Dads Cook Good Food

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Let’s eat what we reaped!


Time does fly when you’re having sun…er, fun! We’re moving towards the end of summer and for us, the end of summer means that my daughter’s small garden is now teeming with nature’s bounty. Since she was five, she has looked forward to this time of the year when she would usually harvest her vegetables. I can only guess that  she gets a kick out of pulling the carrots, picking the cherry tomatoes or plucking the basil leaves.

veggie4   veggie1

But more than the excitement, it is the annual ritual of sowing the seeds during spring and harvesting the fruits of her labour during summer that has taught her so many virtues. For example, she had this realization that the food that she eats entails a lot of hard work. She appeared to have gained some sense of responsibility by consciously watering her plants daily and occasionally checking for weeds. She learned to be more patient and caring (she read stories to them almost every day!); realizing that growing food takes time.


And when I cooked our beef stew, she also knew that the delicious stew had her share when we added her fresh basil, tomatoes and carrots! Indeed, food preparation and cooking can sometimes be a family affair and teach our kids life’s important lessons!


Harvest Beef Stew
(Adapted from Crock-pot: The Original Slow Cooker)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds of beef for stew
Fresh cherry and roma tomatoes (or 32 ounces of canned or stewed tomatoes)
10 pcs of baby carrots
3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
8-10 pieces of fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)
2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ cup all-purpose flour (optional)
½ warm water (optional)

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat. Brown stew meat on all sides. Drain excess fat.

2. Placed brown meat and remaining ingredients in CROCK-POT slow cooker. Mix well. Cover, cook on HIGH 6 to 7 hours.

3. Before serving, thicken gravy, if desired. Combine flour and warm water in small bowl stirring well until lumps are gone. Add mixture to liquid in CROCK-POT slow cooker; mix well. Cook 10 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. Remove and discard bay leaves before serving.


*I usually serve the stew without the gravy but my wife cooks her own gravy and adds this to the cooked stew. Her ingredients include 2 tablespoons of melted butter then add 1 tablespoon of flour. Whisk and add some of the broth from the stew. Season with Lea-Perrins Worcestershire sauce then add these to the rest of the stew and mix.


Fishin’ for a Simple yet Delicious Lenten Dish


For Christians around the world, Lent means more time to pray, reflect and do penance or some acts of charity and sacrifices, including abstaining from meat on all Fridays and fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and eating fish instead. This practice goes back to the early days of the Church when the observation of Lent began in AD 313.

The word, Lent, refers to the spring season and that the 40 days of Lent usually falls mostly during the end of the winter season and the beginning of spring. Coincidentally, the Spring Festival (or otherwise known as the Lunar New Year) is sometimes celebrated at the start of Lent and is considered a very important celebration among the Chinese. Curiously, exceptions from celebrating the beginning of the Lunar Year are sometimes even sought from the Catholic Church. Spring is usually associated with a gradual increase in temperature, including the warming of waters where life is renewed: plants begin to grow and schools of fish come out in abundance to feed and spawn. Incidentally, eating fish during the Lunar New Year is considered a surplus of money and good luck.

Similarly, because of the fish’s abundance during spring time in many places, the practice of eating fish (or seafood) among Christians during Lent was a satisfactory alternative to eating meat, except for Eastern Christians who are known to abstain from fish. With the advent of trade liberalization, places where fish used to be scarce and expensive have become easily available. This is why Pompano (Pomfret), which tastes good and is easy to cook, can even be found in Ontario! And because presumably, eating fish is healthier than eating meat, giving up meat for Lent reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases; in effect making you healthier. It’s interesting that this simple sacrifice can make a whole lot of difference to one’s life!


(adapted from Kulinarya’s Fried Fish Packets, 2008)

Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 40 minutes



1 pompano (150 to 200 grams each)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 head of yellow onion, chopped finely
1 medium sized tomato, diced
1 thumb sized ginger, cut into thin strips
2 celery stalks, chopped finely
1 lemon, juiced
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried parsley
Pepper and salt to taste
1 tbsp. canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 375’F.
2. Clean the fish in cold water, ensuring that entrails from the cavity are removed. Score both sides of the fish with a sharp knife then rub the fish with salt, pepper and juice from 1/2 of the lemon including its cavity. Set aside and marinade for 30 minutes.
1. Preheat oven to 375’F.


