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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


~ Not Your Mama's Chicken-Parm Garlic-Bread Subs ~

IMG_3466Interestingly, I am not one who believes chicken parmesan, or "chicken parm" as it is affectionately referred to, should be slapped between two slices of bread and eaten like a sandwich.  I simply prefer it on a plate with pasta and a side of garlic bread -- I feel the same way about meatballs.  AND, along the same lines and in the same manner that meatballs got taken away from spaghetti and transitioned to the incredible, edible Italian-American meatball sub, many folks, a few of them in my own family, do not subscribe to my opinion on this point.  

Pollo alla parmigiana:  Chicken- parmigiana, parmesan or parm.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f48aec970dLike its predecessor eggplant parmesan, and its cousin veal parmesan, chicken parmesan is an Italian meal familiar to many living outside of Italy.  For example: Italian-Australians are as fond of it as Italian-Americans, where home cooks, fine-dining restaurant chefs and fast-food eateries take some creative license with it to offer their own variations of the dish (a thinly-sliced or lightly-pounded chicken breast that gets coated in breadcrumbs then baked,  pan-fried or sometimes deep-fried until crispy. A combination of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses get melted over the top followed by a drizzle of tomato sauce and a basil-leaf garnish.  Interestingly, the dish typically doesn't contain as much parmesan cheese as the name would lead one to believe -- it gets its name from the the Italian region of Parma, where it's said the dish hails from.

In the United States, the dish originated in the Northeast.  Recipes were created by Italian-Americans and Italian immigrants looking to take advantage of America's affordable meat market by incorporating chicken into parmigiana.  By the early 1950's, it, was a popular menu item in almost all Italian-American restaurants.  A recipe, using frozen fried chicken patties or cutlets and other processed foods, was published in the 1953 issue of The New York Herald Tribune, which became trendy with the average home cooks of the era.  A decade later, in 1962, a recipe for real-deal chicken parmigiana was featured in The New York Times, and, the rest is history. 

"When ya can't beat 'em, join 'em", so, here I am, making my own kick-ass version of this popular submarine sandwich.  There's more, I'm taking my own creative license (as I should).  I'm batter-dipping and deep-frying my chicken, and, assembling my sandwiches on garlic bread.

My choice of bread crumbs, & why I batter-dip & deep-fry.

6a0120a8551282970b0154383e5645970cWhy in the name of crunchiness would anyone want to continue to use old-fashioned breadcrumbs to make parmigiana if they knew about panko?  They wouldn't.

Meet the first change I made to this classic recipe.  "Panko" is the Japanese word for "bread crumbs", and theirs are considerably crispier and crunchier than our Western ones.  Whats more, they absorb less grease, more flavor and stay crispy a lot longer.  This simple substitution is a game changer.

6a0120a8551282970b01675eb49e90970bThe ties that bind.  After a showdown between the traditional watery egg-milk mixture vs. a trendy beer batter, the beer batter won hands-down.  In fact, it wasn't even a competition.  Who wouldn't want a super-crunchy coating that doesn't fall off or separate from the parmigiana afterwards?  No one.  

My beer batter doesn't use ordinary all-purpose flour either.  I added pancake mix to the new playbook too. Having fun so far?

6a0120a8551282970b01675eb51084970bIn my humble opinion, God put deep-fryers on this earth for a good reason and I now believe that parmigiana might have been at the top of his list -- 'tis true.

Put away that skillet and enjoy the mess-free ease of how this relatively inexpensive (about $60.00) countertop appliance regulates temperature and perfectly cooks each piece of parmigiana. Who wants a crunchy, crispy, stay-put coating on a succulent, moist and juicy piece of chicken or veal parmigiana?  Of course, we all do.

Who wants a stovetop full of grease spatters and a ton of cleanup?  Not me, but this choice remains yours.

Use breast tenderloins & tenderize the tenderist part of the chicken.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2db98c5970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2db98c5970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2db98c5970cFor about $14-$15 at any of my local markets, I can purchase a "value pack" of 6-pounds chicken breast tenderloins, It contains approximately 30 tenderloins, which when breaded and deep-fried, are good-sized cutlets -- one or per two person.  Once I get them home, I arrange them side-by-side, on a large cutting board, between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Using the flat-side of a meat mallet, I lightly-pound them, with "lightly" being the key word here -- do not smash them to smithereens.   Start-to-finish, this process takes less than five minutes and renders them fork tender.  

