Sunday, March 25, 2012

Osso Buco

I love sleeping in on Sundays. It feels so good when I don't need to be up and about eating breakfast and being my perky self. The only time I get up early is when I make a braised meat dish for the family Sunday lunch. This usually involves beef that requires at least three hours for braising. A favorite dish in my household is Osso Buco.

The term osso buco means "bone with a hole". Osso Buco is a Milanese dish of beef shanks browned in oil and then braised in a chunky tomato sauce with vegetables. It is often served with mashed potatoes, risotto or as is the tradition in the Philippines served with steamed rice.

This is a fairly easy dish to prepare. The only time consuming part is the browning of the meat and sauteeing the vegetables. The rest of the time I just let it simmer away. I can go online or watch some television while waiting. I just check on the Osso Buco every now and then if it needs stirring or more broth.

Osso Buco

1.5 kilos bone-in beef shank (about 4 large pieces)

1/4 cup patis (fish sauce)
juice of 4 calamansi (Philippine lemon)
1/2 teaspoon fresh crack black pepper
1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup canola oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 bay leaves
1- 400 grams can whole peeled tomatoes
2 to 3 cups beef broth
salt and pepper to taste
chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

  1. Marinate beef shanks in fish sauce, calamansi juice and black pepper for an hour.
  2. Dredge the marinated shanks in flour.
  3. Heat oil in skillet and brown shanks on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Set aside.
  4. In the same pan, saute garlic, onion, carrot and celery about 5 minutes.
  5. Put seared shanks in pan with vegetables.
  6. Add bay leaves, tomatoes and broth.
  7. Let simmer until beef is fork tender about 2 hours or so adding more broth if necessary.
  8. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  9. Garnish with parsley before serving.

Note: This is a perfect dish to finish in the slow-cooker.

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Iberian Chicken

Roast chicken in my home has seen a thousand reinventions. In my youth, I remember my Dad trying to roast chicken in an aluminum oil vat and some charcoal in the backyard. He put the dressed chicken under the vat with the charcoal around it. Every 15 minutes he would push the hot coals closer to the vat. The suspense was palpable as we eagerly await a golden juicy bird at lunch. The first time he tried it, the chicken got burned to a cinder. The highly anticipated golden fowl was a hunk of inedible blackened meat. Oh boy, did we have a good laugh from that incident.

But Dad, never the quitter, vowed to perfect the craft. He practised and practised and practised. Even my friends got introduced to this "exotic" way of cooking chicken. Let's just say I didn't want to look at chicken for a while after that year.

And do you remember the good old days when the Turbo Broiler was first introduced? Anyone can make roast chicken then. Just slap a bird with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and voila! Thus the birth of the immortal Turbo Chicken. We once had a maid who didn't know how to make anything but Turbo Chicken. I could grow wings by the sheer number of times she served us the same dish over and over again.

Then came the dawn of the restaurant business boom in Manila. All the cuisines of the world have made their debut here. The once simple Filipino palette was introduced to a cornucopia of tastes that made us well, more "sophisticated". I first had a taste of this Spanish dish in a restaurant named Rastro. You have to pre-order this dish 24 hours before you dine. It was juicy, well-seasoned and falling-off-the-bones tender. And swimming in extra virgin olive oil. Well if you knew me well enough, you'd know I'd take a crack at copying this dish when I got home. And copy I did. Here's my perfected version after about four revisions.

Iberian Chicken

1.5 to 2 kilos whole dressed chicken
1 head garlic, minced
2 stalks tanglad (lemongrass), pounded
juice of 4 calamansi (Philippine lime)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked peppercorns
1 piece chicken bouillion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

2 medium carrots, cubed
1/2 kilo baby potatoes

1. Halve chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Lay seasoned chicken halves in roasting pan. Sprinkle minced garlic and lemongrass over chicken.
4. Put carrot and baby potatoes around the chicken.
5. Mix together water, chicken boullion, mustard and olive oil. Pour mixture chicken and vegetables.
6. Sprinkle chicken with rosemary.
7. Bake at 350F for 2 hours or until juices run clear and skin is golden.
8. Let roast chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.
9. For an extra special treat, you can sprinkle the chicken with a little truffle salt but that's optional.

