Torta (Filipino Omelette)

DSCF7727 (640x427)I was caught in a deep stupor for almost three weeks. I recently discovered that eating too much of somethings I love can be damaging. And, as that discovery broadens into a life changing moment (as Oprah would always say), so did my diet and nutrition.  Suddenly, my freezer became an isolated war zone; desolate, empty, frigid and bare.

It was the weird sensation I felt three weekends ago when my feet itched and my non-slip shoes and the freezing weather weren’t really the culprit. It must have been the Stewed Pig’s feet, which I ate for three consecutive nights, that triggered that discomfort. My work requires me to stand and to walk for long hours, and any kind of discomfort, specially on the toes, soles of the feet and the entire feet themselves, can be frightening.

I’ve avoided eating pork and beef altogether. My supermarket basket has been replaced by either fish fillets, whole fish, a bunch of fruits and a myriad of Chinese greens, and chicken. I’ve also cut back on salt (Soy Sauces and Bean Sauces included) and switched my grains to brown. Noodles have also become a staple.  It’s an entire recipe booklet folks, and it’s really very challenging.  I only know how to pan-fry whole fish as most Filipinos do, and steamed fish with soy sauce is now forbidden. I’ve set aside partaking on scrumptious beef and pork on an occasional basis now and on a limited amount or portion or  only when I’m on vacation.  I haven’t really had myself checked, but my doctor cleared me last year. I guess I’m due for another check-up anytime soon. I’m sure stress is also a factor, but that’s already woven in the culture and the city where I reside.

I found this recipe online while tapping on the types of food (never foods, please) I have to start eating and indulging myself into.  I haven’t had this in a long time; give or take 25 or so years. I ate Torta prepared by the household help and found hers too dry and plain. I know ketchup would have helped, but that was basically it. It was an omelette with ground meat inside.  Somehow, Torta became a Tortilla Espanola of Spanish descent turned into Filipino with all the pork and garlic cooked in the dish. I’m making it French, perfectly eaten alfresco and with a glass of wine. I turned the eggs into a crepe batter and made a grilled then mashed fresh tomato as condiment seasoned with fresh Thyme.

Ingredients:

  • Ground Chicken or Turkey
  • Garlic, minced to a paste
  • Onion, finely chopped
  • Mushrooms, finely chopped
  • Potatoes, boiled and diced
  • Thyme and Thyme Sprigs
  • Compound Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Paprika (Pimenton Picante)
  • White Wine
  • Chicken stock
  • Cornstarch/flour for coating
  • Lemon Juice
  • Salt & Pepper

Crepe:

  • Whole Wheat flour
  • Eggs
  • Condensed Milk
  • Canola Oil
  • Salt/Pepper

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil on a sauté pan and brown the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika or pimenton.  Set aside.

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Coat and season the ground chicken with cornstarch and flour.  Add more olive oil in the sauté pan and pan-fry until crisp. Set aside with the potatoes.

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Add another heap of olive oil in the sauté pan and sauté the onion and mushroom. Add some coarsely chopped Thyme followed by the minced garlic and a dab of compound butter. Deglaze with white wine, and dump the browned ground chicken and potatoes into the pan.  Continue stirring and pour a little chicken stock to prevent the meat from drying up. Squeeze some lemon juice and season to taste. Set aside.

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Season a non-stick pan and pour enough crepe/egg batter into the pan. Swirl the pan until the entire pan is covered with the batter mix and cook to low-medium heat. Flip the crepe and cook the other side until  brown spots start to appear. Do about two or three more crepes.

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Spoon a ground chicken mixture in the crepe and fold from both ends to form a roll.  Sprinkle with fresh Thyme (There are several ways of folding a crepe).

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Tagliatelle Bolognese

Let’s face it. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is probably one of the most popular types of Spaghetti ‘brand’ around. It’s almost always in kids and adults’ birthday parties. Ask yourselves if it weren’t true. It has become a tradition as eating Pancit or Lechon.  Furthermore, it’s in the menus of many if not all fastfood chains in Asia; but I strongly think it’s only in Asia.  I don’t understand the idea of mixing ham and hotdog though with the ground beef and sweetening it up for the Filipino Palate.  Anyway, if I had remembered correctly, when I opened a container of Spaghetti in one of these fastfood chains, I saw and tasted a sweet and diluted tomato ‘sauce’ and probably a teaspoon of very fine to mashed ‘ground meat’ somewhere.  However, that was more than a decade or so ago and recipe changes could have been made for that long a time.  I haven’t really eaten in any of those chains in a very, very long period of time. If I had, I would have just eaten the Fried Chicken and Gravy combo.

Call me a purist, but as a result of this major recipe adjustment in the Philippines, many ‘Spaghetti’ has been measured to this standard when it shouldn’t have been.When I had my mom tasted my tomato sauce, she wondered why it was not sweet. But honestly though, I had no idea how it was prepared until I saw and tasted an authentic Spaghetti and Meat Sauce dish  abroad, and when many other Italian-American inspired restaurants had begun popping out one after another in Manila.  When Food Channels exploded, I assumed everybody was awakened to the reality of many cooking and cooking techniques; Spaghetti or Pasta included. That was a good sign of progress.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce is one of the classical dish I’d really love to make for friends alongside Spaghetti & Meatballs. And, I want to eat, taste and see MEAT as it should always have been. However,  I just don’t want to use Spaghetti as my noodles and as commonly practiced,  but would also want to at least venture out with other kinds of pasta available in the market. This brought me to make this classical masterpiece. Before approaching this dish, I had to make some on-line research just to see if what I had in mind was actually was really served out there.  After much thought, I proceeded with preparing and making the recipe.  For health reasons though, I replaced the ground beef with ground chicken. The price on the package was too irresistible to let go, and I somewhat sidelined beef until after the holidays arrive, and honestly, I can’t wait for that.  Summer is just not my season.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 of a box of Tagliatelle Pasta
  • Olive Oil
  • ½ lb of Ground Chicken
  • 1 Italian Mild Sausage
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • ½ White Onion, Diced
  • Fresh Oregano, roughly chopped
  • Dried Oregano
  • Peperoncino (Crushed Chili Flakes)
  • ½ can of San Marzano Italian Type Tomatoes
  • Red wine
  • Cheese: Parmesan/Mozza/Cheddar
  • Salt & Crushed Ground Black Peppercorns
  • Squeeze of Lemon

Blend the can of San Marzano Tomatoes (using a blender) and reduce it by a 1/3 in a sauce pan.

While waiting for it to reduce, remove the casing from the Italian Sausage, and heat a sauté pan with Olive Oil.  Start browning the now grounded Italian Sausage.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

On the same pan, add some Olive Oil and brown the grounded chicken.  Do this step in batches if the pan is not big enough. Make sure to brown the ground meat properly (important).  Once done, remove from the pan and set it aside together with the grounded Italian Sausage.

Add some more oil in the pan if necessary and begin sautéing the onion and garlic.  Once the onion and garlic become aromatic, deglaze the pan with red wine.

Return the cooked ground chicken and Italian sausage back in the pan, stir several times and slowly add some tomato sauce to arrive to the desired consistency.  Season the pot with salt & pepper and with the fresh and dried herbs. Let it simmer for a good 20-30 minutes, depending on how much meat is in the pan. Add some pasta water along the way if the meat sauce becomes too dry.  Squeeze some lemon when it’s about to be done.

Start a pot of heavily salted water and cook the Tagliatelle pasta based on the instructions in the package.

Set the noodles on a plate, top with the meat sauce, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh oregano.

*I omitted Celery & Carrots from the aromatics. Originally, these can be sauted with the onion & garlic.