Tip from Mel:  No matter how many I need for the recipe, sometimes just ten or twelve, I always pound them prior to freezing for future use -- they thaw quickly and are ready in use in minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f49323970dSet up a deep-frying assembly line (left to right):

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f488af970dChicken tenderloins, prepped as directed above.

One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2 cups dry pancake mix.

One loaf-pan containing 2 1/2 cups pancake mix whisked with 22 ounces beer (Note:  Beer lends wonderful flavor with yeasty undertones to the breading.  That said, if I can't convince you that the heat of the deep-fryer will evaporate all the alcohol, feel free to substitute club soda.)

One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2, 8-ounces boxes panko breadcrumbs.

Deep-fryer w/corn or peanut oil heated to 375° according to manufacturer's specifications.

Misc:  forks, 3-minute timer, wire cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09f488ea970d~ Step 1.  When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer (or club soda). Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken a bit, to a drizzly consistency.  If at any point during the frying process (even at the outset) if the batter seems or gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer (or club soda) to maintain a very drizzly consistency.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512dc9970b~ Step 2.  This step is actually optional, so skip it if you like.  When it comes to chicken cutlets, I prefer the texture of my panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) to be less coarse.  To make that happen:

Place panko in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Using a series of 50-60 rapid on-off pulses, process these super-crispy breadcrumbs to finer crumbs.

Fry Baby Fry -- It's all about Fearless Frying.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512def970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512def970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512def970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512def970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512def970b~Step 1.  Working in batches of 2 tenders at a time, dredge each pair in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides.  Note:  I fry 2 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it.  Next, move up the assembly line, and, one-at-a-time dip each tender into the batter.  As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the batter to drizzle back into the bowl.  As you batter dip each tender, place it into the dish of panko. Dredge both of the cutlets in the panko ASAP.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512e04970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512e04970bStep 2.  One-at-a-time, and with the aid of a fork, carefully lower the pair of breaded tenders down into the 375° oil and into the fryer basket.  Close the lid and allow tenders to deep-fry for 3-3 1/2 minutes.  Tenders will be a beautiful golden brown and just cooked through.  Do not overcook -- residual heat will continue to cook them.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c9512e1f970bStep 3.  Open fryer lid and slowly lift basket up and out of deep-fryer. Transfer tenders to a wire rack in a baking pan that has been lined with paper towels.  Tip:  To transfer the tenders, simply tilt the basket onto its side directly over the rack.  Using tongs is a mistake -- it's an easy way to damage their crust.  Once out of the fryer, immediately sprinkle tenders with freshly ground sea salt and repeat this process until all tenders are breaded and fried.

Assembling & baking the chicken-parm garlic-bread subs.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4c618fa200bFor 4, 6"-6 1/2" chicken parmigiana sandwiches (listed in order of assembly):

4, 6"-6 1/2" high-quality submarine/hoagie-type rolls, your favorite brand

6a0120a8551282970b022ad39c00ac200ca great garlic bread spread for great garlic bread, preferably homemade, prepared in advance of baking the chicken parmesan (Stir together: 1 1/2 sticks room temp salted butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 4 tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

8  slices deli-style, sliced provolone cheese

a sprinkling of Italian seasoning blend

a sprinkling of red pepper flakes

6  batter-dipped, panko-crusted, deep-fried chicken tenders, warm or at room temperature, cut in half lengthwise to form 12 chicken fingers (3 per sandwich)

1/3-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, or, 2 slices deli-style mozzarella cheese 

1-1 1/2  cups marinara sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite store-bought brand

2  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

chiffonade (a French word meaning "thin-strips" or "little ribbons") of fresh basil leaves, for garnish

IMG_3441 IMG_3441 IMG_3441 IMG_3441~Step 1. To assemble the sandwiches, use a serrated bread knife to slice the rolls, placing each one on an aluminum foil sheet as you work.  Slather both sides of the open-faced roll with a generous coating of the garlic bread spread.  Gather the foil up to form a loose, wide-open-at-the-top packet and place packets 5 1/2" under preheated broiler for 1 1/2-2 minutes, until bubbly and golden.  Remove from oven.  Arrange 2 slices of provolone over each roll and lightly season with a sprinkling of Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes.  Reset oven to bake at 350º.    

