Wednesday, August 27, 2014

XO Braised Straw Mushrooms with Shrimp & Crabstick

This is actually a variation of my favorite Seafood and Mushroom Medley.  Basically, it's a simpler (scaled down) version.  The original medley uses an extensive mix of seafood and mushrooms, but this simple version is just with shrimp, crabstick and straw mushrooms.  What sets it apart is the XO sauce, which is a spicy seafood-based condiment in Chinese cooking.

We got the fresh straw mushrooms from the weekend market.

Here's the recipe:

about 300 to 400 grams fresh shrimps, cleaned and shelled
5 pieces crabsticks (sashimi quality)
500 grams fresh straw mushrooms

1 thumb of ginger, sliced thinly
1 small onion, minced finely
2 to 3 teaspoons XO sauce, or to taste
1 tbsp. glutinous rice wine
2 tbsp. light soy sauce
2 tbsp. premium oyster sauce
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
cornstarch slurry

Saute ginger and onions.  Add XO sauce and stir fry a few seconds.  Add the shrimps.  Splash with rice wine. When the shrimps are halfway done, add the mushrooms.

Season with soy sauce and and oyster sauce, as welll as salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer a few minutes.  The mixture should turn "soupy" (from the mushrooms), otherwise, add some hot water or vegetable stock.  Add the crabstick; stir gently until the crabstick breaks apart.  Thicken with cornstarch slurry.  Adjust seasonings.

As always, I recommend being cautious with sauces (soy and oyster, or even the XO sauce) because different brands may have different levels or saltiness, spiciness, etc.  It is always better to season lightly and add if it needs it because it is really difficult to reduce or fix excessive flavors.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nigella's Buttermilk Roast Chicken

I tried my hand at making "homemade" cultured buttermilk.  So now I have about 2 liters to use up.  So I've been in a frenzy cooking and baking with buttermilk.  I've mostly made sweet things - pancakes, cupcakes... I thought it was time for a savory dish.

Most buttermilk chicken recipes I found (in my books) were fried chicken - something about the buttermilk giving a really moist and tender texture, which contrasted beautifully with a crisp, crunchy exterior.  And while that sounded delicious, I did not want fried chicken.  I wanted roasted chicken.

Enter Nigella Lawson's Buttermilk Roast Chicken...

It looked good!  So I tried it out.  With a couple of changes, though.  First I used chicken thighs (because I didn't have legs).  I used 6 cloves of garlic (because I love the flavor of garlic!).  And because I didn't have molasses, I used tropical honey instead.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quick Beef Stroganoff

This was probably the next dish I cooked after the chicken ala king.  Why?  because it's easy and my brothers loved it!  By easy I do mean that it can be whipped up in about 30 minutes, assuming the beef is not frozen, that is.

It's very versatile too.  It can be served over rice or noodles, or pasta.  The meat used can be pork or chicken.  And it can be saucy or on the dry side... whatever floats your boat!

500 grams beef sirloin

1 large sweet white onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cooking cream
stock or water, as needed
salt and pepper, to taste

Pound the sirloin "steaks" with a mallet to tenderize.  Slice into strips.  Marinate in a tablespoon of soy sauce, a generous pinch of ground black pepper and juice of 1/2 a lemon, for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the white onion slices until soft.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.  Throw in the mushrooms.

While the mushrooms are cooking, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour to the marinated beef and mix well.  Then add the beef to the pan and stir fry a few minutes, until the beef is almost done.  The mixture will be quite sticky.  Add the sour cream and continue cooking, stirring to combine.  If the mixture is too thick, add stock or water.  To make the dish very saucy, add more milk and/or stock or water.  Season with salt and pepper, as desired.  Do not overcook or the beef will be tough.

Serve hot, over steamed rice.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nilagang Baka

Nilagang baka literally means boiled beef.  Of course the dish is not merely just beef that's boiled.  It's actually a soup made with beef, simmered for a long time (in my case the whole night in the magic cooker), with carrots, potatoes and native white corn.

How's this different from bulalo?  Well, I don't really know, but from what I understand, the main difference is the cut of beef used.  In bulalo, the bone marrow is essential, so the cut used for bulalo is the shank part.  And when I was very young, the soup was made using one big piece of meaty bone beginning the kneecap (or thereabouts, if I remember correctly) as the closed end and the other end as the open one, from where we would try to coax out the marrow using a chopstick or barbecue stick.  Anyway, for any other cut of beef, it's nilaga.

Personally, I've always thought that bone-y parts make better soup than meaty parts.  But obviously, the bones cannot be eaten, so some meat has to be present too.  What I usually do is get about half a kilo of bones (in our nearby market, the kneecap is sold separately and at a friendlier price) and half a kilo of brisket (or other meaty part).

Here's a bowl of my nilaga! 

