Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eaters Wanted!

image by Keith Bacongco

We want eaters, mind you, shove-food-into-one's-face eaters, not polite diners.

We have been chosen to participate in Foodbuzz's 24, 24, 24 event and my, do we have some feast planned for tonight. Upon learning that our guest list was going to be smaller this year, we had to call more people to attend!

There is just going to be so much food.

Stay tuned.

image by strandedwahine

Here's the feast!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Dinner 2008

Santa welcomes you.

This dinner almost didn't happen.

Well, it almost didn't happen in this scale. We had planned to have a get-together at our house but we were getting semi-cancellations about 2 days beforehand because of the snow here in Vancouver. So, we were set to have a dinner at home ourselves, especially when there was new snow falling on the 24th! However, that snow turned "rainy" and by Christmas morning, the semi-cancellations were themselves cancelled and the party was on!


Dry-Brined Roast Turkey
w/ Turkey Gravy
w/ Cranberry Sauce

Ham with Sweet Glaze

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Garlic Bread
Mashed Potatoes
Mesclun Greens w/ Dried Cranberries & Balsamic Vinaigrette
Cabbage with Corned Beef
Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) w/ Oyster Sauce
Pesto Pasta with Shrimp
Philippine Chicken Macaroni Salad

The Proteins

Dry-Brined Roast Turkey
Served with homemade gravy and cranberry sauce. This is our first-ever turkey and we do have a lot to say on the topic! Read all about it here.

Ham with Sweet Glaze
We didn't make this ourselves... it was {muffled}. It was store-bought! (Gasp!). Still tasty, though.

Well, the ham did take 3 hours in the oven -- so every minute that it was using up our gas, it's kind of like we were "cooking" it. ;)

Moroccan Chicken Tagine
I'm sorry, but I can't seem to make this dish look good in pictures! But, like before, it was mighty tasty. This is pure flavor in a pot. See our post with recipe.

The Sides

Garlic Bread and Mashed Potatoes

Mesclun Greens with Dried Cranberries and Balsamic Vinaigrette
This is our "house" salad and it's always popular (seen here before).

Cabbage with Corned Beef
This is a Philippine or Filipino-Chinese home-style dish. Simply sauté some onions and corned beef in a pan and add your cabbage. Cook until the cabbage is soft.

Oh, by the way, by corned beef, we mean canned corned beef. We from the Philippines do love our Spam and corned beef.

Gailan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce
A 3-ingredient wonder of a dish. See our gailan post.

And finally, these 2 dishes were brought over by the B -- of the B's Hong Ba (Red-Braised Pork Hock) fame -- and his wife.

Pesto Pasta with Shrimp
Simple and delicious. Thanks, the B's wife!

Philippine Chicken Macaroni Salad
This had minced carrots, chopped pineapples, macaroni and shredded chicken all combined with mayonnaise. A classic Philippine dish, one we haven't had in a very long time! This is especially good eaten with the ham. Thanks, the B!

The Buffet

We consider these 2 items great early Christmas gifts, having received them early in December.

Thanks to Ben of What's Cooking for the book on tapas

and to

Jen of The Leftover Queen and the Royal Food Joust for the apron!

Christmas Dinner 2008 on a plate
clockwise from top: mesclun greens, Moroccan chicken, cranberry sauce, roast turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, gailan (Chinese broccoli), cabbage w/ corned beef, ham, garlic bread, chicken macaroni salad, and finally, below the greens, pesto pasta w/ shrimp.

Now, we just have to worry about our New Year's Eve feast!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Caribbean "Fish n' (Banana) Chips"

This edition of the Royal Food Joust has a Caribbean theme!

What good timing. There has been a ton of snow for the past week, very unusual for Vancouver. Our "snow" usually becomes liquid as soon as it touches the ground. But this time, there may be around one and a half feet of snow! The snow made a lot of things difficult, especially for my feet which had to get and stay wet for several hours everytime I went out (seeing as I don't have winter boots because it doesn't snow in Vancouver!).

(And now, after thinking that the snow has stopped -- no snow yesterday, and snow already on the ground melting -- it is snowing again right now, as I'm typing!)

But, I digress. The winner of this Joust will be receiving a copy of Cynthia's cookbook, My Caribbean Cookbook: Tastes Like Home. The ingredients are coconut (or coconut milk), rice and banana/plantain.

We don't really know much about Caribbean food, save making jerk chicken now and again. We were a little stuck on this one. Finally, we thought to put an "island" spin on a traditional English favorite.

For this Royal Food Joust, we bring you Fish n' Chips. Actually, that's Caribbean "Fish n' (Banana) Chips"! (Told you I love using quotations marks: here, here, here, here.)

We have Caribbean-spiced rice flour-battered fish, banana "chips", and a coconut-lime tartar sauce.

