Day 214: The Man and the Daily Catch Daily Prompt; ‘Lovingly’

Today’s dish is a wonderful introduction to the rich, fatty, super umami, and uniquely Filipino ingredient known as taba ng talangka.

This bright orange, slightly granular paste is made from tiny freshwater crabs that grow along the rivers in the Philippines. It used to be a major product of the Pampanga region but after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and the resulting dredging of the Pampanga region, it is now more commonly harvested in Bicol. Regardless of where you get it though, the process of harvest is pretty much the same. These tiny crabs, no bigger than two inches across, are harvested, painstakingly peeled open and then the tiny amounts of crab roe inside (even though taba in Tagalog translates to ‘fat’ and talangka are the crabs, this is not crab fat but crab roe) are harvested and then sauteed into a paste with plenty of garlic for flavor.

Alone, the flavor is incredibly deep, rich, and complex. It possesses the kind of rich sea umami of say, Japanese uni but with not as much of the saltiness. Super fatty and best enjoyed in small doses a) because of how rich the taste is and b) because too much of this and you’ll have a cholesterol-laden one way ticket to the emergency room. The texture is slightly grainy, but when cooked into dishes it smooths out and almost disintegrates, leaving a slight aroma but deep orange color and permeating flavor. In the Philippines it is traditionally served as is, spooned over warm white rice and mixed together to melt and combine. I’ve also seen it prepared as a pasta sauce but most recipes call for a whole jar just for one serving!

My goal was to find a way to introduce this wonderful ingredient and taste in a way that would not be too foreign and too off-putting. I wanted it to simultaneously be the signature flavor star but not the main focus. The idea of mixing it with rice made me think of fried rice, which is a common item in the Philippines as well as any Asian country, and so playing on the Filipinos’ love of fried rice, I made my own version of seafood fried rice with the taba ng talangka mixed in!

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Ta-da! This is the final result. First, in a very hot wok I saute garlic, onions, ginger, green onion, and labuyo (a tiny but super spicy and tasty Filipino chili pepper) until fragrant. I then add squid, scallops, lump crab meat, and shrimp. Next come the bean sprouts. Finally I add the rice, oyster sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, and a generous heaping portion of the taba and mix and fry. The taba melts and colors each grain of rice that wonderful orange color and flavors the entire dish while still letting the seafood come through. Once it’s all cooked and the rice is loose and every grain is separated, I lovingly sprinkle some green onion on top.

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This is at once an homage to Asian-style fried rice, Spanish-style seafood paella, and yet also a distinctly Filipino dish in taste. I used a quart of day-old rice because older, dry rice is much better for fried rice and now I have some great leftovers to look forward to having for lunch.

If you are an adventurous foodie or a big seafood lover, I highly recommend visiting your local Asian grocery store and if you’re lucky, you might find this in the Filipino aisle. If you’re not, you’ll have to hope I open up a restaurant near you. Hahah. Either way, I definitely think that this could be one of the best unknown ingredients for the enterprising chef and is definitely a flavor worth exploring.

Bon apetit.

Day 214

Man: 182 Loneliness: 32

Day 211: The Man and the ‘Leg’endary Legs; ‘Overwhelming’

The poultry farm I went to for the duck legs and breasts (which will be showing up later on in the future with another special recipe) also happened to have some particularly large and potentially promisingly juicy turkey legs that I had to play around with as well.

No Filipino twists on this one, just a kid looking at a giant meat lollipop and remembering the fun times at Renaissance Faires and State Fairs trying to manage a giant turkey leg. As much as I loved them, they were always too cumbersome, too unwieldly, too messy to really dig into and enjoy when I was outside, with no napkins, and nowhere near a functioning sink. So I was really excited to be able to treat myself to these bad boys. Hahah.

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I decided to make my own marinade with some vegetable oil. Sriracha (for some real KICK to these legs, get it? I crack myself up), soy sauce, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, honey, parsley, basil, oregano, and ground ginger. I let them marinade for 24 hours basically tossing and turning whenever I remembered to and just slightly ‘massaging’ the bag to make sure the marinade had a chance to really penetrate the drumsticks. Before I put them in the bag I also took a knife and made a few cuts into the meat to let the marinade in.

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I am not exaggerating when I say that once they were in the oven and really started cooking the incredible aroma of the succulent roasting meat combined with that marinade created an aroma that was just overwhelming and made me start drooling. I was so happy with this experiment from the smell alone I was jumping and dancing for joy in the house. (Sorry not sorry for the image Elaine! Hahah.) It was sweet and spicy and had a wonderful combination of caramelized edges with wonderfully roasted and charred bits. The meat was tender, juicy, and the marinade was able to get deep into the leg. I made a simple salad to accompany and was absolutely loving every bit of it.

