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!

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Chicken Galantina

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The fridge is still reeling from the holiday celebrations. A lot of things are still there that ideally shouldn’t be there anymore: ham glaze, ribs and the filling used for the galantina I made. I think I went overboard making sure that everything is in place, because I was being prudent and praning. Since we conveniently live near a wet market, I bought another chicken, deboned it (because it’s pretty cool to do it yourself) and repeated the process to make sure nothing is wasted. Well, there was still a small  mound of stuffing left that can’t be used to properly stuff a bird anymore so I just pan-fried and ate it with bread. It was delicious.

Is there really any difference between chicken galantina and relleno? According to the authors of Memories of Philippine Kitchens, Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, “Filipinos, on the other hand, have sometimes used the terms interchangeably, assuming that the chicken relleno is a Filipino version of Spanish galantina using ground pork, canned sausages, sweet pickles and a boiled egg to stuff the chicken.” Good stuffed chicken is good stuffed chicken.

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I’m spending the last few days of being home with a weird sense of nonchalance, like I’m just floating. It’s really uncomplicated. But I try to run to make sure I keep my sanity. Running almost every afternoon also keeps the blood pumping…that and I really don’t want feel the sluggishness as an adverse effect of eating a lot, because when I’m home, I eat sooo much.

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I don’t intend to eat less or go on a diet this year. It’ll be the death of me. I don’t really follow through with my resolutions so at one point I’ve given up on listing things “I should do but eventually forget about after the first week”. But there are a few points I plan to continue this year and it involves a lot of things I should do “more often”: go to the gym, cook, blog and interact with other bloggers. In other words, it’s about putting myself out there. And balance, let’s not forget balance.

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This is probably one dish you’ll be proud to put out there because it’s so darn purdy. It’s not really that difficult to make and it sure sounds fancy.

Once again, a happy 2013 to you all!

Chicken Galantina (serves 4 – 6)

I did away with the hard-boiled eggs but feel free to use it for your version.

adapted from Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan

  • half a garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced fine brunoise (1/16th inch cubes)
  • 100 grams oyster mushrooms, diced
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 roasted red bell peppers, diced
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/8 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 large egg
  • sliced onion rings (for roasting)
  • one 4 pound deboned chicken (try to get one that has been deboned whole, without any slits or slices along the back)
  • salt, freshly cracked black pepper, Spanish paprika for seasoning
  • melted butter
  1. In a pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic, onions and carrots and saute until softened, around 3 minutes.
  2. Add the mushrooms and saute until they release their juices. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and set aside to cool completely.
  3. Add the pork, chorizo, bell pepper, olives, raisins, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, flour and egg to the cooled vegetable mixture. Using clean hands, mix until well combined.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 F/180 C. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and paprika and place on a surface breast side up. Stuff the chicken with filling. Tuck the wings under the chicken (as if it looks like it’s taking a restful nap with its “arms” behind its “head”) and truss chicken with twine.
  5. Line a roasting pan with the onion rings. Place the chicken on top. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Roast for about 1 hour and 15 – 20 minutes. Discard trussing strings and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow for carryover cooking (the heat will still continue the cook the chicken even if it has been removed from the oven). Carve and serve.

 

First feast

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Now it can be told: my days whizz by when I’m in the kitchen. I mean, I could kind of remember the sun hitting my face when I opened my eyes and I found myself on the early morning flight back home. Then…everything was a blur. There were good snippets of course: hosting a dinner for my friends, two charity events with the same people, Christmas lunch, and the micro-feast we had this morning. In between these events I was cooking up a storm, making sure time was blurred. In a few days I’ll be back in Manila and I hope I can make the most of the borrowed time.

A neighbor died today, January 1st. I’d like to believe he died a happy 79-year old man. “Life is too short”, his wife told us when we visited. Amen. We might as well enjoy the ride.

In the thick of things I found myself hitting the stress button more than once this morning when a few things didn’t go my way. But all was well, and I still couldn’t believe I put together almost all of what was on the table. Yay me.

