Friday, February 29, 2008

Calamares Fritos Recipe

Calamares is one of the country's most famous dishes, either with rice or with ice cold beer, as pulutan that is. It is also one of the easier Filipino dishes to cook. Perhaps this explains the increasing popularity of street vendors selling calamares nowadays. To those, however, who are squeamish about street food, the deliciously tempting aroma of calamares cooking in the hot oil can be sheer torture, just ask my mom.

That is why we make our own. Here's my recipe:

Calamares Fritos

Ingredients:

1/2 kilo medium-sized squid
for dredging:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
for the batter:
1 egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup very cold water

Cooking oil for deep frying

Procedure:

Clean squid and remove insides and ink, leaving only the body and tentacles. Cut squid horizontally, to create about 1/4 inch rings.

Beat egg and blend in flour. Add very cold water and stir until batter is smooth.

Combine dry ingredients for dredging- flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the squid in the seasoned flour. Use a covered container or a plastic bag to make sure squid is covered well.

Using chopsticks to prevent the flour and batter from clumping, dip floured squid into the cold batter and deep fry in hot oil. Do not overcook to keep squid tender, about one minute or just when the batter turns crispy.


Dip suggestions:

Combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise with desired amount of tomato/banana ketchup, mustard, minced fresh garlic, or wasabi.

Notes for crunchier Calamares:

Use very cold water in your batter. You may adjust the amount of water in the batter but in no case should it resemble hotcake batter. The batter should have the consistency of crepe batter, not thick. Only put in the battered squid in very hot oil. You will know if the oil is hot enough when smoke starts to develop from the sides of the pan. Or try dropping a little batter in the water, if it sizzles and the batter floats to the surface as soon as it hits the oil, then it is hot enough. If the batter sinks without any event, the oil is not ready.

Double fry your calamares. After you fry your calamares for the first time, let it rest for a few minutes. During this resting period, the once crispy calamares will soften a little. To seal in the crispiness, fry the calamares for the second time for a few seconds until the crust turns crispy again. This process will help seal in the crispiness of your calamares helping it remain crispy longer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Beignet by Gumbo

I love love love beignet. Beignet has French origins but is often associated with New Orleans- think Soul Food, think Jambalaya(!). It has different varieties-- both savory and sweet-- but is typically a deep-fried dough dusted generously with powdered sugar. It is a delightfully soft yet chewy and lightly sweet pastry, how I imagine eating a cloud might be.

I first tasted beignet in Gumbo at SM Mall of Asia. Gumbo is one of my family's favorite places to go to when celebrating a special event. A visit at one of their branches will immediately convince you why. It is a fun place to be in with its wonderfully avant garde interior, amazing menu (yes, they serve more than just beignet), and festive music (punctuated by the periodical and sometimes startling holler of "WOH! Jambalaya!" by the kitchen crew). Plus, the service is top rate with waiters anticipating your every need and they are-- quite impressively, I must say-- always in their best spirits. If you are celebrating a birthday, expect an in-house birthday greeting of mardi gras proportions complete with the outlandish hats and pink-feathered headdresses (guaranteed not for the faint at heart).

Get your beignet hot and fresh-- the only way to eat beignet-- at Gumbo in SM City North EDSA, SM Mall of Asia, or Robinson's Place Ermita.


Related articles:
Surf 'n' Turf @ Gumbo's
Beignet by New Orleans

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tweaking the Bolognese Sauce Recipe

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Bolognese pasta sauce recipe I snapped up from an O magazine. Let's admit it, the recipe looks awfully intimidating to carry out. But really, when you get past the thought of it taking four hours to make, cooking it is child's play. The best part of it is that you will not get crucified by your siblings when you make them wait for dinner until 11 p.m. on the promise that they will have the best spaghetti they will ever taste in their entire life.

I'd been meaning to try the Bolognese recipe ever since I got it but I guess I was waiting for an occasion special enough that's worth slaving away in the kitchen for four hours for. The family event two days ago, fell in that "special occasion" category so right after work, I drove straight to the supermarket to do some grocery shopping. Having thought about making the dish on the fly, I did not have the foresight to print out the recipe so I had to go online with my 3G phone to get it. It's a good thing nowadays, people no longer look at you funny when you're staring at your cellphone while you push around a shopping cart in the grocery.

