Chicken with Garlic Chives

Mom and I went to the grocery the other day and I saw a bunch of kutsai (or kuchay or garlic chives) that made me want to try a new dish. So I bought 2 bunches (more or less about 100 grams). When I got home, I thawed a couple for chicken breast fillets then pan fried them. Sliced a couple of aromatics, poured in liquid seasonings and threw in the chopped kuchay The dish definitely had a garlic-y taste to it. subtle and not strong as it would if I used more garlic cloves. Definitely a keeper.
1/3 kilo of chicken breast fillets, cut into 1x1x1/3" pieces
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1-2 bunches of garlic chives, cut into 1" lengthwise
3-4 tbsps. oyster sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1-2 tbsps. soy sauce
2 tsps. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsps. water
toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Season the chicken with salt and pepper and let it marinate for about 15 minutes. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour and shake off the excess. Pan fry the chicken pieces until all sides are golden brown and the chicken is cooked. Do not over cook else the meat may become tough.. Set aside.
With about 1 tbsp. of oil, saute the garlic. Add the bell pepper and saute until the pepper is slightly tender. Add the seasonings and the cornstarch mixture. Stir well for about a minute. Add the cooked chicken and cover with the sauce. When the sauce is almost thickened, add the kuchay leaves. Turn off the heat. Stir well then transfer onto a serving platter. For additional texture, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Notes: Beef or pork may replace the chicken. The beef should be thinly sliced across the grain so it would not be tough and cook faster.


Seafood Gumbo

My friends and I went to one of the Saturday markets to have breakfast. I wanted to actually check what ingredient that I use for a new recipe or dish. When a friend of mine noted that there was abundance of okra, I thought of Gumbo. Honestly, a few people in my family does not like this vegetable because of the slimy juice. As I recall, lola (grandmom) mentioned that the juices are used to thicken the sauce of a dish. If you do not want this, place the sliced okra in a bowl of water to let the juices 'bleed' into it. I have tried this and true enough, dishes are not as sticky or thick.
So Sunday morning, I went to the market to get a few more ingredients, mainly the seafood, for the Seafood Gumbo. I wasn't sure what to expect with this dish since I have never had the chance to try this else where. So far it went well for me. I would make it again... For myself, that is; since not everyone was too excited with the main ingredient - okra.

2 tbsps. butter
2 tbsps. flour
1/2 cup bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large can whole tomatoes or 1/2 killo tomatoes, blanched and chopped
1 can tomato sauce
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 half kilo of fresh shrimps, shelled and deveined, reserve shells and head
1/4 kilo fish fillet, cubed
1/2 kilo squid, cleaned and sliced into rings
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 kilo okra, washed & sliced
1 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup crab meat

Pound the shrimp shells and heads with a mortar and pestle. Add the 1 cup of water and mix well. Strain the juices and set it aside. Discard the shells.
Heat butter in a large skillet with flour and make a roux. Stir until the roux turns light brown. Add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Cook all vegetables until onions and vegetables are tender. Add okra, tomatoes and tomato sauce, shrimp juice, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, thyme, chopped parsley and bay leaf. Let the sauce simmer until the okra is done. Taste sauce. Add the seafood and cook until the seafoods are cook. Try not to over cook the seafood else the squid and shrimp might become tough. Serve with hot rice.


Beef on the Run

I was running out of ideas on what to cook over the weekend. With only 2 hours and a limited supply, I had to come up with something that would satisfy our hunger. Since the beef brisket was placed out to thaw, and we had a large bottle of BBQ marinade, I would just throw in a few slices of garlic and onions to make a simple dish.
If I was not mistaken, I had about 3/4 kilo of beef brisket that was sliced into 2 x 1 1/2 x 1 inch cubes. In a hot casserole, I placed about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and seared the beef until all sides are brown. I then threw in about 4 cloves of garlic that was minced along with 1 medium minced red onion. The three ingredients were mixed together under medium heat until the onions were tender. I added about 1/2 cup of the BBQ marinade and 1 cup of water, 1/2 tsp. of black pepper. Once it has reached to a boil, I lowered the flame, covered the casserole and let it simmer until the beef was tender for about 20 minutes. If the beef happens to be tough at this point, just add more water and continue to let it simmer until it is fork-tender. I removed the cover and let it simmer until only 1/2 cup of the liquid was left. Transferred this into a serving dish.

