Salt, Time, Smoke

Thanksgiving with Mr. Delicious

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As an American living away from home, Thanksgiving dinner is a perennial matter of great concern. I spent my first Thanksgiving abroad in Nice, France. We decided to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for a mixed group of American, French and other nationalities. We scoured the entire region along the southeast of France looking for ingredients like fresh cranberries and molasses.

Most non-Americans do not fully understand how important a holiday it is for us. For many of us (myself included) we would put it above Christmas. This being said I have had many a sub-standard Thanksgiving dinner living around the world. The worst though was in Las Vegas. Without any prior plans we ended up at the Rio Hotel’s buffet for a dining experience that literally made my soul ache.

This is why I made sure to blaze this trail this year. I set out to create the closest facsimile of the real thing that I could possibly create here. Also I had the good fortune of timing being on my side with my newly constructed brick smoker/oven to roast the turkey.

Mr. Delicious Thanksgiving Menu 2012

Apple Wood Smoked Turkey

Traditional Stuffing with Bacon and Dark Stock

Oyster Mushroom Stuffing

Green Bean Casserole with Creamy Mushroom Sauce and Fried Onions

Sweet Potato Casserole with Oat Crumble

1950’s Style Cranberry Salad

Mashed Potatoes

Cajun Dirty Rice

Lots of Gravy

Pumpkin Pie with Créme Anglaise

Starting with the turkey, I had about a 6kg (12lb.) bird that I brined for 12 hours. The brine consisted of 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of curing salt for 1 gallon of water. I then added sugar, apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, dried chili flakes and parsley stems. I dropped the turkey into a large bucket I use just for brining and pickling and poured the brine over it. Then I weighted it down with a stack of plates. Since there was not enough room in the fridge I kept it iced down for 12 hours. Then remove and rinse.

Once it was cured, I placed it in front of a fan for about two hours to dry and warm up before smoking. I used a combination of charcoal and apple wood, maintaining a temperature of about 235f (110c). It smoked for about 3 hours until an internal probe reads about 160f (70c). I would later finish it in a hot oven before serving.

My coloring could have been better but it tasted really damn good and the skin still became crisp

Stuffing is a very misunderstood side dish but one of my absolute favorites every Thanksgiving. I was raised on oyster stuffing, but unfortunately I could not find oysters in time (at least I had bacon). There are a couple tricks to making good stuffing. First cook your mirepoix thoroughly before folding it into the bread. Use a good brown poultry stock and season it well. Finally add lots of the stock. Keep ladling more until it can take no more. Then just bake until it’s hot in the center and slather with gravy.

It’s best when the top is crusty but the interior is moist and soft

Also unavailable were fresh cranberries. However I was able to substitute dried with some success. I decided to mold the cranberry salad like you might see in cookbooks from the 50’s and 60’s. This was actually quite simple. I gelled some cranberry juice with sugar and garnished it with slices of orange, persimmon and chopped walnuts. I molded it in a cake pan and just warmed it in water to release it from the mold.

My sweet potato casserole sucked in a big way. I need to find a way to better adapt the local sweet potatoes into this dish. The local camote is much starchier than what I’m used to in the States. The result was a really dry texture that I think could be remedied by puréeing it.

My wife (who is also responsible for my conspicuously better photos), prepared two different types of pumpkin pie, both made from the local pumpkin. One was a classic variety and the other was finished with caramel and chopped walnuts.

Though I have cut back on the number of private events in to focus on Mr. D’s, I do still enjoy an occasional event like this. I like to keep it very casual and unassuming. Thank you to all who attended. It sure as hell beat the Rio…

Crispy Chive Flatbread with Oyster Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Beets and Feta Cheese

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In support of Ministry of Mushrooms’ Mushrooms Go Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, I am offering up a recipe that includes many of the healthy foods recommended to reduce risks of certain cancers including breast cancer. Better late than never, is jumping in the pool here in the last week of the month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so many different food media outlets have been debating about the health benefits and possible cancer risk reduction properties of certain foods. Certain foods such as leafy greens, whole grains and seeds are often recommended to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Also studies have indicated a connection between eating mushrooms and lowering risks of developing certain tumors.

