In Which the Blogger is Hungry but is Too Lazy to Cook…

Cheddar, Broccoli, and Sausage Quiche

Roasted a crown of pork on Christmas Eve.  Helped Mom whip up her fab-tastic paella also on Christmas Eve.  Turned some of the leftovers into a pizza on Boxing Day.

And now: I am too plum-tuckered out to cook!

But that isn’t reason to worry of course, thanks to places like Gourmet to Go over at Rustan’s Supermarket and Hot Chicks over at the SM Supermarket.  Holiday leftovers notwithstanding, both shops have a wide selection of freshly made, properly cooked dishes to suit the needs of cooks who are too worn-out by Yuletide cooking to produce anything fresh.

The quiches and salads are what make Gourmet to Go quite appealing to me.  The one shown above is a cheese, broccoli, and sausage quiche (P 95.00 apiece) which is richly flavored, chunky with fillings, and can satisfy up to two hearty appetites in one go.  The tortellini salad is also gorgeous and you get fat pasta shapes filled with a moreish ricotta-based filling mixed with veg in a tangy vinaigrette.  The sandwiches are also excellent and you can have them warmed if you feel like noshing on the go.

Chipses and Dipses!

If one is feeling particularly peckish, there’s also the choice of munching on some seriously fat chips from New York Fries and Dips.  Get the large serve (P 80.00 with two dips) and opt for the sweetish Hawaiian curry and brown gravy for your crunchy spuds.  It’s so simple and so satisfying that I find it a nice break from all the richness of the Holiday table.  🙂

SybDive will be on hiatus for the next few days; I have so much to do in the way of cooking for New Year’s Eve!  But from me and mine, I hope that everyone has a peaceful and prosperous New Year!  ;D

Dealing with Holiday Leftovers: DIY Pan Pizza

Homestyle Pan Pizza

I agree with Nigella Lawson that post-Christmas leftovers are the best food in the world.  For one thing, you can’t really enjoy your Christmas meal as there are far too many things going on: neighbors coming to call, a battalion of nephews and nieces clamoring for one’s attention, visits to one’s relatives, and parties left and right.  Christmas food, in my opinion, is certainly best savored once all the hubbub has died down and you are left alone to eat in peace.

However, one other problem involving the Holiday feast is that there’s so much of it (and it just keeps increasing) between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  One, of course, will be driven mad by culinary monotony – unless you put a creative spin on your cooking!

You'd never guess all the toppings below the cheese are leftovers!

I took stock of what was in the fridge and found that, apart from a generous amount of roast pork and sliced ham in the freezer, I still had some fresh shiitake mushrooms left in the crisper along with some mozzarella cheese and pasta sauce.  All were left over from an evening before Christmas when I fixed up a meaty pasta al forno for dinner.

So what does a girl do in light of this bounty before her?  Why, bake up a pizza!

This nifty little number approximates the chewily thick-crusted pan pizzas sold at Pizza Hut.  Mercifully, though, this one isn’t as greasy as the commercially available original and is very satisfying.  The bready crust is crisp on the outside and deliciously stodgy within; plus it stands up well to all those toppings.

This is another of my laissez les bon temps rouler recipes in the sense that all that limits you is your own imagination.  Indeed, you do not have to use roast pork, ham, and mushrooms.  You can use shredded turkey or chicken in lieu of the pork; I would even recommend roast beef cut into thin slivers for some hearty robustness.  Shredded Brussels sprouts and roast potatoes diced small would also be quite tasty.  Mozzarella and the grated Edam [queso de bola] here can be easily replaced by the chopped up remains of your Christmas cheeseboard.  As for the ham, you can easily replace it with any chopped-up sausages (leftover bacon-wrapped chipolatas are tasty and Spanish chorizos add a fiery touch) or cold cuts; just be sure to chop them up finely.  Plus, you can even ditch the pasta / tomato sauce and lightly spread leftover cranberry sauce onto the doughy base instead.

