Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Basic Italian Spaghetti

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Spaghetti was one of my favorite dishes to cook growing up. Our family version is made by buying a prepackaged meat sauce and adding tons of processed cheese (the Velveeta type) and flooding it with slices of hotdogs and ground beef. That was considered the typical spaghetti dish that was also high end. The addition of hotdogs made it so. I also learned how to make spaghetti with liver paste and even with condensed milk. Don't laugh, it is normal here in the Philippines. You also get to love spaghetti made with banana ketchup if you are short on budget. With this ever changing variation on the recipe, my first foray into real Italian spaghetti was quite a revelation to me. I also could not believe that it was actually quite simple. 

Now, what led to this posting? Simply put: excess basil leaves. I had thought of making osso bucco but I had saved that for next week so I settled for good ole' spaghetti. I also have a few cans of whole tomatoes plus a good chunk of Pecorino Romano cheese so spaghetti was the obvious choice. I do want to add something to it though and yes, this is allowed: toasted bread crumbs. I've seen Lidia do this so I don't think I'll be breaking any strict rules with regards to making spaghetti. By the way, I'm dropping Lidia Bastianich's name like we are friends but I can assure you, she has no idea who I am. Anyway, on to the recipe.

My Basic Italian Spaghetti

1-32 oz whole tomatoes, canned
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup tomato sauce
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 cup toasted bread crumbs
Pecorino Romano, grated
3 tbsp olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 lbs dried spaghetti
1-2 tbsp of white sugar
2 cups hot water
handful of Basil leaves (tear into smaller slices if needed) 

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and
    cook until lightly browned. Add the oregano and saute for one minute.

2. Crush the canned tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot together 
    with its liquid. Add the tomato sauce and season salt and pepper. 

3. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 30 

4. Add the hot water and the tomato paste and stir. Check for flavor and 
    add the sugar to balance the tartness of the sauce. Let simmer on the 

5. In a large pot filled with water, bring the water to a boil at medium high 
    heat. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add 2 tbsp of salt and add 
    the dried pasta. 

6. Cook the pasta until just al dente. Transfer the pasta to the sauce to 
    finish cooking until al dente. Add more of the pasta water if necessary. 

7. To finish, add the toasted bread crumbs and mix well. Turn off the heat 
    and add the grated cheese. Toss to mix.

8. Add the basil leaves  and toss until the leaves just wilt. Dress with more 
    olive oil and serve passing more Pecorino Romano on the table.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cassava Cake

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Cassava cake is something I've always wanted to bake but could never seem to get right. My cousin Erna has a foolproof recipe that she has given me more than three times already but I could just not get it to bake right. I have actually given up on it and every time I visit them in Illinois, I ask her to bake one for me especially on Christmas time. Cassava cake is a simple native dessert treat and is made by grating fresh cassava and cooking it in a sugar syrup together with coconut milk. The natural starch of the cassava root acts as the binder for the cake so there is no need to add flour. You do need a couple of eggs just to help the cake come together.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Frozen grated cassava is available in most Asian stores in the US. They come in small packs which is about a cup to a cup and a half of cassava pulp. One thing to remember is to use them as is. When you use fresh grated cassava however, you have to wring out the liquid from the grated root as it may contain some mild toxins which are no longer present in their commercial equivalents. Make sure to correct for the liquid extracted and exchange it with coconut milk to ensure that your cake comes out perfectly baked and moist. The recipe is adapted from Dorothy Ferreria's cookbook and I'm glad I finally have this recipe to use.

Cassava Cake - Adapted*

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
5 cups grated cassava
1 3/4 cup white sugar
2 cups coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz unsalted butter, 
2 large eggs

2 egg yolks
1 can condensed milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 cup shredded soft 

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 10x10 baking pan with aluminum foil and 
    grease with butter. 

2. Combine the ingredients for the cake and mix well. Pour into the prepared
    pan and bake for one hour. 

3. Prepare the topping by heating the condensed milk on a small pan over 
    medium low heat with the butter and the flour. Once at a low boil, whisk 
    the egg yolks quickly to avoid curdling. Mix well until thickened.

4. Pour the topping over the baked cake and smoothen with a spatula. Top 
    with the grated cheese and bake for another 15 minutes or until the 
    topping turns golden brown.

5. Cool and slice into squares. Serve warm or chilled if desired.   

*Ferreria, D.M.J., From Dorothy's Kitchen, Amos Books Inc., Quezon City: 2004.