For this dish I grabbed several of the foods from the pantheon of ‘super foods’ that are densely packed with many different nutrients. Chia seeds, for example, have more omega 3 fatty acid than flax seed. I add this and wheat germ to the pizza dough to make the flat bread. The wheat germ adds another huge dose of folic acid, fiber and minerals. The garnish of oyster mushrooms, roasted beets and mustard greens provides your body a bevy of vitamins and minerals, essential to a healthy diet.

However, I’m not really qualified to debate this topic. I’m just the cook. So I’ll teach you how to work with these ingredients to make really good tasting food.

I have a few tricks I like to use when cooking for my son to sneak in nutrition-boosting foods. I like to keep a bag of chia seeds, quinoa and wheat germ around to add to soups and sauces. This flat bread recipe produces a nice thin flat, crispy bread. It has a cracker like consistency and the chia seeds provide a pleasant crunch and nutty flavor. The wheat germ affects the texture less than a whole wheat flour might but still adds loads of nutrition.

First, this crispy chia seed and chive flat bread could be used for a number of purposes. Use it for hummus or eggplant dips or as a pizza dough.

Start by making the dough

3 cups type ‘oo’ flour
1 cup warm water, plus extra
1 tbsp dry, active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1/4 cup wheat germ
2 tbsp chia seeds
Parmesan for garnish
3 tbsp chives

Combine the yeast with the warm water to activate. Add chia seeds to same water and allow to sit until bubbles begin to appear.

Combine all other ingredients in a mixing bowl and blend together. Add water to dry ingredients and mix together by hand. Add more water only as needed to bring the dough together. Once incorporated, knead the dough for 5 minutes on a floured surface.

Place dough in a floured bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise for about 20 minutes and gently punch down the dough to remove the large air bubbles. Allow to rise for another 30-40 minutes until it has doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the other ingredients

2 small bunches mustard greens, cleaned and chopped
2 cups oyster mushrooms, cleaned and torn
3 red beets, peeled
12 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cloves garlic, whole unpeeled
feta cheese for garnish
canola oil or palm oil

Preheat the oven to 175c/350f. Carefully slice the peeled beets into even 1/4″ slices. Add to a roasting or cake pan with the whole garlic cloves and whole shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in the oven, stirring occasionally until the beets are knife tender.

Preheat a sauté over medium high heat. Once the pan is nice and hot add enough oil to just coat the pan. Add the oyster mushrooms in one layer and allow them to sit undisturbed until they begin to color on the bottom side. Then add a small amount of garlic, a small nub of butter and season with salt and pepper. Toss several times and remove to a plate to cool.

In the same pan over medium heat add mustard greens, garlic and salt and pepper. Slowly wilt down the mustard greens, stirring constantly until most of the water is cooked out but they retain their firm texture. Return the mushrooms with to the pan with the greens and heat them back up together.

Roll out the flat bread

Preheat oven to 225c/450f. With a small amount of flour for dusting, roll out the flat bread to about 1/8th” thickness. Dust a sheet pan with a little flour or wheat germ and lay the rolled dough out on it. Brush generously with olive oil, and season with a little salt and black pepper. Next grate some fresh Parmesan over it and sprinkle with chopped chives (I like to use the white part here).

Place pan in the oven and bake until bubbles form and the bread begins to toast, about 7-10 minutes, then remove from oven.

Garnish flat bread

Lay down beet slices over the flat bread and then follow with the oyster mushrooms and mustard greens. Then sprinkle crumbled feta cheese over the top and garnish with the roasted shallots from the beets.

Return to the oven until all ingredients are hot and the feta softens. Remove and drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with chopped chives. If toasted properly it will hold all of the toppings without buckling under the weight and will have a wonderful crispy texture.

Visit Ministry of Mushrooms’ website for orders or inquiries

Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef

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Today my friends at ran a contest for my Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef featuring Kitayama beef. I am in the process of launching a brand, beginning with my corned beef, of locally sourced cured meats and pickled foods called Mr. D’s Artisinal.

I have always been an advocate of local agriculture, wherever local may be for you. In my case it’s the Philippines, so as long as I’m in the Philippines I will support Filipino farmers. Kitayama beef is raised in northern Mindanao and the cattle are a cross-breed of Japanese cows and native. This is the same beef that is served in Malcolm’s and is outstanding quality.

My corned beef is made from the brisket cut which is cured for one week then is available as is or slow-cooked for five hours. I spent one month perfecting the recipe before letting the public try and I am quite proud of it. I think you’ll all love it.

