Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ready Chef Go!

What I'd like to share with you today is a video of me cooking!  As a disclaimer, I would like to say that this is nothing like a video made by a pro, ok?   This is my first attempt to be in front of a video camera cooking...only because I wanted to participate in KMOV's  (our local STL channel)  sponsored Ready Get Chef Go cooking contest.  With my husband as my camera man and "director", it was a fun gig altogether.

And guess what???  My entry was accepted!!!

There are 34 entries but on March 5 KMOV will narrow it down to 10.  These 10 entries will further be narrowed down to 4 (voting American Idol style... hmmm if I get to to the top 10 will you vote for me???) The top 4 contestants will have to compete live on TV to be named STL's Best Chef on Primetime TV and a free trip for 2 to the Dominican Republic.

Filipino food is not as popular as other Asian cuisine such as Thai, Vietnamese or Indian.  So my goal is to make Filipino food accessible to a broader audience.  Having said that, what I shared in the video is a very basic, 5 ingredient recipe: chicken wings adobo.  I wanted to put my STM take on it but  due to time constraints, I wasn't able to do so.  But I'm going to share it here with you below.  But first let me invite you to watch my video.

Here's the traditional way to eat our adobo:

And here's my take on it:

What I basically did was to lightly coat the adobo with flour and deep fried it (you could also bake it for a healthier option).  Then I made a yogurt wasabi dip by mixing tiny chopped cucumber, chopped scallions, yogurt and a tiny bead of wasabi paste.  Mix them all together and put a dollop on each wing...

This was the plate I made for my cameraman... to say thank you for all his help... and putting up with my craziness... LOL!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Barbecue Ribs ala St. Louis

As I sat in church listening to the priest's homily on Lent, my thoughts wandered when abstinence from meat was mentioned.  And I tell you if there was a camera rolling at the time, it would have captured how my face changed from attentively-listening-serene-look to a frazzled what-could-I-serve-my-hubby-for-dinner-tonight-look.

I mean with all the food blogging that I do, I should be well organized and a wizard at meal planning, but alas it escaped me that this week, Ash Wednesday and Friday are almost back-to-back no meat days!  And  to make matters worse, my post today is all about meat... talk about not being ahead of the game huh! LOL!

But I'm sure you'll forgive me because what I am sharing with you is something special.  A dish that has a St. Louis trademark... and yes you guessed it right, it's Pork Barbecue Ribs baby!

Well to tell you frankly, I never tried cooking barbecue with a dry rub before.  But since moving to St. Louis, I have to cook the way the locals do.  Luckily there were resources at my finger tips and found the best rub to try.  Okay, it's not really St. Louis but it's a Memphis-style dry rub that I found online.  Most of the down home barbecue restaurants around here use the Memphis way, which is basically to use a  dry rub.  The St. Louis stamp to the dish is the butcher's cut:  baby back ribs that's cut shorter but has more meat.  This makes it easier to cook the ribs evenly.  Did I confuse you?  I hope to explain further, so here we go:    

Pork Barbecue Ribs 

Here's the original Meathead's Memphis Dust rub recipe.  The dust rub is actually like pixie dust that has magically transformed my pork ribs (and yes it was on sale which made it doubly magical!) into a finger licking good weekend meal.  I mentioned that St. Louis barbecue style differs in the cut.  I'm not sure if these ribs are considered STL cut but they were on sale and that mattered to me. LOL! 

Please go to Meathead's website and check out the dry rub recipe.  Make sure not to leave out any ingredient as noted by the author.  He shares valuable information on his site too, so it's a great resource for all things barbecue.


Set your oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of rub on each side of the slab.  Massage the rub around the meat and leave it for an hour.  It's even better if you could leave it overnight.  Make sure to refrigerate the meat if you decide to leave it overnight.

Put the rib on a pan with its arch up (like an inverted U) and cover it with aluminum foil.  Bake it for an hour. 

Remove the pan from the oven and remove the foil.  Make sure to use kitchen mitts because it will be steaming hot.  Bring back the pan and broil it on high for 5 - 10 minutes until the sugar caramelizes and will give the slab of meat a nice crust.  Please be careful not to burn the meat, remove from the oven once the top caramelizes and has a dark brown color.


