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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

04/26/2017

~ Open Sesame: Asian Sweet Chili Crockpot Chicken ~

IMG_8328Calling all faithful users of crockpots and couch potatoes with crockpots who crave Asian food.   Whether you're exhausted and trying feed a family of four after a busy day at the office or just lazily lounging on the sofa watching the NFL draft for two days, I've got a recipe for you.  I won't lie.  I don't use my crockpot on a regular basis, but I do know that really good recipes for slow-cooked Asian fare are few and far between.  There is a reason for that.  Aside from soup, when most of us think Asian, we think fast-and-furious stir-fries with crunch-tender vegetables and velvety-textured meat, poultry or seafood.  In our minds, it hard to associate Asian with the steamy one-textured food that emerges from the crockpot.  In the case of this recipe, that's a non issue.  Served over rice, ramen, or simply heaped on a sandwich roll, I promise you this:

Succulent chicken in a bold-flavored slightly-spicy sauce. 

IMG_8281For the chicken (not pictured in the above photo):

2 1/4-2 1/2  pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders or thighs

For the sauce:

6  tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy)

6  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce

6  tablespoons American chili sauce

2  tablespoons hoisin sauce

2  tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1  tablespoon sesame oil

1  teaspoon garlic paste

1 teaspoon ginger paste

4  tablespoons light-brown sugar

1/2  cup thinly-sliced scallions, white and light green part only, tops reserved for garnish 

For the slurry to thicken the sauce at the end:

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons corn starch

2  tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce (Mae Ploy)

1  tablespoon Thai seasoning soy

1  tablespoon water

For the garnish:

thinly-sliced scallion tops, reserved from above scallions

lightly-toasted sesame seeds

Arrange the tenders or thighs in the bottom of a 6 1/2-7-quart crockpot:

IMG_8278Stir together all of the sauce ingredients and slice the scallions.  Pour all of the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle all of the scallions over the sauce:

IMG_8288Program the crockpot to slow cook on high for 4 hours:

IMG_8296After 3 hours of cooking, using a slotted spoon, transfer the fully-cooked tenders or thighs from the sauce to a cutting board (do not turn the crockpot off):

IMG_8308Using a fork, in a small bowl or 1-cup measuring container, whisk the slurry ingredients together and add them to the still simmering sauce in the crockpot:

IMG_8313Slice the tenders or thighs, return them to the crockpot and give the mixture a stir:

IMG_8319Put the lid back on the crockpot and continue to cook until the 4 hours are up:

IMG_8322Steamed rice is nice, ramen noodles are another option: 

IMG_8343Open Sesame:  Asian Sweet Chili Crockpot Chicken:  Recipe yields 5 cups, sliced-chicken mixture/4-6 servings when placed over rice or ramen.

Special Equipment List:  6 1/2-7-quart crockpot; 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; large slotted spoon; fork

IMG_0984Cook's Note:  If it's a full-flavored Asian soup recipe you're interested in, you can find my one and only other Asian crockpot recipe for ~ Chinese:  Crockpot Chicken & Egg Noodle Soup ~ in Categories 2, 13 or 20.  Just microwave some fresh Chinese egg noodles, portion them into a few bowls and ladle the soup right over the top.

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

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

04/23/2017

~ Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts ~

IMG_8271Leftover shredded or chopped chicken.  It's an ingredient we all come across on a regular basis in a wide variety of recipes for appetizers, salads, sandwiches and casseroles -- I've even seen it called for in some throw-together soup and stew meals.  That said, I rarely use true "leftover" chicken to prepare any of them.  Here's why:  Most times, when I have leftover chicken, it's been seasoned and cooked to suit a specific recipe.  Nine out of ten times, the flavor profile doesn't align with the recipe du jour.  Example:  The grilled chicken breast rubbed with fajita seasoning leftover from dinner last night, is hardly going to taste great in my Sour-Cream-and-Dill-Dressed Chicken Chef Salad today.  The perfect solution:  poach chicken on an as-needed basis.  

