A good day at Kettle

I turned twenty-three almost a week ago. It wasn’t a spectacle. I spent it at the restaurant, baking breads and plating a few dishes for a crowd of twenty people (which in my book, is already stressful). My birthday week was my last week interning at The Goose, and as I’m writing this there’s a smile on my face because I survived three challenging months at the restaurant I’ve always wanted to work at. I’m left with a sense of accomplishment, but also uncertainty. I have plans I want to happen, a few paths I want to take but everything isn’t set in stone. Of course I’d love to (finally) earn my keep but more than half of my body and brain is screaming for a vacation. (Am I too demanding, universe? Do I even deserve a vacation?)

I did have two golden Sundays in a row though. The first one I spent with my friends I’ve had since high school at this little restaurant called Kettle. One blog I read about it warned that I shouldn’t make a mistake of ordering one dish per person because the servings are generous to begin with.

It totally makes sense that the five of us ordered six dishes then. Two orders of buttermilk fried chicken, four pieces of boneless chicken thighs and six pieces of cornbread all in all. The chicken was everything good in the world about dark meat – juicy and flavorful.
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The blogs were right. It’s great chicken, partly because of the fact that people actually go the extra mile to serve uncomplicated, boneless chicken and partly because the same people know flavor. It’s not as if demolishing a bone-in chicken isn’t hard. I’ve had a solid reputation of “cleaning” the chicken well, leaving only the bone (sometimes even cleaning up after people’s chicken mess!). But not everyone is gifted with such profound talent.
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The rest of the dishes whizzed by: lamb adobo, a shrimp po’boy sandwich, angus corned beef hash (a great breakfast item that I might go back to Kettle for), and the surprise of the day, seared salmon on a bed of cold soba noodles and a mango relish on the side. I didn’t order it, they did. I had this look on my face that questioned their motives, but I caved in. It was served at an inconvenient time, when we were about to be filled to the brim with all the protein and fat that came before it. I think I said to them, “You ordered the salmon, you eat it”, or something to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy salmon. But I didn’t condition my mind for salmon, so I was less than enthusiastic.
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They began to devour it, taking the soba by the forkful then piercing the salmon to get shreds of juicy meat. From them came a nod of approval. “Masarap” (delicious). It was my turn to taste it, still on the fence.

Looking back I didn’t see why I was so worked up to begin with. It’s a dish that plays on the richness of the salmon with the freshness of the soba and the cleansing effect of the mango relish. The dark horse was delicious indeed.

We were too hungry that day, so I think ordering too much didn’t allow a lot of savouring to happen. But I was in the company of great people so I didn’t mind it too much.

There’s a part two y’all! Wait for it. Meanwhile, follow me on instagram, because it has more food than selfies. I’m on twitter too!

Green Tea Leche Flan

Before I’ll be pegged as a Christmas fanatic: No, this is not another post about how we are a little too excited for Christmas.  Anyway…

Is there a difference between creme caramel and leche flan? I’d like to believe that the differences aren’t really glaring (that’s a ‘no’). Plus Wikipedia backs me up.

Before custard purists hurl burning caramel at me, let me just say that custard making is subjective. Sure, there’s  crème caramel and crème brûlée but I didn’t know what these were up until I started watching cooking shows. I basically grew up with my grandmother’s leche flan recipe. Which is the best. And before I earn haters, come on, every household in the Philippines thinks their leche flan recipe is the best. Her leche flan became my standard when I tried to make crème caramel. 

She basically makes her leche flan for parties so I’ve never really seen here use a bowl. She uses a palanggana. You know, slightly large basin ideally used for washing clothes. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve never seen her use measuring cups either. And she doesn’t use a water bath; she steams it by placing one mold on top of the other with barbecue sticks in between.

And after two ‘pretty good’ attempts, I’d still believe her recipe is still the best. And I’ll resign myself to my newfound belief that crème caramel and leche flan are peas of the same pod, albeit not exactly identical, they vary from place to place, but you get the picture. I hope.

I used a water bath, and painstakingly looked for a recipe that does not use heavy cream since it’s not readily available where I am. Plus grandma’s leche flans never use cream – milk (she uses Evap, I use Fresh) and eggs are the way to go. I hope I can post her recipe here sooner or later.

And I made these with green tea powder because my it was my cousin’s birthday (he turned 12 yesterday) and he liked my first batch a lot. This recipe yielded really soft custard that still jiggles a bit but that’s the way he likes it. I’m not sure if he knows there’s green tea in it but what the heck, he’s 12.

Green Tea Creme Caramel/Leche Flan (good for 4 small ramekins)

adapted from le gourmet tv 

  • 1 ½ cup sugar, divided
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 ½ cups milk (I used fresh milk)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 sachet sweet green tea powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a heavy skillet, combine 1 cup sugar and water and heat on medium swirling frequently but not stirring until sugar caramelizes.
  3. Remove from heat when amber in color. Pour caramel into 4 ramekins and swirl the container to coat the bottom.
  4. Heat milk on stove top until hot but not boiling. Add the green tea powder and mix well.
  5. In a bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks and sugar until foamy. Add milk in a steady stream while whisking.
  6. Add vanilla. Pour mixture over a fine mesh strainer. Distribute evenly among the ramekins.
  7. Set ramekins in a large pan (I used one tin pan and another glass dish because that’s what we have) and carefully pour boiling water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins.
  8. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until custards are set. Remove from oven and allow to cool and set in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Serve cold and enjoy!

And I know I placed a tea bag in the photo but the recipe called for green tea powder. The tea bag was used as a prop but I did try steeping the tea in milk for the first attempt. You can do either of the two methods. But using powder eliminates the fuss. 🙂

A Golden Day

My mom turned 50 yesterday so technically she’s half a century old already! It was a day for thanksgiving and at the end of the night, after a simple party we planned, the only word that could sum it all up was ‘perfect’.

But of course, arriving at the destination wasn’t perfect: this was bump along the way, but at least it wasn’t that dangerous. The dirty pebbles inside these amazing souvenir boxes my friend made for the party, are actually M&M’s with my mom’s face on it. If you’re not from the continental USA, I don’t recommend you order one online and have it shipped from point A to B to C without your direct supervision. Heat and a whole lot of “I don’t care if it’s fragile” handling caused the ink to fade, chips to crack and candies to melt and mold together. But of course, at the end of the day, we managed to pull it off pretty well. My mom was pretty pleased with the end product. Aren’t they nice?

This is shallow compared to what we’ve been through these past three years, but we just celebrated the biggest milestone/blessing we’ve ever had. Life isn’t perfect but we can always find a reason to smile, laugh and celebrate.

All is well. And all will be well. 🙂