Archived entries for Kulinarya Cooking Club

Haricots verts guisado

Filipinos are not exactly known to be crazy about vegetables. The Filipino-American comedian Rex Navarrete joked, “If we could eat the soul of the pig, we would.” (Wait, crispy pata isn’t vegetarian?) So in a way, this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club vegetable theme seemed like a pretty good challenge.

Haricots verts guisado

Sitaw guisado, or stir-fried long beans, is one of my favorite Filipino vegetable dishes. Because proper yard-long beans can be harder to find where I live, I decided to try to make it with a substitute that is more readily available to me: haricots verts. Haricots verts are th small, very thin green beans, essentially a baby version of the normal pencil-width green beans. They’re great because they cook much faster and I find that I don’t need to blanch them; ideal for a three-minute stir fry.

The classic sitaw guisado usually calls for pork, shrimp, tomatoes and onion, as well as sometimes soy or fish sauce. I love this for yard-long beans, but haricots verts have a much more delicate flavor. For these, I scaled back until they were almost naked: just the beans, garlic and a tiny hit of oyster sauce. (Oyster sauce is the truth.) Because it’s so simple, I’ve worked out the steps so they’ll come out just right: the beans need to be quickly fried over high heat, then a bit of water is added to make sure they cook through, then after, the garlic and oyster sauce are added. (I always add the garlic towards the end otherwise you’ll taste nothing but burnt garlic.) If you want to get all fancy, fry some sliced Chinese sausage before frying the beans. If you can’t tear yourself away from the mighty pig, this is a delicious way to incorporate it into this otherwise meatless dish.

Haricots verts guisado
serves 4 as a side dish

150 grams (6 ounces) haricots verts
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Rinse the green beans and drain in a colander.
  2. Heat the wok over high heat. Add a small glug of vegetable oil and swirl around immediately.
  3. Add the green beans and a big pinch of sea salt and stir for one minute.
  4. Add 2-3 tablespoons water. Continue to stir fry until the beans almost entirely absorb the water (there should be a little bit at the bottom of the pan).
  5. Add the garlic and give it a quick two or three stirs. Add the oyster sauce and give it another quick stir.
  6. Immediately turn the whole thing out into a serving dish and eat with rice.

Haricots verts

Orange-scented leche flan

Wow, was one of my New Year’s resolutions really to tend to my blog more? Well, I guess that one was over before it started!

So my first post of the year is for this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club challenge: your favorite birthday food.

orange-scented leche flan

Since my birthday is in the summer, I would probably narrow it to barbecue skewers. But this is January, so I’m not going to be standing out in front of the grill in my winter coat (although I have been known to do that in the past). That said, I would have to go for one of my favorite desserts: leche flan. This is total pinoy party food because:

a) It’s super rich. The only way it would ever become richer is if you figured out a way to add pork. (Which I don’t think I would recommend, even though I am in fact, Filipina.)
b) It’s kind of a pain to make. It’s not difficult, but there are a couple of annoying steps. And you have to wait before eating it.

I used to make leche flan with a combination of whole eggs and egg yolks, but I prefer the super creamy texture that all egg yolks bring to the table. (You can see my older recipe here — I made a video with my daughter outlining the steps.)

Filipino leche flan contains condensed milk, which adds to the creamy texture. I heat the milk mixture first, although this is something I wasn’t taught, it’s a fairly important step. The trick to making a flan is tempering the eggs. When you add hot liquid to the egg yolks, the egg yolks acclimate to the hot temperature, thus preventing them from curdling when you put the flan in the oven. (I’m sorry to say I’ve tasted a fair share of rubbery homemade flans, and this has to do with the eggs curdling, among other things.) Also important: make sure to bake it in a bain-marie (water bath).

I love the taste of citrus in flan, so I use orange zest. Lemon zest is also great, and adds a little bit of a fresh, light flavor. (You’ll like it if you’re a fan of lemon curd.) If you prefer a non-citrusy flavor, just replace the orange zest with one scraped vanilla bean.

