Fish and fries with garlic-lemon mayo sauce

Inspired by the steamed whole fish with mayo and potato wedges that my mother used to cook (the only dish she did rather well), the version with fried fish is in deference to Speedy who can’t appreciate fish unless it’s fried and crispy. I have to admit that fried fish and potatoes work better with the sauce as the frying creates a more robust texture overall.

The procedure for making this dish consists of three parts:

1. Making the no-cook garlic-lemon mayo sauce;
2. Frying the fish and potatoes; and
3. Assembling the dish.

You can use a whole fish, fish steaks or fillets. Whichever cut you choose, remember to rub with salt and pepper at least 30 minutes before frying. If using fillets, I suggest coating them in batter before frying, something similar to how Speedy cooked his beer-battered fish and chips.

The following recipe is for a whole fish. (more)


A surprisingly good eggplant and tomato pate

Yesterday at CASA Veneracion was all about pasta and a lighted bottle. The pasta was made with a “mistake” and the lighted bottle was borne out of boredom.

What mistake?

At the Salcedo Market last weekend, I bought a jar of tomato eggplant pâté for Sam. I was so excited to buy something vegetarian for her that I skipped reading the fine print like I usually do. Back at home, I proudly handed the jar to Sam who, as is her habit, dove straight to the ingredients list. The pâté has anchovies, she said, and I can’t describe how I felt at that moment — sad, embarrassed, sheepish… or, maybe, just plain bad.

But me being me, I don’t dwell on things that make me feel bad. I told Alex that her sister wouldn’t be able to touch the pâté so we might as well eat it ourselves. Alex toasted slices of sourdough bread, spread them generously with the tomato eggplant pâté and topped them with grated Parmesan cheese. Delicioso! And Alex doesn’t even like eggplant!

So that gave me an idea. By the time the jar was less than half full, I decided to use the remaining pâté as pasta sauce.

“Too thick,” said Alex, the in-house pasta authority.

“Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll fix that.”

I browned chopped bacon, added the pâté and an equal amount of homemade tomato sauce. And we had a winner! (more)


Speedy’s picadillo

This is an updated version of recipe that I originally published on April 26, 2003.

In Spanish, picadillo is a ground-or-minced-meat-and-tomato dish. The version I grew up with is a soup. My father (who was a really fantastic cook) used to cook picadillo with either potatoes or chayote, depending on which vegetable was available. So did I, until that fateful summer night in 2003 when I just felt that the beef AND chayote combo was already too boring, while beef AND potatoes just looked too colorless. It was Speedy who suggested a medley of vegetables. And to make the soup even more chunky, instead of ground or minced meat, I opted for cubed beef short ribs. A little adventure in the kitchen turned out a new version of picadillo that my family couldn’t get enough of! These days, of course, with Sam having gone vegetarian, only three of us — Speedy, Alex and I — get to eat picadillo. (more)


Kaffir lime: racial slur and recipes

Not only has our kaffir lime tree grown to tremendous height and breadth, it is also generously bearing fruits. I cook with kaffir lime leaves extensively, I’ve even made simple syrup with them but I’ve always thought that kaffir lime — the fruit itself — was not edible.

What a terrible mistake on my part. I just found recipes for kaffir lime marmalade and kaffir lime curd. I also found some controversy about the name of the fruit. It appears that in some cultures, the term “kaffir” is derogatory, according to Slate. (more)


The secret to the tastiest La Paz batchoy

At 21 Restaurant in Bacolod, between mouthfuls of noodles, meat and chicharon, we were entertained with the story of how the restaurant came to be. A mere hole in the wall of a residential house, 21 Restaurant grew in fame and fortune on the strength of one dish — La Paz batchoy. The secret of the noodle dish, we were told, was in the broth.

A year later, I experimented on making the tastiest broth for La Paz batchoy. And the formula I came up with is: beef bones (with lots of marrow), pork bones and shrimp heads and shells simmered for hours.

We keep containers of broth made with a combination of beef and pork bones (sometimes, chicken too) in the freezer. I simmer them together for hours then I cool and strain the broth into several containers. They keep in the freezer for weeks and then it’s time to replenish our stock. To make broth for La Paz batchoy, I heated one container or broth and dropped in the heads and shells of shrimps. (more)