Rouge Et Blanc

The past workweek was tremendously busy and furious. The kitchen constantly served catering events and group reservations, and at nearly the same labour hours and with more workload at hand, each and everyone in the brigade was pushed and stretched beyond their physical demands. However, this does not occur as often as usual. It’s Christmas again and with all the get-togethers, reunions and parties spotted in the city, it is by far normal to be frenetic, frantic and to what they call here “stupidly crazy” in the hospitality and food service businesses.

It’s indeed that time of the year again when get-togethers amongst close friends; family, compatriots and even ex-lovers tend to happen. The air just changes instantly and for whatever reason, the troubled society and the warring nations somewhat pause to a standstill, becoming warmer and comforting to strangers and a bit generous to street urchins and beggars. This must be the magic of Christmas, the magic brought forth by coming of the ‘One.’ In a couple weeks, this magical mystery tour in what my ‘brother’ coined as a hostile environment will end. Everyone does not want this moment to disappear, I suppose. It’s such a joyful occasion. Who doesn’t want infinite bliss?

Living in a busy and desolate concrete jungle makes me somewhat emotional and sentimental sometimes. It’s only this season that my emotions flare and by far mine is already torched. This is one of the quietest seasons I have celebrated (what celebration?) and for whatever reason; any social gathering or connection to anyone is precious and dear. Almost everyone I have met or bumped into has had plans to be away from the city, away from societal misdemeanours. It’s such time, again, just brilliantly fantastic! And I’m here stuck battling an apartheid of mixed emotional tundra.

In one of those solemn and quiet moments after work, I did feel some real Christmas spirit in the air. On the 14rth of December, Maripi and I planned and hosted a dinner for friends to celebrate this once a year forthcoming. Knowing that almost everyone would be away for the holidays or maybe would be on somebody else’s lap and arms, this gathering would have been the last one for the year, a last hurrah of sorts. Just as what Christmas may have exemplified over and over here and around the globe, it was a joyful hosting of food, wine and good and meaningful conversation.

Maripi had prepared the aperitivo and insalata while I took care of the entree. The aperitivo Maripi concocted was a canape of crackers, dulong and capers. It matched the Sherry and white wines brought by guests. The dulong, which was bottled and preserved in a brine of olive oil and seasonings, made a spiritual and traditional homecoming of a Filipino fish, making the start even more nostalgic. Unfortunately, I had to skip the insalata. It was topped with surimi, making my palate up and arms, and my tummy flipping in despair if I had taken it.
I have never in my life cooked for a group and this became some sort of a challenge. I’ve cooked for two a year before that just to test what I have learned in CulinarySchool, but never for five and I only had two hours to finish everything. I knocked my system out and began the challenge. I prepared the following: Stuffed Chicken Legs in Sherry Reduction, Boneless Chicken Breast in Mushroom Sauce, Roasted Zucchini, and Rice with Tomatoes and Beans. From the way the dinner went, the Stuffed Chicken Legs took a perfect score of ten. The group loved it! And I of course was in LALA land. This goes to prove that being patient in prep work does wonders to food. It took me about an hour to de-bone and stuff 4 Chicken Quarter Legs and another half hour to cook the sauce. I have learned a lesson in this undertaking that I will carry with me for a lifetime. Based on this dish, I have concluded that being patient on something or to someone could be rewarding, I reckon this conclusion goes well too in winning a woman’s heart. I have some more miles to go.

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Paru-Parung Bukid

Erwin Ines, cooking and writing from Canada, has decided to jump into the ripples of the butterfly effect. Here is his own take aptly entitled Paru-parong Bukid, which literally translates to “farm butterfly.” The meme’s guidelines are here. – Iska

It’s a dawn of a new day. I have seemingly been into a tunnel of a major trial and tribulation, which I feel I will abandon soon enough. It didn’t work to my expectation or to my desires. I would love to stay, but I know in the long-term or in the near future, this very, very short stint won’t positively workout. This sort of wandering brought me to an episode somewhere, lingering in my head, for about an hour so, specifically about my life here, which is now centred on food. I’ve immersed myself to this liking and went a bit overboard in this journey. I’ve missed a step, again, and I have to reconcile my thoughts and my wants against my urgent needs. In this particular quest, I would love to share my traipsing, my sojourn of eternal bliss, into this new adventure.

I was asked about several things regarding food and being a food aficionado: An Ingredient, A Dish or Recipe, A Meal, A Cookbook, A Chef or Food Personality, and Another Person in my Life. These topics cover most, if not many, of a food lover’s recipe to the past; a comforting sign of remembering those leisurely Sundays with family and friends while reinforcing the present and carving the future that lies somewhere. Below are my loving companion and motivation in the kitchen. They have shaped me as a person as I am now and gave me real inspiration to move on despite the harsh realities of being exposed in a kitchen work life.

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Lasang Pinoy 15: Erwin’s Paella

Erwin Ines is this blog’s reader/commenter who never fails to give great cooking tips. I invited him as a guest blogger and I am ecstatic that he agrees to contribute this entry for the 15th round of Lasang Pinoy. A Credit and Financial Analyst in Manila, Erwin migrated to Canada in 2003 and made a drastic career change a year and a half later. With his passion for food and love for cooking, he decided to take a Continuing Education Chef Training Course at George Brown College’s Chef School in Toronto. He currently works as a cook in an Italian-American restaurant.

Strange Love

Ever wondered why Filipino cooking has never transcended into the realm of fine dining? In Manila, fine and casual dining has evolved from 15 to 25 years ago because of several obvious factors: economy, competition, creativity, the need for newer and fresher concepts and globalization. These liberal and presented juggernauts of world politics and common belief of almost total to complete improvement of self as well as self-respect and political parody have brought Filipino taste to majestic heights. However, this is only true for Manila, the city I have abandoned and loved. How about across the Atlantic? Have Filipinos realized how far Pinoy food has competed against their counterparts? South Asian, Thai and West Indian Cuisines have flourished, expanded, mutated and sprouted from all over, releasing their exotic and Caribbean tastes and spices. Indeed, they have become known and popular through these years. Spices such as All Spice, Garam Masala, Curry Powder (in paste & powder forms), Jerk, Coriander, and Cumin have become a mainstay in many kitchens nowadays. They have also been praised by Professional Chefs who have in time included some noticeable, succinct flavours into their menu-fusion.

Sadly, Pinoy food has only reached a certain level of appreciation and has never soared to a new level or new heights. Did you ever wonder why Pinoy cuisine, despite the never-ending and continuous flooding and flocking of immigrants around North America, have never transcended into the realm of true, exquisite, fresh, and flavourful cooking? In my short stint here, I have discovered one reason for this shortcoming: SHORT-CUTS. I feel, for many involved in cooking as a hobby, more so as a profession, and based on my kitchen experiences, Pinoys tend to cut corners and alleviate from what is right and proper or to what should be to what NOT. For example, Italians generally know how to make healthy, nurturing food for the family at a short time without making sacrifices on many ingredients. The key to good food, in their case, is freshness.

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