Category Archives: adventures in home cooking

Kulinarya Cooking Club: Maligayang Bati at Manigong Bagong Taon edition

Happy Lunar New Year, folks! Once again, I dropped off the face of the earth, but at least I’m re-emerging to post for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge. It would be extra embarrassing if I didn’t participate this time around, too, as Pearl of Sassy Chef and I were the two bloggers hosting this challenge!

The KCC challenge for January that the two of us cooked up was this one:
This month’s theme is a celebration– of good health and of new beginnings!
Words and Nosh’s big 3-0 is this month, so we dreamed up a birthday challenge:
What dish (entree, dessert, drink, merienda, whatever!) do you always request,
or wish you could have, for your birthday?

As a twist, how would you modify the dish to make it more healthy? It’s the new
year, after all, and it’s time to get back on track with good eating habits! You
can make your dish vegetarian/vegan, lower fat, dairy-free, low sugar or however
else you want, so long as it’s a little bit healthier for your body and the
planet!

I had every intention of posting earlier, but alas, since it actually was my birthday last week, I’ve been out and about, with no time to even think about cooking! Finally, though, I got it together and whipped up my own take on rellenong bangus (stuffed milkfish) with sauteed kangkong (water spinach), one of my favorite dishes. Not only is it easy to make, healthy, and delicious, but also pretty enough to serve for a special celebration.

 

Now, you’ll notice first off that the fish I’m using here isn’t bangus at all, nor is the green vegetable kangkong. In keeping with the theme of the month, and with my general outlook on eating and cooking with local, sustainable, and organic ingredients as much as possible, I branched out a bit; I preserved the essence of the Filipino flavors but switched the ingredients up a bit. Moreover, I tried to reduce the oils and sodium as much as possible so the typical post-Filipino meal swelling wouldn’t plague me again!

Between Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and the local farmers market, I was able to source all the ingredients for the meal. Though organic is often synonymous with overpriced, by sticking to in-season ingredients and whole fish (instead of fillets), the total check was <$20 to serve 2 people. [The rice, garlic, patis, and shallots were already in my pantry so that doesn’t count!]. I’d like to think I honored Ilokano frugality by keeping the cost low!

For the fish stuffing, I mixed up the following:

  • 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 shallot (thinly sliced)
  • small handful macadamia nuts (chopped, in lieu of traditional pili nuts)
  • 1-2 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp. patis (fish sauce)
  • roughly 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes (coursely chopped)

 

Then I simply stuffed it into two dressed rainbow trout, along with halved small Mexican limes (kinda calamansi like, though not exactly the same), cilantro, and some green onions. To the outside of the trout, I squeezed some more lime, sprinkled a little sea salt and pepper, and a very light spray of olive oil spray.

I then baked the fish in a 400 degree oven for 20 mins, to make sure it was all cooked through but not dried out.

[An important aside on the fish: I decided to go with rainbow trout over the other whole fish available at Whole Foods not only because it was the most cheaply priced ($6.99/lb. with these two fish coming in just under one lb.) but because farmed rainbow trout is listed as a “best choice” fish by the Seafood Watch Program. That means that it is the most sustainable choice, that commits less environmental and ecological harm than other species and sources of fish. I strongly recommend that you check out Seafood Watch– they have printable cards and even smartphone apps to help you make better seafood choices when shopping or eating out.]

While the fish was baking, I prepped and cooked the greens, which were actually broccoli rabe and not kangkong. I was actually surprised at how much the rabe reminded me of kangkong in this meal, the flavors went so well with the fish.

For the broccoli rabe, you simply wash and shake out (but not fully dry off)  a large bunch of the rabe, and add to a pan where 3 minced garlic cloves have been sauteed in 1/4 cup of olive oil on med-low heat for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle red pepper flakes, sea salt, and some white pepper to taste and raise heat to med-high. Once temp is up, lower heat to medium and cover pan for about 5 minutes. The rabe should then cook itself down, the excess water from washing helping to steam it a bit. I removed the rabe when it was al dente, but you could cook it down more if you like!

