Chicken Paprika

First there was pork, and now chicken. What’s up with me and meat in the first place? Well, I think I somehow explained that phenomenon with Peking Pork. I just love eating pork, chicken and beef. Most of my comfort foods are meat-based dishes, so in a sense I feel safe and secure when I eat meat. Vegetables are still there, but only when I’m in the mood. Don’t give up on me just yet. In an hour or so I’ll go back to my regular ritual of running, so there.
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Most days, I find myself staring at the pantry, looking at what’s inside as possibilities. But today I was stuck. This chicken dish was supposed to be swimming in artificial cream of chicken soup and salad macaroni if I had my way. But  it didn’t feel right. It was around 11:00 am and I still couldn’t figure out what to make. All I knew was I had chicken pieces defrosting on the counter and no inspiration.

But I think I spoke too soon because a second after I resigned myself to canned pork and beans, I thought “Chicken Paprika”. The planets have aligned. Then things went like clock work. It was so easy, it just made sense. It only needed a few ingredients and practically three steps to finish. When the clock struck 12, the kitchen really smelled great.
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The recipe called for butter, but I just used olive oil to cut down on the bad fat. I also went the extra mile and made gravy out of the oil and pan drippings! (Inspiration, you have knocked on my door again.)
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One thing though: you can do so much with this dish. Next time I might stuff it with garlic again, or marinate the chicken with salt and vinegar for a while to make it even tastier. I might even use butter! But for now, I’ll enjoy this as it is. Simple and straight to the point. It’s oven fried chicken, yo!
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Chicken Paprika (serves 6; adapted from The Best of FOOD Magazine)

  • 1 kg chicken legs and thighs
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons iodized salt
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
  • ½ tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
  • Olive oil to coat the bottom of the baking pan  (you can use regular cooking oil)

For the gravy, start with:

  • ½ cup water
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ – 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • Freshly cracked pepper
  • A dash of paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F/220 C. Drizzle enough olive oil in the baking pan to lightly coat the bottom.
  2. In a shallow dish, mix flour, salt, paprika, pepper and thyme.
  3. Coat the chicken pieces with flour mixture and arrange on the baking pan, skin side down. Bake for 25 minutes.
  4. Turn pieces over and bake for another 15 – 20 minutes or until tender and juices run clear. Serve with rice and gravy. Enjoy!

To make gravy:

  1. Deglaze the baking pan by adding ½ cup water.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the “remnants” of the chicken. These will contribute to the overall flavor of the gravy.
  3. Add around 2 – 3 tablespoons flour.
  4. Mix and transfer to a small saucepan. Over low heat, add half a chicken bouillon cube, and freshly cracked pepper and more paprika to taste.
  5. Adjust consistency by adding more water or flour, to your preference.
  6. Mix well using a wooden spoon. When done, remove from heat and serve with the chicken. Enjoy!

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9 mornings: Garlic, Pesto and Lemongrass Chicken

The holidays can be stressful. Here I am again, apologizing for an inability to post anything edible yesterday. I was supposed to share this recipe a few hours ago, but the holiday rush caught up with me and I was left out of breath.

At around 11 pm last night I finally filled all 60-ish cupcakes with peaches and strawberry jam for my mom’s office mates. This morning as soon as we got back from church, I perused one of my first ever cut-out recipe cookbooks (basically a drawing book with snippets of recipes from magazines to the back of a milk can) for simple buttercream frosting. Frosting a cupcake is murder on my self-esteem, since it’s always been a hit and miss with me and nicely piped frosting. I almost cried. No joke.
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Then my friend R came over and brought her handmade gift boxes to put the little devils in. But as luck would have it, I forgot to tell her that I’ll frost the cupcakes so she didn’t take that into consideration when she made the dimensions (but still her boxes are really nice and I’ll probably post pictures next time). I can already imagine my mom’s officemates opening their boxes, and probably wondering why the top portion of the cupcakes are sticking to the lid.
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Things like that happen. When you’re caught up with making sure everything’s perfect, most of the time it’s disappointing when you feel that the universe is against you. So this little project (“9 mornings”) didn’t really live up to the hype (that I just imagined in my head). But it’s not the end of the world (or is it?). Maybe if there’s something I got from this experience, it’s that you don’t have to force things to happen. Sure cooking involves patience, skill and technique, but without the love for all things edible, all you’re left with is a vapid, aseptic white plate.
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This chicken recipe, which isn’t vapid at all, was made at the top of my head and I went along with whatever combination I was craving for. I was surprised at how good this was. The chicken meat practically fell of the bone and it was still tender and juicy. I’m definitely light-handed when it comes to seasoning with salt. The seasoning measurements aren’t really 100% spot-on but that’s why people invented liquid seasoning afterall.
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Garlic, Pesto and Lemongrass Chicken (serves 6 – 8 )

