Pork Estofado

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A few months ago, I saw a familiar post being featured on WordPress.com’s Freshly Pressed. It’s a homepage fixture where the people at wordpress choose the best posts from their 400 thousand-strong bloggers who churn out new material, and feature it. The post belonged to a blog friend of mine, Julie, of Willowbird Baking. She’s the one who shared the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes, and it has long since been a hit with my friends who would kill (not really, but you get the idea) to have it as a birthday present. As to what post was featured, I’ve already forgotten, but I really remember thinking to myself with a slight jab of envy, “When will I be worthy of being freshly pressed”?

Apparently, the answer came 4 days ago.

I woke up to almost a hundred new emails, all of which were either comments on my post about Crispy Pork Belly, or subscription notices. I was dumbfounded at first, then sifting through the comments, some of which were congratulatory, I finally found the confirmation email.
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In just eight months of blogging, out of 471,983 bloggers (as of Feb 29), my post has been freshly pressed. FRESHLY. PRESSED (!)

It was a big deal for me because my readership grew by leaps and bounds! (TO ALL MY NEW READERS, HI!!!). I couldn’t believe it. The response was extremely overwhelming. Just this morning I got a comment from somebody who successfully tried my crispy pork belly recipe. People were telling me how happy they were discovering me in my little corner of the web. I must have done something right. Humbling, really.
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It’s kind of ironic that I posted that under less than stellar circumstances. This new job that I have keeps me busy for almost half of the week. But the affirmation that I got from all of you who want more from The Hungry Giant, tells me that it will always be about quality over quantity. I’m so happy I found part of myself through food and blogging about food. The love for food is universal and it’s a privilege to be able to express my love in the way I do.

I’d like to believe it’s supposed to be unpretentious as well. I’m Filipino, and I never grew up eating and appreciating expensive dishes, plated like molten gold, studded with grass (I mean, herbs). From my corner of the woods, the best dishes would always be “lutong bahay”, literally, “cooked at home” – hearty and extremely rustic (meaning it ain’t really purdy) dishes using ingredients that are commonly found in a regular Filipino wet market.
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A classic dish that I love so much is “Estofado”. It sounds and reminds you of ‘stew’ right? Ok, maybe not. But it actually means ‘stewed’. And in our context, it’s stewed meat. The liquid would be tomato sauce, and the meat would be pork (AGAIN). Chopped potatoes, carrots, and sometimes bell peppers are also added to the mix. Everything is stewed until the meat becomes fork tender and the sauce thickens.

How is estofado different from its cousins ‘caldereta’ and ‘menudo’? All of these are tomato sauce based dishes. But from what I gather: Caldereta/Kaldereta is usually made from beef and chopped liver/liver spread as the sauce thickener, Menudo is usually made of cubed pork AND liver, sometimes raisins and hotdogs are added and Estofado doesn’t have the frills that other two have. Filipino families will have their own variations, so it’s no surprise that sometimes these overlap.
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Anyway, I love a good estofado that has a thick sauce, almost like gravy. It also doesn’t hurt that the meat has to be fork-tender. My Mama Eng (mom’s cousin who has lived with us since forever) makes a really great estofado. She doesn’t settle for shortcuts – everything has to cooked to perfection. She’s a patron of the slow food movement without even realizing it. That’s the kind of thinking that I had while I was making this estofado.

This is something special because of two things: 1. I marinated the pork for a while, which makes the meat more flavorful (even without the sauce) and 2. I added breadcrumbs so the sauce would be like gravy. I’m actually pretty proud of what I did. This estofado is so good I’m getting hungry right writing about it.

I know I say this a lot, but today I really mean it with every fiber of my being: this is comfort food at its finest.
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Pork Estofado (serves 6 – 8)

2 kg pork, balanced fat:meat ratio, preferably from the shoulder, cleaned and cut into 2 inch thick cubes

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • a dash or two of freshly cracked pepper

Sauce:

  • oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (optional; I like mine with a subtle amount of heat)
  • three 200 gram packs tomato sauce
  • one 425 gram can whole or diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, or more if desired
  • 2 whole garlic bulbs, minced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, cubed
  • 5 small potatoes, cubed
  • one 113 gram can pimentos, drained and roughly chopped (optional) OR 2 – 3 large red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Mix in the pork and leave for at least 30 minutes.Photobucket
  2. In a frying pan, heat enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the carrots and potatoes and fry until slightly brown and potatoes are tender. When done, remove from heat and set aside.Photobucket
  3. In a large pan or wok, heat oil and add the garlic and onions over medium heat. Fry until garlic is slightly toasted but not brown, and onions are slightly limp. Add the red pepper flakes.Photobucket
  4. Add the pork with the marinade. Mix everything together. Cover and allow to cook over medium heat for around 30 – 40 minutes or until pork is tender. If everything dries up too soon, add a few tablespoons of water.Photobucket
  5. When pork is cooked and tender, add the tomato sauce and tomatoes. Using your spatula or spoon, crush the tomatoes. Stir everything together. Add the potatoes, carrots and pimentos. Reduce heat to medium – low.Photobucket
  6. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to incorporate. Adjust taste by adding more salt and pepper. Adjust consistency by adding more breadcrumbs or water. Cover and cook for another 15 – 20 minutes with occasional stirring.Photobucket
  7. When done, remove from heat. Place it in a large bowl, garnish with more red pepper flakes and serve it with an even larger bowl of rice. Enjoy!

Binagoongan Pork Adobo

Here I am with another round of adobo. I was actually unenthusiastic about this recipe when my mom first saw it in our national daily. The recipe called for bagoong ( [bɐɡoˈoŋ] bah-go-ong; fermented shrimp fry), coconut milk and sugar. *unrelated: I hated transcription and phonetics in college*

First off, I’m partial to a simpler, more traditional adobo – more vinegar than soy sauce, with no sugar. I don’t enjoy eating “sweet adobo” because after a few spoonfuls I lose my appetite. The only way to get me to eat adobo with rice after rice after rice if it’s salty-sour.
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Next, pork binagoongan is a recipe that calls for bagoong (shrimp paste) and sometimes even coconut milk. So why would I desecrate my adobo with coconut milk, bagoong and *shudder* sugar?

Then after making said recipe for Valentine’s day, I knew the answer – IT JUST WORKS (!).
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Looking back, now I understand why it’s called “Hybrid Adobo” – it blends together adobo and binagoongan, two Filipino favorites in one dish, creating something that plays like an incredibly satisfying tug-of-war in your mouth. This, right here, is delicious and it left the people around here craving for more. The enthusiasm that I get talking about this dish is off the roof!

Now my palate and appreciation for the humble adobo has definitely expanded. Sure, I might crave for the classic salty-sour, even the white (no soy sauce) variety from time to time, but this “hybrid”, is something else entirely.
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Because it’s difficult for me to call it a “hybrid” without thinking of a Zebronkey (a cross between a zebra and a donkey), let’s just call it…
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Adobong Binagoongang Baboy/ Binagoongan Pork Adobo (serve 6 – 8; adapted from The Philippine Daily Inquirer Lifestyle Section)

1 kg pork shoulder, cut to serving pieces

Marinade:

  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons liquid seasoning or soy sauce (I used 2 tbsp liquid seasoning and 1 tbsp soy sauce)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 heads garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorn
  • 2 pieces bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons shrimp paste
  • 1 piece finger chili OR 1 tablespoon chili flakes (plus more for garnish, optional)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 200ml pack coconut cream
  1. Marinate pork with vinegar, soy sauce and brown sugar for 30 minutes.
  2. Sauté garlic in a pan until aromatic. Add peppercorn, bay leaf and shrimp paste.
  3. Add pork belly (without the marinade) and cook until it changes color.
  4. Add marinade, chili/chili flakes and water. Simmer for an hour or until meat is tender.
  5. Add coconut cream and simmer for 15 minutes more. Garnish with chili flakes if desired. Serve hot with lots of steamed rice. Enjoy!

Pork Pata Paksiw

Dinner was a few spoonfuls of pork sinigang (more cabbage than pork), bits and pieces of a hamburger and two pieces of cloyingly sweet French macarons. I can actually say that I don’t have that big of an appetite today. My body is still reeling from an eventful week. I started it in Manila (a trip that was more business than pleasure) and I want to end it with good food and a better bed here in Zamboanga. I can’t really say that sleeping the whole day was enough. I’m still drowsy and I can’t wait to catch up on a few winks. But looking back at the past few days leading up to my trip, I think I might have eased off my blogging duties. To offset the neglect, here I am.
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I have a lot of things on my mind right now – a few “more than perfect” reasons to blog some more. First reason (More reasons next time): the goodness of Filipino food. I am at a point where I can’t wait to introduce more traditional dishes that I grew to love.