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Well I am full, satisfied, and chock full of turkey and salad. Hahah. Very happy with how this turned out and am excited to be cooking even more over the weekend. Now I’m off to watch Resident Evil. Can’t believe it’s the last of the series. I’ve loved every single one despite how terrible they honestly are.

Day 211

Man: 179 Loneliness: 32

Day 207: The Man and the ‘Leg Up’on Tradition; ‘Replacement’

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Ahahah. Get it?! It’s a ‘leg up’ because it’s duck legs!

Wonderful, delicious, fatty, rich duck legs.Made even more wonderful using what is perhaps the most recognized Filipino dish, adobo.

Recently I’ve been loving playing around with Filipino food and Filipino recipes. Honestly Filipino cuisine is a wonderful playground for creative minds for three reasons.

The first is that Filipino food is, by its very nature, improvisational. It is hard to nail down a uniform Filipino culinary identity. Most Filipino recipes rely on a sense of ‘tantsya‘ or ‘cooking by feeling’. The senses take over and inform the decision making. You know what adobo should taste like, look like, smell like, so you chase after that image in your head. The basic technique, the major underlying characteristics, are there but the specific amounts and ratios can vary from person to person, day to day, mood to mood. For example, the Filipino version of adobo is meat simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar. But how much soy, how much vinegar, that’s entirely up to you. But not only that, whatever else you add may be subject to regional, familial, or personal preference as well! Can I say with 100% certainty that adobo should also include onions, garlic, and bay leaves? No, I cannot. Did mine? Yes, it did. A TON of garlic. Why? Because I LOOOVE garlic and this is my baby after all. But you can add as little or as much or none at all, based on what you want. And still every single version of this dish can be called, without a doubt, adobo. Why? Because it still has the same feeling. Travel around the Philippines and you may find a hundred different version of the same dish, each highlighting different aspects or regional flavors, but all of them will be immediately recognizable. Because of this, the Filipino chef is not afraid to experiment and is never unsure or uncertain what to do in the kitchen. Give them enough ingredients, and they’ll be able to make anything close to home.

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Which brings us to the second point. What I have loved discovering about Filipino cuisine recently is how international it really is. Now I know Thailand and Vietnam with their French, Dutch, and English influences has really dominated the Southeast Asian food revolution, but don’t forget that the Philippines was for a very long time colonized, and therefore influenced, by the Spanish. So while we have our own very distinct and local ways of preparing dishes and flavoring foods, we also have that wonderful Spanish culinary background. I have been looking up some of the most popular and well-known Filipino dishes in the Philippines and I’ve realized so many of them have counterparts in other well-known cuisines. We’ve been right there with France and Italy and all the Asian culinary giants this entire time! You love French escargots or maybe frog legs? We do them too. Thai peanut sauce really get you going? Kare-kare is a stew of vegetables and beef in a rich peanut sauce. Japanese tempura? Try our camaro rebosado and forget about it. I’m not saying Filipino food is the end all be all. I’m saying that Filipino food has had an international sense for a very long time but has lacked the international recognition (I feel) it deserves. But it’s great for me because I get to play around with this bridge. I can use these similarities to bridge the familiar with the new. For example, this duck adobo, simmered in this sauce and its own fat, is just close enough to duck confit for those who have never tried it before. If you’ve grown up eating, or better yet cooking and preparing, every cuisine but Filipino, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how many things we’ve already been doing.

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And the third best thing about experimenting and cooking with Filipino food is while the techniques may be universally recognizable, the ingredients certainly are not! And this is where I really get to have fun with experiments, replacements, and substitutions. For example, I love that this version of adobo with the duck is also a great way to introduce more people to itlog na maalat, or preserved duck eggs. These salt-cured eggs are soaked in a brine for a couple weeks giving them a completely different texture and very strong taste. But its saltiness wonderfully and perfectly complements the complexity of the adobo and with the fresh ripe juicy tomatoes, it is a common pairing in the Philippines. I love these eggs, often times having them at breakfast with fish or dinner with adobo or any time we need a quick and easy vegetable side that still packs plenty of flavor and character. Another wonderfully unique and complex Filipino ingredient would be taba ng talangka, or crab fat. The fat of small, local crabs is painstakingly harvested from hundreds and then sauteed in garlic to create a paste that is seafood-y, slightly brine-y, and chock full of the same umami characteristics as say, Japanese uni (sea urchin) only often times at a fraction of the cost. I get to use these very Filipino ingredients and dishes (like sisig, which will make an appearance later on) and showcase them in Filipino riffs of other cuisine’s dishes to do the reverse. I can either showcase Filipino ingredients by using them in familiar recipes, or use Filipino recipes to reintroduce people to familiar ingredients.