Coconut-Lime Tartar Sauce

We start with the easiest component. For this sauce, we used approximately half mayonnaise and half coconut milk. We added chopped pickles, lime zest and lime juice.

Caribbean-spiced Battered Fish

We used rice flour for the batter. Our "Caribbean" flavorings included allspice, dried thyme, black pepper, salt and chili flakes. I added enough water to make it a batter consistency. To the fryer!

Ordinarily, tilapia would not be our first choice. My preferred way of eating tilapia is grilled whole and I was suspicious of tilapia already filleted.

We wanted to get cod fillets, but the cod available on our shopping day looked too raggedy for use. Plus, TS smelled them and they didn't smell all that fresh.

We also looked at the snapper fillets, snapper being a fleshier fish than tilapia, but they looked raggedy as well.

The tilapia was the best-smelling of them all. As in, they didn't smell fishy at all.

The rice flour batter made the fish fillets über-crispy!

Banana "Chips"

The real star of the dish are the banana chips. Which is interesting because we thought bananas were going to be our downfall.

Now, we had some problems with the banana as well.

When we were bouncing off ideas for our Joust entry, we knew we wanted to go savoury this month. We know we had to overcome what we now call as the "nam-nam" nature of the banana.

Ripe bananas are too nam-nam: when we bite into one, it will just engulf all our mouths in a kind of cottony, slightly gluey, very ripe sweetness. Delicious as a snack, of course, but in a savoury dish, we don't know how we could overcome it.

left: bananas as unripe as possible (it was greener in real life)
right: bananas sprinkled with ground coriander, paprika, salt & pepper

The only times that bananas are not "nam-nam" are when they are unripe or as banana chips.

Chips, you say, eh? That's when we decided to play with the traditional fish and chips concept.

Oh, unripe bananas are just plain weird. The word in Tagalog is "mapakla," and unfortunately, I have yet to find an English word that comes close to describing the taste sensation of the unripe banana. It's slightly bitter, slightly bland -- I don't know -- it's just plain weird.

But, I thought that having bananas as unripe as possible would be the best way to go for our "chips" (and I mean that in the chips=fries way, not the crisps=chips way), like unripe plaintains.

Forgive the long segue.

We tried cutting the bananas several ways. We went more like the normal shape for dehydrated banana chips but found it just couldn't hold up to the fryer.

Finally, we just settled to halve the banana vertically in the hopes that it will retain its shape better. We sprinkled ground coriander, paprika, salt and pepper. We didn't want to coat it in batter first because we thought then it would be like the fish.

But coating the bananas was definitely the way to go. The bananas were super crispy, salty-spicy on the outside and soft-sweet on the inside.

On the right is a plated version of the dish and on the left is the version wrapped in a newspaper cone.

For a third-choice fish, the tilapia turned out pretty well. The rice flour batter really crisped them up, and the inside was nicely white and tender.

My only complaint was that it wasn't fleshy enough à la traditional fish and chips -- and, erm, well, it's tilapia. When doing tilapia, the best way really is to have it whole and grilled. That brings out the deliciousness of the fish. Any other way it seems to me just gives ammunition to all the tilapia naysayers out there. Unfortunate, I say.

Of course, I loved our banana "chips"!

Frying the bananas got rid of the nam-nam-ness: instead of gluey sweet, the bananas turned almost-gooey-meltingly sweet. I loved the spicy, salty spices in the batter and I loved the crispiness of the "chip" too!

The coconut-lime tartar sauce was good on both the fish and the banana chips.

The whole is yum-yum.


Coconut-Lime Tartar Sauce
Makes approximately 1 cup

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped pickles/cornichons
zest & juice of half a lime

Combine all ingredients. Set aside.

Banana "Chips"
unripe bananas
rice flour
salt & pepper
ground coriander

Slice unripe bananas lengthwise.

Make a batter by mixing rice flour and seasonings/spices. (Adjust the amount of seasonings/spices to your taste.) Whisk in enough water to make a batter-like consistency (a little thinner than pancake batter).

Heat oil in a large pan. Coat the bananas in batter and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels when done.

Caribbean-spiced Battered Fish
white, firm-fleshed fish fillets (cod, halibut, or even tilapia)
rice flour
dried thyme
chili flakes
ground allspice
salt & pepper

Make a batter by mixing the rice flour and seasonings/herbs/spices. Adjust the amount of seasonings according to your taste. Whisk in enough water to make a batter-like consistency (a little thinner than pancake batter).

Heat oil over medium/medium-low heat in a large pan. Coat the fish fillets in batter and fry in batches until golden brown. Drain on paper towels when done.

Serve Caribbean-spiced Battered Fish and Banana "Chips" with Coconut-Lime Tartar Sauce and lime wedges.

This is our entry to the Royal Food Joust (created by The Leftover Queen).

