Like Elizabeth Mccracken, that basically sums me up. When I remember my childhood or the major events in my life, I also remember the food that came with it..
.. the morning of the day I went into labor with my daughter Meghann, I was at an open market eating the sweetest boiled corn in a cob I can remember...
.. the day I gave birth to my son Khalel, I remembered having labor pains at 5AM thus I went to see my OB by 7AM and I was told to go straight to the hospital because I was 5 cm dilated; I did not go straight to the hospital, as a matter of fact, my OB got there before I did; I did a detour at home since my grandma was cooking "Chocolate Meat" and I didn't want to miss out specially since I will be on hospital food for days!...
.. as a kid and even as a grown woman with kids, I look forward to when my Dad come home from work in the evenings since he always bring us pasalubong (homecoming gift), my favorite is sans rival. To date, my dad still does the same, but now, he hands them to my children instead...
.. my Mom is the best cook in the entire world! She can take a simple dish and make it spectacular every single time. She cooks with so much passion and love, just like how she lives her life. Most of my cherished moments with her were spent in the kitchen-- eating, cooking, talking, laughing or crying. My mom cooks us our favorite dish on our birthdays or when we are sick -- just so we would eat. I do not remember ever fighting for the chicken leg with my siblings (I have two constantly hungry older brothers and a little sister) since our favorite part of the chicken is different from one another, which basically means whatever our Mom convinced us to be our favorite part, cunning huh?...
.. my Dad's mother, Lola Tisay, taught me values in life while I helped in her kitchen. Among other things, I learned that there's a place for everything and everything should be in it's place, my mantra in life..
.. Mommy Lori, my other mother, Jorell's mom, who loves food so much she would have me pack the kids in the car and we would drive whatever distance to get the freshest food -- fish that she buys from the fishermen at the beach when they are just coming back from the sea, sea salt from a salt community 30 kilometers away, fruits and vegetables from the farmers that she individually hand select, the butcher's choice cuts even before he displays his wares or to get a snack of empanada about (3) towns away...
.. my family always spend the week of Lent at my maternal grandmother's house in a very small town called Tagudin. My grand-auntie Agnes, who lives with Grandma, goes to the market 3 times a day just so she can get the best the day has to offer, may it be meat, fish, vegetables or fruits. Grand-auntie Agnes goes to church at 5AM everyday, then stops by the market to buy meat from the butcher. The butcher kills the animal around 2 in the morning to be ready at the market by 6AM, just when the woman of the house are coming back from church. This is why we always have a meat dish for breakfast with rice. She then goes back to the market around 9AM, when the farmers arrive in the market with the harvest of vegetables and fruits that is in season. She then again goes to the market around 2 or 3 in the afternoon to buy fish from the fisherman's wives who are just bringing in their husbands' catch. In the fishing towns in the Philippines, most fishermen do not come back from the sea until just before noon, thus fresh fish arrives in the market early afternoons. On our last day, Easter Sunday, she would go to the market extra early to get the ingredients for my favorite dish-- black beans with pig's feet. She then slow cooks this dish all day in a clay pot, on a firewood burning clay stove in the courtyard. The resulting dish is so divine-- tender, fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth pork goodness -- it is like being transported to pork heaven! Damn, I wish I could have some right now...
.. as a little girl, I loved climbing fruit trees-- I was the best tree climber, better than my brothers and all the boys in the neighborhood, thus I get in trouble every time, since girls are NOT supposed to climb trees. The beatings that I get from my Mom and my Dad and the elders in the neighborhood.. LOL!! It was so worth it-- knowing I can beat the other kids for the ripest mango, star apple, chico (sapodilla) or macopa.. not to mention bragging rights! LOL!...
.. as a teenager, lazy summer afternoons spent playing cards or bingo or mahjong or strumming the guitar with my friends under the huge mango tree in my parent's courtyard eating pickled mango, pickled papaya and pickled jicama...
.. as a young adult, days spent picnicking at the river with friends and beau (young love, sweet love, oh the memories!)-- catching fresh water fish, crabs and shrimps that we grill right by the river banks, consumed with massive amounts of beer-gin-sprite punch...