Do you want to keep in touch?  Let's be friends on Facebook and Twitter!  See you there!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Baked Cinnamon Camote Cue (Cinnamon Caramelized Sweet Potato)

Outside my old high school in the Philippines, street vendors sold two quintessential treats on a stick: banana cue (deep fried caramelized bananas) and camote cue (deep fried caramelized sweet potatoes).  The vendors would line up outside along the high concrete walls of the school with their makeshift carts covered with colored umbrellas.  Amidst the busy streets, the scorching heat and the noise, they seem unmindful of their surroundings.  They prepare and cook these sweet treats on a portable gas stove with the sweet smell teasing our nostrils as we pass by. 

Looking back, I was always intimidated to buy from these street vendors.  It felt like I was buying something illegal.  Back then I hesitated buying street food, as I heard the warning of my Mama in my head, "That's unclean, You'll get sick!".  This would temporarily scare me not to buy. But eventually, I'd give in and get to snack on these treats on a stick, often preferring the banana cue.

It baffles me why Camote cue was not as popular as the banana cue.  It was as if the sweet potato was just the sidekick to the banana, always there as an alternative or to fill in once the banana cue is sold out.

Since it's sweet potato month,  I thought of re-visiting this quintessential street food and give it the center of attention it deserves.  I was inspired to share my take on the camote cue.

I skipped the deep frying part and baked them instead. And the result was a re-discovery of this underdog treat.  I relished the soft sweet potato under the crisp, caramelized surface. And the cinnamon brought the treat on a stick to a higher level. I love how it was simple to prepare, yet it was a culminating treat on a lazy afternoon.

Baked Cinnamon Camote Cue

2 pcs. camote (sweet potato)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Peel and slice the sweet potato; set aside. Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.  Roll the camote pieces in the bowl and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes become soft and the sugar has caramelized on the outside.

See how simple it was?  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kulinarya: Fruit Compote ala Jacques Pepin

Our Kulinarya challenge for February is to create a dish that recalls your first love... plus a good love story to go with it. I fell off my chair laughing when I read the email sent by this month's hosts: Abigail of  Nappytales and Marni of Kensington Kitchen, because I think being with the same man for more than a quarter of a century makes me feel too old to remember. 

I am choosing to share with you my Fruit Compote, which may not sound perfect for a Filipino cooking club, but I have a good alibi for it.  You see I've shared a lot of dishes like lengua in my post Reminiscing, and Chicken ala Max's in my post The house that fried chicken built.  I also wrote posts like He Still Gives me Flowers and I Crepe the Promise, wherein I shared the iced tea I used to serve him and the dessert of mango crepes we loved during our early dates.   

So since Valentine's just passed, I want to share with you our V-day dessert.  Although we didn't expect anything from each other that day, I was still surprised that he came home with flowers and wine while I surprised him with a special dinner for two with all the trimmings. The dessert that stole the night was the Fruit Compote, which was inspired by Jacques Pepin.  

We both agreed this reminds us of our traditional Filipino fruit salad but the only difference is this seems to be a fruit salad on steroids.  Our Filipino version uses canned fruits while this recipe is made of fresh fruits stewed in red wine with the cream added on top.  We both loved the tartness that is balanced by the sweetness we got at the end (both from the cream and the syrup).

And we both smiled that just like this dessert, most relationships can be sour sometimes but oftentimes sweet.

Fruit Compote (adapted from Jacques Pepin)
Here is the original recipe of Red Fruit Compote.  But my version listed below is a simplified one.

3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup Red wine
1 small apple sliced
1 small pear sliced
a bunch of grapes
10 pcs blackberry
Heavy cream for dollop

Boil water in a small pot and dissolve the sugar.  Allow the mixture to thicken.  Pour the red wine.  Mix the syrup thoroughly.  Add the fruit slices (with the hard fruits first then followed by the grapes and blueberry).

