Friday, March 28, 2008

Callos ala Madrilena

I've mentioned that being under Spanish rule for 300 years has left an indelible mark on Filipino culture. This dish is another testament to that.

I grew up with my mom's Callos frequently gracing the buffet table during special occasions like Christmases and birthdays. As a child, I often skipped over this dish and gravitated toward more mainstream fare like pasta and fried chicken and lechon. But as I got older and my tastebuds matured, I began to appreciate the complex marriage of the tripe, chorizo and ham, slowly simmered until the flavors became one. It's been a while since I've had my mom's Callos...years and years and years. But the memory has been imprinted in my culinary consciousness.

I was walking around the grocery one day, and lo and behold, they had lots and lots of tripe! Cleaned, parboiled and packaged ever so neatly, they called to me and gave me the perfect opportunity to finally try my hand at making one of my mom's specialties. After I bought the tripe, off to the Latin market I went to buy fresh chorizos and a day later, there it was.

I didn't have a recipe so I cooked it al oido (which literally translates to by mom uses this phrase a lot to mean just play it by ear/just wing it/make it up as you go along...anyway, you get the idea). It turned our really well. Really, really well. And there was A LOT of it. Much more than what our family of four could consume. Besides, the 2 kids weren't crazy about tripe. It was seredipitous that a day later, we were going to Tito O and Tita M's house to celebrate Lola H's 96th (!!!) birthday. So I brought this huge container of Callos and it became part of a wonderful celebration, just like the Callos of my childhood.

Callos ala Madrilena

400 g beef tendon, sliced into 1-inch pieces
500 g tripe, cleaned and sliced into 2 inch long strips
3 pcs. chorizo (sliced if using canned/dried, removed from casing and crumbled if using fresh)
1-2 cups chopped ham
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 can tomato paste
1 can whole tomatoes
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. chili flakes
1/2 cup grated sharp cheese
1 cup green olives, drained
2 tbsp. knorr seasoning
1-2 cups beef broth
1 large can chick peas/garbanzos, drained
sugar to taste
salt to taste

1. In a large, heavy pot, saute the onion and pepper in the olive oil until soft.
2. Add the chorizo and saute until it renders it fat.
3. Add ham, paprika and tomato paste.
4. Add the tripe and tendon and saute for a couple of minutes.
5. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, pepper, chili flakes, knorr and pepper.
6. Cover with a tight lid and simmer slowly for 4-5 hours, until the tripe and tendon are very tender. Check every so often to stir and make sure that it doesn't dry up. Add beef broth as needed just to keep the sauce going.
7. When tender, add garbanzos, olives and cheese. Adjust seasoning with salt and sugar.
8. Simmer for 15 minutes more to help all the flavors meld together.

The seasoning of this dish will depend a lot on the flavor of the chorizo that you use. I was lucky enough to find fresh chorizo. But I'm sure canned or dried chorizo would taste just as good. The amount of salt you will need depends on how salty the other components of the dish are, so wait until everything is tender and adjust your seasonings then.

Sugar is something that I think many people underuse when cooking savory dishes, especially tomato-based ones. Vine-ripened tomatoes are very sweet and when picked at the peak of their flavor probably would not need any additional sugar. However, I find that canned tomatoes lose a lot of that sweetness and they often do not have that balance of sugar and acid. So I often will add a pinch (or more) of sugar to many of my tomato-based dishes. Of course this is a matter of preference and if you don't like any hint of sweetness in your savories, just omit this ingredient. You will regret it though. Hehe!

Oreo Cheesecake

Here's another variation of the cheesecake recipe I posted before...

The picture above was actually leftover batter that I baked in individual cupcake holders. I topped them with a mixture of oreo and graham cracker crumbs and baked them at 350 for 20 minutes.

For the crust of the real oreo cheesecake, I used 2 cups of crushed oreos mixed with 1/4 cup butter. Note that I used half the butter I would normally use for a graham crust. The white filling also acts as a binder, thus decreasing the butter requirement. If you are using boxed oreo cookie crumbs, which does not have the filling, use 1/2 cup of butter, like the original recipe. Bake this crust for 10 minutes at 350.

For the cheesecake itself, just omit the lemon extract and add a cup of chopped oreos to the batter. Same baking time, same temp.

Guinness Stout Ice Cream

We had a few friends over for the Hubby's birthday/Easter and S&A brought a pint of this very unusual ice cream. Apparently, Ed's (the ice cream shop) only makes this flavor once a year...for St. Patty's day. And once it's gone, it's gone. At least until the next year.

I really, really, really liked it! At first I thought it would taste all weird, but it actually reminded me of coffee ice cream with its slight bitter edge. The malt definitely came through, giving this ice cream a very sophisticated flair. The stout flavor didn't assault your taste buds but instead crept up stealthily, lingering at the very back of your mouth. Subtle but sublime.