We ate this with hot rice and guinisang ampalaya (sauteed bitter gourd). If I were to make this again, I would serve this with mashed potatoes and fresh garden salad. Or apply the same procedure with chicken drumsticks (hmmmm sounds yummy).


Kulawo - Laguna's Best Kept Secret

During the summers when I was a teen, I would spend it with my aunt in the province. She learned to cook "Kulawo" which happens to be an known secret appetizer. I refer this as secret because it was the first time my aunt heard of it then and her family was raised and lived there like forever. When we tried it, it became a great hit with us and our friends. Now that my aunt has aged and has forgotten how to make this. Good thing she kept a recipe and I tried to make this with banana hearts (puso ng saging). In just two 1/2 days, it was consumed at home since it was served with almost everything.

1 kilo banana heart, shredded
2 cups grated coconut meat
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
live coal

Place the banana heart in a bowl and add salt (about 3-4 tbsps.). Let it stand for a few minutes. Squeeze out the liquid to remove the bitter taste of the banana heart. Wash the banana heart and squeeze excess water. Set aside.
In a metal pan (or any container that can withstand the live coal) place the grated coconut meat. Make a well then place the live coal in the center. Burn the coconut meat until it becomes brownish and smells slightly burnt. Remove the coal and let the burnt coconut meat cool down. Pour the vinegar into the coconut meat and squeeze the milk from the coconut milk. Strain the coconut milk to make sure that the charcoal ashes does not mix into the milk.
In a pot, place the milk, black pepper, onions and heat in medium heat without letting this boil. The milk will curdle into clumps if you allow the milk to boil. Let it simmer for 4-5 minutes to cook the vinegar then add the banana heart and season with salt. Let it cook for another 8-10 minutes or until the banana heart is soft and cooked.
Note: The banana heart may be substituted with eggplants. To prepare the eggplants, grill it then peel off the skin. Slice into lengthwise and cook the same way with the banana hearts.


Garlic Oyster-ed Bok Choy

The first time we saw this in the market, both mom and I thought that this was a cute version of a "Mini-Me" petchay (also known as Pak Choi or Chinese Cabbage). But both of us had no clue how to prepare this that everyone in the household would love. We have tried to add this in nilaga (Boiled Beef or Pork Stew) and in noodle dishes. Mom's friend suggested to cook this with oyster sauce. True enough, everyone loves it, so I am sharing this with you to try our version.

3 bundles (about 1/2 kilo) baby bok choy, cleaned and washed
2-3 tbsps. garlic, minced
2 tbsps. oyster sauce
3-4 tbsps. of water or stock
1 to 1 1/2 tsps. sesame oil
1 to 1 1/2 tsps. sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed in 2 tbsps. water or stock

Slice the bok choy clusters in half. Make sure that the sizes are almost uniform so that it would have the same cooking time.

Make sure that the baby bok choy are free from dirt and yellowish leaves are discarded or trimmed off. In a large deep bowl of water, immerse each cluster in the water and shake to loosen the dirt off. Once all clusters have been cleaned, run through the bok choy again in running water then set aside. This is to make sure that all the soil and dirt are washed off.

In a pot, boil about 2 cups of water with a tablespoon of salt. Blanch the bok choy for about a minute. Quickly remove the bok choy and place them in a cold iced bath to preserve the color and stop from over-cooking. Once it has cooled, drain the bok choy and arrange on the serving plate.

Mix the oyster sauce, sugar, sesame oil and water in a small bowl until blended well and sugar has dissolved. set aside.

In a wok, saute minced garlic until slightly toasted but not burned. Add the sauce and make it simmer for about a minute or two. Pour in the cornstarch solution and mix well until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and pour over blanched bok choy. Serve immediately.

To store, place in a sealed plastic bag unwashed in the vegetable crisper. This will store for 3-4 days.


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