Pork-Pina Steak

DSCF7165 (640x479)I’m really not a big fan of the pineapple. I know many Filipinos living abroad who make their annual pilgrimages back to their homeland miss the fruit stands that line along the busy highways heading to their respective provinces and stop on the dime once they see the pineapple popping-out on the display stands.  Mr. Mekeni Mekeni (remember him?) has told me his adventures and misadventures into the forest filled with wild fruits and animals and have mentioned this particular story countless times and repeatedly says how much he misses them. He loves his fruits, too, but like many of those who has passion for the wild and the exotic and who enjoys food suffers from gout, just like many others. Anyway, going back,  fruit stopovers are part of the road trip and  is always expected, and one or the other, passengers have to endure under the heat and wait until everybody had had their take on the pina.  I never bought any and if I did, I went for the snacks to match my booze. I enjoyed the late lunch or ‘merienda’ stopovers  though more than the highway-stop-and-let’s-buy-a-pineapple-by-the-fruit-stand practice.

I’ve only had the chance to work with fruits when I worked as a Kitchen Helper back in 2005 doing fruit baskets using cookie cutters and skewers. I later advanced to doing platters in breakfast and brunch kitchens for several more years and that was about it. From then on, I have never touched a single fruit in the supermarket ever again. I see it everyday at work and seeing it more in my apartment, specially in my tiny fridge, only reminds me of the routine I have to endure for the next week or so specially if it was a holiday coming. I always went for the greasy, spicy stuff as usual.  I’m improving though. I have recently been eating pears and grapes although it’s not as much as it’s required based on the food pyramid. At any rate, it’s back on my table, and that’s the bottom line.

Pork, however, is one of my favourite protein, and pork with pineapple is a  dish that made my clients, who btw are on walkers and canes, to throw them aside and dash to the cafeteria for dinner (It’s true!).  I was in total disbelief. It was either hunger or strong craving for  something extremely sweet and fatty that jolted them out of their seats and make a run for it. I find it intriguing and sometimes funny. Moreover, this dish has also been bugging me for days and I just had to make it even if I’ve made it about a thousand times.  I tweaked it a bit to let the sauce stand-out and discarded some ingredients that were expected of a Filipino Pork-Pina Steak.  I also used thinly sliced Porkloin  (on sale!) for quick-grilling and easy marinating.

Marinade:

  • Pineapple Juice
  • Brown Sugar
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce (just a touch)
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper

Sauce:

  • Pineapple Juice
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Brown Sugar
  • Pork Drippings (juice that settled after grilling)
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Curry Powder (not a lot)
  • Green Onion, finely  minced
  • Cornstarch Solution (as a thickening agent)
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper (to taste)

Combine all ingredients in the marinade and marinate the pork loins overnight.  Set the grill pan on high and cook the loins to medium or to desired doneness.  Tent with a tin foil and let it rest for several minutes. Save the drippings for the sauce later.

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Throw the pineapple juice and chunks in a sauce pan on low heat and slowly incorporate the other ingredients (including the pork drippings that has set down while resting). Set the stovetop on high and thicken with cornstarch solution. Set aside to cool.

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Set the loins on the plate and cover with the sauce. Voila!

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Oven-Baked Tandoori Chicken

DSCF7151 (640x492) (2)There are just days that I look forward to eating curry and naan. It’s the same craving I search when I feel like eating either Chinese Dimsum or Japanese Sushi after a very long day at work. Both food sometimes,  feels like appetizers and by the time I reach home, hunger strikes the second time. The end of May seem to be a ‘curry’ week and I’ve gone and  visited my favourite Indian restaurants about four times now for the last two weeks.  It has been a very busy couple of weeks and I really never had a chance to cook for myself, although I already had some beef and pork cuts marinating in my fridge.  All were on sale at my grocery and bought them for the same reason. Unfortunately, I’ve never really had an opportunity to savour their discounted prices having had a busy week soon after shopping

