Scallop and Monkfish Kinilaw: Cured Fish Made to Kill (or so the story goes…)

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I remember the first time I had kinilaw (kee-knee-lau…not the “law” in “lawyer”), Filipino cured seafood similar to the more well-known ceviche.  It was a weeknight back in Saudi Arabia and my mom was hit with one of those rare nights of laziness so we bought food from the corner kalinderya serving the local Filipino workforce.  Amongst the requisite containers full of greasy adobo, menudo, and chop suey was one filled with cubes of white fish and Thai chilis swimming in a milky white liquid.  Looking back, that shit wasn’t good at all: the fish overcooked and chewy, the acidity overpowered by the too finely minced peppers, and the onions beginning to seep their purple into the liquid.  But without a frame of reference, I remember my eyes widening…the perfect moment of childhood discovery.  The burst of sharp sourness from the Datu Puti vinegar, the firm flesh…the rawness!  Ever since then, kinilaw was a treat.  From lunches during sweltering Saudi summers to seaside feasts back in our hometown of Iloilo, kinilaw provided the much needed bite to cut through the rich Filipino spaghetti (it contains condensed milk…a story for another day) and meat-heavy dishes without the tired pretension that ceviche sometimes carries (ceviche does NOT belong in a martini glass slathered with guacamole and salsa…gtfo!).

The origins of kinilaw are murky and I’m sure indigenous cultures all over the world began using acid to cure their seafood and extend its shelf life.  However, I really like this legend I stumbled upon on the Bisaya blog Huni sa Daplin:

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Caramel Apple Turon (Filipino Apple Spring Roll)

Early Spring is now a season I really look forward to with its promises of patio brunches, beautiful people watching, and the ability to wear something more flattering than a poofy jacket paired with chapped skin.  But Spring during my college years wasn’t as…”Spring-y”.  Most student groups plan their largest events during these months and for me, I somewhat dreaded spring as it meant back-to-back meetings planning event after event.  However, Spring also heralded the start of Bake Sale season as groups sought to fund events and as an equal open diner, this was open season for all things carby.  Sure there were the usual cookies and brownies (in varying shades of chocolate) but the real treats were the cultural delicacies: the orange, sticky Indian Jalebis that had to be washed down with tea, the Chinese Moon Cakes, the Arabic Baklava, and when you hit the jackpot and stumble on an all out ten item dessert buffet?  Well…makes you forget the next five planning meetings on your calendar.

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Tacos de Pescado for Taco Tuesday

Ohhhh snap!  It’s Tuesday and you know what that means (esp. if you’re still in college or still broke at the age of 35)…TACO TUESDAY!  You may have had the Americanized version of hard taco shells loaded to cracking point with greasy ground beef, sour cream, limp lettuce, and spoonfulls of gooey cheese.  For those lucky enough to live and eat auténtico, you got 3 soft shell tacos at a dollar each possibly of the following: arroz con frijoles (rice and beans), tinga de pollo (chicken in chipotle sauce), and/or carnitas (shredded pork).

Yet as appetizing as they all sound (caloric Cheez Whiz….mmmmm!), the shells often tore easy, the beans gummy, and the meats just a tad bit too gristly.  Of course this was all part of the experience!  To taco it up on a Tuesday was to take part in the sacred ritual of dining sin dinero!  But it’s summer…and you know your body doesn’t really need all that orange-tinged grease messin’ with those abs you’ve been working on.  SO!  As an alternative, and because Whole Foods happens to sell Porgies and Bluefish from Jersey on the cheap, I suggest making some budget-friendly Tacos de Pescado, or, Fish Tacos!

Unlike the fish tacos we’re used to that involve battered fish fillets (yes…this is not an authentic recipe), we’ll cut down the carbs further and fry a whole fish with minimal coating instead.  The usual fixins’, a squeeze of lime, and you’ll be wondering why you spent an entire dollar on tacos that strained your relationship with your dignity.

Here we go!

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Two Dinners with the Same Ingredients: Spicy Chicken Salad w/ Summer Squash Pappardelle & Chicken Lugaw w/ Summer Squash Chunks

Aaaaannnddd we’re back with the next couple of Busy Season Dinners!  And since we’re all extra broke this week (don’t lie!), I’m sharing TWO recipes!  Just so happens that these two dishes share almost exactly the same ingredients so to stretch our wallets (and the last vestiges of our dignity), why not make double the variation?  The first is a twist on the buffalo chicken salad and/or a regular chicken pasta with red chilli flake-dusted chicken breast and summer squash “pappardelle” (more on that later) over some greens.  The second, for those colder nights (y’all heard about yet another storm coming in this weekend?!  Apocalpyse is nigh!), is a plain Lugaw, or rice porridge (similar to congee), topped with chicken breast that’s seasoned a little bit differently and summer squash chunks.  They’re similar enough to share costs yet different enough so that you won’t feel like you’re eating the same dish day in, day out.