Let it cool and serve chilled.  Scoop it in a serving cup and dollop or top it with heavy cream and a cherry.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

All Good Things St. Louis: Pappy's Smokehouse

Before we even landed in St. Louis a few months ago, friends and family were already recommending we go to Pappy's Smokehouse to have a taste of St. Louis barbecue.  So we were not surprised when the locals also gave their head-nodding approval by saying: "Have you been to Pappy's?" when I ask them where to go to taste something "local".

Since we are now STL residents and have a lot of restaurants to try, I thought that going to Pappy's will remain in our bucket list for awhile. But to my regret, we should have gone there first because this is the place to be in St. Louis for barbecue.  So come on in, it's time to talk about All Good Things St. Louis and today I'm taking you to Pappy's Smokehouse.

Now don't ask me how many times we've been here.  Since it's located a block away from my husband's work, the smokey goodness beckons us all the time.   Every chance the slow sear scent of barbecue from their pit sneaks into our car, my husband and I stare at each other, and voila, off to Pappy's we go.  Word of caution though,  just go there early, especially on weekends, because the lines get pretty long.  But it's still worth the wait.

Their walls speak for themselves, as it were lined with framed certificates of approval of food aficionados.  With no less than Zagat voting them as one of the Top 10 Barbecue Meccas in August 2011. They were also voted one of the 101 Best Places To Chow Down in America by The Travel Channel. Who would doubt that they are the best in town?

The ambience is unpretentious... very homey and casual.   It is sure a down home barbecue  joint. No frills, just a few memorabilia and a few merchandise.  As I've said it's a straightforward hole in the wall, and you know you are there for the barbecue.

What are those spices doing up there? I told you, it's a no frills barbecue joint.  So beats me why it's up there.

While the lines are long, they move quickly.  And you will be delighted to know that the staff are outright friendly and courteous.  When I told them that it was our first time, the waiter gave me a free sample that he sneaked out from the kitchen.  I was nibbling a piping hot rib fresh from the smoke oven and of course that set my excitement higher to grab the half slab of ribs for my fingers to dig in to.

The ribs are sensational!  They are fall off the bone tender.  You know that it is a result of hours of "labor of love" as the owner Mike claims it to be.  He said that St. Louis Barbecue is different not in the technique of cooking it but it's all in the butcher cut.  It's baby back ribs that's cut shorter but has more meat.

I should haven't  put the sauce on it since the ribs itself is so juicy, sweet and tangy.  There was no need for the sauce actually.  The coles slaw is so acidic-ly addicting.  It's something like your grandmother's homemade pickles.  It's tangy with a subtle sweetness at the end.

Not to be outdone is their soft and tender pulled pork sandwich.  You know it was slow roasted pulled-pork deliciously layered in a bun.  You have different options for sides and I picked sweet potato fries and baked beans for a change.  I didn't regret the choice as the fries were golden brown to perfection and  sprinkled with sugar and spices that are definitely finger licking good.

Now that I'm a local STL resident, I highly recommend Pappy's.  And it's my turn to say to new STL transplants, "Have you been to Pappy's yet?".  Because for sure, you'll love me for recommending this place to you.  It's one of those moments when you could feel your head lifting your chin up, and your cheeks slowly stiffing up until you smile, because you know you are in barbecue heaven.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pork Loin Asado

If you ask me what my favorite cooking technique is, it's definitely braising.   You just brown the meat and simmer it with its sauce on low heat until tender.  The cooking time maybe long but the prep time is fast and easy. Which means that you have plenty of time in between. You could actually clean the whole kitchen while the pot is simmering, or you could do Pilates or master a dance move haha  but I'm sure you follow my drift.  It's just perfect for moms (who love to multi-task) and home cooks like me.

One of my favorite braised dishes to prepare is Asado Pork.  It may sound Spanish but it was introduced to us by our neighbors from China. Eventually Filipinos had their own version and called it "asado"; a delectable dish braised in sweet-soy sauce. Yet another plus in cooking this dish is that the slab of pork is left uncut (I told you it's less prep time).  It's definitely a beginner cook friendly dish, that's deceptively simple.

