Callos a la Madrilena

DSCF7064 (640x513)Breakfast was a huge part of my growing-up years.  If the ‘Cosby Show’ was a special evening event for everybody, eating and having an egg paired with freshly brewed coffee (it was still relatively new to me) and longganisa was a matrimonial celebration. However, there were mornings that really didn’t flash that picture perfect plate on the table.  Canned corned beef and sometimes, sardines were the only  easy, ready-to-prepare meals available in the cupboard.  I  enjoyed those too together with the boundless and endless variety of dried fish and ‘dilis,’ also only available in Southeast Asia,  but at worst, pork and beans would be served. When that happens, I’d be hoping I’d find the pork in all those beans, and when I do it was usually just a dime size cut of a pork belly. That became a butt-of-a -joke in school and at home as advertisements flooded the TV for that particular brand. Well, after all those years, I just realized it was really joke. It should have been renamed as ‘Beans in Tomato Sauce’, or ‘Beans in a Can.’  It became a definite challenge to many to spread all the beans on the plate and find the ‘pork,’ and as a play, only find  a couple in the game.  I pity those with poor eye sight at a young age who had a difficult time finding the pork.  Anyway, whoever had two or more was the winner.  Most times, I’d find one stuck at the bottom of the can; clinging in all those fat that crystallized in time and whatever other ingredients mixed with it that made it so stickily delicious.  Today, I serve beans (still in cans) with Franks. I just discovered that Franks & Beans were special for many Baby Boomers at this side of the world as it was to my childhood years in Manila.

Filipinos don’t exactly have the inclination towards eating beans as much as South Americans do. Eating excessively fatty pork though is more appropriate and fitting to their diet and palate (as to many Spanish influenced colonies) despite its hazardous impact to health.  Callos is similar to Pork & Beans, but with all the fat and cartilage from the pig’s feet and tripe more than the beans, and the beans an optional ingredient; an exact and definite opposite of the Pork & Beans many Filipino kids learned to love and grew up with.  Moreover, based on pure observation,  many Filipinos tend to eat Callos as part of their mains with rice, and with deadly ingredients as such, it should be eaten cautiously or even sparingly. I clearly recall Callos for dinner too and I really didn’t realize it was Callos until the household help told me. I felt  it was Menudo again for the third straight night  (glad it was not adobo) so that I’d eat my supper. I treat Callos similar to Tapas; served in small plates with wine or a glass of beer.

This is my interpretation of Callos a la Madrilena. I still have that urge and that drive to return to Spain and to Europe in general and hopefully make it in an annual event, and cooking something familiar to take me there temporarily makes me a happy man. I know that won’t happen until later; much later.

Ingredients:

  • Pig’s feet
  • Honeycomb Beef Tripe
  • Spanish Chorizo, diced
  • Garlic, diced
  • Spanish onions, chopped
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Roma Tomatoes, chopped
  • Pinto Beans (Optional)
  • Pimenton Picante or Spanish Paprika
  • Saffron Threads or Saffron Powder
  • Ground Blackpeppercorns
  • Sea Salt

Boil the pig’s feet and honeycomb tripe until tender.  Set aside and let cool. Chop the pig’s feet into half and remove the skin and cartilage. Chop the tripe in bite size pieces.

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Heat a pan with olive oil, and start browning  the chorizos.  Saute the garlic and onions on the same pan until aromatic.  Add the crushed tomatoes and boil to simmer; about five to ten minutes.  Dump the pig’s feet and tripe into the pan followed by the Roma Tomatoes, Pimenton, Saffron and ground blackpeppercorns.  Boil to simmer one more time and add the beans before serving.

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It took me about two hours to boil the feet and tripe. I also added some aromatics much like a broth just to add more flavour (and reduce the foul smell in the process).  Again, this is simplicity at its finest with the best and freshest ingredients to raise the bar of an offal.

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Ginger Maple Chicken with Taro Mash

The temptation of drinking pop is always there. I’ve completely eradicated this particular beverage from my list together with my favourite alcohol beverage, beer.  Pop was easy to stay away from, but beer or any liquor for that matter was a major obstacle. I only drink wine once a week now, on my Fridays,  usually with my spicy Vindaloo. The medium to hot heat Indian spectacle clears my throats and sinews and releases my ever numb taste buds from the distinct kitchen smell I work in everyday as well as the food I prepare daily (based on a menu I strictly follow).  The wine refreshes and soothes my mind, and calms my nerves down. I need that kick and that certain combination of spices and the well-seasoned curry just to replenish my energy, and Tuesday, being my Friday, the worst of the days.

