I wish I could be there

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It’s the day after Mother’s Day and as I’m writing this I’m hoping that the courier doesn’t screw up more than it already has. Mom hasn’t received her package yet and right now the timing (and the drama) is off. (Edit: the package arrived and apparently reduced mom to a puddle of tears. What was the gift? A simple handwritten letter)

The last time I was with the family was when I went home for the Easter holidays more than a month ago. Suffice to say I went a little crazy, baking almost everyday. The macarons I wrote about were one of the things I churned out (which reminds me, I’m tinkering with the next installment to that post!). To be honest I wasn’t all that keen to go home. I kept on thinking that I need to sensitize myself to the separation, as depressing as it sounds. But that week off turned out to be one of the best vacation weeks I’ve ever had, and by the time I had to be whisked off to the airport, I was a hot mess. I’ve never been that sad to leave home.
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But to dwell on how much abuse my oven received makes things less morose. To think about how much I enjoyed making sans rival makes things a lot better.

I always though making sans rival was unattainable. But I always enjoy eating the layers of crunchy-chewy meringue, with buttercream sandwiched in between, all dressed in a rich velvet layer of more buttercream. That was before I went to school so basically I thought a lot of baked goods seemed impossible to make by my lonesome. That was then, this is now. And during the course of the week I was able to make five, a pretty awesome feat by my standards.

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Right now I’m at a place where I can say that anything baked isn’t impossible to make. This one is no exception. Making it wasn’t a breeze of course – time and patience (things I feel I lack) are the key elements here. It’s one of those desserts that have components made separately and then put together to make one solid piece of goodness.

This is a nod to my mom, who is (a cheesy comparison coming up) really like sans rival. She’s a crowd favorite and everyone instantly likes her, she’s both sturdy and fragile (sometimes at the same time), and although on the outside she seems to be all butter, you’ll see that she’s made up of so much more than that. She’s never typical.

Last year when I was still home we had this silly moment together where her favorite song was playing on the radio and she just took my hand and whirled me around the kitchen. It was awkward, I was embarrassed, mortified…and strangely enough right now I wish I could do it all over again.
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Coffee Buttercream Sans Rival

serves around 8

This recipe is good enough to make three rectangular sheets that could fit in a half-sheet tray (18 by 13 inches). I decided to pipe the meringue into rounds instead of rectangles, but I still used a sheet tray lined with a silicone mat that measures 11 5/8 by 16 ½ inches. Two rounds fit in the silicone mat so I worked in batches. Alternatively, you can also use cake pans, greased, lined with parchment, greased again, and floured.

  • 180 grams clean egg whites
  • a pinch of cream of tartar
  • 170 grams granulated sugar
  • 10 grams all-purpose flour
  • 50 grams granulated sugar (for the flour and nut mixture)
  • 60 grams cashew nuts, processed/chopped into very small pieces
  • additional cashew nuts for decoration

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar and whip until stiff.Combine the sugar, flour and nuts and fold it into the meringue, working in 3 additions. Use a piping bag to pipe the mixture onto the pan, using a spiral motion to create equal circles. Bake at 350 F/180 C for 30 – 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool at room temperature.

Coffee Buttercream

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

  • 7 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 454 grams/1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons coffee powder (or more if a stronger flavor is desired)

Beat the yolks and sugar using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, until it becomes light and lemon-colored. Warm the heavy cream in a large saucepan, until bubbles appear around the sides. Whisk the heavy cream into the yolks and return it to the saucepan. Stir over low heat until thick, around 10 – 12 minutes. Be careful not to let it boil or else it will curdle. Remove from heat, transfer to a large bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) and let it cool.

You can whisk the buttercream by hand or use an electric mixer, with the paddle attachment. Either way, add the butter into the cooled custard bit by bit, beating the pieces in until completely absorbed before adding in the next. Add the vanilla extract. When all the butter has been incorporated and the mixture is smooth, you can set aside 1/3 of the buttercream, and mix in the coffee powder into the remaining 2/3. Set aside until ready to use.

Assemble: place one layer of meringue on a plate or cake board. Using a straight or offset spatula, spread an even but thin layer of buttercream on it, and top with the second layer. Repeat, then top with the third layer. Spread the buttercream on top, and along the sides. When the coating is generous and even, you can pipe decorative rosettes using the regular buttercream on top. If the surrounding temperature is a bit warm the buttercream might soften too much for you to achieve good, sturdy piping. At this point you can let the mixture rest in the fridge, or to speed up the process, place it in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Coat the sides and sprinkle the top with the chopped cashew nuts. When coating the sides, get a handful of the chopped nuts and lightly pat the side making sure that the nuts stick to the buttercream. The excess will fall of and you can clean it up when you’re done decorating.

Place it in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to serve.

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Honey Rosemary Pork + 10 facts

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OK, digressing from my spiel, I think it’s good to inject a little bit of cheese into the blog. The Food and Wine Hedonist (and his other persona, Sir Mix-a-Lotta-Ingredients [did I get that right man? haha!] awarded me a ‘Kreativ Blogger’ badge, along with a few instructions. I don’t really pay attention to user-generated blog awards, but I might as well indulge it this time since, honestly, I can’t really say a lot about today’s recipe except to say that it’s incredibly delicious.

Since I accepted the award, here are 10 facts about me:

1. My name is Gio. Yeah, that’s a fact. I’m an only child, so I have issues (wink)

2. I used to be incredibly overweight growing up! ‘Used to’, because it was in college that I began losing weight. But it’s been a constant struggle ever since. Constant. Struggle.

3. I love pork fat. I love pork. You might find this disgusting but vivid childhood memories of me eating would mean requesting that my rice should be liberally drizzled with my ‘special sauce’ — COOKING OIL! (The oil used to fry the pork or bacon of course!).

