A few months ago, I saw a familiar post being featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed. It’s a homepage fixture where the people at wordpress choose the best posts from their 400 thousand-strong bloggers who churn out new material, and feature it. The post belonged to a blog friend of mine, Julie, of Willowbird Baking. She’s the one who shared the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes, and it has long since been a hit with my friends who would kill (not really, but you get the idea) to have it as a birthday present. As to what post was featured, I’ve already forgotten, but I really remember thinking to myself with a slight jab of envy, “When will I be worthy of being freshly pressed”?
Apparently, the answer came 4 days ago.
I woke up to almost a hundred new emails, all of which were either comments on my post about Crispy Pork Belly, or subscription notices. I was dumbfounded at first, then sifting through the comments, some of which were congratulatory, I finally found the confirmation email.
In just eight months of blogging, out of 471,983 bloggers (as of Feb 29), my post has been freshly pressed. FRESHLY. PRESSED (!)
It was a big deal for me because my readership grew by leaps and bounds! (TO ALL MY NEW READERS, HI!!!). I couldn’t believe it. The response was extremely overwhelming. Just this morning I got a comment from somebody who successfully tried my crispy pork belly recipe. People were telling me how happy they were discovering me in my little corner of the web. I must have done something right. Humbling, really.
It’s kind of ironic that I posted that under less than stellar circumstances. This new job that I have keeps me busy for almost half of the week. But the affirmation that I got from all of you who want more from The Hungry Giant, tells me that it will always be about quality over quantity. I’m so happy I found part of myself through food and blogging about food. The love for food is universal and it’s a privilege to be able to express my love in the way I do.
I’d like to believe it’s supposed to be unpretentious as well. I’m Filipino, and I never grew up eating and appreciating expensive dishes, plated like molten gold, studded with grass (I mean, herbs). From my corner of the woods, the best dishes would always be “lutong bahay”, literally, “cooked at home” – hearty and extremely rustic (meaning it ain’t really purdy) dishes using ingredients that are commonly found in a regular Filipino wet market.
A classic dish that I love so much is “Estofado”. It sounds and reminds you of ‘stew’ right? Ok, maybe not. But it actually means ‘stewed’. And in our context, it’s stewed meat. The liquid would be tomato sauce, and the meat would be pork (AGAIN). Chopped potatoes, carrots, and sometimes bell peppers are also added to the mix. Everything is stewed until the meat becomes fork tender and the sauce thickens.
How is estofado different from its cousins ‘caldereta’ and ‘menudo’? All of these are tomato sauce based dishes. But from what I gather: Caldereta/Kaldereta is usually made from beef and chopped liver/liver spread as the sauce thickener, Menudo is usually made of cubed pork AND liver, sometimes raisins and hotdogs are added and Estofado doesn’t have the frills that other two have. Filipino families will have their own variations, so it’s no surprise that sometimes these overlap.
Anyway, I love a good estofado that has a thick sauce, almost like gravy. It also doesn’t hurt that the meat has to be fork-tender. My Mama Eng (mom’s cousin who has lived with us since forever) makes a really great estofado. She doesn’t settle for shortcuts – everything has to cooked to perfection. She’s a patron of the slow food movement without even realizing it. That’s the kind of thinking that I had while I was making this estofado.
This is something special because of two things: 1. I marinated the pork for a while, which makes the meat more flavorful (even without the sauce) and 2. I added breadcrumbs so the sauce would be like gravy. I’m actually pretty proud of what I did. This estofado is so good I’m getting hungry right writing about it.
Pork Estofado (serves 6 – 8)
2 kg pork, balanced fat:meat ratio, preferably from the shoulder, cleaned and cut into 2 inch thick cubes
- 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- a dash or two of freshly cracked pepper
- oil for frying
- 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (optional; I like mine with a subtle amount of heat)
- three 200 gram packs tomato sauce
- one 425 gram can whole or diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, or more if desired
- 2 whole garlic bulbs, minced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 medium-sized carrots, cubed
- 5 small potatoes, cubed
- one 113 gram can pimentos, drained and roughly chopped (optional) OR 2 – 3 large red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Mix in the pork and leave for at least 30 minutes.
- In a frying pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots and potatoes and fry until slightly brown and potatoes are tender. When done, remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large pan or wok, heat oil and add the garlic and onions over medium heat. Fry until garlic is slightly toasted but not brown, and onions are slightly limp. Add the red pepper flakes.
- Add the pork with the marinade. Mix everything together. Cover and allow to cook over medium heat for around 30 – 40 minutes or until pork is tender. If everything dries up too soon, add a few tablespoons of water.
- When pork is cooked and tender, add the tomato sauce and tomatoes. Using your spatula or spoon, crush the tomatoes. Stir everything together. Add the potatoes, carrots and pimentos. Reduce heat to medium – low.
- Add the breadcrumbs and stir to incorporate. Adjust taste by adding more salt and pepper. Adjust consistency by adding more breadcrumbs or water. Cover and cook for another 15 – 20 minutes with occasional stirring.
- When done, remove from heat. Place it in a large bowl, garnish with more red pepper flakes and serve it with an even larger bowl of rice. Enjoy!