Monday, June 18, 2012

Sinigang na Bangus (Milkfish in Sour Broth)

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is my second feature of this dish. Sinigang is really just a sour soup with either pork, shrimp or in this case, milkfish. Milkfish is our national fish unless of course it has been changed while I was gone for the last 15 years. In the US, you can buy them frozen in Asian stores although they tend to be a bit expensive and once you find them, eating them might be a bit problematic. The up side you see is that the flavor of milkfish is really wonderful and is a bit sweet. Another prized component is its blackened belly. It cooks to a wonderful buttery texture and it is just divine. However, it is very bony and you need to be able to pick your way through it to eat the flesh without having to worry about any dislodged bones on your throat. One other thing to worry about is its bile sac. You need to make sure that you remove it whole or else, it will flavor the fish with a bitter taste that cannot be removed with washing.

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen
They sell deboned milkfish but they are not fit to be used in this kind of preparation. They are better off marinated in soy sauce and garlic and fried until golden and crisp. However, some restaurants use the deboned version for this dish which to me seems a bit strange. It does make it easier to the consumer come eating time but the purist in me is just not buying into this new trend. As such, I'm still featuring this dish since I made it for my Dad for his big day last Sunday since after all, it was Father's Day. For those who would like to try this dish, a good substitute for milkfish will be swordfish steaks or halibut. Water lettuce can also be substituted with baby bok choy which are now readily available in most grocery stores in the US.

Sinigang na Bangus

2 lb milkfish, scaled, gutted and sliced
1 onion, sliced
2-3 Japanese eggplant, trimmed and sliced
1 cup string or green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
2-3 cups water lettuce tips
1-2 Roma tomatoes, sliced in quarters
1 1/2 tamarind bullion
5 cups water
2 tbsp fish sauce, optional
salt and pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Heat the oil in a deep pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook 
    until softened. Season with salt and pepper. 

2. Add the water and the tamarind bullion and bring to a boil. Lower the heat
    to a simmer and add the eggplant. Cook for about 5-10 minutes or until
    the eggplant is halfway cooked. 

3. Add the fish and tomatoes and season with the fish sauce if using.
    Cook the fish for 3-5 minutes before adding the beans. Continue to
    simmer until the beans have turned bright green and the fish is cooked.

4. Add the water lettuce tips and cook until just wilted. Check for flavor and 
    add more salt if needed. Serve while hot with steamed rice. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oatmeal Bars with Raisin Topping

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I decided to try this baked bar as a treat for our secretary in the department. She has slaved by running around making sure my papers are in order and she was also trying to supply me with things I may need at work so I figured a baked treat was in order. Since my books are still on their way, I decided to peruse my way through my new cookbook and this is what I found. Looking at the ingredients, it looked like something I could do here in my hometown and with a minimal amount of baking, I'm sure my temperamental oven can cope. The bar came out a bit too sweet for me but if you have a sweet tooth, then this is for you. 

Oatmeal Bars with Raisin Topping - Adapted*

1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup oatmeal, quick cooking
1 stick margarine (1/2 cup)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cup raisins
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp flour
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 tbsp brandy
2 tsp vanilla

1.  Pour the boiling water over the margarine and oatmeal in a small bowl. 
     Mix well and let it cool for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F and 
     line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, brown sugar, white 
    sugar, cinnamon and the salt. Add the cooled oatmeal mixture and mix 
    well with a wooden spoon. 

3. Add the eggs and combine until incorporated. Transfer the batter to the 
    prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cool.

4. To prepare the topping, mix the topping ingredients except for the 
    confectioner's sugar and vanilla and bring to a boil in a small pan over 
    medium low heat. Cook for about 3 minutes. Let cool. 

5. Add the confectioner's sugar and the vanilla to the cooked topping mixture 
    and mix well. Spread on top of the cooled cake and smoothen with a 

6. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature. 

*The Madison County Cookbook, Carol Publishing Group, Winterset, Iowa:1995.

Beef Goulash

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Beef Goulash is a dish that was born from several sources of inspiration. The first one being from the show Top Chef: All Stars. I do have to thank my good friend Linda for getting me interested in this show since I really do love it now. Anyway, Beef goulash was one of the requested recipes when Wolfgang Puck guested as both mentor and judge and he requested a Goulash dish with Spaetzle as his "last meal" request. I was then intrigued what a Goulash dish is made of. I do had an inkling as to what spaetzle was from a German friend who made it once during a thanksgiving party as his potluck dish. 

