Sunday, May 29, 2011

Omega Adobo

Ahhh, this was the best adobo I've ever had so far. The recipe also involves more ingredients than the previous ones I've tried, and owes a lot to the recipe my friend, Lola, sent me. Most of all, I think the key addition was coconut milk, which makes the soup richer and balances out the vinegar. Beyond that, the other ingredients add more dimensions to the flavor. Lola's version was pretty distinct, and after trying hers, I ended up making my version somewhere between hers and what I'd done before.

A technique note: ever wonder how to sauté on a steel (or other non-non-stick surface) pan without the meat's sticking? I finally did a little research to figure it out since sometimes I'd be fine and others not without knowing why. First, make sure you pan, skillet, wok, what-have-you, is at your hot cooking temperature before you add your oil (be it medium-high or high heat). Once you add the oil, it shouldn't be long before the oil reaches cooking temperature (add oil after pot is hot so it doesn't break down as much over a long heating time). It's ready when the surface of the oil is rippling. Then, when you add the meat, don't overcrowd the pan or the temperature will drop too much and the meat will stick.

Anyway, I don't have too much to say about this adobo except that it was really rich and savory. It was weird, though, that the meat was very tender and juicy rather than at a fall-off-the-bone consistency despite its being cooked even a little longer than my previous attempts (which resulted in fall-off-the-bone consistency). Not really something to complain about since tender and juicy is great, too. I wonder if the thickness of the soup has something to do with it. Also, you can see that I left all the ingredients in the soup in the picture above, rather than straining the soup as was called for in previous recipes. I think that straining it out may be correct practice (makes pouring the soup on your rice simpler rather than having to pick out peppercorns), but I like how it looks better since the apples (!) provide points of contrast. My recipe is below.


Omega Adobo

1.5 lbs. chicken parts (bone in, skin on)

3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 tart apple, sliced
1 TBS ginger, grated

1/4 cup soy sauce
~1/4 cup vinegar (a little less)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 lemon
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 cup coconut milk

1.    In a large pot, brown chicken on both sides and remove chicken from pot.
2.    In the same pot, sauté garlic and onion over medium-high heat until fragrant and onion is translucent.
3.    Add apple and ginger and sauté a minute longer.
4.    Add chicken back into pot along with soy sauce, vinegar, coconut milk, lemon (squeeze juice out), bay leaf, and peppercorns.
5.    Bring to a boil and turn heat down so that it simmers with lid on. Simmer for 30 minutes.
6.    Remove lid and simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
7.    Add 1/2 cup coconut milk and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, remove from heat and let rest a couple minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Dairy purists, avert your eyes!

This was my first attempt at making a pizza, and I think it turned out pretty well. This one was a chicken pesto pizza. Crust came out nicely, golden brown on the bottom like around the edges in the photo (preheat your pan!). You'll notice that my pie was not perfectly round. It's "rustic", I tell you! (note: I am opting for the "logical" or British model of period and comma placement.) The dough had a fair amount of resilience in retaining its shape though; when I was rolling it out, beyond around 10 inches in diameter, it kept pulling back in to a great extent. I don't know if that's to be expected or not, but I suppose it turned out fine in the end. It wasn't a thin-crusted pizza, though, to be sure.

As for the "cheese", well, it was vegan "cheese". I dunno, it's alright. It's certainly not real cheese, but I suppose it does okay as a stand in. Apparently some brands are better than others, and the one I used is less favored. This one's texture was somewhat off, flavor was okay, but rather light. Given that vegan cheese has little nutritional value, though, I'm fine with just not bothering with it. Guess I'll just be looking toward cheeseless pizzas in subsequent attempts.

Recipes: Bittman's pizza dough and loosely followed this chicken pesto pizza recipe for handling the toppings. As for the baking, I went for 450 degrees and around 12 minutes, stopping when the crust looked right. I don't have a pizza stone or pizza pan, so I just used parchment paper on a (preheated) baking sheet.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Take 2: Chicken Adobo and Yellow Split-Pea Palida

 Chicken adobo simmering after braising and browning.
Things don't always go perfectly the first time I try a new recipe or idea. I often do a second or third (or more) take, though, to try to figure things out, learn something new, and get things right. Recently I did a couple more attempts at chicken adobo, after my first attempt, last year, was kinda "meh" and a second attempt at yellow split-pea palida. I managed to improve greatly on both of them, though I think my adobo is still not quite there.