IMG_3454 IMG_3454 IMG_3454 IMG_3454~Step 2.  Slice chicken tenders in half lengthwise, to form thin strips (chicken fingers).  Arrange 3 strips/fingers in the center of each roll.  Top tender strips with either 2 slices sliced mozzarella or 1/3-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, your choice.  Gather the foil up and around each sandwich and form a tight seal.  Bake on center rack of 350º degree oven for 8-9 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap and top each sandwich with 4-6 tablespoons marinara sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and a light chiffonade of fresh basil leaf garnish.  Serve ASAP.

Crispy garlic-bread, gooey cheese, tender parm, sauce & basil:

IMG_3479There's no right or wrong way to eat a chicken parmigiana sub:

IMG_3489Not Your Mama's Chicken-Parm Garlic-Bread Subs:  Recipe yields 4 hearty and hot chicken parmigiana sub sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: plastic wrap; cutting board; flat-sided meat mallet; 2, 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes; 9" x 4" loaf-type dish; tongs; deep-fryer; wire cooling rack; paper towels; aluminum foil sheets; serrated bread knife

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4768878200cCook's Note: In my food world, there is  no right or wrong way to make or eat any Italian-style sub -- they're pretty straightforward.  In my recipe for  ~ The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub ~ my ground chicken meatballs are infused with lots of onion, garlic, basil, egg and fresh Italian-bread crumbs.  What do they do?  They add the requisite moisture and full-throttle flavor to an otherwise dry, rather tasteless, lackluster protein.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


~ Tex-Mex Chipotle Beef and Chorizo Meatball Subs ~

IMG_3522 2Who doesn't love a meatball sandwich -- I know I do.  Besides a high-quality roll, a well-constructed meatball sub only requires three components:  tender meatballs, a great melting cheese and a savory sauce.  Culinarily, the meatball sandwich is, understandably and correctly, associated with Italian-American fare, with meatballs being a spinoff of meatloaf, which is an all-American invention.  In turn, my Southwestern-Style meatballs, are a spinoff of my Mexican-style beef and chorizo meatloaf (but should not be confused with Mexican albóndigas (albóndiga is the word for meatball in Spanish), which contain rice, not a bread product, as a binder.          

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4996f17200dIt's worth mention that aside from the bright-to-tawny red color, Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo are not the same, so, purchase with precision.  Mexican chorizo is a fresh, ground-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold loose or in a casing, it is raw and must be cooked before eating it. Spanish chorizo is a dried and fully-cured or semi-cured chopped-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold in a casing, fully-cured is fully-cooked and can be eaten as is, while semi-cured requires cooking prior to eating.

Ground beef + chorizo = Mexican-Style meatball perfection.

IMG_2628For 6-61/2 dozen meatballs*:

2-2 1/2  pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)

1  pound ground Mexican chorizo sausage

2  extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

4  ounces saltine crackers (1 sleeve of crackers from a 1-pound box), crumbled by hand into small bits and pieces, not processed to crumbs.

1  cup milk

3  tablespoons salted butter

3/4-1 cup whole corn kernels, shaved from cooked or grilled corn on the cob, or, well-drained canned corn kernels

3/4-1  cup thin-sliced green onion, white and light green parts only

3/4-1 cup small-diced green bell pepper

3/4-1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

1/2-3/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some tender stems

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans

IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637~Step 1.  Place ground beef in a large bowl.  If the sausage is in casings, remove the casings then place the sausage in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the meat.  Using your hands (it's the most efficient), thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648~Step 2.  Using your fingertips, crush the crackers into small bits and pieces, letting them fall into a medium mixing bowl as you work. Add the milk and stir to combine. Set aside about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the crackers to absorb all of the milk.  The mixture will be thick, chunky and pasty -- just perfect.  Add the cracker mixture to the meat/egg mixture, and once again, using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631~Step 3.  In a 10" skillet melt butter over low heat. Add the corn kernels along with the bell peppers and green onion.  Season with the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until peppers are softened but still crunch-tender, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro, remove from heat and cool 30 minutes.