 

It never happens usually, but somehow both the fish and the veggies cooked at the same time, so they were both perfectly hot and ready to serve in half an hour after I started cooking! With some steamed brown rice, it was a perfect way to end my weekend.

Hope you enjoyed my little cooking adventure, peeps! Will try to post again soon, but no promises…

 

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on going slow, commitment, and roux

There’s something so simple, so basic about gumbo that it’s easy to forget just how damn long a proper gumbo takes to cook. That delicious cacophony of sausage, chicken, peppers, onions, and okra mixed and simmered in a highly spiced roux and broth– that doesn’t come quick or easy, which I found out the hard way yesterday. If I thought I had made gumbo before, I was dead wrong. This dish is something that takes a whole lotta time and a commitment to being in the kitchen that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone but the most committed (or crazy) of home cooks.

That dark brown color you see there? I’ve never made a gumbo that dark before, and that’s all because I had never made a proper oil roux before, either. This recipe, taken from Donald Link’s incredible Real Cajun cookbook, called for a serious roux, that had extra depth of flavor due to the fact that you fry the chicken for the gumbo in the oil first.

For this first part- you basically fry up your chicken pieces (I used 6 skin- and bone-on chicken legs, seasoned with salt and pepper, dredged in flour) in a cup of oil heated medium-high in a sturdy cast iron pot. Once the chicken is browned (not totally cooked through), remove from oil and set aside.

That’s the easy part. Hopefully you, like me, have the whole day ahead of you and have queued up some good shows on the DVR to listen to; hopefully you, unlike me, have strong wrists and no nagging carpal tunnel or other nerve issues that won’t flare up after making the roux. Because, again, this roux is not playing around. To the cup of oil that’s now warmed at the bottom of your pot, add 3/4 cup flour and start whisking slowly, for a damn long time. Start on medium heat, and incrementally lower the heat as the roux begins to thicken and change colors, until finally the heat is on low and your roux is a deep dark brown, almost black.

I’m sure there are plenty better descriptions of making roux than I’ve offered above– I’ve read quite a few myself over the years– but all I can say is that you won’t ever know how to make a roux until you just do it yourself. Watching it change from a dark to a medium brown back to dark brown again, thickening all the time, became truly hypnotic and helped the hour(!!!) of stirring go by relatively quickly. It’s impossible to have a gumbo with this kind of depth of flavor– no matter how fresh your vegetables or how well-raised your meats– if your roux isn’t done right. Being able to complete this process myself, with my own two hands, was incredibly satisfying, and taught me a few things about my capacities as a cook (and a person) that I hadn’t really thought through before.

For all you wannabe Top Chefs out there, making a roux the long way offers pretty quick reality check– a potent reminder of why we as home cooks are not, and will never be, cut out for a professional kitchen. I wasn’t kidding when I tweeted that my hands were shaking when I finally stopped stirring the roux– they kept on shaking the rest of the afternoon as I finished up the dish and well after. Even as I fantasize of one day going to culinary school and wearing chef whites, I’m pretty sure I won’t be seeing the inside of Momofuku’s kitchen any time soon. I’m just not cut out for the life and the work of cooking full-time.

I am already committed to being a professor, however, and making this roux, and the entire gumbo (which, if you want the full recipe, you’ll have to find in the Real Cajun cookbook that I’ve gushed about many times before) served as a necessary kind of head clearing that I’ve needed for a while now. As I try to write my dissertation– a long, slow-going and often demoralizing process– I can’t help but try to take shortcuts, to find the easy way out of really working through difficult questions that I know I don’t have the answers to, right now. Like making proper gumbo, though, writing and research is a slow process, and to do it right you’ve got to sit with it for a long while, and be ready to commit. If I can commit a day to cooking one dish that will be eaten in a few short days, then I think I should offer the same level of care and work into a written piece with my name attached to it that will exist in perpetuity…. Thanks, Donald Link, for helping me regain sight of that with a simple, not-so-simple gumbo recipe.

