Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Arroz Caldo

With summer season officially bidding adieu , fall's hazy ,wet and cold weather slowly creeps in, causing a bit of mayhem to people's bronchioles and the rest of their  respiratory tract. Burst of sneezes,  coughs and nose blowing became as trendy as those Autumn's Ugg boots. With half our the team falling ill, courtesy of our very own patrons of course (thank you very much aerogenic microbes!), the risk of getting infected  is now higher than having to clean a bedpan trice in a shift. I  never  catch a cold!'', I declared a little too early and yes too arrogantly to my colleague as I, unfortunately have to clean, the second bed pan halfway through our shift. I should have knocked on a wood that time, but with both  occupied balancing a stainless steel pan, that's hardly possible.  I did not catch a cold that day, I swallowed it..whole. It came overnight. I woke up feeling like I slept on a bed of corals. Every part of my anatomy aches like hell-ow Kitty. Looks like cheeky li'l madam is not a tough as she thought. My temperature's acting up and decided to play roller coaster, perhaps to test if middle age women could still have convulsions,   dry rumbly cough that could wake sleeping beauty in her 100 years coma, head's  spinning and feels like it was invaded by tiny people with tingling voices and large noisy feet, nose clogged with thick and greenish boog.   okey no details in that and worst no appetite! Food tasted like paper in my mouth, every swallow  of food burns my throat. Oh agony , agony!

It took a week for my palate to recover and to make foods taste like food again. On the 6th day of staying mostly on bed, I woke up, stood and marvel at the feeling that the world stayed still and my feet did not wobble. Aha! I am me again, not the growling, groaning and  wheezing furball in bed! To speed up recovery, I decided to make something simple, soothing and yet filling. Feed the stomach, fill the soul be sick no more!

Arroz Caldo is one comforting dish akin to rice porridge. It has everything what a recovering body needs. Rice (yay!) as a source of much need energy, no point shying away from carbs today. Good savory broth which is rich in fluids and minerals. Chicken and egg, protein times two for regeneration  and then, there's ginger root, which has a soothing and therapeutic effect on sored and painful throat. The cooking process is quite simple even somebody with body malaise could handle it. Here's how I did mine.

Prepare and chop ingredients. Peel ginger and cut it into thin slices, Cut a bunch of scallions separating the white and greens stalks. Crush about 3  cloves of garlic. Wash, pat dry and cut chicken pieces into portions. For this recipe, I used 350 g of chicken wings which were already cut into serving portions. It's just a personal preference.

Heat 3 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pot, brown chicken pieces in it. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Add in chopped white scallion stalks. Call it weird, but I love the  bitter and smoky taste of toasted or burnt spring onion in my arroz caldo and so I let the white scallion sit a little too long in hot oil until it turned golden brown. Then throw in chopped garlic let it set, until it too, will render its aroma . Then add the sliced ginger mixing everything together so the chicken meat will absorb some of those aromatics . Finally drizzle a  splash of fish sauce. Into the pot  goes 250 g of rice, toss everything gently. Pour 1.5 liters of hot chicken,  cover and let everything simmer for about 40 minutes stirring the contents of the pot occasionally. Now, some people prefer thick and smooth arroz caldo that shares the consistency of a Chinese porridge. One must cook rice long enough to achieve it and continuous stirring is necessary. I on the other hand like my lugaw, soupy so when I notice that the caldo's turning too thick for my liking, I added a cup or two  of hot broth until it became runny again.

