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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Weekend Roast

It was during one of those days that I was browsing through a back issue of Bon App├ętit (September 2011) that I came to this major article on the Italian Porchetta.  The photos made the dish look very appetizing, and it so much reminded me of the Filipino Crispy Pata (pork leg) that usually accompanies our Kare Kare (oxtail stew with peanut sauce).  However, instead of deep frying the pork leg, the porchetta uses pork tenderloin wrapped around by a big spread of pork belly and roasted in a very hot oven for 2 hours. 

The photo was the only impetus for me to try cooking this dish.  I had qualms regarding how it would actually taste since my experience of eating porchetta was only limited to a generous slice served as a sandwich at the Christmas Fair in Piazza Navona in Rome.  A memory of eating this dish was only remembered because it left me wondering what the fuss was all about. But then, I was willing to give it another try and so I went forward and studied the recipe to prepare my grocery list for the ingredients and get an idea how much time I would need to prepare and cook it.

Instead of copying the recipe here, I encourage you to try the link on this page to Bon Appetit Magazine as highlighted since that's where I got mine.   There are two things you have to assure yourself in preparing this dish: first, the procedure is not as difficult or complicated as it sounds; and second, seeing your porchetta perfectly roasted with the skin crunchy to the bite is the reward here.  Maybe I should add a third:  your family or your guests will certainly enjoy the uniquely clean and sweet-spicy flavor of the tender meat that will keep them going for their second and probably third helpings.  It's definitely a dish to be shared with a table full of people who will equally enjoy each morsel as you would.  Guaranteed!

For my table, I served the porchetta with a Filipino-style Onion Soup (Filipino style because instead of using wine, I used San Miguel Pale Pilsen) and a Salad of lettuce, tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts with mango vinaigrette.  This flavor spread was accompanied by a refreshing bottle of Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 2003, which is perfect for the Philippines' tropical weather.  For dessert, a slice each of store-bought Chocolate Mousse.  The meal was a perfect weekender.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Cocktail Hour

A favorite time for my husband and I during a work week would be that time we arrive home and just before dinner.  No specific hour actually, because it all depends on the traffic going home.  Ideally however, it'll be that "witching" hour of just before 6 in the evening, when the sun is blood orange and the air is cooler and just maybe, a promise of a drizzle, but not quite forthcoming.

Well, that's the beauty of living in the mountains - with a scenic route going home, we got to realize that we've graduated from having to slosh with strangers in bars for our quick fix of favorite poison and some munchies.  We have the mountains at our feet and the sky up above, and in between, well.., our table of appetizers and maybe a kir royale, if we have the ingredients in stock.

Cheese Sticks with a twist

This was a staple in the '80s among the college crowd having a party.  But this time we added jalapenos to add some kick.

1 pack lumpia (spring roll) wrapper, small size
cheddar cheese sliced into 20 or so thick matchsticks
   alternatively, you can use cream cheese
preserved jalapeno peppers, sliced
a small bowl with water
For the Dip:
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1/4-1/3 cup light mayonnaise
ground pepper, paprika (optional)

1.  Separate spring roll wrapper from each other, and put one wrapper flat on a plate.  Place one cheese matchstick near the bottom end of the wrapper, leaving a space around 1/4 in. from the rim.
2.  Place jalapeno slices on top of the cheese matchsticks. The number would depend on taste.  Fold the flap over the cheese and dip finger in the bowl of water to moisten the left and right folds of the wrapper. 
3.  Roll the wrapper til just before reaching the top end rim.  Moisten this portion once again with water to secure.  Repeat with remaining wrapper and cheese matchsticks.
4.  Heat 1/4 cup oil in a small saucepan and fry the cheese sticks in batches until wrapper is golden brown in color.  Place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.  Transfer to a separate dish.
5.  To make dip:  Mix together ketchup, mayonnaise and ground pepper (if using) until well blended.  Place in a deep saucer to serve.  Sprinkle paprika (if using) on top and serve with the cheese sticks.

