Saturday, February 16, 2013

Filipino Comfort Food 101 | Kare Kare (Oxtail and Tripe Stew in Peanut Sauce)

The plethora of food diaries seen in blogs, magazines and even TV shows, has opened the door to a more accepting food culture.  It is now fashionable to try something different. What was deemed intimidating is now called fresh, bold and ground-breaking.  Anthony Bourdain was way ahead of his time.  From dining at a sushi bar to feasting on prime rib steaks, it is now cool to enjoy good food.  Food is no longer taken just for nourishment, food is now savored, talked about and even watched by millions on TV.  Who would have thunk?

For today's dish, I hope you still keep an open mind.  For us Filipinos, kare-kare holds a very special place in our foodscape.  It is usually served as part of our "special" dinner spread - always present in parties and in celebrating special occasions.  Kare-kare tastes better when shared with family and friends.  The classic kare-kare recipe is a stew in peanut sauce with oxtail, beef, vegetables and tripe.  As a dish often prepared for fiestas throughout the country, kare-kare is comfort food for Filipinos living abroad.  

When done exquisitely, it serves as a time machine that brings you back to your hometown as a kid - remembering the fiestas and special events you celebrated with your family.  A bite into the stew brings the peanut sauce front and center followed by the tripe that melts in your mouth What puts you over the edge is the sliver of bagoong (shrimp paste) you add to a spoonful of the stew, as there is no other taste like it.  And there is no place like Home...

Kare-Kare (Oxtail and Tripe Stew in Peanut Sauce)

2-3 lbs of oxtail cut into pieces (they usually come in packs already cut)
2-3 lbs tripe
1/4 c rice, toasted then pulverized (use Kare kare mix as an alternative)
3- 4 tbsp creamy peanut butter
2 tsp annato powder
2 onions (1 for sauteing, one for tenderizing the meat)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pcs eggplant (sliced)
1 bundle string beans (sliced, 3 inch long)

Rub rock salt on the oxtail to clean.  Rinse thoroughly.  On a stockpot, place the oxtail and submerge it with water.  Allow the water to boil.  Discard the water.  Rinse the oxtail and discard the water.  In the same stockpot, submerge the oxtail with water again.  Throw in some bay leaf, peppercorn and celery.  Boil until tender.  You could use the stock later, but make sure to remove the fat that settles on top.

Do the same procedure with the tripe.  Usually the tripe sold here in the US is already white and clean.  But you can still rub salt to clean.  Repeat procedure as you've done with the oxtail. Let it cool and slice the tripe into strips, 2-3 inches long and 0.5 inch wide. Drain the water and set the tripe aside.

Saute garlic and onions until onions get wilted and translucent.  Add annato powder, stir to mix well.  Add oxtail and tripe (make sure they are tender).  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir for about 2 minutes then add beef broth.(3-4 cups).  Let it simmer and cook for 20 minutes or until the broth has been reduced.  Add the pulverized rice (or the kare-kare mix).  This will thicken the sauce, so make sure to keep on stirring. Add peanut butter.  Mix well, taste and season with salt (or shrimp paste) and pepper.

In a separate pot, pour 2 cups of water.  Add a teaspoon of baking powder.  Season with salt.  Drop the veggies and remove after boiling.  Drain excess water.  Add blanched vegetables on the cooked kare kare.  Serve with cooked or bottled shrimp paste on the side.  Enjoy!

This recipe is also available on my YOU TUBE Channel.  Please watch it here:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Baked Pompano in Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pompano is one of my favorite fish species to bake. It does have a high  fat content - as more than half of its calorie breakdown is from fat (with the remainder being composed of protein). But no worries, as most of the fat is unsaturated - the "good type" of fat that is linked to having beneficial effects on cholesterol levels. I love the texture of pompano especially if it's fresh. It is almost creamy, as it kinda melts in your mouth.

I'm lucky that I found a good source for seafood here in St. Louis. My weekend usually includes a stop at the seafood markets along Olive Ave.

