January: Spanish Chicken with Chorizo & Potatoes

Saturday was a big cooking day for me. In between baking the brookies and the pancake cookies, I also made Nigella Lawson’s Spanish Chicken with Chorizo and Potatoes from her cookbook Kitchen.

The moment I saw the recipe name and the photo of the dish in the cookbook, I knew I wanted to make this. I love chicken (if you haven’t already noticed), I love Chorizo, and who doesn’t like potatoes? And making it seemed so easy. You basically just dump everything on sheet pans and bake them in the oven. I think there were only 3 steps in the cookbook: preheat the oven, put everything in the pan, put everything in the oven and baste once in a while (okay, four).

And with those four easy steps, you’ll have all this deliciousness:

Spanish Chicken & Chorizo

The chicken was juicy and tender, which was a bit of a surprise since it the only “liquid” added to it prior to cooking was a small amount of olive oil to coat. The chicken gave out A LOT of oil, though, but you can easily fix that by using less fatty chicken portions (like the breast) instead of thigh quarters. The Chorizo was a pleasant surprise, too, since I went out on a limb and used a local brand I’ve never tried before. It was spicy and garlicky and gave the drippings even more flavor.

I’d probably add some garlic to the recipe (Nigella’s recipe doesn’t have it), but other than that, this recipe is pretty perfect. And ridiculously easy, too.

Find the recipe here.

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Finally: Bacon Yardbird!

I’ve been itching to try out this recipe when I read about it Chrissy Teigen’s blog (which you really, really, really should read) and I finally made the Lemon Garlic Bacon Chicken (a.k.a. Bacon Yardbird, as renamed by Chrissy’s Twitter followers) tonight.

Now, the thing is, I live in a country where some ingredients are not easy to find, which is annoying. I went to three stores this morning and ended up without poultry seasoning (although I already knew that was going to be very tough to find) and fresh thyme (I substituted dried). I almost ended up without chicken stock as well, if I didn’t find the one carton hiding behind cartons of vegetable stock at Rustan’s.

So, anyway, it was surprisingly easy to make, and I think it only took about 20 minutes to get from here:

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Pale and a little sad looking

 to here:

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Oven ready!

The cooking process itself was less of a breeze. You have to leave it the oven for the first half hour and then start basting and basting for the last 30-45 minutes. We don’t own a baster, and our oven barely managed to fit my pan, so I had no wiggle room to baste and had to take out the entire pan every single time. So, needless to say, I’m buying a turkey baster tomorrow.

But all that exposure to hot oven air was forgotten when I took this out of the oven:

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There’s a relief that comes with your attempt at a recipe at least looking the way it should. It’s affirmation that, at the very least, you did some things right (like, not burning it).

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But the real test, of course, is on the taste. And the verdict is… it was good, but there’s room for improvement. I put in a tiny bit too much lemon and way too little garlic, for starters. I also think that lack of poultry seasoning was telling, since without any gravy or the juices from the pan, the chicken was a little bland (my brother says it isn’t but I think he was just being nice. Awwww.) . I also plan to use less of the drippings from the pan and more chicken stock and seasoning in the gravy that I made since the gravy ended up tasting way too much like the juices.

The chicken itself, however, was lovely. It was tender and juicy and did not dry out at all, despite the high heat it was cooked in (400° for the first half hour). And neither was it raw, which is obviously a big no-no for chicken.

So I’m definitely making this again and am looking forward to the results once I’ve made the adjustments I’ve mentioned above. Now if I just knew how to get my hands on some poultry seasoning here in Manila…

I want to cook!

Look at this.

Some of my favorite things in the world in one dish: bacon (duh!), lemon, garlic, chicken and Ina Garten. Obviously, Ina is not IN the dish, but this is Chrissy Teigen’s version of a classic Barefoot Contessa recipe. Click through the picture to get to Chrissy’s post about cooking this and check out the rest of her hilarious blog as well. If reading it doesn’t make you laugh and make you want to eat, you may have something seriously wrong with you.

Anyway. Back to the chicken. I saw Ina make this on her show and it looked delicious. She covered the whole chicken with friggin’ strips of bacon, how can that not yield fantastic results? She made it with a whole chicken, though, and for some reason that always intimidated me. Chrissy, on the other hand, made hers with just thighs and drumsticks, and in my weird head, that made things a lot less scary. The recipe seems simple enough, although I hate that it takes so loooooooong to cook. But I suppose one hour and forty minutes is a small price to pay for (1) not getting food poisoning and (2) garlicky, lemony, bacony chicken goodness.

So yeah. I cannot wait to make the Ina/Chrissy chicken.

And then just this last weekend, I had this at La Nuova:

Again, some of my favorite things all in one dish: garlic, sundried tomatoes and sausages. I can’t get over how simple this dish is, how delicious and why I haven’t thought of it in the first place. We make a version of this at home, but one with chicken instead of sausages. The version with chicken is pretty quick and simple to begin with, and replacing it with sausage will make it even quicker, since there’s no need to pre-cook the chicken.