Chickpea Soup with Shitake Mushrooms

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
When I think of soup, I think of a hearty soup that is thick and brimming with either vegetables or some kind of pasta cooked perfectly with just a hint of meat to flavor the broth. Lidia likes to make her soup soupy in contrast to my preference. Still, her recipes make a wonderful base for whatever tickles your taste buds' fancy with a little bit more or less of the broth.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I wanted to prepare a soup dish since my Dad requires something with a bit of a broth for every meal. I know that my chicken dish will not suffice so I figured, I'll try this chickpea soup and use fresh mushrooms to boot. The addition of fresh basil leaves was a lucky stroke since for some reason that I could not fathom, they are so cheap here in my hometown. Parsley that was dirt cheap in the US is for some reason a lot more expensive and harder to find. Porcini was the original choice for the dried mushroom component of the soup but finding that here in my hometown will be next to impossible. I had to settle for dried Shitake mushrooms instead.

Chickpea Soup with Shitake Mushrooms - Adapted*

2 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
4 oz dried shitake mushrooms
1 lb fresh mushrooms (I used fresh oyster mushrooms)
1 30-oz whole tomatoes, canned
4-5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup diced celery
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil

1. Reconstitute the dried mushroom in 2 cups hot water until softened. Spoon
    out the mushrooms and slice in half. Reserve the liquid.

2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and the
    onions and saute until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 
    celery and cook for two more minutes. Season with salt.

3. Add the oregano and the rosemary and cook for a minute. Add the shitake
    mushrooms and the reconstitution liquid. Bring to a boil.

4. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with the
    broth. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for
    about 30 minutes.

5. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. Add the fresh mushrooms and the
    chickpeas and cook for another 15 minutes. 

6. Check for flavor one last time. To serve, drizzle with white truffle oil or
    extra virgin olive oil and garnish with fresh basil leaves and shavings of
    Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano.
*Lidia's Italy: Chickpea Soup with Porcini Mushrooms.

I Can't Believe It's Not Real Tiramisu! (Cream Cheese Tiramisu)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My cousin and nephew along with my uncle and aunt came over the house today. I had something planned for my blog but since they were in town this Saturday, I decided to move up the date of my cooking experiment a day ahead and invited them over for lunch. I had planned a very Italian Sunday lunch so I went ahead with this plan hoping they will appreciate something different from what they usually have at home which is almost just like what we eat daily:fish, fish and more fish. However, I just don't have the time to make dessert on such short notice so a no-bake tiramisu seems to be the best choice for such an occasion. Also, being in the Philippines, mascarpone cheese is a rarity and finding one might be possible but the price tag on such a find will most likely be astronomical there is no point at all in splurging to make this dessert. It might be worth it but if you plan to eat tiramisu on a regular basis, a more affordable alternative might be the way to go.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I also went for the store-bought ladyfingers (Broas in our dialect) from the local bakery that has been our family's go-to bakery for our family parties. They are a bit pricey but their products are really wonderful and the quality have not gone down unlike most of the stores I used to frequent before I left for the US. I tried making ladyfingers the last time I had to make a dessert but my temperamental oven coupled with my new handheld mixer which turns hot after 5 minutes of use is giving me some issue with regards to real baking. Any hardcore baking will have to wait until I get my new kitchen in about a couple of months.  

Cream Cheese Tiramisu

1 8oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 8 oz heavy cream, chilled
13 tbsp white sugar
8 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee
1/4 cup brandy
48 ladyfingers
2 oz dark chocolate
cocoa powder

1. In a large metal bowl, combine the white sugar with the egg yolks and beat
    at high speed on top of a double broiler. Keep the liquid at a low simmer. 
    Beat at high speed until the volume has tripled. Take off the heat and set 

2. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with clean beaters until stiff peaks 
    form. Fold into the egg yolk mixture. 

3. In a third bowl, combine the cream cheese and the heavy cream and beat 
    until smooth. Fold into the egg mixture. 

4. In a 9x13 baking dish, ladle in a cup of the cream cheese mixture and 
    spread evenly. Arrange a tight layer of ladyfingers filling in the gaps with 
    little pieces. 

5. Combine the coffee with the brandy and spoon half the amount over the 
    ladyfingers. Pour half the cream cheese mixture over the ladyfingers and 
    spread evenly. 

6. Dust lightly with the cocoa powder and arrange a second layer of 
    ladyfingers. Soak with the reamaining coffee/brandy mixture and top with
    the remaining cream cheese mixture. 

7. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge for at least 4 hours. To serve, 
    grate the chocolate on top and dust with the cocoa powder. 

Chicken with Olives and Sunflower Seeds

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I thought I already posted this dish some time ago. I know I cooked this dish already but it must have been when I made it and it was gone before I was able to take a picture. The dish seemed familiar but after looking at all my posts, it did turn out that I have not featured this recipe yet. Adapted from Lidia Bastianich's recipe of Pollo con Olives e Pignoli, I made some slight changes not because I don't trust her recipe but because I could not find a good fresh parsley to use in the dish. I ended up using fresh basil. It was also impossible to find pine nuts so I used roasted sunflower seeds instead. 

Chicken with Olives and Sunflower Seeds - Adapted*

4 lbs chicken pieces
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
1 cup black olives
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
basil leaves
white truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Heat the butter and the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. 

2. Season the chicken with salt and fry on both sides until golden brown. Fry 
    them in batches. 

3. Make room in the center and add the bay leaves and garlic. Cook until the 
    garlic is lightly browned. 

4. Add the broth and increase the heat to medium high. Cover the pan to 
    steam-cook the chicken. Cook for about 15 minutes. 

5. Lower the heat to medium low and add the olives. Cover and cook for 
    another 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked 

6. Check the sauce for flavor and adjust with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 
    the truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil and garnish with fresh basil leaves. 
    Serve with rice pilaf. 

* Lidia's Italy: Pollo con Olives e Pignoli

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Baked Spanish Mackeral Steaks in Ginger Mango Sauce

This recipe is adapted from the Food magazine cookbook that managed to survive my absence of 7 years and one of the few dishes I tried the last time I was home. The original recipe came from Margie Moran, the second Filipina who took home the crown of Miss Universe for our country. The recipe has three things going for it, a vegetable relish, a fruit-based sauce and a marinade for the fish. I just thought that I ought to simplify the dish just a tad so I worked in some of my tweaking magic and the dish still came out quite good. I do recommend that you serve the relish on the side instead of as a topping. It just came off a bit too raw in taste even when I prepared it ahead of time to allow the flavors to mellow. It might be a matter of preference but I'm not such a big fan of anything pickled. 

Baked Spanish Mackeral Steaks in Ginger Mango Sauce - Adapted*

2 lbs Spanish Mackeral steaks (Blue Marlin or Tuna will also work)
salt and pepper

Fruit Sauce:
1 large ripe mango
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup ginger juice
salt and pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and diced finely
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
salt and pepper

1. Prepare the relish by combining all the ingredients. Check for flavor and 
    adjust with salt and pepper. Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve. 
    Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients. Blitz in a food processor 
    or a blender until coarsely blended. Season with salt and pepper. 

3. Season the fish steaks with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay on a baking 
    dish in one layer and top with the fruit sauce. Cover the baking dish with 
    foil and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the fish is cooked.

4. Transfer the fish on a serving platter and spoon the sauce over it. Serve 
    the relish on the side or as a topping. 

* Chikiamco, N.: Editor, The Best of Food Magazine, ABS-CBN Publishing, Quezon City, 2001.     

Thai Spring Rolls

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Today is Sunday and despite the fact that we have been experiencing 100 degree weather for almost a week now, I decided to go to the market today and prepare something for Sunday lunch. We eat almost the same thing every day due to my Dad's restricted diet but it gets to you after some time no matter how healthy one's daily diet is. Knocking my brains for something to cook, I had to dig through my remaining cookbooks and settled for something simple, a spring roll dish.

I know I have featured several versions of spring rolls in my blog but this one is actually quite unusual. This roll is inspired by the flavors of Thailand and is a bit interesting in the sense that you add rice noodles into the filling mixture. It may have been added as an extender but the taste is quite good and actually blends well with all the other flavors. I actually have a Vietnamese-inspired version but that will have to wait for another day.

Thai Spring Rolls - Adapted*

1 lb ground pork
3-4 oz dried shitake mushrooms
3-4 oz bean thread noodles
3-4 carrots, shredded
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
white pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil + more for frying
30-40 spring roll wrapper

1. In one cup of hot water, reconstitute the mushrooms until soft. Spoon out
    the mushrooms and slice into thin slivers. Reserve the liquid.

2. In a large pan, heat the oil at medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and
    cook until softened. Season with salt.