Note: You can also serve it with sauteed African green beans. Just brown some garlic in butter. Add the washed green beans. Toss for a minute or two. Lastly, season with a little salt and pepper.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beef Caldereta de Putaje

I think each family has their own recipe for most common dishes. Ever wonder why your spaghetti sauce tastes different from Mrs. Jones' down the block? Or why your roast chicken tastes very different from your friend Camille's? It is a result of geographical location, personal preferences and allergy considerations by most accounts.

The same is true for Beef Caldereta. The Kapampangans have their slightly sweet version with fried potatoes and sweet bell peppers. The Batanguenos make theirs with cheese and pimiento. The Bicolanos put coconut cream and lots of chili peppers in theirs. My family's version is made special with button mushrooms, pitted olives and a generous sprinkling of Edam cheese. The original recipe came from my Dad's Aunt Dolores on his mother's side.

I cannot count the number of people I've asked what their cooking speciality is that answered Beef Caldereta. And why not? It's a dish you have to spend a few hours on preparing and the ingredients are expensive often served during special occasions like birthdays, Easter and Christmas. For most, this is not the typical Thursday night dinner option.

So you want to wow your party guests or be the star at your next potluck dinner? Serve this beef dish that will blow everyone's socks off. Trust me, by the end of the evening, everyone will be asking for the recipe.

Beef Caldereta de Putaje
(Festive Beef Stew)

1.5 kilos beef kenchie, short ribs or brisket, cubed
juice of 4 pieces calamansi (Philippine lime)
3 tablespoons patis (fish sauce)
1/4 cup canola oil, divided
1/2 head garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1-250 grams pack tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon refined sugar
2 cups water
1 to 2 pieces bird's eye chili, seeded and sliced
1 small can liver spread
1 1/2 cups canned button mushrooms, halved
2/3 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese or Queso de bola (Edam)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Marinate beef in calamansi and patis for 1 hour.
2. Brown beef cubes in half of oil. Set aside.
3. Saute garlic and onions in remaining oil.
4. Add seared beef, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar and water.
5. Let simmer until beef is tender about 2 hours. Add more water to stew as necessary.
6. When beef is fork tender, add the rest of the ingredients.
7. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
8. Serve hot.

Makes 12 to 15 servings.

Photo courtesy of

Monday, March 12, 2012

Crispy Pork Binagoongan (Crispy Pork in Shrimp Paste Sauce)

Hitting your 40s is like slamming on the brakes after going 100kph on the freeway. What used to be a carefree life is replaced by worries about your expanding waistline and cholesterol numbers. I went to my doctor recently and truth be told I'm now officially on a watch list for heart disease. So does it mean a life sentence of cardboard tasting food and medication? I hope not and don't plan to just accept it. Like my Dad always says, "There are no off-limit foods. Just limit your portions." And I agree. One shouldn't deprive himself of good food otherwise you'll end up binging on so many other things with disastrous results.

Here's my game plan. I will get off my chair and exercise. I will slowly taper off my consumption of diet soda to which I am addicted and replace it with water. I will limit my meat intake to 5 to 6 times a week instead of 12 to 14. I will double my consumption of fruits and vegetables. And this last part which will break my heart is I will limit my intake of sweets and desserts. Sensible plan, right? None of the plans I mentioned said anything about totally cutting off any food group. Just limiting portions and making sensible choices. Good plan. Here's to success! *fingers crossed

To bid adieu to my less-than-ideal ways, here's a sinful treat for all the serial dieters out there. Crispy Pork Binagoongan combines the best of both worlds: the crunch of lechon kawali (pork crackling) and bagoong (shrimp paste). Salty, spicy and crunchy. Sigh...the stuff of cravings.

Whew! Good luck to us!

Crispy Pork Binagoongan

1 kilo pork ribs, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
1 medium onion, halved
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
1 liter water for boiling pork
2 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups oil for frying
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, minced
2 big ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup bottled bagoong (sauteed shrimp paste)
3 pieces finger chili

  1. In a pan, boil pork ribs in water with onion and peppercorns until tender.
  2. Remove pork from stock and season with salt.
  3. Heat oil and fry pork pieces till golden and crispy. Set aside.
  4. In another pan, heat oil and saute garlic, onions and tomatoes.
  5. Add in bagoong, water and chilis. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Right before serving, toss in crispy pork in bagoong sauce.
  7. Serve immediately.
Serves 8.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creamy Saffron Risotto with Seared Scallops

I try to cook a variety of food on a daily basis. It's a thrill to eat your way around the world at home. Chinese on a Monday, Spanish on a Wednesday or, Japanese on a Sunday. Given enough notice, ours is a veritable restaurant kitchen churning out dishes from all over the globe. I have been known to be a short order cook like my Dad the Iron Chef.

