The Big Fat White Guy

Web Name: The Big Fat White Guy






The Big Fat White Guy

Recipes! Tips! What works and what doesn't (at least in my experience)! All for discussion!

Friday, August 11, 2017 Leche Flan and Creme Caramel
First things first, I am nuts - literally, about Leche Flan - that caramel custard dessert that makes its appearance every Filipino fiesta celebrated by each town in the Philippines dedicated to its patron saint. Now each town has its own patron saint and therefore each has its own feast day. It is not uncommon that these towns are just separated by a few kilometers and their feasts separated by a few days. One can attend a marathon of them within each and nearby town literally within days.
Now the funny thing about it is that each town fiesta is not just a one day affair. On the contrary, they are somewhat a three day festivity that begins with the pre-fiesta, the fiesta proper and post fiesta holiday. I remember how the pre-fiesta begins with food and booze tidbits developing to a crescendo as it climaxes the following day with masses, parades and more food and booze. Since everyone becomes tired with all this celebration, the post fiesta is marked by a day of rest but still with same through decreasing amounts of booze and food until everyone goes back to work with a lingering headache and post celebratory depression.
Fiesta in all its color and splendor!Now imagine this tri-day holiday being repeated by nearby towns separated by just a few days and it is uncommon for one to do the rounds so to speak. Since everyone is welcome is everywhere to partake of ones table, one can just imagine how anyone can get a free meal easily. And the boozehounds would be all over the town sprawled in some corner getting some sleep.
Anyway, as it is a time of celebration with loads of food, it is not uncommon that fiesta fare would make its appearance. Prior to celebration, almost every night one eats survival meals to tie each day from hunger but during fiestas, a bad habit I must admit, impoverished sharecropper families would even take huge loans just so they can have a proper jubilee, borrowing money from the rich families who may own the lands they till. This usually causes a further relationship of economic dependency sometimes for generations to come.
But it is in this spirit of grandiosity that one brings out and proves that his cooking is the best. Thus, the best lechon is judged as guests make the rounds from one household to another - just as the best afritada (a chicken stew in tomato sauce) or morcon (a beef roll with other goodies tucked in like chorizo and hard boiled eggs) or lumpia (spring rolls) or menudo (pork dish with liver in tomato sauce) or pastel (a type of chicken pie casserole) or lengua (beef tongue casserole in either cream sauce or tomato sauce depending on preference). Certain towns have a signature dish - like this one town in Marikina where my moms friends were from who dealt with selling pork in the meat market. (Now they also have a funeral parlor but thats another business and - no - they didnt sell meat items that came from their undertaker.) The dish is called Pininyang Manok which literally translated as Pineapple Chicken a dish that somewhat tasted a cross between chicken stew and a Pina Colada. But during fiestas in this town, one can rest assure that the Pininyang Manok would be the piece de resistance of ones table and that there would be different ways of preparing it from one household to the next, accounting for the differences between families.
Two kinds of tables displaying various
types of food in all its different
flavors, colors and textures.Lechon! The table simply has to have one!This is also the case with Leche Flan. Though custard is custard and the caramel syrup is caramel syrup; each cook has its own formula which account for the differences in sweetness, flavors and texture. It is in this spirit of competition that guests would comment privately among each other, Mrs. As leche flan is better than Mrs. Bs. But I think Mrs. Cs the best if you are looking for a milkier taste. Mrs Ds seems a bit rough. But As is creamier. And dont one dare taste ones wares and not the other, lest he be targeted with an unfriendly comment, You went to Mrs. As house but did not come to MY house! How could you!?! Yes, would will be forced to visit and eat. Eat! Eat!! Eat!!!
Leche Flan, I found out is also a French dessert called Creme Caramel. Being custards, it is also related to Creme Brulee and so with custard based ice creams. The difference is the proportion of milk fats to solidifying agents whether milk solids, egg yolks and egg whites. The more egg products and milk solids, the more solid the custard and hence has more structure but this results in a tougher texture to the tongue. The more fat, the custard becomes creamier and lighter but that leads also to less structure; hence may need the container during presentation such as that in Creme Brulee.
Egg yolks and egg whites have a tendency to provide structure to custards but owing to the yolks fat content, the result is that of a creamy solid. However, egg whites only coagulate with scanty fat content, hence easier to whip with air - hence its role in making meringues - and in custards, it will provide structure but somewhat of a tougher quality with a bite. Leche Flan, in my experience is sweeter - hence more sugar, milkier - hence more milk solids and with more bite - hence more egg components including egg whites. Creme Caramel seems less sweet - having less sugar, less milky - using a combination of cream and milk, and with a delicate bite that glides on the tongue - most likely due to the use of more egg yolks (though some also make it with some egg white to provide more structure). If there is a point that one can take home in this discussion is that higher fat content provides flavor (as always) and texture (as in any dessert) but not structure to hold.
Consider the following. In these subsequent paragraphs,I will provide two different recipes of seeming similar dessert.
The first one is Leche Flan which is taken from the 1959 Manila Chronicle cookbook specifically mentioned in the advertisement for Milkmaid Condensed Milk. Now, this recipe is close to my heart; for one thing, its a great way to have a personal sized flan to limit the calories and to satisfy the momentary sweet tooth. Secondly, its the emergency flan if you happen to have a small can of (4 oz.size) of condensed milk lying around and you want to use it avoiding wasting it away in the garbage can. Of course, one can double or triple the recipe depending the number of guests or the size of the can of condensed milk one wants to use. The result is milkier, tastier and somewhat tougher but good. I think because it has more milk solids and sugar.
As opposed to the other, Creme Caramel has more fat and less milk solids. The sugars are relatively less as well. It has a silkier feel and a lighter flavor. It is delicate on the tongue but less sweet and not overly milky.
An old Milkmaid Condensed Milk Ad.The Leche Flan recipe in closer view.Is there a proper way to make custard? This is still a matter of great debate. I would bet that Leche Flan is more attuned to the Filipino palate as the Creme Caramel would more be preferred in high end French restaurants which are more critical of textures as with the flavor (which are a bit lighter). But this is not to say that one is better than the other. I suggest that the way to know your preference is to try. And make several attempts in making these desserts for temperature is your friend as it congeals the custard, but the higher it is can result in it being your enemy for it promotes expanding trapped air bubbles resulting in a rougher texture. The point is custards are a labor of love and thus patience. Slowly made with a moderately lower temperature would result in a creamy, smooth and addicting dessert.