Note that the first set of ingredients covers both dishes (ie. They’re in double amounts so if you only want to make one type of dish, split the measurements in half).  It’s probably late by the time you’re reading this and being offline for this long has your Senior missing you more than the significant other you forgot you had so, double time (pun well intended, poorly executed)!

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Tsokolate: Filipino-style Hot Chocolate

Taking a break from working on my Philippine trip backlog to warm up to some winter weather comfort drinks. Yes…those who know me that whiskey of all persuasions comforts me whether it’s a beautiful, balmy summer day by a Minnesotan lake or the Apocalypse is descending upon us. But this weekend, I decided to give hot chocolate another try. You see, I’m not a big fan of the more popular Milo (in the Philippines), Nesquik (in the US), and/or Ovaltine (y’all remember this one fellow Saudi friends!?) drinks that my family loved on Friday mornings. They were too sweet, coating my throat with this sludgy film that no amount of water could wash down.

Illuminati-lookin' Chocolate

Illuminati-lookin’ Chocolate

Except this time was different. I had spent an hour in Binondo, hunting for La Resureccion Tablea, the famed chocolate factory. A tablea is the Filipino chocolate disk. Dark, powdery, and melted down to create the thick Filipino-style hot chocolate, or tsokolate (pronounced “cho-koh-lah-tey”…I have no idea why we insist on changing the spelling of these things.  It’s bad enough that my grade school books spelled “cake” as “keyk“), once popular but now replaced by the instant (though sometimes not always inferior) variety. The store itself looked like a rundown but clean electronics shop with only a few display cases half filled with the two varieties of tableas: unsweetened and sweetened. With a name that felt like it belonged on a Church and a logo that was borderline Masonic, the chocolate must’ve been that good.  The old-school wrappers the store used made the tube of disks look like an oversized Haw Flakes package or a weird fire cracker.

Boom sticks.

Boom sticks.

These are Haw Flakes...props to you if you know what these are.

These are Haw Flakes…props to you if you know what these are.

It took nearly a month of waiting and moving from suitcase to suitcase before I finally opened a pack here in New York to try with the roomies during a lazy Saturday night spent playing Call of Duty.

I just wanted to make 3 1/2 cups for us to try so I split open the sweetened pack:

AND HERE WE GO:

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The Power Pre-game: Spicy Sausage Gravy, Eggs, and Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits

To the few readers I have in the States (and that one random one from Myanmar): I’m currently vacay-ing in the Philippines.  WiFi sucks.  This blog post is long overdue!  Hopefully I can write a little more frequently once we transfer from our hotel to our actual house.  Till then….

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(DISCLAIMER: The author’s views are simply his own.  All opinions regarding the consumption of alcohol are merely anecdotal, have absolutely no scientific basis, and if you’re the type who would turn your nose up to such opinions and think “Hmph!  Kids these days”, then you good sir/madam, are in need of a very stiff drink.)

Homemade Cheesy Bacon Buttermilk Biscuits w/ Sausage Gravy and Eggs.

Homemade Cheesy Bacon Buttermilk Biscuits w/ Sausage Gravy and Eggs.

 Pre-gaming.  It’s an art.  Or at least it should be.  One cannot simply take an indiscriminate number of shots a la college frat party and there are various other factors to take into account.  Do you start with dark liquors?  Beer?  Does it matter?  Should you consume as much as you can now and sober up slowly throughout the day?  Or should you slowly increase your rate of consumption to ensure you make it to the afterparty before knocking out in a blaze of glory (or shame)?

To be honest…I don’t know.  As long as the everyone’s happy (not sloppy), I guess it doesn’t really matter does it?  BUT…us gastronomes and food lovers know that the food at the pregame is just as important!  Such was our focus last weekend at the annual sh*tshow   slopfest   drunken revelry  Festival known as SantaCon.  An all-day pub crawl where hipster Brooklynites link arms with bro-tastic bankers, don red suits, and attempt to get their faces to match colors with said apparel.

It was going to be a good pre-game (our friend Tia even brought quiche…who do you know eats quiche at a pregame?).  What with this being my last day cooking in NYC before flying back to the Philppines, the first time I cooked with my friend Ricky in a long time, and Chelsey of baking blog Little Paula Deen fame (and collaborator on a previous post on Filipino-style pork belly sliders) coming back for a second collaboration.