So let's begin:

Pork Loin Asado

2 tbsp cooking oil
2 lbs pork loin (you could opt to use pork belly as well)
1 tbsp five spice
2 tbsp oyster sauce
7 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar (you may add more if you want a sweeter sauce)
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2-3 cups water

Season the pork loin with salt and pepper.
Add cooking oil in a heavy pan.
Sear the loin on all sides (a light layer of golden crisp forms around its sides)
In a bowl mix all the ingredients together.  Make sure to dissolve the sugar.
Once the loin is seared, pour over the soy sauce mixture.
Let it boil. Once it's boiling, lower the heat and let  it simmer.
You may need to add water if it's necessary.  Flip the the pork loin on the other side and cook until completely tender.
Remove the meat from the pot and let it rest for 10 minutes
Mix conrstarch with a little water and add to thicken the sauce
Slice the pork thinly and pour over the sauce.

You may blanch some vegetables ( I used bokchoy) and a cup of steaming rice would go well with this dish.  Enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

plate like a love song: grilled fruits with granola

I was thinking aloud yesterday whether I should have a Valentine post or not and I was surprised to hear my husband say:  You should!  And it doesn't have to be heart shaped.

I just laughed at his suggestion, as I still had no Valentine post in mind.

But then this morning, as soon as I saw snow flurries swirling down by the window, I thought of making a warm breakfast for my husband before he goes to work.  A bowl of fruits sitting at my kitchen counter ignited a spark of  inspiration. You see, over the weekend my husband and I were amused at how Chef Jacques Pepin's  baked, grilled and caramelized fresh fruits in his TV show. Although I never grilled nor baked fresh fruits before, I thought that if a world renowned chef like Pepin did it, then it must be good. Instead of a warm bowl of oatmeal, I plated a warm bowl of freshly grilled fruits, topped with granola.

"This could be your Valentine post" my husband suggested.  I had no intentions of posting this as such but I looked at the plate and before I could say something my husband chimed in:

"It's warm, it's sweet, this plate is like a love song!"

My husband usually will not make suggestions for my post, so I took a long look at what he said. All along I was looking for a Valentine's inspiration, but there it was infront of me.  And the beauty of it was, it was effortless to create "a plate like a love song."

Grilled Fruits with Granola

1 pc. apple, sliced
1 pc grapefruit halved
1 pc. banana, sliced
1 cup granola
1/2 c lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp agave


Heat griddle or pan.  Once the fruits are sliced, soak in water to retain its juicy-ness. (Note, you could also use pears or any preferred hard fruit in season). Grill each side of the fruit for about a minute each.  Arrange fruits on a  the fruits i In a bowl mix agave syrup with lemon juice.  Pour over grilled fruits.  Add granola on top of the grilled fruits.

It's warm, sweet and yes it a love song in your mouth!  Happy Valentine's day folks!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

seafood weekend

I've never had Singaporean chili crabs before.  My default recipe for blue crabs is one of my family's favorite seafood dishes, crabs with sweet chili sauce. But the way my aunt Nangnang described it compelled me to try her recipe for crabs.  She reminisced about living in Singapore, the vibrant city-state in the middle of Southeast Asia.  Singapore has been described as a gourmet's paradise.  Nangnang tried this crab dish in a restaurant and she later on created her own recipe.  While she promised that she was going to cook it for us when we were together a few months ago, she was too busy to give us a taste of her recipe.  So I called her when I got back to St. Louis and got her recipe for Singaporean chili crabs.

My husband and I have have found a good seafood grocery here in St. Louis.  Seafood City on Olive Boulevard flies in fresh blue crabs every weekend.  And ever since we tried Nangnang's recipe, my husband would always request for it.  We had it for two consecutive weekends... but now we have to abstain from eating it, as we had enough crabs for the whole month.  So let me pass on the obsession to you... here's my Nangnang's Singaporean Chili Crabs but hey let me warn you... it is so finger-licking addicting!

Singaporean Chili Crabs ala Nangnang
2-3 lbs of blue crabs
5 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp ketchup
1 1/2 sriracha
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cooking oil

Clean crabs thouroughly.  Boil the crabs for a few minutes, just enough for the color to change to orange/light red.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drain the crabs.