  • 5 chicken thighs
  • 5 drumsticks
  • 1 head of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 – 3 stalks lemongrass, chopped into 2 inch strips
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons bottled pesto
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon rock salt
  • a few dashes of freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • for seasoning the chicken: salt, pepper and red chili flakes to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 200 C/400 F.
  2. Clean the chicken pieces well. Pat dry using a paper towel. Arrange pieces skin side up on an oven-proof dish. Season with salt,  pepper and red chili flakes.
  3. Make the paste: Combine garlic, lemongrass, pesto and olive oil in a bowl, making sure that everything is mixed well. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Tuck the paste under the chicken’s skin and try to distribute the paste well. If there is leftover paste, rub it on the chicken pieces.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes to an hour or until chicken skin is browned. Flip the pieces over to brown the other side. Bake for another 10 – 20 minutes.
  6. When chicken is brown and tender, remove from the oven and serve hot with a steaming bowl of rice. Enjoy!

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Chicken Donburi

I have to be honest – when I was making this post I did my fair, shallow share of research so I won’t offend any sensibilities. But of course, to err is human (haha)

I’m not a hardcore fan of Japanese food. I’m not even familiar with most of what’s considered Japanese. I don’t like sushi but I do enjoy California maki. I can crave for Ebi tempura, but I stay away from katsudon. Well, the issue with pork katsudon is that it was my first real meal after I was operated so eating it brings back memories I’d rather not remember fondly. And don’t get me started on wasabi (!)

But despite that, I still tried to make my first Japanese dish for lunch – chicken donburi. Apparently Japanese fastfood. (And right now I’m walking on eggshells because my disclaimer says it all)

Reading about donburi, I think my first mistake was using a plate instead of a bowl. Donburi means bowl and it’s also the name of a dish consisting of boiled riced topped with meat, fish, eggs and/or vegetables and broth. That’s the general term and it’s further divided into whatever protein is being used – Oyakodon (chicken and egg), Katsudon (pork) etc. I’m not sure if I’m reading what a Jap food purist might write (and we can skirt around some technicalities), so maybe somebody can enlighten this poor soul.

But whatever the process, it was still great. Thighs are my favorite part of the chicken. Groceries don’t sell it deboned so I did it myself. Yeah, this dish is a labor of love in more ways than one. And I’d gladly make this again because it’s so easy.

Making this probably gave me more exp points (this is a joke; experience points = video games = japanese. get it? omg was I offensive?!) in Japanese food appreciation.

Plus Pokemon was my all-time favorite show so maybe that counts for something under the appreciation department. Uhm, don’t hit me.


Chicken Donburi (serves 4 – 6)

adapted from The Best of Food Magazine (2001)

  • 3 chicken thigh fillets
  • 3 drumsticks
  • 1 1/2 cup water/chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup light soy sauce if using chicken stock; 1 cup if using water
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 carrot, chopped into really small pieces/cubes
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, sliced into 3 inch strips
  • 1 pack oyster mushrooms (I didn’t know how many grams it was so how many you put in is your call)
  • 4 eggs
  1. Combine water/stock, soy sauce, mirin and sugar in a saucepan. Stir to mix and bring to a boil.
  2. Stir in chicken, onion, carrot and lemongrass. Lower heat and simmer for eight to ten minutes or until the broth reduces.
  3. Add mushrooms.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Pour on top of simmering chicken.
  5. Cover until chicken is fully cooked and eggs are set
  6. Spoon cooked chicken, mushrooms, carrots over a bed of rice. Serve warm with its broth on the side and drizzled on top of the chicken. Enjoy!

