Hot & Sour Mandarin Soup

Soup is the cook’s trash bin. This is where all the leftovers from the mains (Chicken or Beef, sometimes fish) that accumulated at the walk-in fridges at the start of the week is dumped.  Others can be tucked in sandwiches and are considered in stir-fry meals, but otherwise, everything else end up in the soup or in the making of a stock. That’s one way of clearing-up and cleaning-up the fridge for inventory and daily or weekly deliveries.  That’s also one way of stretching the value of the meat or vegetable and lowering food cost thereby increasing the bottom-line. That’s also another way in which the cook becomes creative in concocting something delicious from remnants and debris of meals served a few days before.

Cooking for a group requires appropriate, but not exactly pinpoint ‘approximation,’ and usually these extras cover for unaccounted guest, the staff, or other third party who may have participated in the event; or already, for a cook’s case,  an already recurring, daily event in the kitchen. Cooks do make that little extra for good measure and somehow there are still leftovers to contend with on an almost daily basis. In my case, the soup is its final resting place.

I, myself, have learned to use each part of the celery, carrot and onion; the mirepoix of almost everything. Scraps are thrown into the stock pot while the core is used for basic roasting, braising and sautéing.  As much as I enjoy concocting a potent soup meal, I don’t have the time at home to produce or to be creative in this area. I’m tired coming home from work and I almost always head straight to working my own meal which I prepared the night before.  At work, making soup is just one of the other million things I cover for lunch and supper.  My prep work is almost two days ahead. If I’m not two steps ahead, I’ll be burned in the process.

However, ‘Houston’ was calling again, and she had an urgent crave for something Chinese. That’s an emergency! She requested me to make a Hot & Sour Soup, and I happily obliged. I love Chinese Hot & Sour Soup. It has about five major ingredients which makes it a meal in itself, and from experience, I have also made and served one. Unfortunately, the flavour was a bit too complex for the market, thus I scratched it off my list.  I divided the making of this soup into three parts and stages: the stock, the soup base (Hot & Sour), and the soup itself in the final stages with all the ingredients. An extra time has to be alloted for prep work. This is a totally different approach. I sort of cleaned the process, and made each slurp and each bite more ‘satisfying;’ to never stop slurping and craving for more.

Pork Stock:

  • Pork Butt or Pork Bones (I removed the meaty part of the Butt)
  • Garlic
  • Green Onion
  • Ginger
  • Star Anise
  • Black peppercorns
  • Bay Leaves
  • Coriander

Soup Base:

  • Onion
  • Green Chilis
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Bayleaves
  • Cane Vinegar (or White Vinegar)
  • Dark Soy Sauce
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Shoaxing Cooking Wine
  • Oyster flavoured Sauce
  • Sesame Oil

Final Step:

  • Soft Tofu
  • Dried Black Fungus, soaked overnight
  • Dried Shitake Mushrooms, soaked as well
  • Green Onions
  • Lean Pork, boiled & chopped to bite size pieces
  • One Egg, beaten
  • Cornstarch slurry as a thickening agent

Boil the Pork Butt or Pork bones in a stockpot. Throw the first boil to remove all the scum that rose in the pot from the bones. Start another pot of cold water and boil the bones together with the aromatic and spices I listed under the ‘Pork Stock.’  Boil to simmer and strain the stock thereafter.

Sweat the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilis in a sauce pan. Add some of the pork stock slowly and begin working with the ingredients under the ‘Soup base.’  (I didn’t follow any exact measurement for this one. I tasted the base as I went to finish it off).  Strain into another pot.

When the right taste is achieved, begin adding in the other ingredients under the ‘Final Step.’ Chop the Black Fungus, green onion and lean pork, and remove the stems from the Shitake Mushrooms (cut in half). Cut the soft tofu into quarters.  Set the stovetop on medium-high and thicken the soup with the cornstarch slurry. Remove from the heat and slowly temper in the beaten egg.

I wanted the soup to be smooth, crisp, clean and clear. Instead of dropping the egg on high heat like an ‘Egg-Drop,’ I proceeded to tempering it instead.  The egg can also be cooked like an omelet and then sliced as garnish.

Soup is a basic item usually eaten with sandwiches during lunch here in North America. I approached it that way. I didn’t quite lean to the Asian ‘way’ of having soup firsthand and about eight more courses after.

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Lomo en Adobo (Marinated Pork)

I just finished reading a book and would have wanted to start with one  if I had another. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass by the nearest Indigo and BMV bookstores and missed the entire thought process of even reading something imaginable and to my liking. It’s a Saturday, and it’s extremely ‘unsettled’ outside (you’re not alone, Iska). Unsettled in this part of the world means that weather outside is  cold, wet, and damp, and at some point during the day, can turn tropically mild (sun shining and smiling); all in a span of 24 hours. I keep myself indoors during this season.  I’m done with my grocery for the next two weeks, and laundry has been pressed (by hand) and folded.

