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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 2000 of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch over 125 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

05/02/2021

~ Apple-Pie Chicken Paillards and Stuffing Casserole ~

IMG_0996Chicken and stuffing.  The two go hand-in-hand, and I can't fathom my food world without this combination.  As a young girl, roast chicken with mom's stuffing and gravy was our Sunday dinner twice-a-month.  Spring, Summer, Fall or Winter, be it a Sunday or a weeknight, it's always prime-time for chicken and stuffing on my dinner table, and, this super-easy casserole is a spin-off of my Aunt's apple-pie pork-chop and stuffing casserole recipe -- which, uses two boxes of Stovetop stuffing mix in place of classic white bread stuffing, plus, a can of apple pie filling is added to the bottom of the casserole for an added, sweet-and-savory surprise. 

Paillard is a fancy French word, a verb, meaning "to pound":

6a0120a8551282970b01bb098fc7e8970dA bit about paillard (PI-yahrd):  This fancy French word means "to pound", and, references a lightly-pounded portion-sized slice or medallion of meat, poultry or seafood that gets quickly sautéed. A paillard is not madly smashed to smithereens.  Pounding should make it wider and thinner, with the point being to pound it in a manner that makes it even in thickness --  to break down the fibers, to tenderize it, and, to make it cook evenly.  It's done with a flat-sided meat mallet, not a sharp, pyramid-toothed gadget guaranteed to pulverize.  To those who smack away using the back of a heavy skillet, while the bravado is amusing, it's less than affective, as you can't concentrate the necessary force directly on the places that need it to do a truly expert job.

The taste and texture of lightly-pounded paillards is an extra step well worth the effort. I find it to be a time-saver too.  The time it takes to pound six boneless skinless chicken thighs, including the time to get out a cutting board, the plastic wrap and a flat-sided meat mallet is about five minutes. Once done, cooking the paillards is considerably faster and easier, had I not taken the time.

IMG_0983This quick & easy sweet & savory chicken dinner is applicious:

IMG_09274  tablespoons corn or peanut oil, for sautéing paillards

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, for seasoning paillards

2  22-ounces can apple pie filling

2  6-ounce boxes Stove-Top Chicken Stuffing Mix

1  generous cup diced celery

1  generous cup diced onion

2  cups chicken broth

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfa26200b6  large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (Note:  This is approximately the equivalent of 3, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves that have been butterflied to form 6 pieces/portions.)

~ Step 1.  Place the thighs between two large layers of plastic wrap and lightly pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to a thickness of more than a 1/4" and less than 1/2".

6a0120a8551282970b026bdecb4568200c~ Step 2. Remove and discard the top layer of plastic wrap and lightly sprinkle the tops of paillards with:

Bone Suckin' Sauce Seasoning and Rub 

In a 16" electric skillet on low heat, heat:

6 tablespoons corn or peanut oil

Increase heat to medium- medium-high (240°-250°).

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaba200b 6a0120a8551282970b026bdecb4600200c 6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaea200b 6a0120a8551282970b027880233296200d~Recap: Cover a large cutting board with plastic wrap.  Unravel/unroll the chicken thighs and place them, flat and slightly apart, atop the plastic. Cover with a second sheet of plastic.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, pound to a thickness of 1/4"-1/2".  Remove and discard top layer of plastic.

IMG_0930 IMG_0930 IMG_0940 IMG_0940 IMG_0948 IMG_0948~Step 3.  Add the paillards to the hot oil in the skillet.   Season their tops (liberally) with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend. Sauté gently until light-golden in color on both sides, turning only once, about 7-8 minutes per side, turning the heat down, if necessary, to prevent scorching. Turn the heat off.  Using a fork, transfer the paillards from the skillet to a plate and briefly set aside (leave drippings in bottom of skillet).

IMG_3890 IMG_3890 IMG_3896 IMG_3896 IMG_3903 IMG_3903 IMG_3908~Step 4.  Return heat in skillet to 225º and wait 30-60 seconds, just long enough to reheat the chicken drippings,  Add the celery and onion.  Sauté the vegetables, stirring constantly with a large spoon, until crunch tender, 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and the stuffing mix.  Stir until the stuffing is thick and has absorbed the broth.  Turn the heat off, cover the skillet, and let sit for 5-6 minutes.

IMG_0922 IMG_0922 IMG_0960 IMG_0960~Step 5.  Open one can of apple pie filling and use a spoon to scoop and distribute it evenly in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Uncover the skillet.  Use the spoon to scoop and evenly distribute the stuffing atop the apple pie filling.  Open the second can of pie filling and distribute it evenly atop the stuffing.  Arrange the still warm chicken paillards atop the pie filling.    

IMG_0966 IMG_0970~Step 6.  Cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake on center rack of 325° oven 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake another 15 minutes, or until stuffing is turning golden on top. Remove from oven, place it on the table and serve ASAP.