This combined with the expertise of Photo Kitchen has made this quite a success. My inbox lit up like a Christmas tree with orders. I will try my best to keep up with demand but I ask your patience while I kick my production into high gear. I will provide some general ordering information below for your reference while I catch up with emails.

So I will get to work. Thank you for supporting my product and Philippine agriculture!

Order Information

Mr. D’s Artisanal Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef       p475/500g -or- p925/kg

  • It is currently out of stock but will be available again on Thursday 7/19
  • It is available raw or slow cooked (some weight loss will occur during cooking)
  • Right now it is available for pick up only in Salcedo Village or Dasmariñas Village, Makati (delivery available soon!)
  • Please email me for orders-
  • Also please bear with me as I increase production. Supplies are limited.

Cashew Crusted Leg of Spring Lamb

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In wishing a happy Independence Day to all of my friends here in the Philippines, I decided to showcase some of the best local agricultural products from right here in the Philippines.

I’ve spent just over a year here scouring the markets for the best local products and I have learned a few things. For one, there is phenomenal lamb raised in Negros Occidental. I purchased this leg of Spring lamb from a vendor in the Salcedo Market. I’ve bought lamb from them twice now and the quality was superb both times.

Just across the way, in the same market there is a vendor selling local cashews, done. The cashews are raw and very sweet. He sells them all unsalted but the salt is not missed.

Cashew Crusted Leg of Spring Lamb

1 bone-in leg of lamb

1 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup honey

2-3 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlics, chopped

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Remove the leg of lamb from the fridge a good hour or so before beginning so that it warms up to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Pat the leg of lamb dry with paper towels. Drizzle olive oil on the lamb and smear all over the surface. Season liberally with salt and pepper all around.

Place on a roasting rack or a sheet pan lined with a wire rack and pop it in the oven.

Allow to roast for about 30 minutes or so, until it begins to color. Turn temperature down to 160c/325f.

While your lamb is roasting (you could also do this ahead of time) prepare your crust. Mix together Dijon, honey, herbs, garlic and shallots.

Pulse your cashews in a food processor, or if your like me, pound them in a mortar and pestle. I like irregular pieces of cashew for texture.

Monitor the internal temperature of your lamb with an instant read thermometer. Stick the probe into the thickest part of the meat without contacting the bone. When the temperature reaches about 50c/120f remove it from the oven and increase the temperature to 175c/350f.

Smear the Dijon mixture all over the top of your leg of lamb. Then sprinkle your crushed cashews over that until you have a nice even and thick coating.

Return it to the oven. Monitor it closely at this stage so that the nuts do not burn. When the cashews are nicely toasted, remove it from the oven and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes in a warm place (like the Philippines).

When it’s time to carve, pick up the narrow end by the bone, resting the fat end on the cutting board. Cut straight through the meat, perpendicular to the bone. Then cut following the bone to create nice half circle cuts of meat. It’s always best to carve thicker cuts of crusted meats or you will lose your crusting when you carve it.

Notice these are carved into thicker, steak-like cuts. This is cut across the grain of the meat, making the lamb more tender.

Depending on how your lamb is butchered, you will be left with a leg, thigh and hip bone. There will also be some meaty trim left on the bones. Do not waste!

There is plenty of flavor still to offer here. The trim I removed with a paring knife and marinated for shawarma and the bones went into the lentils pictured above.

Enjoy your holiday!

Cooking Basics-Making Fresh Stocks

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Often good celery is hard to come by in the Philippines so here I'm using leeks

Called fonds de cuisine in French, fresh stocks are the lifeblood of any good restaurant. They are the foundation upon which flavor is created and refined.

In 1903 Georges Auguste Escoffier wrote a book that changed French cuisine, and therefore world cuisine forever, Le Guide Culinaire. In it he begins his first chapter stressing the importance of stocks.

Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least French cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.”

True dat. This is why I deplore the use of anything resembling a bouillon cube. God knows when you use Knorr, and so does Escoffier.

So I will give you a brief run down on how to make your own stock. In the restaurant we made it every day but at home the practical thing to do is to make a batch and freeze it in portions. Wrapped well it can be held frozen for 2-3 months.