Beats beer-soaked Doritos any day.

The quiche: beats beer-soaked Doritos any day.

On the menu: homemade cheesy bacon biscuits topped with spicy jalapeno sausage gravy and Mediterranean-style eggs.  This was a strategic and carefully thought out plan: absorbent carbohydrates from the biscuit and gravy, sausage fat to line the stomach, filling protein, and dehydration-preventing sodium.  Elements to ensure that every mimosa, beer, and questionable liquid intake was enjoyed and not squandered on a dingy dive bar bathroom.  The recipe is simple, quick to make, even quicker to consume, and wards off the New York cold (term used loosely) like no other.  Let’s get started.

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The Breakfast Burrito: An Unusual Study on Kitchen Efficiency

Note: The recipe below is a tad bit different from my usual ones.  I will not only focus on the traditional “food” aspects (in black text) but also the non-cooking parts that make a big difference (in red).  There will be many steps.  And like an athlete learning how to execute a golf swing for the first time, it WILL look intimidating.  But mastering the art of efficiency will allow you to do less cooking, more eating, and get you to the point where you’re not crushed by the debilitating case of “Food Network-envy”. A few weeks back, I wrote about the reason many of us have become so disillusioned by cooking.   It’s no wonder with all these unrealistic expectations society has hoisted on us.  Cook 3 courses in 30 mins!  Roast a chicken in half an hour!  Impress your date with an herb-crusted pork roulade with vegetable terrine and wine demi-glace under an hour (I’m kidding….but you get the gist)! What then?  Well…I think we need to spend more time focusing on the aspects of cooking oft ignored by the TV shows: movement, mise en place, shopping…in short: the setup.

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 I found the perfect time to do it when I was placed on a quick client for 4 days.  That meant 4 days to haul ass.  4 days of the inability to sit down and make a nice hot breakfast.  Enter the Breakfast Burrito, simple to make but with enough complexity to keep your belly happy.  The challenge: make enough Breakfast Burritos for 4 days within 30 mins. including setup and cleanup (excluding shopping). Yes guys…it can be done.  But not without proper preparation. Let’s get started. Continue reading

The Errant Diner x Little Paula Deen: “The Manny” (Pork Belly Adobo Slider)

I’ll admit it.  I’m one of those guys who loves office potlucks.  In the age of Seamless deliveries, it’s very rare to taste home-cooked food at the office (or at least for those who take the effort of bringing something home-cooked).  It used to be that people brought casseroles or roasts to the office or made large platters for office functions.  Even worse, with 2 of our 3 meals being takeout during Busy Season, a departure from the mass produced is a welcome break.  And yes, I’ll also admit to loving the opportunity to show off a bit and attempt to feed people other than the roomies.

The Canvas

The Canvas

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The Filling

The Filling

Our department just held its Annual “Best Ethnic Recipe” cookoff and I couldn’t pass up the excuse to throw down in the kitchen.  Problem was, Filipino food isn’t exactly the prettiest food out there.  Plus, how to introduce people to concepts beyond the usual Lumpia and Pansit (more Chinese than Filipino…but I digress)?  To put my own spin on “Fusion Food”, I decided to make a Pork Belly Adobo Slider topped with some home-made Achara and sandwiched in a fresh-baked Pan de Sal.  And since boxing legend Manny Pacquiao was about to fight Brandon Rios (I know we all wanna see Mayweather but again…I digress) a few days later, I dedicated this flavor powerhouse to the Pac-man.  

What better way to get the powerful flavors of Pinoy cooking into the mainstream than through the popular slider?  The pork belly was braised in a soy sauce-vinegar adobo sauce and then broiled to crisp the skin.  To help cut the buttery fat, I pickled carrots and daikon radishes to make Achara, the Filipino take on the usual slaw…except sweeter. But the real kicker was the bread, the blank canvas, the foundation of this epic meal-to-be.  I wanted a fresh baked Pan de Sal, the ubiquitous Filipino roll.  Soft, simple, goddamned comforting.  Problem was…I hated baking. I just can’t bake (probably stemming from some deep-seated trust issue but that’s another story).  So I called up my friend Chelsey who happens to work some real baking magic and asked if she can bake a batch.  Not only did she agree, she insisted on baking it the morning of.  If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.

The Errant Diner x Little Paula Deen

The Errant Diner x Little Paula Deen

Check her recipe (and her amazing baking blog!) out here.

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