Orange-scented leche flan
makes one 8-inch flan
I just use a baking dish, but a fluted brioche pan makes it look extra pretty. If I spotted a flan that was baked in a fluted mould, I’m sure it would whisk me back to being a 7-year-old at my grandma’s house, celebrating my summer birthday.

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
10 large egg yolks
1 14-ounce (400 g) can of sweetened condensed milk
1-1/2 cups (350 ml) whole milk
zest from a small orange (or, if not using, 1 vanilla bean, scraped)
pinch salt
For the caramel:

  1. Have your 8-inch baking dish next to the stove — you’ll need is as soon as the sugar is done.
  2. Add the sugar to a small saucepan and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
  3. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover it immediately and leave on boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Uncover and continue swirling the mixture until it becomes dark amber. (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately, and pour the caramel into your baking dish. Swirl the caramel around the pan before it sets (you’ll have to do this really quickly.) Set the pan aside.

For the custard:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Have a kettle of boiling water ready to go for the water bath.
  2. In a heavy, medium saucepan, combine the milk, condensed milk, orange zest and a pinch of salt. Bring to a low simmer, making sure it doesn’t come to a rolling boil.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk lightly.
  4. Whisk in the warm milk mixture. Make sure to add the milk in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly, otherwise the eggs will curdle.
  5. Pour the custard mixture over the caramel in the baking dish.
  6. Set the baking dish in a roasting pan and place in the preheated oven. Pour boiling water in the roasting pan until halfway up the sides of the baking dish.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the flan is still jiggly in the dish (you don’t want it to be totally firm, otherwise the edges will be curdled).
  8. Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  9. To unmould: Place the baking dish in a roasting pan filled with warm water, then loosen the edges of the custard. Turn the flan out onto a large plate. The caramel will pool around the custard.

Kulinarya roundup: Suman

As one of the hosts of this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club theme, I thought a roundup of all the great suman recipes would be helpful. I’ve learned that we all seem to have good-suman-wrapping-skills running through our veins, and that it brought back a bit of nostalgia for all of us. My sister took one bite of the suman I brought over and felt transported back to our holiday parties at my auntie’s house.

Isn’t it great how our favorite homemade foods can do that?

Dahlia at Energetic Chef made the most exotic looking suman: a black rice version. Beautiful.

Connie at Home Cooking Rocks ambitiously tackled THREE flavors of suman, including an inventive peach version.

Oggi at Oggi I Can Do That tried out suman sa morón, a version that includes chocolate. The candy bar of suman!

Kath at A Cupcake or Two made the all-time classic, suman sa lihiya, complete with homemade latik (sweet coconut) sauce.

Olive at Latest Recipes also made suman sa lihiya. I love the photo with the latik!

Trish at Sugarlace made suman na may latik, and made it her way: with plenty of sugar (I agree that this is the way to go!)

Lala at This Little Piggy tried her hand at the same suman I tried out: suman na inatala. And, as a bonus, she explains what it means when someone tells you that you look like a suman!

Caroline at When Adobo Met Feijoada tried something completely different: suman na kamoteng kahoy, or cassava suman. I’ve never had it but can’t wait to try.

Cherrie at Sweet Cherrie Pie also tried out cassava suman with a great idea: a layer of latik (toasted coconut within the suman itself. What a great idea!

Althea at Busog! Sarap! made suman by first cooking the sticky rice mixture in the rice cooker. I am definitely doing it her way next time.

And my suman recipe can be found here.

Thanks all! Can’t wait ’til next month’s challenge.

Suman inantala

Suman sa antala

Along with fellow pinay blogger Divina, I had the honor of choosing this months Kulinarya Cooking Club theme: suman. Suman is typically sweet sticky rice and coconut milk wrapped in banana or palm leaves. What’s interesting about this is that I’ve never actually made suman before, even though I grew up eating it because I had aunties who made it for special occasions.

Now I know why we only had it on special occasions: suman is a supreme pain in the ass to make. It sounds so easy: mix sticky rice with coconut milk and wrap it all up in leaves. I had no idea that I had a few hours ahead of me when I set out.

