Sunday, February 27, 2011

Flan Fascination

After more than 300 years of Spanish colonization, many Spanish influences are permanently embedded in the  Philippine culture. Roman Catholic which is now the major religion in the country  is  a big and a very significant contribution of the Spaniards to the Filipinos.  Also, Spanish language  have played an important rule to our own developing language then . Our adaption to this language is still vivid until today. Now, back home, despite of using  English and Filipino as the major spoken languages in schools, trades, law and government,  words of Spanish origin are  still visible or should I say audible? For example, even those who weren't taught Spanish can at  least  count in this language.  Here's the catch,  hearing  your parents count in Spanish is not a good sign. Never! As a little girl, I learned it fast enough. By ''Uno''  you should get all alert, by ''Dos'' run for it and what ever happens, never ever let the counting reaches ''Tres'' . It always comes with a sored bottom. Also when temper flares and tongue lashes , even the most native  of Indios back home still curses in Espanyol! . Lets keep this child friendly and shall refrain from giving some samples..

And then there's the food. Many Filipino dishes have Spanish influences to it too.  Well, we can't just simply say ''Gracias, Senyor'' and not have some of those chorizos now can we?! Some natives readily embraced Spanish dishes and using their own local resources  even made their own version. There is a long list of Spanish influenced dishes which are  very common  and familiar to  Filipino tables and tongues .  However, today let us tackle the fascinating Flan. This is one dish very common in Spain, Mexico and some parts of Latin America. I bet the entire planet knows about it as well. The French made it, the Spaniards had it so naturally  Filipinos must try it too. We call it Leche Flan from la Leche in Spanish, meaning milk  .Our forefathers must have liked it as we do since recipes were handed down from generations to generations.  Every household has their own secret recipe, some even using carabao milk and duck eggs . Since the nearest carabao is about 9000 kilometers away from us and finding duck eggs in the groceries is as common  as finding a carabao in our doorstep, I end up using some non-exotic ingredients.  After few experiments and countless blisters, I finally found a recipe that suited my taste best. Here is my version.

Vanilla Flan a la Emily

Heat 1 cup of water sugar under medium heat and add few tbsp of water until it turns   golden caramel. Don't let it brown too much as it will be  bitter . Once sugar is caramelized, carefully pour it into your prepared baking dish tilting it if necessary to cover the bottom. I have enough ramekins so I used it. I like to serve my  flan individually.

Heat 200 ml of cream , 600 ml of fresh milk , 1 tube ( 170 g) of sweetened condense milk under low heat whisking constantly. If you want it sweeter, you can add a tbsp or two of white sugar.  Let it boil once and add in 1 vanilla pod, spit with seed scraped out.  Add vanilla seeds and the vanilla pod into the milk mixture. Let it simmer for 3 minutes and take out from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together 6 egg yolks and 1 whole egg ( if you are conscious of your cholesterol level go boil yourself some sweet potato). Tamper the egg before putting into the milk mixture. Tampering the egg is necessary to avoid it from curdling. To do that, add  about a tablespoon of hot milk mixture into the egg while whisking vigorously. I keep on putting hot liquid one tablespoon after the other until the egg mixture turned light yellow and a bit thick and custardy.

Put the pan back into the stove and turn to low . We don't want our eggs to cook too soon. Next pour the egg mixture into the warm milk mixture.Work that biceps and keep the whisk rolling! Keep whisking until the custard is thick enough to coat  the back of a spoon.

Put the custard into your prepared baking dish. Some required sieving but I don't want to loose those precious vanilla seeds so I skipped that. Less dishes too.

Place your baking dish on a bigger baking dish and pour boiling water until about half of baking dish is submerged . Bake the flan bain-Marie style ( water bath)  for about 45 minutes at 180° C or until custard is set . For those who haven't got an oven, steaming will do.Cool off completely before chilling.  To serve, run a thin knife on the edges of your baking dish and invert releasing the flan. Enjoy and move you cholesterol test  until next month.