Leche Flan
(Milkmaid ad recipe from 1959 Manila Chronicle cookbook)
cup sugar2 tablespoons water4 oz. condensed milk cup water1 egg1 teaspoon vanillaIn a metal custard pan, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Carefully let the pan directly sit on medium heat until the sugar begins to melt, bubble and caramelize to a golden brown. While it is in its syrup stage, tilt the pan to evenly distribute the caramel. Set aside.Mix together condensed milk with cup of water. Meanwhile in a separate bowl, crack the egg and let it pass through a sieve. Using a spoon, slowly break the yolk and mix with the white as this passes through the sieve. This will result in a scrambled egg mixture that is free of bubbles and ensuring that the solid part of the whites are broken up. (Solid parts of the white would cause a whitish streak in the custard which is tough and unpleasant to look at.)Slowly stir the milk water mixture taking care not to beat it avoiding a whipping action and production of bubbles. (Bubbles in raw custard would create a bubbly solis custard which gives a rough texture.) Flavor with vanilla.Pour carefully in the prepared custard mold and bake in a moderate 300 degree F oven for about thirty minutes on a pan of water (bain marie). To test, one may place a knife in the midle of the custard which if it comes out clean, it is ready.Let rest until room temperature and chill afterwards in the refrigerator for about a day. During this time, the water content of the custard would be drawn to the caramel sugar, dissolving it once again into a syrup.Release the custard by passing a knife by the sides of the custard pan and putting a plate on top, invert both instantly loosening the custard onto the plate upside down.
Creme Caramel.
cup sugar cup water (or more)12 egg yolks3 cups half and half (or 1 cup whole milk mixed with 1 heavy cream) - Important: DO NOT USE fat free half and half.1 cup sugar1 tablespoon vanillaIn a saucepan, mix cup sugar and cup water. On top of medium heat, dissolve the sugar then turning to high to bubbling. This would caramelize the sugar until golden brown. If the sugar begins to crystallize prematurely without caramelizing, add more water. Once brown (not burnt) pour into a quart sized pyrex dish. Let the caramel solidify as it cools.On top of low fire, gently heat the half and half until barely steaming. Be careful not to let it boil. As a modification of this recipe and is the traditional way of making it, you may choose to steep a vanilla bean pod in the warming milk and once soft, open the pod to scoop the seeds into the milk.Combine the sugar with egg yolks and using a wire whisk, gently mix well. Getting about a cup of the warm half and half, gently pour into the egg sugar mixture stirring slowly not to create a mot of bubbles. Once mixed, pour this into the remaining warm milk and mix further, again taking care not to make more bubbles.Pour the raw custard into the prepared pyrex dish. The bubbles would float on the top. Using a spoon, slowly skim most of these leaving a smooth surface. Discard the foam.Bake at 300 degree Fahrenheit with the dish sitting on a pan of water (bain marie) for two hours.
In both cases, gentle mixing is a must to create less bubbles which when baked into the custard makes the texture rough.Baking should be done in a low temperature. This prevents any unavoidable bubbles in the raw custard expanding so much that it is baked in the final product producing a rough texture. While the taste is not affected, the texture is reminiscent of scrambled eggs which should not be the case.The easy way of making the caramel crust is in the Leche Flan method which employs tin pans and is most common in the Philippines. However, because the tin is sitting on top of direct flame, the heat is unevenly distributed and may cause burning of some of the sugars. If one is not careful, there could be black specks of burnt sugar baked into the custard. This presents a rather unattractive product and may affect the flavor becoming bitter.
2 comments: Thursday, June 1, 2017 The Joys of Peri-peri Chicken
Again, an apology for the very long time I have written something for the blog. Its not that I have not been cooking or wanting to cook. But lets face it. Only when there is a working oven, gas range and the dishwasher that one can cook.So October last year was when due to personal reasons, we were thinking of moving somewhere else. But to cut a long story short, plans were changed - again - and this time to stay. With all our stuff in boxes anticipating a move, it was the time that we decided to remodel some parts of the house - specifically the master bath and, guess what, the kitchen. After all, the master bathroom floor creaks and the fixtures are getting grimy and slimy while the kitchen appliances are going into some form of disrepair. Did I tell you that the microwave oven motor stopped turning when it was just barely two years old? And the grease! With a kitchen vent that is more of a filter circulator rather than a real vent, steak searing and wok cooking is simply a fatty catastrophe - for the second floor that is. With all the grease and dust combined and deposited on the furnishings, it took loads of orange cleaner and Pledge just to dissolve them.But anyway, here to share to you the look of the new kitchen are some photos.Overall kitchen. So I changed the range and installed
a kitchen hood as well.
Range features six burners (old one had four)
and the front burners gives a whopping 23,000 BTU's!
Range hood can really such all the smoke!
Say goodbye to loud smoke alarms and
rooms smelling like curry!
Beautiful flame. See the middle? Has small
flames as well giving out equal heat.
And the heat is just so radiant that it
"kisses" the edge of the pan.Still a double oven. But the features are far
more advanced. Three different styles of
convection cooking!
Strong build. The baking racks are roller guided.
And now for the first recipe with the new kitchen.The Joys of Peri-Peri.Peri-peri Chicken, that is. I first tasted the delicious dish about a year ago when I visited my brother in Southampton, Southern England where his daughter attends the university there for fine arts. Mike; however, was able to taste it even earlier owing to his work that required frequent travel. Because I actually did not know what it was all about, I just googled the recipe and made a makeshift sauce marinade and proceeded cooking it. And although it was fine, it wasn't great. I could not see the fascination with it and cannot taste the spices - probably because the technique could be better and the spices need to be woken up plus probably it wasnt enough in the first place.Seared or roasted, the cooking requires high temperature to
ensure the spices are caramelized and the flavors
woken up.