IMG_8277I rarely poach a whole chicken because when I need chopped or shredded chicken, I typically only need two-three-four cups.  There's more.  I never poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs.  Here's why:  The flavor is in the skin and the bones.  When you remove either, the end result is too sad to talk about. "Rubber chicken" did not get it's nickname for any other reason than:  Back in the 1990's, we were informed by the food police to cut back on eggs and well-marbled red meat -- two of my favorite foods.  Poultry processors began mass-marketing boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the newly-enlightened sheeple.  Tasteless, boneless, skinless chicken breasts began replacing fat, juicy steaks on dinner tables in homes and restaurants everywhere.  This was America's boneless-skinless rubber-chicken-dinner era.  

I did not buy into America's "rubber chicken" era -- I resisted.

IMG_8267Poaching vs. Roasting = Low Moist Heat vs. High Dry Heat.

IMG_8322"You can always judge the quality of a cook by their roast chicken."  ~ J. Child.  I roast chickens.  I have roasted many chickens in my life, and, I've been roasting chickens since before some of you were born. I've never served roasted chicken to a guest that didn't mention how moist and perfectly cooked it was and asks how I got it that way.  

Everyone and anyone who cooks has an opinion on roasting chicken, and, mine is quite basic: One 6-pound chicken, a 350° oven and 2 hours of the chicken's time.

6a0120a8551282970b019aff52d2b5970bTo learn everything I know about roasting an entire chicken, click here to read, This Woman's Way to Roast the Perfect Chicken + My Stressfree "Carving for Dummies" Methodology.  If it's roasted chicken breasts you prefer, My E-Z "Real" Roasted Chicken Breasts is another option: 2-4-6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, a 350° oven and 1 1/2 hours of the chicken's time. Both yield perfectly-cooked, moist and juicy, fork-tender chicken.

Poaching = 30-45 minutes.  Roasting = 1 1/2-2 hours.

The term "poach" is from the French verb "pocher" meaning to cook gently in water or seasoned liquid.  The liquid, called "court bouillon" or "short broth", is classically a mixture of water, an acid (such as lemon juice, wine, and/or vinegar or wine vinegar), aromatics (such as onion, celery and/or carrot), an herb or two (such as parsley, thyme and/or bay leaf), salt and peppercorns. That said, poaching chicken is a worldwide sport and the liquid should be seasoned accordingly. For example: When I'm poaching chicken for Asian fare, I use ginger, lemongrass and/or lime leaves, cilantro, soy sauce and/or fish sauce (in place of salt) and a cayenne chile pepper.

Shallow poaching involves placing the food to be poached, presentation side up, atop or in the center of the aromatics, herbs and spices in a shallow cooking vessel.  Cold or room temperature court bouillon is added until the food is partially-submerged in liquid.  The pan gets covered and the food gets cooked gently at a low temperature (barely simmering/shivering), which preserves both the flavor and the structural integrity of the food.  Deep poaching is almost identical, except the food is placed in a deep vessel and fully-submerged in liquid.  In both cases, depending upon the recipe, the liquid might require skimming at the start of or throughout the cooking process.

Place two large 1-1 1/4 pound, bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves, skin-side-up, in a wide-bottomed 3 1/2-quart "chef's pan" w/straight deep sides:

IMG_8205Around the perimeter, arrange 6 ounces chunked onion (half a medium onion),  4 ounces carrot cut into 2" lengths (one large carrot), 2  ounces celery cut into 2" lengths (1 large stalk celery), 2 bay leaves, and, 2 teaspoons each coarse salt and whole peppercorns:

IMG_8210Add 1 quart water, or, 3 1/2 cups water + 1/2 cup white wine:

IMG_8214Cover and place on stovetop over high heat.  When liquid comes to a rapid simmer, adjust heat to a very gentle simmer/shiver and continue to cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170°, 40-45 minutes (Note:  smaller breasts will cook more quickly):

IMG_8218^^^ Tip from Mel.  If you have a pot with a glass lid, it's ideal, as it allows you to watch the poaching process and regulate the heat as necessary.  Remove from heat.