It may not sound right, but this is my "happy" place. And oh not just me... just look at how happy my husband is "shrimping", haha.

These days, I am lucky that we could get our hands on live blue crabs...

Or on fresh shrimp.  They are the juiciest, perfect combination of sweet and salty.

And oh, while you get your seafood cleaned, it's a good way to meet new friends.  Would you believe that I met a sweet lady while we were both standing by the cleaning station. We swapped recipes, then our phone numbers. Later that evening, I got a call from her inviting me for dinner.

"It's my birthday and my friends are having a party for me.  Why don't you come so you could meet them?"

How can I say no to a party?  Much more her birthday party... right.

Ok I digress... and before I get any further, let me share with you my fish recipe. But you're going to forgive me for my awful photography.  But oh well, my family devoured it before I could even think about re-taking photos... LOL!

Baked Pompano in Orange Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 whole pompano (around 2 lbs) cleaned, gills removed
2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp orange zest
juice of one orange
salt and pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
5 pcs sliced tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 pieces ginger, pressed


Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. Wash the fish thoroughly. Pat with paper towel to dry.

To make vinaigrette: Combine the\vinegar, orange juice, salt and pepper in a bowl.  After mixing together, add the oil.  Then add tomatoes, onions, ginger and lemon rind.  Set aside.

Rub the orange balsamic vinaigrette inside and outside of the fish.  Stuff the onions, tomatoes inside the fish belly and put the rest on top and below the fish.  Wrap with foil and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Guilty Pleasure | Porchetta ala Malou

Once we hit our 40's, eating healthy should become the norm rather than a fad.  But let's face it, we still enjoy a slice of decadent chocolate cake or a slab of juicy steak when opportunity knocks. We all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to food.  And the holidays seem to make it worse, as the extended family gathers and (maybe for most of us) we put up with each other's company.  But that's what family is all about. 

Last Christmas, I had the chance to share my guilty pleasure with my family.  This is my version of  the iconic Italian dish Porchetta.  It is the savory, fatty, succulent and ever so tempting pork dish that is always a crowd-pleaser.  From your local Italian restaurant to Mario Batali, a Porchetta recipe is easily available.  

For my recipe, I used a rolled pork belly stuffed with lemon-grass, thyme, rosemary, bacon and generously sprinkled with garlic, salt and pepper.  I gently tied the pork "roll" with cooking twine and baked it in a bain-marie for a couple of hours.    

The result is a plate of juicy,well seasoned slice of pork with the crispy skin attached.  I am glad this is only shared at parties or featured to celebrate the holidays, as it may be too much of a good thing if I have this more often.

Porchetta ala Malou

3-4  lbs Pork belly
salt and pepper
5 cloves garlic
6 stalks of lemongrass
1 pack bacon (chopped)
2 tbsp Thyme (fresh, chopped; if using dried, use 1/3 less)
2 tbsp Rosemary


Using a mortar and pestle, pound the lemongrass. Make sure to get the juices out. Add the garlic and continue to pound.  Add thyme, rosemary and generous amount of salt and pepper.  Set lemongrass mixture.

Lay the pork belly on a flat surface with skin side up.  Using a meat mallet, pound the skin all over.  This will make the skin crispy.

Flip the belly and rub the lemongrass mixture generously.  Spread a thin layer of the chopped bacon.  Roll the pork and secure with cooking twine.

Now, rub the lemongrass mixture all over the skin.  Refrigerate roast overnight. (If you have the time, 2 nights would be preferred)

Let the pork belly sit at room temperature. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Use a baine marie  and place the pork belly. Cover with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes and reduce temperature to 375 degrees F.  Bake for 1 hour.  Remove cover.  Bake it for another hour or until roast reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.

Set the oven on broil until the skin is crispy and mahogany brown.  This takes a few minutes so better keep an eye on it.  Let it rest for 30 minutes.


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