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A Thanksgiving Story

25 Nov

Weeks before the grandiose day of cooking and eating we all know in the US as “Thanksgiving Day”, I made very strong requests to The Hubby that we order a Thanksgiving meal instead of making the turkey and trimmings ourselves.  I knew he wasn’t enthusiastic about my idea and so gave constrained answers.  But after last year when we pulled an Iron Chef Thanksgiving and cooked everything on the day of, I was ready to throw in the towel and not ever enter the Thanksgiving meal cooking foray ever.  Never ever.

One week plus away from Thanksgiving, I was chatting on the phone with a girlfriend, whom I dotingly call “Meet” (because she reminds me of “Geet” a character played by my fave Bollywood actress), to set up a get-together when we got into the topic of turkey day.  Maybe it’s the spirits of Thanksgiving past, present, and future that got to me but I unexpectedly invited our family friends to join us for a meal that I’ve been promising myself all year not to cook.  My initial reaction was one of dread and I wondered what I got myself into; but Meet’s excitement was contagious and within three days of Thanksgiving, I found myself looking forward to the meal… the opposite of how I felt last year.

To accommodate Ayaan, one of our special visitors (who will be turning one this December), we timed the meal for lunch instead of dinner.  Ayaan is Meet and Ajay’s handsome little boy who has been a Prince Charming since when we first met him less than a year ago.

Please baby girls, please… pipe down the screaming.  Yes, I know he’d make a great prince to your princess selves, but he’s not even a year old yet.  Give him and yourselves a few years.  He still needs to gain several feet and complete his set of teeth.  He also needs to learn how to uncork a bottle of red.  Or white.  You know what I’m sayin’.  To the Bollywood agents out there scouting for a cute baby, feel free to get in touch with me.  This boy could be the next Shahid Kapoor.

As Ayaan’s first Thanksgiving, I wanted to make our Thanksgiving meal extra special by bumping up the veggie side dishes.  On our menu for the big day were: glazed carrots, French beans with bacon, embutido, sautéed mushrooms, sausage and bread dressing, mashed red potatoes, cranberry sauce, and the mega star roast turkey.

I have two winners for favorite sides.  Last year, my side winner was the dinner rolls.  This year, the award for yummiest sides go to: glazed carrots and French beans with bacon.  My dinner partners could disagree all they want, and that would be all right with me since there’s only one room for judge and I’m it. [smiles]

As for the turkey, The Hubby and I were more than satisfied with how it turned out: juicy, moist, and tasty.  All that glistening goodness you see on the photo is not due to Photoshop.  Finger-lickin’ good can now be used to describe this bird that’s usually known for being dry.

Dessert went just as wonderfully as the main course.  We made pumpkin mousse, pumpkin pie, and mashed sweet potato.  Ajay and Meet made berry cobbler pie, brownies, and chocolate raspberry cake.  While Noel, our friend Mike’s comely lady made his favorite dessert: éclair squares.  The lovebirds joined us later in the day for a casual dessert potluck since they were busy doing great things by volunteering at a Seattle shelter earlier in the day.

When our friends left, I couldn’t pull myself away from the brownies, sweet potato, éclair squares, and more turkey.  How I didn’t end up with heartburn from all the Thanksgiving goodies, I have to chalk up to good genetics.  Thank you parents and ancestors.  And since it’s not Thanksgiving without giving thanks to all my loved ones and friends, here’s an acknowledgment to all you superb folks… to my family, thank you for being fabulous; to The Hubby, thank you for being supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; to my gal pals and dude friends, thank you for being da bomb.  To my dear readers, a humongous thanks for visiting my blog and checking out the entries!

Now that the cooking fiasco and the gluttonous eating sessions are over, I look forward to no food shopping for a few weeks.

HERE’S TO THE HOLIDAYS! CHEERS!

Embutido

1 Aug

It rhymes with burrito, and it also looks like one when still wrapped.  What could it be?

If you answered, “Embutido!”, you’re so right that you can’t get any more right.

Embutido is, in blanket terms (no pun intended), sausage in the countries influenced by Madre España, with the exception of its Pacific island child: the Philippines, in which embutido is steamed meatloaf and longaniza is an embutido.  (I hope you enjoy word play as much as I do, dear reader.)  Some recipes call for baking the cylindrical-shaped meat instead of steaming.  In my case, I used sous-vide to cook the seasoned ground meat by first shaping it in a plastic wrap, then wrapping foil over it.  Sous-vide is a cooking method that involves sealing the food in tightly-sealed plastic bags and requires a longer cooking time than usual because of its below normal cooking temperature.

For faster cooking, go with either steaming or baking.  Steaming begins at 100°C/212°F under standard temperature and atmosphere conditions.  Keep in mind that depending on the cooking method you choose, the taste will vary and also the texture: moist vs dry.  However, baking grants you a meat log (embutido is not exactly a “loaf”, is it) that’s a bit caramelized.  Quite tasty if you ask me.

Sous-vide particularly makes for a juicier result.  Because sous-vide is generally around 60 °C/140°F, it’s important to consider USDA’s recommended cooking temperatures for meat and to keep a thermometer handy in order to check the meat’s internal temperature.  I kept my water below simmering point, but still higher than the typical temperature used in sous-vide.  When it comes to cooking meats, I tend to be cautious.

Embutido requires some creativity from the maker as the various recipes out there always include different types of aromatics along with vegetables and fruits, and even chopped sausages and whole eggs.  As the maker, you can either keep it simple and use your favorite seasonings and spices, or go all out and do a version of turducken using all ground poultry, of course.