I’m stuck in my apartment watching news and reruns, and to a certain extent found myself cornered with really nothing more productive to do-crap. I can’t even train my Tai Chi as much as the mental and physical sectors of my brain and the somehow exhausted and bruised body of mine have been longing to have for months. I’ve trained a couple of times upon arrival, but I know my training has not hit the core yet. I need more serious, meditative training which I feel I might have lost during the trip (too much beer & fatty goodness).   This sense of peace and quiet seldom occurs in a city that thrives on work or work related activities; a juggernaut of targets, goals, achievements and sometimes greed.  This is an absolute abnormality (in my case) which is precedence to the winter coming.  I haven’t really set my goals for the next year (except maybe for another set of travel journeys), but workwise, I’m still in a loophole and one way or another, something, at least, more meaningfully striking and significant (not just meaningful)  will occur soon or remain static again for another couple of years.  These interluding moments and thoughts which I have yearned for years is singing to me tunes within and probably I do need this; after all the turbulence that shook me in 2010 and 2011.  I just have to go with the tide, go with the flow; hopefully some ‘Kuya Germs’ will take me under his wing for recording a memento of fact/fiction comedy (had too much of him in one Pinoy party, way too much it was severe).

Anyway, the kitchen has become my second recourse next to the television (I need my book!).   So far, I’ve made some meals which totally struck me just the same.  Pork has become my canvass of choice with the recent E-coli scare of beef products from a major supplier in the West. And, I won’t have Veal and vegetables until I make some meatballs maybe late next week and for the next set of meals thereafter. I missed those NZ lambs though, but I think I won’t have them again until the holidays.    I’ve portioned huge pork cuts for each day I may be stuck in my apartment waiting for work to call, and bought some interesting offal which I’d like to try with a few other ingredients.  However, for this particular blog, I won’t touch on those yet.  I’ve entered the Adobo sanctuary again; very similar to Jet Li’s steadfast fist against Japanese warriors when he entered and pulverized them in their own Dojo (just amazing speed!).  I’ve checked the meaning of Adobo, twice, and saw that it’s a mixture or combination of chilies, vinegar and herbs.  This recipe is Lomo en Adobo, and by far, is comprised of those three major ingredients (of being an Adobo); whatever nationality that Adobo may wear.

I enjoyed making as much as eating this dish. I marinated the porkloin for three days (yes, three days) before grilling and roasting it to medium. It just came out perfect for table service presentations as done by many, and a variety of sauces can be matched with the pork. I used the drippings from the roast as the ‘Adobo’ sauce itself. Other sauces can be mixed and matched with this pork loin; accentuating what the meat or what the cook would have wanted to partake. Three days was already a very long-wait, and I already wanted a taste of this ‘Adobo.’

Marinade:

  • Boneless Pork loin
  • Olive Oil
  • White Wine/Balsamic Vinegar
  • Dried Oregano (used Mexican)
  • Pimiento Picante
  • Cumin
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Garlic, minced
  • Spanish onion, minced

Set the stovetop at low and allow the olive oil, garlic, onion and oregano to release all their flavours. Add the vinegar, pimiento picante, and cumin and stir slowly until the vinegary smell disappears.   Season with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool.

Pour the marinade into a bowl together with the porkloin. Cover and leave it in the fridge overnight or longer.  Remove the pork loin from the fridge and leave it at room temperature before grilling.

Season the grill or grill pan with oil and mark the porkloin with grill marks. Shove the entire porkloin in a 325’C pre-heated oven to desired doneness. Baste with the marinade every now and then.  Tent and let it rest for five to ten minutes before slicing.

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Patatas Bravas

It’s obviously the low and lean season for craftsmen or tradesmen like me. It’s cold and windy outside. The leaves that just turned miraculously yellow and red from green and bloomed to a beautiful splendor as Fall and September rushed in and school started have begun drying up. These stunning colours of Fall waves farewell by shedding-off (falling) and being blown away by the wind’s howling gust of about 50 km/h this month; just a week after Thanksgiving.  It’s definitely the cold season and during these coming months, I have expected, year-in and year-out  that my work will be sporadic. And for all the burns and cuts I endured through late Spring and throughout the Summer, I don’t mind this social seclusion; this ‘solitary confinement’ of almost absolute peace and quiet in my apartment.  There are highs and lows in the economic cycle.  I feel so free and normal; so to speak, and I am not being tormented by customers (mostly unsupervised teens) or restaurant owners (back in early Spring) who has nothing else to do, but complain or take advantage of people around them. Oh, these annoying, disturbing and sometimes obnoxious customers come in throngs and batches here, and from experience, I can pinpoint the group or individual who will create trouble.  That was the summer that was as it always has been, and the start of the season that has been relatively peaceful. I like it.