The time that I was taken to a Peri-Peri Chicken Restaurant, that was the time when it blew my taste buds. The fact of the matter is that Peri-Peri needs to be spicy with a tingling sensation of peppers not placed after the cooking as most condiments are, butrather before as a marinade. And with the proper application of fire - think coals and barbeque - these spices are just woken up to give that tingle with the sensation of excitement that bites the tongue. It is this that one needs to make great peri-peri.Now the origin is something I learned from just googling Wikipedia. It refers to the peppers which were imported by the Portuguese to the African continent whose native peoples used it as a spice to create a marinade to season meat which is then roasted. The ingredients of this marinade could differ from one cook to the other but what is important is the pepper. The pepper itself is the Capiscum chinense which looks like the Thai chili or in the Filipino counterpart, siling labuyo. Its heat intensity was qualified to be 4 out of 5 which is said to be very hot. That said, this is a very important characteristic of the dish. In addition, Peri-Peri is also spelled as Pili-Pili which meant Pepper-Pepper in Swahili. And therefore, rightly more refers to the sauce made with peppers. So, think of a hot sauce, essentially.But the sauce varies from cook to cook. And there is no one way of making it. What is imperative though is the pepper. And according to Wikipedia, It is made from crushed chillies, citrus peel, onion, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon. Recipes vary from region to region but the common ingredients are chilli, lemon, oil and red bell peppers.The next thing I noticed is that in one recipe, I saw the use of ginger which I must admit is not alien to the eastern palate. Ginger has this very tingly and aromatic quality that when subjected to heat, especially a good high temperature sear or coal roasting would even reveal more of its character. Its used to remove the gamey flavor of meats and considering that this could be the case in some African cooking, would make it a vital ingredient.To balance the hotness, something cool is needed. Hence the use of a sour point such as lemons. In some recipes, I have seen the use of lime along with lemon. Spices are usually peppercorns which I believe obviously complimentary with peppers. The rest are more of dimensional spices or those that give it its bent whether that is tarragon, thyme, oregano, onions, laurel leaves or cilantro. I have used cilantro once before as thats what was called for. It is interesting but whether it is an absolute need is debateable.But after the discussion of spices - for me the barest minimum are the following: Hot peppers, peppercorns and ginger. In my recipe, I thought to just go basic and add the end all of cooking - garlic.Next - oil. I think this is what makes it unique. Two things. First, by virtue of absorption, oil marinades penetrate better with meats due to its fat content. Fat dissolves in fat. Hence, the flavors get to penetrate quickly. Second, lets admit it. Fat makes sauces taste better. I mean, theres a reason why we love mayonnaise and its not the eggs, or the mustard or the vinegar and salt. Rather it's the oil made into one emulsion.And this is where the blender comes in. Using a blender, the chillies and spices would be ground to a fine mash, mixed with the lemon juice and oil, all that goodness would be blended into one flavor explosion. Proper heat application and subsequent caramelization would even wake it further. Peri-peri Chicken Breasts (In an Oven!)4 large chicken breasts, deboned and flayed to about inch thickness. (Any cut will do but be sure it is deboned. Chicken takes longer to cook if bones are intact and therefore, my technique would result in raw chicken.)3 big hot chillies or 5 medium ones or 10 small ones. (Now actually it depends on the hotness level so it is to taste.)1 tablespoon peppercorns5 cloves or head of garlic, peeled2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeledSalt to taste cup lemon juice1 cup vegetable or olive oilMake the marinade. In a blender, combine the chilies, garlic, ginger, salt and peppercorns. Using the pulse button, chop the ingredients until fine and add the lemon juice. Turn the setting to blend.When the mixture begins to blend in a pulp, slowly add with a stream with the blender on, olive or vegetable oil. The higher the speed, the better as the mixture turns into an emulsion somewhat similar to mayonnaise dressing.Pour this mixture to the chicken breasts to marinate. Cover and let it sit for about six hours, best overnight.Roast the breasts over high heat and preferably coals, until done. Serve with a good basting of the leftover marinade.Now - for the technique using your oven.The key is high heat! That said, the over has to be prepared and preheated to at least 400 degrees. Once that is achieved, we can proceed cooking. Now - disclaimer - you are going to make a lot of smoke! So be sure the ventilation is adequate and open your windows!Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. And flay the chicken breasts as a single layer.With the oven grille at the highest position, place the cookie sheet and switch the oven temperature to broil. In ovens with different degrees of broiling, I noticed that the medium setting is enough. Leave this for about 8-10 minutes until caramelized with bits of char.The cooking will create meat juices. Pour this out before turning. Then cook the second side for half of the time of the first.Remove from the oven pouring the leftover drippings on the chicken and basting them with marinade. Serve hot.Tip.You can also use chicken pieces in its bone. The cooking would be longer; hence the temperature needs to be a bit lower (about 375) and broiling would be done in the final minutes of cooking. Chicken thighs and legs are the best for they contain loads of fat and hence, flavor. Usually, bake the first side for forty minutes and turn to bake the second for thirty. Then broil to a brown with char for the last ten. But this would always depend on your ovens ability to retain heat and the size of the chicken pieces. To assure even cooking, same size portions are advised. (Hence, all leg quarters or all thighs or all legs etc.)