So what is a stock? A stock is an infusion, much like your chamomile tea. But instead of dried flowers, we’re going to use dead animals. A stock can be made from any type of base from beef, veal, pork, chicken, fish or even vegetables. The key is to simmer it slowly and give it plenty of time for the flavor to infuse.

Let’s take for example chicken stock, perhaps the most versatile type of stock. I recommend buying chickens whole when possible so that you have the bones and carcasses to make your stocks from after you butcher the chicken.

There are essentially two types of chicken stock, white and brown. Brown chicken stock requires just one more step than white, roasting the bones. A chicken stock should simmer for 1-2 hours whereas a beef or veal stock you would want to give a good 6 hours.

Most butchers and grocery stores sell chicken neck bones and carcasses pretty cheap. Also wings and feet are good for stock. It is very important to include the mirepoix aromatic vegetables as they really give the stock better, more complex flavor.

As the stock simmers, the tendons and cartilage in the bones will break down and release gelatin into the stock, giving the stock body. If you want to increase this you can add feet or oxtail if it’s beef.

Brown Chicken Stock

5 kg chicken bones and carcasses

2 medium onions

2 carrots

2 celery stalks or leeks

3 cloves garlic

3 bay leaves

8-10 sprigs thyme

6-8 parsley stems

1 tsp black peppercorns


Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Rough chop mirepoix vegetables. Break down chicken carcasses into smaller pieces and rinse the bones until the water that drains off is clear. Lay them out flat on a sheet pan or roasting pan.

Roast the bones until they are brown on all sides turning as needed. They will not brown at the same rate so be sure to remove those that are darker to avoid burning them.

As the bones roast they will render both fat and water. Carefully pour off any excess fat and use caution when opening the oven door as they steam will rush out.

Once the bones are evenly roasted remove them from the pan and place them in a stock pot and add your mirepoix, herbs and peppercorns. Cover with cold water until the ingredients are just submerged. Use water (or white wine) to deglaze or wash the brown bits off of the roasting pan and add that to the liquid.

Just add water

Put on high heat on the stove until it comes to a boil. As soon as it boils reduce the heat to low.

The boiling will cause the proteins to coagulate and rise to the top. You will see a white foam appearing on top of the liquid. Carefully skim this off periodically as your stock simmers.

Be sure that the stock is not simmering at too much as this will affect the flavor and clarity of the finished product. You should just see a couple bubbles rising to the top.

Once the stock has cooked for about 1 1/2-2 hours you will see the carcasses have begun to break down. Now is the time to strain.

I recommend straining it twice. Once through a strainer to remove the large pieces and again through a fine mesh strainer to remove the rest.

Allow the stock to cool uncovered and then cover and refrigerate.

With this valuable base ingredient you can make literally hundreds of recipes. Try reducing it to make a sauce, flavored with herbs, mustard or any other ingredients. You can use it as a braising liquid and then as a finished sauce once it’s complete. Or gravy, mmmmm….

In this case I used it to make a soup. When you have a finished chicken stock it’s quite easy to make a really good soup.

French Food for the Soul-Beef Bourguignon

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I told you I am a confessed francophile and I stand before you unapologetic. This one is a fundamental of French cuisine, much like coq au vin or escargot.

Beef Bouguignon was historically a country or peasant food. As the name indicates it originates from the region of Burgundy which lies south of Paris between Dijon and Lyons. Burgundy is best known for its wines, which are in my opinion the best in the world for both white and red. However its contributions to French cuisine are numerous, including escargot, Dijon mustard and Jambon Persillé.

This one is a rather labor-intensive process, especially if you make your on stock for it. I know it’s a lot of work so I’ll provide a couple shortcuts for the slackers to cut back on the time. So let’s move on to the basics for preparation.

Several cuts of beef will work just fine, like chuck or even short rib. Look for a braising cut that has good marbling. I realize that most reading this are probably not going to make their own beef stock. I will post on the topic of stocks at a later date to persuade more of you to do this but for now if you want to use a packaged low-sodium beef broth it will substitute ok. It will just have a little less soul.

Also the garnish, in classic French cuisine, is known as garniture grande-mère. It’s a combination of mushrooms, lardons (thick pieces of bacon) and glazed pearl onions. Glazed pearl onions can be rather labor and technique intensive to pull off for many home cooks. If you are uncomfortable with the process you can simply roast them in a hot oven with salt, pepper and butter.