Just out of the oven!

Day After Christmas Pan Pizza

  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 300 mL water
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil or rendered ham fat or lard
  • 1 sachet fast-acting yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup commercially prepared pasta sauce (I used Del Monte Four-cheese Spaghetti Sauce.)
  • 1/4 cup salty ham, chopped finely
  • 1 cup roast pork, diced small
  • 1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems and caps sliced thinly
  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Edam cheese (quezo de bola)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, yeast, and herbs.  Heat the water and oil together in a heatproof bowl for a minute and a half on HIGH in the microwave.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water mixture.  Mix until well-combined.  Knead for ten to twelve minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Cover with a clean dishcloth and allow to rise in a draft-free area for an hour.

Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and press it into a 12-inch in diameter cake tin.  Cover with a dishcloth and leave to prove for five minutes.  Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees / Gas Mark 7.

Remove the dishcloth from the proven dough.  Push your fingers around the dough to make a thinnish edge about the circumference.  Spread the pasta sauce evenly in the center.  Scatter the toppings in the following order: sliced onion, mushrooms, ham, and roast pork.  Evenly sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the other toppings to ensure that everything is well-covered.  Sprinkle over the grated Edam and pop into the oven.

Bake for ten minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees / Gas Mark 5 and bake an additional fifteen minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan for about two to three minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter and slice up.  Makes approximately eight generous slices, though you can slice the pie into thinner portions for lighter appetites.

I cannot begin to tell you how deliciously comforting a slice of this can be when served for dinner with a mug of creamy mushroom soup on a cold December night.  🙂

A Regal Roast: The Crowning Glory of the Holiday Table

Crown Roast of Pork

Around a month ago, I was telling everyone that I would go fix up a crown roast of pork for Christmas dinner.  Now, don’t laugh: my family is somewhat notorious for experimenting with the main course for Noche Buena, the traditional midnight meal.

One year, my mother made a fantastic morcon – a beef roulade filled with hard-boiled eggs, olives, and Spanish chorizo.  Then, there was the year she made lengua con setas (braised ox tongue with mushroom gravy) and the year she made chicken Veronique.  Save for the paella that has graced our Holiday table since time immemorial, our choices have been quite daring and unusual.  That said, this year’s main course is no exception.

Of course, the bulk of the people I know being so gosh-darned negative about such elaborate plans, I was told that I would never be able to pull it off.

Well, shows you what they know!  😉

How it looked when I first bought it…

The thing about crown roasts in this day and age is that these are no longer such a masochistic thing to do.  For one thing, good cuts – and prepared sections – of meat are easily available at one’s supermarket.  For another, crown roasts are sold pre-formed and sewn together.  Plus, there is no danger of getting a tough one because they’re all quite tender.

A marinated roast

The smallest roast is actually a tad much even for a small family: approximately three and a quarter kilos of meat – sixteen rib chops – is plenty.  But, stored properly, it keeps quite well and can be used as both a main course on Christmas Day and the basis for other meals afterwards.

The recipe I used for this roast is actually a combination of the marinade of one recipe and the cooking technique for another!  Both were taken from Eleanor Graves’s Great Dinners from LIFE.  The marinade is based on her recipe for Chinese grilled spareribs and the technique is a modified take on the one she used for her own crown roast of pork.

It’s one of the most elaborate recipes I’ve done so far and it would pretty much daunt a cook with less bravura, but try it for yourself and you will see that it is certainly worth all that effort.  (Plus, there’s no end to what you can do with the leftovers: pulled pork sandwiches, pork and mushroom pizza, reheat some ribs and serve them over mashed potatoes…)

Dad and my brother looking on as Mom carves the roast

Crown Roast of Pork

  • 1 3-1/4 kilo crown roast of pork, thawed if frozen (sixteen to eighteen ribs)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup rum
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Combine the sugar, soy, rum, water, and spices in a large bowl that can fit the roast.  (A large metal mixing bowl works here.)  Put in the roast and rub all over with the marinade.  Rub the roast every half-hour for a five-hour period.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees / Gas Mark 6.  Affix aluminum foil onto the ends of the bones as shown above.  Place the roast in a shallow rectangular baking tin and pour half the remaining marinade over it.  Make a tent of aluminum foil over it, covering all sides.  Put in the oven and cook for 1 hour.