The second inspiration came from a cookbook I found while hanging out with my cousin at her school before she left for another job at a different school. We went into this bookstore which sells books mainly from the US for cheap. They are really the upscale version of a garage sale but in an air conditioned mall. The book caught my eye since it was adapted from one of my favorite movies ever, The Bridges of Madison County. The authors were the food stylists in the movie and they came up with a cookbook filled with recipes that made sense with regards to the movie as well as the location. Lo and behold, it has a Hungarian Goulash recipe on it. Heck, even the adobo and pancit recipes from the Philippines were in the book. It made me wonder if Meryl Streep ever had the craving for these traditional Filipino dishes while shooting the film in the middle of Iowa. Anyway, once I saw the recipe, I knew it was meant to be and that I had to make this dish no matter what. I'm glad that I did although to be honest, I'm not sure if the taste was authentic but nevertheless, it was delicious.

Hungarian Goulash - Adapted*

2 lbs beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt + an extra pinch
black pepper
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 cups beef broth
1/4 cup flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the beef
    cubes and fry until browned on all sides. Do this in batches. Set aside.

2. Add the garlic and onions in the same pot and season with salt and
    pepper and cook until softened. Return the meat into the pot and add
    the rest of the ingredients except for the flour.

3. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer until the meat is tender.
    This will take hours so you can transfer the whole goulash into a
    pressure cooker and cook for about 30-40 minutes.

4. Dissolve the flour in 1/4 cup water and add to the goulash. Cook until
    thickened. If it gets a bit too thick, add hot water until you achieve
    the desired consistency.

5. Check for flavor and serve with steamed rice or spaetzle.

* The Madison County Cookbook, Carol Publishing Group, Winterset, Iowa: 1995. 

Buttered Spaetzle

Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
Spaetzle or "little sparrow" is a western European dish that I came to know just last year. My German friend Phillippe introduced me to this dish when he made this buttered spaetzle dish for a Thanksgiving party we were both going to attend. He and his girlfriend who was on holiday in the US to visit him bought a spatzle maker in one of the specialty cooking and baking stores in the mall at Bozeman. I was familiar with gnocchi so they told me it is quite similar but is usually cut a bit smaller due to the way it was formed. Also, spatzle is made with flour and not potato which is what gnocchi is basically made of. 

The dough is quite simple to make and the recipe I used came from Tyler Florence. The issue I had to deal with is that I have no colander with large holes to use in lieu of a spatzle maker. I tried using a box grater but it came out disastrously. I finally opted to cutting it into smaller portions like I would a gnocchi. I had to cook them a bit longer in the water but they eventually came out soft enough that my nephew actually loved it. I was a bit more critical obviously but the overall dish was indeed tasty.

Spaetzle - Adapted*

1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten 
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup milk 
2 large eggs

White  Sauce:

1 stick butter
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp nutmeg

1. Combine the eggs and milk and beat until well mixed. Set aside. 

2. Combine the flour and white pepper and salt. Make a well and add the egg 
    and milk mixture. Combine well with your fingers until a dough is formed. 
    Set aside to rest for 15 minutes.

3. Boil a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and keep 
    at a simmer.

4. Once the dough has rested, transfer to a floured surface and cut into small
    pieces about the size of a dime. Drop into the simmering water one at a 

5. Once the spaetzle floats, they are cooked. Spoon them out and transfer 
    into an ice bath. 

6. In a large pan, make the sauce by melting the butter in the pan over 
    medium heat. Add the flour and mix until incorporated. 

7. Add the milk and mix well until there are no lumps and the sauce is 
    smooth. Season with the nutmeg, salt and the thyme.

8. Add the shocked spaetzle from the ice bath and cook until the sauce has 
    thickened. Serve with goulash as the main dish.

*Florence, Tyler, Food Network Channels, Food 911: Mother-in-Law Dumplings episode. 

