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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

09/15/2017

~Grillmarked: Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers~

IMG_3854Today is a glorious day in mid-September, but unless we get a wealth of warm weather and sunshine for at least two more weeks, it's probable that I picked the last substantive batch of our garden's tomatoes this morning -- and it's been a banner year.  While walking my basket of dew-covered beauties back to my kitchen, I passed by my last full-leafed basil plant, the one I've been saving for that celebratory "last caprese day" of the season.  Today ended up being the day.

IMG_6487While I'm always, and I mean always, in the mood for a classic caprese salad (sliced same-day-picked garden tomatoes, fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, a drizzle of fruity olive oil -- occasionally a splash of balsamic vinegar too -- freshly-ground sea salt and pepper), I reminded myself how much Joe was looking forward to my thick, juicy chile cheddar cheeseburgers w/chile-lime mayo for an early dinner on our deck tonight.  A promise is a promise, and, when a man's got cheeseburgers on his mind, it's pretty hard to change it. Then it not only rained, it poured.

The move indoors opened the topic up for discussion, which was convenient because I'd had "this caprese thing" rattling around in my head all morning.  Very diplomatically, I said, "How about chicken-burgers done in the grill pan instead.  I've got all the stuff on-hand to make them caprese-style.  We can make cheeseburgers anytime."  Joe's response:  "Sounds like a plan."  Joe likes plans.  Dinner was divine -- Joe still got a great burger and I quelled my caprese craving:

IMG_3873A moist, juicy chicken burger full of caprese flavors + a drizzle of some awesome balsamic mayonnaise = a great burger.

IMG_3795For the chicken burgers:

2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  medium yellow or sweet onion, medium-diced, 6-7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups 

2  large garlic cloves

1/2  cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1  extra-large egg

1/2  teaspoon dried basil leaves

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper

16  slices deli-style mozzarella cheese, or, 8 slices deli-style mozzarella cheese + 8 slices deli-style provolone cheese, your choice

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing grill pan

For the assembly and garnishes:

8  burger rolls of choice

2-3 cups shredded romaine lettuce, a generous 1/4 cup per sandwich

16-24 tomato slices, 2-3 per sandwich depending upon size of tomatoes

balsamic mayonnaise (Note:  See Cook's Note at end of recipe.)

16-24 large, whole, fresh basil leaves, 2-3 per sandwich

IMG_3800 IMG_3802 IMG_3807 IMG_3812 IMG_3815~Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken piecess in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the diced onion and basil chiffonade.  Using a series of 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely-grind the chicken, along with the onion and basil.  Add the egg, dried basil, sea salt and pepper to work-bowl of processor.  With processor motor running for 10-15 seconds, incorporate the egg and spices throughout the now finely-ground chicken.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Note:  You will have a little over 2 1/2 pounds chicken mixture.  The mixture will resemble the soft "sticky" consistency of a meatloaf mixture rather than a typical burger mixture.  This is intentional. Because ground chicken is naturally dry when it is cooked, extra moisture must be added to the poultry mixture at the outset, and, it was done in the form of onion, garlic and fresh basil.

IMG_3819 IMG_3822 IMG_3824~ Step 2.  Line a 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan with parchment paper.  Using a kitchen scale as a measure, divide poultry mixture into 8, 5-ounce portions, form the portions into 3 1/2"-round x 3/4"-thick discs, placing them side-by-side on pan.  While you can form the burgers, like you would less-sticky hamburgers, using your hands, if you have a 3 1/2" food ring and a tablespoon, it'll be incredibly easy (and you won't get "sticky chicken goo" all over your fingers and palms of hands).  Cover pan with plastic wrap and partially-freeze burgers for 55-60 minutes, no longer than that.

Note:  Partially freezing the burgers makes them easy to handle when it comes time to put them on the grill pan (or on the grids of a gas grill outdoors).  Do not freeze the burgers completely. You want them just firm enough to easily lift off the parchment while maintaining their shape.

IMG_3827 IMG_3836 IMG_3842 IMG_3849~Step 3.  Spray grill pan with no-stick cooking spray and place over medium heat on stovetop. Place as many chicken burgers as will comfortably fit (without crowding pan) on the grill grid. Cook, turning only once, until burgers are golden on both sides, about 13-15 minutes per side, lowering the heat if and when necessary to keep them from over-browning or burning before they cook through to their centers. Safe temperature = safe-to-eat poultry:  use an instant-read meat thermometer to insure burgers have reached an internal temperature of 165°.  Once an internal temperature of 162°-165º has been reached, adjust heat as low as it will go, top each burger with mozzarella slices, cover the grill pan and wait for  cheese to melt, 1-1 1/2 minutes.