 Soft. Silky. Sugary good!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pappardelle with Salmon and Cheese sauce

One reason why FF's playing a supportive partner to my blogging career, ( yes, I'm calling it that since I tend  to spend more hours doing this that the other one! ) is because he got to say his piece on what goes into the table. He makes suggestions, gives me a clue and sometimes even tells  me what to do.  He seemed to egg me on pretty good these days. It gives him pretty good cards since he had  once a passive role in the kitchen.Such a sharp cookie!  Before, he merely waits and anticipates to what is to be served. OK wait, before few girls roar, Machismo. I cook since I love cooking and he can't but  he does the dishes after. It's a give and take kind of thing which works pretty well.

Back then, the poor guy has to put up with me wanting to eat rice every single day!I can't help it, I'm Filipino! Not seeing rice for a week will be the death to me, it's like depriving Popeye his spinach. Looks like FF's much happier with our current setting. This is another request from him. He said, it's his favorite. I'm trying not to rely too much on that! He calls everything he likes, his favorite. I cooked 5 kinds of curries and he called each of them his ''favorite''--what gives?! Well, that's FF,  he simply doens't have a way with words. He however, doens't hold back on showing how much he likes his food. Gives a thumbs up sign in every mouthful it looked funny. Action still speaks louder that words .

FF and I are like  chalk and cheese but there are few things we share in common. For example, we both like Dim Sum ....and Salmon. There's no fish in the ocean, river, pond , puddle or any water body that we enjoyed more than this fish. We have been eating too much of it, we might as well join Grizzly bears in the Atlantic in their hunt . It's not the easiest fish to handle in the kitchen ( that's my humble opinion), cooked too long ( it could be matter of minutes!) and it will dry out.To us, Salmon is at its best when the it is lightly fried in a tad of butter . When the outside rendered a fine hint  of crustiness while  the insides remain juicy and succulent. Putting in into a pasta dish  requires a tender and almost loving care. Why am I always so dramatic when describing food anyway?

Look at my silver sticker!

Since it claimed to have won a silver price  at the German Gastronomic Academy, I excitedly grab this book. After that,  my gaze  wandered  to ever space and dark corners searching for  the gold sticker .Why settle for less,right ?  But it looks to me, that entire Germany already figure that out since I can't find one anywhere! Anyway, flipping through its pages, I saw a recipe that made a good impression. I then decided to give it a try. I bet it tasted way better than the recipes on the book with a bronze sticker. Hah!

Papperdelle with Salmon and Cheese sauce

The recipe is short and simple enough to follow, use pasta of your choice. Linguine, Spaghetti, Fettucine or Taglioni could be substituted. Here's how it is done.

Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a  pan and add in 1 medium size chopped onion, sautee until translucent then add 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped. Pour 100 ml of dry white wine and quarter of a cup vegetable stock and bring it to a  a boil. After simmering for few minutes, add 150 g of Creme Fraiche or sour cream.

Turn the heat to medium and bring it  a soft boil. Then add 150 g of freshly grated Gruyere cheese. Let it simmer for five minutes ,not longer. If cheese is cooked too long, it well get lumpy and stick together. We want a creamy thin sauce, not watery with a big lump of elastic ,melted cheese  .   Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook 400 g pasta as instructed.In another Pan ( FF's going to be crazy again after seeing all the  dishes.) Heat  1 tbsp if butter, add 500 g of washed, pat dried  and fresh salmon fillet (cut into about 2 cm thick slices).  Drizzle with lemon juice from 1 lemon and put 2 red chili pepper (cut into strips). Let the salmon cook for three  minutes gently tossing it once or twice. Season with salt and pepper.

Take the noodles out from the pot and sieve. Transter into a clean and big pan ( sorry FF!) , pour the cheese sauce, cook for a minute mixing  thoroughly. Add  in chopped chives. Toss the salmon and chili  in ( gently to avoid breaking it apart) and serve smoking hot.

 Bon appetito!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Siopao Asado

I somehow developed a liking to it when I can't have it. Back in the Philippines, one can actually see Siopao in all forms and sizes in every corner. I can say that although, I often had  one when a pang strikes, I never really relished it. Never appreciated its soft dough and  its savory filling. It's just something to grab when hunger strikes.  Aaand It doesn't cost an arm and leg ! Fast forwarding Siopao filled days---- I came to a place where not a single Siopao is in sight! There and then  realization bites, it is akin to comfort food . It's a piece of my homeland. No, I don't mean China! Although I am grateful to the Chinese that brought us this recipe.

