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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

01/18/2018

~ Bone-Suckin' Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs ~

IMG_3221The machinations of making ribs in a slow cooker never seemed right to me -- kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.  I've seen people bend entire racks, slice and stack sections, even cut them into individual riblets   That type of rib abuse is why I never attempted it, but, as a person who likes my ribs fall-of-the-bone tender, there was never a doubt the slow cooker could achieve that.  After all, just like a Dutch oven placed on the stovetop or in the oven, it's what slow cookers do, tenderize meat -- especially the cheap, tough cuts.  The lid seals and traps the heat and moisture in the pot, preventing evaporation and heat loss, which provides plenty of time for everything-that-can-make-meat-tough (the muscle, connective tissue and fat) to break down.

IMG_3106Meet Crockpot's Casserole Crock. For me, it's my latest acquisition in a long line of slow cookers.  I now currently own ten different brands, models and sizes -- which is odd because, me, not-the-queen-of-crockpot-cooking, uses a slow cooker, maybe, five-six times a year. While Crockpot rightfully peddles this one as a casserole crock (because it is essentially a 13" x 9" x 3" casserole), and, it's intended to make-and-take slow-cooked casseroles (it's got lock-in-place handles and a stay-cool handle for carrying the entire contraption), I saw it as a vehicle for baby-back ribs (trimmed to fit into it's bottom), to cook evenly, in comfort -- single-layer spa-style.

IMG_3175I bought two.  Simmer down.  At about $45.00 each, it wasn't that big of an investment.  My rational was: Joe buys baby-back ribs vacuum-packed at Sam's club.  Each package contains three racks.  After eye-balling the dimensions of the Crockpot Casserole, I knew with certainty, that between the two of them, I could slow-cook all three racks -- to feed a crowd.  With the Super Bowl coming up in a few short weeks, I couldn't wait to plug them in for their maiden voyages today.

Important Note:  Armed with two crockpot casseroles, for my own purposes, I am slow-cooking three very large racks of baby-back spare-ribs this afternoon.  That said, past this sentence, the recipe is written for one crockpot casserole which will accommodate two small racks of ribs. 

IMG_3118Because the inside bottom dimensions of the casserole are approximately 11" x 6", that requires cutting each rack of baby-back ribs into either 2, 11" lengths (cut each rack in half), or, 3, 6" lengths (cut each rack into thirds).  Besides being more manageable, I chose 6" lengths because they are a perfect portion for each person.

IMG_3115 IMG_3115 IMG_3115 IMG_3134 IMG_3134~Step 1.  To prepare the ribs for seasoning, pat them dry in some paper towels and remove the silverskin from the underside of each rack.  If you don't know how to do this, read my post ~ How to: Remove the Silverskin from Spareribs ~.  Using a large chef's knife, slice each rack into thirds. Lightly sprinkle each section, top and bottom, with your favorite seasoning blend or rub.  See Cook's Note at the end of this post for my favorite brand.

IMG_3143 IMG_3143 IMG_3143Step 2.  Spray the inside of the crock casserole with no-stick cooking spray. Arrange the ribs to fit, in a single layer, slightly-overlapping in a spot or two if necessary.  As I expected, four of the largest sections and five of the smallest sections, fit snugly and nicely between the two crocks respectively.  Nicely done.

IMG_3161 IMG_3161 IMG_3161 IMG_3161 IMG_3183 IMG_3183~Step 3.  Using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle 3/4 cup your favorite barbecue sauce over the tops of the ribs. Cover the crockpot. Cook on high for 2 hours, then, low for 2 hours. The tip of a knife or the tines of a fork, when pierced between any two ribs will easily glide through and come out on the other side.  If desired, adjust heat to keep ribs warm for up to 1 hour prior to finishing them as directed in the next step.

IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193 IMG_3193~Step 4.  Preheat broiler with oven rack positioned about 5" under the heat.  Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil, then place a sheet of parchment in the bottom of pan.  Open crockpot and remove the ribs, arranging them slightly apart on the baking pan.  Using a large pastry brush generously slather the the tops with additional barbecue sauce.  Finish ribs off under the broiler for 3-4 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and just starting to to show signs of light browning.  Watch carefully.  All barbecue sauces contain some form of sugar, which can and will go from lightly-browned to burned quickly.

Plate 'em & serve 'em for dinner (w/plenty of napkins)... 

IMG_3220... or slice 'em & serve 'em as appetizers (w/plenty of napkins):

IMG_3242Bone-Suckin' Slow-Cooker Baby-Back Spare-Ribs:  Recipe yields 2-4 servings per casserole (allowing 1/3-1/2-rack per person).