3. Add the pork and cook until it loses its pink color. Season with salt and a
    pinch of white pepper.

4. Add the mushrooms and the reconstitution liquid and bring to a boil. Add
    the noodles and the fish sauce if using and cook until the noodles are
    softened. Add water if necessary.

5. Add the carrots and mix well. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. Let
    cool for about 5 minutes.

6. Cut the noodles into 3-4 inch lengths and add the green onions. Mix well.

7. Fill each spring roll wrapper with 2 tbsp filling and secure the edge by
    moistening with water.

8. Fry the rolls in a preheated oil at medium heat until golden brown. Serve
    hot with either ketchup or sweet chili sauce.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
You can serve these rolls as an appetizer or paired with a salad. I personally prefer to eat these as a main dish with rice but either way, I can guarantee that you will be addicted to these little morsels. My nephew actually gave me the idea of serving the rolls on a bed of lettuce sliced in half as a starter course. Having gone to cooking school, he has learned the basic techniques in terms of cooking although he still needs to refine his skills. He tends to add hot peppers in almost anything which is definitely a zinger if you perchance bit into one.

* Chikiamco, N.: Editor, The Best of Food Magazine, ABS-CBN Publishing, Quezon City, 2001.     

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Turon de Saba (Saba Banana Spring Rolls)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Being back home means being able to cook native treats without having to worry about substituting the right ingredients for what is needed. As such, another treat I have been dying to make is one of my cousin's favorite go-to dessert for their get together in Illinois which can be made in a flash. The ingredients are also readily available or easily substituted in the US so this will be not be something to be really worried about if you think this dessert is something you would like to try. 

Green Cavendish, Yellow Saba and Red Bananas
Copyright 2012 LtDan’sKitchen blogs
A few substitutions come to mind if you are not able to obtain the exact ingredients: First, use ripe plantain bananas for the filling. We use a different banana cultivar which is the Saba variety, perfect for cooking in stews as well as in local desserts. Plantains are longer so you may have to cut it in half crosswise before slicing into quarters. The other concern is the wrapper. Spring roll wrappers available in the frozen section of most grocery stores do quite well for this treat. I'm using our market version which is made fresh but the overall taste is quite similar. You can actually make your own fresh wrapper but it is an acquired skill that is even beyond my culinary prowess.

Turon De Saba (Saba Banana Spring Rolls)

10 ripe Saba Bananas (about 6 large plantains)
30-40 wrappers
1/2-1 cup dark brown sugar
oil for frying

1. Peel the bananas and slice in quarters lengthwise. 

2. Lay one or two pieces of the sliced bananas on a wrapper and sprinkle with
    a bit of sugar. Fold one edge of the wrapper over the banana slices and 
    gather the sides towards the center. Roll tightly and wet the edge with 
    water to seal. Do the same for the remaining banana slices and wrappers.

3. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan at medium heat. Fry the banana rolls in 
    batches until golden brown. Add about 4 tablespoons of the brown sugar 
    and keep frying until the sugar melts and starts to coat the rolls. 

4. Remove the candied roll from the oil and allow to drain. Do the same for 
    the rest of the rolls. Let cool for about 5 minutes before eating. Best when
    served with a glass of ice-cold soda on a hot summer day.     

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Indian Mango with Sauteed Shrimp Paste

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Given that I'm hypertensive, I should not really be eating this kind of snack. However, it is almost the end of the dry season here in the Philippines and the start of the wet season. During this time of the year, the fruit tress are scrambling to finish up this year's harvest and mangoes in particular are all over the city before they become a bit more scarce in a couple of months. They do show up in full force once again just before Christmas. Don't get me wrong though, a whole new round of fruits will be available to replace the summer's bounty so it is all good. One thing that is a staple when it comes to snacking in the afternoon on a summer day though is the ever popular combination of the Indian Mango and shrimp paste (bagoong).

Indian Mango or the common mango is what is preferred for this type of snack. It is a bit pudgier and really sour when unripe. However, when it turns just slightly yellow on the inside, then it is the perfect time to eat it raw with either fresh or sauteed shrimp paste or even with just sea salt. I personally prefer the combination with the sauteed shrimp paste. The saltiness of the paste with the sweet sour taste of the mango just hits the spot all the time. Growing up, I didn't really like the taste of Indian mangoes which grew right next door to our house. It was in my godfather's vacant lot and as kids, we would climb the tree every summer afternoon and pick the fruits to snack on although I only ate very little of it. It was while going to college in Manila that I learned how to appreciate this simple snack and how truly wonderful it is. I still love it and my cousins think I'm crazed whenever I go gaga when I see Indian mangoes especially when I quickly reach for a jar of shrimp paste that I now have on hand. 