I still have plenty more recipes to experiment and to share so I hope you all enjoy!

Day 207

Man: 175 Loneliness: 32

Day 205: The Man and the Poseidon’s FEAST; ‘Automatic’

Happy weekend everyone! Hope you’ve got something fun on your itinerary. As you may already have read, I’m using this time alone at home to do some serious cooking!
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Sides dishes tonight. Sauteed Chinese spinach with sesame seeds/oil. Pickled garlic. Sauteed bean sprouts. Shredded mushrooms.

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The main course! Poseidon’s feast. A lobster boil for one. Clams, shrimp, crab, lobster, and spicy andouille sausage. I saute some onions and garlic in butter then add all the ingredients and top it off with a quality beer. A local brewery opened up nearby and I’ve become a regular. They have this great witbier with a slight hint of honey that was perfect to cook this with and to pair it with. Just watching some movies and cracking into everything with a cold beer is an automatic win for the weekend. Plus you know that the leftover stock is going to make an incredible base for lobster bisque!

Wish you all a good weekend!

Day 205

Man: 173 Loneliness: 32

Day 202: The Man and the KISS; ‘Simple’

As in, ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’.

More meditation than recipe, Peaceful Cuisine on YouTube has been a calming channel I like to turn to when I’m either hungry or stressed, as it either heightens one emotion or calms the other. There is a tranquility and a harmony in the sounds of a home kitchen that, as my hero Anthony Bourdain would tell you, do NOT exist in the professional kitchens. Professional kitchens are loud, energetic, violent playgrounds. Even when cooking for a party or for a date there is music, conversation, frantic movement.

What I’ve loved about cooking for myself these past few weeks is the quiet and calm of cooking at my own pace, flavoring to my desire, steering in my direction. There is nothing over-complicated or overbearing. I have no rush, no deadline. I have been tempted at times to play music, but I get into this rhythm, this Zen, and I don’t want to draw away from it. It is in this quiet, focused, Zen state of mind that I am most at peace and yet also at my most confident and commanding.

In the spirit of KISS, I don’t want to bury you in words. I hope you find some peace in solitude.

Day 202
Man: 170 Loneliness: 32

Day 199: The Man and the Missed Anniversary; ‘Oversight’

Today would have been our anniversary.

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When we first started dating back in college, we wanted some time just to test the waters, no need to rush. We made it official on January 23rd because we liked the idea of ‘1-2-3’. Easy to remember, and you could make a wish on a day like that. Hahah.

When we got back together last year, or were in the process of doing so, I asked her out for our first date on January 23rd. It’s kind of crazy to think that an entire year has already past. We didn’t even make it to the halfway point.

January 23rd has therefore always been an important day for me. Either I had something to celebrate, or something to miss. This is the first year I can say with full confidence that though I might not have something really to celebrate (other than being a day short of the big 200!) I also have nothing I could say that I miss.

But it is an interesting coincidence though that on this 23rd of January I do have to say goodbye.

Image result for hot pot gifOh maybe I should clarify! I’m not going anywhere. Slight trolling on my part. Hahah. Actually this is more of a reflection on the weekend; as most of you regular readers know I had my annual hot pot/sleepover over the weekend. Or at least, I tried to.

We do this every year and every year I am a more than willing host, partly because my parents love to vacation for months at a time and partly (mainly) because I am the only one in our group who ever offers to host or else we’d have had to do this at some overpriced restaurant every time. And every year we treat it as an opportunity to let loose and get drink just a bit more than usual because everyone stays overnight and then we have a big Filipino (read: hangover cure) breakfast the next morning. It’s a big tradition in our group. I thought these meant something to people. Maybe traditions have lost their significance. Maybe we’re all after the newest things, consumers of trends rather than bastions of tradition. Or maybe I’ve put too much into people whose only fault is that they just don’t care. Like at all.

Aside from the assumption of longstanding tradition, I have the written texts of all my friends confirming they were ready, able, and committed to this weekend’s events. It is not until the very day as I am picking them up at their homes (again, the idea was everyone would stay) that every single one of them tells me that they will not be spending the night.