Like White on Rice: June Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge

I’m back! After a crazy month and a half (school ending, fellowship writing, ankle cast on and off, and Lasik!), I’ve finally had the chance to begin enjoying my summer and cooking up a storm! Lately, it’s been a mostly liquid diet; after the mister and I came back from a fantastic May trip to New Orleans, where we sampled many amazing cocktails, we’ve been on a bit of a tear trying out new cocktail recipes at home. Still, one can’t be boozed up all the time (right?!), and I’ve been playing around with recipes, figuring out ways to make them healthier, with more organic and sustainable ingredients and so on.

This dish I just made today, however, isn’t any of those things. It’s rich, wasn’t sustainably sourced (remember what I said before, about ethnic groceries and organic food?), but damn if it wasn’t incredibly delicious:

I made this dish for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge, which called for “white food.” There are few things I love more than fresh Jasmine rice and coconuts, and so this dish was perfect for it. Borrowing liberally from a recipe I saw a long time ago in The Adobo Book, here was my take on shrimp with sawsawang adobong gata (coconut adobo sauce).

The shrimp itself is super easy to prepare. While the recipe called for charcoal-grilled pandan-wrapped shrimp, necessity and time restrictions led me to simply pan-grilling the shrimp with liberal squirts of lemon (no calamansi either, natch).

For the adobo sauce, I basically got these ingredients

and cooked them all up together. First sauteeing the 5 cloves chopped garlic, small piece crushed luyang dilaw (turmeric), and 1 chopped red onion until translucent; then adding 2 chopped sili labuyo, 1/2 tsp bagoong alamang, 1 tbsp turbinado sugar, and a can of coconut cream (the fatty stuff!) and simmering until thick.

I bought about 1 1/2 lbs of prawns and had enough for two generous servings plus leftovers, so this recipe could serve four for a main entree if you added more side dishes. My tummy’s still full from this lunch, and next time I’m in the mood to bust my diet, this dish will definitely be high on the list!

 

 

(For more “white challenge” recipes from Kulinarya members, visit their websites linked here!)

My ugly duckling: the 2011 Brazo de Mercedes Experiment

Happy Easter, folks! I’m still stuffed from a huge Easter brunch / dinner party, and I hope you ate just as well today. Contrary to my most recent posts, I *do* still love writing about and cooking food, and have joined up with the Kulinarya Cooking Club as an extra motivation to push myself to try new-to-me Filipino food experiments.

This month’s theme, courtesy of Lala, was “decadence” and I immediately knew what I had to try my hand at making: Brazo de Mercedes (translated from Spanish as “Mercedes’s arm”). Don’t worry, there were no body parts involved in the preparation of this decadent dessert, though trying to cook and bake all day on a sprained ankle really was a painful bodily experience.

I didn’t have Brazo de Mercedes very often as a kid– this rich cake, basically a meringue sheet wrapped around yema or an egg custard, was pretty hard to find in the very puti neighborhoods of my youth. When I did come across it, though, I would always have to order it– the fluffy, sticky sweet meringue and the filling which was like a leche flan on steroids was simply too good to resist.

When a friend threw her annual birthday dinner party, and asked us all to bring a food item featuring some kind of citrus, I knew what I had to do: make a Brazo de Mercedes with a twist, adding Meyer lemons to make a filling akin to lemon curd.

Unfortunately, finding Meyer lemons proved to be impossible, but lemons from our home lemon tree and some extra sugar came to the rescue. Everything at first went really well. Our meringue sheet, which dear hubs mixed up in our Kitchenaid, came out beautifully:

And baked up perfectly brown and lovely. Basic meringue recipe (8 egg whites, 1 tsp. cream of tartar, 3/4 cup Caster sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla) on a slightly too-big 12×17 jelly roll plan:

When it came to filling, though, I began to run into some trouble. The “Filipino-American” cookbook I used diverged from the typical Brazo filling, asking for gelatin and whipping cream to be folded into the egg yolk/condensed milk mixture. That, plus the juice from the lemons I added, made this filling soooo runny. Even after cooling down in fridge and waiting for gelatin to set more, it wasn’t doing the trick. My poor Brazo had to be subjected to some plastic surgery to make it to the birthday party intact:

Even if it was a little whole lot uglier than the beautiful Brazos I remember, people still loved it, and I must admit the filling was delish, with the lemon lightening up the yema nicely.