3. Prepare stuffing by mixing all ingredients in a bowl: garlic, onions, tomato, ginger, celery, dried parsley, green onion, and lemon zest. Add juice from the other ½ of the lemon and add salt and pepper to taste.


4. Stuff the fish’s cavity and belly with the mixture then lay it on a greased aluminum foil.


5. Add some of the stuffing on top of the fish then wrap with the foil and crumple both ends.


6. Lay the wrapped fish on a baking pan and bake the fish for 40 minutes.

7. Remove the fish from the foil and serve on a platter. This is best served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon juice and steamed rice.


When East Meets West: Herbs and Spices Roast Chicken


Welcome 2014! Let’s start the new year right with an almost-original chicken dish which I thought of through careful research, a few kitchen experiments and  yes, some thoughtful consideration of previous experiences in eating delicious, varied and unforgettable roast chicken dishes. I’m sure the other dads and moms would agree that preparing a big meal such as roast chicken (well, I have a modest standard for roasting chicken alone is a gargantuan task for me!) elicits questions such as ‘Would it turn out okay?,’ ‘Will they like the taste?’ or even realistically asking, ‘Would it be palatable enough?’ 😀

Well, coming up with this recipe was  a challenge! After all, it would be easier to get an existing recipe and tweak it a bit, right? But I wanted to make our traditional New Year’s Eve dinner (in the Philippines, we refer it to as media noche) extra special so I thought of coming up with a somewhat original recipe (I guess only a few can really claim that their recipe is original). To help me with the challenge, I thought of watching a few You Tube videos to check out certain procedures such as tenting the roast chicken, using the right temperature when roasting chicken, checking herbs and spices that will bring out the best taste in chicken,  and recalled the oh-so-good taste of roasted chicken from my previous travels (read: chicken inasal of Bacolod, roast chicken in Hawaii).  From these, I came up with a fusion of East and West or a blend of various herbs and spices that was a superb roast chicken recipe that we’re bound to cook again.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!


1 (5-6 kg) chicken fryer or any 1 whole dressed chicken
1 tbsp. olive oil

For the marinade:
1 tbsp of salt
3 tbsp sugar
¼ cup white wine vinegar
3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. lemon juice

For the herb stuffing:
1 onion (cut into quarters)
8 cloves of garlic, pounded
1 lemon grass, chopped

For the chicken rub:
1 tsp of cumin
2 tbsp of paprika
1 tsp. of grounded thyme
2 tsp mustard seed

For the gravy:
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Let’s begin by….


1. Preparing all the ingredients. I have grouped the ingredients above to avoid confusion when preparing the dish. A good tip from my sibling: Read the ingredients aloud so as not to miss out on any ingredient!

2. Wash your hands well then remove all the giblets from the chicken’s cavity and rinse well.


3. On a non-reactive bowl (e.g. glass or ceramic), mix and whisk all the ingredients for the marinade: vinegar, salt, sugar, white wine vinegar, soy sauce and lemon juice. Set aside.


4. Then mix the dry ingredients for the rub on a separate bowl: cumin, paprika, grounded thyme and mustard seed.


5. Pour and rub the citrus marinade on the chicken and in its cavity, wrap in plastic or aluminum foil and marinate it for 2 hours, preferably refrigerated.



6. After 2 hours, drain the marinade on a separate small non-reactive bowl and set aside. Brush it with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken rub on top and rub them both inside and in the chicken’s cavity. Wrap in plastic or aluminum foil and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.


7. The next day, preheat the oven to 425 ‘F. Bring out the chicken from the refrigerator and remove the cover. Let it rest for a half an hour to bring the chicken to room temperature. This way, the temperature for all parts of the chicken evens out and you avoid having a dry chicken.



8. Stuff the chicken cavity with the herbs and spices: pounded garlic, lemongrass, and chopped onions. Pounding it will allow it to infuse into the chicken during baking. Use a kitchen twine (or a non-waxed floss) to tie the two legs of the chicken. This prevents the stuffing from spilling.



9. Finally, baste the chicken with the rest of the citrus marinade and rest it on a roasting pan or on a bed of herbs and spices (or you may choose to use potatoes, green peppers, and asparagus).


10. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes in 425 ‘F then reduce it to 375’F and continue roasting for an hour.


11. Insert the meat thermometer in the chicken’s inner thigh (but not the bone)  to check internal temperature. When the temperature is 165 ‘F, the chicken may be taken out of the oven, rested on a heat-resistant board then tent the chicken with a foil. This will allow the juices to redistribute itself.


