Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sailor's Stew

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is definitely something for those who want to try their culinary prowess and wow their friends. Based on a Danish cookbook sent by my good friend Tania, this simple stew is definitely something you can make if you are short on time and you want something simple yet hearty. This is probably the most basic stew I've come across in terms of preparation. It even tells you not to brown the meat which seems to be the cardinal rule for any pot roast or beef stew I've ever cooked. The seasoning is very simple but you do need a ton of onions. I did want to amp up the flavor so instead of using water to cook the meat, I used beef broth instead. The final touch to this dish are balls of butter before serving it family style. I actually did away with this step but overall, this is one simple tasty dish. 

Sailor's Stew - Adapted*

2-3 lbs beef, diced into 1-inch cubes
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large onions, diced
3 garlic cloves
8-10 cups beef broth
4 bay leaves
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
4 tbsp vegetable oil
chopped parsley to garnish
4 tbsp unsalted butter or more if desired

1. In a deep pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add the 
    onions and garlic and saute until softened. Season with salt. 

2. Add the bay leaves and black pepper and mix well. Add the beef and toss 
    with the sauteed onions. 

3. Pour in the broth and cook the meat for 20 minutes.

4. Add the potatoes and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, cover the pot and 
    simmer until the beef is tender. 

5. Check for flavor and correct with salt and more pepper if needed. Garnish 
    with the chopped parsley and top with butter if using.   

*Forlag, N.N.; Busck, A., Dining with the Danes, Denmark:2011.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chicken Stew with Banana Core and Mung Beans

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I came home this week only to find out that my Dad bought ubad (banana core) in the hopes of making this stew. There was one problem however: somebody took the chicken I bought for my Dad and stored in the freezer for his weekly food consumption. I finally went to the market today to buy the rest of the ingredients that are needed to make this hearty stew including the chicken since my Dad was constantly asking me about it. Truth be told, I was looking forward to making this stew again despite the fact that it has mung beans in it. I'm just hoping my gout will not act up.

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
My Mom used to make this stew for Sunday lunch. I'm just glad I paid enough attention to actually recreate her masterpiece. The dish requires some prepping prior to the cooking step. It is a bit involved due to the fact that you have to prep the banana core and cook the mug bean separately. Similar to heart of palm, the banana core renders the plant useless and it gets killed to obtain this ingredient. Still, bananas grow like a weed in the Philippines so there is always a new shoot ready to spring up when needed. The core is diced finely and pressed with coarse salt to get rid of the stringy sticky bits. The salt also helps extract any bitter taste the core may have which you definitely do not want in the stew. I'm quite sure it will be hard to find an alternative for the banana core but I just want to present this dish which is typical of the region where I grew up. Hearty, simple and delicious. 

Chicken Stew with Banana Core and Mung Beans

2-3 lbs chicken, cut into small pieces*
1 cup dried mung bean
2 cups, banana core, diced, salted and pressed
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 stalk lemon grass, fold into 3-inch lengths and secure with a knot
4-6 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)

1. In a deep pot, cook the mung beans in 4 cups water over medium heat 
    until cooked and the skin has separated. Set aside. 

2. In a larger pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat and saute 
    the garlic and onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook until 

3. Add the lemon grass and saute for a minute. Add the chicken pieces and 
    season with salt and pepper. 

4. Pour the broth and the cooked mung beans (including the liquid) into the 
    pot with the chicken pieces and bring to a boil. 

5. Once boiling, add the diced banana core and lower heat to low and 
    simmer covered for 30 minutes. If it gets too thick, add some water.

6. Check for flavor and add fish sauce if using. Continue to simmer until the 
    chicken pieces are fully cooked and the mung beans are cooked to mush. 

7. Check seasoning one last time and correct accordingly with salt and 

*For the stew, the best cut of chicken to use is a mixture of the backbone with the white meat. The bony cut brings out the chicken flavor while the breast cut are for those who like a meaty stew. I prefer the bony parts but to each his own. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lemon Vinaigrette

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This is probably now my regular salad dressing and there are surprisingly quite a number of request for the recipe. The truth is, I just followed the basic recipe for a regular raspberry vinaigrette that I loved. I made some changes to the recipe by adding any flavor I want the dressing to impart depending on the type of greens or fruits I want to incorporate into the salad. The ingredient I play around with the most is the vinegar component. If I plan to include a citrus wedge into the salad, I usually cut the amount of vinegar in half and compensate for the difference with the citrus juice. This I think brings the whole dish into harmony in terms of flavor and texture. 