Many modern interpretations of this dish, including Thomas Keller’s, use potatoes in the recipe. My rigidly traditional French inner-grandmother will not permit this though. Traditional Beef Bourguignon is always served with noodles.

Beef Bourguignon

1 kg (2 lbs.) beef chuck or any braising beef

1 bottle dry red wine

6 oz. bacon slab

2-3 white onions, large dice

2-3 carrots, large dice

1-2 celery stalks, large dice

3-4 garlic cloves, whole

1 tbsp tomato paste

4 cups veal or beef stock

1 bunch fresh thyme

1/2 bunch parsley

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup flour

canola oil

salt and black pepper

for the garnish

25-30 pearl onions or shallots

2 tbsp butter

1/2 tsp sugar

500 g mushrooms (I used Ministry of Mushrooms oyster mushrooms)

2 shallots, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

300 g fresh pasta, such as fettuccine or tagliatelle (or make your own)

Cut your bacon slab into thick strips or lardons.

Cut your beef into 1 1/2″ cubes, drain and dry the meat on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and dust with flour.

In an oven-proof Dutch oven cook your bacon lardons until brown and crispy. Remove and set aside in a large bowl.

Add canola oil and begin searing your beef in batches until it is brown on all sides. Once all the meat is browned set aside with your lardons. It is very important to brown the meat well because this is what will give color and flavor to your stew later.

Reduce the heat to medium add the celery, onion, carrot and garlic. Cook until soft and slightly caramelized.

Preheat oven to 325f/175c.

Add tomato paste and red wine. Cook until reduced by 50%.

Return your beef and lardons and add your stock. Tie the thyme (reserve about 5-7 sprigs for later) and parsley stems (reserve the leaves for garnish) together and add to the liquid. There should be enough liquid to barely cover the beef.

Bring to a simmer, skimming off any fat or scum that rises to the top then cover and put in the oven.

Let braise in the oven for about 1 1/2-3 hours or until the meat is very tender. When it is complete remove the meat then strain the sauce through a sieve. Check the sauce for seasoning and consistency. If it’s too thick add water. If it’s too thin reduce.

Brown and meaty!

While this is going prepare garnish.

Add your peeled pearl onions or shallots to a sauté pan. Add butter, sugar and enough water to cover about half way. Cover this with a lid or parchment paper and cook on low heat. Add water as needed and cook until a paring knife passes easily into the onions. When they are finished, reduce the cooking liquid and glaze the onions with the liquid. Or, if you don’t feel like doing all of this, just toss them in salt and pepper and roast them in a hot oven with butter.

Preheat another sauté pan on high heat. Add canola oil and cook your mushrooms in batches. Allow them to sit still in the pan and caramelize. Once they are brown on one side add butter garlic, shallots, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and toss.

Caramelized oyster mushrooms

Cook your pasta according to the instructions on the package, or if you’re like me, make fresh pasta dough and roll them out by hand. When the noodles are cooked, toss them in butter and chopped parsley.

My hand-rolled country noodles were a labor of love

When all is complete, plate your noodles first then spoon on generous heapings of braised meat and garnish with the mushrooms and pearl onions. Add a little chopped parsley for color.

Now there is only one wine that can grace the table alongside Beef Bourguignon, and that is Burgundy. Look for a full-bodied Burgundy that can stand up to this hearty dish such as a Côte de Nuits.

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? Well that’s because it is and that’s why we have people like me. Need help? Give me a shout!

Dough 102 Pâte Brisé (Pie Dough)-Quiche aux Poireaux

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It’s just a leek quiche. Looking at the title of this post it would be reasonable to ask “what’s with all the French, you dick?” Couldn’t I just say pie dough? Though I am a confessed francophile I didn’t word it this way just to be insufferable. There is an important distinction between the French style pâte brisé and the American pie dough. Let me explain.

Brisé means broken or crumbled and it’s a type of short bread. It is denser and crumblier and an American pie dough is flakier. They each have their place and they are each made from the same ingredients: flour, butter, salt, and sometimes egg and sugar. The difference is in the technique.

The same recipe below for pâte brisé could be used for any number of French style tarts or any other quiches you can imagine. I like quiche with a simple green salad and a bunch of Dijon mustard. Any light white wine or better yet a dry rosé would accompany it quite well.