Adobo Take 1:

Adobo Take 2:

With the adobo, one big thing was just the cut of meat. I'd just used the boneless skinless chicken breasts I had on hand the first time. My subsequent attempts, though, I used bone-in, with-skin chicken quarters. As a result the flavor is richer and the meat less dry from long cooking. Also, the skin is just delicious--but alright, if you must remove it for fear of fat and oil. The other big thing was the ratio of vinegar to soy sauce. The couple recipes I've seen just call for a lot more vinegar than I think is best (and than what I'm used to in adobo). On the other hand, adjusting the ratio too far towards soy sauce makes the dish less different from the hong shao braised meat dishes of Taiwanese and Chinese cuisine. In take two (pictured above), I got the technique parts down, I believe, with the braising and beautiful browning, but not the vinegar/soy sauce ratio. In take three I adjusted that and it tasted better, but there's still something different about the adobos I've had before. The soup is thicker and I guess fattier. I'm not sure. Maybe they added something else or used a lot of fat in the browning before simmering, or didn't skim scum while braising. Hmm. Well, on the other hand, this way feels a little lighter/healthier.

Palida Take 1:

Palida Take 2 + Roti:

For the split-pea palida, I definitely kicked it up a notch this time. I started the split-peas boiling 20 minutes early so that they would be reaching their mushy point as the rest of the ingredients were finishing. You can see in the take-2-pic that the peas are visibly mushy, versus the first one (and it's not just due to the focus of the photo). I also had all the spices on hand and used the correct amounts. (Well, except for black instead of green cardamom. I didn't know what they were/the difference before.) This time the palida was that much more flavorful. Also, I tried making roti to go with the palida this time, and it was really excellent! The texture of the roti really complements the palida well. I like it better than with rice, but it's time consuming to make. I used whole wheat flour, which is why it's tan all over instead of looking white with browning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vegetable Broth and Dumpling Soup

Vindication! For Mark Bittman's vegetable soup guide. Well, for one of the soups. I went back and tried the "vegetable broth," and it came out well. The mushrooms and tomato must be the key factors. (Note my previous dissatisfaction.) I will say, though, that the flavor was most adequate when it was cool. Once warmed up, it was weaker. I've actually read that food's flavor is strongest at room temperature, but can't remember where. Hmm.

Anyway, Bittman presents the soup as going with a piece of toasted good bread, but that clearly won't do for dinner for me at least. So after making the broth, I used some of it to make a simple dumpling soup. The dumplings I'd made before and frozen. Other than those, after straining the broth, I just threw in some ginger, scallions, and lettuce. Napa cabbage or plain-ol'-cabbage probably would have been better for flavor, but I had lettuce on hand.

First boil the dumplings separately, unless you don't mind the broth being cloudy. In the background are the vegetables after removal from the broth.

Simmering broth with ginger and scallions, and just cooking the lettuce.

Pour soup over dumplings et voilà!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


This is version 2.0 of my black sesame banana mini-muffins, and they're even better than before! While last time I mixed the black sesame powder in with the banana bread mix, this time I kept them separate and made a sweet black sesame paste to use as a filling for the muffins. This way, the two flavors were kept distinct and you got a great interplay between the muffin and filling flavors. Awesome! Next time I'll know I can put the filling in lower to center it better.

As for how to make it, you can just use your favorite banana bread recipe (I just used the one I found online from last time and made slight modifications) and make the black sesame paste, which is the same as for black sesame tang yuan. Since it's a pain to mix materials for just one mini-muffin pan, I made enough for a loaf of banana bread and just spooned out what was necessary for the muffins before pouring the rest into a loaf pan.

As for the paste, it's just equal parts black sesame powder, sugar, and oil (or butter, which I clearly did not do). I used 2 TBS each, which was about right for my 12 mini-muffins. Heat the oil on low-medium heat in a small skillet, add the black sesame and sugar and stir until it turns into a paste. Other recipes you can find online will ask for whole black sesame, in which case you have to toast and grind the seeds first. I just have the powder on hand. Whatever, it's more convenient. I used brown sugar, but may try powdered sugar next time to see what I think of the texture difference.

How do you get the filling inside?? A syringe. I'm just kidding. That's what I used to wonder and think, though. I don't remember where I read this, but the way I did it was first to lay down a little of the muffin (or cupcake if you're making cupcakes) batter in the mold, then using a small spoon, insert the tip into the batter you've put in and tilting the spoon near vertically, spin the spoon around and let the filling slide into place. Once the filling's in place, spoon some more batter on top of it. Do this for the rest of the molds in the pan and it's ready to bake. Cool technique.