I also enjoy doing theme dinners on special occasions. Last year, we did a Japanese dinner for my sister-in-law's birthday and an American feast of steak and seafood for my brother's birthday. Just last January, I hosted a Filipino feast for my birthday dinner.

I have not tried serving saffron risotto family style, though. I believe this Italian dish is meant to be shared with someone special on a romantic dinner at home. Pair it with a refreshing cold Chardonnay and a simple summer salad and you'll earn a dozen love points for sure.

But I don't have anyone to impress so this will be something I'd do on a whim when I'm all alone cooking for myself. More for me or maybe a practice run for when I do have someone to cook for. Wink, wink!

Making risotto is a bit of a challenge for the novice cook. I believe it all boils down to patience and following the recipe to the letter. Just put a spin on it when you have already mastered the technique.

I'm always reminded of what Wolfgang Puck once said, "Risotto must be cooked just so. Make it too runny and it's a pudding. Make it dry and it's rice pilaf."

Saffron Risotto
Serves 2

1 cup arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
pinch of saffron threads
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a saucepan, place stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer until ready to use.
  2. Heat olive oil and saute garlic and onion.
  3. Add arborio rice and saffron threads.
  4. Stir so that every grain is coated in oil.
  5. Add the white wine and let rice absorb all the liquid.
  6. Add the stock a ladle at a time while stirring rice.
  7. Keep adding stock till all of it is used up and the rice is cooked with a little bite.
  8. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Transfer the risotto to a serving plate and top with the seared scallops.
  11. Serve with the steamed asparagus.
Seared Scallops

6 pcs Pacific scallops
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat the butter and olive in a heavy skillet.
  2. Saute garlic till fragrant.
  3. Add scallops. Sear. (Don't touch for a full 2 minutes before turning)
  4. Season to taste.

For a touch of green: a bunch of steamed asparagus spears or broccoli florets

Photo courtesy of Mommy Cafe.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi Tofu

Breaded Tofu:
1 block soft tofu, slice into 2"x2" cubes
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Japanese bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
  1. Lay cut up tofu on paper towels to absord excess liquid.
  2. Combine flour and bread crumbs.
  3. Roll tofu pieces in flour-bread crumb mixture.
  4. Heat oil in pan.
  5. Fry until golden on all sides.
  6. Drain on paper towels.
Tempura Sauce:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons refined sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 teaspoon bonito granules
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon grated ginger
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Pour over fried tofu.
  4. Garnish with scallions and bonito flakes.
  5. Serve immediately.

1 stalk scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon bonito flakes

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Linguini a la Vongole

Linguini a la Vongole

1 lb. linguini
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 kilo Manila clams, cleaned
1 cup white wine or water
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 to 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1. In a pot of salted boiling water, cook linguini until al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in pan and add garlic. Saute until fragrant.
3. Add Manila clams, salt, pepper and water. Cover and let boil until clams are open about 5 minutes.
4. Add butter.
5. Toss in cooked linguini.
6. Sprinkle pepper flakes and flat-leaf parsley on top.
7. Serve warm with garlic bread.

Note: If you can't get fresh clams in shells, you can use 200 grams of frozen shelled clams from the supermarket. They cook quicker so be careful not to overcook them.

Photo courtesy of The Italian Fork.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Kitchen (Life) Lessons From My Father

Most lessons I learned from my Dad were handed to me in the kitchen while I helped him cook. We would have these talks while both our hands were busy peeling, cutting or stirring.

I have told him countless secrets, sought his counsel and cried my heart out over just about anything we were preparing. I appreciate all those times even if it might not seem that way.

Here's a list of some of the lessons I learned. Though most of the time he was talking in terms of cooking, I believe they are life lessons too if you looked closely.

1. Do everything with love.

2. If something is not available, substitute.

3. Variety is the spice of life.

4. Practice first in, first out.

5. Clean as you go.

6. The best cure for a bad mood is one's favorite food.

7. When trying to lose weight, just eat less. No food is 'off-limits'.

8. Don't say "NO" until you've tasted something but,

9. Keep the tried and tested.

10. Whistle while you work