Image may contain: foodI hate to say it but internally I immediately reverted back to my 7-year old self, thinking ‘well that’s fine, I didn’t want to hang out with you anyways, pfffbt’. The truth is it hurts. I feel like a child who’s been walking around holding something in my hands and wanting to show it off to other people and tell them how valuable it is and someone takes one look at it and tells me all I’ve actually got is some dirt or trash.

Apart from all of that and despite having to cut festivities short, we did have a pretty great time though. That’s the thing of it. We can always make a great time of whatever we do. Image may contain: foodWe had plenty of food, music playing in the background while we ate and drank, and the communal nature of a hot pot (everyone placing different things into the boiling broth and fishing out whatever catches their eye) really brought us together while eating. We had to do the grocery shopping together, we prepped all the ingredients together, set everything up, and took everything down. I had a giant Jenga tower for us to play (penalty shots of course) and then we whipped up some meringue and made a baked Alaska for dessert. While everyone was sobering up we played some Crabs Adjust Humidity (not an auto-correct typo, a great copycat game of Cards Against Humanity with better cards) and my friend even brought back souvenirs from his trip to Japan with his girlfriend.

Image may contain: foodSunday I had the day to myself again. I cleaned the house, just as I did the week before in preparation, loaded/unloaded the dishwasher, went grocery shopping, and realized I was just as happy as I was on Saturday, only minus the disappointment. Which means I can’t fault my friends. The only thing preventing me from being happy was me. And I think it’s because I’ve placed too much on these relationships. It’s hard to admit that maybe I’ve placed more value on our friendship than my friends have, but I feel that now that I have come to acknowledge this, I can be happier and enjoy and appreciate my friendship with them more, seeing it for what it really is. And that’s not to say that my friends don’t care or that I am anything less to them; it’s that I overestimated how much they cared and how much I am. But if I can successfully live in that ‘gold zone’ and be more realistic and aware, I think we’d all be better off.

I thought that the great tragedy this weekend was that I had been slighted. I wanted to be Image may contain: foodthe victim, to take offense at what I thought was being treated like an oversight. That is absolutely not the case. I’ve been thinking about ‘are these friends right for me’ and ‘what am I still getting out of maintaining these friendships’ but the truth is, I had a great time Saturday. We can still have great times together and I have no reason to want to change or leave. I do want to grow, and find people who might actually care at the same level and intensity and with the same openness and intention as I do, but I am still glad to have the friends I have.

Image may contain: foodAm I a little disappointed that their actions this past weekend clearly reflect that I’ve been pursuing much more in a well that ran out? Yes, a little. But I don’t say goodbye to my friends. I just have to say goodbye to these expectations and continue to search out. It must have been the same for when I was dating her. I placed way more into that relationship than I got out. But I am no victim and she was no villain. It’s important to get out of that ‘victim mentality’. I loved her deeply. I thought there was some great injustice to what happened between us. But I had invested too much, expected too much, in a well that was much more shallow then I could try to draw out of. It is not the fault of the well when your bucket hits the bottom. It is simply time to move on. Don’t hold on to any perceived slight, look towards more and better and deeper.

Day 199

Man: 167 Loneliness: 32

Day 194: The Man and the Practical Eye; ‘Aesthetic’

There was a very strange moment last night, one that was so surreal that I felt I had left Image result for silly cooking gifmy body and was viewing myself in the third person. I was trying to take a photo of my food and I found myself…shuffling the broccoli and cauliflower with my hands because I wanted a ‘more balanced presentation’ of white and green. The lamb was right out of the broiler, glistening and still slightly sizzling, the entire house was perfumed by its intoxicating scent, I was drooling out the corner of my mouth, and instead of digging in, I was stacking them, like playing cards, and rearranging bits of vegetables. It was an…interesting experience, to say the very least.

I don’t usually take photos of food. I don’t usually take photos period, but perhaps least of all food. I can have very many wonderful and incredible meals without having worried about taking a picture of it first. There are of course, a few exceptions.

