Albondigas (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

DSCF7685 (640x495) Isn’t it strange that a Filipino term for a Meatball is a soup bowl served with Chinese Vermicelli (a Misua)? I’ve asked a couple of my friends about Filipino meatballs and their basic and maybe only recollection of one is the popular ‘Misua.’  I had more or less the same reflection about Misua growing-up, and being served a meatball soup (in a bowl) as a starter.  Sometimes, these meatballs were eaten together with steamed rice and vegetables, and the Chinese Vermicelli with soup slurped with gusto and taken as the  starter. It’s an interesting food pair, but definitely of Filipino or Filipino-Chinese descent. Despite its oriental connotation, the term for the dish is definitely Spanish. I feel that’s the dish’s heritage. It’s Philippine history expressed on a bowl of soup (again, never soups, please), and just maybe, because of the need in those desperate era and times when the Spaniards were way above and beyond the food chain and were in command of the islands, a new ‘meatball’ dish  was reborn in the process.

Anyway, I extremely enjoyed preparing this dish. It’s a dish dating and going back from the Moors (as stated in the recipe) with ingredients like Cinnamon, Cumin and Nutmeg rolled and added with the ball and the sauce.  It is also considered as another kind of Tapas. Somehow, Albondigas crept through the Islands through Spain’s colonization of the Philippines.

I kept and stuck to the tradition of using Tomato Sauce for this blog, but before even doing that version, I’ve already prepared another  using wine or in wine sauce last year when I had fresh parsley on hand. Both were stand-out and star dishes.  I will present Albondigas in Tomato Sauce first.  I’ll start the other as soon as something comes up on top of my head that annoys me days on end and needs to be written down. It usually begins and ends that way when I write my blog (check my intro).

I must warn the readers though. This tomato sauce isn’t close to the Italian or Italian-American’s sour Tomato/Marinara Sauces nor the sweet and tangy Filipino Spaghetti/Tomato Sauce.  I would have taken these Albondigas with a glass of wine, but I already had my share for the New Year’s and I’ve already made a pact to myself to drink on an occasional basis only.

Ingredients:

  • Ground Pork
  • Garlic, minced
  • Onion, minced
  • Eggs (beaten)
  • French Loaf (soaked in water)
  • Olive oil
  • Nutmeg
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon
  • Ground Black Pepper & Sea Salt
  • Honey
  • Flour
  • Crushed Canned Tomatoes (I used Italian)

Combine the ground pork with garlic, onion, soaked French bread, beaten egg, cinnamon, cumin, ground black pepper and sea salt.  Form the ground pork into bite-size balls and roll into seasoned flour.

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Pan-fry each meatball in olive oil until golden brown. Transfer in a baking dish and finish them off in a low-medium pre-heated oven.

Saute  onion and garlic in the same pan (Add more olive oil if necessary).  Add the crushed tomatoes, honey and cinnamon and season further to taste.  Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes or have started to reduce and thicken.

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Remove the meatballs from the oven and transfer back into the pan with the sauce and serve in small plates.

I learned from Culinary School to soak the bread in milk or other milk products.  The French loaf was a leftover from the holidays, and a French bread itself has enough butter to add more flavor into the meatball.

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Grilled Chicken with Honey & Cumin

DSCF7389 (640x480)This should be the last dish on my on-going quest and love affair with ‘Tapas’.  Although, I would skip this entire topic for the meantime,  I may still blog topics related to it later on. It’s sort of my testing ground before I launch it out there, so to speak.

I’m still clearly hung-over by my vacation, and recently have been caught daydreaming about the next one. I always do. That short week is my only breather to a likewise routine and somewhat dull lifestyle. It’s all work, generally, and my form of play is only set once a week. Moreover, with things slowly gearing-up for Fall, I strongly feel that the next vacation won’t occur until late next year.  It’s all business from here on end as kids head back to school next month and parties begin to pop here and there.

Despite this setback, I feel my mind has been renewed and my taste buds have been awashed in newer and more delicate approach to food with recent trips abroad. Indeed, travel does change a cook’s perspective. I’m no exception.  I need this annual vacation to re-introduce myself to what’s already out there into, at least, something quite obvious, but also called ‘new’ in some respects. I believe it’s all perception, but it’s a  very deceiving one. This dish fits the description. The ingredients are available almost anywhere, but the intelligent and flavourful combination of spices made the long wait worthwhile. The quality of the olive oil and sherry vinegar would really make  this dish stand out.  My olive oil was less of an ordinary. I bumped up the spices to wake my senses more.

The flavours, after having it the second time around,  hinted Inasal or some form of Adobo without the Soy Sauce and onions.  It’s a a melee of sweet and sour taste with a touch of pungency; making it more inviting to the senses.