IMG_8225Using a large spoon, transfer chicken from the liquid to a plate (Note:  There is no need to discard the liquid, it's quite tasty.  Simmer some egg noodles in it or strain and freeze it.):  

IMG_8232Gently and carefully loosen and remove the skin while it is soft and pliable (this insures a pretty presentation, particularly if the breast is to be thin-sliced):

IMG_8237Cover with plastic wrap and wait until the chicken has cooled until you can comfortably handle it with your hands, prior to gently removing the bones from the meat: 

IMG_8248Poached perfection, fork-tender, moist and juicy too.  Each breast yields 2-3 servings sliced and about 2 generous cups of chopped or shredded chicken:

IMG_8260Poaching Bone-In Skin-On Real Chicken Breasts:  Recipe gives instructions to poach 2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves and yields 1 total pound of poached chicken/roughly 4 generous cups chopped or shredded chicken.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides and lid (preferably glass); instant-read meat thermometer; large slotted spoon; plastic wrap

IMG_2440Cook's Note:  The alternative to moist-heat poaching is dry-heat roasting, and, if done correctly, the end result is equally as delicious. My recipe for ~ A Peachy All-White-Meat 'Melanie' Chicken Salad ~ is in Categories 2, 12 or 26.

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

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

04/20/2017

~ Sour Cream and Dill Dressing for Cucumber Salad ~

IMG_8196Fresh, feathery and fragile dill "leaves" or "weed".  It's a bit early for it to be available to me in my Central PA garden, but:  big, beautiful bunches of it are showing up in my grocery stores.  In Eastern European kitchens everywhere, dill, along with chives, mint and/or parsley, are commonly used to flavor all sorts of heritage dishes:  fish (like salmon or sturgeon), various soups (notably red or white borscht), many vegetables (especially carrots or potatoes), and, classic dill pickles (or anything that can be pickled).  The sweet, subtle flavor of dill is delightful in many of our ethnic vinaigrettes, dressings, sauces, dips and spreads, and, it's even used to make a savory compound "dill butter", which dreamily spreads over or melts into almost anything.  Sigh.

IMG_8159While dill is native to Central and Eastern Europe, it's grown all over Scandinavia (Northern Europe) and Eurasia too, where its leaves and seeds are used as an herb or spice in  Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Lao, Arabian, Indian and Iranian cuisines too (to name a few from a long list).  

There are many variations to the Eastern European (Russian) sour-creamy dill dressing I am making today, but two things are common to IMG_8203all:  Fresh dill is used because the dried herb loses its flavor rapidly, and, the cool and creamy dressing is classically used to dress cucumbers and/or tomatoes freshly-picked from the Summer garden.  I drizzle the dressing over the cucumbers or tomatoes at serving time.  The common practice is to stir in enough dressing to enrobe them. In my opinion, the common practice alternative, no matter how judicious one is with the dressing, generally renders an over-dressed salad, plus, cucumbers and tomatoes (which lose their textural integrity quickly -- within 10-15 minutes), renders the dressing watery.  It's silly to do that.

My way renders perfectly-dressed, pretty-to-look-at cucumber or tomato side-salads.

IMG_8174For 1 cup dressing:

1  cup sour cream

2  teaspoons lemon juice, fresh or high-quality organic juice not from concentrate

1  teaspoon dried, minced garlic

1  teaspoon dried, minced onion

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

3-4  tablespoons minced-fresh dill leaves, or more, to your liking

IMG_8167 IMG_8177 IMG_8175 IMG_8180~Step 1.  In a medium bowl, stir together the  sour cream, lemon juice, garlic, onion, pepper and salt.  Mince the dill and stir it in.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.  

Dollop 2 tablespoons dressing over each 1/2-3/4 cup salad. 

IMG_8199It's a tasty dressing for a classic chef salad too:

IMG_8271Sour Cream and Dill Dressing for Cucumber Salad:  Recipe yields 1 cup dressing/enough to dress 8, 1/2-cup side-salads.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; spoon; 1-cup food storage container with tight-fitting lid

IMG_8049Cook's Note:  When I've got lots of dill, one of my favorite things to make is ~ Mel's Petite Porketta for Joe's Jessup Sandwiches ~ (pork stuffed w/a mix of dill and garlic. Today's salad(s) are a wonderful accompaniment to them.  Get my recipe in Category 2, 3, 10 12 or 17.

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

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