My Mama Eng (more than one blogger friend told me she’s a great person even if they’ve never met her, for that I’m thankful) has always been my go-to person when I want great comfort food. But I also want to make it a point to discover the endless possibilities of Filipino food on my own. An honest attempt at “testing the waters” resulted in, dare I say it, a great bowl of paksiw (even without the lechon!).
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Paksiw is essentially a dish cooked in vinegar and garlic. It’s different from adobo in that soy sauce isn’t usually put it paksiw. When we have large gatherings and there’s lechon, chances are a few hours later the kitchen is already filled with the acrid smell of vinegar as the lechon is being paksiw-ed (haha). It’s one way of making sure that the meat doesn’t go to waste. Most of the time lechon/liver sauce is being added to the paksiw to give it a sweet-savory taste that’ll cut through the acidity. This recipe uses pork pata (trotters), and I actually made this a day before I left. Blame the proverbial block that kept me from posting this sooner.
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Enjoying paksiw has always been a hit or miss for me. Sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I don’t. But I had spoonful after spoonful of this dish in no time. This isn’t too sour nor is it too sweet. The combination of the lechon sauce and the vinegar is just right. Using pata instead of lechon meat makes this a great weekday dish, just make sure to soften the meat by boiling before cooking it into a paksiw. This was never meant be eaten alone. If you think you can eat this without a bowl full of rice, then I think you’re crazy.
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Pork Pata Paksiw (serves 4 – 6, adapted from yummy.ph)

  • 1 1/2 kilo pig’s front trotter (pata front)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups bottled lechon sauce (I used Mang Tomas)
  • 3/4 cup pork stock
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place pata in a deep stockpot and fill with water until the meat is fully covered. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 1 hour or until pata is fork-tender. Drain and let cool.
  2. Carefully remove the bones of the pata and slice meat into 2-inch pieces. Heat oil in a medium stockpot. Briefly fry the meat until lightly browned. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
  3. Add all the other ingredients in the stockpot. Simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes without stirring. Stir and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Remove bay leaves and peppercorns before serving, or you can also leave some as garnish.

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Boeuf/Beef Bourguignon

Like I said, this has been a long time coming.
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I’ll be one of the thousands to admit that the only reason I know that somebody like Julia Child has walked the face of this earth was because of Julie and Julia, a movie that I watched and enjoyed almost a year ago. Although Meryl Streep did steal Amy Adams’ thunder, Adams paints a picture of an endearing and relatable Julie Powell. Devoting a year cooking your way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking isn’t easy but Julie did persevere and the effects of her sojourn were life changing.

I’ll also be the first to admit that this is my first attempt at something remotely French. Boeuf Bourguignon is a big word and in my head, was an even bigger task to accomplish. It was a challenge that I gave to myself simply because making a pot of beef cooked in red wine held so much meaning. I told myself that if I could make something that Julia Child made, then I could cook anything. Yes, sometimes I do swim in delusions. But I held on to this ambition for a long time. A year to be exact. Christmas was the perfect excuse to finally scale Mt. Julia Child.
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Although this dish has a lot of components and techniques involved, from an amateur’s standpoint: IT IS DOABLE.

I wanted to give myself breathing space while making this recipe. God knows the chaos that might have taken over if I tried to make everything on Christmas morning. So on Christmas Eve I started by frying the beef and the bacon. That gave me enough time to put everything together just in time for Christmas lunch the following day. I didn’t strangle myself because of stress so I must have done something right.
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I’d like to believe that to create a bowl of Beef Bourguignon takes patience. The techniques are doable but for an amateur, might be overwhelming (hence the breathing space). Patience is key because the preparation is slightly meticulous. Maybe that’s just me screaming for this dish to work.