Place it on the table & serve it up.  Leftovers reheat great too:

IMG_0981Apple Pie Chicken Paillard and Stuffing Casserole:  Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.

Special Equipment List: large cutting board; plastic wrap; flat-sized meat mallet; 16" electric skillet w/lid; fork and/or spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; large spoon; 2-cup measuring container; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; aluminum foil

6a0120a8551282970b0263e99dfaaa200bCook's Note:  A Paillard, a noun, is a thin, lightly-pounded cut, large or small, of any type of meat -- most commonly beef, chicken, lamb, pork or veal.  That said, occasionally, in certain culinary applications, firm seafood, like lobster, shrimp or scallops, can, for the right reason, become a paillard.  It's also possible to use some vegetables to make a paillard.  Paillard, the verb, generally speaking, means to lightly-pound. I'm using a boneless chicken thighs as an example: ~ To Paillard or Not to Paillard -- & Define a Paillard ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/29/2021

~Steak My Day - Summer-Up & Try Pork Blade Steak~

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1The pork blade steak is my new-to-me muse -- in my own words, it's a bone-fide kick-butt man-sized pork chop.  Known as pork steak, pork butt steak or pork blade steak, these bone-in steaks are cut from the shoulder of the pig -- the same part of the porcine used to make pulled pork. Similar in taste and texture to close-kin country-style spareribs*, they were invented in St. Louis, MO, and are a Midwest staple.  As a country-style spare-rib lover living in central Pennsylvania, I ask the Sam's Club butcher to custom-cut these inexpensive, lesser-to-unknown-to-our-locale steaks for me.  Perhaps this post will help them to catch on "out here in the counties".

*Country-style ribs are cut from the blade end of the loin close to the shoulder. They're meatier than other ribs.  They contain no rib bones, but contain parts of the shoulder blade bone.

6a0120a8551282970b0224df30e276200b-1"Pork butt" or "Boston butt", is a bone-in cut of pork that comes from the upper part of the "pork shoulder" from the front leg of the hog. Smoked or barbecued, Boston butt is a southern tradition.  This cut of meat got its name in pre-Revolutionary War New England:

Butcher's in Boston left the blade bone in this inexpensive cut of pork 6a0120a8551282970b0223c84936d8200cshoulder then packed and stored the meat in casks called "butts". They sold the pork shoulders individually to their customers, and, when they got popular, they began shipping "the butts" Southward and throughout the Colonies.  Simply stated:  the way the hog shoulder was butchered, combined with "the butt" they arrived in, evolved into the name "Boston butt".

6a0120a8551282970b0223c8493631200c-1Steaks cut from the pork shoulder are marbled with lots of fat and rich with collagen, which, like the roast, makes them extremely flavorful.  

Because overcooking renders them dry and tough, this quick-cooking cut is perfect for the grill, sauté pan or broiler.  Choose pinkish-gray steaks that are generally the same size and thickness (3/4"-1" thick is ideal), and, have been trimmed of excessive fat from the fat-cap-side.

The four steaks pictured above, weighing a total of 6.48 pounds, cost $10.87.  That's a whole lot of economical porcine wonderfulness -- especially if you've got a big family with big appetites. Depending on the recipe du jour, sometimes I marinate these steaks, sometimes I don't.  When it comes to pork blade steaks, absorb this: marination (which does not affect the cooking time), is a flavorizer not a tenderizer.  Please know: these steaks are super-tender with zero marination. As for seasonings, salt and pepper is all they require, but, they play well with dry seasoning blends or wet marinades too -- and, hear this, they love to be slathered with BBQ sauce at the end.

Because overcooking renders them tough, this quick-cooking pork steak is perfect for the grill, grill pan, sauté pan or broiler.  

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d2d8d4d3970c"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)

04/26/2021

~How to Bake a Pullman Loaf in a Pullman Bread Pan~

IMG_0868The Pullman loaf is the quintessential white sandwich loaf. The name "Pullman" comes from its use in the kitchens of the Pullman Company's railway cars of the 1800s, and, the Pullman company is credited with inventing the rectangular-shaped lidded baking pans (which coincidentally resembled the shape of the railroad cars).  Baking bread in a pan with a lid is, functionally a bit different than baking bread in an open-topped pan, which, of course, affects the crumb structure.  The confined space, which doesn't allow most of the steam to escape, prevents big air bubbles from forming, which keeps the crumb fine and tight, which renders it easy to slice thin, and, it keeps the crust to a minimum too. There's more. Because the Pullman loaf produces perfectly square slices, it's hands-down the bread-of-choice for making sandwiches, plus, the thin crust means there's very little waste when a perfect presentation requires trimming off the crust.