Pop and beer play a specific role for the food I cook. This dish is no exception.  I was also inspired to interpret Ginger Chicken  based on the recent book I read (using Calamares) and to a Filipino cookbook I rely upon for actual, traditional Filipino recipes. And surprisingly, there it was: Ginger Chicken. Filipinos indeed had a chicken cooked using ginger after all.  It was a braised dish as expected; a cousin of the ‘Tinola’ based on-line.  The combination took me to creating a crunchy and sweet tasting version instead.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Legs
  • Ginger Ale
  • Canola Oil
  • Chicken Stock
  • Beer
  • Ginger
  • Onions
  • Blackpeppercorns
  • Bayleaf
  • Brown Sugar
  • Maple Syrup
  • Honey
  • Vinegar
  • Flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Sea Salt
  • Green onions, as garnish
  • Cayenne Pepper, also as garnish

Marinate the Chicken Legs with the Ginger Ale, Water and fresh Ginger overnight to a day. Rinse and set it on a strainer until the moisture dissipates.

Combine the flour and the cornstarch (season with sea salt & pepper) and dredge the Chicken Legs. Pan-fry until  golden and insert in a pre-heated 350’C oven until the juices run clear. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest.

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Pour the Chicken stock and the beer in a sauce pan together with the aromatics of onion, ginger, bayleaf  and blackpeppercorns and reduce to half. Strain in another sauce pan and slowly incorporate the brown sugar, Maple syrup, honey, vinegar and continue reducing until it reaches a smooth and saucy consistency. Adjust to taste and let the sauce cool down a little further  to allow the flavours to mingle with each other.

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Chop the chicken legs, Chinese style, set it on a plate and drizzle the sauce all over. Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and Cayenne pepper  before serving.

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Taro Mash

Peel and boil the taro until tender. Discard the water and return the taro back in the pot. Mash using a potato masher (or run through a mill first), slowly add evaporated milk and butter (or Star Margarine) until smooth. Scoop out from the pot using an ice cream scooper and set it alongside the chicken.

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This is comfort food 101. I didn’t expect the outcome to be as extraordinary, but by marinating the chicken with pop and combined with the sauce, it came out like a deep-fried chicken wing coated with a very sweet glaze.  However, it did not come out dry as many wings turn out to be when deep-fried.

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Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

DSCF7019 (640x426)I have been reading about American Chefs who found themselves working in kitchens out of necessity.  There was something or someone who took them to that enclave and from there blossomed and prospered their craft.  If there’s one characteristic about these chefs that amazed me, it was their sheer enjoyment in preparing food and making people happy.  Being in a hot, professional kitchen is hard living in itself and smiling and exuding happiness in that environment is a difficult undertaking and a major effort specially on a busy service.

I’ve never encountered ‘smiling’ faces in the previous kitchens I worked in. There were sneers and curses most often times, and I don’t blame them.   Life in the kitchen is ethereal. There are no weekends or holidays, and working hours are long. While everybody is out and having their ordinary routines done, cooks slave their way to get through the weekend to be over and done with.  It’s a massacre waiting to happen and delaying the fact that it would happen sooner or later only prolongs the agony.  I’m not sure if I’d ever be in this situation; long hours, nights, nights or days that seems endless.  Life has somehow caught up on me and I believe there maybe other avenues I can pursuit related to food. It’s out there, and like the American Chefs, someone, something or some uneventful turn of events can stir the ship to another course.

I bumped into this classical pasta dish when I was so engrossed reading about the lives of these American Chefs.  It’s a very simple dish to make, and I had the major ingredients in my fridge.  I had thought of giving it a hand several days ago and was not at all disappointed. I added some extras to make it my own.

Ingredients:DSCF7016 (640x511)

  • Spaghetti (I used Spaghettoni)
  • Fresh Roma Tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • Tomato Puree
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Anchovy Paste
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Rosemary
  • Crushed Chilis
  • Lemon juice
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Parmesan Cheese or Romano Cheese
  • Truffle Oil (Optional)

Start a pot of boiling water and cook the spaghetti noodles based on the instructions in the box.

Heat the olive oil in a hot saute pan and start sauteing the garlic.  Squeeze some anchovy paste when the garlic becomes aromatic.  Add the Roma Tomatoes, herbs, capers and olives and stir continuously.

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Pull out the Spaghetti noodles from the boiling water and dump everything in the saute pan. Continue stirring, and pour the tomato puree in; enough to coat all the noodles. Add more if necessary.   Sprinkle some breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce,squeeze some lemon juice, add some grated cheese, and drizzle with Truffle oil or Olive oil before serving.

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