Although SM supermarket's grocery selections is pretty substantial, you don't see much of ingredients that up to now you only get from gourmet specialty stores and delis. Like pancetta. I have never seen pancetta in any SM supermarket I'd been to. (I am not sure about Makati supermarket in Alabang though. Makati supermarket has a good selection of Santis Deli goods-- sausages, cold cuts, cheeses-- in their chiller.)

As substitute for pancetta, I got Purefoods honeycured bacon. I wasn't able to find allspice either. I decided to just skip that altogether. Although I did get the Hunt's diced tomatoes with garlic, basil, and oregano. I thought that should take care of the spice/flavors called for in the recipe. The Hunt's can, by the way, contains only 14.5 ounces of diced tomatoes, .5 ounces short, so I decided to add a small can of tomato paste into the sauce. Instead of parmigiano-reggiano, I got good old reliable parmesan cheese. I didn't want to use the dry grated parmesan cheese you normally get in the cylinders so I got some freshly grated parmesan cheese by Millel. It comes in this ingenious seal lock bag that keeps the cheese in tiptop condition in the fridge. I didn't want to buy a new bottle of dry wine because I had an open bottle of red wine in the fridge, left over from the filet mignon lunch I prepared for the family. Remembering a suggestion in my comment box before, I thought about thinning out the bitterness, and at the same time adding to the sweetness of, the red wine by combining 3/4 cup of red wine and 1/4 cup orange juice to substitute for the white wine called for in the original recipe. What orange juice, you ask? Tang! What did I tell you about child's play, huh?

I truly believe good cooking is about having fun and improvising is a part of it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Buttered Prawns Recipe

My family and I love to go to the palutuan restaurants at Seaside in Macapagal Boulevard, Pasay City. We normally go there to celebrate events... or even non-events-- sometimes having dinner there is THE event. You can order from their menu for a more relaxing meal or if you want to do your own shopping in the market outside for one reason of another, that is great, too. Seaside's market offers the best and freshest selection of seafood you can imagine. The trick there is in the picking and of course, haggling.

Our favorite resto there is Shylin. I think they have about three branches there. I guess we are not the only ones that likes their food. One of my personal favorites in their menu is the buttered shrimps. I first tasted this dish in Shylin's sister palutuan restaurant at Dampa in Paranaque City. It was excellent. Whenever we order buttered shrimps, I am the one who always end up with the plate with a mountain of shrimp peels. I have gotten pretty good at peeling shrimps with a fork and spoon, thanks to this addictive dish.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce at Figaro

Whenever I visit Figaro, I never fail to order Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce. (Really. Even when I tell myself that I will try something new for a change, I still end up ordering the same thing. I am a creature of habit, what can I do?) This photo was taken during one those visits. It was a cold and stormy night and the drive home was getting harder and harder by the minute that Robin and I decided to stop for a while, have a cup of coffee, and wait for the weather to get better.

Along with my coffee, I ordered bread pudding, of course. One bite, along with a sip of my coffee, instantly gave me the warmth I needed. Needless to say, this is one of my most favorite comfort foods.

I must admit though that it wasn't love at first sight, it looks very plain in the glass showcase after all. But, I tell you, once it is warmed in the oven and draped with that rich rich vanilla sauce, it transforms completely. It is heartmeltingly good with a cup of Figaro's hot white mocha.

Slow down, my beating heart, my grumbling stomach...

Monday, February 18, 2008

Make your own chocolate fondue at home

One slow Saturday night, me (not without my very vocal objections over the choice of flick), my sister and Robin agreed to watch Alien vs. Predator on DVD. And to kick the excitement up a notch, we decided to have chocolate fondue- we thought snacking on speared food morsels dunked into ooey gooey dark chocolate while we watched bloodthirsty monsters try to rip each other's (and hapless townspeople's) guts out would be such a trip.

