Archived entries for the savory and salty

Seattle siren song

So our friend Carmen is visiting, and the good foodie that she is, she brought us a bounty of Seattle treats. (This always has the effect of amplifying Seattle’s siren song, and making me more homesick than ever. In a good way.) Some of the new things were most impressive: a baker’s dozen of Montreal-style bagels from Eltana Bagels (which we killed in about 30 minutes) and a bag of dark roast from Caffe Umbria. Cape Cleare salmon made me never want to see a slimy piece of cold-smoked salmon ever again. Sigh. I miss you, Seattle, but I’ll see you in a few months.

One annoyance: TSA actually confiscated Skillet Bacon Jam despite Carmen’s pleadings. Hmph. Kyle wondered if bacon jam may just be the perfectly ironic way for an Islamic terrorist to carry dangerous liquids.

Oh, and I hear the Eltana bagels Carmen brought us are the first to make the trip across the Atlantic and touch down in the Netherlands. So we gave them a proper welcome with some local cream cheese.

Bagels from Eltana in Seattle

Bagels from Eltana

Theo chocolate

Theo chocolates. Ballard’s own!

Eltana bagels with Cape Cleare smoked salmon

Eltana + Cape Cleare salmon + a chive cream cheese from around the corner.

Black gold

Beans from Caffe Umbria. Black gold.

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

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

Sugar-braised pork (humba)

Sugar-braised pork (Filipino humba)

A few months ago, my friend Maila asked me if I’d ever made humba, a type of Filipino stewed pork. I had heard of it, but had never eaten it, so naturally, to me it sounded like a blog post plan.

Humba is a Visayan festival dish that seems to be a southern answer to the adobo and kaldereta of the north. The influence is definitely more Chinese than Spanish; the use of tausi (salted fermented black beans) and the common inclusion of Chinese mushrooms is a central flavor combination for this dish. This stew is also notable for the use of palm sugar, a testament to the Filipino love of salty and sweet foods together. (See my recipe for pork barbecue if the idea of sugar and pork turns you on.) For this recipe, I’ve substituted light brown sugar, but if have access to palm sugar, it would be even nicer in this dish.

Dried chinese mushrooms
Dried mushrooms

The fact that I’ve never eaten it before came as no surprise: my mother is a proud Kapampangan cook, and I think I can safely say that Kapampangans – who consider themselves the best cooks in the Philippines – can be just a leeeetle dismissive of other regional dishes. (Just try talking to someone from Pampanga about Ilocano food, for example. Be ready for a rant.) The fact that Kapampangans were the first ones to give sisig to the world may justify this attitude… a little bit, anyway. (And by the way, I love Ilocano food too. Most of it anyway.)

I was robbed. Do you like pork? Do you like tangy and sweet together? Do you like stews with lots of delicious sauce? This is humba, straight up.

Recipes for humba often call for pork belly (liempo), but I find that the belly cut makes the sauce a little too fatty for my taste (yes, it’s possible), so I’ve used pork shoulder instead. In The Filipino-American Kitchen, Jennifer Aranas suggests serving humba with a soft version of maja blanca mais, which is almost like polenta with coconut milk. I served it — untraditionally, of course — with mashed potatoes. (And rice. There’s always rice on the table. Don’t tell me about double-carbing.)

Lastly, this dish rocked my world the day after I cooked it. If you have a chance, make it a day in advance and let all those beautiful flavors harmonize in the fridge overnight. Oh yes, it’s worth the wait.

Humba, sugar-braised pork
with lots of rice, serves 4-6 hungry people

2 lbs. (1 kg) boneless pork shoulder
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
small knob of ginger, minced
3 bay leaves
5 or 6 dried Chinese mushrooms
3 tablespoons salted black beans
3 tablespoons palm vinegar
2-1/2 cups (600 ml) water
2/3 cup (70 g) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) salty soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Combine the sauce ingredients in a large measuring cup or bowl: water, salted black beans, palm vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Cut the pork into large chunks. I don’t like small cubes because if you braise it for long enough, you get these nice bits of shredded pork mixed in with the large pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a heavy Dutch oven over high heat. Add a splash of vegetable oil. Brown the pork on all sides. (Do this in batches so you don’t crowd the pan.) Set the pork aside.
  4. In the same Dutch oven, lower the heat to medium and add the onions, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the garlic and ginger, taking care not to burn the garlic.
  5. Add the sauce ingredients, the mushrooms and the bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Add the pork (and any juices that have accumulated. Bring back to a simmer.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. (You can also stick the whole thing, covered, in a 250 F (120 C) oven for 2 hours). Simmer for 2 hours.
  7. Uncover and raise the heat to medium-high and allow the sauce to reduce by a quarter, or as much as half, so it’s a bit thicker. Meanwhile, remove the mushrooms, halve them, and add them back to the sauce.
  8. Serve with lots of rice, maja blanca mais, or my favorite, mashed potatoes.