Once you achieved your preferred consistency, season the caldo with salt and pepper again. Serve arroz caldo with boiled egg, chopped green onion and toasted crushed garlic. A drizzle of fish sauce and a squeeze of lime or calamansi juice and you're gone off to some eminent space perhaps walking with a mystical fairy threading the path to recovery.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Saffron Cheese Sauce

Pan fried salmon steaks with saffron cheese sauce

Was it the crustacean stock? The subtle hint of white wine? The lingering taste of   lightly sweetish and lightly salty  gruyere cheese? Or was  the delicate yet aromatic saffron that tingles in the background?? Perhaps the combination of it all that make this sauce so delicious and so savory. It goes well with any poached, baked and pan fried fish or crustacean.  Enjoy it with your favorite pasta , rice or crusty warm bread. I served this with baked salmon, tagliatelle and green salad. A meal nice enough to replace our usual Sonntagsbraten or Sunday roast. Give this a try.(^_^)

Into the saucepan goes a tab of butter , about 2 tablespoons. Throw in 1 medium sized finely chopped onion and sautee it until translucent. Finely dice 1 medium sized carrot and about a quarter of celeriac and sautee it together with the onion under medium low heat.

Stir in 1 gram of those ridiculously expensive Saffron threads. Sprinkle sauteed vegetables with  3 tablespoons of flour . Sweat the diced veges in it for 5 minutes. Worry about global warming instead of the flour coated carrots sticking into the pan. Things that sticks at the bottom of the pan are usually the tastiest . Ask my lola.

Turn heat to high and deglaze veges with a half a cup of dry white wine. Keep stirring until wine is  almost    thoroughly absorbed. Pour 400 ml lobster or any crustaceans stock, turn heat to medium and let consomme simmer for 15 minutes.

Blend vegetable using a hand held mixer. A few pulses will do .My husband like to have his food a little on the spicy side so 2 seeded, chopped  red chillies were added into the concoction.

Stir in 150 g of creme fraiche . Add 100 g of grated gruyere cheese , season with salt and pepper and it's done!

  • To serve the sauce with chicken or other poultry, replace fish/crustacean stock with chicken stock.
  • To serve with lamb, beef , pork chops, wurst /sausage, replace diced onion with 400 g shallots bulbs, add in about 2 or 3 garlic cloves . Use red wine instead of white wine and replace  carrots and celeriac with herbs like thymes or rosemary.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paris: A dummy's guide

It all started with a simple dinner with my girlfriends, Ms. J and Ms. M. An unpremeditated rendezvous   which we thought, could  make us shortlively  forget our steady and vapid  days. Talks about work , parenting issues ( theirs) and husbands who annoyingly hates going with us shopping ( everyones!) goes on and on and on over paella and calamari dinner. Ms.M, who was still very tan from her  week-long trip to Lanzarote had the least complain, although (window) shopping with her husband do not top her chart of fun activities too . Ms.J who's color is starting to return to its usual palor since her last 2 weeks  summer holiday in North Italy was blurting out  her issues as well , diet and expanding waistline long forgotten as she scoops mushy fries and slather it with  some heavy turkey gravy . And there I was, pallest of them all, holiday---less  and had the least Vit. D synthesis, thanks to Germany's short summers!. With three of us talking and  none seems listening, words like Bodensee!,niiiice, uhmmm,  Berlin! yeah, train, yeah, of course,  Milan!, good idea , Prag! , yesss , echoes from our table. Then somebody , I have honestly no idea which among us three , uttered ''Paris!''. Our table was silent for a minute. Then we looked at each other,  giggling  mischievously, uncertainly, nervously. ''Should we? Do we dare? When's your next day off from work?!'' Event calendars/organizers were whisk out from our granny bags and we scrammed our eyes over the month of September.With husbands back home and kids, their school ,homeworks and  activities as well as our own work schedules to consider , we kept our fingers crossed and  looked for a comnon  free date and  oh la la, we found it!

''I'll get us the tickets'', squeaked, Ms. M. ''I'll look for a hotel!'', I exclaimed. ''Find us a  hotel near the Eiffel tower , okey?!, I always wanted to see it! says, Ms.J who could also barely contain her excitement. Then I asked, ''No kids and husbands in tow?'' Ms. J and Ms. M. ''No!.''  And so it was settled.

We went home, still giddy and told our surprised spouses: We are off to a holiday and you are not coming with us, no sir!