The texture of the ice cream was excellent too. Smooth and creamy with a full mouthfeel. The people at Ed's might not know how to spell. But they sure make a d@mn good pint...of ice cream.

Black Bean Dip

As requested, A, here's the recipe for the black bean dip :-)

This dip was introduced to me be a Costa Rican friend and it has made many an appearance on our table. The original recipe she gave me called for canned refried beans but when I looked at the label on the can, I was shocked at how much fat and salt it had! So I now make this from plain, unsalted canned whole black beans and I save on all that fat, which I reserve for the chips. Hehe!

Because it's low-fat and healthy, it makes me feel less guilty about indulging in corn tortillas :-)


1 large can black beans, drained
2 tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar
2 tbsp. lizano sauce

1. Saute the onions in oil over medium high heat until slightly brown.
2. Add the chopped pepper and saute until peppers are also slightly brown.
3. Pour in beans and stir until combined.
4. Puree with a hand blender (or with a normal blender).
5. Season with lizano sauce and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar.
6. Serve with chips.

Lizano sauce or Salsa Lizano is like the ketchup of Costa Rica. It's a condiment made from vegetables and some people liken the taste to worcestershire. I kinda agree, but not quite. Lizano has a distinct latin flair to it that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe they roast some of the veggies before making the sauce because it has a smoky background that adds to the depth of flavor.

Salsa Lizano has become a mainstay in my pantry. I add it to store-bought salsa, beans and rice, chili, beef for my tacos, etc., etc. Such a great discovery!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dutch Baby

I was watching some show on the Food Network and they featured a restaurant that serves Dutch Babies. I had never heard of this billowy puffs that were the German version of the pancake. Why it's called a Dutch Baby if it's German is beyond me.

Ok, I googled it, and this is what Wikipedia says...

German pancake? Dutch baby?

Don't you just love Wiki.

I googled a recipe, found one that many people had tried and made one.

It was very pretty and tasted good. But I much prefer normal pancakes myself. And the boys did not like it.

So thus ends my Dutch Baby experimentation.

Dutch Baby

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. confectioners sugar

1. Place an oven proof 10-inch skillet in the oven and preheat to 425.
2. Meanwhile, mix all ingredients except confectioner's sugar together.
3. Take out skillet, place butter and swirl around until melted.
4. Pour batter into skillet and bake for 15 minutes.
5. Decrease heat to 325 and bake another 8-10 minutes.
6. Take out from oven, sprinkle with confectioners sugar and serve immediately.

Note: The pancake deflates VERY quickly so serve it as soon as it comes out of the oven for maximum drama and flair :-)

Crispy Pata

Filipinos have a long-standing love affair with crisp, crackling pork skin. That's understandable, right? Who can resist biting into a piece of lechon or chicharon or bagnet or lechon kawali? But I think my favorite of all crunchy-skinned pork dishes is crispy pata. Because not only do you have the crackling skin, you also have the tender, gelatinous sinews of the pork hock.

Traditional crispy pata is a pork hock, boiled in seasoned water, dried for a while, then deep fried until the skin turns blistered and golden. I don't have the time, patience or equipment to do all that, so I tried crispy pata in my turbo broiler and it came out great! Yay!!! No longer do I have to go out to partake of this gastronomic delight...I can't have it right here, in the comfort of my own home, where I can gnaw on the bones to my heart's content.

1. Take a pork hock and rub generously with salt and pepper.
2. Cook in the turbo at 300 until skin turns brown and crisp. Mine took about an hour.
3. Flip the hock and turbo for about 20 minutes more to get everything cooked just right.
4. Serve with a sauce made with 1 part soy sauce, 1 part vinegar, sugar and chopped onions. Chili peppers are optional.

Jam Bars

It's not I haven't been cooking. It's just that the past few months have been so hectic that I haven't been inspired...inspired to cook, inspired to write, inspired to create. BUT...I'm baaack! :-)

Why? Because procrastination(unemployment + major life-altering exam) = creativity. Do you still remember your algebra? Hehe!

So anyway, I made these jam bars for our Valentine's get-together and they were very well received. I personally favor fruit desserts over chocolate ones (gasp!) so these were right up my alley. Plus it allowed me to use up some 5-fruit jam that remained untouched in the fridge because it wasn't the "right brand."

Jam Bars

2 sticks cold salted butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups ground almonds
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups jam of choice (the one I used was a combo of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and grape)

1. In a bowl, mix together almonds, flour, and sugar.
2. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands), cut butter into dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.
3. Transfer half the mixture into a 9x13 baking pan. Press firmly into pan.
4. Bake in a 350 oven for about 15-18 minutes until lightly golden.
5. Remove crust from oven and cool for about 30 minutes.
6. Spread jam evenly over crust.
7. Scatter the rest of the crumb mixture over the jam.
8. Bake again for about 22 minutes.
9. Cool then cut into 2 inch bars.