  1. Image may contain: foodIf I make the food, I record the food. Part of my objection is the idea of people ‘living by proxy’. You can’t find some sort of satisfaction or fulfillment in what you are doing, so you find it in what others do. You verify and legitimize your existence by collecting other people’s works. ‘Look at me as I dine here’, I must be living a good life. However if you make the food, I think you should take some credit for it at least. You worked hard. You triumphed. Or maybe you failed, I don’t know you. Doesn’t matter. It’s worth taking a picture of your efforts. Have some pride. Show off. Get those likes because you actually earned it. You didn’t just order it off a menu. Most of the pictures of food I’ve taken have been things I’ve made. And I’m especially proud of that.
  2. Memorable meals. This can be one of two things. Either the occasion, more so than the meal, was memorable and so therefore the food becomes second billing to the No automatic alt text available.company or the event and is simply included in the pics, or the meal itself was so phenomenally memorable, maybe once in a lifetime, that it is worth preserving the memory (or stealing the technique). For example, my dinner last Friday with my brother and aunt. His last meal before his flight, a rich and meaty rodizio with some incredible cuts of beef, I wanted to take pictures and remember this important moment. Or, the BEST MEAL OF MY LIFE. Last year when my friends and I splurged to the great extent of actually successfully nailing a reservation at Momofuku Ko. Oh my god. Listen. I will dedicate an entire separate post just to that meal. Suffice to say it was INCREDIBLE. I HAD to take photos of the dishes because they were so fascinating, so intriguing, so delicious. And I’m a thieving bastard so I’m totally bootlegging what I had.
  3. This is your craft. There are some incredible food bloggers out there sharing their culinary adventures either in the kitchen or on the road or a combination of both. But they have taken the time and effort to develop this seriously and professionally. Taken courses. Gotten the right equipment. Does everyone and their mother need to know you had waffles with some whipped cream for breakfast on your blurry phone camera? Probably not. But maybe you’ve got this incredible recipe for the crispiest, fluffiest waffles ever and it’s worth sharing or you’ve taken a mecca to the motherland of all waffles, Belgium, and you’ve found that hole in the wall nondescript masterpiece waffle and you have to share what this waffle is all about. Yeah then you’re probably also the kind of person who will have the right equipment and eye and technical skill, and god maybe a filter or two, and more so than that you have the vocabulary to accompany the picture. Personally, I enjoy reading Cooking without LimitsCooking with a Wallflower, The Dining Diaries, and iaccidentlyatethewholething among others. Aside from literary blogs I think food blogs are the ones I love to follow the most so I do have others, but I particularly enjoy the posts on these four. Great pictures, incredible food, but most of all, purpose. Stories. Experiences. Recipes. Passion. Accept no substitutions.

I definitely think social media has taken food pics way too seriously and valued them too highly for the quantity and quality of them now floating around. Every brunch, every cheese plate, every meal is photographed and documented. It’s not just the consumer who has been taken over with this weird obsession. How many videos or pictures on your Image result for flaming cheese pastaFacebook or whatever have you seen of these new ‘gimmick’ restaurants? Any thing and any way for a photo opportunity. I think the most recent one I saw was restaurants that bring a giant hollowed out wheel of Grana Padano cheese and a hot plate with a pan of some pasta with cream sauce. It’s then cooked table-side, then you have to wait and watch as they heat up some alcohol, then pour it into the wheel, then it lights on fire, then you pour the pasta (which has been probably overcooked by now) into the wheel and then you toss and turn and scrape and then finally it’s served but honestly…to what effect? Does the pasta taste better for all that, or does it just look better? How many places are going to light giant wheels of cheese on fire before we realize we’re adding more pomp and circumstance but not really much flavor?

When aesthetic runs away from function, purpose is lost. Have people gotten so bored with food, or so stifled in their creativity, that they are resorting to what will be the next viral YouTube or Instagram hit? Here’s a great example: burgers. When did burgers become some elaborate three story affair? You can’t even hold these things anymore! A good burger is well-seasoned quality meat, cooked well, on a fresh baked bun that keeps its firmness yet absorbs all the patty’s juices. It’s crisp lettuce, melted cheese, onions, mushrooms, and maybe some avocado or bacon if you’re feeling luxurious. But it’s first and foremost a practical food. Handheld, flavor-packed, honest food. What the heck is this then?!

What’s the POINT?!