 I don't remember any member of my family who made it from scratch. Knowing perhaps, that  making it yourself is going to be a long row to hoe. Buying is an easier alternative. But here, when its availability is as close as having Brad Pitt in my kitchen, it leaves me no choice. The girl wants her Siopao and Siopao she will make. May the force be with me. So here we go.

Chicken Siopao Asado and no it's not from Chow King!

I started off by making the Asado filling. You could use Pork as well, it would taste just as much delicious. I suggest you use pork shoulder though, this section is particularly tender and have enough fat on it ( It's not that bad) ,making it easier to shred. I on the other hand used chicken breast and quite happy with it. S
I said I heart you and ireplied I heart you back. t when my meal talks with me!

It is necessary to make the filling first as it has to cool off completely. Stuffing warm filling in the siopao dough makes it soggy. Which is bad. Very bad. For this Chicken Asado , I heat 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil in a pan, sauteed 1 diced onion until translucent before adding 3 finely chopped garlic gloves. Don't let the garlic burn as it renders a bitter taste then. Then I add chicken pieces into the pan and add the rest of seasoning. I used 3 tbsp. brown sugar, 3 tbsp light soy sauce and  about a tablespoon each of oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper sauce and dark sweet soy sauce. Next, I poured a cup and half of water, stir in 2 bay leaves and sprinkle a tsp of powdered anise . The I season it with salt  and if you don't have pepper sauce, ground pepper will do.  Then simmer it for half an hour under low heat but keep an eye or two on the pan. Don't let it dry out.

Once the chicken is cooked, take the chicken pieces out and using 2 forks, shred the meat into thin threads. It doesn't have to be extra fine, that's what teeth and dentures are for... Grinding good stuff into smaller particles . Put the shredded pieces into the pan. Then dissolve 1 tbsp. of sugar in a half a cup of water, add 1 tsp of cornstarch and 1 tbsp. light soy sauce. Stir then add into the shredded chicken to thicken the sauce. Remove from heat ,cool off completely and keep your finger off that meat!
Stretch your arms over your head , roll  your sleeves up and take a deep breath. We are doin' some dough! No. not that dough, but a yeast dough.

Before you start skipping, proof your yeast first. It has to be active otherwise you will end up having a stone hard crumbly siopao. We don't want that!

To do that, sprinkle a small pack of yeast over a cup  (1/4 liter) of warm water. Add a tsp of white sugar and stir. You see, like most women, yeast feeds on sugar, they come alive! Let it stand for 10 mins until it look like somebody who had too much drink puked on it  bubbly and foamy.I'm thankful that I  own a stand mixer. This big, mean machine does the kneading and the mixing and the blending for me. It's so versatile it could do almost everything except bring the garbage out and save me from a bad hair day.

 If you have one, sift 560 g of all purpose flour into it the mixing bowl then, add 1 tsp of baking  power, a dash of salt and 125 g of sugar. Whisk it dry until thoroughly mixed.  All those dry ingredients must be well incorporated.

Make a well at the center and pour 30 ml vegetable oil ( you can use other shortening like lard) .Then pour the yeast solution. With a dough hook attached, let the machine do the muscle work for you. Turn the speed to low. Let it slowly mix everything together until it will form a firm but springy dough. Takes about 8 to 10 mins. If you don't have a stand mixer, just knead it with your hand. It's a good exercise and it burns calories which is not bad since you will be piling a lot once the Siopao is done!

Take the dough out and continue kneading with your hand until smooth. Form into a ball, and put it back into the oiled mixing bowl. Cover with cling foil or clean kitchen towel. Let it rise until double in size.

 Oh look how big it grew! Take a deep breath, close you eyes ,savor the moment and think. It's almost the end of the month. Pay slip's coming. All those overtimes and sleep deprived hours are finally getting paid. Then think about the taxes and the social insurances and the medical fees and the retirement policies and the huge chunk it does to your pay check! Think about all that things you can do with that dough!
Then punch this dough.......gently. We only want to release the air bubbles out ( not our frustrations,hah!). Then take the dough from the mixing bowl  and knead it for a few minutes  on a floured surface. By punching and re-kneading the dough, we are reinvigorating the dozing yeast. Let it set for a few mins before cutting it into portions. Prepare your filling, cut some parchment papers and  set the steamer.