A couple points to begin, most of my recipes will have a bizarre mix of metric and imperial reflecting my international disorientation. But when it comes to pastry I use all metric. In culinary school I learned that 1 ml of water weighs 1 gram. Clearly this is a vastly superior system of measurement. After all, do you know how many tablespoons are in a gallon? Me neither.

Also because I was taught in a very traditional, or even a bit backwards, culinary academy where kitchen appliances were very few. As a result I use my hands instead of mixers or food processors when I do pastry to point of Luddism. You can of course use more modern machinery.

Mise en place

Quiche aux Poireaux (Leek Quiche)

Pâte Brisé

300 g flour

250 g butter

1 tsp salt

1 egg (about 40 g)

10-20 ml cold water

Begin by cutting your butter into a medium dice and putting it in the freezer until it is very cold.

Add your salt to your flour. Add your cold butter to the flour. Either by hand or in a food processor, break down the butter until the pieces are no larger than a pea. If the mixture begins to get too warm and melt, pop it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Next add your egg and water. Mix it in until the mixture begins to come together. Add the full measure of water only if necessary.

Now dump the mixture onto a clean work surface. It will still be very crumbly at this stage and that’s what you want.

Next comes the step where it departs  from American pie dough. It what French chefs call fraisage. You basically smear the dough accross the work surface with the heal of your hand and then pull it back into the mixture. Repeat several times until bits of butter are no longer visible and the dough is homogenous.

Fraisage that shit

Form it into a disc and tightly wrap it in plastic wrap. Put it in the fridge for one hour minimum and up to 24 hours. This allows the dough to rest and hydrate and will help reduce the amount of shrinkage in the oven.

Once it has rested, prepare a 9″ pie pan or tarte ring by greasing it with butter.

Roll out the dough, dusting with flour only as needed. When the dough is about 1/4″ thick wrap it around your rolling pin then unroll it over your pan or tarte ring. Gently press the dough down into the corners with your knuckle, being careful not to tear it.

I leave the excess dough on the ring until after it is cooked, a technique I picked up from Bouchon, so that it does not shrink below the edge of the ring. It can be cut off once it is cooled.

When your pan is prepared return it to the fridge until it is cold again.

Quiche Filling

4 eggs

200 ml heavy cream

1 kg leeks (weight includes tops)

50 g comté or gruyère cheese

1 thick slice of bacon, minced

2 tbsp butter

fresh grated nutmeg

1 bay leaf

salt and white pepper

Preheat the oven to 200c/400f.

Wash and trim your leeks. For this we will only use the white parts. Thinly slice the leeks and add to a sauté pan with water, butter, bay leaf and a little salt.  Bring up to a slow simmer and allow the leeks to stew until they completely break down. Add more water as needed and be careful not to let the leeks caramelize. Once they are completely cooked reduce the water until they are dry and allow to cool.

Cook the bacon until just cooked though also without caramelizing.

In a large mixing bowl add your eggs, cream and nutmeg. Whisk rigorously until the mixture is frothy.

Grate about half of your cheese into your prepared dough-lined pan. Add your leeks and bacon and then grate the remainder of the cheese on top. Then pour in your egg mixture, stopping when you reach the top.

Carefully place into the center of the oven and allow to bake for about 25 minutes or until the egg is cooked.

Remove and allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Dough 101-Pizza Dough

Making your own doughs can be a rewarding endeavor, when it goes well. Most are a little intimidated by the process so we will start with one of the easier doughs to work with: pizza dough. Making your own pizza from scratch is a solid party trick and a good way to feed dozens of people without spending a ton of money.

The process is pretty simple. This is a yeast dough, meaning you awaken countless little yeasty lives with warm water. Then you knead your dough which causes the gluten molecules in the flour to bind together into a microscopic network. The yeast in your dough will metabolize the sugar and produce two highly useful byproducts: CO2 and alcohol. For the purpose of this article we will focus on just the role of the CO2, just this once.

Many of the world’s finset things begin with this simple biochemical process

The rising of the dough is caused by the CO2 which the yeast produces inflating the elastic gluten network, causing the dough to lift (a process we in the kitchen call leavening). Once the dough has risen the dough is baked in a hot oven, cruelly murdering all of your little hard-working yeast guys. What’s left is a golden brown bread that’s crispy on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle.

