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The Theoretical Cook

A FOODY IN THE THIRD WORLD

Friday, September 29, 2006

Xangsane's Wrath

International Code: Xangsane - but she was called Typhoon Milenya in the Philippines. An apt name - Milenya was the strongest typhoon I've seen in years. IWhile was safely tucked inside a tall building, I had full view of the Manila Bay and I saw the wind lashing about from the glassed terrace. At one point, I went down the parking lot in the 3rd floor and I had to stay close to the walls because the winds were too strong, I felt like I would be lifted outside. The wind was actually hooting, or whistling, or whatever you may call the high-frequency sound. And everywhere you looked, there were plastic cellophane and other light debris whirling around, tossed by the furious wind. It went on for hours, it seemed like it would never stop. After a while, Nature started to look sinister to me.

Afterwards, they declared a state of calamity. No one expected the extent of Milenya's power. Or maybe the people at the atmospheric agency did, but never really told anyone. It wasn't your usual rainy typhoon; it was a windy one. At around 3 30PM the typhoon slowly left the capital and headed somewhere else. In its wake, it uprooted hundreds of trees (some centuries old), toppled billboards along EDSA ( creating traffic jams), caused massive power outage, and well, basically f-ed up life in the city.

I went to the office this morning and there was no water, no electricity. Obviously no Internet. And I had to finish some stuff. SO I was forced to do my work elsewhere. In the afternoon I attended a seminar and less than 1/4 of the target participants were there. Everyone was at home, busy taking care of the aftermath of the disaster in their respective homes.

Meanwhile, last night, I was so hungry. There was no food to be cooked in the pantry. I tried calling the delivery lines - Yellow Cab, Taps, Pizza Hut, Tapa King, even Mc Donalds and Jollibee. I was desperate for some grub. To no avail - no delivery in the wake of Milenya. I was forced to make do with the stuff left in the fridge. So here's the Milenya recipe, for when there's nothing left in the pantry or fridge, and youre desperate to have dinner, and there's nowhere to go:

Typhoon Chicken Hotdog

Ingredients:
8 pcs chicken hotdogs, sliced (bite size pcs)
cornstarch powder
garlic powder
celery
tomato sauce
celery
onion, sliced
garlic, slivered
black pepper, ground

Procedure:

Hotdog:
1) Combine 1 cup of cornstarch with a pinch of black pepper and some garlic powder
2) Dredge the hotdog slices in the cornstarch mixture
3) Heat oil
4) Fry the hotdog pcs in the oil
5) Set aside

Sauce:
1) Saute garlic and onion
2) Add the celery
3) Add the tomato sauce (I used this left-over fancy Bravo tomato-garlic sauce used for dipping cause there was nothing else)
4) When done, pour over the chicken hotdog pieces.

Have fun eating this with no electricity, no water, and with the howling wind.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bulalo

Bulalo is god's gift to Filipinos.

There was a time when we traveled all the way up to Tagaytay to eat bulalo in the Mahogany market, next to the slaughterhouse. The idea is that - well, the meat has got to be fresh because the eatery is right next to the slaughterhouse. For a long time we endured the stench of meat while eating bulalo because we thought that authentic bulalo had to be served in that sort of environment. I learned this theory from the expert: watch where the taxi drivers or tricycle drivers eat because that's where real good food is.

Sometimes this theory fails completely. In cooking school, my chef instructor asked me: what makes good food/ food good?
"When it is cheap?" I ventured.
"No Ms. A, " He retorted. "Good food has nothing to do with cheapness! Good food is about good quality. And quality comes at a price!" And he then proceeded into a detailed account of how he prepares a simple meal for himself by sandwiching good ham and plum tomatoes and fresh lettuce leaves between two slices of excellent wheat bread. "With real Dijon mustard sauce, of course!" He said.
My other chef teacher, on the other hand, mooned over spending hard earned cash to buy caviar at Santis. Then he relayed how glorious portobello mushrooms can be when baked with fish.