I was really apprehensive about eating Indian food when I was in my teens. I ate at Kohinoor on Pasay Road when it was still there and served buffet style ‘authentic’ Indian food. I also had a chance to try Kashmir, but as a fine dining restaurant, menu prices were quite oppressive to the point of damaging for someone just starting a career. I had a chance to eat once or twice and that was about it. Kohinoor closed its doors when I left and I really do not know what fate had landed to Kashmir.  After that short episode, I discovered ‘Little Bombay’ restaurant late in the ’90s hidden under a run-down building on the intersection of Ayala and Makati Avenues. It was a gem, hole-in-wall, cafeteria style, no-fuss restaurant that served the type of Indian food I was searching. It stayed at that location for a long time up until it grew and expanded and, by that time, I already had left the Philippines.  The owner even recognized me the last time I dropped by. I became a regular. Menu prices were appropriate for the regular office paid employee.

Tandoori Chicken or those that go into the tandoor oven are very expensive in Indian restaurants in comparison to Chicken, Beef and Lamb curries.  This led me to cooking one.  Moreover, bone-in chicken breast were also on sale and having been struck by the love of Indian food lately, I ventured into the unknown helm of tandoori cooking. Of course, I don’t have one, but my antiquated apartment oven managed to concoct an even better version.  It’s the homemade tandoori paste combined with long marinating period made the chicken juicy inside and spicy outside.

Tandoori Paste:

  • Water
  • Evaporated Milk
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Garam Masala
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green Onion
  • Green Chilis
  • White Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Brown Sugar
  • Lime Juice
  • Achuete (as a colouring agent)

Combine everything in a blender and zap until smooth. Adjust seasonings and  pour over the chicken breast, cover and marinate for at least two days.

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Set the oven to medium-high heat and roast the breast until the skin caramelizes.

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Chicken Pindang

DSCF7134 (640x494)Circa 1983. The Philippines was experiencing a turbulent political crisis. I was in my grade school, Grade 6, to be exact, and was relatively naïve about the situation. All I knew back then was to play basketball and kung-fu; a typical kid enjoying his time in school and outside.  It was never explained in school what was occurring at that time although I clearly recall being taught to memorize the names of each minister in Social Studies or History class back in Grade 3 or 4. Looking back to now, I found that to be totally absurd.  I never expected that the entire country will turn into a sea of yellow sooner or later.  That was the turning point, and basically that was the political culture that was painted back in the 80’s.  I reckon it has never changed since and was the main reason why I bailed out.

The Pop Culture was an entirely different scenario. Anyone who grew up in the 80’s has had the opportunity to be exposed to the myriad of pop cultural event locally and internationally. Locally, ‘Bagets’ was a by-word everywhere and their colours were as loud as the jeepneys’ diesel engines.  The popularity of the ‘barkada’ singing the chorus of the ‘Bagets’ theme song and dancing in unison was an absolute disbelief.  Many fell so in love with the dance routine itself and many to the movie. I’m not sure though if it became a trilogy. I hated it, and I stuck listening the ‘New Wave’  punk rock brought by the Brits to desperate teenagers like myself tired of hearing popular music and seeking something new in the airwaves. NU107 was my station when it played real music after 1983 and MJ was MJ from motown.

It was at or around this particular time that I was introduced to Pindang. Many aren’t familiar with Pindang, but Pindang and Tocina are most likely close cousins or step brothers. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a Pindang recipe on-line. I loved how the household help made the dish so sugary sweet and violet that eating rice that has been fried on the Pindang pan itself  became an event during dinner time. It was as addicting as fantasizing about Phoebe Cates’ red bikini overload during religion classes at that, and staring at grade school crushes very early in the morning when their long, black hair, standing about ten feet high close to the forehead, was swaying with the early morning wind gust and despite that, still looked so fresh and gorgeous.  As to some, I have an inkling to the ‘Bagets’ family and to Kuya Germs’ That’s (Iska?).