[eatingclub] vancouver Royal Food Joust posts:
Dimsum Seafood Trio: Black Pearl Toast, Scallop in Nest, Jewelled Rice Cup
Cream of Fennel Soup with Parsey Oil
Ginger-Guava Jam
Lime-Marinated Pork Skewers with Ginger-Guava Jam and Five-Grain Rice
Soy Pudding Parfait with Orange-Ginger Syrup and "Streusel" Brittle
Squash Churros with Orange-Sage Hot Chocolate
Coffee Pancakes with Honey Ricotta and Black Pepper & Coffee-Crusted Bacon
Caribbean "Fish & (Banana) Chips"
Steelhead Trout and Enoki Mushrooms with Wasabi Cream Sauce

eatingclub banana
Boiled Saba (Burro Banana) with Condensed Milk
Caribbean "Fish n' (Banana) Chips"
Turon (Philippine Banana Spring Roll)
Minatamis na Saba (Philippine Boiled Saba Banana)

We're submitting this to Culinarty's Original Recipes.

More information here.
The Round-ups here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

All glass-blown ornaments made by TS, circa 2005.

From our neck of the woods, we would like to greet everybody a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hope you all have a good one!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sweet Soy Pork with Potato Chips

This is an Indonesian-inspired dish from Jaden's upcoming Steamy Kitchen cookbook.

It's ground pork cooked with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and served with potato chips. Potato chips! Genius.

I felt the same curiosity and surprise when I first heard about lomo saltado, a Peruvian beef stir-fry with French fries, and thit bo xao voi khoai tay chien, a Vietnamese beef stir-fry also with French fries.

In this case, I tried "oven-frying" the chips, but they didn't turn out too crisp. They were more like round fries than chips. As with the two stir-fries mentioned, we, of course, enjoyed this dish with white rice.

Lomo Saltado & Thit Bo Xao Voi Khoai Tay Chien info
at Wandering Chopsticks
at Tasty Meals at Home

Posts featuring recipes tested from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen cookbook:
Tea-smoked Salmon Sandwich with Sweet Dijon Mustard
Shrimp Chips with Five-Spice Beef
Kimchi Fried Rice, an addiction
Crispy Tofu with Sweet Chili Soy Sauce
Sweet Soy Pork with Potato Chips

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tex-Mex Casserole

Every time I flip through magazines, I would see these recipes for "casseroles."

In all such articles, which on closer look turn out to be advertisements for well-known national brands (Kraft, Campbells et al), casseroles are touted as the working mother's mealsavers, something that she could put on the table in a jiffy and cheaply to feed her hungry tots.

I've always been skeptical of those promises. Having grown up in a casserole-less culture, I would look at the pictures with suspicion, not quite believing that it would indeed be as healthy and delicious as the pictures make them appear to be. Because you know how advertisers are always truthful.

When I read the recipes, I would be even more suspicious, because they seem to rely too much on already processed ingredients.

How can I feed my family cheaply if I have to buy all of these ingredients? Canned soup, canned broth, et al -- well, these are all what I have read, in my limited business matter reading, to be "value-added items," a.k.a. already more expensive.

Time-saver? Well, perhaps, but most of the recipes I've seen call for two-step processes where I have to cook the meat first and then assemble everything together, to be baked for a seemingly-long time, considering that all the ingredients are already cooked. It probably would take a couple of hours for me to put a casserole-like dish on the table.

Not that casseroles are without their appeal. Somehow, some way, the advertisers have burrowed their message into some cranny of my brain and there are times when I want a casserole or casserole-like dish.

The timing of my casserole-wish coincided with a craving of Tex-Mex flavours -- hence, our Tex-Mex casserole. I can't vouch for the authenticity of this dish, on both the "casserole" and the Tex-Mex front, but this was kinda delicious.

I started with some ground beef which I browned with some chili powder (ok, lots of chili powder) and ground cumin.

Then it was time for the assembly, which was easy but not as easy as I would have liked (as in, just plonked down).

I put down a layer of corn tortillas, added the beef, some chopped tomatoes, and red onions.

Some grated cheddar cheese.

I also opened a can of kidney beans that we have sitting in our pantry and added a layer of the beans.

Repeat the process until I run out of room on top. I also added some cilantro in between the layers when I remembered.

Sprinkle some more grated cheese on top.

Into the oven at 400F for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted through and bubbly.

I suppose, if I ever make another Tex-Mex casserole again, I would try to have more sauce in between the layers as it wasn't liquid-y enough.

For me, it was quite fine, because I tend to like my food a little bit "drier" as opposed to "wetter." A little salsa on the side added some wetness for those who liked a more "stew-y" consistency.

Hm, I've always been intrigued by "enchilada sauce," so next time, I might try my hand making such a sauce and making another casserole with it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Earl Grey-White Chocolate Ganache

cookies under wrap

How much credit can I take for these cookies?