IMG_2672 IMG_2672 IMG_2672~Step 4.  Add the cool but still-warm vegetable mix to the meat mixture.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine -- thoroughly!

IMG_3331 2 IMG_3331 2 IMG_3331 2~Step 5.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment, then place a wire rack atop the parchment.  Using a 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop as a measure to portion the meat mixture, roll each portion between the palms of your hands, placing the meatballs atop the wire rack as you work.  Bake meatballs on center rack of 350° oven 25-28 minutes.  Remove from oven, and assemble sandwiches as directed below.

*Note:  This recipe is written to make a lot of meatballs (6-6 1/2 dozen).  Feel free to cut the recipe in half, but, know they freeze great.  At this point, I always use what I need (1/3-1/2) and freeze the rest to have on-hand for one or two additional weeknight meatball-sandwich meals. 

For my easy spicy-tomato & chipotle-chile chili sauce:

IMG_1452For the sauce:

2  tablespoons corn oil

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion

4  large garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  teaspoon ancho chile pepper

3/4  teaspoon Mexican-style oregano

1  teaspoon ground cumin

1/2  teaspoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  14 1/2-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

2  whole chipotle chile peppers in adobo, plus 1-2 tablespoons sauce from can, to taste

1/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, some stems are ok

IMG_1454 IMG_1454 IMG_1454~ Step 1.  In a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan, heat the corn oil over medium- medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion, pressed garlic, ancho chile pepper, Mexican-style oregano, ground cumin, sugar and salt.  Give the ingredients a thorough stir.  Adjust the heat to sauté gently, until onion is softened, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_1465 IMG_1465 IMG_1465 IMG_1465~Step 2.  Add the fire-roasted tomatoes, two whole chipotle chiles and 1 tablespoon sauce from can of peppers.  Stir to combine and adjust heat to simmer gently and steadily, 5-6 minutes. Reduce heat to low, then taste.  For more heat, add another tablespoon sauce from chipotles.

IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475 IMG_1475~Step 3.  Stir in the minced cilantro, adjust heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Turn the heat off or remove from heat completely.  With the aid of a stick blender (also called an immersion blender), process the sauce to semi-chunky texture.  If you do not have a stick blender and are using a conventional blender, cool the sauce 1 hour prior to processing.  Transfer sauce to food storage container(s) and keep stored in refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave.  Sauce freezes well.

To assemble & bake the Mexican-style meatball sandwiches:

IMG_3359For the sandwiches:

6  6"-6 1/2" submarine/hoagie rolls, the best available, your favorite brand

18-24  slices jalapeño pepper-Jack cheese

2 1/2  dozen meatballs, from above recipe

1 1/2  cups chipotle-chile chili sauce, from above recipe

minced cilantro leaves, for garnish

IMG_3360 IMG_3360 IMG_3515 IMG_3515 IMG_3515~Step 1.  To assemble the sandwiches, use a serrated bread knife to slice the rolls, placing each one on an aluminum foil sheet as you work  Place 3-4 slices of cheese in each roll, to generously cover and protect the soft bread on both sides -- from the sauce that will come later.  Slice 2 meatballs into thirds and place them flat in the bottom of each roll.  Place 4 meatballs atop the meatball slices on each sandwich.  Gather the foil up and around each sandwich and form a tight seal.

IMG_3375 IMG_3375~ Step 2. To bake and serve the sandwiches, place sandwiches, side-by-side on center rack 350º oven for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove the foil and drizzle chipotle-chile chili sauce over the meatballs, to taste, without drenching the sandwich in sauce -- be aware, this sauce is quite spicy.  Garnish each sandwich with minced cilantro leaves and serve immediately (with additional sauce to the side if desired).

