber spatula; 2-cup measuring container; microwave oven  

IMG_7624Cook's Note:  If it's grilled chicken or your favorite spareribs you'd like to serve this very special potato salad with, allow me to suggest that you try my recipe for ~ Kansas City BBQ Sauce:  Sweet, Spicy & Smokey ~.  Seriously folks, a drizzle or slather of this and you'll never ever consider buying that famous bottled brand (which, in all honesty, is super-good) again!  

Simply click into Categories 8, 10, 17 or 20 to get my recipe!

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)

04/24/2015

~ Chili Cheddar Cheeseburgers w/Chile-Lime Mayo ~

IMG_6481For me, the only thing that tastes better than a thick, juicy hamburger hot-off-the-gill is:  a thick, juicy cheeseburger, hot-off-the grill.  I don't grill enough to profess to being an expert, but the stuff I do grill is mighty tasty.  I'm cooking these to please me today -- they're my favorite twist on traditional cheeseburgers.  I'm mixing the cheese into the burgers instead of placing it on top of them, and, I'm packing the mixture full of bold, spicy, American-Southwest Tex-Mex flavors. Admittedly, it's unorthodox, but, I've been told, often by the critics themselves, "this is one of the best cheeseburgers I've ever tasted".  Moral of story:  Don't knock it until YOU'VE tried it!

PICT0033When it comes to all recipes that require using an outdoor gas grill, the hands-on cooking instructions (time and temperature) should be used as guidelines.  We own three gas grills, a Viking, a Weber, and, a Solaire.  Recipe testing  on each has taught me that brands vary greatly. Combine that with outdoor temperature and desired doneness, then, factor in cut, thickness and weight of product -- it's impossible to write a precise grilling recipe.

Part One:  Making the Chili Cheddar Cheeseburgers

IMG_6425A bit about this recipe:  It makes a lot -- 12, 8-ounce cheeseburgers.  It's my go-to cheeseburger recipe for tailgates and holidays like Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor day -- times when I'm entertaining hungry family and friends.  Want less?  Do the math -- cut the recipe in half.

IMG_6398Meet a special ingredient that I feature in these burgers (and pretty much every recipe I make using chile powder):  Santa Fe Seasons Chile Blend.  It's an all natural mixture of dried New Mexico red chili powder, herbs and spices (no salt).  Feel free to substitute a 1:1 ratio of Mexican-style chili powder mixed with Mexican-style oregano for this blend, but, if you'd like to experience something super-special, pick up a jar of the blend: it's available on amazon.com.

PICT0008For the cheeseburgers:

5  pounds ground beef (85/15)

1  pound Monterey Jack w/jalapeno pepper cheddar

2  cups diced yellow onion

2  cups minced, fresh cilantro

3  tablespoons Santa Fe Seasons Chile Blend

1  tablespoon each: sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper

IMG_6378~ Step 1.  Prep and place all of the ingredients in a large bowl as you work.  Thoroughly combine the mixture -- the best way to do this is with your hands.

~ Step 2.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, form meat mixture into 12, 8-ounce balls, placing them IMG_6381on a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan lined with parchment paper.

IMG_6390~ Step 3. Using a 4" ring mold, press into 4"-round, 1"-thick discs. Cover & refrigerate 2-24 hours. 

Part Two:  Making the Chile-Lime Mayonnaise

A bit about this recipe:  Consider this all-purpose condiment your Tex-Mex version of French aioli (a strongly-flavored garlic mayonnaise hailing from Provence).  Besides being great on my cheeseburgers, I love it slathered on chicken sandwiches, and, used as a dip for vegetables.

IMG_64022  cups mayonnaise

1  1/2-2 cups minced, fresh cilantro (Note:  Since the cilantro is going to be processed, including more stem in your minced cilantro than you normally would in other recipes is just fine.)

1  12-ounce jar sliced, pickled jalapenos, well-drained

1  large lime, all of its zest and all of its juice (Note:  You want to add 2 tablespoons lime juice.  If the lime is not particularly juicy, make up the difference with bottled concentrate.)

2  teaspoons sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

PICT0031~ Step 1.  Place all ingredients in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  With motor running, process until smooth, 30-45 seconds.  Transfer to a food storage container and refrigerate 2-24 hours, and, up to one week.

Note:  This mayonnaise thickens as it chills, and, it's flavor intensifies if the flavors are given time to marry, so if you have the time to make it a day in advance, do it.

Part Three:  Optional Cheeseburger Toppings

PICT0044crisp lettuce leaves, romaine or iceberg

Hass avocado slices

thinly-sliced onion, red or yellow

tomato slices 

~ Step 1.  Just prior to grilling the cheeseburgers, prep all or none of the above as directed and refrigerate until serving time.