12. Meanwhile, drain the drippings (these are really flavourful since they came from the marinated chicken infused with the bed of herbs!) from the pan. In a preheated skillet, melt unsalted butter and whisk in flour slowly until it forms a paste. Then gently pour the drippings, continue whisking until it thickens into a gravy. Add salt and pepper to taste.

chicken carve

13. Remove the kitchen twine, carve the chicken and serve with the gravy and herbs (or vegetables).

Serves 4-6 people.


CHOW. Basic Whole Roasted Chicken. Retrieved from on December 31,2013.

Chicken Cooking Times. Retrieved from on December 31, 2013.

Flay, B. , Banyas, S. and Jackson, S.  (2013). Barbecue Addiction.  Boy Meets Grill Inc: New York.

How To Make a Basic Chicken Rub. Retrieved from on December 31, 2013.

How To Roast the Perfect Whole Chicken Recipe. Retrieved from on December 30, 2013.

Roasting Chicken in Oven. Retrieved from on December 30, 2013.

Roasting Chicken in Oven Squishy. Retrieved from on December 30, 2013.

From the Farm to the Dinner Table…


Harvest time! In this part of the world, when the trees turn into bright hues of orange, yellow, red, brown and purple, fruits and vegetables are all ripe for the picking. Families enjoy a weekend trip to a nearby farm to pick nature’s bounty.

Over the summer, we also had a chance to harvest some of our backyard produce such as spinach, carrots, and peppers. It’s a good way of instilling in your kids perseverance, responsibility, care, patience, and taking care of the earth.


Last week, my daughter had a field trip to the farm where they harvested vegetables and went into the process of preparing and cooking it into their own vegetable soup. Up to now, she muses about their unforgettable harvest: “We got corn, we got cauliflower, and we pulled carrots from the ground…”


My wife also brought home some organic vegetables from a farm and used the veggies to prepare soup in time for the cold weather that has been gripping the Eastern seaboard. She cooked Spanish Chorizo with Beans and Kale Soup, which was adapted from Rachael Ray’s recipe. Although some of the veggies looked unusual (like I’ve never seen a purple carrot before!), it made the soup extra special because they were fresh and picked from the farm! I even had a chance to cook Chow Mein using some of the veggies. Man, it was good!

kale soup

Finally, we still had some leftover red cabbage so my wife asked me to try out another Rachael Ray recipe, Sauteed Red Cabbage. Because I usually prepare dishes that I’m more or less sure, I did not trust my cooking and I just followed the recipe to the letter. Surprisingly, my wife and kids loved it. The dish complimented the baked pork riblets in chipotle and orange sauce. There must be something good about the veggies; especially if they come fresh from the farm!
red cabbage
SAUTEED RED CABBAGE (adapted from the same recipe by Rachael Ray)

½ red cabbage, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. white sugar
1 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare the ingredients and preheat a pan over medium high heat.

red cabbage3

2. Sauté onions in olive oil. Add the red cabbage until wilted and cook for about 3 minutes.

red cabbage2

3. Add apple cider vinegar and let simmer for a minute then continue sautéing.

red cabbage4

4. Add sugar and sauté again.

red cabbage5

5. Let the mixture simmer for 3 minutes then season with mustard seed, salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for about 10 minutes then serve warm.

red cabbage

“Life is too short! Eat dessert first!”


I happen to read this blurb at a local flea market one summer weekend at Bracebridge, Ontario. It does captures what summer this year has been like. The warm days seem to be dissipating by so quickly, with only a few weeks away before Mother Nature cues the green leaves to change its colour. Evenings and early mornings have been a bit cold but the noontime and late afternoon sun can still be hot. So because summer it “short,” we thought we should have our dessert first by having fun.


And that’s exactly what we did! My family and I went out on a road trip with friends to enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.


A quick stop at Bracebridge gave us a chance to look around at a local flea market where they sold anything, including smoked meat and trout!

We even had time to enjoy a farmer’s breakfast at a quaint old restaurant (read: eggs cooked over easy, French toast, pea meal bacon, Vienna sausage, and refillable brewed coffee) before heading further northeast en route to our first stop: Lake Temagami .


Temagami is a sight to behold. A lake surrounded by islands, bays, peninsulas and rivers, Lake Temagami is located in Nipissing District, which is about 80 kms from North Bay. Even if the trip was long, our patience was rewarded by the sight of the endless evergreen forests, the serene bodies of water snaking through the route and the stillness of nature.