..My life truly is punctuated with the food that I eat.
Stuffed Beef Rolls (morjon) is a special dish my mom would make for Christmas. She would stuff the beef with chorizo de bilbao, cheddar cheese, sweet pickle, bacon and salted duck eggs. She then would cook it in the pressure cooker in a soy sauce base gravy for about 15 minutes. After cooling it for about 15 minutes, she deep fries it and serve with the thickened gravy with white fluffy Jasmin rice.
I chose to make a variation of this family dish for the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Recipe Contest. If there is one thing I've come to learn from all the cooking I have been doing in my life is to take a recipe and make it my own. As much as I love my mom's morjon, I know that I can find a way or two to improve on it and tailor it to suit my taste. Her morjon is awesome when served just after she fries it -- crisp outside, tender and moist inside. But as a left over, it's tough and dry. The soy sauce base sauce is awesome with rice, but it's not as versatile as a cream sauce where you can use just anything you want to sop it up---rice, egg noodles, your favorite pasta, potatoes, polenta or even just a hearty bread. Thus, with all these in mind, and using spices and flavors I've come to love and know will work well together, I gave this family recipe a twist.
I love cooking with pineapple juice. It lends a sweet, sour and tangy flavor to the dish without overpowering the other flavors. Plus, fresh pineapple juice contains an enzyme bromelain, which is a natural tenderizer, so it works well with beef. I always use a couple of bay leaves when I make a stew or when braising. It lends it a pungent, strong distinct "laurel" taste that can only be achieved by adding bay leaves to the dish. Then there's the star anise-- it's slight licorice flavor goes very well with the pineapple juice. It also lends "the Asian flare" to the sauce,which I am aiming for in this dish since I will be using chinese chorizo to stuff the beef. Finally, I used whole peppercorns since I don't want any specks on the sauce after I strain it.
You can use just about anything to sop the sauce when you serve this dish, but then again, I want to be true to the general theme of using chinese ingredients that are readily available in any supermarket, thus I am using dried egg noodles to serve it with. The noodles remains al dente even after heating up leftovers in the microwave.
juice from half of a lemon
1 T soy sauce
freshly ground pepper
1 lb beef round, 1/2 inch thick in one piece*
1 1/2 pieces of chinese chorizo
1 carrot, peeled & cut into quarter lengthwise
2 pieces cheddar cheese stick
1 boiled egg, shelled & cut into quarter lengthwise
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 pcs star anise
1 t whole peppercorns
2 cups fresh pineapple juice
3 yards kitchen twine
4 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese, cute into half inch cubes
flat leaf parsley for garnishing
*Start by marinating the beef with the first 3 ingredients for at least an hour. You can ask the butcher in your supermarket to cut the beef for you-- explain to them that you want it to be half inch thick, in just one piece and what you will use it for.
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chorizo, carrot, cheese and egg at the end of the beef nearest you,
then gently roll the beef into a tube, being mindful to tuck the edges in as you go.
Secure the beef roll with kitchen twine.
Heat oil in an enameled cast iron casserole. Brown all sides of the beef, set aside. Add the onions and garlic in the pan and cook until caramelized but not browned. Add the bay leaves and spices and heat it for about 15 seconds just to bring out the oil and aroma.
Add the pineapple juice and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat,
cover and transfer to the oven. Braise for an hour.
Remove from oven when done. Move the beef to a chopping board and
let rest for 15 minutes before cutting. Strain the stock and transfer to a saucepan.
Cook the pasta according to package instruction.
Prepare sauce -- bring the stock to boil, lower the heat, then add the cream cheese.
Whisk until the cream cheese is melted then remove from heat. DO NOT BOIL.
Slice the Stuffed Beef Roll diagonally.
Arrange the beef roll slices on top of the pasta.
Pour the sauce on top of the beef roll slices.
Garnish with parsley.
" I come from food the way some people come from money. Food was the medium I grew up in, what we talked about, what shaped our days." - Elizabeth Mccracken