Inasal

What do you do when it’s the first week of November, you have a ton of Christmas lights and a reasonably tall tree? – Hang the lights on and around the tree and grill like you’ve never grilled before of course!

We (my family and I) get to celebrate our first real Christmas this year in our new home so we wanted to make it special. Yes, this is how excited for Christmas we are. In our household, barbecue is special.

There’s barbecue and there’s barbecue. I’d like to believe what I did falls under the latter because I didn’t make the run-of-the-mill barbecue (meat+ketchup+soy sauce+vinegar+brown sugar)………..I made Inasal. *Cue gasp*

It was a lightbulb moment for me when I was juggling ideas for my barbecue. I really like the taste of Inasal – salty, sour, smoky, with a hint of sweetness. Mang Inasal’s variety is smoky and sweet and I enjoy drowning the chicken thigh (my all-time FAVORITE chicken part) in soy sauce, vinegar, chili and atsuete/achuete/annatto oil. Pure bliss.

I’ve always been curious how they make authentic Bacolod Chicken Inasal. I was perusing recipes and blog posts and it turns out, Market Man and Jun Belen have their own recipes for Chicken Inasal. They have the same components, albeit in different proportions: citrus juice, vinegar, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, sugar and lemongrass.

Market Man swears that authentic Inasal (from Bacolod) is basted with a mixture of Star Margarine, achuete oil and pepper. One thing that’s striking with Inasal is the absence of soy sauce in the marinade. I guess it’s reserved for the dipping sauce then.

What I did for my version:

1. I went crazy with the garlic and ginger. And yeah, that’s one long lemongrass stalk.

2. I toasted the garlic and ginger from the marinade with the melted margarine, and then I added the achuete oil and the pepper to make the basting sauce. I alternately basted the meat with the achuete margarine mix and the marinade while it was grilling. Liquid gold.

3. I used chicken and pork

And let me tell you…..It tasted amazing.

Holy mother of god it tasted amazing!

I kid you not – I think I started a whole new family tradition when it comes to grilling. It was everything I could ever look for: salty-sour, smoky, succulent meat. The lemongrass imparts a fresh, citrus-y scent to the meat that makes it all the more indulgent. I didn’t even see the need for a dipping sauce.

Will I ever get to truly taste authentic Bacolod Inasal? Well writing this made me realize I should put that on my bucket list. Or better yet, make a totally new bucket list devoted to food! But for now, I’ll gladly settle for this recipe. And I say that with the most satisfied smile in the world.

Chicken (and Pork) Inasal (serves 6 – 8 )

because we have huge appetites, adjust as needed

6 – 8 pieces chicken leg and thigh + 1 kg pork belly

Marinade

  • 3 bulbs garlic (minced; you can use a food processor)
  • a 3 inch knob of ginger (minced; you can use a food processor)
  • juice of 4 lemons
  • 3 / 4 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons rock salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 lemongrass/tanglad stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together and adjust taste to your preference.
  2. Add the meat and marinade for at least two hours or overnight.
  3. Grill the meat, alternately basting with the achuete-margarine mix and the marinade. Be careful not to let the meat burn.
  4. Serve with a steaming cup of rice. Dipping sauce (soy sauce, vinegar, chili) is optional. Enjoy!

for the Achuete – Margarine mix

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3-4 tablespoons annatto/achuete seeds
  • 1 small tub Star Margarine (get the smallest tub out there)
  • two spoonfuls of the garlic and ginger used in the marinade
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper
  1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil. Add the achuete seeds and allow oil to color. Once the desired rich orange color is achieved, remove from heat.
  2. Strain the oil into a cup to remove the seeds.
  3. Using the same pan, melt the margarine until hot and frothy.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and allow to toast. Add the pepper.
  5. When done, remove from heat and use it for basting the meat.

A Satay Lunch

I don’t get why a lot of people don’t like peanut sauce. Of course if you’re allergic to peanuts that’s understandable, but I can’t really classify peanut sauce as an acquired taste. Okra, hell yeah, but peanut sauce? Not so much.