1 comment: Wednesday, September 14, 2016 Merienda, Kakanin and Bibingka Cassava Especial.Tea time. I feel that this is the most unique of meals and more so, I doubt whether it could be considered a meal for it is more of a tie in between lunch and dinner. In the Philippines, we even have a morning snack that ties in between breakfast and lunch. The funny thing about it is that I found out from some BBC documentary I saw that originally there were just two main meals in a day: Breakfast and dinner. And the times they were served were about a little late in the morning and about late afternoon just before the sun sets.
Bibingka Cassava Especial.

As people learned to keep themselves warm and lighted in their house, dinner began to move later in the day as such could be deferred by convenience. Likewise, breakfast (which literally is a meal to "break" the "fasting" that occurred during the night) could be eaten earlier by convenience as well. The two meals becoming much more apart from each other demanded a tie in to lessen the sensation of starving stomachs and this became the "nuncheon" which later became the "luncheon" or simply, "lunch". The concept of lunch was even so recent that its appearance was approximately the 17th century when dinner became much later even approaching or even at night thanks to the convenience of the home light. A demonstration of this evolution as seen in language is the translation of breakfast, lunch and dinner in French: dejuner is lunch. Petit dejuner (a small dejuner) is breakfast. While diner is dinner.

But the point is this: meals have become more spaced throughout the period immediately before and after the time that there is available daylight. And since eating was traditionally a communal activity; having more meals to tie in the earlier to the later one with small servings became a welcome improvement in the way we eat. It is only but natural that there became morning and afternoon snacks and sometimes even more eating in between snacks as food became readily available through a trip to the supermarket or the restaurant.

And so it was born - merienda. This is somewhat like "tea time" for the English only the English have it mid afternoons while we Filipinos have it not just in the afternoons but also between breakfast and lunch about 9 to 10 in the morning. What to serve? Almost anything really from a sandwich or a Chinese dimsum treat like shupao (call it "Siopao" in the Philippines) or even plain savory chips. This usually with coffee or sweetened cold drinks, juice or soda.

But traditionally, before the Americanized influences of the 20th century, these foods in the merienda vein are termed as "kakanin". I am not so sure at this point but it seems that the reason for the name is simply derived from the root word "kanin" which is Tagalog for "cooked rice". Note that I qualify that as "cooked" for the Filipinos have different words for rice in its different presentations and stages of edibility. This is also true for the Chinese whose food staple is likewise based on rice.