 

This problem is far beyond just food, though it’s definitely fun to indulge in that particular gripe. It effects also another great passion of mine, martial arts. We don’t live in particularly dangerous times, and you can’t really make a living being a ‘martial artist’ anymore. So the ‘martial’ part of most martial arts has been lost, leaving just the ‘arts’. Someone saw tai chi a long time ago and realized it could be useful for joint and muscle health and flexibility as well as meditation, but maybe they forgot that in Chinese, ‘tai chi’ literally translates to ‘grand ultimate fist’, as in ‘this is the Jet Li   Tai Chi  gif art of kickassery’. Nowadays tell someone you practice tai chi and they’ll ask if it takes you an hour to throw a punch. I’ve met, and practiced with and against, some incredibly talented tai chi practitioners who still remember the practical applications and uses and let me tell you, it doesn’t disappoint. But a lot of what we see now in movies, and unfortunately propagated in many strip mall dollar version martial arts schools, is showy and flashy but not all that useful. This could be potentially deadly if you mislead your students to think they’ve learned any sort of practical self-defense, but then it is also equally damaging to the reputation and prestige of traditional martial arts. I don’t discredit modern jiu-jitsu or any of the newer stuff, but I think it’s unfair to relegate the traditional, the originals, to just pieces of fluff. Here is a video of Uncle Bill, the man I had the privilege and honor of meeting in a private seminar, showing some students the potential in what their ‘soft arts’ can do.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: if it looks pretty but it doesn’t work, it’s no good. And that’s really powerful. A job that woos you with a beer keg in the lounge and a bunch of parties and little perks like that but doesn’t fulfill you professionally or compensate you fairly is not a job worth keeping. A flashy car that gets stuck in two inches of snow isn’t worth driving. A relationship that hurts, a memory that burns, no matter how beautiful it was in the moment, it’s not worth holding onto. I don’t believe it should ever be a matter of ‘form vs function’. Form follows function. First, it has to work. First, it has to do what it’s supposed to do. Then, you make it pretty. Love hurts. Love is messy. Love is hard work. And then it’s cute. Then it’s what you see in the pictures.

Day 194

Man: 163 Loneliness: 31

Day 193: The Man and the Obligatory Company; ‘Invitation’

My next food project is an old favorite of mine, something I always love making whenever I feel like treating myself. LAMB! Food of the gods, as my father likes to call it. After beef, it is my second favorite meat. The rack of lamb, the Rolls-Royce of meat, is incredibly versatile and these perfect sized meat ‘lollipops’ are incredible roasted, herb-crusted, grilled, whatever. It is always difficult for me to resist ordering if I ever see it on a menu, especially at French restaurants. Lamb shanks are great and relatively cheap when you consider how much meat and flavor there is, especially with that rich bone marrow. Leg of lamb, oh my god, at a buffet carving station? Whoever is there quickly becomes my new best friend. But cooking at home, my absolute favorite piece to cook, are the lamb shoulder chops. I’m drooling just thinking about it and I’m already looking forward to tomorrow just because it means I’ll be having more and I just finished eating too. Hahah.

If you haven’t had the opportunity yet to try lamb, I highly recommend it. It’s low in calories, high in flavor, has a very mild gamey taste, and is incredibly tender. Lamb shoulder is a relatively cheap cut that can be grilled, braised, pan-fried, but my favorite preparation is simply broiled. The day before I season both sides of the shoulder chop with Goya Adobo seasoning. This is the magic fairy dust from which all great meat seasonings derive. Seriously, get this in your kitchen. I add extra fresh ground pepper because I find it helps to balance the fatty richness of the meat. I then spend the good portion of the rest of my day chopping up heaping tons of garlic and ginger. I mean, when you get to the point where you feel you have enough, double it, and then add more, just for safe measure. You’ll thank me later. Cover both sides of the lamb with this garlic/ginger mixture and then let it marinade in the fridge overnight. Pop it in the broiler until it’s just medium, medium-well. Please don’t overcook this delicate meat. Make sure you’ve got plenty of rice or some good bread handy. The copious amounts of garlic and ginger you spread on the lamb has roasted and absorbed all the meaty flavors and the lamb itself has rendered a good amount of sinfully rich fat. Spoon that flavor packed mixture over your rice or dip some bread into it and oh my god. I could have plenty of meals just mixing that with rice.

They were on sale at my grocer’s so for this entire week I’ll be enjoying lamb. Some meals were meant to be shared, but if you don’t mind, I’ll take this one alone. Hahah.

Having said that, I am planning on sharing some meals with friends soon. This weekend will be the invitation to our annual winter hot pot. Can’t wait for that and I’ll be sure to surreptitiously take plenty of pics. Wouldn’t want my friends to become so suspicious of my new food pic habits! Hahah. On Saturday night we’ll meet and spend the time drinking and playing games and then just have a spread of meat, vegetables, seafood, noodles, rice, all to just swish in the hot flavored broth to your preferred doneness. Great DIY food for a drinking party. Some friends will sleepover, one who lives nearby will probably go back and then come back Sunday morning, where we’ll make some breakfast, and I know my one friend has been wanting to make some baked alaska and meringue so we’ll probably just fool around doing that.