It was very easy because we had everything we needed in the fridge- all we had to do was to cut some of them up into manageable little pieces and arrange everything in a platter. We had a container of 3-day old strawberries (we had to weed out the ones starting to develop mold, but the rest was A-ok). We had butter cake (left-over from the wedding cake, a little dry but still edible). We had marshmallows (what was left of Robin's stash that he had been munching on for the last 5 days). We had bananas (the latundan kind, fresh ones!). We had prunes (not a good idea. But it photographed well in the platter). We had Toblerone and we had cream.

We fired up the cast iron fondue pot (we didn't have denatured alcohol but we did have a
lot of tea lights) popped in about 5 blocks of Toblerone, stirred in some cream into the chocolate once it melted, and off we went to watch err... bloodthirsty monsters try to rip each other's (and hapless townspeople's) guts out. Wonderful.

Although my sister and Robin were in agreement that I drained the fun out of watching the movie by making snide comments in between chocolate dips, our little fondue adventure was quite fun. I'd love to do that again. Maybe next time though they'd let me choose the movie.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I found bags of Nestle Tollhouse milk chocolate chips in the grocery a week ago but I never got around to using them, which isn't normal. See, finding chocolate chips different from the ordinary semi-sweet kind is always exciting for me and every new discovery usually throws me into a cookie baking frenzy almost instantly.

Yesterday, I finally found the time to make a batch of cookies. I didn't want to use the recipe I ordinarily use with semi-sweet chocolate chips so I did a little research for a new recipe that particularly calls for milk chocolate chips. There were quite a few recipes and I discovered a lot of interesting variations.

Below is the recipe I used (I adapted this recipe from the original one I found). The cookies came out wonderfully chewy on the inside and mildly crisp on the outside. I think this recipe may be a keeper.

I am having a couple of them now for breakfast along with my green tea. Sunday is TV marathon day (Eureka is this Sunday's feature) so breakfast may take a while. Good thing I have great cookies.

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups oatmeal (blended into a fine powder)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts

Procedure:
Cream together butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla. Mix together flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Drop 1” balls on ungreased cookie sheets, two inches apart, and bake at 375° F for 6-8 minutes. Makes approximately 25 cookies.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Experience Fondues and more at Old Swiss Inn

Waatlander Fondue
If you are still racking your brains out for a place to bring your special someone for a quiet and romantic Valentines dinner tonight, you might want to try the Swiss Inn in Alabang. You can't go wrong with its classy yet cozy ambiance and wonderfully courteous and prompt service. More importantly, their menu will most definitely satisfy the most discerning palate. And when you're out to impress a date, that will come in quite handy.

Fondue Bourguignonne
When I first had dinner here, I was a tad apprehensive. I was terribly hungry that night and our hosts ordered fondues and nothing else. I thought, how on earth will I satisfy my hunger with tiny cubes of meat and bread? I was already mapping out the other restaurants in the vicinity in the event that I am forced to go home still hungry. So you can understand my surprise when I actually did get full that night. Not to mention I actually enjoyed my maiden voyage into the wonderful world of fondues.

Zurich Geschnetzeltes
The fondues of Old Swiss Inn are guaranteed to make your dining experience a memorable one. An order of their fondue is good for at least two people, great for sharing. When they offered their eat-all-you-can fondue a while back (word is, they are bringing this promo back this month of February) at about Php1000 per head, Robin and I practically jumped at the chance and satisfied our inner glutton. The set composed of three fondues- Waatlander Fondue, Fondue Bourguignonne, and Toblerone Fondue. On a normal day, these three fondues can keep up to five people happy.

Corned Beef
The main courses start at Php310. Just a tip though, if you plan to go tonight, call for a reservation. We did. ;-) Choose from the following locations: The Old Swiss Inn at The Garden Plaza Hotel and Suites, 1030 Belen St., Paco Manila (tel. 5213002, 5262739, 5224835 loc 115); at the G/F, Somerset Olympia, Makati Avenue cor. Sto Tomas St., Makati City (tel. 8188251, 8180098, 8121010 locals 511 to 512); and at the 2/F BMW Autozentrum Lounge, Commerce Avenue cor. Madrigal Avenue, Ayala Alabang (tel. 8092326).