But I am getting off tangent, as usual. The point is that I always thought that good food had to be part of the local landscape, so I remained skeptical about my instructors' exaggerations about 'foreign' food. However, I remain a willing student and every once in a while, I indulge in whimsical recipes but I remain a staunch fan of local recipes.

Anyway, I was talking about the journeys we used to take for the love of bulalo. Then one day, while touring guests, we ended up at Cecilles in Tagaytay, one of those restaurants lined up along the ridge. And good god, the bulalo was heaven on earth. All memories of the mahogany market bulalo got buried by the incredible taste of Cecilles' bulalo meat. What on earth where we doing in the market all these years? When Cecilles sold infinitely better bulalo for just a little more?

Bulalo is one of the easiest beef soups ever. My version is a little more fancy because its being cooked for a sick person. (See my nilaga recipe) Its just really like nilaga except I used fancier cuts with the requisite bone marrow.

So here it is, my bulalo.

Bulalo

Ingredients:
1 kg beef shanks
corn
celery, stalks only
carrots, sliced
onion, sliced
pechay leaves, sliced
potatoes, diced
beans
black pepper
bay leaves

Procedure:
1) Boil the beef shanks. Throw away the water/ or skim the surface until water becomes clear.
2) Boil the beef pieces in new water. Add some black pepper and salt to the water.
3) Add the carrot, onions, and celery to flavor the simmering beef stock.
4) Leave for 2 hours, checking every once in a while to see that there's still plenty of water.
5) Add the corn.
6) When corn is tender, add the pechay leaves.
7) Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Book Review: Crawfish Dreams by Nancy Rawles

Crawfish Dreams is the second novel in a trilogy. The first novel, which I haven't read, is entitled - Love Like Gumbo. I was in the bookstore and the title piqued my interest. So, I read the blurb in back cover - "For forty years Camille Broussard has cooked for other people.....Now its 1984 and she's determined to cook for herself. She'll pickle okra, sell meat pies at church, peddle pralines."
Then just to check whether the novel was really worth buying, I read the opening paragraph: "Ambition, like love, needs the light of day to flourish. If driven underground, it becomes mangled and distended."
Hmn, I liked the mangled and distended part so....I went home with the Crawfish Dreams of Mrs Broussard.
There is this genre of foody novels/autobios that I am currently exploring. I am sure that there's an entire listing of this particular literature somewhere - but I noticed it for the first time when I read that Mexican extravaganza Like Water For Chocolate. The 'genre' may be described as follows: its a tight narrative interwoven with recipes, with the recipes forming an essential part of the story (like milestones). So in the plot, usually linear, the rising/falling points are marked by distinct recipes. In Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, for instance, there's the recipe consisting of rose petals that aroused desire and longing in everyone, and the chapter ended with one of the sisters passionately entangled with some guerilla in some makeshift shower room (?). In Ruth Reichl's Comfort me with Apples, she marked her separation from her husband by cooking comfort soup. And the recipes for this cooking efforts are written completely (with tips), as though taken from a cookbook page.
Rawles' Crawfish follows this tradition. I can't say much for the narrative, I started feeling sleepy at one point, exhausted at the thought of Mrs Broussard baking hundreds of pies to make money - but the recipes were rather interesting.
The remarkable recipes include this one, which I hope to cook as soon as I get hold of a crawfish:

Camille's Seafood Gumbo and Crawfish Tails
serves 12

1/2 stick butter
4 medium size onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 each medium size red, yellow, orange, and green peppers (seeded and diced fairly small)
1/2 cup canned tomato puree
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound fresh okra, stems removed and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 1/2 quarts fish stock
3 pounds medium size tiger prawns, shelled and deveined
1 bound bay scallops
12 fresh oysters, shucked and drained
1/2 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 pound crawfish tails
1 1/2 tablespoons file powder
3 each medium size ripe red and yellow tomatoes, diced

Procedure:
In a huge, heavy pot, melt your butter over moderate heat, then add onions, garlic, and bell peppers, and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add your tomato puree, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, stir well, and let simmer 10 minutes.
Add your okra and cook 5 minutes longer. Add your stock, bring to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat to moderate. Add the prawns, scallops, oysters, crabmeat,a nd crawfish tails, stir and simmer for 15 minutes. In a bowl, mix your file poweder with 1 cup of gumbo broth. Remove your pot from the heat and stir in your file with the fresh tomatoes. Stir until thickened.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Shabu-shabu with beef sukiyaki slices




WHO doesn't like beef soup in all its incarnations? But who has the time for the slow cooking required to make that delicious beef soup?