The breast can also be seared on a pan (which I did the first time) and the pan deglazed with the Sherry Vinegar (or wine) before proceeding.  This procedure had more impact, but the smoke from the charcoal from grilling (if I had used one) would also create something extraordinary.

Ingedients:

  • Chicken Breast
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Honey
  • Ground Cumin
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Garlic, minced to a paste
  • Chicken Stock

Season the chicken breast with salt, ground black pepper, olive oil and Paprika and set aside.

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Heat a pan at low heat with olive oil and sauté the garlic until aromatic.  Add the Sherry Vinegar, Cumin, Honey, and Chicken Stock and simmer until all  flavours blend together. Adjust the consistency and taste of the sauce by adding said ingredients as necessary, and prepare enough for the baste and the sauce.  Set aside to cool.

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Pour some of the sauce over the chicken breast and marinate overnight.

Season the grill or grill pan with oil and cross the chicken breast on all sides. Baste the breast while grilling  to prevent from drying. Transfer in a roasting pan and finish it off in the oven.  Tent with a tin foil to rest when done.

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Chop the breast in bite size pieces, and transfer in a ‘Cazuela’. Drizzle with the leftover sauce.  Sprinkle more salt and pepper and/or with Pimenton Dulce (Optional).

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Tortilla Espanola (Potato & Onion Omelette)

DSCF7360 (640x494)Eggs and rice are a perfect combination as to eggs and potatoes. I didn’t particularly enjoy eating fresh potatoes as a child, but when a fastfood chain burst into the scene in the now very modern Makati Business District back in the ’80’s serving up french fries, I, together with my sister and brother, joined the bandwagon. If I’d remember correctly, my classmates (from Grade 6) and I would walk out of the very trendy Dasmarinas Village just to catch these deep-fried deliciousness. That chain was the first of many and it was thronged by people from all walks of life. Sachets of catsup was still overflowing from the condiment stand, unlike these days when it’s only given when asked. From then on, potatoes almost always connote to fries and basically to nothing else.

I further learned to appreciate ‘the potato’ when I had to turn it around (recycle) three to four times just to save on food cost.  It is that versatile and a little twist here and there would make a spectacular meal in itself.  I can’t cook a complete meal  without having them in-stock, whether processed or fresh.  It’s done in less than an hour and frozen fries work as a quick side, although it can be unhealthy when eaten everyday.

I became more aware of the potato’s versatility when I did eggs and crepes for a living for five years.  I discovered the booming breakfast and brunch scene and to keep up with the line of experienced cooks (cooking all their lives and I was just starting). I had to buy a sack of taters and a case of eggs to test my skill level at home.  I made them from scratch together with the many other omelettes the restaurant had served. It was that competitive. I stopped and paused from eating eggs and potatoes for several years after that on and off line experience.

I rediscovered eggs and potatoes in my recent trip to Madrid. These omelette  and potato combination make it all the more filling and satisfying.  They made them double the amount in comparison to what I made here, making it look fluffier and bigger upfront. I made this one with just three eggs on a small non-grease pan, and it fed me twice.

Ingredients:

  • Eggs
  • Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • Spanish Onion, minced
  • Oregano
  • Pimenton Picante
  • Sea Salt & Ground Black Pepper

Slice the potatoes into thin rings and boil until tender, but not breaking apart. Set aside to cool and place it in the fridge.

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Crack three eggs (or as desired) and combine the spices, herbs and minced onions. Gently fold the potatoes into the eggs and season further.

Heat a non-stick pan at low-medium heat and pour the mixture in; adjusting the ends to form a perfect circle. Flip and wait until the aside is cooked (@low heat).  Flipped once more and transfer into a plate. Cut into serving sizes.

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Garlic Chicken (Pollo Al Ajillo)

DSCF7338 (640x480)Sherry Vinegar does wonders. I can’t fully describe the taste, but it’s somewhere between a strong, semi-sweet and tangy Filipino Vinegar from the north and a light balsamic vinegar from Europe.  Just like a Filipino vinegar, it matches perfectly well with garlic and olive oil (or regular oil) . Finding a fine, aged Sherry vinegar was one of my goals while I was in Madrid. I went to their supermarkets and surprisingly didn’t find one either,  but I was fortunate enough to find one in a small fruit and vegetable stand just beside my hotel which really sold for cheap. I grabbed it immediately thereafter. I also searched the aisles of supermarkets here in Toronto and couldn’t really spot one. All there were was Italian or Greek. I haven’t really gone to the Latin side of town and ask due to time constraints. There was always something coming up that turned this agenda from weeks to months and maybe to even never. I really couldn’t tell and have scratched it altogether.