The recipe:
1/2 kilo beef bones
1/2 kilo beef brisket (or other meaty part suitable for stewing)
6 slices of ginger
1 large red onion, halved

4 pieces of native corn, sliced into 3 to pieces each
1/2 kilo potatoes, cut into large cubes
about 1 large carrot, cut into large cubes
Baguio pechay, or pechay tagalog

Parboil the beef and bones.  Discard water, clean the pot and rinse the beef.  Put back the beef bones and beef into the pot; put in the ginger and onion.  Add enough water to cover the beef at least an inch.  Simmer at least 3 to 4 hours (until beef is tender, in my case I left it in the magic cooker overnight).  Add the corn after about 2 hours and continue simmering.  When the beef is tender, transfer the beef and corn to another pot.  Strain the broth/soup to the new pot and place back on the stove and bring to a soft boil.  Season to taste.  Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until cooked.  Then add the pechay, cover and turn off the fire.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bittersweet Chocolate Crunch

This is really an adaptation of the Nestle Crunch candy bar.

My little girl loves Nestle Crunch and was quite sad after eating her last mini bar.  I decided to make her some homemade ones.  After all, how difficult could it be?  It's basically chocolate with rice krispies!  But I thought of using bittersweet chocolate rather than milk chocolate because she likes bittersweet chocolate too.

So off I went to buy the rice krispies and a chocolate mold to form the bars.  I came home and discovered that somehow the chocolate mold went missing!  It wasn't even registered in the receipt.  And I didn't want to go back to the store!  So I thought I'd just use whatever I had, which was a mini cupcake mold (think mini Reese cups).

I melted 250 grams of bittersweet chocolate (over a double boiler) and added 2/3 cup of rice krispies.  While I originally planned to use the chocolate cup molds, in the end I decided to just spread it out on a parchment-lined cookie sheet because the mixture was pretty thick and wasn't spreading at all.  I stuck it in the freezer for a several minutes and after it hardened, I sliced the big chocolate bar into bite-sized pieces!

The little girl tried a piece and said they were more delicious!  (She does like bitter chocolate!)  She had a complaint though.  She said that my version melted faster than the Nestle Crunch! 

Hubby says he prefers these bittersweet crunch chocolate pieces!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Menudo, My Way

Where I'm from, menudo is a tomato-based stew of pork and liver.  Usually it also has tomatoes, carrots, raisins, garbanzos, green peas, pimientos and red hotdogs!  It's definitely not the Mexican menudo, which is with tripe.

My version always skips the peas (which I loathe) and the raisins (which I like on their own but not in cooked food).  I always use liverspread instead of actual liver (because while I like the flavor, I do not like the texture!).  I also like putting in garbanzos and red hotdogs, but since hubby does not like either of those things (and for once, I acquiesced and used real liver), this is how our menudo is -

My recipe...

800 grams pork shoulder, skin trimmed off
200 grams pork liver
2 thin slices of ginger
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet onion, minced
4 largish tomatoes, sliced
1 to 2 large pimientos, sliced
3 medium sized potatoes (about 500 grams total), diced
1/2 cup tomato sauce (optional)
3 pieces dried bay leaves
salt and pepper, to taste

Dice or cube the pork and liver in roughly the same size (I like the pieces in 1-inch cubes).  Marinate in a little soy sauce for about 10 minutes.

 Saute the ginger and flash fry the liver.  Remove from the pan and discard the ginger.

Saute the garlic and onion until soft and fragrant.  Add the tomatoes and pimientos.   Stir fry several minutes then throw in the pork and stir fry a couple of minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, if using, and the potatoes.  Pour enough water or stock to barely cover the meat and potatoes.  Season to taste.  Throw in the bay leaves.  Let simmer until pork is cooked and sauce is slightly thickened and reduced.  Put back the liver and remove from heat once the mixture comes to a soft boil.

Serve on top of steamed rice!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Pork, Liver and Celery Stirfry

This week has indeed been busy, and I mean even the nights!  We're usually home for dinner but for some reason or another, this week found us having dinner out... for meetings or with friends.  Tonight is actually the first night this week that I cooked dinner!  And it's the weekend already!

This dish is a request from hubby.  It seems we had been having chicken more often than usual so he was missing pork a bit.  He specifically asked for stir fried pork with celery, but when we found really fresh pork liver, he asked if we could have some in the stirfry too.  My reply?  Of course!  I may not be a fan of liver but I do like its flavor (it's the texture that puts me off)

It's quite easy to make, too!

2 small pork tenderloin pieces (about 600 grams total)
150 grams pork liver
about 4 to 5 large stalks of celery, sliced diagonally
4 slices of ginger
1 small onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
cornstarch slurry

Slice the tenderloin into thin strips then marinate in a tablespoon of soy sauce and some black pepper for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Meanwhile slice the liver into triangles (this is "traditional" shape that I grew up with) and marinate in a teaspoon of soy sauce for 5 to 10 minutes.

Heat a wok until almost smoking and throw in the ginger.  After a couple of seconds add the liver and flash fry a few seconds only.  Remove the liver from the wok.  Saute the onion and garlic.  Add the celery and the pork tenderloin.  Season with another tablespoon of soy sauce (or as preferred) and oyster sauce.  Stir fry until pork is cooked.  Add the liver back to the pan and stir fry another couple of seconds.  Thicken the sauce with cornstarch slurry.

It was perfect on top of rice, on this rainy evening!