Basic Pizza Dough

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 tbsp dry yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp salt

extra flour for dusting

Warm the water either in the microwave or the stove top. Make sure it is just warm to the touch or else it will kill the yeast. Add the yeast and stir until dissolved. Allow to sit until the surface of the liquid is slightly frothy and the yeast is activated.

Combine the flour and salt and form it into a ring on a clean work surface. Carefully pour your yeast water mixture into the center of the flour ring. add your olive oil and begin to slowly work the liquid into the flour.

Keep mixing until a tacky paste-like consistency forms. Eventually it will come together into a dough. Next you will knead the dough for about 10 full minutes until the surface becomes shiny and the dough becomes elastic.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a bowl and spread around the whole interior of the bowl to lubricate the bowl. Put your kneaded dough into the bowl and cover with a towel. Find a warm spot (usually not that hard in the Philippines) to leave your dough for about twenty minutes.

At this time your dough has probably risen almost 100%. Punch down the dough so that large air pockets are dispersed and allow another 20 or so minutes of rising.

Once your dough has risen you can cut off portions of it and begin rolling it out to make pizzas. Use a little flour to dust your work surface and roll the dough thin using a rolling pin.

Place your dough on a flour dusted baking sheet and top with whatever pizza toppings your imagination conjures. Bake in a really hot oven (225c, 450f) about 8-10 minutes or until the crust is crisp and cooked.

Tomato, basil and egg

Potato and roasted garlic

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Zucchini Blossom and Kesong Puti Fritters

This was a really simple but good appetizer I made my friends Dwight and Mylene at when they came to visit last night. Zucchini flowers are widely available right now in the markets and the kesong puti (a Filipino white cheese, similar to fresh mozzarella). I purchased it from Something Different in the Salcedo Market. If the kesong puti is unavailable where you are you can sub fresh mozzarella or even a Mexican queso blanco.

This recipe will need to be adjusted to account for variables in moisture and to your personal taste. I recommend frying a test fritter and either adding flour to thicken or milk to loosen the batter. For a sauce I made a roasted tomato mayonnaise. Both the batter and the sauce can be made up to a day ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

For the batter

2 cups zucchini blossoms

1/2 cup kesong puti, diced

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 medium yellow onion, small dice

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper

oil for frying

for the sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

16-20 cherry tomatoes

1 clove garlic, minced

juice of 1/2 a lemon

olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 350f or 175c. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil and place on a small roasting pan. Roast in the oven until the tomatoes shrink by one half in size.

Place the tomatoes with all other sauce ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Chill and set aside.

Start a pot of salted water on high heat. Prepare a large bowl with ice water. When the water comes to a boil add the zucchini blossoms and boil just until they soften. Strain and immediately shock in the ice water. Remove after they have chilled and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Sauté onion and garlic until softened then allow to cool. Mix the egg with the milk then add into the flour. Mix until smooth. Fold in the zucchini blossoms, onion, garlic and kesong puti. Adjust consistency if necessary and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a pan with enough oil to shallow fry the fritters. Spoon the batter into the oil. Flip them once after they are browned. Remove to a paper towel whenbrown on both sides. Serve with the reserved sauce.

11 Steps to Begin Cooking like a Pro

It’s time to demystify what happens behind closed doors in great restaurants. Have you ever been inspired by what you ate in a really nice restaurant? Then you try to impress your friends replicating this wonderful dish only to come up flat. Even recipes and cookbooks don’t teach you how to cook. If you have ten different cooks cook one recipe you will have ten very different dishes.

Truth is there are a lot of tricks to the trade but don’t waste your time seeking out exotic,secret ingredients or outlandish cooking techniques.The best way to hedge your bet on making good, consistent food is to follow basic fundamental principles of cooking. These won’t make you a chef, but they’ll make 11 steps closer.


1. Mise en Place

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This is a French expression that literally means “put in place.” The significance of this in the professional kitchen is paramount to the success of a service. Everything is organized and prepped. Vegetable garnishes are chopped and blanched, proteins are portioned, sauces are finished. Think ahead. What utensils will you use preparing your dish. Get them out and put them in place. Your meat will need to rest when it comes out of the pan, right? Have a plate ready for it. The key is everything is in place before  it is needed.