I’ve been wanting to create a satay sauce for a while now. “The main ingredient is ground roasted peanuts, for which peanut butter can act as a substitute. Several different recipes for making peanut sauces exist, resulting in a variety of flavours. A typical recipe usually contains ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), coconut milk, soy sauce, galangal, garlic, and spices (such as coriander seed, cumin, etc). Other possible ingredients are chili peppers, sugar, milk, fried onions, and lemon grass.” (from wikipedia)

I don’t think it’s particularly Filipino –  it’s more Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian or Indonesian than anything else. But I have been tasting it on grilled chicken in some of the restos around town and while my friends opted to pass, I enjoyed every tender juicy morsel of chicken-y peanutty goodness down to the bone. They don’t know what they’re missing basically.

My first attempt at satay sauce was pretty good. Instead of either ground peanuts or peanut butter as the main flavoring, I opted to use both. Usually recipes call for dry roasted peanuts, but I didn’t have that on hand so I used whatever unsalted peanut variety was in the pantry so I used walnuts.

I ground them in my little convenient immersion blender with the food processor attachment with tiny slices of ginger.

I was really inspired by the elimination round where Marion and Aaron (from Masterchef Australia) had to make the perfect satay sauce to avoid elimination. Marion, one of the best cooks in the competition, was eliminated but watching the magic that happened during that round really whet my appetite for good satay sauce.

The only thing I didn’t add was coconut milk since: 1. The fresh kind takes a while to make and I don’t know how to do it alone  and 2. I didn’t have the canned variety and I wanted to use the fresh kind.

So what is that? Dinuguan? Melted chocolate? No that’s my satay sauce (cue the defeated “awww”). I’m not really happy with the color but I like the way it tasted. I’ll make sure to add coconut milk next time. (cue applause)

So what’s satay sauce without the meat, right? I’ve never tried the sauce with any meat except chicken, so I decided to play it safe and used chicken thighs. Another proud moment I had was when I filleted the chicken thighs all by my lonesome! I bought whole chicken leg and thigh parts because they were cheaper. A few youtube videos here and there and I was deboning chicken thighs like crazy!

I marinated the chicken thighs (and some other parts my mom insisted on adding since we were feeding the “world” [the other people in the house]) in some spices, soy sauce, and peanut butter in keeping with the satay flavor I wanted to have.

I baked the pieces in the oven for almost an hour instead of grilling it since I haven’t really grilled something by my lonesome before. And it’s amazing how juicy and tender it was! It’s a shame I only got to marinade it for 15 minutes. It would’ve been tastier but I’m not really complaining.

Chicken with satay sauce is a classic, but I wanted to add another dimension to it – a side dish that’s fresh to cut through the decadence a bit. So I decided to make a simple tomato in olive oil salad.

Basically I was on a roll today. The chicken with satay went perfectly with the fresh tomatoes  – just the right amount of sweet, salty and sour taste that left me craving for more rice. Lunch was great.


Baked chicken with satay sauce and tomato salad  (Serves 3 – 4)

4-5 pieces chicken thighs

Marinade:
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp peanut butter
1 tbsp sesame oil
 
Satay sauce
¼ cup shelled walnuts
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
¼ cup light soy sauce
¾ cup water
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
4 tbsp honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
 
Tomato salad
2 medium tomatoes, diced
½ tbsp of chopped celery leaves
1 ½ tbsp mirin
1 tbsp olive oil
 

Directions:

Mix all marinade ingredients together and evenly coat the chicken. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes or preferably overnight.

Arrange the fillets on a baking rack over a baking pan. Cover the pan with foil and bake on high at 180 C for 45 minutes to one hour.

 While the chicken is baking, make the satay sauce:

Grind the walnuts and the ginger until finely ground but not powdery. Heat the sesame oil in a medium sized pan on high. Add the garlic and allow it to toast. Add the ground walnuts and toast it for a few seconds. Add the soy sauce and the water. Lower the heat and stir. Add the peanut butter, honey and vinegar and stir until slightly reduced. Adjust the taste to your preference, adding more of a component if desired. When done, remove from heat and place the sauce in a serving bowl.

 Make the tomato salad: combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Allow to rest until ready to serve.

 When the juices of the chicken run clear, remove from the oven and place 2-3 chicken fillets on a plate, top it with the satay sauce (be generous) and add the tomato salad on the side. Enjoy.