Part Four:  Grilling the Cheeseburgers

IMG_6407~ Step 1.  Remove burgers from the refrigerator and return to room temperature prior to preheating gas grill to medium-high.  Just prior to grilling the burgers, using your fingertips, press down on each one again,  flattening a bit more, to form 12, 4 1/2" round 3/4"-thick discs.

Note:  This last press allows for shrinkage as the burgers cook. Each finished burger will fit perfectly on a standard hamburger roll.  

IMG_6419~ Step 5.  Grill over direct heat, about 8-10 minutes per side, turning only once (8 minutes for medium-rare, 10 minutes for well-done.  Remove from heat and serve on your favorite rolls (lightly-toasted or not, your choice) drizzled with chili-lime mayo and your favorite toppings (or none at all).

Nothin' fancy, just-a-lotta easy-to-make fun-on-a-bun...

IMG_6551... that gets spicier and drippier with every flavor-packed bite!

IMG_6510Chili Cheddar Cheeseburgers w/Chile-Lime Mayo:  Recipe yields 12, 8-ounce cheeseburgers and 3 generous cups chile-lime mayo.

Special Equipment List:  cheese grater; cutting board; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; kitchen scale; 4"-round ring mold (optional); plastic wrap; food processor; microplane grater; rubber spatula; 4-cup food storage container; gas grill or your favorite charcoal grill, used according to manufacturer's specifications; long-handled grilling spatula

IMG_2481 6a0120a8551282970b017d4140e28d970cCook's Note:  Click into Categories 13, 15 or 16 to learn more about: ~ Is it spelled chile or chili?  It is NOT a regional thing! ~, and, ~ The great oregano debate:  Mediterranean Oregano vs. Mexican Oregano. Is there a difference? Yes! ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/2015) 

04/21/2015

~ Madeleines: 'Hoity-Toity' Shell-Shaped Tea Cakes~

IMG_6357If you ever want to be accused of being hoity-toity (a pretentious show-off), serve some freshly-baked buttery-rich madeleines with tea or coffee as a finish to your next ladies luncheon.  Within my small circle of close friends this kind of thing happens all the time.  We take it upon ourselves to poke fun at each others talents -- especially after a few cocktails.  It keeps us grounded. When lunch is at my house, I am the designated target.  "La-tee-da, Melanie made madeleines." Revenge is sweet because the jib-jabs flow both ways.  "Mel, these cookies are great." "Barb, they're not cookies, they're actually little sponge cakes." "Well, isn't that special (church lady)."

IMG_6306They emerge from the oven with a signature hump on top...

A bit about the French madeleine (mad-len):  Defined as a "a small rich sponge cake baked in pans with shell-shaped depressions", it is unofficially called "France's National Cookie".  It's a specialty hailing from the French town of Commercy, North of the Lorraine region of France.  The authentic "madeleines de Commercy" are made from egg yolks creamed with sugar and lemon zest, flour, beurre noisette (brown butter), and, stiffly beaten egg whites.  They depend 100% on the volume of the egg whites for their feathery-light soft texture, and, contain no baking powder or baking soda (which weren't available to cooks in the 18th century).  They are the classic snacky ending to every afternoon gouter (afternoon tea), or, a light ending to a French meal.

... and emerge from the pan marked with a golden shell bottom! 

IMG_6304Madeleines earned their place in literature via Marcel Proust's immortal reference to them as "little shells of cake" in "the episode of the madeleine," in the novel In Search of Lost time. Historically, stories of their origin vary, but, the one I find the most authentic:  they were named after a young French maid who worked for the Duke of Lorraine, Stanislaw Leszcynski, in the 1700's.  She unexpectedly had to step in and replace the cook, and served, for a royal banquet, one of the few desserts she knew how to bake: her family's signature 'shell-shaped soft-cookie' confection.  The Duke was so impressed by them, he named them after the gutsy girl.

IMG_6211A bit about me and madeleines:  I never tasted a madeleine until the day I baked one.  In the late 1980's I was shopping in my favorite store in downtown Boalsburg:  The Country Sampler. At the time, it was our areas premier place to shop for well-made kitchen gadgets, IMG_6215cookware, artisanal dishes, glassware, table linens and candles.  Imagine a gift shop in colonial Williamsburg, VA -- THAT was The Country Sampler.  I came across two curious-looking baking pans on the sale table (in an almost hidden corner of the shop where regular customers knew to go).  The store's owner, Marie Fedon, explained the pans and madeleines to me.  Moments later, I walked out with two shiny pans for $10 -- marked down from $20 each.  Over the years, in my quest for a favorite madeleine recipe, I invested in two standard-sized nonstick pans, and, two nonstick mini-madeleine pans too.