Messy kitchens make messy food. If you have to scramble to find the spatula to remove the fish from the pan, the fish is over-cooking whilst you scramble. Those precious seconds you spend chopping those tomatoes going back to the fridge to find parsley while cooking will cost you the freshness of your dish.

2. Seasoning


I’m not talking about 11 different herbs and spices. I’m talking about salt and pepper. Use it. As a rule of thumb you should season everything you want to taste good. Which is, well, everything. Bland food is probably the number one amateur cook’s mistake. Ditch your salt shaker. This is not a kitchen tool. I recommend keeping a small dish of sea salt or kosher salt next to your stove as well as a good pepper grinder. Preground pepper sucks. This leads me into my next tip.

3. Taste everything

Don’t assume your food tastes good. Good chefs taste constantly as they work. Is the seasoning correct? Does it need more acidity? Does something smell or taste off? You should taste at several different stages to ensure your food tastes good. Don’t let it get to the table before you figure out it tastes like shit.

4. Keep it simple

The fewer things you put in a dish the less the chance you will have something go wrong. Keep your dishes simple and focused and don’t try to show off all of your tricks at once. You’ll find you have less flavor clashes and your food will be better.

4. Mirepoix

Ok, last French term, I promise. Mirepoix is commonly considered to be the combination of carrots, celery and onion but can be any combination of aromatic vegetables such as leeks or shallots. The difference between a broth simmered with just meat and simmered with meat and mirepoix is in complexity and aromatics. This is one of those little steps to elevate your cooking.

5. Buy good ingredients

If you want your food to be good, you need to start with good ingredients, right? I know it’s a cliché, but how many people actually do this? Foods undergo a chemical change as they get older and they do not taste the same. If you start with semi-wilted produce or freezer-burnt meat you should not be surprised that your final product is sub-par.

When you go shopping for ingredients you should be adaptable to what is good (or bad) in the market. I really wanted to make halibut, but all of the halibut looks like crap. Maybe I should consider a different fish?

6. Listen to your food, no really!

Burned your potatoes? Dried out your fish? Odds are you weren’t properly controlling temperature. Smell it and observe. Do you smell something burning? Is it crackling madly in the pan? Maybe you should adjust the heat.  Observe your food with all five senses and you will get all the clues you need. As moisture evaporates and the food begins to dry out the sound will change. This is a clue that your dish might burn soon.

7. Take it slow

Is your stew at a full boil? Turn it down or it’s going to dry out. When you are braising or slow roasting, take it slow for best results. High temperatures will result in tougher and drier meats.

8. Fresh stocks

Fresh stocks are the blood that courses through the veins of a professional kitchen. They are like magic. They make things taste good. At home I like to make batches of chicken, beef or pork stock and freeze it in portions. This way you have an ace in the hole. Anytime your making a soup or sauce it will instantly add depth of flavor.

In a pinch you can use a low sodium packaged broth but be sure to read the ingredients to make sure you can pronounce all of the ingredients. However the little cubes though are unacceptable. I don’t know about you but where I come from chickens are shaped like a damn cube.

9. Fresh herbs

Fresh herbs add fragrance and flavor to a dish. They freshen otherwise dull flavored foods. I use a ton of parsley and thyme and I will use fresh about 20 times more often than I use dried. A handful of fresh chopped herbs thrown into a dish at the end can really enliven it.

10. Preheat that pan

Many home cooks are afraid of heat-don’t be. Harness it and wield it like a sword. Whenever you are frying or searing it is essential to preheat your pan. For example, you want to sear pork chops or a steak. If you add them to a luke warm pan and cook it, the moisture will leach out of the meat and pool around it. Then you will steam it to a very unappealing grey color. Put your pan on the fire until you see a light wisp of smoke, then add oil and then your meat. You hear the sizzle? That’s the sound of that moisture immediately evaporating when it touches the surface of the pan. In the absence of moisture, the sugars in the meat will be able to caramelize, giving you a nicely browned meat.

11. Hot food, hot plate

Ever wonder why your pasta turns cold 10 seconds out of the pan? If you put hot food on a room temperature ceramic plate it will suck the heat right out of your food. Chefs will always heat the plates the food is served on so that the food stays hot longer.

Well that’s a start. Come back to for more professional cooking tips in the future and also post your questions in the comment section. I’ll answer them all. In the mean time begin practicing these tips and you will see you will avert culinary disaster.