Parisians could be rude sometimes, you know, blurted  FF. They don't like to speak English. What if you get lost?  Paris is big! There's a lot of scums and pickpocketers all over the city! Even our common Filipino friend says. Ms. J's husband told her that Paris is a very very expensive city. Food is quite  expensive, taxis are expensive,shopping's expensive. We had our doubts since we don't speak a word in french and since this was an  unexpected trip,  our pockets were not quite as ready as we are. Gulp! 
 But to Paris we want to go so Paris we went. Here's a thing a two we learned along the way and I hope it will help some travellers too.


                     The Parisians and their language

With an ilonggo, bisaya and tagalog women that could converse competently not only in their own dialect but in English and German as well, going to France without knowledge in le franchias appears to be a bit of a problem. Parisians are undeniably proud of their city and of their language. Coming up to them on the street and impertinently and asking them, ''Do you speak English?!''  elicits mostly nothing but icy glare. I guess, we Pinoy will not be equally amuse if a foreigner comes up to us and ask us the same question. You see, most Parisian do speak english. That goes without saying  since the city is filled with good  schools and universities  and Paris  being one the most sought after holiday destination in the world. Getting them to speak in english language is actually the real challenge. Here's my dummy tip, based on our own experience, try to learn a word or two in french. You will be surprise, how far, ''  parlez vous l'anglaise?: Do you speak English?, is going to take you. Throw in,'' Pardonnez-moi, Madame/monsiuer'' or  excuse me ma'am ,sir and  no matter how rough your accent is, you will almost, always give a hesistant Parisian a reason to smile and yes give you a decent  reply. Your effort alone, gives a good  impression . If you try to reach out to these locals, most of them are going to meet you halfway.  Also, saying ''Bonjour!" when entering a shop , restaurant or any premises would not hurt, it's like acknowledging the presence of the people working there and yes give them a reason to acknowldge you and pay   attention to you in return.They are not snobs, well not everyone.  Naturally, saying ''Merci'' or thank you when circumstance calls  for it is just a polite thing to do.                                                    

      The  City and its way in and out

Paris is big and compact creating an impression of crowdiness and sometimes, orderly chaos to visitors. You might end up stepping into a street filled with people and asked yourself , where I am? Don't be intimidated.  If you are in Paris for a short visit, plan your trip ahead. Know the important sites and spots you wanted to visit.You don't have and can not discover every nook and carries of the city in five days least three. Know your interest, do you like museums, old religious relics, cathedrals/churces, chateaux, shopping,theater or operas, botanical parks? Find out how you will get there. Paris has an excellent, efficient and yes cheap transportation option. Their city railway/subways, Metro and RER, will bring you almost everywhere . For 1,70 Euros you could be travelling from one side of Paris to another. Buses are abundant, know which Bus is nearest you and which way it is heading, you don't need any taxis, save that money for a nice cozy french breakfast instead! If you want a hustle free journey, Paris offers different tours options which both covers land and waters. The L'open Tours offers passengers, a hop on hop off options with 4 routes and 50 stops. You could get on these  open top ,two decker buses and get down at any station you want, explore the area and  wait for the next bus that could bring you farther to the other tourist site. A Two-day fare cost over 30 euros and honestly, 50 stops are way too many and you probably won't be able to discover every single area since there's too much to see! If you want to explose Paris in your own pace, all you need is a good and comfortable shoe and yes a map. Some Iphone apps also offers navigation options that would direct you to some interesting sites.