Because we hardly brought provisions, we were able to buy some at the town’s local grocer: ribs for barbecue, greens for salad, and hotdogs and marshmallows for the kids.


On our way to the cottage, this float plane caught my attention reminding me how isolated and far we were from the city.


My friend marinated the ribs with her home-made dry seasoning. Other than salt and pepper, she did add some spices which made the ribs taste really good.grilling

Incidentally, it was also the first time I used a gas grill, which confirmed my hunch that charcoal, by far is still the best.

grilled ribs

Because of the apparent lack of butane, it took more than an hour (!) to cook the ribs medium well. The good news was everyone liked it! 😀


Of course, no camping is complete without the traditional bonfire and roasting marshmallows. It made us all remember our service scout days where gathering by the fire meant eating our snacks, singing songs and listening to ghost stories! But what was best was seeing our kids having the time of their lives roasting marshmallows!


Our last stop was McKellar, a township in Parry Sound, Ontario. The place was more rustic and quiet; giving us more time to get away from the humdrum of city life.breakfast2


We did have a chance to have breakfast of bread, jam and coffee by the lake and a lunch of grilled pork chop, barbecue and veggies.

grill food

What a rewarding summer break! Nothing beats communing with nature and enjoying good food with family and friends.

Pho-tastic Soup!

Pho soup

Now that spring has finally dawned on us, the frigid nights are temporarily a thing of the past. However, the mild weather reminds me of a family trip to Baguio City; not to mention an occasional rain and thunderstorm in the morning or early evening. I remember taking some hot soup then with vegetables and some La Union seafood thrown in good measure. This experience was very much similar to enjoying fish tinola at a small restaurant in the cooler hinterlands of rain-fed Bukidnon. Yes, despite the higher price (no pun intended) I had to pay, the experience of sipping good seafood soup is possible even in a mountain resort city or a landlocked province. With these experiences in mind, I thought of taking an extra mile by cooking seafood pho despite the limitation of being in an ocean-less city!

Pho (pronounced as fa, not fo) is a Vietnamese clear soup, which is a combination of soup stock (usually beef or chicken boiled with coriander, ginger, onions, anise, nutmeg, salt, rock sugar), meat, rice noodles, fresh vegetables (bean sprouts), hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce (hot sauce) and herbs (mint leaves) served in a bowl. It’s a complete meal in itself; where anyone can add more ingredients (e.g. beef balls, fish balls) to it and is best eaten when it’s piping hot (a term I attribute to my mother’s description of her soup recipes)! I have cooked beef pho on several occasions so I knew that it would be challenging to switch to seafood pho. Given the fact that fresh seafood in our city is close to none, the next best thing is to buy the cultured ones; for example, fish grown in fishponds. But because I was on a tight budget, I bought some frozen seafood (shrimps), ‘hybrid’ seafood (fishballs) and cultured seafood (salmon’s head). It turned out that this was a wise move! 😀

However, the next hurdle was preparing the pho. I knew that even if I would use the ever-reliable Crockpot and switch on the exhaust fan to high gear, steam from the broth will still fill our kitchen with a powerful fishy stench. My family almost disowned and abandoned me the day I prepared the fish stock! Lemon scented air fresheners hardly worked. It was only when I added the Pho herb bag, star anise, ginger and all the other herbs did the stench slowly disappeared like magic! Lesson learned: herbs can be added even when boiling the fish and not just peppercorns, salt and water alone! It occurred to me that salt and fish head in boiling water recreates a humid summer day in our kitchen, complete with ‘seashore scent!’ Harharhar… 😀

At the end of this seemingly arduous preparation, everyone was rewarded with delicious seafood pho. My family’s patience and fishy gripes were rewarded with hot, tasty and delicious pho that they enjoyed to the last drop! Talk about the power of food!