Humba with garlic mashed potatoes

Chicken inasal (inasal na manok)

Inasal chicken

For this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club barbecue theme, I decided to tackle the mother of all Filipino chicken barbecue traditions: chicken inasal.

Inasal chicken is the traditional grilled chicken from Negros, an island in the Visayas. The place with legendary inasal is Bacolod, where chicken inasal is practically a religion. It’s so popular that it has spurred all sorts of chain restaurants, many of which I understand don’t do the ‘real chicken Bacolod’. (I’ve had it, and I have to say it tasted pretty good to me, but then again, I’ve never been to Bacolod. Oh well, next time Visayas!)

In my quest to perfect my version of inasal, I barbecued it — to the delight of my family — three weekends in a row, adjusting and changing the technique of the flavorings and marinade times. Somehow the weather seemed to disagree with me every time, raining on me twice and most recently, having me shivering — in late June, mind you — in 12 C degree weather while turning pieces of chicken for 45 minutes. Holland is definitely not Bacolod when it comes to the weather.

That said, it was well worth the effort in trying to bring a little bit of the Philippines here, despite the crap weather. The first time I prepared the chicken, I only marinated it for an hour, per Marketman’s instructions (you can find his great post on chicken inasal on his website, Market Manila. He also links to a great article about Bacolod chicken originally run in the Philippine Star.) The flavor on the skin was quite good, but I found the meat to be a bit bland. I decided to compensate the next time by brining the chicken in water, sugar and salt overnight, then marinating for the last two hours. Somehow the sugar/salt combination created really strong flavor, but overwhelmed not just the chicken, but the marinade itself.

So, it turned out, third time’s the charm. I marinated the chicken for 6 hours (the same day I was grilling), and this seemed to strike the perfect timing of flavor. I normally marinate overnight, but the vinegar is pretty strong and can overwhelm a mild meat like chicken (as well as ‘cook’ it with acid) so I think same-day marinating hits the sweet spot. The other trick that was well worth the effort was taking the lemongrass and garlic (garlic is an essential component of an inasal marinade) and pounding it, with the salt, into a paste. This extracted flavor from both, without getting the woody bits of lemongrass in the grilled chicken. (my daughter was not a fan of the lemongrass chunks in earlier versions.)

Garlic lemongrass paste for inasal chicken

Also essential to inasal is a native vinegar (I used an Ilocos-style cane vinegar, but palm vinegar is also nice), calamansi juice, and a basting sauce with achuete. My big problem is that there seems to be absolutely nowhere I can get calamansi where I live, and I once found achuete, but can’t remember where, so that was out of the picture. I squeezed in a bit of lime in place of the calamansi (blasphemy, I know), and skipped the achuete, just adding a bit of pimenton to the butter/oil basting sauce. (I know Marketman says to use Star margarine for basting, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it).

Ilocano cane vinegar

My last tip is to use all dark meat if you can. It won’t dry out, and it tastes worlds better on the grill than chicken breasts, which seem to instantly evaporate their juices on the grill and end up tasting like marinated cotton. A whole bunch of chicken thighs and drumsticks would be perfect, especially drumsticks because they have a nice meat-to-surface-area ratio. And by the way, the skin is amazing. But how could it not be? You’ll have spent 30 minutes basting it with butter.

Chicken Inasal
serves 6-8 people

4 pounds (2 kg) chicken thighs and legs
3 stalks lemongrass, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup native Philippine vinegar
3 tablespoons calamansi juice (or in my case, lime juice)
freshly ground black pepper

For the basting sauce:
1/4 cup (50 g) salted butter
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon achuete oil (if you don’t have it, you can add 1 teaspoon pimenton or paprika for color)

  1. Combine the lemongrass, garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle, and pound into a paste. Add the vinegar, calamansi juice and several grinds of black pepper to the paste and mix well.
  2. Set the chicken pieces in a large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over them. Marinate (shifting around after a few hours) for about six hours.
  3. When you are ready to grill, get the grill ready and prepare your basting sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the oils and plenty of black pepper and mix well.
  4. Set the chicken on the grill over a fairly high heat, turning so they don’t burn, but brown on all sides. Set the chicken on a cooler part of the grill and baste with the butter sauce every ten minutes or so. The chicken should be cooked through after about 30 minutes. To make sure it’s cooked through, the meat should be 170 degrees F (76 C) internally when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
  5. Serve with lots of rice.

Kulinarya Cooking Club
Market Manila: Inasal chicken
Article: Fowl play in “Manokan” country

My past barbeque posts: Barbeque pork skewers Grilled chicken with pineapple marinade

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