Ideas for other appetizers:  Sliced prosciutto with or without melon, sliced salami, french fries, assorted cheeses like brie, tilsit, manchego, or just buy mini BabyBel Cheese rounds available in dairy sections of most supermarkets, and let your companions unwrap these themselves.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Secret Garden

It's been months - and I felt it very much so - since I wrote anything here.  This even though there were indeed a lot of exciting things that needed to be shared.  While we are already much into the new year, let me take you back to November of the year before when my husband and I were invited by the Baillage de Manille (or the Manila Chapter) of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gastronomic society established in Paris in 1950, but whose foundations started with the guild of "goose roasters" further back in 1248.

It was on the occasion of the Chaine's outreach activity, their 4th Supplemental Feeding Program, that we were invited to witness.  Thus, aside from the Confrerie's "day job" of honing the members' respective craft or skill in roasting, table art, hospitality, and all things related to gastronomy, and establishing standards thereto, they also engage in charitable activities.

But the highlight of that day was the luncheon that was held at Kalamunda Restaurant located on the border of Tagaytay and Silang in Cavite, a good 2-hour's drive from Manila.  For Philippine locals, Tagaytay is quite a familiar destination for those who just want to get away from the hustle and noise of Metro Manila even for just a few hours, and still be able to get back to it in a day.  Normally, a visit to Tagaytay would mean eating along chain restaurants along the highway, but Kalamunda is not one of those.  It is tucked away among Tagaytay's inner streets which one could get lost in as one goes through the many corners and turns to get to this gem of a place.

Kalamunda is the Australian Aboriginal name for "home in a bush or country" and is actually the residence of Carlos and Sylvia Miguel who opened up their home for private lunches and dinners by appointment.  The choice of the name is also a salute to the couple's former country of residence before deciding to come back and re-establish their roots in the Philippines.


Passing through the gates of Kalamunda on that bright sunny day, one is greeted by an airy terraced home, extensive greenery peppered by sheep and goats at a distance, and a warm welcoming handshake from Carlos Miguel.  Even with boisterous laughter from children and adults alike, a peaceful spell is still cast upon the place.
 The residence’s cook is the equally charming and engaging Sylvia Miguel, who took charge of preparing the sumptuous buffet starting with a sampling of her Duck and Chicken Liver Parfait accompanied by Melba Toasts on which to spread the richness on. It was just perfect to whet everyone’s appetite for the lunch to come.  This, in turn, was composed of a Salad of Mixed Greens, Blue Cheese and Pear with Mustard Seed Dressing, Chicken with Herb de Provence and Mushrooms, Mixed Seafood Pudding, and the centerpiece of that occasion, the organic milk-and-corn-fed Lechon (roasted pig), for which Kalamunda is steadily being known for.  For one who has had enough of lechon and promised to strike it off voluntarily from one's list of "food to eat" as I have, I was pleasantly surprised at how crispy the skin off the roast was, and the clean but sumptuously milky taste of the meat, very much redolent with the aroma of lemongrass. 

But you would think that was all there was to the menu.  You would be wrong of course.  I just have to make special mention two of my favorite dishes from that lunch: the Slow-Braised U.S. Beef Belly that was just melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and Sylvia’s pride that is the Roasted Vegetable Paella, one of the few authentically prepared ones that I have tasted.  The other favorites would be the desserts that were meticulously prepared by enchanting Sylvia herself - the delectable Chocolate Natilla with Almond Praline and the creamy and light Pavlova, a traditional Australian dessert which was heavily laden with fresh kiwi, mango and banana slices.
The meal did not end without the group’s thanks given to Carlos and Sylvia for the unforgettable spread, and to confreres Charlie and Chinit Rufino who organized it.  However, our special thanks should go to Mr. & Mrs. Freddie Borromeo who have been our most gracious hosts throughout the trip.
It was indeed a perfect lunch for a perfectly sunny day.

P.S. I recommend that you try Sylvia's Chicken and Duck Liver Parfait that comes in a ceramic jar, and packed in box.  A very generous serving for PhP450/jar.  If I posted this last November as I ought to have done, it would have been a wonderful gift to give for the holidays, but anytime is a good time to enjoy this - trust me, it's worth the delayed word-of-mouth thing.  You can place your orders by texting or calling +63 917 8810032 or call directly at +63 2 6683678.  Things can be arranged so you dont have to go all the way to Tagaytay to get your purchases, and instead pick it up in Makati.
Maybe if you're looking for somewhere unique but homey to host your events, you can also try getting in touch with Sylvia and Carlos so you can gather your family and friends at Kalamunda and organize an unforgettable event.