Note:  To cook on an outdoor gas grill, preheat grill to medium.  Place burgers, side-by-side, either over indirect heat or on the upper rack of grill (if you have one).  Close lid and allow to cook 13-15 minutes.  After 13-15 minutes, open the grill lid.  Using a long-handled grilling spatula, flip burgers over.  They will have firmed up and be golden brown on the first side.  Close the grill lid and continue to cook on the second side for 13-15 minutes, or, to an internal temperature of 165°.

Bun, shredded lettuce, burger, tomatoes, mayo & basil:

IMG_3860Pick it or half of it up in your mitt:

IMG_3883Savor each & every end-of-caprese-season bite:

IMG_3890Grillmarked:  Ground Chicken Caprese-Style Burgers:  Recipe yields 8 large, hearty caprese-style chicken burgers & 1/2 cup balsamic mayonnaise/1 tablespoon mayo per burger.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; kitchen scale; 3 1/2" food ring and tablespoon; grill pan w/lid; instant-read meat thermometer

IMG_3711 IMG_3706Cook's Note: To make 1/2 cup balsamic mayo, in a small bowl, stir together:

1/2  cup mayonnaise

1  tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, coarsely-ground black pepper and sea salt

Refrigerate 1 hour prior to serving.

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

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

09/13/2017

~ Thai-Style Chicken-Tender Peanut-Butter Red Curry~

IMG_3692Peanut butter?  Yep.  Pulverized wok-roasted peanuts are commonly served with or in Thai food, and:  Oh my Thai -- if you love Thai food, as I do, you want this recipe in your recipe box.  If you cook Thai food, as I do, even if only on an occasional basis, I'm guessing you already have everything you need in the Asian section of your pantry and refrigerator to make this meal without making a special trip to your local Asian market.  Is this an authentic Thai recipe?  Yes and no. Yes, in that the flavors are authentic Thai.  No, in that I took a few shortcuts (mostly in the form of a can of store-bought red curry paste and some Jiff extra-crunchy peanut butter), but, nothing that a Thai cook would call me out on. Ok, perhaps a few Thai cooks would call me out, but, too bad. I'm an American gal in an American kitchen and I love Thai food.  To my Thai friends, be flattered.

IMG_3687In my food world, curries are comfort food.  Served steeping hot over or with freshly-steamed rice, they're perfect for the crisp, cold days of Fall and Winter.  Once the ingredients are prepped, which typically takes me about 30 minutes, Thai curries are relatively quick and easy to prepare. They can contain meat, poultry, fish or shellfish (never a combination, but, one can be substituted for another, so feel free to do so), and they range in texture from very soupy to very thick and stewlike.  That said, they differ from other curries (like Indian and Jamaican), in that they rely upon a variety of freshly-made pulverized "wet" curry pastes rather than "dry" curry powders.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904d5f8970dNowadays, busy cooks, even Thai cooks, purchase canned curry pastes, and, the ones sold in Asian markets are of high-quality. That said, savvy Thai cooks add a few things to store-bought curry paste to brighten and personalize the flavor -- which is exactly what I've learned to do.

Today's stewlike red chicken curry recipe is a dish I was taught to make back in 1993 by a Home Economist from Thailand living in Happy Valley with her husband Fu. Kanya and I became foodie friends fast, and, over the course of two years, I had the priviledge of learning how to combine Thai ingredients to properly balance the classic four Thai flavors -- hot, sour, sweet & salty -- and serve them in authentic Thai style too.

Two time-savers: canned curry paste & peanut butter:

IMG_36292 1/2  pounds chicken breast tenderloins, sliced into 1"-1 1/2" pieces

1  8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, well-drained

6  tablespoons sesame oil

2  teaspoons curry powder

1  teaspoon powdered turmeric

1-1 1/2  4-ounce cans Thai red curry paste (Note:  Red curry paste is your heat gauge.  Use 1 can for less spice, 1 1/2 cans for medium spice, and, 2 cans for a lot of spice.  I use 1 1/2 cans.)