Happy Valentines Day, everyone!


*Thanks to Robin for the wonderful pictures in this post

Beard Papa's Sylvanas

Beard Papa's, my favorite purveyor of fantastic creampuffs, now makes sylvanas. I just had one earlier for merienda in Greenhills Promenade along with a cup of Beard Papa's all natural ice tea (refreshing!). These sylvanas are bigger than your usual polvoron-size sylvanas, about the size of a hockeypuck. They are also airier and chewier. These sweet treats definitely won me over. I enjoyed these "giant" sylvanas so much I took a bite out of it every two seconds.

Beard Papa's sylvanas are available at Bear Papa's Greenhills Promenade for sure, but it is likely that they have them in all their branches (e.g. SM north, SM Mall of Asia, Glorietta). They also have them in strawberry flavor which are appropriately pink in color. Quite pretty and may prove to be great Valentine's gifts. At Php25 per piece, these sylvanas are a great deal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Luscious Chocolate

I had this sinfully rich chocolate dessert at Cafe on the Ridge at the Tagaytay Vista Hotel. We ordered brewed coffee and I was in the mood for something sweet and comforting that cold afternoon. We waited for about thirty minutes for my dessert and when I followed up my order, the waitress apologized for the delay and promised to serve it in ten minutes. The chocolate cake, she explained, err... "erupted"... in a manner of speaking in the course of the baking process. They had to start over.

View of the Taal Lake from Taal Vista Hotel

It was the hotel's signature dessert, unfortunately, I forgot what it's called. Chocolate lava cake, I think.... What I cannot forget though is the warm luscious chocolate that oozed out of the fresh out of the oven chocolate cake, a perfect contrast to accompanying scoop of vanilla ice cream. This sweet duo was drizzled with raspberry syrup which added a tangy kick. Oh, what a treat it was. Try it, I promise, it is worth going all the way south for.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Catered Food

My mom is pretty good cook and with a couple of assistants, she can pretty much prepare a feast for twenty people. But when you're inviting a hundred guests or more or if you find preparing for a party altogether unnerving, catering is the way to go. Some restaurants can be too small to accommodate a big crowd or can get too expensive. Fortunately, any caterer nowadays can take care of not only the food but can also provide the tables and chairs, tableware, and even the waiters. All you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy your party.

Last January 13, we threw a party for 150 people and for Php250 per head, Casa Iluminada catering took care of everything. The service was very good and the food was great. The shutterbug in me cannot help but take pictures of all the glorious food. Mouthwatering memories...

Pot Roast

Fish Fillet

Pork with Crabmeat

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chopsuey

Contact Casa Iluminada Catering at (046) 417-3245 or (046) 571-9390

Friday, February 8, 2008

Filet Mignon Recipe

My mom was able to get me beef tenderloin from the market the other day. Tenderloin is extremely hard to get and hence could get very pricey in the supermarket. My mom, the absolute palengke nut is very good with getting these things from the wet market where she gets them fresh and cheap. So the next time you can't find tenderloin in the supermarket, you might want to consider going old school and visit your friendly neighborhood wet market. What you find there might surprise you.

Of course with good meat comes good eats. Right now I am searching the web for quick and easy recipes of filet mignon for tonight's dinner, below is the recipe that won out (from the foodnetwork):

Filet Mignon with Red Wine Sauce
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

6 (4 to 6-ounce) filet mignons
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 1/2 cups dry red wine

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

Generously season the steaks with salt and pepper and drizzle with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Grill to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a cutting board. Tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the wine. Simmer until the sauce reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Strain the sauce into a small bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids in the strainer and return the sauce to the saucepan and bring back to a slow simmer. Cut the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into small 1/2-inch chunks and whisk in the sauce a little at a time. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Place filets on each of 6 dinner plates. Drizzle the sauce over the filets and serve.

*Filet mignon image from here.
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