 Now roll the dough into a log and cut it into pieces.  It could make about 10 big or 16 small but not so small Siopaos. Take each piece and flatten it up, you can use the palm of your hand to maneuver it. I end up flattening it using a rolling pin.

Fill each dough with shredded chicken asado. Unless you're handing it to the neighbors, don't hold back on the stuffing. Put enough meat on it! It's your siopao after all. Pinch all corners together to close . Some people are so good at sealing Siopao that  it looks like a piece of art. I did my best but I'm not some people.

Steam the buns for about 16 minutes. Make sure to cover the steamer with a clean kitchen towel. It will catch some unwanted moisture. Leave enough space between the buns because they will grow from this..

 to this!

I won't say enjoy and dig in because I know you would....

Don't you dare slap this savory filling with ketchup! Savor it as it is!

Hating kapatid? Naaah. It's all mine! Mine! Mine!



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Firecracker Shrimp

Lets try to give this saga a rest before we develop some serious seafood allergies. Firecracker shrimp is a very simple  but  oh so so delicious finger food. Try counting every Shrimps before serving them because when these babies come out from the fryer, hands and salavating mouths appear out of nowhere.  So don't turn your back on these yummies since they tend to miraculously disapper. The cat took it! The cat took it! Alright enough babbling. Lets get back to business.

The Shrimp Chronicle part 3:
Firecracker Shrimps

I supposed it is called  firecracker shrimp because when  this big, fat and juicy Shrimp is  wrapped in a springroll skin with its tail exposed, it looked like one. It is a versatile recipe, one can use any spices or marinade. Here's how I did mine.

No that's not our neighbor's cat. I simply shell few big shrimps leaving the tails on. Let the tails alone! It has  an important function.  It gives you an excuse  to HOLD YOUR FOOD. You could never be fast enough when it comes to  eating these.  Forks and Knives will slow you down, believe me. Anyway, I used crushed garlic cloves, grated ginger root, few drops of sesame oil and light soy sauce and dash of salt and freshly grounded  pepper . Again, spices and seasoning could be altered. You can use onion or garlic powder, chili flakes, Chinese five spice powder, curry or cumin or  even Thai chili sauce as marinade. Anything you fancy. After seasoning add about a tbsp. constarch  to make your marinade cling to the shrimps. Use your hand to toss everything, be gentle there. Your food must know how much you appreciate them . Let it soak in the marinade for about half an hour.



Make a small incisions on the inner side of the shrimp to straighten  it up and making it easier to roll.

After marinating, pat the shrimps dry. Hot oil plus other liquid is like second degree burn waiting to happen. Now cut a big sheet of springroll skin diagonally. Use it to  wrap each shrimp.. tightly . The last thing you want is oil seeping in and breaking this lovely parcel apart  . Then use an egg wash  to seal it. Let these pictures do the talking, shall we?

It doesn't look too difficult, no? Now, into the hot oil! About 2 or 3 minutes will do or until the springroll skin  turns into a beautiful golden brown color.

If this shrimp could move,  I bet it would jump right back into the boiling oil . Somehow it knew, the first to be up gets eaten! The poor thing didn't even reached the serving plate. Ok, these three didn't....Enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Medici Restaurant Baden-Baden

Now that the hype is gone . You know,  valentine's day? Day of love, roses, chocolates ,  diamonds ( a big yes to this if FF's reading) and  angelic cherub in loose diapers and tiny wings ( it's a miracle that they could even fly!) holding a bow and arrow while smiling sweetly?! Hmmm picture doesn't looked right here. Babies with pointy sharp weapon aiming at random stranger? Okaaay  let's leave it at that!