So, this is one more thing I can’t wait to make.

Watch this space if I actually do get around to making them. I rarely ever get the itch to cook, so this could be… interesting. Haha.

Sunday Lunch at Rue Cler

I know I promised to post something yesterday, but a full day of walking and a slight headache got the better of me again last night. I was going to write about one of the Paris landmarks I visited last Friday, but I’m putting that on hold again because my elders always said that you should never keep food waiting. So here goes my first Paris food post.

Research food and eating in Paris and you’re bound to come across Rue Cler, an open-air street market in the 7th arrondissement, one of the most popular in Paris. It’s less than a 10 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, so if you’re hungry after the walk up and down the tower, then it’s a good place to head to. If you’re not hungry, it’s the walk up and down this food market that will do the trick:

Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries

A cheeselover’s heaven that you can smell from a mile away:

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The selection at Davoli:

Carbs galore: two kinds of potatoes (the one on the left has Lardo! I’m coming back for that!) and a risotto

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And then protein-galore inside: hams and sausages from Italy and France

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I swear I wasn’t hungry at all prior to setting foot on Rue Cler. We got there at around 11am and I had breakfast, so it was too early to be hankering for lunch. But by the time we’ve walked the entire length of the street (which took about 10 minutes) my stomach was rumbling. And so this is what we had for lunch:

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The chicken from Darius was delicious and tender, but if you prefer your food on the saltier side, you might want to stay away from the white meat. I love white meat, so I was happy with the breast. Anyway, the chicken is served with the juices from the roasting, so any blandness of the meat is easily remedied by a quick dipping in the oily goodness of the drippings. The skin, while not crispy all throughout, was where most of the flavor (and calories) is. I was a very happy camper as my mother doesn’t eat chicken skin, so all of it was mine.

The risotto was delicious as well, creamy and velvety and Davoli was very generous with the white truffle oil with this dish. My mom is already asking me when we’ll be going back for the risotto. The potatoes were good, too, but it was an easy sell for me, as I love anything with garlic and rosemary together.

We didn’t finish everything, as I ordered too much chicken so we had that and some risotto leftover. Typical Filipinos that we are, we couldn’t bear leaving the chicken which was only half finished. So we picked off the meat and put it in the container the potatoes came in which still had the garlic and rosemary-infused oil, with predictably delicious results. And so it was that we were able to bring Rue Cler to our dinner table and extend our early lunch into a very yummy and satisfying dinner.

If only we could bring Rue Cler all the way back to our diner table back home… *sigh*

Rue Cler is (generally) open all day Tuesdays to Fridays and mornings on Saturday and Sundays (although some shops are closed on entirely on Sundays). Most shops are closed on Mondays. The nearest Metro stop is École Militaire.

They’re here!!

Wee Nam Kee opened today and for some reason, my mom just had to go TODAY. So off we went to the Ayala Triangle Gardens and had this:

And so, we meet again...

With this… (and the ginger’s more subtle than the Singapore version. Yey for me!)

It's not Hainanese Chicken without this

And of course, this…

Kanin pa lang, ulam na!

But Wee Nam Kee chicken wasn’t the only thing that clogged my arteries last night. As we were walking to WNK, I saw this:

Oh be still, my heart...

I could not resist, so I bought these. Not my first choice, but they ran out of chicken wings (how does a chicken wing place run out of wings?)…

Whoever invented these deserves some sort of award.

I resisted the urge to eat them while walking back to the office (haha!) and had them at home. They were as crispy as I remembered them to be, so crispy that my brother and sister actually turned to look when I bit into the drumstick. I’m not sure, though, if it’s because I ate them almost 2 hours after getting them, or because they were drumsticks (but aren’t they supposed to be more flavorful?) or because they were still on soft-opening (their first full day), but I remember the ones I had in Singapore to be more salty and overall more tasty. I’m all for giving them a second chance, though.

The Ayala Triangle is becoming the worst possible place to jog. Will you be able to resist rewarding yourself with  Bon Chon, Wee Nam Kee or Golden Spoon after your run?

Wee Nam Kee and Bon Chon Chicken is located at the Ayala Triangle Garden, behind the Philippine Stock Exchange. Bon Chon will also be opening it’s Greenbelt 1 branch soon, and a Libis branch in the near future.

Chicken!

(Remember the show Tropang Trumpo and their expression, “Chicken!”? Haha.)

I’m sorry I couldn’t come up with a cleverer title for this post, but, really, this is what this post is about. In my previous post, I already wrote about the first major food group of my Singapore trip, Din Tai Fung. The second major food group was, well, chicken.

Everyone knows that, apart from Chili Crab (which I don’t eat), the other dish Singapore is famous for is Chicken Rice or Hainanese Chicken. And, y’all know how much I love me some Hainanese Chicken. So it was definitely one of my goals to eat Chicken rice as many times as I reasonably can over a 4-day period.