This is a good 'beef' soup substitute to the 'nilaga' when you don't really have the luxury of time to prepare beef soup. The stock is essentially 'dashi' powder. Take care not to do what I did though - which was to put too much dashi - as the powder leaves a strange chemical taste in the mouth.

Ingredients:
1/4 kg beef sukiyaki slices
1/4 kg shiitake mushrooms (sliced)
4 pcs of tofu (hard)
2 bundles mustard leaves (sliced)
onion
leeks (white part only)
2 sachets of dashi powder

Procedure:
1) Boil 3 L of water then add dashi. Add the onion slices
2) Add the beef sukiyaki slices to the boiling dashi mixture.
3) Add the sliced shiitake. Let simmer for a while (10 minutes)
4) Add the leeks.
5) Add the sliced tofu.
6) Add the mustard leaves.
7) Serve when the leaves have become tender.

NOTE:

Dont use mustard leaves.... Better to use pechay or chinese cabbage. The mustard has a bitter, tart flavor which doesnt go well with beef.
Oh, and one of these days, I'll gather the courage to make that famous Vietnamese beef soup favorite. Just you wait.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What they sell at the Lung Center Sunday Market














I sing praises for the Sunday Market at the Lung Center. Best place to go on a Sunday morning; the place pulsates with life.
My favorite spectacle? The frogs.
I've heard of people making adobong frog. They say it tastes like chicken.
I don't have enough spirit of adventure to make that adobo.
So I remain, an avid frog watcher. Meanwhile, the frogs maintain their avid gourmet following. Week after week, the frog man is in his station, plying his delectable ware. Other frog recipes, anyone?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cotabato Old Market

Markets are the place to go when you really want to see the life of the city. People have to eat- and they go to markets to buy food. In real local markets, there's this total lack of pretense. The ingredients come in ugly packages, the goods are dirt cheap, and there's this freshness in the products that can only come about when everything has to perish at the end of the day. Everything must go. The buyers haggle like crazy and everyone has this sense of purpose.

I went to the Old Market in Cotabato City today, driven partly by a memory of my not-so-recent visit: dirt cheap sea food and native chicken and strange cooking contraptions. The Old Market has now attained the secondary status of - well, the low-end market. Nevertheless, it remains The Afternoon market. Things start heating up in the afternoon, just when everything is beginning to wilt in the newer markets. There were many fabulous fruits in season: marang, durian, rambutan. There was a bounty of sea food too: shrimps, shells, fish, etc. I was all set to cook as the local ingredients in season would dictate: i thought, shell soup would be very nice, and fried fish, and shrimps, and maybe some seaweed salad.

SO I bought all these - and rambutan and marang too- for barely P200. Thats how cheap it is here. And I went to my grandparents' place and cooked everything.

Within an hour, I was eating a bountiful dinner with my cousins and grandfather. My grandfather said, it would be nice if all 'visitors' are like this.

I wish I could have cooked for my maternal granfather too. He's gone now. And my paternal grandfather has cancer too. So I was watching him eat what I cooked. He told me, I can't believe you're all grown up now. I told him I felt the same.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Penne with Salmon and Mushroom Sauce














Every once in a while, I actually live up to my empty boasts. This one elicited raves. Oh, I am a goddess. Had to think of something to justify the bashing I gave to Caruso. The secret here is this: fresh mushrooms and canned salmon. And good butter. Its very simple - but if you plate it nicely, your guests will think otherwise.