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The spread:

Now I would consider this paella pretty fancy – with the arborio and saffron. But I still crave the one my Mama Eng usually makes with regular rice and malagkit/sticky rice, with that nice color that only cheap atsuete can give! Recipe here. For two years now we’ve had paella for New Year. Not too shabby!
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Chicken Galantina
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homemade ham – recipe here
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The ribs look glorious if I do say so myself.

Not all the meals I’ll have this year will be grand (I might even skip a meal or two). But I intend to enjoy this year in the company of good people and even better conversations. Let’s put ourselves out there! Happy New Year everyone. 🙂

Chicken Roulade

I’ve been home for a few days now, and by home I mean this little dusty town of Zamboanga, far far away from the chaos of Manila. Being home for the holidays makes me all giddy because I have more than a few plans for Christmas dinner and all the lunches, dinners and meriendas leading up to it. This will probably be my longest holiday ever (3 weeks), and God knows if and when I get to come home next year so every moment has to count.

I brought home a few cookbooks with me, and because of that I had to dole out more than a thousand pesos at the airport because my baggage exceeded their weight limit. Lesson learned. But to have them with me during the holidays means I get to soak up as much inspiration as I can. I’m currently leafing through Saveur’s compendium of The New Comfort Food and already I’m listing down the things I can cook. Larousse On Pastry would be my go-to for desserts, and I can’t stress enough how important it is for me to make a decent cheesecake this year.

Memories of Philippine Kitchens, the one by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan (owners of Purple Yam in New York) would have to be my favorite simply because I was there when they launched the revised edition at Powerbooks, and I got to have my copy signed. That was an awesome moment. And already I’m thinking of their recipe for ube/purple yam tarts.
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Before I’m knee-deep in cookbook recipes, for Sunday lunch I felt that there was a nagging need to replicate something that my chef instructor demonstrated in school. Chicken roulade sounds and looks fancy but it’s actually very simple to make. It’s just rolled up chicken breast y’all!
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I’ve always preferred dark thigh meat over white meat because the latter can get really tough when not cooked properly. The only real way to have juicy chicken breast is to cook it just enough and when it’s cooked just right, it’s really good. I could have gone the extra mile by making sauce from scratch, but there were people to feed and like me, they get really cranky when they’re hungry. And true to form, it was a great lunch.
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Chicken Roulade (serves 2 – 3)

  • 4 chicken breast fillets, butterflied (click here for a tutorial)
  • bacon strips
  • a few pieces of basil
  • 1 medium-sized white onion, chopped
  • half a bulb of garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 284ml can cream of mushroom
  • 3/4 – 1 cup water
  • mushrooms of your choice, sliced (I only had canned button so I went with that)
  • salt, pepper and thyme
  • parsley, chopped for garnish
  • kitchen twine (or if you don’t have one, you can use toothpicks)
    1. On your work surface, season the butterflied breasts with a little salt and pepper.
    2. Then add a single horizontal layer of bacon strips to cover the breast. Top it with a few basil leaves.Photobucket
    3. Carefully roll the fillets starting from one side going to the other (essentially, left to right). Secure it by tying twine near the ends. Season the rolled fillets with salt, pepper and thyme.Photobucket
    4. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan. Make sure the oil is very hot before you add the chicken. Carefully add the chicken, and allow to sear. When one side is already golden brown, sear the other side. At this point, you don’t want to cook the chicken through and through, you just need a beautiful sear.
    5. When the chicken has been browned enough, remove from pan. In the same pan, add the onions and the garlic and saute.
    6. Add the flour and stir everything together until you create a light roux (mixture of flour and fat). Cook for about a minute over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    7. Add the cream of mushroom and the water. Stir everything together. Bring to a boil and let it simmer. Adjust the taste to your preference. Add the mushrooms and the chicken.
    8. Cook for about  5 -6  minutes until sauce has reduced slightly. Remove from heat, garnish with parsley and serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Honey Chicken

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My eating habits scare me sometimes. Sometimes. I was too full for lunch at 12 because I ate breakfast at 10. Then at around 2pm, I thought I was glued to the bed watching NCIS reruns, but no, I craved for honey chicken. I just had to press the pause button.

