Friday, February 02, 2007

Casual Dinner for 5

I've been eating out more often than usual since H, my good friend and cousin, arrived from the States a month ago and I thought it would be nice to have dinner at home for a change. H was really showing his age and new lifestyle by falling asleep on my bed on the way to use the bathroom. He is a single father of two one-year-old twin boys and despite the two nannies still gets exhausted. I had a good laugh about that while he was sleeping because we had actually planned (his idea) to party all night (his words). Ah well, there's always another time.

My other guest K, also a relative, was good to see after quite some time. Also a new mother, her lifestyle has changed as well (although she claims otherwise). The last time the three of us were together was in San Francisco painting the town red till five in the morning. Wow, things have changed!

Indonesian Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce
(adapted from Cooking Around the World: Indonesian)

Chicken with 40 Cloves Garlic
(adapted from the Barefoot Contessa)

2 Kinds of Rice

(from Australian Gourmet Traveller: Chocolate)

This was the menu for last night's very casual dinner for five. My sister baked, for the first time, the mini Eclairs, which had a Creme de Cassis cream filling. The fish looked really good in a turmeric almond sauce dotted with cherry tomatoes and green onions, it tasted good too. And if you're a garlic lover like I am then the chicken dish was perfectly seasoned with lots of garlic cloves, some rosemary and white wine. Everything was fairly easy to make and delicious.

I served two kinds of rice - a white and a purple rice from the mountains of Banaue. Purple rice happens to be my favorite and is quite rare. There's only one place I know that sells it in Baguio and even they have a limited supply. The purple rice is grown, harvested and packaged by a cooperative of indigenous Batad women farmers in Banaue's rice terraces. They also grow several other varieties of rice like red, brown and sticky white rice.

Fish with Sweet & Sour Sauce
I doubled the spice paste and sauce ingredients called for in the book and used 2 cups of water instead of 1.5 cups to make the sauce.

serves 4

2 fillets of red snapper (about 1 kilo)
cornstarch for coating
oil for frying
salt & pepper

for the spice paste:
6 garlic cloves
4 lemongrass stems
2-inch fresh langkawas (galangal)
2-inch fresh ginger
1 1/2-inch fresh turmeric or 1 teaspoon ground
1/4 cup ground almonds

for the sauce:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cups water
4 lime leaves (optional)
1 bunch Tagalog onions, peeled and left whole or 8 shallots, quartered
2 cups cherry tomatoes or 6 tomatoes, quartered
6 scallions, sliced thinly at a diagonal
2 red chilies (optional)

Grind all the ingredients for the spice paste in food processor.

Season the fish fillets with salt & pepper. Lightly coat in cornstarch and fry in hot oil, about 8-9 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels. Place on serving platter.

Leave a little oil from frying in the pan, add the brown sugar, vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Add the lime leaves, Tagalog onions and spice paste, simmer for 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and simmer for 3-4 minutes until sauce has thickened. Add scallions and pour sauce over fried fish.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
adapted from Ina Garten's recipe on the Barefoot Contessa

1 whole chicken, cut into parts
40 or more cloves of garlic, unpeeled
fine sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups white wine
fresh thyme or rosemary leaves
1/4 cup cream - optional

Rub the chicken pieces with salt and set aside while you heat a Dutch oven or large pan on medium heat. Add the butter and oil. When the butter has completely melted, brown the chicken pieces. When all the chicken has been browned, set it aside on a plate. Saute the garlic cloves in the oil remaining in the fry pan until slightly caramelized. Add the chicken and any juices that have accumulated in the plate. Try to get most of the garlic on top of the chicken pieces. Add the wine and thyme. Cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and garlic with a sloted spoon to a serving platter. Reduce the remaining sauce to a syrupy consistency, then add the cream. Season to taste. Pour over chicken and garlic.

Chocolate Eclairs with Creme de Cassis Cream
M didn't make the chocolate glaze and instead sprinkled the eclairs with confectioners sugar before serving.

Alternatively, the cream can be flavored with orange or coffee liqueur.

choux pastry:
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 stick butter
90 grams or 6.5 tablespoons flour
2 eggs

300 ml thickened or all-purpose cream
40 grams (1/4 cup) confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon Creme de Cassis

100 grams dark couverture chocolate, chopped
30 grams liquid glucose
2.5 tablespoons thickened or all-purpose cream

Combine sugar, butter and 3/4 teaspoon salt with 185 ml of cold water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add all the flour at once and, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until mixture is smooth, then return mixture to a low heat and stir for 1-2 minutes or until mixture comes away from side of pan. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 15 mm plain nozzle and pipe 4-inch lengths, about an inch apart, on a silicon sheet placed on top of a cookie sheet. Bake at 220 C for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 180 C and bake for another 10 minutes. Turn off oven and cool pastries in oven with door slightly ajar.

For filling: beat cream to soft peaks, add confectioner's sugar and Creme de Cassis and beat until well combined. Cut pastries lengthwise with a serrated knife and fill with cream mixture.

For glaze: combine all in ingredients in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until well combined. Cool for 5 minutes, then spread over top of each eclair.

Place eclairs on a tray and refrigerate for 1 hour or until glaze is set. Unfilled pastries can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container. Filled eclairs are best served fresh.