Pho ingredients

For the initial fish stock:
1 salmon head, cleaned, gills removed
2 cloves of garlic, grated
3 pcs star anise
1.5 litres of water
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. cracked peppercorn

For the Crockpot:
1 medium-sized onion, charred/grilled in oil
1 thumb-sized ginger, charred/grrilled in oil and grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 Pho herb bag (usually available in Asian or Vietnamese groceries)
1 pc fish or shrimp bouillon for additional flavouring
1 tbsp. pepper
½ inch of yellow rock sugar
1.5 litres of water

For the soup bowl:
1 cup of bean sprouts, washed
1 pack of Vietnamese rice noodles
200 gms. of fish balls, sliced and fried in olive oil
500 gms. of shrimps, deveined and de-shelled and fried in olive oil
Lime wedges
¼ cup scallions, chopped
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha sauce (optional)


1. Place all the following ingredients in a pot: salmon head, water, salt, some of the grated garlic (2 cloves), cracked peppercorns and star anise. Bring it to a gentle simmer then boil for ten minutes. Throw away the scum that rises to the surface and make sure that you have your exhaust fan on to high gear to lessen your kitchen’s fishy smell!

2. Once the salmon head is cooked (you can tell by checking the flesh if it’s soft), drain and discard water, transfer the fish to the Crockpot and pour fresh warm water. Add the slightly burnt ginger, 2 cloves of grated garlic, charred onion, pepper, yellow rock sugar, and fish bouillon and the pho herb bag.

Pho bag

3. Cook for 4 hours in HIGH heat or 8 hours in LOW heat.

4. Once the stock is cooked, remove the pho bag. Check for taste and adjust seasoning. Jaden Hair emphasized that this is important. In addition, ensure that Crockpot is in a warm mode to keep the broth hot.

Pho broth

5. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over the noodles and leave for 5 minutes then drain.

Pho noodles

6. Divide noodles in bowls and add the following ingredients: fried fishballs, scallions, fried shrimps, bean sprouts, mint leaves, hoisin sauce, and sriracha sauce if desired.

Mint leaves

7. Ladle the hot soup stock, squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime, serve and enjoy!

Pho soup

*The Dads give credit to Merrilees Parker’s Seafood Pho recipe which was featured in Lifestyle Food: and Jaden Hair’s Beef Pho featured in her Steamy Kitchen website from which this pho recipe was adapted from.

The Science of Cooking

french toast

Over the weekend, I was still musing over how I can make the french toast taste crunchy. Other than toasting and not soaking the bread for a long time which helped, I sensed there was still something amiss in terms of making the french toast “crunchier.” First, I tried using the perfect egg beater, which we got last Christmas. It turned out that the eggs, as my wife noticed, were perfectly beaten.


Then,  I checked out the fridge, scrounge for possible ingredients then saw two boxes of Crisco that has been sitting there for quite some time.


A ha! I figured that if  Crisco helped me make the fried chicken crunchy (thanks to “The Help“), maybe it would do as well to the toast?  Still using some of the old procedure of cooking french toast , I substituted Crisco for oil but added some butter for flavor. “Oh man!,” as my late Uncle Pitts would say, “This french toast is like the best french toast I’ve tasted in Hawaii! Aloha!”


This anecdote also reminded me that if I did not experiment on trying out new ingredients or even changing the way the toast was prepared, I would not have discovered what made the toast crunchy.  More so, I was convinced that cooking is indeed a Science! From the first persons who discovered that fire can change the taste of food to our grandparents who advised us not to forget each step in cooking food, I realized that there was so much Science involved in preparing food. In fact, my previous chat with Daddy Robert on cooking chicken shows how much Science is involved in the process: brown or dark meat cooks slower and is best kept at a certain temperature, white meat requires this much heat, and so forth.


My cousin also described to me in detail how our grandmother reminded her that there’s a time to add ingredients when cooking vegetables, there’s a way of stirring the liquid ingredients while cooking fish paksiw (fish cooked in vinegar and salt) or why it’s important to put the veggies in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Science would probably explain why adobo tastes better when kept for a longer time or why pineapple juice is a better and healthier preservative than salitre for preparing tocino.


Although it is true that cooking is also an art (and that it matters), the process of putting ingredients together to come up with something that can change one’s perception, thoughts, feelings and even behaviour shows that cooking is indeed a Science. 😀

Munch the Crunch!


“Dad cooks good junk food while Mom cooks quick healthy food,” one of my kids blurted out over dinner last week. This comment led me to ask myself if I was an advocate of healthy eating or if I am an alleged junkie. What does “…cooks good food” really mean? Lest I am accused of being defensive nay philosophical; I also thought it was crucial to rise up to my kids’ challenge.