4. My friends can vouch for this: I suck at math. Computing simple change, is my downfall.

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5. I blink more times than the average person.

6. I hate hate hate eating liver and other innards. I have this sudden urge to vomit when I do taste liver. To illustrate, I once walked out of a family dinner when they didn’t tell me that the dinuguan (blood stew) had liver and I accidentally had a spoonful of it.

7. When I’m pissed at someone, or when I have this sudden urge to stab/murder somebody but can’t, I snap my fingers.

8. I have a potty mouth. People have word crutches and default responses when they’re shocked, scared, happy, angry etc. Well, I cuss. And this bad mannerism also rears its ugly head during inappropriate occasions, like…during birthday parties when we’re about to pray.

9. If it’s not a dog, I’ll probably end up killing my ‘pet of the moment’.  First it was fish, and my teeny aquarium held more than the usual number. They didn’t survive. Next it was rabbits. I probably force-fed them to the point of obesity, and well, they lived a miserable life. Right now I have a two year-old dog, and she’s alive and well. (Praise!)

10. Since I told you that it’s a constant struggle to maintain my weight, I usually jog in the late afternoon. After a heavy meal for lunch. Then I’d have a heavy meal for dinner. Constant. Struggle.

So, there you have it. If you have any other questions you’d like me to answer, just leave a comment and if it’s not inappropriate, I might get back to you. 🙂
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On to the recipe: this was conceived the day before Mother’s Day, when I was daydreaming about baking pork until the fat caramelizes and becomes extremely rich and gooey. I can’t really say anything else. It was perfect. We loved it. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.
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Honey Rosemary Pork (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork (shoulder, belly or chops)

marinade for every 1 kg:

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼  cup honey
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Rosemary leaves from two 4-inch sprigs
  1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the meat.
  2. Add the pork and ensure that each piece is evenly coated with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator and let it marinate overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 220 C.
  4. Arrange the pork on a baking pan, preferably with a rack to let the fat drip. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, turning halfway.
  5. When done, remove from the over and allow to rest for around 3 – 5 minutes. Slice into bite-sized serving pieces and serve with rice. Enjoy!

New England Clam Chowder

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There’s just something about the taste of clam soup that hits the spot. It doesn’t need a lot of coaxing to get the distinct flavor out of the clams – the rich flavor of the sea ignites the bones. My city is a city that gets to supply the rest of the country with canned sardines, since fishermen have direct access to the sea. Clams, along with a variety of fish and shellfish are always abundant in the seafood markets.

I like my clams baked, or made into a simple soup with tomatoes, kangkong or chili leaves. But last Sunday, for mother’s day, I decided to go the extra mile and make it into a chowder – “New England” Clam Chowder.
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The main difference between New England and Manhattan Clam Chowder is the cooking liquid used. New England uses cream or milk to flavor the clam broth, while Manhattan uses tomato sauce. One of my favorite restaurants serves this really delicious seafood chowder that carries the strong flavor of clam, and Mother’s Day was the perfect excuse to relive the taste again.

This isn’t really ‘New England’ to the letter because I didn’t have the crackers to thicken this. But adding bread crumbs to thicken this more can be a good idea…in the same way I like my lechon sauce really thick. Lechon. Lechon. God I’m hungry again. I’ll probably have my fill of lechon soon, but for now, I’m happy remembering the moment I had the first spoonful of the finished product. It was immaculate.
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Clam Chowder (serves 5 – 6)

Feel free to thicken it more with crackers, cornstarch, flour or even bread crumbs. This has a hint of thickness thanks to the flour but it doesn’t tread the lines of being gravy-ish, which I really like. 

  • 30 pieces clams, scrubbed and cleaned
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large white onions, cubed
  • 4 – 5 medium-sized potatoes, sliced into small cubes
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, sliced into small cubes
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1  piece hungarian sausage, sliced, then each slice halved
  • 6 – 7 cups water
  • 1 300g can cream (I used Nestle)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • sliced spring onions for garnish
  1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, add the oil and butter and allow it to melt.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until limp. Add the carrots and potatoes. Mix well and sauté for around 3 – 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and mix well.
  3. Add the water, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow to simmer, for about 8 – 10 minutes.
  4. When the water is beginning to boil, lower the heat and add the cream. Mix well. Add the hungarian sausage.
  5. Add the clams and cover so the clams can cook, around 3 – 5 minutes.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
  7. When the potatoes and carrots are cooked through, remove from heat. Serve in individual bowls and garnish with spring onions. Enjoy!

Ma

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I remember it pretty well, I was still in preschool and my mom and I were waiting for a ride to bring me to school. I kept on complaining that I was going to be late, and she looked at me and told me firmly, “don’t be such a pessimist”. Apparently she was the consummate optimist.

I consider myself really lucky to have a mother who is the very definition of the word ‘survivor’. It’s been almost three years, and she has never let cancer, chemotherapy and radiation take away her spirit.  In her 50 years, she has gone through so much that sometimes I think life’s being unkind. But no, looking at it from her perspective, in true form, she’ll simply face the challenge, rise above it and shrug it off after.
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Having a mother is probably one of the greatest imperfectly perfect gifts a person could have. She is, and will forever be my rock. She’s so optimistic that sometimes I think she’s…for lack of a better adjective, ‘crazy’.
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And what’s crazier is her penchant for classic love songs. She has her favorite radio station, and she tunes in every single day. Today, just before lunch, while the music was blaring, she took me and we waltzed around the kitchen. Well, she led while I tried to cover my eyes and stop myself from laughing at the sheer awkwardness of it, but, just for today I let her have her way. It is Mother’s Day after all. And today…lunch was something extra special.