1 1/2  cups medium-diced red bell pepper

1  cup thinly-sliced green onion, white and light-green part only (diced yellow or sweet onion may be substituted

1  15-ounce can straw mushrooms, well-drained, 1 generous cup

1  13 1/2-ounce can coconut milk

1  tablespoon Thai fish sauce (Note: Thai fish sauce is the "salt" of Thailand.)

2  tablespoons Thai seasoning soy sauce (Note:  Thai soy sauce differs from Chinese soy sauce, so, make sure the label reads "seasoning soy" or "Thai soy" sauce.)

2  tablespoons Thai palm sugar or light brown sugar 

4  tablespoon crunchy-style peanut butter

3/4  cups chopped, wok-roasted peanuts, from 1 cup blanched, unsalted peanuts (Note: See Cook's Note at end of post.

4-6  fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves  (Note:  I keep fresh ones in my freezer and dried ones in my pantry at all times.)

1  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

6  cups steamed jasmine rice (Note:  This allows 1-1 1/2 cups steamed rice per person.)

IMG_3638 IMG_3640 IMG_3645~ Step 1.  Slice and place the chicken cubes in the work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, along with the well-drained water chestnuts.  Using a series of about 20 rapid on-off pulses, coarsely grind the chicken and rough chop the water chestnuts.  Remove from work bowl and set aside.

IMG_3652 IMG_3654 IMG_3658 IMG_3661~Step 2.  In a 16" electric skillet, heat 6 tablespoons of sesame oil over 250° (medium-high on the stovetop).  Add the red curry paste, curry powder and powdered turmeric.  Using a large nonstick spoon, work the wet curry and the dry spices into the sesame oil and cook until curry paste is bubbling and fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.  Add chicken/water chestnut mixture, bell pepper, scallions and straw mushrooms.  Stir until ingredients are evenly-coated in curry and spices.

Note:  I prefer to use a 16" electric skillet to prepare this type of Thai curry dish for my family. Why?  It has the capacity to make enough to feed 6-8 people + enough surface area to produce a rather quick evaporation of liquid, which thickens the curry, and, it controls the heat perfectly too (a 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight-deep sides on the stovetop may be substituted).

IMG_3665 IMG_3670 IMG_3671 IMG_3684~Step 3.  Sauté, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through, 6-8 minutes.  Add and stir in the coconut milk, fish sauce, seasoning soy, palm or light-brown sugar, peanut butter, kaffir lime leaves and 1/4 cup of wok-roasted peanuts.  Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly combined and curry sauce is uniform in color, 1-2 minutes.  Adjust heat to simmer gently but steadily, about 220°-225° (medium on the stovetop), until curry sauce is nicely thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Turn heat off, cover skillet and allow to steep while steaming rice and mincing cilantro garnish. 

"When in Rome."  A bit of Thai-style mealtime etiquette:

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d1eb32ea970cWe've all heard the saying, "when in Rome, do as the Romans."  It means, when in a foreign country, or, being entertained by foreigners:  respect their customs.  In Thailand, meals are served family-style.  Each dish is served in its own vessel, and, after the food is on the table, everyone sits down together.  The food is passed and it's impolite to take too much of any one item at one time, but, it's very polite to go back for seconds or thirds.  There's more.  Because Thai food is bite-sized (sliced, diced, chopped, or pulverized), you will never find a knife on a Thai table.  For a proper Thai place setting:  a plate and/or bowl, a fork and a spoon, and, a water glass.

Portion some rice in a bowl, top generously w/chicken curry, then, garnish w/a sprinkling of peanuts & cilantro: 

IMG_3686Oh my Thai -- that very first Thai-licious forkful:

IMG_7164Thai-Style Chicken-Tender Peanut-Butter Red Curry:  Recipe yields 9-10 cups thick, hearty, stewlike curry/6-8 servings.  Leftovers freeze, thaw and reheat (in the microwave) really well.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; 16" electric skillet w/lid or 5 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides on stovetop; large nonstick spoon; electric rice steamer (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904fbcf970d 6a0120a8551282970b01bb0904fc13970dCook's Note: To wok-roast the peanuts, place a thin coating of sesame oil in bottom of a wok and swirl to coat the wok a few inches up the sides -- the amount of oil will vary depending upon size of  wok. Heat over medium-high, add peanuts and stir-fry, stirring constantly, until golden, 1-2-3 minutes.  Cool and chop the nuts.