Stepping up to the plate was not really difficult. I give credit to my cousin who introduced me to this veggie recipe which can stand on its own. And hey! It also tastes good when served with roasted or baked chicken or turkey. 😀 It’s also healthy, crunchy and easy to prepare! One can substitute some of the ingredients for a healthier and leaner meal: use skim milk, cook your own cream of mushroom soup from scratch to lessen the salt and fat, and substitute the French’s Fried Onions for crunchy tofu! 🙂

So, go ahead! Try this recipe and munch the crunch!

(* Adapted from French’s Green Bean Casserole/ Casserole aux haricots verts French’s)

½ cup of skim milk
1 pack of Cream of Mushroom soup (dissolved in 1 cup of milk and 3 cups of water) or 1 284 ml can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ kilo of fresh green beans
1 can of French Fried Onions or 2 cups of crunchy tofu
1 tsp of Maggi Savor or Knorr Seasoning



1. Trim the end of the green beans then cut them into bite sizes.


2. Boil a pot of water then blanche the beans for two minutes then drain. You can stop the cooking process by running it in cold water so the beans remain green and crunchy. Set aside.


3. Cook the cream of mushroom soup according to the pack’s directions. Let it cool for 5 minutes. You may also substitute 1 can of Cream of Mushroom Soup.


4. In a Pyrex pan or casserole, mix all the ingredients together and ½ can of French Fried Onions.


5. Bake at 180‘C (350’F) for 20 minutes or until hot then stir.


6. Top with the remaining ½ can of onions (or 1 cup of crunchy tofu).


7. Bake for 5 minutes or until onions are golden. Serve and enjoy!

A Year Later: From Adobo Lavezares to Paella Marinera

adobo lavezarespaella cropped

DCGF turns one year old today! Time really flies when you’re having fun and cooking good food! 😀 The idea of writing this blog just came out of the blue. Because Daddy Robert was several notches above me in terms of kitchen experience, he agreed to my suggestion that for the first post, we will feature his mom’s recipe, Adobo Lavezares. Surprisingly, the recipe got some good feedback!

It was also a year ago that my family and I were preparing for our first Christmas celebration in New York. On Christmas Day, while we were making our way to the bus depot to catch our 10 hour trip, Daddy Robert was also preparing dinner for two families: his family and mine. Before serving dinner to his family, he posted the picture below on Facebook with the following caption:

“Christmas dinner. I cooked all day. Ham, eggplant salad, au gratin potatoes, and seafood paella. Come and get it…”

As a response, I posted a picture of the lasagna that I cooked the day before; with the following retort: Eat your heart out, Chef Robert!

Both pictures elicited a lot of likes; perhaps surprising some of our friends because for the first time, they discovered that we can cook! 😀

So in honor of DCGF’s first year, I am sharing the secret behind Daddy Robert’s Christmas dinner dish, Paella Marinera.  Merry Christmas, folks!

Paella Marinera
• 2 lbs seasoned yellow rice (arroz amarillo)
• 1 lb mussels (tahong)
• 1/2 lb fresh squid, cleaned
• 1 lb cooked clams (almejas)
• 8 pieces medium crabs, cleaned
• 1 lb shrimp, cleaned
• 43 ounces tomato sauce
• A hint of Tabasco sauce
• 3/4 cup pimiento, sliced
• 3 medium onions, diced
• 1 head garlic, minced
• spanish saffron
• 3 to 4 cups water
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• salt and ground black pepper to taste

Cooking Procedure:
1. Combine seasoned yellow rice and water and soak for 3 hours.
2. Heat a Paellera or large pan then pour-in olive oil.
3. When the oil is hot, saute the garlic and onions.
4. Put-in the crabs, mussels, shrimps, clams, squid, Tabasco sauce,
salt, and ground black pepper.
5. Cover the pan and cook for 3 minutes or until the juices come out.

6. Add tomato sauce then cover the pan. Cook for a minute.
7. Stir then simmer for 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the cooked seafoods on a clean plate.
8. With the remaining juices and tomato sauce on the pan, put-in the rice soaked in
water and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes.
9. Add the Spanish saffron then gently stir. Cover the pan and continue cooking in
low heat until the rice are done.
10. Top the cooked yellow rice with pimiento then arrange the cooked seafoods over it.
11. Serve with some lemon or lime wedges.
*Recipe is from Vanjo Merano’s  Panlasang Pinoy.

Daddy Robert says that it is important to follow the instructions carefully. For example, the rice should not be over soaked to leave room for the other ingredients in the pan to be absorbed. Soaking the rice is similar to soaking bihon noodles before cooking; that is, to soften it a bit. Once you cook it, the consistency of the rice would just be right.