 Ms. E and FF decided to get all cheesy and celebrate the day of Love days  after Valentine's day. I know, it doesn't make any sense but I rarely make sense anyway.  It all boils down to this. Ms. E was  looking for a perfect excuse to pig style. I happen to buy an adorable dress and got absolutely NO idea when or where to wear it.  Yup, Ms. E could be as shallow as a  fish pond during  drought and proud of it! What can I say? I'm a girl! Anyway, we have a number of good local restaurant in our town, but people here are somehow more laid back and practical . Reading between the lines, nobody  wears a little black dress and stilettos while dining out .  It's all cotton no satin here baby. And so I've searched high and low for a satin friendly place. You know, a place where you could step into  a restaurant without feeling overdressed. Not the going-out-in-a-cocktail-dress-only- to-see -other-guests-in-jeans-and-pullover-scenario. It's a personal choice anyway, to each her own, some might even say .  Luckily enough, I found out that I don't have to search long and wide for such a place. Just 20 km away from where I lived is a little cozy city where women walk in pavements in furs and wear dark sunglasses even if it's gloomy and sunless. Oho! This could be the perfect place! Two stressful and  work filled  weeks later  ,we found ourselves (me in my little Satin dress and FF in his cotton and pullover , to each his own, right?!)   in this  dreamy, romantic , dimly lit, carpeted, and filled with ladies in satin restaurant: The Medici . On some parts of the restaurant were posters and framed photos of prominent people who had once patronized the place. Like him..

Richard Branson

 I don't know most of them but another face I did recognized was the Dalai Lama! Isn't he supposed to be vegetarian?! Okaaay I don't want to say much about THAT either. Lets talk about food shall we?

Medici uses classic local recipes and combining it with some Mediterranean  touch. The fusion leads  to a contemporary , refreshing and satisfying menu which is a nice alternative to the usual food you could get at most restaurants in the area. Menu may vary and may depend on what local product is in season. Medici also houses a famous Sushi Bar ,known for its top quality sushis made by Osaka raised sushi master, Hiroshi Akutsu. We made our reservation at this sushi bar, wanting to know the reason why his creations were renowned. Plus, the sushi bar's looking rather posh.

picture taken from Medici Restaurant website

Unfortunately, the sushi bar is close until early March, looks like Mr.Akutsu needs a long break from kneading and shaping lukewarm rice and slicing octopus tentacles. So sushi's off the menu. Hmpt! ( Not overly disappointed, since I have another PERFECT excuse for coming back. Hah!)
We were instead ushered to the restaurant area which looks equally opulent. With pillars  constantly changing color I felt like stepping into a snoozle room somehow enticed.
picture taken from Medici Restaurant website

Even the bar looks inviting and I don't even drink!  It's the place to hang out and be seen.

picture take from Medici Restaurant website

Once seated, the culinary adventure combined with the excellent service begins. The whole place was filled with black suited service personal who are quick to perceive their clients' needs. One has to only look up and you can actually see  one zooming in your table like fork attracted to magnet. They are quite happy to explain  about everything on the menu. Even how the meat on your plate was raised. Which makes me less guilty knowing my meal was once a happy cow. You had a happy life and have served your purpose my friend. I thought while looking at my wagyu. All those grazing and beer drinking did you well.

The dim candle lit surroundings make it is very difficult for me for to take good pictures. I somehow felt that the shots didn't do the food real justice. Plus German , most if not all , have aversion to camera pointed at their direction while eating. After few flashes, I'm starting to elicit some curious and some not so friendly glares from other tables. I almost feel like standing and saying out loud.'' I'm a food blogger! I have responsibilities to my readers and 3 followers! ''Ok, that babbling to the core. LOL. Anyway, it won't stop me from sharing some shots.. So here we go.

FF and I decided to try different things . Each of us choose an appetizer, a main dish and a dessert. Luckily for us and the rest of the patrons, Medici offers few Amuse-gueule  in between courses. These tidbits are meant to excite the taste buds so bitteschön, excite me! After placing our orders, the first hors d'oeuvre  arrived at our table.

It is in itself a simplicity but each element is made of top quality ingredients. Two types of bread slices was served with some complimenting dips and spreads . Two kinds of olive oil, one fired up by some chilies, a tomato based quark spread and the other a creamy garlic based. Among the four, the rich and smooth garlic spread was my favorite. Everything in this spread was subtle and  not so overpowering.

