Erwin-chicken copy

Honey Lemon Chicken with Rice & Beans

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I just stormed out of the kitchen last Saturday out of anger and frustration. I was hesitant to do it, but knowing that the same situation would repeat itself; I walked out and left without any hopes of returning. It seemed like the owner did not understand how hectic and heavy it was to work two to four stations simultaneously for at least seven hours while serving the pass and preparing the food to her foolish wishes. It was too difficult and the constant nagging only aggravated the already bad situation. Prep work was another set of assignments altogether which should have been delegated to somebody else at least on a busy weekend morning. My back-up was low, and that was also under my care. As soon as I left, I went to the nearest coffee shop, changed, cooled down a bit, and went to my favourite dimsum place for lunch. Instead of sulking over to what I had done and to what had occurred in the line, I celebrated the new freedom I temporarily lost. It’s a common practice that cooks stay only for a short stint in an establishment for some reason on another or in some cases, the other way around. Luck can also have its way. It’s a tough environment to work in and anyone who is exposed to heat, grease and noise daily could be in an absolute hell. However, if things do turn in smoothly, the gratification of serving and cooking for appreciative guests can be tenfold, and the rush that is associated with the speed of service in the line is emancipating.

I called my friends in the suburbs and went out drinking afterwards. We are still celebrating until today, a Sunday. My very close friends in the suburbs came to Canada in different periods of time. They are sons and daughters of my mom and dad’s close HS friends and through twist of fate; we all met here again in the glorious north. They are my drinking buddies now through good times and in bad. It was obviously appropriate that we had this much needed get-together after a long, dry spell, and of course, to celebrate to what just recently happened to me. Obviously, we’ve been doing an all-night bender which brought me to write this article. The music, the company, the frustration, the good food, and the booze took me to start writing some after thoughts. It finally came.

For lunch, we went to a restaurant where they had only served morsels of very satiable and finger licking wings. They tasted somewhere between home-cooked and fastfood wings, but the sauces and the powder sprinkled on their dry wings definitely made anyone return for another trip. I noticed that the wings were not deep-fried in overused oil. That was a good sign; a hint that some standards were being followed in the kitchen. No wonder my friends had been raving about it. I’ve also wanted to try a chicken dish ever since doing pork dishes for a couple of months now. I haven’t really done one since I re-discovered several other kinds of meat cuts; pork specifically. And, I really love pork in the first place. I also ran out of great ideas using chicken as my canvass, but at any rate, I bought a couple of chicken quarter legs, and with what I had in my fridge, and with what I just tasted in the restaurant thought of this dish. My friends have also assigned me to recreate the flavours from the restaurant. That’s an enormous task given that the restaurant had a total of 60 flavours on their menu. I told them I’d start with ten. Preparation and condiments were basic, but the flavourings and sauces made them really special and one of a kind sports grill and bar.

2 pcs. Chicken Quarter Legs
1 Lemon
Lemon Rind
2 cloves of minced Garlic
½ cup to a cup of Chicken Stock
½ stalk of finely diced Celery
1 tsp. Honey
6 shots of Brandy
Finely chopped Italian Parsley

Chicken Marinade: to taste
Olive Oil
Chopped Oregano
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

1. Wipe off excess oil from the Chicken, and dust with seasoned flour. Brown each side until golden.

2. Transfer the chickens on a roasting pan and shove in a 350’C preheated oven until juices turn clear.

3. Remove excess oil from the pan and turn the stovetop to medium/high. Saute the celery and garlic and deglaze with Brandy. Add the chicken stock and let simmer for several minutes.

4. Strain the sauce. Squeeze some lemon juice, and grate some lemon rind. Pour in the honey and chopped parsley. Season to taste.


Rice & Beans

2 Cups of Basmati Rice
½ Chopped White Onions
3 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Tomato Sauce
½ a Can of Romano Beans
Cayenne Pepper

1. Saute the white onion until it’s soft and translucent.

2. Add 2 cups of Basmati Rice, All-spice, Cayenne Pepper and stir constantly until the rice is roasted.

3. Add 3 cups of chicken stock and about a cup of tomato sauce. Boil to simmer, covered.

4. Remove the lid when the rice is nearly cooked, and stir gently. Add the beans and continue to simmer until the rice grains are al dente. Season to taste.

I enjoy watching the political mudslinging and bantering in the British House of Commons. The words delivered by each of the party’s leaders are just amusing, precise, and to the point, without overstepping any boundaries. They discuss world, common and state problems based on fact and history, and argue with dignity and straight-faced without involving any emotional overload whatsoever. I’m afraid Filipino politicians can’t seem to separate those two apart. They let the viewers decide come election time through this medium. The jeering from the MPs also adds some excitement to the already heated debate. How I’d wish this form of argument could happen in the kitchen; shouting at each other at a well-respected and clean manner. However, cooks hold onto knives instead of a speech, and it’s the exact opposite in a hot and crazy environment. The only words of endearment you’d here are curses and more curses from the front and back when things go haywire. That’s quite normal. However, there are limits to such and when boundaries are crossed and stepped upon, expect the worse to happen. I was a casualty of an already failing system. Imagine British politicians talking like Gordon Ramsey.


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When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

12 thoughts on “Honey Lemon Chicken with Rice & Beans

  1. I really enjoy reading your kitchen stories, Erwin. (Not that I enjoy the fact that you had a very bad day.) I can only imagine how volatile a situation can be in a kitchen environment. Swearing Gordon Ramseys with knives. But on the other hand… look what a fantastic creation you have there after what just happened :-)

  2. that looks really great, i love to try that soon…:) thanks for sharing another yummy recipe. visiting super late from FTF and FF, hope to see you around. thanks and have a great week. :)

  3. so sorry to hear about what happened, but am sure there’s another opportunity out there waiting for you, with your name written on the door! :)
    yummy yummy satisfying meal!

    thanks much for sharing over at Food Friday!
    maiylah recently posted Food Friday

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