Also, when buying rice, he suggests to choose yellow rice or Spanish rice over rice with saffron because the flavors might be too strong.

Musings about Chicken Binakol and Ilonggo food

Namit gid (It’s really delicious!) was the first thought that came to mind when I saw the photograph of Chicken Binakol (Chicken Stewed in Coconut Water) from the recipe book, Kulinarya. I’ve cooked most of their soup-based dish but never dared chicken binakol. I was threatened by the thought of cooking it (not because it rhymes with palakol-Filipino word for ax! Lol 😀 ) and that it entails ingredients, such as young coconut, that may be difficult to find in temperate Canada. Also, having only worked and lived in Iloilo for ten months as a Jesuit volunteer (Jesuit Volunteers Philippines or JVP), my only attempt to break into Ilonggo cuisine was cooking batchoy out of memory (see previous article on Chicken Teriyaki). You see, I was a bit spoiled by the Jesuits of Iloilo,  because, unlike my co-volunteers, I had the privilege of having a cook prepare my meals. In fact, every meal turned out to be a culinary treat because I lived with Jesuit priests coming from Germany, the United States, China, Bohol and Bacolod so I also ate what they ate. 😀

Similarly, thanks to my Ilonggo colleagues, students and co-volunteers who brought me to places where food was delicious and affordable. I still pine for the lemon-grass flavoured chicken inasal (grilled chicken with lemon-grass and spices) with sinamak (spiced vinegar) of Joe’s Chicken Inato and Tatoy’s. And I distinctly remember the taste of seafood at Breakthrough or the afternoon snack of batchoy at Ted’s Oldtimer’s, which caused my blood pressure to shoot up. I recall enjoying the soft, tasty cheesebread of Tibiao’s with the barrio folk of Barrio Obrero. Finally, I remember munching some crunchy biscocho from Wewin’s or chewy butterscotch brownies from Biscocho Haus after having the best take-out pancit from Roberto’s on my birthday. Wow! All that gastronomic memories and excuses for not cooking chicken binakol!

But I digress. I thought that the best way to overcome my craving for Ilonggo food (and yes, fear!) for cooking chicken binakol is to try cooking it. Thanks to a nearby Asian supermarket, I found most of the ingredients I needed. And the best part of preparing binakol was, after 1 ½ hours, we all had a delicious and warm meal after a busy day at work! Namit gid!

*Iloilo, for your information, is one of the bigger island provinces of the Visayas group of islands in the Philippines.

CHICKEN BINAKOL (Chicken Stewed in Coconut Water)
1 500 gm. chicken breast, bone in
1 bunch of spinach
1 ½ cups of chicken broth*
¼ teaspoon peppercorns
¼ cup fish sauce (Patis)
2 stems of spring onions, chopped
1 knob of ginger, sliced
2 stems of lemon grass, bulbs crushed
1 can of young coconut, sliced
2 cups of coconut water


        1. Prepare all ingredients.

          2. Pre-heat a pot over MEDIUM heat then add oil and sauté garlic, onion, ginger, and lemon grass.

          3. When the onion starts to glaze (or turns translucent), add the chicken breast and peppercorn. Toss and mix the sautéed herbs and spices on the chicken for about 3 minutes then add the fish sauce. Let it stand for about 3 minutes until the chicken’s skin turns a bit brown.

          4. Add the chicken broth then the coconut juice to the sautéed chicken.

          4. Cover and let the soup boil for about 30 minutes (or until the chicken meat is cooked).  Remove the excess fat and scum that rises to the surface** to ensure a clear soup+.  Reduce to LOW heat to allow the broth to simmer.

          5. Remove the cooked chicken breast quickly from the pot and carve the chicken into bite-size strips.

          6. Return the chicken strips to the pot and add the young coconut strips. Bring the broth to a boil and finally, add the spinach leaves and spring onions.

          7. Serve* and enjoy! This recipe is good for 4-6 servings.

+Kulinarya suggests cooling the soup and refrigerating until the excess fat from the chicken forms on the surface.

**I used Knorr Chicken Bouillon for this one so be mindful when adding fish sauce to avoid having a salty soup. However, for a tastier soup, you can use chicken broth made from boiling chicken bones, salt and pepper.

*If you have time and extra money, you can serve the soup on a young coconut nut 🙂 . In North America, some Asian supermarkets sell young coconuts for a reasonable price.

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