A crispy roll, gooey cheese, tender meatballs & spicy sauce: 

IMG_3525There's no right or wrong way to eat a meatball sandwich:

IMG_3537Tex-Mex Chipotle Beef and Chorizo Meatball Subs:  Recipe yields approximately 6-6 1/2 dozen meatballs/3 cups sauce/enough for 18 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List: fork; 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 10" nonstick skillet; nonstick spoon or spatula; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; wire cooling rack; 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; serrated bread knife; aluminum foil sheets

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c926d116970bCook's Note:  In my food world, there is  no right or wrong way to make a meatball sandwich -- they are pretty straightforward.  In my recipe for  ~ The Incredible Edible Caprese Chicken Meatball Sub ~ my ground chicken meatballs are infused with lots of onion, garlic, basil, egg and fresh Italian-bread crumbs.  What do they do?  They add the requisite moisture and full-throttle flavor to an otherwise dry, rather tasteless, lackluster protein.  

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


~Brownbag it with Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Subs~

IMG_3316Whether you're sending kids back to school in a few days, looking for something different to lunch on at your office computer, 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 in-my-house-made deli-style hoagie- submarine-type sandwiches.  It's extremely easy-to-make and user-friendly too.  Chop and toss the ingredients together in a bowl, stuff 'em into a sub roll just before eating, then go to town. It's akin to feasting on a tuna sub, only full of classic Caesar salad flavors and textures.

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd0c433e970bThe concept of a Caesar salad sub is hardly a new one, but, I'm here to tell you, if you've been wasting time layering lettuce leaves, shaving parmesan and placing thin slices of chicken on a roll with a drizzle of dressing (all are musts when making a chicken Caesar salad panini), it's time to rethink it. Chopped ingredients are easier to eat, and, because each and every bite-sized piece is enrobed in a light coating of creamy Caesar dressing, the end result tastes amazingly better.  The (obvious) key, however, is to load the salad concoction with chicken (lots and lots of chopped chicken) -- because, after all, this is a sandwich, not a salad.  That said, if you're not planning on eating these sandwiches within a few hours of making them, don't add the lettuce until the last moment, because it will get a bit wilty (but it'll still be delicious though).

The key is to load the salad w/lots & lots of chopped chicken -- because, after all, this is a sandwich, not a salad.

IMG_3294For two sandwiches:

1 3/4-2  cups, chopped or pulled into bite-sized pieces, grilled, chicken tenderloins or thighs

1-1 1/2  cups "chiffonade" ("thin strips"/"little ribbons") of romaine lettuce leaves

1  diced hard-cooked egg

1/2  cup small-diced tomato

1/4  cup small-diced red onion

2  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6-8  tablespoons creamy Caesar dressing, preferably homemade or high-quality store-bought

2  6-6 1/2" high-quality submarine- hoagie- type rolls, the best available

IMG_3297 IMG_3299 IMG_3299 IMG_3299 IMG_3305 IMG_3305~Step 1.  Prep and place the chicken, lettuce, egg, tomato and red onion in a medium bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, toss to combine.  Add the cheese and toss again, to incorporate cheese throughout the mixture.  Gently fold in the dressing, 4 tablespoons at first, 2 more after that, and, the last two if you think you need it. Using your fingertips, pull/remove a bit of the soft bread from the center of each half of the sliced roll, to create a cavity for stuffing as much Caesar filling into the sub sandwich as it can handle.

Stuff a roll w/as much chicken Caesar as it can handle & eat: 

IMG_3320Brownbag it with Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad Subs:  Recipe yields 2 light but filling sandwiches.

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

6a0120a8551282970b01a511b10aec970cCook's Note:  Over the past three decades, the Caesar salad, #1) became America's most popular main-dish salad, #2) altered the lettuce industry as demand for romaine has skyrocketed, and, #3) turned the chicken-topped Caesar into the chicken item most frequently found on restaurant menus -- more than wings and chicken fingers. Now considered the All-American salad, it was invented in Mexico in 1924 by an Italian-born Mexican immigrant, Caesar Cardini (a co-owner in a Tijuana restaurant).  Making a classic Caesar salad requires a some technique.  I learned from some experts, then, took what they taught me to create my own  ~ Hail Caesar:  Roasted Chicken Salad a la Melanie ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)