Stewed Pork Leg

My mom has always been “revolutionary”… while all other parents encouraged their kids to eat fatty food (at least as far as my contemporaries have told me) my mom “trained” us by cutting out the fat in pork chops and adobo, trimming the fat from spare ribs and liempo, removing the fat from barbecue… even going as far as having no-skin fried chicken!  Needless to say, we were utterly ignorant of bacon, chicharon, crispy pata (pork leg) and similar stuff!  Our only exposure to “fat” was the yearly lechon at the office party at Christmas!

But my late father had 3 favorite foods – the pancit (noodles) from his hometown (the ones his mom made from scratch), adobo, and stewed pork leg… stewed pork leg which was usually swimming in fat, and hidden from my mom’s sights!

Well then, imagine my surprise when I found a recipe for stewed pork leg in my mom’s recipe files!!!!

Of course I had to make it!!!!  And, of course I bought pork leg slices which were the least fatty that I could find!!!!

Sorry, though, since I do not have my mom’s permission to share her recipes. But, the good news is that this dish is a winner!!! Everyone said so!!!

 

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I AM A FILIPINO ADOBO

When I have time to waste, I always go to the bookstore and browse the cookbook section.  It was in one of those moments that I found a cookbook that I could not resist buying.  It was rather expensive, I admit, but after flipping through the pages, I just had to add it to my collection.

The first time I saw the book, it was the digital version.  With the limited browsing facility of Amazon, it did not interest me at all – there are, after all, MANY MANY cookbooks on Philippine food (both local and international) and most of my recipes were given to me by word-of-mouth.  I honestly did not need another one!

But curiosity got the better of me and with the permission of the bookstore personnel, I unwrapped the book and took a deeper look.  And, I swear, there is something about the smell of the pages, as well as the feel of the paper, that has a stronger appeal than the digital version!  In a matter of seconds, I made the decision to fork over the cash!

What I love about this cookbook is that the recipes are very close to what I have been taught (by word-of-mouth) by my mom, our faithful helper (who was with us since I was a child until after I finished schooling (at age 25!), and other elders.  Another thing that I really liked was that the food titles were in Filipino, with an English subtitle.  I’ve seen Filipino cookbooks (by Filipino authors no less!) who write their recipes with English translations, with the original Filipino title relegated to a sub-title, and I felt offended!

Sigh.

Anyway, the first recipe I tried in the book is the Adobong Manok at Baboy (Classic Adobo).  Why?  Well, because it is almost (almost!) the exact recipe my mom dictated to me a couple of decades ago!

While I have several recipes of adobo, depending on who taught me, this is the easiest to remember so I never wrote that recipe down.  All I have to remember is … ONE.

1 cup white vinegar (Datu Puti was what we had), 1 cup soy sauce (the Chinese favorite with the bird logo), 1 whole head of garlic, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns, 1 large bay leaf, 1 kilo of chicken and/or pork, and 1 heaping spoon of guava jelly (though this was optional).  The only other ingredient without a specific measure is the water – basically add enough water to cover everything.  That’s it.

The major difference is that in my mom’s version, there is no marinating the meat.  Just put everything in a pot (kaserola) and simmer until the meat is soft and tender (depending on the pork cubes, it could be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour).  That’s it.

Oh, there is another difference… we usually add hard boiled eggs midway!

Yum. Yum. Yum!!!

 

 

Maruya

Maruya is our local term for banana fritters.  It was a favorite snack all throughout my childhood… my late father also loved it, so we had it pretty often.

The problem?  The recipe is unwritten and largely by estimation.  And while I’ve made maruya before, it was not exactly what we had as kids.

As luck would have it, I found a recipe for banana fritters in my mom’s files.  And I tried it the first opportunity I had.

And it was… PERFECT!

It was soft in the middle and crunchy/crispy on the edges!

PERFECT!  EXACTLY LIKE THE MARUYA OF MY CHILDHOOD!!!

(If there’s any change that I made, it was to use turbinado sugar flavored with real vanilla, instead of white granulated sugar.)

(Sigh…)

Sabaw Itim

When my brothers and I were kids, we called this dish “Sabaw Itim”, literally Black Soup.  To our very young minds, we called it as we saw it – soup because it was so liquid-y and black because it was so dark in color.

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It’s actually chicken braised in soy sauce with mushrooms and boiled eggs.

It was a real favorite and we had it at least once a month!  In those days, the dish was so much more soupier (after all we all wanted the soup/sauce on our rice!) and the chicken pieces were various cuts from 1 whole chicken.  These days, chicken is available by specific parts, and boneless, no less!  My favorite part?  boneless, skinless chicken thigh!