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

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

09/10/2017

~ Chicken, Cheddar, Bacon, Apple & Honey Mustard ~

IMG_3586Write this list of five ingredients down.  Why?  Together, they are a stellar Fall sandwich (or salad) combination.  Piled high between two slices of bread or tossed together in a bowl, along with some thinly-sliced onion and a few greens, they constitute a complete and salivatingly satisfying meal -- savory, sweet, and ever-so-slightly-salty, with plenty of meaty protein, tangy cheese, tart fruit and crisp vegetables.  It all gets pulled together with a drizzly dressing made of honey, mustard and mayonnaise, which complements each and every component perfectly.  

I like to stuff everything into a pita pocket, but, I have been known to serve 'em up on homemade cheddar biscuits, when I've got time and am inclined to bake biscuits.  Served on either, it's an exquisite sandwich.  That said, I put some thought into the "construction", meaning:  the order in which the ingredients would be layered.  While sandwiches can be as simple as "catch-as-catch-can", "grab the stuff and out the door you run", all sandwiches are not created equal:  

Some are hot and some are cold.  Some need to be eaten ASAP and some can be wrapped and transported long distances.  Some are neat and can be picked up to eat, others are sloppy and require a knife and fork.  In the case of this sandwich, I wanted it layered in a manner that kept it from deconstructing itself as I ate it -- I wanted it to stay relatively intact to the very last bite.  

IMG_3575A great sandwich is a properly-constructed sandwich:

For each sandwich:

1  pita pocket, sliced in half to form 2 half-moon shapes

2-3  tablespoons honey-mustard dressing, a generous 1 tablespoon per half sandwich

2  slices sharp yellow cheddar cheese, sliced in half to form 4 triangles, 2 triangles per half sandwich

2  very-thin slices red onion, sliced in half to form 4 half-moon shapes, 2 half-moon shapes per half sandwich

12 thin slices poached or roasted chicken breast, 6 thin slices per half sandwich

2  slices oven roasted bacon or pan-fried bacon, each slice cut into 4 pieces per half 

6  crisp and crunchy, in-season, unpeeled and thinly-sliced, half-moon-shaped apple slices, your favorite Fall apple, 3 half-moon-shaped slices per half sandwich 

4-6 generous tablespoons shredded iceberg lettuce (or your favorite crisp greens), about 2-3 tablespoons shredded lettuce per half sandwich

additional honey-mustard dressing, preferably homemade, for dipping or drizzling

potato chips or potato salad, for accompaniment

IMG_3545 IMG_3549 IMG_3555 IMG_3559~Step 1.  Slice 1 pita pocket in half and open each half up.  Using a teaspoon or a butter knife, slather the inside, top and bottom, of each pita half, with about 1 generous tablespoon honey mustard dressing.  Cut 2 slices yellow sharp cheddar cheese in half to form 4 triangles and layer 2 pieces of cheese in the bottom each pita half.  Cut 2 very-thin slices red onion in half to form 2 half-moon shapes.  Place/distribute 2 of the half-moons, atop the cheese in each half.

IMG_3563 IMG_3569 IMG_3570 IMG_3574~Step 2.  Atop the onion, arrange 6 thin slices poached or roasted chicken breast meat in each pita half.  Atop the chicken, arrange 4 quarter-pieces bacon (1 slice bacon cut into 4 pieces).  In each pita half, arrange 3 thin half-moon shaped apples slices atop the bacon.  Atop the apples slices in each pita half, "stuff" 2-3 tablespoons shredded lettuce.  It's pretty as a picture:

Drizzle w/additional honey-mustard dressing & serve:

IMG_3596Absolutely fantastic to the very last bite: 

IMG_3616Chicken, Cheddar, Bacon, Apple & Honey Mustard:  Recipe yields instructions to construct 1 pita sandwich/2 halves per person.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; teaspoon or butter knife

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fd0c433e970bCook's Note:  Those of you who know me, know I love roasted chicken, and, I truly do roast two chickens almost every week, just to have the meat on-hand for sandwiches and salads.  It's so much better than salty, store-bought deli-meat chicken. During the Fall and Winter months, I love to bake focaccia too, to have on-hand for sandwiches.  Got roasted chicken and focaccia too?  Check out my recipe for ~ Roasted-Chicken Caesar-Salad Focaccia Panini ~. It's more than worth the effort.

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

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