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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…

Sunday Rehabilitation

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It has been a busy time chez Mr. D of late. Mr. D’s Artisanal is a finalist in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Next Food Entrepreneur contest. Our group just finished our second weekend at Midnight Mercato in BGC. I would like to congratulate all of my fellow concessionaires competing in the contest for bringing their creative food concepts to bear. That being said, I hope I win…

I stopped in Salcedo Market yesterday and spoke to Marco Lobregat of Ministry of Mushrooms. He handed me a paper bag with a new variety of mushroom that he is growing called Milky Mushrooms (Calocybe Indica). With his assurances they would not make me see things he told me to take them and experiment with them. Challenge accepted.

These mushrooms are very plump and firm, sharing some characteristics of a portabella or button mushroom. They really need to be roasted pretty well, or next time I might try to grill them. They retain a pretty firm texture even after cooking and are really meaty.

One produce vendor had some really fresh camote tops (sweet potato leaves) and mustard greens and also some free range eggs. When you have really fresh greens for cooking the next day, I think it’s best to wilt or blanch them when their still freshest. These were simply wilted in a pan, covered with no oil or seasoning. Then I cooled it and put it in the fridge for the next day.

This afternoon, rolling out of bed after a long weekend of Midnight Mercato, this was the perfect ensemble to restore some of my energy.

Pan Roasted Milky Mushrooms, Wilted Greens, Poached Egg and Aged Balsamic

10-12 milky mushrooms, sliced in half

1 bunch mustard greens

1 bunch comote tops

2-3 good eggs

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shit ton of butter

oil for sautéing

1 tbsp cheap vinegar

1 drizzle aged balsamic vinegar

Set one large sauté pan on medium high heat and set up a second pan for poaching eggs. In a shallow high-walled pan put water halfway up and add the cheap vinegar. Turn heat to medium.

When the sauté pan is hot add oil and mushrooms with the flat side down. Allow them to caramelize mostly undisturbed until they develop a nice brown color and become aromatic. Move and rotate them as needed to even out the cooking. Once caramelized, add a shit ton of butter and most of the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Flip all of the mushrooms and baste them with the hot butter until they are cooked through. Remove the mushrooms and drain them on a plate lined with paper towel.

Add your greens to the same pan to pick up flavor from the mushrooms. Either wilt them or reheat them if they’re already wilted. Add the remainder of the garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Next poach your eggs, making sure the poaching liquid is at a low simmer. Carefully drop each cracked egg into the water and gently poach until the white is just opaque.
Gently lift the poached eggs out with a slotted spoon and drain off any water before plating. Season with salt and pepper.

Next just plate them all together. The greens make a nice bed for the poached egg and also, placing the poached eggs on the hot greens helps keep the egg warm. Drizzle some good aged balsamic around the plate to garnish. The runny yolk makes a delicious sauce for the plate.

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, mrdelicious.ph 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
chives
canola oil or palm oil
butter

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

Back from the Brink

Saffron-streaked fresh pasta right out of the roller

Saffron-streaked fresh pasta right out of the roller

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Holy shit! It’s been a little while hasn’t it? I’m a bad blogger, I know. But I never told you differently anyway.

It’s all for good reason though, I promise. One being the soft launch of my first product under my new brand Mr. D’s Artisanal, a Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef. The response has been really great, better than I expected. As I scrambled to scale up my production I also had a private event to prepare for this weekend. Hence, no blogging.

To those of you who have already ordered the corned beef, thank you and please provide your feedback. I have several other products in the pipeline as I begin to fill out a full product line of locally sourced and crafted artisan foods. I have completed my first test batch of naturally fermented dill pickles and I’m sourcing natural pork to produce a number of tasty pig products.

To those of you who are still waiting, thank you for your patience. I am producing my maximum output each week until I feed each and every one of you. I am cautious not to grow too quickly as my first priority is to maintain the quality of the product.

The private event was for a post-mass family meal on Saturday. My hosts were expecting up to 40 people and had requested lamb and seafood dishes. The event went well and my hosts were very gracious. Check out my menu below.

