Ok, I’m not going to go into how long it has been since I’ve been here. Or why it was that I have been away for so long. Or about life and living and time and busyness and work and family and “the universe”.
You have lives…so I think you know the drill. And I won’t waste both our times in looking back. Only just to say that nothing terrible has happened, we are sailing as smoothly forward as we can manage, and in fact, some exciting things have been, and are, happening. But I suppose the more important thing, for this little space anyway, is that I’m here now.
(and hopefully, you are too)
And I’m here, as always, with a recipe to share.
But first, a little story, by way of background.
It was our 25th year high school homecoming last year. The rush of preparations, practices, fund-raising events, and get-togethers. A whirlwind that can both invigorate and drive one insane…as I am certain many of you who have gone through homecomings can attest to. In any case, I contributed as much as I was able, and to as much as my skills would allow. Which is to say, I joined the cookbook committee.
Our high school has been producing cookbooks since time-before-time, so this wasn’t a new idea. But with a bunch of food loving individuals in our batch, we wanted to make something different. So with money out of our own pockets we hired a professional photographer, raised the call for heirloom recipes, and got to work.
As anyone who has published a cookbook can tell you, it was a tough and taxing process. Shooting food all day (with the huge help of our classmate, this lady, and the incredible food conglomerate she has built!), editing recipes (three heads copy-editing until the wee hours!), and I won’t even go into the financial aspect of it (we had an awesome finance team…able to juggle numbers and call in receivables with dizzying speed and an iron fist!).
But it was wonderful and rewarding and an amazing experience altogether. Working with people equally passionate about food. Working on something that was purely food-related (as some of you know, my actual job has nothing to do with food). Working on something that didn’t feeling like work…that left you tired but satisfied at the end of the day.
And, of course, making a pile of money for our homecoming!
This is one of the recipes from the book (from our classmate, Racky Torres Manalastas). It is homey and comforting and simple and full of flavor. Passed down from generation to generation. It’s a delicious example of the timelessness and value of family recipes.
(recipe adapted from the Legacy Cookbook of Assumption high school batch ’92)
- 1/2 kilo ham
- 1/2 cup bamboo shoots
- 1 cup water chestnuts
- 1 dozen dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 whole chicken
- Calamansi (just enough juice to rub the chicken with)
- 1 teaspoon salt (I use sea salt)
- 2-4 cups water (more or less)
– Cut the ham, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and dried mushrooms into strips.
– Rub the chicken with the calamansi and salt.
– Place the chicken, and all the other ingredients, in a pot. Add the water – depending on the size of your pot you may add more or less. The water should come a little bit more than halfway up the chicken but not cover it.
– Cover your pot and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is done and starting to get tender. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning if needed only.
– Uncover the pot and place in a pre-heated 400F oven for about 10-20 minutes until the top of the chicken has taken on some color.
The ham you use here should be a nice savory/salty one, Chinese ham would be ideal. The ham is a big part of what flavors the dish so you want to use a tasty one.
This dish may not win any beauty contests, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in flavor and ease of preparation. It’s a criminally easy, one-pot meal. All you need to do is dump everything in the pot and let the ingredients do their work. And what you get in the end is so much more than what you put in. The chicken, ham, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots produce the most amazing broth…intense and deeply flavored. This is both a tender, slow-braised chicken, and an incredibly rich chicken soup!
You can enjoy this dish in so many ways. Place a piece of chicken in a bowl and ladle on the soup and other ingredients. Or have your chicken and ham with rice and a cup of the broth on the side. I sometimes like to sneakily mix just the ham and mushrooms in a bowl with white rice moistened with the broth. The leftovers, shredded, can make a lovely bowl of noodle soup!
I have an extra copy of our cookbook so I thought I’d do a small giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment on this blogpost! Yup that’s it! Just comment on why you’d like this cookbook, or share a family recipe/dish, or even just say HI! That’s all!! I’ll pick one comment at random (names in a hat style) two weeks from now, and send the cookbook to the winner! The only conditions for entry: you must enter a valid email address AND you must be based in the Philippines!
So happy to be writing here again. The end of the year is coming but it’s never too late, as they say. I hope you’re ready for more recipes, because I have a few up my sleeve I am just tweaking. And excited to share with you!
Perhaps one day I’ll publish my own cookbook. A collection from my kitchen to yours. Wouldn’t that be nice? Until then I’ll be sharing recipes here, as I have been doing, as I hope to always do.