I was going to just brush this sad experiment under the bridge, but then remembered we would have a second chance to make it again– for the Easter brunch we were invited to today. This time around, I turned to the queen of Filipino home cooking: Nora Daza. I followed her instructions to a T, and was feeling much better about this experiment. Sadly, this time too I was destined to have an ugly Brazo de Mercedes. The hubs got a little too over-zealous with the Kitchenaid mixer, and the meringue sheet didn’t rise, and my filling was still too runny, though not as much as before. My poor Brazo was the ugliest desert in the house, but at least she was delicious!

I’m not sure I’ll be trying this recipe again soon– it is a decadent recipe, after all– but if any of you are Brazo de Mercedes pros, please send along your tips! Now that I have these jelly roll plans, I think I want to bring back the old-school Filipino roll cakes of my youth– the mocha roll, buko pandan roll, and DEFINITELY the ube roll. Anyone want to be a taste tester for these upcoming experiments?

Out with the old…

Good riddance, 2010.

I guess, to be generous, I could say that 2010 was a transition year. That it was difficult but rewarding, with obstacles and setbacks that were unforeseen yet overcome. But that would be a lie. 2010 F-ing SUCKED. Except for the one month we spent in South Africa during the World Cup, I wish 2010, especially the latter half, could be erased from my memory. Family illnesses, an unexpected emergency move, and the 1 1/2 year-long process of preparing for (and passing, thank gawd) my qualifying examinations for my PhD just sucked the joy right out of my life.

To celebrate the end of that craptastic year, I’m going to share with you two things. The first, photos from my overly-ambitious but still quite tasty Filipino Noche Buena dinner. It was way too much food, considering it was just me and the mister for dinner, and a whole lot of work, but I’m glad I tried my hand at making new-to-me Filipino dishes.

Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s Memories of Philippine Kitchens provided the templates for my chicken relleno (aka Filipino turducken) and the cassava bibingka, while The Filipino-American Kitchen Cookbook (not my favorite cookbook, as it’s too Americanized / wanna-be bougie for my taste, but ok in this case) provided me a recipe for lumpiang sariwa (fresh lumpia) and lumpia sauce. I rounded out the meal with a simple but delicious salted egg and tomato salad,  and of course lots of white rice. Some photos of the prep and final set-up:

the mister making fresh chorizo for our chicken relleno stuffing

our deboned chicken, ready for stuffing

fresh lumpia- man those crepes were a pain to make!

itlog ng pula salad - salty deliciousness!

sliced and ready to eat!

the full spread

There were a few hiccups along the way with this meal– nearly setting the oven on fire because I didn’t soak the banana leaves for the bibingka; losing valuable moisture from the chicken because of imperfect sewing; forgetting to make the grilled saging completely. But of all the mistakes and mishaps from 2010, these didn’t even matter.

Of all the things I left behind in 2010, the biggest has been the weight. Skeptical as I was at the time, in September I joined Weight Watchers, after a close of mine signed up, and so far I’ve lost fifteen pounds. This may not seem like much (and I often have to remind myself that it is something significant) but after the past decade of struggling with my weight, it’s a big step in a better direction. That’s less than half of what I would ideally lose before I’m at a healthy weight again, but I need to remind myself, it’s not about the scale but about how I feel. The change in my energy level, the feeling of not being “stuffed” into my jeans and t-shirts… that’s more important than hitting some perfect number on the scale.

While I’m not a believer in crash diets, cleanses, and all those latest fitness trends, I think that Weight Watchers has worked for me so far because it’s made me aware of exactly how much I had been eating on any given day. Even if I had been eating “healthy” for years– organic, lowfat, etc etc.– I couldn’t believe how much my little bites, snacks, and large portions had been adding up. It’s so obvious, but controlling portion size, eating breakfast daily, and upping the amount of fresh fruits and veggies I consume has really made a difference not only in how I look, but more importantly, how I feel. Crazy, right?