Food and Dining

Paris is indeed an expensive place to live.    But even Parisians don't go out L'atelier de Joel Robuchon a Galerie for lunch and dinner at Ritz Carlton all the time. If you are willing to fish out 100 Euros fo lunch , you certainly have plenty of haute cuisine restaurants to choose from. You could however, enjoy a good meal without spending a fortune. Dummy's tip:
  • Know your surroundings, look around ,ask if necessary. Do you have a nice but cheap patisserie near your hotel? They might offer a much better breakfast option. How much? A can of soda on a cafe might cost you half, compare to its neighboring competitors. We did pay 4 euros for a glass of Coca Cola on our very first meal in Paris, only to discover that it usually cost only 2 at a block away. Peck!
  • If you want to splurge on food,it helps to know when to do it. Do in during lunch, it's cheaper! Portions might be a bit less compared to dinner but eating the same dish at when the sun is down cost almost double. 
  • Look for set lunches , most restaurants offers an entree, main dish and a dessert for a fix price or prix fixe.If you manage to avoid tourist traps, a decent three course meal would cost you about 20 bucks or less.
  • Go where locals go. If restaurants' full of Parisian, it's eaither it's  good ( they do  enjoy good food) or it's reasonably priced. If you don't speak/read/understand la franchias and scared of ordering yalks eye balls or worst balls ( depending on how you look at things) by mistake, a pocket foodie's dictionary is handy. If you have an iphone, try downloading ''Escargo'' app for just less than 2 euros. Type in the menu and wa-lah an english counterpart appears. So no balls for le petit mademoiselle, thank you very much!
  • If you are on a budget, grab some good  but reasonably priced sandwiches/ baguette  or pastries at the local patisserie have it packed and eat at the nice park, picnic style. Many locals do that during lunch breaks.
  • If you're not into french food, there's a lot of international fastfood chains scattered around. McDonald, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut are just a few, a cheap stop and go alternative.
  • Paris is like a cultural melting pot. It means there's enough culinary options that will suit everybody's taste. We're from the south east of Asia and thankfully they have enough hole in the wall Asian bistros that would cater our palates. These asian restos  do have a unique dining options. Foods are laid out buffet style at the counter, which looks similar to Pinoy karinderya. You choose your dish, they will put it in a  thin  transparent plastic boxes and weigh it. Prices ranges from 1,80 euro per  100 grams. I reckon, you could have a rice and have as much as 3 other dishes for less than 10 bucks.Just tell the person how much you want then they will reheat the food for you and serve it to you pipping hot. Tastewise well, you tasted one, you tasted them all, nothing to shout about but good enough for  us anyway.

Shopping what and where

  • Paris is a shopper's paradise. The whole place is filled with fabulous things, beautiful people and stylish anc chic garbs .Everything at a price. If you are into high end fashion names and happen to be Karl Lagerfeld  or Mark Jacobs ' silent worshipper, you are in the right place. The Ave. des Champ Elysees  is a long  and wide  shopper's street  that stretches  out from the Arc de Triompf until  Place de la Concorde at the mouth of the Musee de Louvre. Is it far? Oh hell-ow yeah! Thats a long road filled with shops and brand names that would make you Victoria Beckham's new best friend. You can shop  or at least window shop until you drop. You can spend an entire day getting in and out of the different shops.

  • If you want to have all those  in the comfort of a nice and  posh surrounding without getting distracted by the honking of irate drivers on the street, you could visit the Galerie LaFayette  at Metro station Chaussee d' Antin. A shopping mall  so beautiful, the place itself is worth the visit. From accessoires to beauty products, high end names to local products, the La Fayette has it all. Make a reservations for special Friday afternoon and watch a  runway fashion show for free!

  • Some people's trash are other people's treasure. I don't know if many Parisians simple hate the idea of throwing away used things or maybe because it's Sunday, but we past by a lot of Flea Market that day. One of the longest we saw was on Montmatre which stretches out from Metro station Anvers of Line 2 down to station Blache which direct passenger right infront of Moulin Rouge. Books, toys, clothes, shoes and all things imaginable are laid out for prospect buyers and curious onlookers. All for just an euro or a bit more.

  • Souvenir shops are all over the place and miniature Eiffel towers in different colors and sizes are sold by (illegal?) hawkers everywhere. Beat down few cents  and try to polish your haggling prowress. Look at some of my loot.

                       How did we thrive in Paris? Well, not bad..not bad at all!
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