Rare Tuna Niçois

Tuna poached in olive oil, with fennel, citrus and herbs, quail eggs, French beans and potato, anchovy vinaigrette

Gambas (sorry no picutre)

Prawns, sofrito, chorizo, garlic

Saffron Agnolotti stuffed with Lobster, Sweet Corn and Chives

Roasted tomatoes, zucchini blossoms, saffron-lobster brodo

Coq au Vin

Roasted shallots and oyster mushrooms, bacon, glazed baby carrots

Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

Cauliflower, asparagus, yellow squash, zucchini, lemon

Cashew-crusted Rack of Lamb

Brown butter eggplant, whole grain mustard honey lamb reduction

The tuna is gently poached to rare in extra virgin olive oil that has been infused with lemon rind, fennel, herbs, peppercorns and bay leaf

The filling of the agnolotti consists of lobster, shrimp and sweet corn. The sauce is much like a bisque made from the shells of the lobster.

Coq au vin. No coq jokes please.

Old dog, old tricks

Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef

Corned beef

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Today my friends at pepper.ph 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- jeremy@mrdelicious.ph
  • Also please bear with me as I increase production. Supplies are limited.

Chinese Steamed Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce

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Despite being one of my favorite dim sum dishes I finally got around to making my own version. If you’re in Manila I highly recommend you go to Le Ching Tea House in Greenhills and try it there.

Even if I love to eat Chinese food I almost never cook it. This one though is super easy and quite tasty. The size of the spare ribs would ideally be cut smaller but since mine were larger I did the humung-o version.

If you have a bamboo steamer that will work great. I did not, so I used a stainless steel steamer basket and a cake pan. Worked like a charm!

Steamed Pork Spare Ribs with Black Bean Sauce

1 kg pork spare ribs, cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 tbsp fermented black beans

2 tbsp corn starch

1 tbsp Chinese rice wine

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tbsp sesame oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small knob of ginger, chopped

2 finger chilies, chopped

white pepper

Crush the fermented black beans, garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle until they are smooth.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Allow to marinate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 24.

In a large pot or wok add about 2″ of water and bring to boil. Add your pork to a pan or ceramic bowl and place in steamer.

Place the steamer over the boiling water and cover with a lid. Steam pork for about 15-20 minutes until just cooked through.

Serve over rice with copious quantities of chili oil.

Dinner with Internations and Some Damn Good Corned Beef

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Last year when I moved to the Philippines I spent a lot of time searching online. I was here in a relatively unfamiliar country and was looking to get to know people and to find all of the things I might want. I began to wonder what other expats have done in this  situation.

That’s when I discovered Internations.org. Internations is a worldwide organization that helps connect expats through its website and events. I was a quiet stalker member for a year before I started attending the events a couple months ago.

The events are pretty fun and I can always find interesting conversation. The people in attendance can be from literally anywhere in the world and in most cases the Philippines is not the only country in which they have lived abroad. Each has a story, a meandering path which has ultimately lead them here, for more reasons than can be imagined.

Forgoing the chef coat for a casual dinner, photo credit: Alexis Kayanan

So when I was approached by an Internations member about cooking a dinner for her DinnerNations sub-group, I was happy to oblige. We settled on a casual buffet menu based on comfort foods, which gave me the opportunity to prepare my second test batch if corned beef.

After slow cooking for five hours

Here’s the menu from Saturday’s event:

Guinness Braised Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef

Cabbage, Baby Carrots and Potatoes, Poached with the Corned Beef

Cauliflower Cheddar Gratin

Roasted Beets with Arugula, Local Goat Cheese, Roasted Pecans, Honey and Mint

Classic Caesar Salad

Mushroom Barley Risotto with Roasted Eggplant and Leeks

Spiced Ginger Cake with Vanilla Custard Sauce

Photo credit: Alexis Kayanan

Much of what I do here is to advocate what is good and local in Philippine agriculture. If ever faced with a decision between an imported product and a high quality local product, the choice is clear to me. This is the core principle behind my brand Mr. D’s Artisanal.