As TS had already mentioned, when we signed up for the cookie exchange, we had no idea how it actually works. Going in blind is always the way to go. ;)

When we found out how many cookies that we needed to bring, I was surprised but managed to contain my panic. I saw TS baking her macha shortbread cookies and I was still nonchalant, thinking I can pull off my own cookies before the day came. Saturday, to be exact.

During our brainstorming sessions, we thought, since TS was doing a tea-inspired cookies, I could do something else with tea. Browsing through cookbooks and magazines, we jumped on Martha Stewart's chocolate thumbprint cookies. It promised to have a chewy-brownie-like texture. Instead of the honey-vanilla ganache in her recipe, we could have an Earl Grey-white chocolate ganache instead.

Okay, we're good to go. I had my cookie picked out, and to my glee, one batch of this recipe made 90 cookies, the magazine says.

chocolate thumbprint dough, rolled in sugar, waiting to go into the oven

I got a pretty Mason jar and put a few bags of Earl Grey tea in it, pouring in heavy cream and letting them steep. I stashed my jar in the fridge and then it's just the baking from here.

The next night, I saw TS making another batch of her macha shortbread cookies. Oh cool. No panic: I still got lots of time. It's only Wednesday and I have three days to go.

Thursday and I saw TS making yet another batch of her cookies, the last batch of cookies to make the 6 dozen required. Cool. My cookies won't take too much time, because one batch makes 90 cookies.

chocolate thumbprint cookies, cooling on racks

Friday comes. I get home from work around 4:30 in the afternoon and have to prepare dinner. I'll do the cookies after I finish with dinner.

I eat.

Then I'm tired. I didn't know how I can bake these cookies. Our house was full of people, I had the dinner-mess to contend with first.

I was *suddenly* tired. In my defense, I had been feeling under the weather for the past couple of days, with what I think is a low-grade fever/headache bothering me throughout.

So I asked for help.

"CSC, can you bake my cookies?"

CSC said yes and then she proceeded to bake the cookies. TS stepped in and did the ganache. Even the kids "helped" with the rolling of the cookies in sugar.

Do these cookies have my "thumbprint" on them? ;)

The moral of the story is, sometimes when you go in blind, you come out blind as well. Which is sometimes not all bad, especially when you have delicious cookies from it.

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Notes about the cookies:

1) CSC followed the recipe exactly. However, the yield was more 70-ish than 90. (Actually, it was threatening to dip to the low 60s because they were constantly in danger of being eaten!) The yield has been revised in the recipe below.

2) The recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of salt. I, myself, loved the saltiness! However, some people may be "surprised" especially if they're not used to chocolate and salt together. CSC herself didn't like the cookies by themselves, but liked the salt only when eaten together with the ganache filling.

3) We all loved the texture of the cookie, as we're fans of the soft, chewy genre of cookies.

Earl Grey-White Chocolate Ganache

As for the ganache, cold-steeping the tea in cream did not work.

So, I simply placed the teabags and cream in a small saucepan and heated the mixture on low until I was satisfied with the intensity of the tea. Then, it was a matter of adding white chocolate to the warm cream. I added butter too, but to my knowledge, ganache doesn't necessarily need that.

I was so afraid that the ganache wouldn't set up that I placed the mixture in the refrigerator for a bit. It firmed up, thank goodness. However, it was much harder to fill the thumbprints and make the ganache look "pretty." I resorted to mashing the ganache down into the "thumbprints".

(If you wish, using a plain thumbprint cookie will make the Earl Grey-White Chocolate Ganache the star. But, we do like our chocolate.)

This was a definite success in my book!

Our cookies:
Macha (Japanese Green Tea) Shortbread
Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies with Earl Grey-White Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Thumbprints
from Martha Stewart Living magazine
Makes 70

These cookies have a texture similar to brownies.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons coarse salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350◦ Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a small bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, and add yolks, cream and vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture until just combined.

2. Roll balls using 2 teaspoons dough for each, and roll each in sugar. Place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. With the handle of a wooden spoon, press gently in the center of each to create and indentation. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are set, about 10 minutes. (If indentations lose definition, press centers again.) Let cool slightly on baking sheets. Transfer cookies on wire racks, and let cool.

3. Spoon warm ganache into center of each cookie. Let stand until firm, about 15 minutes. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

Earl Grey-White Chocolate Ganache
from TS

½ cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, cut into small pieces
10 teabags Earl Grey tea
2 Tbsp butter, softened

In a small saucepan, start heating heavy cream on low. Add tea bags. Let steep on low until tea flavor has been extracted, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Remove tea bags. Add warm cream to white chocolate and stir until chocolate melts. Add butter and continue stirring until incorporated.

We're submitting this to Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookies event.

How to participate: click here.
Check out the round-up of all the cookies!

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