My one friend has just come back from a trip to Japan with his girlfriend, so I will be excited to hear about how that went. We’ll also get to try those drinking games I got for Christmas. It will be fun, and as I’ve mentioned before, it’ll be nice to have that connection and time to spend with them, despite the distance I might have been feeling. It will just be a bit strange because I know in the back of my head I’ll be thinking about what connects us, and trying to see what the years will bring.

That’s the plan for the next couple days at least. Hope you’re all happy, healthy, and eating plenty!

Day 193

Man: 162 Loneliness: 31

Day 191: The Man and the First Solo Culinary Adventure; ‘Exquisite’

Image result for no united airlinesOh my god. If you have to fly and you ever have the choice between United and literally anything else, I highly recommend you choose something else. My brother’s trip was off to quite the inauspicious start. I dropped my brother off yesterday at Newark airport with plenty of time to spare. His flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm, we were already hugging and saying goodbye by 10am. I made sure he had everything, told him he was going to be fine, to be safe, that I would miss him, and I saw my little brother walk off for his first real taste of adventure.

At least…I thought I did.

I get back to an empty, quiet home, and before I can finish contemplating how I feel about that, I get the text message from him.

Flight delayed. Won’t be leaving til 7pm.’

Okay, there’s a problem there. He has a connection in Hong Kong to get to Manila, there’s only a two hour window between the two flights. He’s definitely going to miss this.

Take your itinerary to the gate agent. Let her know what’s going on. Stress that you are traveling alone ESPECIALLY to surprise your mother in the PHILIPPINES. They’ll get you on the next best flight or take care of the connection.’

If any of you happen to follow me on Twitter, you’ll know what happened next. When this happened to me with JetBlue I took to Twitter and they not only helped me get on my next flight, they upgraded my seat, gave me extra miles and future travel credit, and when I jokingly mentioned how hungry I was and how much I love the blue Terra chips, they had an agent bring me ten. I’d never felt so special and so appreciated by an airline before. I told my brother to get a Twitter, and what followed was a complete mess of him telling his story on Twitter, me liking and retweeting, both of us trying to get United attention, and both of us trying to get him out of this situation.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, first his gate was changed last minute to Image result for travel stress gifbe across the airport. Second it was delayed further because they didn’t tell the catering crew and so their plane’s food was at the old gate. Third they were on board waiting to take off because the plane had to be ‘de-iced’. Fourth, as they are preparing for takeoff, the captain informs them they’ve reached their FAA limit and can no longer legally fly and they will need a new crew. Fifth, they can’t, so they end up CANCELING the flight altogether. Sixth, you’ve got an entire plane now of distraught travelers and only one gate agent and one customer service desk.

Ultimately they had to reschedule my brother for an early morning flight on Sunday. Which was still better than most, as a family of four wouldn’t be accommodated until Monday. They offered him only $20 food credit for the inconvenience and were going to put him up at a hotel, but I picked him up again and just had to bring him back at 4am. Fun times. United didn’t even give him extra miles or anything. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Come on guys, really?!

I dropped him off and there’s been no trouble at least since. He’s on his way to Hong Kong and by the time I wake up tomorrow he should be in the Philippines to surprise our mother. Meanwhile I’ve been living it up all domestic style. I did some grocery shopping, cleaned the house, cleaned the bathrooms, did the laundry, and prepped my meals for the week. I even hooked up some Bluetooth speakers around the house so I could play music from my phone while moving around the house. And some of you will be very happy to know, I kept all my clothes on, despite a past post to the contrary. Hahah.
Wanted to share with you all the first of the next couple weeks’ culinary adventures. Japanese umaki (eel omelet), shrimp tom yum noodle soup, and Thai iced tea. The eel was particularly tasty, marinating it first in eel sauce and grilling it before wrapping it in a sweet Japanese style egg omelet. The soup had a spicy richness that was cut with lemongrass and lime and the sweet shrimp. I made a whole pitcher of Thai tea and opened up a can of sweetened condensed milk so anytime this week I can make myself a cool tall glass of that uniquely dark, sweet flavor. My dinner was tasty, filling, and not to pat myself on the back too much but, dare I say, exquisite.

Good start to the month, looking forward to more!

 

 

 

Day 191

Man: 160 Loneliness: 31

Day 189: The Man and the Able-Bodied Boy; ‘Capable’

Well, tomorrow’s the day. I drop my brother off early in the morning for his flight and then I begin my solo time. I already have the next two weeks’ worth of meals planned. Hahah. It’s going to be fun.