Ingredients
500 g penne
fresh button mushrooms (slivered)
1 can of salmon (flaked, Century)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup cream
parmesan cheese (grated)
parsley (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic

Procedure
Sauce
1) Melt the butter in a hot pan.
2) Throw in the cloves of garlic until the aromatic smell wafts in the air.
3) Add the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms have shrunk.
4) Add the salmon flakes.
5) Let simmer, and then set aside.

Pasta
1) Boil salted water.
2) When the water is in a rolling boil, add the penne.
3) Cook until the pasta is al dente (8 minutes).
4) When the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta.
5) Put in a large serving bowl. Coat the pasta with cream. Then add the parmesan.
6) Garnish with parsley.

To serve, add the sauce to the pasta. Add parmesan to taste.
I also served toasted herby focaccia.
(Our guest, who is Indonesian, added chili sauce!)

Friday, September 15, 2006

blah at cafe caruso


In the Philippines, despite the Anti-Money Laundering law, a ragtag group of Italian mafia has found away to legitimize their illegal spoils: by setting up Italian restos named after their well-loved musicians. So you have cafe puccini, cafe caruso, cafe, er, pavarotti? So their menu begins with a picture of the favored music person, including a short bio (1st page), Antipasti, Pasta (always home-made), Main Course, Pizza, and Dessert (always with tiramisu and pannacotta).
I'm not particularly fond of Italian food (see old posts). Nor of Italian musicians (not fond of music at all, since they leave me weeping, eg. Miles Davis' sketches of spain). But due to the ubiquity of Italian restaurants in Manila, I invariably end up eating in one, for reasons of mutual convenience, etc.
I was at Cafe Caruso yesterday night for a small get together for a cousin leaving for Dubai. The homemade pasta with porcini mushroom cream sauce was blah (the sauce was terrific but the pasta was way beyond al dente), so was the spaghetti with clams (pasta not homemade but infinitely better, but blah sauce). I mean, I could have concocted the same thing for 1/5 of the price. The pasta was so boring I almost slept on the table. It challenged me to make my own.
However, the pizza was terrific. I ate so much I could hardly breathe. I washed it down with gulps of SMB.
So, visit Cafe Caruso, in front of Alliance Francaise along Riposo St, and order seafood pizza. Worth every sumptuous bite.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Revisiting Sogo




What does Sogo mean to you?

Keywords: Culture & History
Chinese: 争碁 (zheng1 qi2) Japanese: (sogo) 争碁Korean:
BobMcGuigan--
A sogo was an official challenge match during the Edo Era in Japanese go.

When there was a serious dispute such as who should become Meijin it could be settled by a challenge match between the disputants or their representatives. One of the most famous such matches was that between Gennan Inseki and Honinbo Shuwa when Gennan attempted to get himself appointed Meijin Godokoro after Jowa's resignation. The Honinbo house objected and proposed a 20-game match between Gennan and Shuwa. Shuwa won the first game so convincingly that Gennan withdrew his application.

DJ: According to Andrew Grant, sogo literally means fighting go, but a better translation would be grudge match.It could consist of any number of games: if it was to be played on even the number of games had to be even in order to allow both players to hold black the same number of times.

John F. No, the original contribution is the correct one. A sougo was a challenge match because there was a dispute to be settled, and it also required formal permission from the shogunate. Furthermore, there is a separate Japanese word for a grudge (ikon) match. Anyway, the literal meaning is challenge match (i.e. games to settle a dispute). Arasou is not used for "fighting" in the usual warlike sense. That's tatakau. Arasou is used of "contending, competing, settling a dispute, quarreling, arguing, etc."

DJ: Thank you, John. What about my second phrase (also from A. Grant)?

John F. Sorry, but I don't know which phrase you mean. The bit about number of games is OK. For people unfamiliar with Japanese, arasou and sou are Japanese and Sino-Japanese readings of the same word 争.

Andrew Grant: Sorry, but I'm pretty sure that I've seen sougo translated as fighting go somewhere. (Naturally, I can't find the reference now...) Of course, I accept JF's correction. But I don't see how sougo can literally mean anything other than the literal meaning of the kanji that comprise it - and that is not challenge match however you look at it. BTW, The Go Players' Almanac gives the literal meaning of sougo as competitive go.