So for Filipino, how does one say rice? Let us count the ways. Raw with the husk - "palay". The husk with the rice already milled - "ipa". Raw milled rice - "bigas". Cooked steamed rice - "kanin". Cooked then toasted rice - "pinipig". Raw rice flour (simply raw rice milled further to a flour) - "biko". Rice flour turned to steamed cakes - "puto". Rice flour turned into steam glutinous cakes - "kutsinta". When the cakes are baked usually using a special oven which the heat is above and below the batter as it cooks, - "bibingka".

The last term is what we are most interested in. But before that as I did digress, is that kakanin is usually sweet and made of rice from and into its many forms and preparations. Usually baked, coconut milk and its meat may be used as flavorings along with the essences of anise (which I think is of Indian origin) or later, through western influence, vanilla. But think of cooked rice with coconut milk just as the gooey cooked rice incorporated in milk the American rice pudding. Somewhat similar.

But kakanin is not always made with "kanin" but other starchy root crops of mostly Asian or South American origin and one of these is the cassava. Available in supermarkets in the root crops section along with the many potatoes, sweet potatoes, jicama, colored potatoes and the rest, one can choose to be traditional about it peeling the thin and thick covering, grating the starchy root then throwing away the central cord like structure found in the middle. Or keeping in line with conveniences of modern living, this could be bought as ready to use grated form in the frozen section of your Asian supermarket.

Enter the Manila Chronicle 1959 cookbook. In this volume of kitchen tested recipes, my mother used to make Bibingka Cassava Especial for the Christmas holidays and since the recipe called for seven cups of grated raw cassava, I would peel the roots and grate them almost the whole afternoon for the root was tough and starchy. And because it was dense to begin with, grating them using the fine grater would take forever and therefore I used the coarser grind. While it arrived very much at the same product, one can still feel the grated cassava at the tongue and somewhat with a bite. I am sure that grating the cassava using the grate attachment of the food processor would arrive at a finer product.
The Treasured Manila Chronicle 1959 Cookbook.
The nice thing about using the ready grated cassava is that it is already fine with a smoother and somewhat more pleasant feel. With anise essences blended in a silky coconut milk and condensed milk pudding like topping, the taste is simply heavenly.

And here it is, modified to use a package of ready grated cassava, from my mother's 1959 Manila Chronicle cookbook, the recipe.

Bibingka Cassava Especial

Cassava Pudding layer:
1 package ready grated cassava, thawed (16 oz. by volume and therefore equivalent to 2 cups)
1 cup coconut milk (prefer Philippine coconut milk which could be bought in the frozen aisle of the Asian food store)
1 egg
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup white sugar
cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and pour into a banana leaf lined pan. Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven until when tested with a toothpick, the cake is done and dry.As the pudding is cooking, make the topping.

1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/3 can condensed milk (or 1 small can) (a good substitute if you want to use the remaining evaporated milk is to mix in equal volume evaporated milk and white sugar and cook on top of a double boiler or very gentle heat until totally dissolved and somewhat thick)
1/3 cup of coconut cream
1 egg yolk (or 1 egg but passed through a sieve)

Using a wire whisk, combine all four on top of a double boiler. As the mixture is gradually heated, stir slowly until thick.Pour this on top of the baked cassava pudding.Increasing the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, bake further until the topping is brown.Cool to room temperature and serve.
1 comment: Saturday, July 23, 2016 Italian Meatballs and How to Chop an OnionFor today's topic - a comfort food: meatballs.
Mmmm...meatballs!I have been making meatballs since I first attempted cooking probably because it is one of the most basic and easy to make. Think about it - mix, shape and cook. The thing is for people that do not cook much, the instruction "mix" is left at just that - mix. And though it could be shaped and cooked, the question is whether it would hold.

Now this is where all the binders come in. Some use eggs. Others use flour. Even some use a combination of both. There are even some who would put stale bread as both a binder and an extender. But after years of experimentation and reading, it seems that both may help but there is nothing that could beat plain mixing because it is in repeated mixing and mashing that the ground meat further becomes smaller and the meat proteins begin to disintegrate. Once this is achieved, it becomes pasty and becomes its own binder. When cooked, the meat proteins denature and firms up like glue cementing each particle to a perfect hold.

With this, I am going to demonstrate the easiest way of doing this using a hand mixer. Likewise, there is a technique on how to roll the meat mixture ensuring the resulting ball holds itself into a firmness that's good to the bite. It is not just merely rolling but rather compacting it with the palms as it shapes into the meatball.

To be minimalist about it, let's demonstrate this with the following Italian meatball recipe.

Italian Meatballs.