I never learned how to cook this mighty potent and homey dish. A friend at work told me the step-by-step process and from thereon, had never left my mind. He’s mekeni mekeni all the way. Therefore, it had to be done!  Pork is the usual canvass of choice, but I had some chicken breast in my freezer.  My rule: use what’s available and work around it.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breast, julienned
  • Brown Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Sazon (as my colouring agent)
  • Garlic, minced to a paste.

Heat a pot of water with about two cups of sugar together with the other ingredients to create a brine. Let it cool and soak the chicken breast overnight.

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Dump the brine, pat dry or let the breast hang-dry on a strainer until almost all the moisture has disappeared.

Heat a wok with oil and a little water. Pan-fry the breast until the meat caramelizes.  Set aside. Add a little more oil into the pan and start stirring the rice. Scrape all the caramelized sugar from the pan or until all the rice kernels have been fully coated by the sticky substance.

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Smoked Salmon Sandwich (Lox)

DSCF7121 (640x456)I was never really fond of eating sandwiches as a child. My lunchbox back then was comprised mainly of steamed rice and a protein variand paired with a diluted powdered juice drink poured into the ever populer Thermos drink cooler. It was relatively ‘cool’ having those Thermos, and even cooler when it was packed in those fancy ‘Superfriends’ tin lunch boxes.  However, when I started wearing khakis in school from shorts,  I  eventually outgrew them, and the poor thing ended up in the storage where all the other plastic containers were dumped. That storage room was a plastic container heaven as triggered by a popular brand that my family succumbed to throughout my growing and schooling years.  I don’t remember the brand name, but the mode of selling was either door-to-door or through pyramiding when pyramiding was still on its birth stages. And of course, almost all office employees joined the bandwagon to earn a buck or two extra. The pile was enormous as I recall, and I’m defininitely quite sure many families suffered to the same dilemma when plastic panic-buying was at its peak.  Kitchen organization was not popular back then.

I needed rice as a kid who looked forward to P.E. classes. I also attended extra-curricular activities after school which if I had eaten only a sandwich or a piece of bread, I know I wouldn’t have lasted until dinner time, and traffic to and from school to the suburbs was bumper to bumper.  I tried having a pandesal with sardines one time, but unfortunately that didn’t work, too.  I went back to eating rice.

DSCF6224 (640x480)I only learned to  appreciate and eat sandwiches here in North America. It became a matter of ‘need’ when my lifestyle became my worklife and I lost valuable time preparing home cooked meals. The Salmon Sandwich was a healthy and quick alternative to brunch when hamburgers, pizzas and all other kinds of fastfood flooded the market; and fastfood really isn’t real food as I perceive it to be.  I also bumped into something similar in Paris, and when I tried it, I promised myself to make something similar after returning. It was a delightful and unforgettable meal and even better when it was paired with a glass of wine. My first encounter with the smoked salmon was preparing Bagel Lox sandwiches when I started in the kitchen. I never knew that I’d be hooked on it several more years after.

Ingredients:

  • Gravad lax or any other kind of smoked salmon
  • Ciabatta bread (or any crusty bread)
  • Compound butter
  • Fresh Arugula
  • Roma Tomatoes
  • Red Onions
  • Italian Oregano
  • Sea Salt
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lemon Juice

Slice the bread in half and brush with melted compound butter. Sprinkle with Oregano and sea salt and toast lightly.  Gently place the smoked salmon on the bread followed by the tomatoes and red onion.

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Wash and rinse the arugula and spin-dry.  Gently toss it in olive oil and lemon juice and lay it down into the sandwich. Slice in half.

There are several ways of preparing this sandwich. I discovered the Italian Oregano when I visited my grocery yesterday. I have been looking for those kinds in a long time. This is a quick pick-me-up sandwich.  I really didn’t bother so much with presentation.

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I was served with the sandwich grilled on a panini press in Paris with a side of light tomato and cucumber salad. It was more than enough for me to enjoy my quiet stroll in the city streets until my next meal.

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