Double Dipped Fried Chicken

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I have always wanted to make this dish ever since I came home about a month ago. My nephew who cooks for the family loves to make this dish although his choice of breading really baffles me as it seems to resemble the consistency of mud although it cooks and tastes okay. When my aunt came to visit a few weeks ago, it was then that I decided that I better try my hand at making a much improved version of fried chicken. It has been some time since I've made this since I hate frying anything opting for a baked version if possible. However, fried chicken needs to be fried so I had to do it. 

My inspiration came from Michael Chiarello's version which is marinated in buttermilk and is also doubly dipped. Since buttermilk is hard to come by here, I'm using a combination of full cream milk and a squirt of lemon juice. I'm just glad that the grocery stores here carry most of the dried herbs I often use. This actually baffled my 6 year old nephew who bugged me the whole time I was making this dish as he kept asking me why I insist on adding leaves to the chicken and why my chicken comes out smelling better. I then had to explain that the leaves add both flavor and aroma to the chicken. I guess I had him convinced since he stayed over for lunch with us that day. The picture does not do justice to the dish since our kitchen is so badly lit I could hardly get a decent shot of anything but the taste of the chicken is really wonderfully aromatic and tasty.

Double Dipped Fried Chicken

2 lbs chicken, cut up into small pieces
1 cup full cream milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
salt and pepper
2 cup flour
2 cup coarse bread crumbs
1 egg + 2 tbsp of water
vegetable oil for frying

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Combine the milk and the 
    lemon juice and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Pour into the chicken and 
    marinate for 1-2 hours. 

2. Season the flour with half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Set 

3. Season the bread crumbs with the herbs and a teaspoon of salt and a pinch
    of pepper. Set aside. 

4. Beat the egg with the water and set aside. 

5. To prepare the chicken, dip one piece of marinated chicken into the flour 
    mixture and tap the excess. Dip into the egg wash and dredge with the 
    bread crumb mixture. Tap the excess and set aside on a lined tray. Do the
    same for the remaining chicken pieces. 

6. To fry, heat the oil at medium heat in a deep frying pan. Add the chicken 
    a few pieces at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan. Fry until golden 
    brown and the juices run clear when pierced. 

7. Drain the fried pieces on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Serve hot.    


Copyright 2012 Ltdan'sKitchen blogs
Pinakbet is a popular dish from the Northern region of the country. I learned to love this dish when I studied in Manila while hanging out with my friends one of whom hailed from Pangasinan where the dish hailed from. The funny thing about this dish is that it includes a couple of ingredients that I hated to eat growing up, namely the bitter gourd and okra. However, putting them all together in this one dish with other vegetables that I love really makes sense. It is definitely one of the wonders of culinary science as to why this dish is definitely very popular now all over the country.

Bitter Gourds
Copyright 2012 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This dish also uses squash and acorn squash is a prefect substitute to use for this dish. Bitter gourd is also a must but it is really an acquired taste. The vegetable packs a good amount of iron so it is very good if you have anemia but it does involve a bit of preparation. Once cut in half, the vegetable is cored and cut into the desired size. However, to remove some of the bitterness, you sprinkle it with salt and let it sit for about 30 minutes to release some of its juices. A quick wash with water and you are good to go. You can cook it as is but you must really be ready for the bitter taste that goes with it. 

I make this dish without any meat most of the time and is thus a wonderful vegetarian dish. However, it is a must for some where fish or shrimp paste be added as the final touch to the dish. You can actually do away with this step if you are like my Dad who is allergic to shrimp or fish paste. I myself have adapted to tolerating both in this dish but I'm still partial to shrimp paste. Either way you like it, I hope you give this dish a try. Incidentally, this dish is also referred to as our local version of ratatouille.


3 cup squash (peeled, cored and cubed)
2-3 bitter gourds, cored and cut into 1-inch slices
2 cups okra, trimmed and cut in half
3 cups eggplant, trimmed and cubed
3 cups string beans or green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp fish sauce, optional
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup shrimp or fish paste, optional
salt and pepper
4 cups chicken broth

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions
    and saute until softened. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the eggplant, squash and bitter gourd. Mix well and season with the
    fish sauce if using. Otherwise, season with salt. Add the broth and bring
    to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the
    squash is almost fully cooked.

3. Add the beans and the okra and simmer until the okra has softened and
    the beans are cooked to a crisp green. 

4. Check for flavor and adjust with the shrimp or fish paste if using.
    Otherwise, use salt. Serve immediately with steamed white rice.