As night falls and the day ends, I contemplate on the’ things-to-do’ from my imaginary to-do-list. Although I have an actual stuff to do, they are in so far, as I look at them, insignificant. I can always postpone or ‘buy’ them anytime. Again, my basic reasoning is that it’s just cold outside, and the weather is pushing me back into my apartment-sheer laziness caused by exhaustion and stress that piled months before that.  I’d prefer this though as against bearing down and suffering under the humidity and dry heat that emanates during summer.  That’s added torture to the already hot environment I work in.

This relative isolation made me create the food I really enjoy eating. I really haven’t gotten over my ‘Tapas’ experience and adventure yet, and with my recent trip to the bookstore, I saw more books specifically dedicated to this culture. I posted a couple of ‘Tapas’ on my Facebook page last week and this is one of them: Bravas. They have become a part of my meals, too, and I’d never run out of potatoes in my fridge. This is their version of French fries or Poutine (for Canadians) and almost all bars I saw had served or featured them one way or another. The ingredients are very straightforward and simple. It’s the sauce (which almost resembles Catsup) that made it all the more wonderful.

Ingredients:

  • Yellow Petite Potatoes or Yukon Gold, peeled and/or quartered
  • Pimiento-Picante
  • Olive Oil
  • Beef Stock
  • Flour
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • White Wine/Balsamic/Sherry Vinegar
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper

Boil the potatoes in salted water to the point that it’s fully cooked, but still firm inside.  Let them cool and set aside.

Start preparing a roux with the olive oil and the flour. Slowly incorporate the beef stock, crushed tomatoes, and Vinegar into the sauce pan. Adjust the seasoning and consistency of the sauce to your liking.

Deep-fry or pan-fry the potatoes until golden and season to taste. Drizzle the sauce all over or serve it on the side.

Lamb Chops with Honey and White Balsamic Vinegar

Canada is celebrating Thanksgiving Day today; a month earlier than the United States. It has been a relatively quiet long weekend and Thanksgiving Celebration. I have no idea why, but I clearly remember that last year’s Thanksgiving was highly emotional, loud, and extremely festive. There were also so many dramatic instances only so common to a Filipino gathering that year, which I’d rather avoid experiencing again this year.  I made sure this time around, and luckily it never occurred. Why are Filipino gatherings so emotionally sacrilegious (even in small groups)?   I always ask myself why. I also didn’t work last year. I was called this morning to cover a shift, and noticing that this year’s celebration would be eerily quiet; I jumped-in and took the shift.  More so, it was also around this period that I landed in Canada and celebrated my first ever Thanksgiving as prepared by my Aunt and second cousins.  It was the first and one of the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ve ever had (as far as I remember).

I had to cook something really very special for these two occasions.  To celebrate, I bought a portion of New Zealand Lamb Chops. I’ve always wanted Lamb Chops and since I really couldn’t finish an entire Leg of Lamb by myself, I bought these quick grilling chops instead.  Lamb Chops of this quality is very similar to buying an Angus quality T-bone steak. I just don’t understand why it’s so bloody expensive; and minutely cut and prepared to serve one (Why Iska?).

My life this year versus last year is more at peace; must be, given the tame comparison with 2011. It was incredibly confusing, frustrating and sometimes annoyingly disturbing that I just had to drown myself in beer and good food on the eve of Thanksgiving of 2011;  just to let go of any tribulations that were hounding me as the last quarter winded down.  It was just not my year, and as soon as 2011 started, the repercussions of my decisions and actions a year before was taking effect and never left me up until the middle of 2012-such an agony.

Anyway, this was one of those years which I had to celebrate Thanksgiving by myself (have been celebrating it for the last couple of years with friends).  I know it’s not proper being alone, tapping my thoughts on the keyboard relating my past to the present into this blog, but whenever I do celebrate something (as a self-fulfilling , ‘being selfish’ or ‘self-centred’  individual), I make sure I create a long-lasting feast to satisfy my hunger. That’s the goal.  It really doesn’t have to be grand. It has to be heavy and satisfying enough to put me to slumber (just came from work).

These are quick preparations with readily available ingredients. I marinated the chops ahead of time and the  mushrooms and the garlic, generally, are always available in the supermarket.

Lamb Chops with Honey and White Balsamic Vinegar:

  • Baby Lamb Chops (New Zealand)
  • Olive Oil
  • White Balsamic Vinegar
  • Honey
  • Fresh Mint
  • Honey Mustard
  • Lemon Juice
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper

Combine all ingredients and marinade the lamb chops for two days.  Leave the lamb chops at room temperature before grilling. Grill the lamb chops, about 3-4 minutes each side, to achieve desired doneness (had mine medium to medium rare). Remove from the grill and let them rest for about five minutes before serving.  Squeeze with lemon juice and add sea salt on the plate.