FF's starters. White curry soup. The pastry shell was stuffed with diced tomatoes, champignons and tiny shrimps tossed in some spices FF couldn't name. It was first presented to him like an lone flower begging to be watered and the curry soup was slowly poured on his plate. Don't you just love it when professional play your food?! The soup was very  tasty  with a very sublime  hint of curry and lemongrass. FF was very happy with his soup, can't blame him.

My starters.As it reaches our table I want to swap it with FF's curry soup. The menu sounds promising: Salad ,,Medici'' with cherry tomatoes, olives, anchovies, marinated onions and Provolone cheese. Add a whooping 4 euro for every piece of shrimp or scallops. Since I love everything mentioned above except the olives, I excitedly ordered it. I didn't know, it comes with grass. Lots and lots of grass. I have to do some serious digging excavation on my plate to look for my cherry tomatoes and anchovies and marinated onions and Provolone cheese.  I manage to eat most of my greens along the way but I admit, I'm not a salad girl. It was good actually and  my shrimp was excellent and ginormous. Looking at FF's minute shrimps, I suddenly felt better.

On the house as entree. Vegetable praline with creamy curry sauce. Tasted waaaay better than my grass to  be honest. How come free foods always tasted better than the one you actually have to pay for?!

My  main dish:  Tri-Tip Steak of Wagyu Beef aka happy cow on creamy Polenta and baked Oxtail. If you are a certified carnivore, you could never go wrong with wagyu beef. It was soft as  butter and so juicy you could almost slurp it. I have a thing for oxtails. So I was almost spreading everything on my plate looking for it. I was setting the small fried ball aside thinking it was some leftover vegetable praline the chef wants to give me. When my plate was almost empty ( portions are not excessively big), I actually thought the kitchen forgot my oxtail! Feeling a bit rubbed off, I sunk my teeth into the ball and tadaaa it was made up of these tender, almost jellyish yummy oxtail meat. What a relief. They could have added another ball as it was rather tiny. Oh well, I had my protein so I'm happy.

FF's choice. Saddle of veal, glazed sweetbread with Perigord truffles, Veal ravioli and leaf Spinach. The meat was so pinkish it looked raw ( to me a bit unappetizing) but FF said it was very tender and delicious so I believed him. Since he's not the kind of guy who easily gives compliment, I presume the dish was good.

Another Amuse-bouche given to us after ordering some dessert. Raspberry sorbet and  quark cake with chocolate drizzle. If you are to bake something this microscopic, then it would naturally turn up hard (like this one). It was OK but nothing to shout about .

Now comes dessert. I personally treat dessert not just as some sweet to end the meal but to me, it is the food of my very soul. When dinning out and when I start to feel sated, I will eat only half a portion of the main dish to leave some space for dessert. I won't mind eating dessert first if allowed. Yes, most women have serious issues with sugar.

FF's spread. Cheesecake with mango ragout and spice ice cream. The ice cream made me curious, sure I've tasted not-so-usual-flavors like green tea or sea salt but using spices in an ice cream? I took a nibble and honestly it was not for me. FF however almost wipe his dessert plate clean .

My spread consist of Creme Brulee a la Vanille with sugar flambeed before our eyes. There's something exciting about  seeing sugar burnt to a caramel crust. If I made some video, I will play it again and again.( ssshalloooow) I don't know if this tiny flamey show that  caused me to like this flan so much. It was the best part of our entire meal. Dessert comes in three here so here's mine.
Creme Brulee a la Vanilla. I even saw some vanilla seeds as I dig in. No bottled vanilla aroma here , only pure vanilla-y essence. It was not overly sweet and had no absolute egg-y hint to it. Just cream, good vanilla and sugar crust flavour.  If their dessert bowl get any bigger, I will bathe in it.

 Chocolate foam. It's like mousse, light and fluffy  with a hint of bitterness. Goes perfectly well with the sweetness of Creme Brulee.

Cherry ice cream with Krokant. Love the presentation using spun sugar. The ice cream have a strong Kirschwasser tang to it. It somehow reminded me of a black forest gateau. Not my kind of cake. FF happily finished it off for me. Yes..we share plates.

It was a very satisfying  dinner. If I smoke, I will lit a Cuban cigar and sit on the cozy couch in the Cigar cabinet. Unfortunately or rather fortunately I don't .

Medici Restaurant
Augustaplatz 8
76530 Baden Baden
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