So how many times was that? Two. It doesn’t seem like much, but you must take into account that I only had office-imposed food for lunch, and I had to eat DTF and Bon Chon (more on that later) as well. And, first up was Sergeant Chicken at Food Republic at Wisma Atria Orchard. I ate here at the recommendation of Chuvaness’s blog, she rated this as her favorite in Singapore. And also because it was walking distance from my hotel.

Naturally, my expectations were high. My thinking was, if this was Chuvaness’s favorite in a city with Wee Nam Kee, Pow Sing and Boo Tong Kee, then it must be good. But, sadly, those expectations weren’t met. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken, both the white and roasted varieties, was tender and tasty.

Sergeant Chicken set

I particularly liked the skin of the roasted one. The rice was good, too. But none of them were mind-blowingly good. The ginger sauce, I have to admit, was a little off with a strange aftertaste. It didn’t taste fresh (a Tagalog word comes to mind: starts with a “pa” and ends with an “s”) and I’m not entirely sure if that’s how it’s really supposed to taste.

Overall, Sergeant Chicken was a good chicken rice experience. But was it definitely not the best Singapore had to offer.

And that brings me to Wee Nam Kee, touted by some as the best chicken rice in the city-nation. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of my photos, since when I left for work that day, I didn’t know we were going to have dinner at Wee Nam Kee (my plan was to have lunch there the next day). Consequently, I didn’t have my camera with me and was only able to take pics with my Blackberry. But I digress.

With all the hype in Manila over Wee Nam Kee and the opening of its first foreign branch at Ayala Triangle this month, I’ve heard all the raves about this restaurant and its superior chicken rice.

The best of Singapore (?) coming soon to Manila!

Naturally, with such high praise coming from everyone who was any sort of a foodie, my expectations for WNK were high. And this chicken rice institution did not disappoint. The Hainanese Chicken was tender, juicy and flavorful. The same is true for the roast chicken as well, which was moist throughout and had the perfect crispy skin.

WNK Cereal Prawns

While I’m not really a shrimp/prawn fan (unless they’re cooked in a TON of butter and garlic), I enjoyed the cereal prawns, which were unlike any prawn dish I’ve ever had before. Why are they called “cereal” prawns, anyway? What is that stuff they call “cereal”?

Tom Yao/Noble Greens

And I’ve always liked Tom Yao (?), which I think are called Noble Greens (Banana Leaf has an equally yummy version).

My ONLY complaint (and I always seem to have one, no?) is that the ginger sauce was waaaaay too strong for me. Everyone else doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, but personally, I prefer a subtler version, one that doesn’t overpower the flavor of the chicken.

WNK was definitely the best chicken rice I’ve had over my trip. But is it the best in Singapore? I can’t say. A sample size of two isn’t enough to make that assessment. So my delicious research will have to continue.

The second part of this major food group was 4 Fingers Bon Chon Crispy Chicken (try saying that four times fast!), which I also heard about from Chuvaness and from colleagues who have visited Singapore. My online research yielded rave reviews from New Yorkers (including  Esquire Magazine), a bunch that are generally difficult to please food-wise, so I was sold.

Bon Chon is located at the imposing ION Orchard Food Hall. The place was so huge, we consulted a map to find Bon Chon as I didn’t want to wander around aimlessly, hungry and in heels with my heavy laptop bag. The place was tiny, with seating capacity for only 12 people on one big, wooden table. We got lucky, though, since there were 2 available seats and the people seating across from us kindly moved to the side to accommodate the third person in our group.

Soy-garlic on the left, spicy on the right

*Apologies again, for the picture quality. This was taken with a phone again

My mom and I split a dozen wings, 6 soy-garlic and 6 hot and a chicken Caesar salad (to allay the guilt of having fried wings for dinner). I had the hot wings first, which turned out to be a mistake, since they were so hot I think they numbed my taste buds. They were absolutely yummy, make no mistake, but I had to take gulps of my drink and huge bites of my salad to rid my palate of the spice, so I could properly taste the soy-garlic wings. Lesson learned for my next Bon Chon trip: have the soy-garlic wings first before having the spicy ones.  On the other hand, the soy-garlic wings were a curious mix of sweet and salty, the taste unlike anything I’ve ever encountered on a chicken wing before.

Another wonderful thing about these wings, apart from the flavor, is their crispiness. Despite being glazed with the sauces, the paper-thin skin remains awesomely crispy. And the other thing to rave about is the lack of overall greasiness. The wings are fried, so of course, there will be some oil involved, but the amount is surprisingly minimal. There’s none of that kilig­-inducing gelatinous fat between the skin and the meat.

So, to recap: the wings are addictingly delicious, they’re crispy and less greasy than the average fried chicken wings. In other words, Bon Chon chicken wings are perfect. AND, THEY’RE COMING TO MANILA, TOO!

Wee Nam Kee and Bon Chon, both in Manila. I. CAN’T. WAIT (although my arteries will beg to differ).