Tiramisu Meltdown

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Today is Mother's Day and it passed me by without my even noticing it. I've been feeling kind of overwhelmed about the things that I needed to do with regards to getting the house cleaned from top to bottom and trying to get the paperwork done for me to start on a job very soon. I thought about baking a cake but half of my round pans are still at my friend's house without any idea as to when I'll get them back. I've been meaning to try my hand at baking my signature chocolate cake to see if the humidity fails me again just like when I tried making ladyfingers from scratch. I do have to get it right since I have to bake a cake next weekend for my friend's birthday.

Anyway, a shortcut would have been the best route to take and that is what I did. I wanted to stop by my favorite cake store in town but it seemed to have moved somewhere else or maybe I was looking at the wrong place. I ended up purchasing a cake from the chain bakeshop Red Ribbon instead. My nephew was suggesting a Black Forest cake but the disappointment of tasting this same cake when I was in Manila still lingered in my taste buds so I went for a new cake. I wanted to try something new hoping that I will not be too disappointed somehow. 

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Making a choice between the Ube (Purple Yam) cake and Tiramisu Meltdown, Tiramisu Meltdown won just by sheer spunk (for lack of a better term) for its name. Not really getting my hopes up, I was expecting at least a reasonable chocolate cake with some kind of mousse layer in the middle and topped off by a ganache with pieces of chocolate ribbons. After the first bite, I have to admit, it was quite good. I don't know about the tiramisu part because it definitely lacked the flavor of a traditional tiramisu. Still, the cake is moist and the flavors do balance each other out. In a word, adequate. I won't mind having a taste of it again. The next time I visit their shop though, I might go for the Ube Cake with my fingers crossed that this cake have at least kept its integrity. That however still remains to be seen. 

To all Moms, Happy Mother's Day!

Telescope Snail Stew (Bagungon sa Gata)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Yup, you read it right, a snail dish. I'm posting this dish mostly for nostalgia and nothing else. I can only assume that most of my readers will be horrified at the thought of eating a fresh water snail except maybe for my French friend Cedric. However, being it Mother's Day, I had to cook this dish which was something I would ask my Mom to cook for me whenever I had the chance to visit home. Since I live at home now and my Mom passed away some time ago, I felt duty-bound to recreate this dish staying true to how she made it for me the last time in 2004.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
The telescopse snail or bagungon in our local dialect is definitely an acquired taste. I only ever touched this dish when I was already in college. I abhorred it growing up but not really knowing why, I tried it once and I really loved it since then. One thing to note is that the dish is indeed a poor man's dish. These univalves are found almost anywhere by the marshy spots along the seashore. Cooked in this stew, you only need the stalks and the root of a taro plant which also grows like a weed in most places. The liquid used to bring this stew all together is coconut milk, again, a local ingredient. I really never found this dish in Manila where the food is a hodgepodge of eastern and western cuisine. I might safely say that this stew is indeed a regional dish of which I am quite proud of.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I'm using fresh coconut milk which I obtained by buying 2 mature coconut heads. The market which sells them will cut them in half for you, drain the liquid out and grind the meat for you. To extract the coconut milk, add 2 cups of water into the ground coconut meat in a large bowl and massage with your hands. Take a handful of the coconut meat and squeeze out the milk and transfer to another bowl. Keep squeezing the milk out until you are left with a fairly thick extraction. Using a sieve, filter out the residual ground coconut meat from the milk and squeeze out the last bit of coconut milk from the remaining pressed coconut meat in the sieve. You should have about 3 cups of thick coconut milk. Set aside this first extraction.

Add another 2 cups of water to the same ground coconut meat following the same procedure to extract a second batch of coconut milk. It will be much lighter in consistency but this will be used as the cooking liquid instead of water. You should get another 3 cups of coconut milk.

The snails also have to be prepared for cooking. The snail has only one opening and in order for you to pry out the cooked meat, you need to suck on the top opening. However, since the shell is solid, you end up creating a vacuum which means that your effort is pointless unless you create another opening. To do this, you clip the end of the shell. You also have to discard the carapace attached to the mouth end of the snail that covers the entrance of the shell. However, you do this once the snail is cooked when you've pried the meat out of the shell.
Telescope Snail Stew

6 cup telescope snail
10 cups taro stalks, cleaned and diced into 2-inch lengths
2 cups taro root, peeled and sliced in half
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp oil
6-7 cups coconut milk (Ist and 2nd extraction)
salt and pepper
1 stalk of lemongrass
3 pcs batwan (optional)

1. Prepare the snails by chipping the ends with a butcher knife. Wash and set
    aside in the fridge.

2. In a large pot, heat the oil at medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and
    season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened.