IMG_0849The traditional Pullman loaf is an enriched white bread.  This means besides yeast and white flour, the dough is enriched with butter, sugar and salt, and, milk is often used in place of water.  The ratios of ingredients depend on the level of sweet or savory desired, at the discretion of the baker, but, only judicious amounts of each are used to keep the bread's signature mild, buttery flavor.  Once the dough is kneaded and proofed, it goes into the Pullman pan to rise again prior to sliding the lid on the pan and baking it in the oven.

I use my bread machine brioche recipe to mix & proof the dough:

Feel free to use your own recipe and feel free to mix and proof it in the traditional manner, but, in my kitchen, the bread machine is my tool-of-choice for these tasks.  It takes me five-to-ten short minutes to prep and get the ingredients in the bread pan, and after that, the machine does all the kneading.  About an hour-and-a-half later, my dough is proofed and ready to go into the Pullman pan for its last rise.  It's such a convenience, I have no desire to do it the old-fashioned way.  

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8e379fa970b1  cup whole milk

5  tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces

4  tablespoons sugar

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

4 1/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid-rise (1 packet)

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bca29970b 2~ Step 1. Always follow the instructions that came with your bread machine -- they all vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. This is the rectangular-shaped bread pan that came with my machine.  The paddle (which will do the kneading), has been inserted.  The instruction manual states to always insert the paddle this this position before adding any ingredients, so I do.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d205a25d970c 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bca44970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a10970d 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bca68970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a2e970d 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a36970d~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, heat the milk until steaming.  This is quickly and easily done in the microwave.  Add the sugar, salt and butter to the hot milk.  Using a fork, stir until butter has melted.  Pour this mixture into the bread pan.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bcab5970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4a6e970d~ Step 3.  In the same 1-cup measure and using the same fork, whisk the egg to lightly beat it.  Add the beaten egg to the milk mixture in bread pan. Note:   "Wet ingredients first/dry ingredients second" is a rule in bread machine baking.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4ad1970d-120wi 6a0120a8551282970b01b8d205a339970c-120wi 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4af1970d-120wiStep 4.  Add the flour to bread pan.  Do not mix or stir.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation in the top of the flour, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Add/pour the yeast into the indentation.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bcbcd970b 6a0120a8551282970b01b7c87bcbd6970b 6a0120a8551282970b01bb091f4b40970d~ Step 5.  Insert bread pan into bread machine and press down until it is "clicked" securely in place. Close the lid and plug the machine in.  Press "select".  Next, select the "loaf size" and choose the 2 pound option. Lastly, choose the "dough" cycle.  Press "start".  In my machine, my dough will have been kneaded, proofed, and, have gone through a first rise in 1 1/2 hours -- the dough is now ready to go.

IMG_0800 IMG_0807~ Step 6.  Open the lid of the machine and remove the pan of dough.  Using your fingertips, pull the dough away from the sides of the pan, punching it down as you work, then remove the dough from the pan.  Between the palms of your hands form the bread into a loaf-looking shape, and, proceed with the Pullman bread as directed below. 

Spray the inside of an 8.35" x 4.5" x 4/5" Pullman half-loaf pan & inside of lid w/no-stick:

IMG_0796Gently place the once-proofed bread dough in the bottom of prepared pan:

IMG_0809Cover the top of the loaf pan w/plastic wrap & rise 25-30 minutes:

IMG_0812When the center of the highest point of dough is just below top of pan, remove plastic:

IMG_0819Slide lid on pan & bake on center rack of 350° oven 25-30 minutes:

IMG_0823Remove pan from oven & slide lid open to check doneness by gently tapping on the top of the loaf w/knuckle of index finger -- it will have a hollow sound when bread is done.  Slide the lid back on the pan & invert pan (lid on the bottom) onto a wire rack:

IMG_0827Slide lid off bottom of pan (pictured above), remove top pan from loaf & cool completely:

IMG_0829How to Bake a Pullman Loaf in a Pullman Bread Pan:  Recipe yields instructions to bake one half-loaf in an 8.35" x 4.5" x 4/5" Pullman loaf pan.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine; 2-cup measuring container; fork 8.35" x 4.5" x 4/5" Pullman loaf pan w/lid; wire cooling rack 

IMG_0851Cook's Note: A flat-topped loaf of white sandwich bread that gets baked in a square-sided loaf pan with a lid is, culinarily, known as a Pullman loaf.  The technical term for the loaf pan itself is a Pullman pan. The French terms for a Pullman loaf are "pain-de-mie" ("pain" meaning "bread", and "mie" meaning "the soft white inner part of the loaf"), and, "pain anglais" (meaning "English loaf").  It's a loaf of firm-yet-soft enriched white bread with perfectly square sides and minimal crust.  It slices easily, making it the quintessential sandwich loaf.  To learn more, read my post: ~ What Exactly is a Pullman Loaf and a Pullman Loaf Pan ~.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)