Sunday, September 9, 2007

My Blood Family

Since she was one, she was always fascinated with food. She couldn't eat solid food at the time, but I remember how she'd watch us eat, particularly chips and salsa (a personal infanthood favorite), with a reverence one does not usually associate with a baby.

As a toddler, she would watch as her grandmother would prepare foods for her and her brother Nikko--and no surprise here, mama, was no slouch in la cocina. They snacked on chicken and pork adobo, lumpia, and mama's creamy fresh popsicles made with mashed strawberries, evaporated milk and sugar.

But more than anything, she was the first, best student I've ever had in the kitchen. We started when she was seven, making chocolate chip cookies with hand-ground walnuts--a recipe we perfected one summer which she took to the local county fair and won first place.

It was with her that we dared make the Vongreichten molten chocolate cake recipe, and as we pulled it out of the oven and tasted our first mouthfuls, warm--liquid and chocolaty, we simultaneously experienced the strange sensation of having our legs buckle underneath us. We shared death by chocolate.

She's fearless in the kitchen. Been the lead with her dad on the Thanksgiving dinner turkey, surpassing all expectations when we team to make desserts. We undertook the marathon of baking her cousin's wedding cake for 100--an 18 hour slog aided by my friend's KitchenAid and almost no sleep. We've gotten to the point in our cooking dance that I trust her instincts as we saute, roll, sauce and plate recipes. And she's always right.

Introducing my niece Felicia, my ultimate wing girl in la cocina, whose pancit recipe is the best, and who can cook for me anytime.

(Filipino chow mein)

This is a great dish for parties; easy to make in large amounts, and a great left over. This is a traditional dish served at birthdays or anniversaries. The noodles are supposed to be kept as long as possible as a blessing of longevity. Seeing as such, patience and care are needed in creating this dish successfully (or else the noodles will get mushy or broken). I usually make it vegan or vegetarian and never hear complaints from meat-eaters. The traditional dish usually has shrimp or pork, but any leftover meats can be thrown in. I never measure the ingredients. The proportions can be adjusted to taste, and to the amount desired, I’ll approximate for a large batch (upwards of 20 hearty servings).

2-3 large yellow onions, diced
3-5 carrots, grated (or two pre-grated bags)
4 cups Chinese snow peas, whole, with ends removed
5 stalks celery, sliced at an angle
2-4 cups dried or fresh shitake mushrooms, sliced (Reconstitute dried
mushrooms and use the resulting broth to cook the noodles) (These mushrooms are the “meat” of the dish, so if you are adding meat, use less mushrooms)
2 cans baby corn
½ head of cabbage (optional, a good filler for a little more
Vegetable or mushroom stock/ broth (you’ll need more than the water
from the mushrooms)
2-4 cups diced or shredded meat/ shrimp (optional)
garlic to flavor, fresh minced or powdered
soy sauce to flavor
sesame seed oil to flavor
2 ½ packages of canton noodles (in a pinch you could use several packages of Ramen noodles, and even season with one or two of the seasoning packets)

Start by caramelizing the onions, when they are almost golden, add the carrots to caramelize as well. If you are using fresh mushrooms add them with the carrots so they soften and absorb the moisture and flavor of the savory vegetables. Once the carrots and onions are nearly cooked, add cabbage, celery and reconstituted mushrooms. Cook on medium heat until all ingredients are moist and beginning to soften. Add snow peas and baby corn, season with garlic. At this point you could add pre-cooked meat. Thoroughly combine ingredients.

I usually divide the wet ingredients into two parts to cook in two separate pans for easier maneuvering and less mess (I use large roasting pans over two burners).

Put the noodles into the pan and add one or two cups of broth or mushroom stock. The noodles will take a while to start to soften. Don’t be impatient! It is important to add the broth slowly so that the noodles have just enough to soften without becoming mushy. Gently turn the noodles and wet ingredients, allowing the wet ingredients to weigh down and moisten from the top and dry noodles to soak up moisture from the bottom (again, don’t add too much at a time, there shouldn’t be big puddles on the bottom). Once you’re good at turning and lifting this can be done over medium heat, but while you’re still getting the hang of it keep the heat medium low. At this point of cooking it is the most important to remember patience and care, and the idea of keeping the noodles as long as possible. When the noodles and wet ingredients start to soften and combine add the sesame seed oil and soy sauce, a big batch will take a surprisingly large amount. Continue to gently turn the ingredients and gradually add broth (about 1 cup at a time) until the noodles are soft (not al dente), but not mushy.

This dish is good warm and cold, so if you’ve got a busy menu, cook this earlier and keep warm in the oven with a lid (to hold in moisture). Garnish with green onion and lemon slices.

Notice her recipe is for 20. That's my girl.

1 comment:

Little Fi said...

Thanks for such a beautiful intro, Foober. This is going to be an epic blog--which is only appropriate for such epic chefs.