3. Add the batwan pieces if using and the lemongrass. Saute for one minute.
    Add the taro stalks and roots and stir well. Season with salt.

4. Reserve 2 cups of the thick coconut milk and add the remaining coconut
    milk to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower the
    heat to a simmer. Cover.

5. Once boiling, uncover the pot and allow the taro stalks to soften. This will
    take about 30 minutes. Increase the heat back to medium and continue to
    cook until very thick. Stir every now and then mashing the taro stalks but
    keeping the root intact. Check for flavor.

6. Add the reserved thick coconut milk and bring to a boil. Add the snails and
    cook for about 5 minutes. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. Serve
    with steamed rice.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Arroz Valenciana

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs

This dish is one of my Mom's favorite holiday dishes. She was really good at making this but I just don't have her patience when it comes to cooking flavored rice over very low heat in an open fire kiln. She was just like me though in that when I try to help her, she would drive me away because she claimed it was too dirty or there was too much smoke and I will get dirty. She never minded it for herself but she always babied me when it came to cooking in our outdoor kitchen. However, I do the same to her in our gas range and she knows not to ask me what I'm doing when I'm cooking in the kitchen. 

My cousin in Illinois also loves this dish along with their friends and we actually feasted on this last December for the New Year's Eve party. I definitely have made the simplified version of this dish before where you cook the rice separately and you add the rest of the components later but I want to try my Mom's method of cooking it in one pot. Dubbed as a poor man's paella, this dish is definitely not poor in taste. Traditionally cooked with glutinous rice, sushi rice makes an excellent substitute. What makes this a bit different is that you color the dish with turmeric powder which gives it this vibrant yellow color in contrast to paella which is more reddish orange from the saffron strands. Another issue is the addition of raisins which lends a sweet undertone to the dish. Most important of all, the meat used are the less expensive cuts of meat from chicken or pork livers to really fatty pieces of meat which give a rich flavor to the dish.

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Another important ingredient is the Chinese sausage. Usually readily available in Oriental stores, it can be a bit of a challenge finding them sometimes depending on where you live. But if you really cannot find one, any aged sausage will do. For this version, I'm doing away with the liver component and will use a leaner cut of meat since my Dad can only eat lean cuts of meat.The other issue is that I requested that this dish be cooked the traditional way in a large wok lined with banana leaves. You can do away with this method by baking the rice in the oven in a large baking pan covered with foil at 350°F. You lose the aroma lent by the banana leaves but you still end up with a wonderfully cooked Valenciana. The recipe below is good to feed about 10-15 people. You can cut the rice and turmeric powder in half while keeping the rest of the ingredients the same amount if you would like to cook a smaller batch of Valenciana. 


2 lb lean pork, diced
2 lb chicken breast, deboned and diced
2 cups frozen peas
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
5 Chinese sausages, diced
1 cup raisins
9-10 cups sticky rice (or sushi rice)
chicken broth
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp turmeric powder
3 dried bay leaves
salt and pepper
hard-boiled eggs and green onions (to garnish)

1. Heat the oil in a large wok at medium heat. Saute the garlic and onions
    and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened. Add the bay
    leaves and mix well.

2. Add the pork and season with salt and pepper and cook until it loses its
    pink color.

3. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until
    the chicken loses its pink color. Add the Chinese sausage and mix well. 

4. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the turmeric powder and check for

5. Add the rice and stir into the mixture. Add the peppers, frozen peas and

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At this point, you can transfer the whole mixture into a wok lined with banana leaves or you can transfer the mixture into a large roasting pan to be baked at 350°F. It needs to be covered with more banana leaves or foil whichever method you are using and cooked or baked at a simmer until the rice is fully cooked. If using a wok with the banana leaves, you need to cover the rice mixture with more layers of leaves topped with a heavy cover to prevent the steam from escaping. If needed, you can add more broth is the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is not yet fully cooked.

To serve, it is best served in the wok or the roasting pan that was used to cook the dish. Garnish with slices of hard-boiled eggs and a sprinkle of thinly sliced green onions.