Truth be told I just went with my gut on this one. There was no recipe, just inspiration from a few odds and ends, particularly the vivid taste of Lotus restaurant’s iconic honey chicken masterpiece, and the sauce I made a while back for the fried pork cutlets. And the end result was devoured in record time, even by my grandmother who, today, also told me that she tried my macaroni and cheese and thought it was “walang kwenta” (worthless). But hey, don’t take her word for it!!! The rest of my family defended me of course, so it’s probably just grandma’s isolated and skewed opinion (but don’t worry I still love her to bits).

The only thing I wished I could have done was to make some more because it was the first thing gone from the table during dinner. Yeah, they really liked it.
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Honey chicken (serves 4)

  • 1.5 kg chicken legs and thighs
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • Half a head of garlic, minced
  • 1 240ml can pineapple juice
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white cane vinegar (apple cider vinegar works too)
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup honey (or more, to taste)
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Sear the chicken on both sides, until it begins to brown, around 5 – 10 minutes on each side. You might need to do this in batches.
  2. Make the sauce: Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large sauce pan (large enough to hold the chicken pieces as well) over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and allow to fry until fragrant but not burnt. Add the pineapple juice and the cornstarch mixture. Mix well.
  3. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir everything together over medium heat until the sauce thickens. Adjust the seasoning to your preference.
  4. Lower the heat and add in the chicken and cook, covered, for 30 – 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked tender.
  5. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, increase the heat to high and cook until the sauce has reduced, thickened and is slightly sticky. Frequently stir everything together to stop it from burning. When done remove from heat and serve warm. Enjoy!

Lemon and Pepper Chicken

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If there was a battle between lemons and calamansi (the small native Philippine lime), I’d be rooting for the lemon. My friends think it’s strange that I don’t like calamansi, considering that I’m Filipino. Sometimes when we’re eating out, and we would be given tiny saucers so we can make our own dip out of soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi, they would grab my pieces without hesitation. What’s exactly my beef with this little defenseless humble lime? Well, I would always rationalize that this ‘loathing’ doesn’t have any rationalization. I just don’t like it. But maybe, if I need to give concrete insight, maybe the calamansi’s citrus scent doesn’t appeal to me, the way the fresh clean lemon scent does.

The lemon’s scent and acidity lend themselves well with chicken. I decided to make this on the fly because people were coming over (another story altogether, sorry if I’m being evasive!), and I was supposed to serve this to them, but the chicken ended up wrapped in foil for  them to take home. The first batch ended up pretty dry but still flavorful, probably because I left them too long in the oven. As soon as the chicken hits the one hour mark, that’s when my paranoia sinks in, because I still want the chicken to be moist. I think I achieved it with the second batch (the ones pictured), because it tasted just the way I imagined it to be  – the fresh tartness of the lemon absorbed by the meat, with delicate, paper-thin skin, and yes, it’s flavorful down to the bones.

But of course if you’re a calamansi purist, I see no reason why you can’t use it instead of the lemons. But if you do have lemons lying around, well, you know what to do.

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Lemon and Pepper Chicken (serves 6 – 8)

  • chicken leg and thigh, 6 pieces each
  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • a generous dash of freshly cracked black pepper, around 2 -3 tablespoons
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons salt (or more, to taste)
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken. Add in the chicken and marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan, preferably with a rack, with the bottom of the pan lined with foil to catch the drippings.
  3. Place the pan in the oven and bake for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. flipping halfway. Bake until chicken’s skin is golden brown and the meat is done.
  4. When done, remove from oven and serve warm. Enjoy!

Bringhe

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Grandma burst into song at lunch today. After lengthily praying, she burst into song – clapping while singing “This is the Day”. Look it up, I’m not singing it.

Mom was hiding silent giggles, uncle kept mouthing under his breath that he’s hungry, while I couldn’t really hide the fact that I was pleasantly amused. That doesn’t usually happen over lunch. She’s like that, my grandmother. It’s been an inside joke among family members that her lack of comedic timing makes her that more amusing. One time, during a party that we had at their place, with guests in tow, she burst into tears and extended the prayer before meals after my grandfather said his spiel.
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The amusement that happened over lunch offset whatever antsy feelings I had prior. I was flipping out because from my end, lunch almost never happened. We don’t have set Easter traditions, we don’t have Easter bunnies and eggs; it’s usually only a celebratory lunch and dinner. I decided to make two dishes – bringhe and roasted chicken.