But even more than changing eating habits, I picked up something else in 2010 that probably saved my sanity in the midst of all the difficulties and challenges. Running. For the first time since high school, I got back into running in a serious way, unlike all my previous attempts, the last of which resulted in plantar’s fascitis and a clicking knee (they still bug me, ouch!). I started, and completed the Couch to 5K program, which I highly recommend to all first time and returning runners who want to run injury-free. Two weeks after I finished the program, I ran the Jingle Bell 5K benefiting the Arthritis Foundation with a group of friends, and finished in a respectable 35 minutes:

 

pre-race giddiness

crossing the finish line

I wouldn’t consider myself a good runner by any means, but it’s been rewarding to build my endurance and challenge myself to be stronger and healthier. Maybe I’m crazy, but I joined a training team in the hopes I’ll be able to run the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon in June. It’s my 2011 goal–not resolution– to finish the half marathon in 2 1/2 hours. But to even be able to run that distance would be amazing enough!

So I guess after typing all that, that there was something positive to come out of 2010 after all. I’m still excited to be in a new decade and moving forward with my life in (hopefully) all positive ways. My hope is that 2011 will be full of delicious eats, exhilarating runs, and new adventures not only for me, but for all of you!

Farewell, 2010. TGI 2011!

really?

How it it possibly the tail end of May already?  I must be dreaming that I blog, because I swear I’ve posted on here since then… yikes. What a shame I’m such a terrible blogger too, because it’s been an amazing few months, food-wise, that I really should have been telling you all about.

The most amazing was the ten-hour jambalaya I made back in April, recipe courtesy of Donald Link’s Real Cajun cookbook (It just recently won the James Beard Award– I called it!).

Look at this gorgeousness:

I’m not kidding when I say 10 hour process! We started by roasting a whole organic chicken in the slow cooker for five hours until done; then made chicken stock from the bones and veggies for another hour; followed by another 3-4 hours of prepping, simmering, etc. the rest of the meal. My god, it was the best jambalaya I’ve ever made (and some of the best I’ve ever had, even compared to my favorite Nola spots) but, damn. Next time I make this I’m splitting the work over a few days!

So good, here’s another picture of it, plated next to my signature maque choux corn recipe.

(On a more serious note, just a few days after I made this meal, that terrible BP oil spill started in the Gulf of Mexico. I still can’t believe how little BP has done to clean up this mess– I don’t believe for a second that they’ve “done all they can” to stem the damage. Having grown up half my life in the Gulf Coast, I am enraged and saddened by the damage this spill is doing not only to the ecosystem, but to the health and livelihood of fisherfolk and residents throughout Louisiana and its neighbors. Please please please continue to pressure BP and the US government to not only clean up this mess, but to stop offshore drilling! )

As for my other half, he’s been getting into making ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbets, with the help of our awesome KitchenAid mixer attachment and recipes courtesy of David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop cookbook and his blog. My favorite creation so far was this amazingly fresh strawberry frozen yogurt, made with the BEST STRAWBERRIES EVAH, from our CSA (J.R. Organics).

Now that it’s berry season, I can’t wait to see what the Mister whips up next. There’s some blackberries in the fridge as we speak… hmmm.

Since I’ve been blabbering about our latest food adventures with cookbooks, I guess I’ll end this post by sharing with you my latest deal. On a recent trip to New York’s famous book emporium, the Strand, I got a copy of La Cucina for a really great price (ok, which I now see is close to the Amazon 1/2 off price, but whatever, it was exciting at the time!). Have you seen this cookbook, folks? It’s huge- Bible-sized!- and covers everything you wanted to know and more about regional Italian cooking. No Giada Laurentis Italian-Americanish stuff here. I’m talking the offal, the eels, the vegetables you have never heard of in the States. Moreover, the recipes by and large and totally accessible (except for the ones calling for chamois, etc. but substitute!). They’re not overdone, pretentious,  but can be replicated by the home chef.

