Saturday, September 25, 2010

Loving Leftovers

Adobo Flakes Wrap
Don't you just love the feeling of accomplishment when you manage to turn leftovers into something "new" for lunch the next day? I do! Yes, some dishes work better than others in the leftover department but I think those of us from the land of adobo can agree that this one is tops when it comes to aging gracefully. 

I made a huge vat of adobo recently. It was so huge that we had it for three meals and still, there was more. So, to change it up a little I decided to make adobo flakes. When I was living in San Francisco and my mom would come to visit, she would never head home without leaving a mound of adobo flakes in my fridge. It was her labour of love and it was simply the best! It could be consumed in so many ways: either on it's own, with eggs, as a sandwich, on a salad - I can go on and on. One version created by my pasta-loving brother-in-law, Mr. Noodleman was mixed into his spaghetti with marinara sauce. What a discovery! It may sound weird I know but it added heft and great flavour to a simple tomato sauce. We had so much of it one night, we almost passed out on the couch.

So now it was my turn to make adobo flakes. There definitely is room for improvement in my version. I just flaked the meat and cooked it down with the leftover sauce until all the liquid was absorbed. Then, I fried this in a little bit of oil until it turned to a brown crisp. I need to find a way to make it as fine and crisp as mom's but I have to say that it was still super yummy and crunchy. What's even better is I found yet another way of having these magical leftover flakes one hungry afternoon. All I had in the fridge was the adobo flakes, feta cheese, wraps and spinach. So my adobo flakes wrap was born out of:

1 naan wrap
1 small bunch of baby spinach
1/2 cup or more of adobo flakes
about 6 cubes of feta cheese (I used low fat and it was very good.)
1 T Hoisin sauce
1 T Japanese mayo (optional)

Lay the naan wrap in a pan over medium heat smear the Hoisin down the middle and the mayo next to it if you are using. Line the spinach leaves, feta cubes or crumbles and adobo flakes along the bottom half of the wrap. Roll over starting from the bottom so that the empty half can be wrapped snugly around the filling. Leave on the pan to heat through for about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate, cut in half and enjoy!

If I had access to kesong puti here, I would definitely use it. But anyhow, the feta worked really well and the combination of the adobo with the Hoisin just made it oh so delicious. A quick lunch that got two thumbs up from Mr. P. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Discovering the Elements of Coq au Vin

I learned about mirepoix while visiting my Tita Paz in Cincinnati one summer. At the tender age of 8, I got such a kick out of saying this "fancy" French word which she explained meant the combination of onions, celery and carrots. I guess she saw that I had an interest for the kitchen as early as then. So from being her spectator and just watching her prepare meals for us, I quickly becoming her sous-chef for the summer. And boy did I prepare lots of mirepoix for her that year! Now that I think about it, she is surely one of my earliest cooking mentors.

Fast forward to Mother's Day back in 2001. I was still living in San Francisco and decided to treat my dear mother out to lunch at a French bistro in Yountville, Bistro Jeanty. It was then that she first introduced to one of the most basic French dishes: Coq au Vin. Immediately I fell in love with it. I loved how the chicken was so tender, infused with the red wine and all the yummy flavours coming from the herbs and guess what? The mirepoix! This is when I put two and two together, the little element I learned about at 8 years old turns out to be the basis of most French cooking. Similar to how the combination of garlic, onion and tomato is the basis of Filipino cooking.  Note taken: guisado to Filipino food = mirepoix to French food. 

This I can say is when I began to explore cooking French inspired dishes more and more. For some reason however, Coq au Vin was one of those that intimidated me for a while. I guess it was because from that time at Bistro Jeanty I started to order it a lot when eating out, and back then there were just some restaurant dishes that I was afraid to cook myself. I'm glad that is not the case anymore because really, Coq au Vin is a stew so it really is simple to do. 

This recipe may not be authentic or completely true to the classical French ways but it was satisfying, delicious and tasted like Coq au Vin to me. The method was definitely simpler than Julia Child's recipe, which I do want to try next time. 

6 chicken pieces (I used thighs and breasts with bone and skin on)
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
2 strips of bacon cut into lardons
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 T cognac
4 T flour
about 15 pearl onions
1-2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 a bottle of red wine (should be Bordeaux but I just had Shiraz)
bouquet garni:
-3 sprigs of thyme
-a sprig of parsley
-3 bay leaves

Season chicken lightly with salt and pepper. In an oven-proof casserole, heat olive oil and butter and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Remove chicken from pan and bacon lardons to render the fat. If there is too much fat for your taste, drain some of it and add the mirepoix, season and brown. Once the mirepoix has browned, add the chicken back into the pan and pour in the brandy to deglaze. Bring a lit match close to the liquid to flambe. Swirl the pan around until the flame is gone. Pour in the red wine and chicken stock, add the bouquet garni and pearl onions, bring to a boil. Bring down to a simmer, add the sliced mushrooms and keep simmering for 30 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the casserole to a 170C oven and continue cooking for one and a half hours.

Remove the bouquet garni and serve hot with scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. 

I truly had a moment making this meal. As I was prepping my mirepoix and putting all the elements of the dish together, I was smiling, thinking of my mom and my aunt. Who knew that those individual moments of discovering food in Ohio and California would lead to me cooking up a dinner that would put a huge smile on our faces down here in Sydney? The back story made the meal that much more enjoyable for me. And it made for good dinner conversation with Mr. P too.