Embutido

1 lb ground meat
1/2 cup minced onions
1/4 cup diced bellpeppers
1/4 cup raisins
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
dash of paprika

If baking, set the oven at 350°F.  If steaming or using sous-vide, begin heating your water to reach the recommended temperature.  Mix all the ingredients together and set aside.  Tear out 4 sheets of plastic wrap and 4 sheets of aluminum foil about 12-inch width.  Prep the wrappers by placing a plastic wrap sheet on top of a foil sheet.  Repeat three more times.  On top of the plastic wrap put a quarter of your mixture and form the meat mixture into a log.  Tightly wrap the mixture with the plastic sheet and tuck the ends.  Repeat the wrapping method with the foil.  Repeat three more times.  If you prefer a smaller shape, size your wrappers to 6-inch width and form about 1/8 of the mixture for each wrapper.  To cook, sous-vide, steam, or bake.

Smile and serve with your favorite condiment.

Menudo

25 Mar

Spain heavily influenced its colonies, so much so that Philippines and Mexico have similarities in dishes with menudo being one of them.  Although Mexican menudo comes in soup form, both menudo dishes use offal, in which Filipino menudo includes liver and Mexican menudo includes tripe.  With the Spanish galleons or Galeones de Manila-Acapulco, a relationship between Philippines and Mexico was formed and each touched the culture of the other; hence, the dish similarities between an Asian Pacific island nation and a North American country.  From the perspective of people who rebelled and resisted colonization, I’m sure Magellan was already cursed by many for “discovering” nations that were already settled in and likely Madre España even received a lot of back talk (ahem, among other things).  And in the 1800s, both nations revolted.  Understandably so.

Moving on from history and into food (not the band, obviously, but more on that later)… Filipino menudo is meaty and filling.  There are many recipe variations available and different regions in Philippines have their own version.  Knowing this, I looked into the recipes online then asked my Mom for her take on Filipino menudo.  With this traditional recipe as a guide and following my Mom’s preference of chicken over pork and my Aunt Mildred’s style of marinating the liver (as told to me by mi mama),  I set out to create my own version of menudo.

Menudo

1 lb chicken, cut in small cubes
1/4 lb chicken liver, cut in small chunks
2 links chorizo Bilbao, cut in small chunks
1/2 cup of chopped onion
5 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
4 small potatoes or 2 large potatoes, cubed
2 bell peppers, diced
1 can of chickpeas/ garbanzo beans
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 tbs of brown sugar
2 tsp of fish sauce/ patis

1 tbs of cider vinegar or rice vinegar
olive oil or vegetable oil

salt and paprika to taste

Mix the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar,  and fish sauce, add the liver to marinate.  Sauté garlic and onion in oil until soft.  Add the chicken and chorizo.  Cover until partially cooked then add the liver with the marinade.  Cover the pan until the meats are fully cooked.  Add the potatoes, bell peppers, and chickpeas.  Allow to cook covered using medium heat, then add the raisins.  Season with salt and paprika.  Cook in low heat until the raisins become plump then turn off heat.

Smile and serve with rice.

Having tasted the dish for the first time, The Hubby found it to be flavorful and textural.  Being hearty, Filipino menudo could be just as good as Mexican menudo in “curing” hangovers.  Though I don’t plan on finding that out for myself or anyone.

Before I say adios, here’s a shoutout to my childhood crushes (I wasn’t discriminating as an ’80s kid) who sang this song and this song which probably drove my parents nuts because I played my Menudo albums over and over.

No Food Shopping Challenge 2011

29 Dec

A simple food challenge presented by eGullet that I partook in 2009 has become an end-of-the-year tradition for us, which I schedule before we leave for our annual home visit to awesome California.  Doing the challenge before our vacation is an excellent way to clear out frozen and refrigerated foods.  “Waste not, want not”, as the saying goes.

During my first No Food Shopping Challenge in 2009, I made: Broiled black cod with rice, Linguine with anchovies and olives, Broiled shrimp, Baked tuna and pasta casserole, Turkey pot pie, and Kimchee rice and beef stir fry.  In 2010, the dishes I put together from our pantry and freezer were: Mixed greens, turkey sausage, with red beans, Rice congee with spicy bean curd sauce, Pan-fried paneer and couscous, Garlic butter shrimp and rice, Spicy shrimp, kimchee, and noodles, Spicy garlic chicken with rice, and Tea eggs.

For 2011, we saw similar ingredients from the two previous years, which pretty much gives away what we keep in our pantry year round.  Rice, pasta, and beans are staples in our household.  So are crustaceans, it seems.

Wednesday, December 7 – Black eyed peas, collard greens, and rice is what we eat when our tastebuds feel like “going South”

Friday, December 9 – Pasta with tuna and olives is a favorite any time of the year

Monday, December 12 – Prawns with brown butter sauce is soooo finger-lickin’-tastic

Tuesday, December 13 – Fried potato cakes is the result of leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving

Wednesday, December 14– Spicy prawns with coconut rice is my quick take on Southeast Asian cuisine

Saturday, December 18 – Spaghetti with buttered prawns is “Why-we-are-fat-dot-com”, as The Hubby would say

Looking forward to next year’s No Food Shopping Challenge!

Tapas

14 Aug

How does one say thank you to friends who gave up a Saturday/Sunday to help on moving day?  Our answer is, by serving a nice lunch.

I channelled my mother’s Spanish ancestors to get the tapas right.  Since it is a heritage I can’t run from, and though I didn’t inherit the deep set, large dark eyes that Spanish folks are known for (my younger sisters have that arguable honor), the least I could do is recognize this blip in my ancestral heritage by learning and appreciating the cuisine.  As I told our friends, I hope that I didn’t fail my maternal ancestors.  The last thing I want is one or two Spanish Conquistadores haunting me.  Ay dios mio

To our good friends, muchas gracias muchachos y muchachas.  We hope that you all enjoyed the tapas as much as we appreciated your help on our moving day.

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