Fried Mushrooms with Garlic

  • Fresh Button Mushrooms
  • 5 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Parsley

Heat a sauté pan with olive oil. Cut the button mushroom in quarters and pan-fry. Add more olive oil and seasonings along the way. Add the minced garlic thereafter and toss a couple of times to prevent the garlic from burning and browning. Drizzle with Olive Oil and garnish with finely chopped parsley.

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Roasted Chicken

Paris has so much to offer.  The city is so vibrant and invigorating to the soul that a week’s stay is not more than enough.  I finally had the chance to discover the city again after almost 25 years and during that time, I had more appreciation of the sights and the lights that vastly surrounded and scattered the city’s  streets and avenues. It was just so fascinating to see something very ‘familiar’ to the world and to every honeymooning couple upfront and on my face, and soak all the  intricate, and medieval architecture, the extremely fastidious, but fashionable Parisians;  but for all reasons beyond doubt, which I’ve always looked forward too before the trip was the multi-faceted value of French Food (yeah, the French way of prepping food). I wanted to try what I learned in Culinary Professional School years ago just to justify the money I spent for the courses I did  and to a certain extent, clarify whatever questions I had which I would have missed out during that time of my post-post schooling life (was Con-Ed and it wasn’t really a Phd).  I had a goal of trying each classical dish that I made, whether they be French inspired or not, in this highly sophisticated and sometimes snobbish city of love.

It was simplicity, again, at its finest. There was really nothing spectacular about their daily meals as I checked each menu on every brasserie and restaurant cum bar I bumped into, but I noticed how each part was made very specific and special to make a perfectly divine whole; as Italians do. It was eggs, omelets, fries, steaks, and hamburgers similarly available in North America, but somehow done the French way; delicate, smart, and clean. That was the clincher.  It was not hurried and mass-produced.  Wine played a vital role in each meal, and meals were appreciated with jovial conversation with friends; similar to a two hour siesta for the Spaniards. That was impossible to do so here in the North without being charged an arm and a leg for it or getting fired in the process for sleeping in the job.  The French moved fast as expected like in any large city, but they weren’t scurried or looked harassed, and food or dining was sincere pleasure and cultural affection for all which has to be savoured and loved with gusto. Almost everybody heading home carried a baguette. I didn’t want to leave, and like Spain, I know I will do another week sometime soon probably in another town.

During my quick stay, I had the opportunity to try the classics each and everyday. However, my list never seemed to end, and my pockets had its finite capacity for only some popular fares;  Foie Gras, Duck Confit, Pate, Quail, Cheese, Ham, Sandwiches, Artisan Breads, Butter, Lamb, Veal, Sole, Seafood (too bad, I’m allergic) and Roast Chicken;  ofcourse some shopping and souvenirs had to be part of that. The list became longer each day, and I knew I wouldn’t be able try them all eventually. Spain was already knocking on our doorstep and it was time to pack-up sooner or later.  I didn’t have the chance to try the perfectly carved meats sold in their fascinatingly charming Charcuteries even though I had the chance to cook.   The experience was, indeed, memorable; one of those trips you just don’t forget instantly.

On my last day, I accorded to buy a Rotisserie Chicken. It was the simplest, mouth-watering piece of chicken I had seen, and like the Filipino’s Lechon Manok, it was scattered almost everywhere around city streets.  I bought one for lunch. I was tired and my budget had reached its limits and all I had left to do was FB, pack, and make do of what was around the vicinity. I discovered the Rotisserie and aimed for the Roast Chicken with Potatoes.

This blog’s objective is to recreate that Roast Chicken. I already made something very similar when I was still starting, both as a pro and as a contributor. This is a  simpler, stripped version again with only a few enticing ingredients. I used the Chicken Legs and Thighs for faster and easier handling versus a whole Roast which I made initially as a novice.  This is an everyday fare in Paris as an adobo to the Filipino.

This was based on pure observation. I really wouldn’t know what other spices was rubbed to make the French Style Roast, but it was as yellow and as greasy as the Paella I made and the skin stood out on every bite. It was the skin that made the roast very special. The meat was soft and tender, but unlike an Asian roast, was a little insipid. Salt & pepper did  justice for that.  I took it from there and loved the results. Again, think simplicity and quality.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Legs & Thighs
  • Olive Oil
  • Sazon
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Yellow Petite Potatoes

Marinate the Chicken Legs and Thighs with the above ingredients for 48 hours.

Peel the yellow petite potatoes and set them under the roasting grill.

Pre-heat the oven at 350’C , place the chicken atop the roastng grill, and shove everything in the oven for about two hours.

When cooked, let the chicken rest for about ten minutes before plating and serving.  Drizzle with the oil that dribbled down the roasting pan during the roasting process. Garnish with finely chopped Parsley.

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