When an hour has passed, open the oven and turn the pan around to ensure even cooking.  Leave to cook for an additional hour.

At the end of the second hour, remove the foil and baste the roast well with the pan juices.  Lower heat to 350 degrees / Gas Mark 4 and return the roast to the oven.  Cook for an additional hour and a half.

Switch off the oven and take out the roast.  Leave to cool in the pan for a few minutes.  Transfer to a serving platter and carve at the table.

Some chunks from the roast and a heaping bowl of paella

Happy Holidays and Excellent Eating, everyone!  😉


A Blessed Christmas to One and All!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 9:6

May Our Good Lord bless and keep you and your family in His everlasting love and care!

A Blessed Christmas and a Blissful New Year. 🙂

On Sprucing Up Ham and Cheese…

Ham and cheese, please!

The average middle-class Filipino household will find its fridge loaded with two specific treats during the Holiday Season: ham and cheese.

By ham, we are talking about the festive whole hams as opposed to the frozen packets of pre-sliced pork by-products.  These may run the gamut from the salty bone-in Hoc Shiu imported from China to the sweet-glazed, deboned commercial hams made and sold by the country’s bigger meat processing firms.  Families with relatives living in the United States may be lucky enough to have Smithfield or Hickory Farms spiral sliced honey-cured hams or European canned hams.  Even the least fortunate households actually do what they can to buy even a few slices or scraps of ham to liven up the meager Christmas meal – that is how integral ham is to the Filipino people during the Yuletide season.

Cheese, on the other hand, is not the kind that comes in a blue (or yellow) rectangular box nor is it the artificial orange-colored plastic-textured glop that comes in jars.  Proper Christmas cheeses are the famed quezos de bola – those wax-coated spherical Edam cheeses imported from the Netherlands.  Marca Pina (the one with the pineapple label) and Marca Pato (the one sporting a duck label) are the brands of choice for the well-heeled set.  These cheeses are aged, so they’re a deep yellow beneath the red-waxed surface and are deliciously pungent and crumbly-textured.  Local dairies have put out their own versions of quezo de bola, but these are just mild Cheddars or – worse – processed cheese food.  Certainly not a substitute for the real thing which can be eaten on its own as part of a cheese plate or grated like Parmesan over hot pasta!


A ham and cheese croissant

All that said, the snack of choice for many Filipinos over the course of the Christmas season is – what else?!? – a good-sized ham and cheese sandwich.  While it can prove disastrous to one’s figure, it’s a logical solution that prevents a glut of both from going to waste.  But why simply slap a slab or so of ham and cheese between two slices of bread?  There are a number of ways by which you can transform a simple sandwich into a real treat.

  • Grill it up! Take a cue from the ham and cheese panini from Heavenly Chocolates at the top of this post.  Tuck a few slices of ham and thinnish slices of cheese into a split ciabatta and press it with either a panini grill or a spatula in a pan of sizzling butter.  (Think grilled cheese – only more decadent!)
  • Swap breads.  Scrap the conventional sliced white or whole wheat and experiment with croissants, baguettes, sliced rye, and even your morning pan de sal.
  • Dress it up! Butter and mayonnaise are fine, but add so much in the way of fat and calories.  Better to swap these traditional spreads with whole-grain mustard or a raspberry dressing like the one used in Starbucks’ turkey and chicken ham and cheese croissant.  You get a serious punch of flavor without adding additional fat or calories.

Whatever you do, be sure to share your sandwich with a friend to amp up warm feelings of Holiday togetherness.  😉