4 pounds ground beef2 tablespoons crushed, chopped garlic1 teaspoon white pepper (black would do but white has a milder flavor)1 medium chopped onion2 tablespoons Italian seasoning (make your own: combination of equal parts of basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Some add: marjoram, sage and cilantro)Salt to tasteOptional: 1 egg

Combine above and mix. Using the whipping attachment and at low speed, incorporate everything as the meat blends the seasonings and binds together. Increase the speed to medium even high to further disintegrate the meat as the proteins are released to facilitate binding. Usually, this takes about three minutes of mixing.Next, grabbing a small handful of the mixture and with your hands pre-oiled with olive oil, shape the meatball as one presses using the palms. This action shapes as the meats smoothens the surface of the ball. It helps bind the mixture that when placed in the cooking medium, it does not lose its shape. This is most appreciated when its cooking in some sauce like marinara.In a separate pot, simmer a jar of marinara sauce blended with a cup of red wine. Drop each ball carefully and in an evenly distributed fashion. Cover and simmer for the next half an hour until done. An alternative (more homemade version) to this is to first saute some garlic in olive oil, then add about two tablespoonfuls of Italian seasoning, some onions and ground black pepper to saute until barely caramelized. Add some salt to taste and a large can of crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of red wine to boil then simmer for about fifteen minutes before adding the meatballs.Serve each ball with some sauce as is or on top of cooked spaghetti. Garnish with dried or fresh parsley. A side of grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano is likewise a great compliment to this dish.

1 comment: Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Japanese Curry.The recent weeks have been marked by whirlwind of events that took me switching locations from Philadelphia to Chicago, between periods of night work in the hospital to days of unending mathematical formulas trying to figure out the dollars I need to pay the US Treasury. It was March to April when the two most inevitable landmarks of human life reared its ugly head to me death and taxes one after the other.

I lost a dear friend of mine who is an admirer of my cooking Ron Sy. He didn't have the best of health to begin with perhaps due to his extreme weight for which I may be partly to blame. But though he existed in this world for merely three years beyond a half-century that he was able to extract flavors from and experience them on his palate, he has mentioned in his final days that he "does not have any regrets." In that case, it seems that good eating is synonymous to the myriad of great tastes that one can paint on the relatively limited tissue in the mouth capable of its immersion the tongue.

I was just able to file my taxes which I wrote three checks to three collection agencies each representing the Federal and two State treasuries. And though I believe in paying taxes is a noble act of civic duty; the parting of hard earned money after the many additions and subtractions in a sea of rules that dictate whether to select line 5 or put zero until my eyes swirl left my mind yearning for something pleasant yet complex hearty as family but not very predictable. It is comfort food in a different way.

My sister then mentioned - "Mmmm...Japanese Curry." I nodded in agreement. What makes this an unusual type of curry is that it is pungent as the Indian variety yet sweet as it is bit fruity. It is Japanese in its look with the dainty cubed vegetables and potatoes as it is also European with its shimmer and thickness of sauce. One with notice the myriad of flavors that gel as one as there are the differences in textures as it glides on the tongue.

The reasons for the above lie in the history of Japanese Curry. I found out through some readings is that as with curries from other non-Indian countries curry is nothing more than a stew usually employing the spices of what the Indian original have. Brought to Japan by the British which then adapted it from their former colony, it was part of food for their armed forces. And what they had then was the British version exported to Japan who then adapted it and made a version of their own. Thus different countries would have their own versions of the curry. In fact, the word "curry" is generic and came from the Sanskrit word pertaining to "stew". And what makes the different versions unique is the employment of local spices and methods of cooking and thus Indonesian/Malaysian curry has a different flavor but somewhat reminiscent of the Philippine version; the Chinese more employ the spice as part of stir fry and the Thai version has more chillies with coconut milk and a hint of lemon grass. What is very interesting is that Curry tastes differ slightly from the Indian subcontinent as goes to the nearer region but becomes significantly different when it reaches afar.
And therefore the main point of this is the spice. When I was a child, I used to look at "curry powder" when actually, there is no such thing for the spices involved in making this mix differ from one region to another. But usually, if one were to analyze it, the following I found, are common: fenugreek, coriander, cumin and turmeric. Among these, I find that turmeric needs to be a bit more as it gives that yellowish color to curries. However, how one would want their proportions of these spices is up to the taste of the individual. In actuality, the term for "curry powder" which is more of a British-English origin is "masala" meaning, "spice".

So now for "Japanese Curry Powder". The well-known brand of this is by the Japanese brand, SB known for their sauces, condiments including mayonnaise. And in the ingredients label, I find that their curry powder or "masala" contains the following: turmeric, coriander, fenugreek, cumin, orange peel, pepper, chili pepper, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, star anise, thyme, bay leaves, cloves, nutmeg, sage and cardamom. This combination is what I find interesting: it has the traditional Indian components (turmeric, fenugreek, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom), yet there are British components (thyme, bay leaves, cloves and sage) and lastly Japanese/Chinese components (cinnamon, ginger, star anise and orange peel). In fact, the Asian ingredients are what is found in that flavoring powder very popular in Southern Chinese meat dishes Wu Xiyang Fen or "Five Spice Powder" also known in Hokkien as "Ngo Hiyong".