As someone who loves Italian food but 1. Lives somewhere where Italian food is sadly (and often, badly) underrepresented, and 2. can’t do more than make spaghetti, risotto, and lasagna, this book is a revelation. Whenever I get a random new veggie in my CSA box I don’t know what to do with, this cookbook is one of my first resources, and it hasn’t done me wrong yet.

No pictures of the things I’ve made, sadly, but trust me– this book’s a keeper. Just make sure you have enough shelf space for it- I’m not kidding when I said it was huge!

Now that the school year is almost over (thank jeebus!), I may actually start posting. Hell, I  NEED to since… uh… my dissertation is all about food (or the lack thereof). I’m going to start using this space to begin working out a few ideas/thoughts on organic agriculture, the food justice movement, women and agriculture, and so on. It might mean a few less food porn pictures (I hope not, though!) but I’ll see where this goes.

How goes it with you, foodies?

Malinamnams

Things I’ve put in my mouth recently (sorry for the laundry list, it’s been a long couple of weeks ’round here):

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(ice cream from the UW Babcock Dairy, eaten on the lovely waterfront Memorial Union Terrace)

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(My labor of love: home-made kaldereta for a class ‘piyesta’/fiesta. Best thing at the spread, don’t meant to boast but my meat brought all the boys to the yard.)

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(Amuse-bouche at Harvest. Bougiest dinner I will have had in Madison by the time I go. Worth it.)

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(Table of shame: $1 mixed drinks at the Nitty Gritty. I don’t care if it’s “the birthday place,” you’re never catching me dead in there again.)

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(The Wisconsin Benedict at the Old Fashioned. That would be a brat patty under the egg.)

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(Lingering suspicions and pre-existing bias confirmed: not pizza @ Gino’s East, Chicago)

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(neon green relish. a tubular meat’s under there, i think. @ Underdogg, Chicago)

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(Most amazing mojitos at Blue Line Lounge in Wicker Park, Chicago. The coconut mojito and the Social- topped with champagne- are incroyable.)

Chicago’s Chinatown eats deserves its own post. Consider it added to the list of shit I haven’t blogged about yet…

July 4 longaniza-fest

Some people spend the nation’s birthday by grilling up hot dogs, throwing back some beer, and watching the fireworks. Always the subversive, I prefer my tubed-formed meat products the Filipino way, in the form of the sweet and sticky porky goodness of longaniza. Our semi-impromptu July 4th brunch didn’t disappoint– with enough pork, fried eggs, suka, tomatoes and rice to feed the masses. Some folks even represented with some home-made beef tapa. Sige what!

cooking longaniza

A little bit blurry, but I wanted to include a picture of the longaniza cooking. As with any fresh sausage, you have to make sure you’ve cooked it the whole way through. Standard longaniza cooking procedure: fill fry pan with longaniza and add water 1/2 way up the skillet. Boil until water’s all gone, approx. 30 minutes (and don’t forget to turn over the longaniza at least once!). When all you have left is the oil from the casings, then fry that shizz until the outside of the longaniza is nice and carmelized. What you should see when you’re done is this:

cooked longaniza

This batch was especially sticky– it was a local-ish brand called Oscar’s (I think) and it was pretty tasty! The meat was definitely fresh, and there wasn’t any added MSG or coloring like some of the mainstream brands (carried by Ranch 99 and larger “Oriental” stores esp. on the West Coast) have. I didn’t know what to expect, since I picked these up at a small store in Madison, but it was straight. I did notice that for the first time ever in my life, I didn’t have a single longaniza burp the rest of the day. If you’re a longaniza virgin, a longaniza burp is the signature (re)experience: after eating longaniza in the AM, you’ll usually burp a few times later in the day, and have the distinct taste of longaniza in your mouth afeterwards. It’s the meal that keeps on giving!

A few more pics of the rest of the breakfast spread before I run out the door:

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(ugh, I don’t know why this picture is sideways, I’ve rotated and uploaded it 3 different times to no avail.)

The crowning glory: losilog, just before I added that Jufran banana ketchup (nectar of the gods) to the rice. Happiness in a warm plate.

losilog

Happy weekend, y’all!