The recipe:

about 600 to 700 grams of boneless chicken thighs (about 8 to 10 pieces)

Marinade:

2 to 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 bulb garlic, smashed
a small thumb of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2 to 3 pieces large bay leaves, crumbled
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1/4 cup light soy sauce
dash of shao xing wine
1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

150 grams small fresh shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces
(or 60 grams dried shitake, about 15 to 18 small pieces)
4 to 6 pieces boiled eggs

1/2 to 1 cup water (or mushroom soaking liquid, chicken stock)

Mix marinade ingredients together; set aside for a while.

Clean the chicken pieces and slice each piece into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size desired (remember that meat shrinks upon cooking so adjust accordingly).

Pour marinade over chicken and let stand for about 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, if using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water until softened; drain but keep the soaking liquid.  Cut the stems off the mushrooms (fresh or dried ones). Rinse lightly to remove dirt and grime, if there is any.

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When we were younger, this dish was cooked on the stove-top in a clay pot; it was soupier too. The way I make this dish now is with the magic cooker and with a lot less liquid.

The traditional way:

Smash some more garlic and saute them over low fire until lightly browned and deliciously fragrant! Then dump the chicken pieces and all marinade into the pot. Throw the rehydrated mushrooms in too (IF using fresh mushrooms, add them after 15 minutes of simmering.) Add enough liquid to barely cover the chicken pieces; mix to combine everything. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes or so, depending on the size of chicken pieces (smaller pieces cook faster). Top up with more liquid if the sauce is reduced too much OR if a soupier dish is desired. About 5 minutes before putting off the stove fire, add the boiled eggs. Adjust seasonings to desired taste. Off fire, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

The magic cooker way:

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Just dump the chicken pieces and marinade into the inner pot. Throw in mushrooms and boiled eggs, too. Add 1/2 cup of liquid; mix gently to combine everything (and not mutilate the eggs). Adjust seasonings. Cook on medium or medium low and simmer for 10 minutes (start counting when liquid starts bubbling). Place inner pot inside the outer chamber of the magic cooker. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes. Just before serving, add a few more drops of sesame oil. Top with chopped leeks. Serve while hot!

DISH VARIATIONS – Use firm tofu instead of mushrooms, or use a variety of fresh mushrooms – shitake, button, Korean king oyster, straw, etc.

Or, use pork cubes or ribs instead of chicken.

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PERSONAL NOTES –

The soaking liquid of the dried mushrooms is very flavorful, but some find it too strong, in which case use only 1/4 of the soaking liquid and 1/4 cup or more of water or stock. Or omit the soaking liquid altogether.

If using dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid, the sauce of the dish will have a stronger, more pronounced flavor. If using fresh mushrooms, the dish has a more subtle, delicate flavor. It’s delicious either way. Using different kinds of fresh mushrooms gives more dimension to the dish.

The original recipe (from my mom’s files) has 1/2 tablespoon sugar as an ingredient in the marinade but I’ve always skipped it. Also, dark (and salty) soy sauce was traditionally used but I’m happy with my light soya sauce (and hubby is ok with it as well) which is less salty and does not impart a dark brown (almost black) color.

 

Date Walnut Bars

a.k.a. Food for the Gods… at least in our part of the world…  why are they called Food for the Gods?  Well, it is said that these treats are so delicious that they are for (greek? roman?) gods.

These treats are available all year round, but they are most popular as Christmas giveaways.  They are usually sliced into small squares or rectangles and wrapped in foil paper or cellophane.  Trust me, a small portion goes a long way for these super-rich treats.

When I was younger (and single, and living with my mom), my mom would bake her fruitcakes, lasagna, and apple pies, while I would make food for the gods and brownies.  We even had a kitchen schedule fixed ahead of time so we would not quarrel over oven time!

I used her recipe to make these treats, but made a couple of adjustments – I used way less sugar that her recipe specified.  I remember these treats being ultra-rich and sweet and I wanted to reduce the sweetness if I could, without compromising its nature  – the dates are sweet enough on their own!!!  And, instead of walnuts, I used our local kasuy (cashews)!  This is a personal preference because in my book, cashews are way better than walnuts! 🙂

My first try was not so successful, but it was entirely my fault.  I halved the recipe but forgot to halve the flour!  The result was a utterly dry and stiff bar that was no good!  My second attempt was great, although I discovered that the treats had better texture after being left alone overnight!  They were good straight out of the oven, truth be told, but they were even better the day after!

 

Mommy’s Fruitcake

My mom, for Christmas, is famous for 3 things – her lasagna, her apple pie, and her fruitcake!

I have succeeded with the lasagna, and am still struggling with the apple pie… but with her fruitcake?  Hmmmm, I know I botched up her recipe!

Why do I say this?

Well, first of all, she has 3 recipes for fruitcake in her recipe collection.  I have no idea which one she used!