In a big wok, melt the butter.  Saute the garlic and onions.  Add oyster sauce, ketchup, sriracha and brown sugar.  When the sauce is mixed thoroughly, add the crabs.  Cook for another 10 minutes.  Break one crab to add more flavor to the sauce.

Let cool for a few minutes then serve.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Garlic Pandesal

If my oven could talk, it would probably say  "girl, I need a break!"  Haha, because it's true, I have been under a baking spell.  For the past few months now, I'm always covered with flour and sugar grits.  

I'm sure my oven would even say "I thought I would work less when your kids have gone back to school."   But nah-ah, I think the joy of baking swept me off  my feet.  While it's true that my kids are all back to school, sending homemade breads in a care package  would make up for my last year's remiss.  Three kids away from home equals three separate boxes... so here we go!

One morning, I arose with the sunrise, and started baking... and yes I was at my happiest.  You see working with my hands floods my brain with happy thoughts. Although I wish my kids were home so they could wake up to the sweet scent from my oven sending a care package with my homemade breads was a great alternative.  And I was right, because as soon as they received their packages I could hear from their voices how happy and grateful they were.  Sure it was a great way to bring them home, even if it's just for that moment.

Garlic Pandesal

I have shared with you Monay and Pandesal in my recent posts, now Garlic Pandesal is  a combination of both recipes.  I used the dough from  the Monay recipe and used the procedure of making pandesal.


Dry ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c powdered milk

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 c warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 pack of yeast
2 tbsp butter
2 egg yolks

Atchuette - Garlic Flavor mix the following

2 tbsp atchuette oil (you could use butter)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
a dash of sugar
a dash of salt

Set the oven at 375 degrees.
Mix all the dry ingredients together.  Set aside. 
Meanwhile mix yeast with warm water.  Make sure that your yeast is active, meaning bubbles should be visible.  Add sugar and give it a stir.  On a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the yolks. Now, mix both the yeast mixture and the butter mixture together.

Slowly mix the wet and dry ingredients together until it becomes a dough.  Knead the dough and form a ball  Put the dough in a bowl and cover it with a kitchen cloth. Leave it for 2 hours until the dough doubles its size. (another alternative is put the dough in 180 degrees oven for 30-40 minutes.

When the dough doubles in size, knead it again for about 5 minutes.  Form 2-3 logs. Slice it diagonally into 8-10 slices for each log.  Flatten the dough and brush the atchuette garlic mixture. Roll the dough and brush the top with oil and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl Grub 2: Spicy Meatballs

When my friend Jenny saw my previous post: Crispy Chicken Bites with Wasabi Mayo, she immediately called me to ask for more Asian inspired appetizers to serve this Sunday.   She asked me to make another "simple yet creative" plate to wow her friends.  Her call prompted me to post a sequel (lol!)  so here's my Super Bowl Grub 2: Spicy Meatball.

Guided by Jenny's special request, I wanted to make it as simple as possible.  So if you don't have the luxury of time to make those meatballs, a bag of meatballs from your favorite grocery store should do the work for you.  All you need now is to prepare the sauce or the glaze and you are ready to enjoy the game with your friends.

Spicy Meatballs
(As I've mentioned, you could use ready made meatballs but in case you love to prepare everything from scracth, get the recipe from my previous post ).

So now that you have the meatballs all you need to do is to make the sauce.  so we need:
3 tbsp ketchup
1 1/2 tbsp siracha (you could adjust this amount accdg to your "hot" preference)
1tsp pepper flakes
3 tbsp oyster sauce
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp pepper flakes

Saute garlic and onions in a pan.  Add the ketchup, siracha, oyster suace.  Let it simmer.  Add brown sugar and pepper flakes.  Allow a few more minutes to simmer.  Add the cooked meatballs and let it simmer until sauce is thick and sticky.

Arrange the meatballs on a platter and garnish with onion leeks on a toothpick.

I hope Jenny wins big with this plate  and the crispy chicken bites when she makes them for her friends on Game Day...  Go Jenny!

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