IMG_6223Stumbling upon two madeleine pans was the easy part.  Finding a foolproof recipe was not -- there were very few recipes in print back then.  I turned, of course, to The Joy of Cooking, and, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Both recipes were very good, but, very finicky -- even for an accomplished, fearless baker like me.  From recipes made via the classic method I learned:

 Madeleines are easy to make and easy to screw up -- madeleines can be maddening!

As much as I loved the madeleines, I found the process cumbersome enough to avoid making them unless I was requested or paid to do so (I allowed my pans to age gracefully in my "fancy-baking pan" cabinet -- for years).  Then, thanks to modern-day experts like David Lebovitz and Martha Stewart, recipes incorporating baking powder began appearing in books and on the internet.  Thanks to them, I could give up the tedious whisking of yolks over a double boiler, beating the whites to stiff peaks and browning the butter (I never cared for the browned butter versions anyway).  Wow.  Suddenly, I was back to baking madeleines, and, coming up with my own creative flavoring combinations too!

IMG_6323Meet my basic & foolproof recipe for hoity-toity madeleines!

IMG_62181  cup cake flour, not self-rising + additional flour for preparing pans

1  teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder

1/4  teaspoon salt

4  large eggs at room temperature

2  large egg yolks, at room temperature

2/3  cup granulated sugar

1  tablespoon pure vanilla extract, always add vanilla extract to madeleins

1  tablespoon of one other flavored extract, or, 1 1/2 teaspoons of a combination of two other extracts:  almond, banana, coconut and rum are fun options, and, so are citrus flavors such as lemon, Meyer lemon, lime, Key lime, orange, blood orange, Mandarin orange, tangerine and grapefruit (Note: In the case of citrus flavors, if it's fresh fruit you have, substitute fresh juice for the extract and stir 1-2 tablespoons of freshly-grated zest into the mixture too.)

8  tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

confectioners' sugar for dusting cooled madeleines

IMG_6242~ Step 1.  In a large bowl crack the eggs and bring to room temp, 30 minutes.  In the meantime,  melt butter and set aside to cool.  Using a pastry brush, use a bit of the butter to paint insides of the shell-shapes, then, dust shells with a bit of additional flour. Invert the pans and give them a shake, to remove excess flour.  Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Measure sugar and extract(s). 

IMG_6253 IMG_6250~ Step 2. Starting on low speed of hand-held electric mixer for about 1 minute, gradually working your way up to high speed, beat together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar and extracts until pale and thick, about 6 full minutes at high speed, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently.  Remove the mixer.

IMG_6258~ Step 3.  Begin sprinkling in the flour in three increments, using the rubber spatula to throughly fold after each addition, taking the time to make sure there are no dry pockets of flour.

~ Step 4.  Fold in the butter by slowly allowing it to drizzle down the sides of the bowl, in three additions, folding thoroughly after each addition, taking the time to make sure there are no liquid pockets of butter.

IMG_6265~ Step 5.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place batter in refrigerator to chill for 2-3 hours prior to baking.  Remove batter from refrigerator.  Uncover and resist the urge to stir or fold the batter.  That action will just deflate the 1st rise the baking powder has provided.  

~ Step 5.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure, place a dollop of batter, about 2 tablespoons, into the deep round center of each shell shape in the first pan.

IMG_6273 IMG_6283~ Step 6.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven until lightly-golden and humped-tops spring back when touched lightly, about 8-9 IMG_6296minutes.  While first pan is baking, get second pan ready for the oven and pop them in to bake when you remove the first pan.  

~ Step 7.  The moment madeleines emerge from oven, using a sharp knife underneath one corner of each madeleine, lift and gently transfer to a cooling rack.  Cool completely prior to serving with a dusting of confectioners' sugar.

Due to their humps, they always have that "signature lean"...

IMG_6339... and serving them "same day made" is never a problem!

IMG_6375Madeleines:  Hoity-Toity Shell-Shaped Tea Cakes:  Recipe yields 24 awesome tea cakes.

Special Equipment List:  2, standard-sized madeleine pans, preferably nonstick; pastry brush;  fine mesh sieve or flour sifter; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop or 2 tablespoon measure; cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b019b00e7c7e4970b-800wiCook's Note:  Using cake flour to make madeleines makes a big difference -- it's the right thing to do. To learn what using the right flour for the right culinary task can do for you, click into Categories 5, 6, 7, or 16 to read ~ Flour Facts: All-Purpose, Bread, Cake & Pastry ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)