Then, I thought I had all the ingredients – I checked a week before to see if I had everything… and I did, except for some dried and glazed fruit, and brandy.  I got hubby to drive me to various baking supply stores and the wine shop to get what I needed.  Then I started soaking my fruit.  When  baking day arrived, I gathered my ingredients together and discovered, to my dismay (!) that my molasses had gone bad!!!  Too late to go out and find molasses so I used dark corn syrup instead…

Then I committed the ultimate “sin”… I failed to check the oven temperature, and I baked the fruitcakes a tad longer than I was supposed to!  After 4 decades of baking, I forget the most basic of rules!  (totally my fault because I decided to substitute pans – made the fruitcakes into cupcakes and a small loaf, instead of 2 medium loaves).

So, it really isn’t any wonder that my (mom’s) fruitcake did not resemble the original!

Don’t worry, I will try again.  In fact, I have 1.5 kilograms of fruit soaking in brandy right now!!!  (And yes, I got the molasses too!)  Now all I have to do is find the time to bake!

(Hubby says that the fruitcake is delicious, although it is a bit dry inside…)

 

 

Mommy’s Marinara

My mother is a recipe hoarder.  Me?  I definitely got it from her… I also hoard recipes, cookbooks, etc. etc.  These days my cooking/baking list grows even longer since I’ve added her recipes to mine!

There is one recipe, however, that is NOT written anywhere.

A long time ago (when I was just past my teenage years, in fact), I went through a stage where I abhorred meat sauce for pasta.  I was lamenting about it that particular day when she said (paraphrasing here) “what’s your problem? it is so easy to make simple spaghetti sauce!”

She then goes on and dictates “the recipe” (again, paraphrasing here)-

Sauté 4 cloves garlic (smashed) and 1 small onion (minced).  Add a pinch of chili flakes, then pour a (big) can of stewed whole tomatoes in the pot.  Add a fistful of Italian seasoning and season to taste (large pinches of sugar, salt and pepper).  Lightly crush the tomatoes.  Simmer 15 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Use the time to cook the pasta, 1 medium pack (which later I found out to be 500grams spaghetti, more or less).  In the last few minutes of simmering the sauce, throw a fistful of grated parmesan in the pot.  Mix.  Done.

Then she continues to say that it is easy to vary and add flavor – add whatever it is before the tomatoes…

for meat sauce, stir fry ground meat (anywhere from 250 grams to 500 grams), add the tomatoes when the meat is browned

for veggie sauce, add diced peppers or pimientos, sliced mushrooms, diced zucchini, carrots, asparagus, eggplant, etc.  (if you want the veggies to stay crunchy, add in the last 10 minutes of simmering)

for seafood, add 1 small of anchovies and seafood as desired (just don’t over-do it!)

Later on, someone told me that this was basic marinara sauce.

I’ve used this formula for years!  And hubby loves it!  Any which way I make it! And I’ve made it with shrimps, meat, veggies, clams, mussels, crab, even with canned sardines!!!

But my absolute favorite is this mixed seafood!

 

Steamed Chicken

The problem with my mom’s recipes is that they need decoding!

My mom writes her recipes in weird ways.  Most of the time, there are no instructions; instead there are groups of ingredients with a brief sentence at the end.

Like her recipe for steamed chicken… there are 3 groups of ingredients and a short sentence at the end – Steam for 10 minutes.

Hmmmmm….

Someone else would (probably) throw this recipe out the window but it’s a good thing that I know my mom (pretty) well and can speak her “language”…  As she explains to me, it is deliberate on her part so that her recipes remain her secret.  (As I mentioned before, she rarely shares her recipes!)  So, given her preference, I will not (well, I can not) share her recipe.  I can, however, share mine (even if it is based on hers, it is NOT the same…)

750 grams boneless chicken thighs, skin on, rinsed and dried with paper towels

Slice the chicken thighs into serving pieces (if the thighs are large, cut into 4). Mix together slices of ginger, 1 tablespoon EACH of sesame oil, oyster sauce, and light soya sauce, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon rice wine.  Marinate the chicken pieces in this mixture for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile start boiling water in the steamer.

Prepare:

5 stalks of leeks, sliced at a diagonal, separate the white and green parts
ginger, slice into thick matchsticks
about 12 slices of lotus root, parboiled then drained
about 80 grams fresh black fungus (tenga ng daga), sliced into strips
re-hydrated banana blossoms, thick hard end/s removed

In a round Pyrex dish (a deep pie plate works), scatter the white parts of the leeks. Arrange the lotus root at the base of the pan.  Scatter the black fungus on top, then the banana blossoms.  Arrange the chicken thighs, skin side up, and stick the ginger pieces in between the chicken thighs.

When the water in the steamer boils, put the plate in.  Steam for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size of the chicken pieces); start counting minutes when the water reboils.

Before serving, garnish the top with the green part of the leeks.

Note – the dish has a delicate and mild taste, should you wish for a stronger flavor, adjust the seasonings as desired, or add slat and pepper, according to personal taste.