I decided to make the suman I grew up eating: I guess it’s called suman sa antala, which involves cooking the mixture of sticky rice and coconut milk, wrapping it in banana leaves, then steaming it. Other types of suman, including the popular suman sa ligia (suman made with lye water), involve placing the uncooked rice and coconut milk mixture in the leaves and then dropping the packets in boiling water to cook. I absolutely do not trust my banana-leaf-wrapping abilities, so I opted for the pre-cooked and steamed version so we wouldn’t end up with open banana leaves floating in a sticky rice boiling water mixture.

This is especially wussy of me because suman sa ibos is typically wrapped in palm leaf. Catholics out there know these leaves as the long skinny ones they hand out on Palm Sunday. Wrapping suman in this is truly an art — it should look like this photo and be totally watertight so you can drop it in boiling water without falling apart. That takes SKILLS.

For me, the most irritating step was the preparation of the banana leaves. I grew up eating suman that had a little square of banana leaf wrapped around it, then the whole thing was wrapped in foil. Now I realize why: the preparation of the banana leaves is what you might call time-consuming. You have to wipe down both sides of the giant banana leaves (believe me, you don’t want to skip this step — you’ll be amazed at the grossness that comes off those things) then run each one over an open flame to soften the leaf. Even though it took a while, there was something really therapeutic about this part — the singeing leaf kinda smelled like the Philippines. Weird but nice.

The suman wrapping actually went pretty fast after that. If you’ve ever rolled lumpia or tamales, you’ll have no problem with this. I don’t even know if I did it right, but hey, they looked like a bunch of green tamales, so close enough. I cut a small square of banana leaf (about 5 inches), then the larger square was about 10 inches by 10 inches. I used about 3 tablespoons of the rice mixture within the square. Can anyone educate me on the point of the little square inside the big square? Either way, it looked good when we unwrapped it.

I’m definitely making this again for special occasions. They look like pretty little tropical presents, and this would taste amazing sprinkled with sugar and eaten with Philippine mangoes.

Suman inantala
makes about 18 suman

3 cups sticky rice, soaked for 30 minutes then rinsed
3 15-ounce (500 g) cans of coconut milk (I like Aroy D)
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 thawed 1-pound packet of frozen banana leaf (500 g), or fresh if you have access to it

  1. Combine the rice, coconut milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until it’s really thick and the rice is nearly cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. (It’ll be pretty hard to stir at this point.) Let the mixture cool to just warm or room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the banana leaves. With a damp cloth, wipe the leaves down on both sides. Pass the leaves on both sides over a medium flame on the stove. The leaves will change color slightly and will be more pliable.
  3. Cut the leaves into 18 large squares (10-inch by 10-inch) and 18 small squares (5-inch by 5-inch). Also keep a large section of leaf available to tear into strips for tying the little suman packets shut. (You’ll need 2 ties for each packet.)
  4. Lay the small square in the center of the larger square. Both should have the matte side of the banana leaf face up (you want the shiny side on the outside of the suman). Measure 3 tablespoons of the rice mixture into the center and wrap the suman as shown in the photos.
  5. Steam the suman for 35 minutes. These freeze well, you can also store them in the fridge and heat them in the microwave before eating.
  6. Serve warm, sprinkled with sugar.

Preparing suman: banana leaf preparation
You’ll see the leaf soften has you hold it over the burner.

Preparing suman: banana leaf
Two squares of banana leaves

Preparing suman: rice

Preparing suman: wrapping the rice mixture

Preparing suman: banana leaf wrapped

Suman sa antala

Suman sa antala

Suman sa antala

Chicken relleno (rellenong manok)

Chicken relleno

This month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club theme is one of my favorite food history topics: Filipino-Spanish cuisine.

Seems like I have a theme going lately: Filipino-dishes-I-didn’t-grow-up-eating. (See my previous post on humba). I decided to go all out on this one and cook something that has always been intimidating: chicken relleno.