As for grudge match, I know this is a bad translation, but you have to look at it in context. I was trying to write something that would interest Go players who had no particular interest in history - and even a few non - Go players maybe. It is a mistake to think that the most literally accurate translation is the best in all circumstances. Competitive go or even fighting go are examples of phrases which lose their meaning in translation. All go is competitive, surely? Grudge match was more interesting, as it gave some flavour of the rivalry between the go houses during the Edo period. I knew that it wasn't a great translation from an academic point of view, but as I never expected this sentence which I wrote eight years ago to be subjected to this kind of analysis, I didn't worry about it too much.

Spinach Chicken Casserole

Oh, the things we do to satisfy our cravings.
I chanced upon a little stall selling fresh vegetables along CP Garcia. I saw a glorious bundle of spinach, all green, dewy, and beautiful. I thought, OK, the gods have conspired to place this spinach here and now. I bought the P20 bundle and went home. I went over many cookbooks for a spinach-cream-chicken recipe but alas, I found nothing. So finally, I decided, I'm going to concoct the recipe myself. Remembering the superb chicken casserole of my friend, I set out to make a spinach chicken casserole. I wasn't successful in producing crisp spinach toppings - but it was quite fun to anticipate the results of the impulse to cook spinach.

Spinach Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

bundle of spinach
1 kg chicken breasts (cooked, cubed)
2 cans of cream of mushroom (condensed)
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 cup of cheddar cheese (grated)
oil

celery
1 medium-sized onion

Procedure:
Spinach
1) Saute the spinach leaves in olive oil.

Chicken Mixture
1) Prepare chicken stock using the chicken breasts and two liters of water. To infuse flavor, add aromatics such as celery and onions. Carrots would have been a nice addition also. As well, a bouquet garni. When the chicken is cooked, set aside and let cool. Keep the stock for future use.
2) Cube the cooked chicken.
3) In a baking pan, mix the cubed chicken, cream of mushroom, and 1/2 cup of sour cream.
4) Top the chicken mixture with the sauteed spinach , then top with the grated cheese.
5) Place the pan in the oven (350 F) and bake until the mixture bubbles.
6) Cool and then serve.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cookbook Inventory


Lately, my cookbooks have been giving me a headache. They're all over the place- some in my office, in the Faura shack, most of them in the madhouse hostel. They're all begging to be inventoried, centralized, and well, arranged according to genre. I also noticed that while I have some strange titles: The Early American Cookbook, Secrets of Salsa, The Food of Indonesia, and even - The Food of Indonesia, I still don't have the usual canons: Julia Child, Larousse Gastronomique, etc, etc.
On a graver note, I haven't even cooked from maybe 70% of these cookbooks. Hahaha. So why buy them? I actually enjoy reading them. The thing is, sometimes, I read a recipe, and I just know that I won't like the taste so I don't even really bother. The other day, I read a recipe on okra which required adding a half-and-half - the mere thought was so revolting, I had to close the book. Okra should be in laswa, pinakbet, etc - not in half-and-half! But reading them again and again has an effect of making them sound, well, normal? And after a getting used to the idea, you start toying with the possibility of cooking them. More so if you encounter these recipes in the flesh - in a restaurant, over catered lunch, in whatever venue.
Take spinach for example, or kulitis in the vernacular, my grandmother used to add this to her fish soups. I meticulously avoided her kulitis, because I felt it was weeds that I used for purposes of playing takyan (tie the bunch of with rubber band and use it as the object of takyan, superior bouncing quality). I mean, if you used something for play, you don't expect it to turn up floating in your lunch soup right? Anyway, I've read plenty of spinach recipes in my cookbooks - spinach & ricotta cheese, spinach souffle, spinach etc - and it never really crossed my mind to try cooking spinach. Until last last week when I ate spinach leaves with cream and chicken - oh, it was divine. Since then, I've been hunting for a similar recipe in my cookbooks.
With the internet and the many, many recipe sites - why buy cookbooks? Well, some cookbooks have this amazing character, and it's just wonderful reading them, looking at the illustrations, and the author's comments. I like the old Moosewood cookbooks by Molly Katzen, and the Silver Plate cookbooks with the intricate artwork, and all that. I revel a little in food porno - eg, contemporary cookbooks with high-resolution photographs of food - but there's something lovable about old cookbooks with their one-person-made-all-of-this quality. New cookbooks often feel like the author wrote them, gave the manuscript to a publishing company, and the company gave it to the graphics/design department, they shot photographs etc - and then the entire thing was published. And these days, your cookboook authors aren't matronly like Julia Child, or Josephine ___, but very good looking youngish women (Nigella, Rachel, Giada), of the Martha Stewart mold. These cookbooks have an unreal quality to them. Nevertheless, I still buy them when I can, because - because I'm addicted to buying them and reading them.
So, today, of all days, I'm finally trying to put order into the cookbooks by finally itemizing them and laying them out neatly in a bookshelf.