Sometimes mistakes happen

Pop Quiz!

In the kitchen you see:
6 underripe bananas
1 black/ripe plantain

Which would you use to cook maduros?

Sometimes my husband makes mistakes. But God bless him for trying to make my crabby self happy! It did give me a nice laugh, that’s for sure 😉

Adobo-licious!

No Reservations this week reminded me that I promised ya’ll my adobo recipe, so without further ado, here it is! Mind you, this is the first time I’ve ever tried to write up the recipe, so forgive me if it’s maddeningly un-precise. Hopefully the photo documentation will help you recreate it at home… and hey, remember what I said before? Adobo’s better when you play around with it yourself!

My ingredient list for this batch was as follows:

  • 8 chicken drumsticks, skin intact (Generally, I prefer a mix of bone-in thighs and drumsticks, not breasts. Breasts dry out, and I love that dark meat)
  • 2 yellow potatoes, skin on, chopped into large cubes (all I had left, I usually use at least five or six smallish yellow potatoes. NEVER Idaho, ick!)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced (I love me some garlic. I usually estimate about 1 clove per 2 pieces chicken.)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbs. whole black peppercorns
  • Silver Swan soy sauce (If this or no other Filipino soy sauce is available, try a Hawaiian soy sauce. Both have slightly sweeter flavor than Japanese soy sauce, but Kikkoman can be used in a pinch too)
  • Distilled white vinegar (nothing fancy, Heinz for me!)

My Cooking Process

1. Prep the garlic cloves and potatoes, and pop into a 6 quart sauce-pot. Add bay leaf and peppercorns, chicken. Stir together so evenly distributed- you don’t want the potatoes getting stuck on the bottom.

adobo1

2. Add the liquids! I told you that I add based on sight and smell, not set measurements. But here’s my rough guide to adding the liquids:

First, I pour in the soy sauce so it covers a little more than 1/3 the chicken and potatoes:

adobo2

Then, I pour in the vinegar until it nearly covers the ingredients, but not quite:

adobo3

I stir and smell- is it too acidic (does it burn my nostrils too much when I inhale in?) If so, I add a touch more soy. Too sticky-sweet smelling? Add more vinegar, but not too much, because the next step is adding some water, which will dilute the soy anyway. When it’s pretty much right (better to be more acidic than not acidic enough– you want to smell a sharpness but you don’t want it to make your eyes water or make you cough too much!), I pour in just enough water to barely cover the ingredients.

adobo4
Now, if you want to, you can omit water altogether, and just play around with the proportions of soy sauce and vinegar. At this point, I’ve made enough adobo to know when I’m ready to add water without diluting the flavor entirely. But if you’re worried you’ll water it down too much, certainly omit the water! Just make sure that you mostly cover your ingredients with whatever liquid mixture you come up with. (Note: If you omit the potatoes altogether, you don’t have to use as much liquid, perhaps only filling up liquids  2/3rds of the way. I’ve found that if I don’t cover with water when I use potatoes, that they suck up too much liquid and it’s a bit dry by the time the chicken is cooked)

3. Cover pot and bring to a near-boil, approx. 10 minutes. You don’t want it to be a rolling boil, but you do want to heat it up enough so it just begins to bubble.

4. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, on medium until cooked, approx. 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I’ve found that when I use 5-6 potatoes (or a # nearly equal to amount of chicken pieces using), that I know when the chicken is cooked by testing the potatoes. If potatoes are ready– meaning they are soft but not yet falling apart– then the chicken is usually perfect too. Really, it’s hard to f- up adobo since you’re cooking slowly over low heat. So, cook until chicken is tender- I like to wait til it comes easily off the bone with a fork.

A well-cooked adobo (like this batch, which was one of my better ones recently, I think!) should have the following qualities: meat falling off the bone, gelatinized fat that melts on the tongue, and a dark caramel color that permeates everything from the potatoes to the chicken. If you get all three, you’re in adobo heaven!

5. Serve over hot jasmine rice and ENJOY!

hot adobo = foggy camera

hot adobo = foggy camera


adobo-cooked

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