Since there was no way we’d have any time to go out for a meal before his flight, I wanted to take him out tonight for a ‘last meal in the US’ sending off kind of deal. I asked him what he might miss the most while he’s in the Philippines so we could eat our unreasonable fill of whatever he chose.

Now keep in mind, last I checked the conversion of USD to PHP was $1:$49.70. The biggest, and arguably best buffet in the Philippines is in my opinion Vikings, which has locations all over the country. I went there last time I visited and I tell you, they’ve got carving stations and sushi stations for miles. Handmade desserts, fresh seafood, food from all different countries and cuisines, this place could very easily rival some of the best in Vegas. And it costs $18 USD. My brother will eat well and plenty while he’s there. But if there’s one thing we can both agree on, the quality of beef in the Philippines isn’t quite the best. Blame it on lack of good pasture or too much labor, but the beef in the Philippines is always much tougher than here. So he decided he wanted to get as many cuts of steak as he could before he left.

I took him to a rodizio in our town that I used to love going to. I was more than happy to be going back not just because the grilled meats have always been perfectly juicy, flavorful, and medium cooked, but because two years ago it burned down. The rodizio was recently resurrected this year (at a new location right across the street aptly named Choripan Too) to stellar reviews and I was so happy to be back and see that nothing had changed. It was still this homey, intimate, wood-and-brick styled restaurant with incredibly friendly staff who were more than happy to make sure our favorites kept finding its way back to our table. Juicy skirt steak, sirloin, beef rib, sausages, chicken thighs, we were in carnivore heaven. I ate so much meat I think I could have killed a vegetarian with just my thoughts. I brought a bottle of wine and my normally teetotaler brother drank with me as we toasted to his upcoming adventure. I invited my aunt (mother’s sister) along as well because once my brother leaves, it will really only be us two left in the family here in the states. Hahah.

After dropping my aunt off back at her place my brother and I spent the rest of the night playing video games together and then around 2am, as if we hadn’t eaten enough, we went out for our customary late night snacks one more time. We watched some of the DVR’d shows he’d have to be caught up on before leaving and now we’re just relaxing. I might have to go to bed because well, I still have a life to continue on with here but my brother might stay up all night to just sleep on the plane. Though he spent yesterday downloading all extended versions of The Hobbit onto his tablet so…who knows.

brothers runninI’m glad we were able to spend the night like this. The truth is, I was hoping we could also celebrate my brother having a job when he got back from vacation. He’s been sending his resume out to companies in the area, and there was even an opening in the IT department here at my company and he had an interview with them two days ago. Unfortunately the manager of the department, a good buddy of mine, came up to tell me that while he’s a smart and capable young man, he simply didn’t have the experience required. Which, come on, is one of the biggest contradictions of the modern job search. You need a job to get experience but you need experience now to get a job. I know we’ve tried to continually encourage him and all but after some months now I am sure it is beginning to wear on him.

The trip should be good for him. It’s his first time travelling by himself. He’s had to make sure he’s packed for the next six weeks, organize all his documents, and he’ll be handling check-in procedures and customs all on his own. I think it will be a good taste of independence and freedom for him. After handling this, maybe he will come back not only refreshed but reinvigorated for his job hunt. I’m also so glad that we (my father, brother, and I) decided to keep this a secret from my mother, who has expressed how much she wishes we could travel more as a family. Unfortunately I don’t have the days to spare, and the ones I do have I’d rather spend exploring new territory, but I know my brother is excited to be able to surprise our mother, and I hope he takes a video. Hahah. He arrives at midnight the next day, and the plan is he’ll go to sleep and then the next day just walk into having breakfast with everyone as if we were back home.

I think it’s important to have those reminders that, while the world may not be calling for Choripan.jpgus right this moment, we have the skills and the abilities and the capabilities to succeed and contribute. My brother is beginning what will no doubt be a very long and arduous but hopefully also fulfilling process of finding his calling, a place to belong and to use his talent. My brother will definitely benefit from this trip. He’ll taste some freedom and independence travelling on his own, facing a fear that I know he has but is too proud to admit. I’ve told him to use this as a chance to explore on his own as well. He’s old enough now, he doesn’t have to attach his entire trip to the hips of our parents. Explore something he wants to do there, plan something for himself and spend some time with family there. He’s going to make my mother very happy as well. All in all, it’s a good thing. And not the least because starting tomorrow I am king of all that I survey!

Day 187

Man: 158 Loneliness: 31