Bringhe is a rice dish from Northern Luzon (specifically Pampanga), similar to arroz valenciana and paella, but the liquid used to cook the rice is a mixture of water and coconut milk, and it has a characteristic yellow color because of the turmeric. Think curry rice, without the curry. Roast chicken is, well, roast chicken.  I marinated it in soy sauce, vinegar, rosemary and lemongrass.
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Time wasn’t on my side that day. While I was in the kitchen, I kept glancing at the clock, mentally kicking myself for being a hot mess. I thought I started on time, but in my head there was still so much to do. We brought out the turbo broiler for the first time, hoping that it’ll do wonders with the chicken. At 11:00 AM, we discovered that the broiler had failed us. The chickens were barely warm even after preheating and cooking for at least 30 minutes. I felt like I was on a pressure test and something was about to spell my elimination. I quickly grabbed a roasting pan and the chickens by the neck (sorry, chickens) and hastily preheated the oven. But even I knew they would never make it for lunch.
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I cursed a bit, and resigned at the fact that something did go totally awry. I went back to the stove, telling myself that I probably burned the bringhe as well.

I opened the pot, steam wafted out and enveloped me for a nanosecond, and there it was. It was like a veil was lifted over me. I can tell. I can tell it was on its way to perfection with the broth slowly but surely being absorbed by the rice. I grabbed a spoon and took a bite of the rice. It was cooked (edible!). I didn’t break into song number, but I was happy. I will have something on the table at lunchtime. It felt like everything just fell into place. The timing was perfect.
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Grandma just finished her song, was a little bit emotional partly because my cousin lacks proper etiquette (that’s another story), and we dig in. The roast chicken is biding its time in the oven, and it’ll obviously be ready before dinner. There’s pancit bihon, dinuguan and of course, the bringhe. We were somehow together (dad was away and grandpa retired way too early), and I realized that I made a mountain out of a molehill.
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Today is Easter Sunday, the day hope was returned to us and a promise was fulfilled. There was darkness, but through it all, He lives. Jesus coming back from the dead can mean a lot of things, but I believe it means that God is stronger than pain, suffering and hopelessness. I try to pray because I believe I’m inadequate without Him. During lunch today, He sat with us and brought me back from whatever “death” had fallen upon me. I have a lot to be thankful for, Grandma kept repeating that.

I couldn’t agree more.
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Happy Easter everyone!

Beringhe/Bringhe (adapted from Inquirer Lifestyle)

  • ¾ kg chicken leg and thighs, sliced into serving pieces
  • ¾ kg pork belly or shoulder, cut into cubes
  • 150 g chicken liver and/or gizzard
  • 1 cup regular rice
  • 1 cup sticky rice (malagkit)
  • 2 tablespoons Star margarine
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 whole head garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons patis, or more, to taste
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used a 200 ml tetra pack; go ahead and use the fresh kind if you can)
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1 carrot, sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into small squares
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into small squares
  • 8 pieces Vienna sausage, sliced into halves diagonally (I used Libby’s)
  • 2 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1½ c raisins, for garnish (optional; I didn’t like adding raisins so I didn’t use this)
  1. In a large pan, add the chicken and pork and enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Generously season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and allow the water to evaporate and the meat to cook. Allow for the fat the render and stir to lightly toast the meat. Do not allow to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Combine regular rice and sticky rice and wash three times under running water. Set aside.
  3. Heat the Star margarine in a wide casserole, large pot or a paellera.
  4. Sauté onion until wilted. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown.
  5. Add turmeric and patis and stir in the chicken liver or gizzard. Add the pork and chicken. Cover and simmer for a minute.
  6. Add water and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Let boil around one minute, then add the two kinds of rice, distributing evenly around the pan. You may want to give the pan/pot a few through stirs. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until rice is fully cooked and has almost absorbed all the liquid, around 15-20 minutes.
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  7. When the rice is cooked through but there is still some liquid on the surface, add peas, carrots, bell peppers and Vienna sausage. Stir lightly to incorporate and cover for 3 – 5 more minutes, cooking over low heat.
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  8. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs and raisins, if desired. Serve warm. Enjoy!