As such, I present a basic recipe that recently got a request so I had to go back and make the dressing with the proper measurements. For this recipe, lemon was incorporated since it is what I have in my fridge. You can definitely add the juice of an orange for a sweeter flavor if that is your preference.

Lemon Vinaigrette

juice of 2 ripe lemons + white wine vinegar to bring the volume to 1/2 cup
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp dried thyme (or Herbes de Provence)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Mix the first four ingredients together. Stir well until the sugar has 
    dissolved and the mustard is incorporated well. 

2. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to help emulsify the dressing. 
    Check for flavor and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Store in the fridge if not using right away. This will keep for about a week 
    in the fridge. Thaw to room temperature before using.  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Risotto Alla Milanese

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchn blogs
This was another recipe that was mentioned in a post I made a long time ago but never really bothered to include the recipe. Given the fact that my saffron spice is somewhere in between Chicago and the Philippines, I made do with something what they call as the "cheap substitute" for the real thing, the safflower. Just like saffron, it is made of dried petals with the same shade of crimson orange but with a lesser intensity in terms of color and taste. This risotto also uses bone marrow to lend a creaminess to the dish but I did away with it since one of my guests do not eat bone marrow. The dish still taste really good without it. If however you were lucky enough to find fresh bone marrow, use it to make the stock and spoon out the marrow and add to the risotto prior to serving.

Risotto Alla Milanese - Adapted*

1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp safflower threads
2 cups Arborio rice (Japanese sushi rice makes an excellent substitute)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
marrow from one large bone (optional)
8-12 cups beef broth
1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated

1. In a deep pan, melt the unsalted butter over low heat. Add the onions and 
    saute until softened. 

2. Add the rice and mix well making sure the rice is coated with the butter. 

3. Add the white wine and raise the heat to medium. Continue to stir until 
    the liquid is almost gone. 

4. Add more broth by adding a cup or two in batches until the liquid is fully 
    absorbed by the rice. 

5. Once the rice reaches the al dente stage, add the bone marrow if using 
    and mix well. Add one last cup of broth and cook until absorbed.

6. Add the cheese and mix well and spoon out into bowls. Serve with a good 
    drizzling of olive oil. 

* Loren, Sophia, Sophia Loren's Recipes and Memories, GT Publishing, 1998: New York.

Lidia's Chicken Bundles (Fagottini di Pollo)

Copyright 2013LtDan'sKitchen blogs
I posted this dish when I started my blog about two years ago and this was one of the very favorites of a lot of people based on the number of views for this recipe. It did occur to me just recently however, that I basically posted the link to the original recipe without really bothering to write the recipe of my own version of the dish. It was then perfect timing when my colleagues were stopping by the house on our way to a conference last week. I invited them over for lunch and this is what I served them. I made a simple version of the dish doing away with the use of sage leaves. They are hard to find here in the Philippines and the dried ones are also a bit of a challenge to find. Still, the dish held up well with or without them. I also did away with the cheese, finishing off the dish with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Fagotinni di Pollo - Adapted*

2 lbs chicken thighs, deboned and skinned
1 large carrot, shredded
1 large onion, shredded
3 stalks celery, shredded
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup white wine
3 cups water
1 1/2 lb bacon
salt and pepper
8 tbsp olive oil

1.  Heat 2 tbsp olive oil and saute the onions, carrots and celery. season with 
     salt and pepper. Continue to cook until softened. Once slightly browned, 
     remove the pestata from the heat and allow to cool.

2. In a deep pan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and add the 
    garlic. Saute until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes and season with salt 
    and pepper. Saute until softened. Add the white wine and the oregano and
    cook until slightly browned. Add the water and the tomato paste and bring 
    to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer covered.

3. While the pestata is cooling and the sauce is simmering, prepare the 
    chicken by wrapping them in clingwrap and pounding them with a mallet 
    until flat. Set aside

4. To assemble, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then fill 
    with about a tablespoon of of the cooled pestata. Roll into a wrap and seal 
    the wrap with the bacon strips. Secure with a toothpick if necessary. 