Special Equipment List:  paper towels; cutting board; chef's knife; crockpot casserole; 1-cup measuring container; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; pastry brush

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d0be333d970cCook's Note:  Tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, molasses, mustard, horseradish, lemon juice, onions, garlic, peppers, natural hickory smoked flavor, natural spices, salt and xanthan gum.  It's the xanthan gum, which they used in place of cornstarch as a thickener, that makes it gluten-free and keeps it a transparent light-red color.  Bone Suckin' Sauce hails from Raleigh, NC, and, is the brainchild of Phil Ford. Back in 1987, Phil was trying to copy his mother's recipe for a western North Carolina-style barbecue sauce.  His creation was so delicious his sister-in-law, Sandi Ford, convinced Phil to partner with her and her husband to sell it. It was coined "bone suckin' " because it made Sandi suck on the rib bones to get every last bit of flavor from them -- as it does to all of us.

IMG_3126Extra Cook's Note:  Bone Suckin' Sauce and Bone Suckin' Seasoning and Rub -- together.  Oh.  My.  Sigh.

My pantry nor I would never be caught without this dynamic duo in it -- I buy the sauce by the case.  My family would simply disown me. Created to go together, they're an addictive, well-balanced blend of sweet-savory BBQ perfection -- both are bright, fresh and crisp with a hint of smokey flavor.  For sprinkling and rubbing to dipping, drizzling, slathering, or basting, there isn't anything, from A-Z in the world of barbecue, they're not fantastic on.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

01/15/2018

~ Say Cheese Please: Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit ~

IMG_3073Welsh rarebit -- the original cheese toast.  It's worth mention that I've only eaten what I believe to be the real-deal once.  It was in the latter 1990's, in Wales, in the exquisite Coed-Y-Mwstwr Hotel (coy-dee-moo-ster).   It came to me as a complimentary side to a lovely salad (which I ordered after returning from shopping in the city of Cardiff).  The cheese toast, along with everything else in this hotel, was perfect.  I kicked off my high-heels and enjoyed it in my lavish room, overlooking the How-Green-was-My-Valley countryside, with a very English G&T too.

I gave cheese toast a lot more thought after that trip.  

IMG_3077Welsh rarebit or rabbit = molten cheese on toast. 

Welsh rarebit (pronounced rabbit) is a traditional British dish made by ladling a thickened, sometimes roux-based, cheese sauce over crustless, thick-sliced ever-so-slightly-toasted bread, then quickly broiling the two until the sauce is bubbling and barely-light-golden.  Basic rarebit sauce is made by melting a hard English cheese (like cheddar, gloucester, cheshire or lancashire) with cayenne pepper, English mustard, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, milk and beer.  Another, easier (cheaters) method, it to simply melt sliced cheese atop lightly-toasted bread that has been slathered with mixture of softened butter, mustard, Worcestershire and cayenne pepper. 

Welsh rabbit is the original name, and, the dish is Welsh in origin, dating back to the 1700's.  The Welsh, who are famous for their love of cheese, claim to be among the first to use cheese in various dishes and sauces.  In their food world, the original name, rabbit, was an affectionate way to say, "we prefer eating cheese to eating rabbit".  In their real world, Wales was an impoverished nation and many a Welshman couldn't afford even the cheapest meat.  Others claim the original name, after making its way into English kitchens, was meant to cast aspersions on the Welsh, who were allegedly not adept at catching rabbits -- and "rabbit" changed to "rarebit" spurred by the need for political correctness.  Still others claim the Welsh peasants, who weren't allowed to eat the rabbits caught during the hunts on the estates of the nobles, eating melted cheese and bread as a substitute, named the dish.  Culinary authorities, like Auguste Escoffier, say the spelling was changed from "rabbit" to "rarebit" merely to emphasize it not being a meat dish.

IMG_29932  tablespoons salted butter

2  tablespoons flour

1   teaspoon dry English mustard

1  teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2  teaspoon onion salt

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2  cup milk

1/2  cup beer, your favorite brand 

1 1/4  cups shredded yellow cheddar cheese

1/2"-thick slices brioche-type bread*, preferably my recipe for bread machine brioche

*Note:  Ordinary soft, white sandwich bread will not work in this recipe.  Prior to toasting and broiling, the bread needs to be firm enough to hold the weight of the cheese and not get soggy.

IMG_2995 IMG_2995 IMG_2995~ Step 1.  In a 1-cup measuring container, combine the milk, beer and Worcestershire sauce.  Set aside.  Place the flour in a small bowl and add the dry English mustard, onion salt and cayenne pepper.  Set aside.

IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3006 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015 IMG_3015~Step 2.  Melt the butter in a 1 1/2-quart saucepan over low heat.  Add the flour and spices.  Whisk constantly for 1 full minute.  Add the milk mixture. Adjust heat to simmer. Whisk constantly until nicely-thickened, about 3 minutes.  Turn the heat off and add the cheese. Whisk until cheese is melted and a thick, drizzly sauce has formed.  

IMG_3038~ Step 3.  Remove from heat.  There will be 1 1/2 cups of cheese sauce. Use immediately to make classic Welsh rarebit (as directed below), or, a Welsh rarebit fondue.  Cheese sauce can be made a day or three ahead, covered, and kept stored in the refrigerator.  Reheat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop, stirring frequently.  Do not freeze.

IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039 IMG_3039~Step 4.  For each serving of classic Welsh rarebit, from the loaf of brioche, cut two 1/2"-thick slices of bread, then, trim the crust.  Ever-so-lightly-toast the bread.  Remove bread from toaster and place on a baking pan that has been lined with parchment.  Place and spread two tablespoons of the rarebit sauce over the surface of each slice, stopping just short of the edges.  Place pan on a rack positioned 5" underneath the broiler and cook until bubbly, about 3 minutes.  Garnish with minced parsley or chives.

Serve ASAP -- while hot & bubbling.

IMG_3078Pick up a knife & stick a fork in it:

IMG_3085Say Cheese Please:  Making Perfect Welsh Rarebit:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups Welsh rarebit sauce, enough to coat 12 standard-sized slices bread.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held box grater; 1-cup measuring container; 1 1/2-quart saucepan; whisk; cutting board; serrated bread knife; appropriately-sized baking pan; parchment paper

6a0120a8551282970b019aff73c661970bCook's Note:  Cheddar cheese sauce in general is really easy to make.  It only takes about five minutes, so please refrain from purchasing the store-bought glop. Even though I don't think vegetables need any livening up, it was one of my secret weapons to get our boys to eat their veggies.  Try ~ My Basic Cheddar Cheese Sauce for Vegetables ~.  This recipe is kid tested and mother approved.

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

01/12/2018

~ Well-Seasoned Vegetarian Vegetable & Bean Soup ~

IMG_2977I adore our country's famous Senate bean soup  -- chocked full of navy beans, shards of meat from ham hocks or shanks, onion and celery.  Everything from its rich history to is smokey flavor and creamy texture is perfection -- I've even had the pleasure of eating in the Senate dining room in Washington, D.C.  That said, I have vegetarian friends -- not many, but, they enjoy making their presence known in my kitchen.  When they do, I'm happy to go meatless for a few hours.  Yesterday was one such afternoon.  A pot of this relatively-easy-to-make vegetarian version of my senate bean soup, a rustic loaf of whole-grain bread with a big wedge of herbed-brie, and, of course, a bottle of white wine.  It was a lovely way to fritter away a snowy afternoon.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c873f614970bI won't lie, I'm not a snob when it comes to canned beans.  They're a time-saving convenience.  My pantry contains a nice variety of beans, both dried and canned.  Like all conveniences, pound for pound, canned beans are more expensive than dried ones, but they hardly fall into the category of "pricey". There's more:  Both canned and dried are healthy. There is little nutritional difference between canned and dried beans (about the same amount of fiber, protein and calories), except for sodium content: canned = 450 mg./dried = 0 mg.

Note:  1 pound of dried beans (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 2 1/3-2 1/2 cups dried beans.  1  pound of dried beans after soaking overnight (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 5-5 1/2 cups of soaked beans -- when soaked, beans double in size. For "how to" instructions read my post ~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs. Overnight Soaking ~.

Everybody into the pot:  One-Step Vegetarian Bean Soup.

IMG_29371 1/2  quarts homemade vegetable stock, or, Kitchen Basics unsalted vegetable stock (6 cups)

IMG_29713  40-ounce cans great northern beans, undrained (each 40-ounce can of beans contains about 1 1/2 cups of liquid and 4 cups pre-cooked, via the canning process, cooked-in-the-can-beans)

1  tablespoon minced garlic, or, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

2  cups peeled and small-diced carrots 

2  cups small-diced celery 

2  cups small-diced onion

4  cups peeled and small-diced gold potatoes 

1  cup, minced, fresh parsley 

4  whole bay leaves

4  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons coarsely-ground or cracked black pepper

1 1/2  teaspoons poultry seasoning

IMG_2943 IMG_2943 IMG_2943 IMG_2943 IMG_2965 IMG_2965~Step 1.  Prep and place all ingredients in an 8-quart stockpot.  Using a large spoon, give it a thorough stir.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Adjust heat to a gentle but steady simmer, partially cover the stockpot and continue to simmer for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, stopping to stir every 10-15 minutes.  Turn the heat off. Cover the pot and set aside to steep for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, or overnight, for flavors to marry.

Simple, Straightforward & Scrumptious.  Serve:

IMG_2990Well-Seasoned Vegetarian Vegetable & Soup:  Recipe yields 6 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 8-quart stockpot w/lid

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fccf9945970bCook's Note:  While any bean soup is comfort food at its best on a cold Winter's day, some of my fondest memories are of eating it (out of a styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon) in the Summer at church picnics, backyard barbecues, block parties, family reunions and my father's workplace's annual company clambake.  My mom's recipe for, ~ A Hearty Fifteen-Bean Ham & Vegetable Soup ~, made from dried beans, is worth the extra effort.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)