Relleno is a (mostly) deboned chicken, filled with a ground meat mixture and roasted. Because of the name, I had assumed it was of Spanish origin. However, its roots are French. The difference between a relleno and a galantina is that a galantina (indeed a Filipino adaptation of a classic French galantine) is a fully deboned chicken, simmered in stock and served cold, whereas a relleno is roasted and served warm. It typically still has the legs and wings attached so it looks a bit more bird-like rather than just a large cylinder. Although French in origin, the galantina/relleno started appearing on festive (wealthy) tables in the Philippines during Spanish colonial rule. For many families, it is a traditional Noche Buena (Christmas Eve) dish.

The most difficult part of this recipe is obviously deboning the chicken. Each time I do this it gets slightly easier for me. This time I escaped with only two cuts on my hands and most of the meat managed to stay on the carcass rather than bones (which is a good thing). Leaving the wings on and the leg bones below the thighs makes it easier, and gives the chicken form. Once you get past this step, the rest is a pinch.

Deboned chicken for chicken relleno
Deboned chicken

Stuffed chicken relleno before roasting
Stuffed and ready to go

Most recent recipes for relleno call for all sorts of canned eats: Vienna sausage, pimentos, hot dogs; basically, all the trappings of post-war Philippine affluence. I elected to base the filling off Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s recipe in Memories of Philippine Kitchens, which eschews all the canned stuff. Although they call for chorizo (as many relleno recipes do) I opted instead for some bacon (why not?). Typically, hard boiled eggs are set in the center of the filling, but I left this out only for logistical reasons: I couldn’t position them correctly so I left them out. (If I were to make this for a special occasion though, I would definitely put them in.). Raisins are typically added in the relleno filling, but if that sort of sweetness freaks you out, I would consider it optional. Personally, I like it, but used golden raisins just because they look nicer.

The filling was right on: it was the perfect balance of sweet and salty and tasted great with the roasted chicken skin. I didn’t feel like it needed any gravy, but a giblet gravy would probably be crazy good with this. And don’t worry; after a few tries, you’ll have the bones out of that chicken in no time.

Chicken relleno

Chicken relleno
serves 4-6 with sides

1 2-pound chicken (1 kg)
1/2 pound (250 g) ground pork
1/2 pound (250 g) ground beef
1/4 pound (125 g) diced smoked bacon
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, grated
1/4 pound (125 g) button mushrooms, quartered
1 large egg
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
6 green olives, minced
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Debone the chicken. The best way to start is to have the chicken breast-side up and start by separating the breast meat from the bone. Basically through the neck cavity, you will just continue working your way down and around the carcass, separating the leg joints from the main bone structure so you can eventually just pull the back and breast bones out through the neck cavity. After removing the main bone structure, separate the lower leg (drumstick) from the thigh bone and remove the thigh bone. The only bones remaining should be the wings and the drumsticks.
  2. Over medium-high heat, saute the bacon. When it is brown and crisp, remove it with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the bacon grease and saute until browned and the liquid has evaporated. Set aside with the bacon.
  4. Add a bit of oil to the same pan and add the carrots and red pepper. Saute until soft. Add the garlic, taking care not to burn. Set aside with the bacon-mushroom mixture. Set aside and allow it to cool.
  5. Once the sauteed mixture has cooled, set it in a large bowl. Add the onions, pork, beef, olives, raisins, salt, pepper, cornstarch and egg. Mix well with your hands.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  7. Rub the chicken all over – inside and out – with salt and pepper. Brush the outside with melted butter. Sew the chicken’s tail cavity with kitchen string. Carefully stuff the filling mixture into the chicken cavity, being careful not to overstuff. Sew the neck cavity shut.
  8. Set the chicken on a rack over a roasting pan. Roast for about 1-1/2 hours, turning and basting the chicken every 30 minutes or so, allowing it to brown evenly. Remove it from the oven once the thigh meat registers at 170 F (76 C) and the stuffing registers 165 F (74 C). Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Chicken relleno

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