With the British bringing their cuisine to Japan, some of the Western style influences are incorporated within the preparation of Japanese Curry. What I find very interesting is the use of the French style roux in thickening the sauce. As you will see in the following recipe.

Japanese Style Beef Curry
2 pounds or roughly 1 kilo beef chuck or brisket (brisket is heartier but fatter as well) 2 small carrots, peeled and diced (Asian carrots are larger and fatter so use only one) 1 large potato, peeled and diced 1 medium can peas (or pound bag frozen peas) 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and sliced into small I cm. Square pieces 1 medium onion chopped 1 small head garlic, peeled and chopped 1 small apple, peeled, cored and shredded (good substitute: about three large tablespoons of apricot jelly or half a cup of apple sauce) 2 tablespoons Chunou sauce (it seems this is a "medium thick sauce" that has taste of ketchup/wostershire sauce, source: and Because the label of the real thing is "Vegetable and Fruit Sauce" if one thinks about it, it is ketchup!" 1 stick butter 1 finger sized ginger, peeled and chopped 2 tablespoons flour 2 tablespoons masala (curry powder) 2 teaspoons Five Spice powder (Ngo Hiyong or Wu Xiang Fen) 2 bay leaves A word on masala powder. While one can buy the prepared curry powders in the supermarket, I usually make them with the following proportions:
2 turmeric 1 fenugreek 1 cumin 1 coriander 1 dried indian chilli If I have it, I would add: 1 cardamom Put all in a spice blender and blend to a powder.

First, the art of mise table. Be sure all ingredients are cut and organized in groups in respective sizes as above. I guess, the Japanese are very strict about this for food is not just a survival tool rather it has to be properly pleasing to the eye. Boil enough water that when the beef chunks are added, it covers the meat. Tenderize the meat remembering to remove as much foam as possible. Once tender, set aside. Melt half a stick of butter and saute the garlic, onions and ginger until translucent. To this, add the spices both masala and five spice mix - and saute further. If needed, lower the heat so that the spices are barely caramelized but not burnt. Burnt spices are a no-no for they emit an unpleasant flavor. Add the beef and its broth and simmer. Add the carrots, potatoes, shredded apple (or apricot jelly), Chonou sauce and bay leaves and simmer further. Once boiling, on a separate pan, melt the other half stick of butter. To this saute the flour until bubbly. Getting about a two cups of the broth from the braising meat, slowly add to the flour-butter roux to create a thick smooth mixture which in turn, is added to the simmering stew. This will thicken the whole curry beef. Lastly, add the peas which cook quite quickly. Ladle this on top of hot rice or udon. Serve hot. Variations of this could be without beef, use some chicken or vegetable stock. This would result in a vegetable with broth sauce which could be served on top of Japanese style fried cutlets such as pork - "tonkatsu" which is then served on top of rice.

And one word I could describe this YUMMY!!!

1 comment: Thursday, February 4, 2016 Puff Pastry or Pate Feuilletee and How to Make Beef Wellington My apologies for the rarity of input to this blog. Busy in the hospital and busy with winter. But this next dish is something I'd love to share because it requires some skill. Even food hobbyists have to master the craft and so here it is.