And it did. On Christmas day, I gave myself a really really really delicious gift. I managed to cross out one entry off my bucket list. The hours of slaving were worth it. Extremely worth it.
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As opposed to how I described the preparation as complicated, sinking your teeth into the soft beef slathered with thick wine sauce is very uncomplicated. It tasted amazing, and everything just makes perfect sense. The beef was fork tender and slightly smoky. The sauce had a distinct bold taste of wine, but slightly tempered by the different flavors and aromatics. The flavors did not try to upstage each other. Everything just melded together perfectly.

It was only this year that my love affair with cooking really began to simmer. But my love for food has always been there ever since I was young. In the same way that Boeuf Bourguignon is French, food has always been a part of me. Allowing my inner foodie to really grow using this platform has already been awesome. Allowing myself opportunities to grow as a foodie and food blogger has probably been one of the best gifts I (un)consciously gave myself.
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This chance for me bask in Julia Child’s lingering shadow as robust as the Boeuf Bourguignon, even for a nanosecond…well, I have to give myself a pat on the back for that.

There’s nothing French about eating this with rice, but since it was a Filipino Christmas  and this dish is as rustic as it gets, rice and Boeuf Bourguignon were perfect together. 
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Boeuf/Beef Bourguignon (serves 10 – 12)

  • 200 grams bacon (half of a 400 gram pack), sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 lbs/2 kilograms beef cut into 2-inch cubes, patted dry with paper towels
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large white onions, sliced
  • 2 medium sized carrots, sliced
  • 1 bottle (around 3 cups/750ml) of red wine (use a wine you would drink)
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in 2 – 3 cups warm water
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 3 large cloves of smashed garlic
  • Beurre manié: 3 Tbsp flour blended to a paste with 2 Tbsp butter
  • 24 pearl onions (I used around 8 small shallots/red onions)
  • Chicken stock (I used half a chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water)
  • Butter
  • 3 cans button mushrooms (pieces and stems, 115 grams drained)
  1. Blanch the bacon to remove its smoky taste: Drop bacon slices 4 cups of cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, rinse  in cold water, and dry on paper towels.
  2. In a large frying pan, sauté the blanched bacon to brown slightly in a little oil; set them aside and add later to simmer with the beef, using the rendered fat in browning.
  3. Brown the chunks of beef on all sides in the bacon fat and olive oil, season with salt and pepper. You may want to do this in batches. Once done, put them into a large oven-safe covered casserole pan. Add in the bacon as well.
  4. If you want to use an oven to cook the beef, preheat it to 180 C/356 F.
  5. Remove all but a little fat from the frying pan, add the sliced vegetables and brown them, and add to the meat.
  6. Deglaze the pan used to fry the meat and vegetables by pouring wine into the pan and using a wooden spoon, scraping off the crusty pieces at the bottom. Most of the crusty pieces (and flavor) will mix with the wine.
  7. Pour it into the casserole along with enough stock to almost cover the meat.
  8. Stir in the tomatoes and add the bay leaf, thyme, cloves and garlic.
  9. Bring to a simmer, cover, and simmer slowly on the lowest heat possible, either on the stove or in a preheated 325°F oven, until the meat is tender, about 1 to 2 hours. (visual here)
  10. While the stew is cooking, prepare the onions: Blanch the onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking. Slice the end tips off of the onions and peel the onions. Sauté onions in a single layer in a tablespoon or two of butter until lightly browned. Add chicken stock or water half way up the sides of the onions. Add a teaspoon of sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer slowly for 25 minutes or until tender. The onions should absorb most of the water. If there is water remaining after cooking, drain the excess. Set aside.
  11. Prepare the mushrooms a few minutes before serving the stew. Sauté quartered mushrooms in a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil until browned and cooked through.
  12. When the stew meat has cooked sufficiently, remove all solids from the sauce (except the beef) by draining through a colander set over a saucepan. (visual here)
  13. Return the beef to the casserole.
  14. Then remove any visible fat from the strained liquid and boil it down to 3 cups.
  15. Remove from heat, whisk in the beurre manié, then simmer for 2 minutes as the sauce thickens lightly.
  16. Adjust the taste of the sauce to your preference by adding a dash or two of sugar, salt and pepper.
  17. Pour over the meat, folding in the onions and mushrooms.
  18.  To serve, bring to a simmer, basting meat and vegetables with the sauce for several minutes until hot throughout. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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