5. Heat the remaining olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry the chicken
    bundles in batches until the bacon is golden and browned. Transfer the 
    fried bundles into the simmering tomato sauce and continue to cook until 
    the chicken is cooked through. 

6. Adjust the sauce by adding water if a bit too thick and allow to thicken by
    removing the cover if a bit runny. Check for flavor and adjust accordingly. 

7. To serve, remove the toothpicks and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. 

Lidia's Italy: Fagottini di Pollo

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Butterscotch Bars (With Pictures)

Copyright 2013 LtDan'sKitchen blogs
This dessert bar has been driving me up the wall for almost three years now. After having obtained a recipe from a good friend, I tried the said recipe and I have to admit that it tastes pretty darned good. Almost as good as the ones they sell in my hometown. Bacolod City's Butterscotch bar is definitely a well-known treat all over the country and is always copied but never equaled. The recipe being a trade secret is as difficult to find. The recipe given to me was therefore a godsend but I have a lot of issues with it. While the taste is perfect, the texture is not. It has the tendency to underbake in the middle while it puffs up on all sides of the pan making it hard to correct this issue. Bake it long enough and you overbake the peripheral portion of the cake and underbaking it also leads to a soggy mess at the center. 

Addition of brown sugar to melted butter.
While still living in the US, I tried to correct this issue by replacing a portion of the flour with powdered milk which resulted to a cakey albeit delicious version. I also tried doubling the baking powder hoping that it will speed up the rising of the batter but it rose too fast it eventually fell flat. I tried molasses instead of brown sugar and this version  came out a bit too moist. I used less baking powder and it barely rose that I ended up with a clumpy bar. It made me think that maybe, it is a geographical problem. Humidity and altitude do affect how a cake bakes and maybe those are what's been causing these problems for me.

Eggs have been added to the sugar butter mixture.
When I went home last year, I eventually tried a different approach to the recipe and the first major change I tried was to use margarine instead of butter. I also switched to aluminum pans since I left my non-stick baking pans in the US. Surprisingly, it actually bakes evenly in my cheap baking pans. A second major change is how I prepared the batter. I decided to melt the margarine with the brown sugar over low heat until the sugar has melted but not caramelized. I then waited until it cooled down before I added the rest of the ingredients adding the baking powder last. Well, what do you know? It worked. After a little bit more fiddling, I decided to bring back the butter into the recipe and this new version is what I came up with. It is a combination of the original recipe and the one I modified using margarine. I eventually found out that butter compound is actually better than margarine so I made another switch. I also had to omit the addition of nuts due to my gout and the fact that my nephew is allergic to nuts. He actually likes this version and refers to it as the brown cake. 

Butterscotch Bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter*
1/2 cup butter compound*
2 cups dark brown sugar**
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts or cashews, (optional)

1. In a small pot, melt the butter and butter compund over low heat. Add the
    sugar and stir until melted. Turn off the heat. Preheat the oven to 325°
    and grease an 8" baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder. Add the salt. 

3. When the sugar mixture has cooled, add the eggs one at a time. Mix well 
    after each addition.

4. Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Add the vanilla and 
    nuts if using and mix one last time. 

5. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake 
    is set. 

6. Cool completely and cut into slices.

Addition of flour and vanilla extract.
The bar came out a bit cakey while still warm but it set nicely into a dense texture once cooled. I wrapped the pieces in colored plastic which is how they sell them here and over time, the texture changed into something similar to what is being sold in the local bakeshops. I think wrapping them up while they dry within the day changes the consistency into the desired sugary bar.

* Use 1 cup unsalted butter if you cannot find butter compound. I cannot recall the brand I used for the butter compound that I bought and I cannot seem to find it again. I have reverted to using New Zealand unsalted butter and it seems to do the trick. Local butters just do not have the same buttery taste.  

** I searched for the darkest brown sugar available in our local market without resorting to using muscuvado which is a raw form of brown sugar. The batter was a lot darker but the sweetness was just right. Overall, this is actually a very good version of butterscotch but I think I might keep working on it.