My first product is a Philippine Wagyu Corned Beef. My beef brisket is Kitayama Beef sourced from Mindanao. Kitayama Beef is the local beef brand owned by the same owners as Malcolm’s. They raise their cattle, which are a cross breed of local and Japanese, near Cagayon de Oro. Their cattle are pampered and raised with the same methods as Kobe, which results in fantastically marbled meat that melts in your mouth.

This marbling makes it ideal for a slow-cooked corned beef. The fat slowly melts and holds the flavor of the beef and the spices. I will do my final tweeks on the recipe before I launch, but I’m pretty damn happy with the results already.

I will begin producing this in very small batches that will be completed each Thursday. The price will be p475 for 500 grams or p925/kg.

Please contact me for order information. You can easily feed a crowd with this so if you have a upcoming party contact me in advance to ensure supply.

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

water

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.

Risotto Nero-Squid Ink Risotto

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I’m really hooked on this stuff. Aside from a stark presentation squid ink enriches a dish and makes it taste like the sea (in a good way).

The easiest and surest way to procure squid ink is by purchasing the concentrated form in either a jar or in packets. Many delicatessens that specialize in either Italian or Spanish foods will carry it. In Manila you can purchase it at Terry’s.

If you want to try harvesting it yourself go for it but make sure you buy squid that isn’t cleaned and ask your fishmonger to help you find the inkiest squids. Often they expel it when they are caught. Isn’t it a little bit ironic how we enjoy foods like this and chili peppers because of their natural defenses?

Now, as far as rice, people make a lot of fuss about which rice to use in risotto. The traditional rice varieties for risotto are Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli. However sushi rice will work as well. Look for a starchy, short grain rice and don’t spend a fortune on rice from an opposite corner of the globe.

When making risotto consistency is everything. It gets screwed up about 90% of the time but it’s actually not that difficult. Just follow a few basic tips.

  • Risotto should be a saucy consistency and should flow on the plate. It is not paella.
  • Serve immediately on a hot plate. It must be eaten immediately or it will seize up and be crappy.
  • Don’t overcook the rice!

If you’re wondering why my pictures are conspicuously better my friends at Photo Kitchen and pepper.ph are to thank!

Risotto Nero with Squid, Shrimp and Asparagus

serves 4
5 small squid
4 large (12-16 ct) shrimp
6 medium asparagus stalks
1 ½ cups Arborio or short grain rice
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken or seafood stock (fresh or sodium free packaged stock)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 packets squid ink concentrate
5-7 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Prepare a mixing bowl with ice water for an ice bath. Place a medium sauce pot with salted water on high heat and bring to boil. Cut fibrous portion from asparagus stalks and discard. Cut asparagus into 1 inch pieces and add to boiling water. Boil just until barely tender and quickly strain and plunge into ice bath. Once cooled remove the asparagus and set aside.

Prepare your squid by peeling off the skin and cleaning out the head cavity. Rinse and cut into rings and tentacles. Peel shrimp and remove veins from back. In the same sauce pot add your stock, fresh thyme and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Quickly poach squid in the stock until it is just cooked. Then poach shrimp just until the shrimp curls and turns opaque.

In a large sauté pan add olive oil, onions and garlic on medium heat. Cook until onions are soft then add rice. Cook the rice, stirring constantly until the rice becomes opaque. Add squid ink and stir. If the stock begins to run out, just add water and bring to a simmer. Then add white wine and cook until the smell of alcohol is gone.

Now begin adding your hot stock, one ladle at a time until the rice is just covered with liquid. Simmer until the liquid begins to dry up, stirring constantly. Repeat until the rice is beginning to soften but still al dente.

Finish by adding butter and stirring in. Season and correct the consistency with extra stock if needed. Add the seafood and asparagus to the simmering stock just until hot. Spoon the risotto into a pasta bowl and garnish with seafood and asparagus.