I love to show and explain skills which I find at first made with difficulty but it seems that the proper technique, practice and tricks made the task easy and quite consistent over time. Cooking, in general is made perfect with practice just as with any other skill. However, I find that there are certain things that requirehelpful tips to guarantee acceptable or hopingly, superlative results.Puff Pastry in Beef Wellington
Onedish that requires the right combination of skill, tricks and good practice is puff pastry or "Pate Feuilletee" (Pa-taye fah-ye-taye as French speaker corrected me once...). Literally translated as "leaflike pastry" from the French word "feuillet" meaning leaf; it alsomeans "pagelike pastry" from the French "feuille" for page - being multiple paper thin layer pastry. So one gets the idea. But this leaflike structure is the key to delicate desserts and entries owing to the richness of this crust. A prime example of this is the crisp multiple thin layered crust of the custard tarts made by Chinese dimsum restaurants (well known of these is by "Lord Stowe" in Macau. What is responsible for this is the thinness of the flour paste but how is this achieved and why it is very rich is owed to butter loads of pure, rich, decadent butter.
When interspersed between the thin layers of flour paste and baked, these fat layers melt away and the air within the butter expands with the oven's high temperature. The leaves separate and form crunchy buttery thin layers.
How to create these layers is the key to making Pate Feuilletee. Now pay attention to the tips and the technique for this is the trick for a successful pastry. And of course, practice!
Pate Feuilletee ("Puff Pastry")3 cups flour1 cup water1 teaspoon salt1 cup butter2 sheets parchment paperAnd MORE flourWith butter cold but spreadable, whip the butter at medium then high speed. This phase of the process is important because the butter is made double in bulk. This creates the space in between the pastry leaves. Likewise, with air pockets, this traps air which will later expand with heat separating the leaves into its multiple layers. The more butter creates a richer product and when it melts, it "fries" the pastry.
In a bowl, combine salt and flour. Pour 1/3 of the water on the flour and using a rubber spatula and with a peripheral circular motion, incorporate the water in the flour. As soon as the flour becomes pasty and the dough is just beginning to hold but still floury, pour the next 1/3 of water and repeat the process. Do this again with the final 1/3 of water. The dough should hold but still with semblance of floury surface and somewhat with small bits of flour separating. This consistency is just right for the second part which is butter incorporation.
With a sheet of parchment paper on the table, dust the surface with about a small handful of flour. Place the flour pastry on top and roll into a rough square does not have to be perfect. Spread the butter on top of this taking care to leave about 1 inch of the edges free of any fat.
"Fold" the four corners into the middle creating quarter triangular folds sealing the "envelope" of butter. To this add more flour and lay the second sheet of parchment paper on top. If the envelope of butter becomes warm that it is unmanageable to handle, chill it in the refrigerator for about five to ten minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and roll evenly using the rolling pin. Remove the parchment papers, and keeping in mind three portions, fold the outer two portions into the middle portion. Reposition the pastry, apply more flour to guarantee minimal sticking, and the whole pastry in between the parchment paper, roll it once again.
If you have some more whipped butter leftover, you may choose to incorporate that within the middle and second portions of the fold and seal with the third fold. Again, roll using the rolling pin with parchment papers at the sides.
At any time that the pastry becomes difficult to handle, refrigerate about five to ten minutes before rolling. Likewise, be sure you use parchment papers since this will minimize sticking of the pastry when it is time to roll and fold.
As you fold and roll the pastry several times, you are creating leaves of pastry interspersed with butter in between. Because the pastry leaves become thinner with each fold and roll, there is a tendency for the first leaf to break when the parchment paper is peeled off. Dont worry. This is normal. But you may use a sharp fruit knife to "scrape" the pastry leaf from the paper.
To minimize sticking, be sure you flour your parchment paper each time before you roll.
Note that with each folding, you multiply the leaves by the base of 3. So the first fold is 3, second is 3x3, third is 3x3x3. And if one does the same procedure six times, it is 3x3x3x3x3x3=729. Do we really need this much leaves? No. And probably one can end at the fourth fold = 81 or fifth = 243. But you get the idea.Once the folding and rolling is done, the puff pastry is ready.
And what more could puff pastry be great than in Beef Wellington? Recipe follows!Beef Wellington...mmmm!

Beef Wellington2 pieces of beef tenderloin cleaned, all outside ligaments removedSalt to tastePepper to taste1 pound white mushrooms1 stick butterSlices of foie grasFirst, if you have not yet removed the ligaments and fat from the outsides of the beef tenderloin, please do so. This is a no-no in Beef Wellington because it is what makes the beef not tender at all if one wants the definition of tender to be in that word. But trim all that fat and ligaments and save them to be marinated for some other recipe like teriyaki. They are tender alright but not for a delicate thing such as Beef Wellington.Next, salt and pepper it to taste. Honest opinion? Err on the side of salting and peppering it more than usual. When its taste mixes with the pastry, it will be neutralized to just right.
Chop the mushrooms to very fine. If you do not have the skills and/or patience to do it, use a food processor. With butter sliced to pat sizes and the mushrooms chopped well, place all in a pot, simmer under low heat until all liquids have evaporated to a spreadable paste-like spread.
With high heat, sear the beef at all sides till rare. The higher the heat the better because this will caramelize the sides while the insides are raw which should be the case. Once that it done, set aside, rest then if possible, cool in refrigerator until well cold. DO NOT FREEZE!
With your prepared pastry as the base, place the refrigerated beef in the middle. Spread some of the mushrooms on the top and sides. Then, place and distribute slices of foie gras on the top. Wrap te pastry all over and seal at the sides.
Bake for 400 Fahrenheit oven for about thirty minutes. And broil at the final minutes for a delicate brown. The butter from the puff pastry will melt as the air incorporated in the butter as it was whipped earlier would expand, giving that high layered look baking and frying the thin flour paste to a crisp! For a more appetizing and more impressive look, brush with egg wash before broiling. The shine and the brownish crust would surely make the dish more attractive.
Rest for about ten minutes. Still warm, slice and spread a bit of chopped parsley leaves.
Serve with Merlot reduction sauce. Recipe follows.

Merlot sauce
It is nothing more than a an equal volume (NOT weight OR dry/wet cups) but equal dimensional volume of merlot to white sugar. So if you are using one cup to measure the Merlot, use the same looking cup to measure the sugar. With that, boil under low heat and simmer to one half the volume. Essentially it is reduced sweetened merlot. Good for Beef Wellington. And good for other things like dessert.A drizzle is all what you need.
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