Like I mentioned in my previous post, my eating habits for the last week or so have been altered.  Small, light meals have become norm, well, lately, and the search for classic ‘Tapas’ still beckons. This one is of no exception. I was so eager to try my Sherry Vinegar for this particular recipe and was not disappointed.  I bought a couple of chicken breast, seasoned and marinated them and proceeded based on the recipe (having a ‘Tapas’ cookbook at hand, as guide).  I changed the procedure, of course, according to my liking.

Ingredients:

  • Boneless Chicken Breast
  • Olive oil
  • Chicken Stock
  • Paprika
  • Garlic, minced to a paste
  • Fresh Thyme, chopped
  • Bay Leaves
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • Pimenton Picante

Marinate the chicken breast with paprika, olive oil and salt & pepper overnight.

Leave the breast at room temperature and pre-heat the sauté pan.  Sear the breasts on both sides until golden brown, transfer into a roasting pan, and finish them off in a pre-heated 350’C oven.  Let them rest when done.

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Meanwhile, remove the pan from the heat. Add the garlic (preventing it from burning and turning brown, as Filipinos love them), deglaze with the Sherry Vinegar, followed by the stock, Bay leaves and fresh Thyme. Reduce to simmer or until all the flavours incorporate.  Sprinkle with Pimenton Picante and/or add more garlic, olive oil, stock, vinegar and herbs if necessary and repeat the process, at a very low heat. Discard the Bay Leaves when the appropriate consistency is achieved

Chop the breast into bite size pieces. Transfer into a ‘Cazuela’ and pour the sauce over. Garnish with fresh Thyme.

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Huevos Rotos Con Chorizo

DSCF7320 (640x494)I’ve finally returned to the somewhat unpleasant fact of reality called life.  Honestly, I’m so glad I’m back. Nothing replaces the norms of life called work despite some of the setbacks and unforeseen problems encountered everyday. That’s a true sense of being alive and attached to a welcoming society I know and I’ve grown to live with. Although I wouldn’t mind staying a few more weeks in Europe, it isn’t home and there’s that almost uncomfortable feeling of detachment as the days of my vacation dragged on.  My boss felt the same when he had his vacay last Spring, and I’m sure many travellers who have grown to live and work in a modern, fast-pace, first-world society would understand what I am referring to. Everything is nearly the same everywhere, except maybe for the sights, the culture, and the food for which travel was created for man to savour.  That’s the biggest FUN of travel, and basically, that’s what I’m after every time I venture out to the unknown. Discover, learn, and interact with the locals.  It makes me stronger and more independent in the process.

The taste of the ‘Tapas’ I tasted through the course of the week I was gone still lingers in my tongue. My eating habits have changed subconsciously; eating smaller meals during the day (specially on my days-off), and adding more potatoes and eggs into my diet.  Rice is still a staple, of course, and steamed rice and Pork Sinigang were my first meal upon my return.  After that, I reverted to eating small portions of either noodles or snack size meals about five times a day, and nothing really as heavy as before. A bowl of steamed rice is still included in one of those portions. A potent mixture of cheap red wine, orange juice and Cointure is also missed specially during the hot summer months there. That has been included as well.

Anyway, I had this particular ‘Tapas’ on my first afternoon in Madrid. It’s a simple dish of potatoes, chorizo and egg. I had it with Iberico Ham and a glass of white and fell asleep thereafter. It was set on the cold display case and was just warmed upon order.  I was tired after a long trip across the Atlantic. I did mine differently.

This dish has the similarities of a hash in North America without the cheese, bacon, and the heavy sauces usually seen in American cooking. The grill plays an integral part in preparing this dish, although a couple of non-stick sauté pans would work. Cheese is or was, in my case, served beforehand (in my fave Tapas Bar, free of charge)  or as a separate order if the particular cheese is an expensive type.

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • White Potatoes, diced
  • Chorizo, used Portuguese, diced
  • An egg, cooked sunny side or as desired
  • Sliced Crusty Bread
  • Pimenton Picante

Dice the potatoes and blanch in rapid, salted boiling water until cooked through ( but not mashed or falling apart).  Set aside in the fridge overnight.

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Drizzle some olive oil in the sauté pan and pan-fry the Chorizos. Set aside. Add a little more oil and pan-fry the diced potatoes. Sprinkle generously with Pimenton Picante.

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Set the potatoes on a ‘Cazuela’ followed by the cooked Chorizos. Fry an egg as desired and set it atop. Season with salt and pepper, olive oil or with Oregano (optional).

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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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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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