Crab Mentality and Palengke Aura



King crabs are one of the things that make life worthwhile.
This weekend we attempted to replicate one of our favorite recipe combinations: deep fried garlic crab and sinigang sa miso na maya-maya.
These frequent visits to the Cubao Farmers' Market is beginning to make me feel like I have a palengke aura that I can't shake off. The feeling intensifies especially when I start cleaning fish and the fishy smell stays in my hands no matter how many times I soap and rinse. Today, I not only cleaned fish, I even chopped real live king crabs. So I smell not only fishy, but crabby too.
Crabs are a special treat. Of course you have to buy them live. From the market all the way to the youth hostel, we patiently tried to ignore the crabs wrestling each other within the tight confines of the plastic bag. When we reached home, we tried to immobilize them by putting them in the freezer. But since the freezer door wouldn't close, everytime we opened the ref, one of the king crabs would crawl out, eliciting our horrified shrieks. Anyway, at a certain point, the crabs stopped moving, and we were able to chop them in two parts for the chosen recipe.
I don't know for sure if this is how the favorite restos cook it - and part of me doesn't really want to know how they cook it - but this is how we did it anyway:

Recipe 1
Deep Fried Garlic Crabs
Ingredients:

2kg king crabs
tempura powder
2 cups garlic (finely chopped)
oil
black pepper
garlic powder
salt

Procedure:
1) Chop the crabs into two parts; remove the icky part.
2) Rub the crabs with the chopped garlic. Make sure you use finely chopped garlic.
3) Coat the crab with the tempura powder (mixed with some black pepper, garlic powder, and salt)
4) Deep fry for seven minutes.

Sauce:
1) Add chopped garlic to native coconut vinegar + soy sauce.

Recipe 2
I think this was a relative disaster, I used over 3 liters of water ---- the miso taste was practically absent because the broth was too watery. Well, this is the first time I've attempted to do this so.... Although I am writing the exact amounts of the ingredients I used earlier, I suggest reducing the amount of water to 2 L only. I also suggest adding another packet of miso. As well, if you have the time, don't use a sinigang mix. Make your own sampalok broth for sinigang. Add some siling labuyo also, to sharpen the taste of the sinigang. This version was quite bland. I noticed everyone adding patis to their sinigang.

Sinigang sa Miso na MayaMaya

Ingredients:
1 kg Ulo ng MayaMaya (chopped)
1 packet of miso
2 pcs radish (chopped)
4 pcs tomatoes (quartered)
1 pc onion (halved)
mustasa leaves (sliced)
sinigang mix
patis
3 L water

Procedure:
1) Let water boil.
2) Add the radish, tomatoes, and onion to the boiling water. Then add the mayamaya head.
3) When the fish has turned opaque, add the miso. Let simmer.
4) Add the mustasa leaves.
5) Serve!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lecons de choses: Adam Gopnik on Cooking

Of all the lecons de choses I have absorbed in Paris, the most important has come from learning how to cook. - Adam Gopnik

Gopnik's book can be pretty absorbing, especially when he starts writing about cooking (in a language radically different from the usual food talk). For instance, from his piece on Lessons from Things, he says:

'The sublime moment of cooking, though, is really the moment when nature becomes culture, stuff becomes things. It is the moment when the red onions have been chopeed and the bacon has been sliced into lardons and the chestnuts have been peeled, and they are all mijoteing together in the pot, and then - a specific moment - the colors begin to change, and the smells to mottled, bend from raw to cooked. The chestnuts, if you're doing chestnuts, turn a little damp, a little weepy. That's what they do; everything weeps.
I suggest there must be a good evolutionary psychologist's reason for the appeal of this transformation, some smart, smutty thing about color change and female tears, but cooking isn't really like sex: appetite and satiation and appetite again. Sex is ravenous rather than reflective. The passage from stuff to things, the moment when the vegetables weep, is a meditative monent and has no point really, except the purely ephemeral one of making it happen. You cook for yourself, or I do anyway.'

True, true. Then to complete the thought, and say in a much nicer way things that we think of anyway, Gopnik continues -
"Cooking....is our only direct, not entirely debased line with the hermetic life, with Zen sitting, with just doing things without thought."
(But in this sense, isn't cooking pretty much like sex? The mindlessness of it all?)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Seafood Sunday - fish en papillote & bacon-wrapped prawns




















After several postponements, we finally managed to host a late Sunday lunch for the madhouse youth hostel habitues. Shortly before lunch, we went to Farmers' Market in Cubao for seafood. We bought a kilo of tiger prawns (sugpo) from a Pangasinense. I also purchased lapulapu (red snapper?) fillets for my special menu for the brattinela sister.
For the longest time, she had been bugging me about this fish fillet recipe she saw in the Food Magazine. Her recent emergency trip to the hospital on account of severe stomach pains aroused my (latent) sisterly sentiments regarding her diet. I couldn't remember exactly what the recipe stated but I remembered basil, fish fillet, and garlic.
As far as I could recall, the procedure called for the trusty papillote method - baking the fish fillet with the spices and herbs in paper packets. Imagine my surprise when I read the Food article and saw that the method required steaming and sauteeing, where did I get the idea that the writer used the papillote method? As well, the recipe called for mushrooms, olive oil, onions - all sadly missing from the pantry.
In the end, despite my desire to please the little sister, I had to turn to my cooking bible, How to Cook Everything, for a solution. Since I had it in my head to use the papillote method, I used it. And I simply followed Bittman's suggestions on the ingredients. Here's the simple recipe that I followed to cook the lapulapu fillet:

Recipe 1
Lapu-Lapu en Papillote

Ingredients:

1 kg lapu lapu fillet (red snapper)
basil leaves (chiffonade)
basil leaves
chopped garlic (fried)
salt and pepper
butter
olive oil

Procedure:
Fish
1) Season the fish fillet with salt and pepper.
2) Place the fish fillet in the wax paper, sprinkle with basil leaves chiffonade. Fold the paper and seal it.
3) Heat the oven to 400 F for 15 minutes. Then place the fish in the parcel inside the oven.
4) Leave for 20 minutes.

Basil leaves
1) Heat the olive oil.
2) Saute the basil leaves until crisp.

Assemble the fish in a bed of crisp basil leaves. Then sprinkle with the fried garlic bits. Serve.

Recipe 2
This one is a crowd favorite, because of the delicious butter-lemon sauce. We cooked this because tiger prawns, in all its incarnations, is the house favorite.


Bacon-wrapped Prawns

1 kg tiger prawns
bacon
lemon
butter
chopped garlic
garlic powder

Procedure
1) Remove the shells of the tiger prawns, leave the 'heads' and the tails.
2) 'Straighten' the prawns by 'spearing' with barbecue sticks.
3) Wrap bacon slices around the 'body' of the prawn; hold together with a toothpick (you can remove this afterwards).
4) Deep fry the bacon-wrapped prawns.
5) Serve with sauce.

Sauce:
1) Saute garlic.
2) Add a cup of butter.
3) Allow butter to melt. Lift sauce pan from heat.
4) Add lemon juice and garlic powder (to taste).