Category Archives: Food

Homemade Ice Cream

Homemade Ice Cream

Turning cream and leftover cake...

Making homemade ice cream is an exercise in patience. The method isn’t labor-intensive—I do not spend the entire three days slaving away—but it does require a lot of rest between steps.

Let’s take a look at the process.

Day One: Prep Work 

On the first day, I bring out my trusty old ice cream machine. I think I have the most well-traveled Cuisinart since I bought it in Chicago around eight years ago. I brought it to Manila with me and it returned to the United States when I moved back permanently. The machine has more travel miles on it than most people!

Some people may think it’s crazy I haven’t gone for an upgrade but it seems like such a waste when I have two canisters for it. If I had a spare freezer I could probably make a batch of ice cream every other day.

Anyway, I digress.

Most ice cream machines for home use need completely chilled canisters to work. So day one involves making sure your canister is completely clean and dry, and finding space in your freezer so that it can completely chill out. I prefer to let it sit in a freezer for twenty-four hours.


Ice Cream Base

...into a delectable new dessert. It's worth the effort.

1 cup milk (whatever you have on hand is fine)

1 cup cream

3/4 cup sugar

4 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a clean pot, over a medium flame, bring the milk, cream, and sugar to a boil. Stir occasionally.

While waiting, whisk the egg yolks in a bowl. Once the milk mixture has come to a boil, add some of this to the egg yolks. Whisk this well to bring up the temperature of the egg yolks. (If you skip this step, you will have a lot of curdled egg in there.) When it is well-combined, add all of this back to the rest of the milk mixture. This should thicken fairly quickly. It takes around thirty seconds.

Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain the cooked ice cream base and then let it cool before refrigerating. Let it rest for around several hours—or twenty-four hours—before using.

(Since you now have four egg whites to deal with, I can only suggest making meringue cookies or a nice egg white-only omelette. Please don’t throw it down the drain.)


Day Two: Churning

Now that your canister is completely chilled, you can start churning. Find a cool place in your kitchen—do not churn right next to a hot stove—and pour the ice cream base into the canister. Plug in your ice cream maker and churn the mixture from thirty minutes to an hour.

A working relic!

If you stop with the ice cream base, you will get plain vanilla ice cream. While vanilla ice cream is an indispensable companion to floats, pies, and cake, unless you want to go all out with vanilla beans, it seems like a waste of effort. This is the time to improvise with your ice cream flavors.

Usually I throw in whatever is on hand: fruit, chopped chocolate bars, coffee, brownies, even crumbled madeleine cookies. For fruit like bananas and strawberries, I usually make a purée with some sugar thrown in—perhaps 1/4 cup. If I want to get a homogenous color instead of layers of swirl, I add the fruit purées and the chocolate at the thirty-minute mark. Just remember that larger pieces of cake or brownies may be crushed if added too soon—these should be added ten to fifteen minutes before shutting off the ice cream machine.

I haven’t experimented enough with alcohol in my ice cream but just bear in mind that it lowers the freezing point of the cream. Too much fruit purée, too, will result in a sorbet-like texture. While sorbets and traditional ices are awesome, they may not be what you want to eat. Also, bear in mind that without a commercial stabilizer, your ice cream will not look exactly like store-bought ice cream.

Again, I digress.

After your cream is beautifully churned, transfer it to a freezer-safe plastic container. To ensure the least amount of crystals destroying your work, press a layer of plastic cling-wrap to the surface of the churned cream. This will prevent freezer burn. Cover and freeze overnight to get a firm, wholly frozen product.


Day Three: Eating

Maybe some people don’t consider eating part of the ice cream-making ritual but I do! Upon waking up in the morning, the first thing I do is to check on my ice cream. I may not sample some right after breakfast but just knowing that it’s ready can brighten my whole day. If you get into the habit of making this recipe, then it will brighten yours, too.



Mojo Potatoes

Mojo Potatoes

I need to make them again soon.

Since I moved to Oakland, I’ve had to give up so many edibles I love that I simply can’t find: perfectly ripened yellow mangoes, crisp Chinese honey pears, pork siopao with pillowy white buns, fresh lumpia with real ubod and not sleazy bean sprouts, halo-halo from Razon’s, gooey Thai palm sugar… ugh. It’s frustrating that so many of my favorite foods and ingredients are out of reach!

A few days ago I realized I missed mojo potatoes, too. It’s such a ridiculous thing to miss, but I do miss it. I used to live fifteen minutes away from a Shakey’s. Every time I was too lazy to cook or it was too hot to walk to any of the nearby cafés on East Capitol Drive, I’d order Shakey’s takeout.

Say what you will about their pizza (and fast food pizza in general), but having a Shakey’s nearby was awesome. As far as I’m concerned, their pizza was an accompaniment to the potatoes, and not the other way around.

In any case, mojo potatoes seemed to be the easiest item to cross off my list of unattainable food. This week, I took a look at a couple of mojo potato recipes online. While some of them had interesting techniques, they didn’t seem to fit right. So this is what I came up with on first try.


My Homemade Mojo Potatoes


garlic salt



all-purpose flour

2 eggs

2 to 3 large russet potatoes

corn or vegetable oil


In a large and roomy pot, heat at least four to five inches of cooking oil. While waiting for this to warm up, prepare your ingredients.

In a bowl, combine around one teaspoon of garlic salt, one teaspoon of paprika, and around 1/2 teaspoon of pepper with around 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Set this aside for the moment, too.

Wash and scrub the potatoes well. Remove any eyes or unsightly blemishes from the skin but do not peel all of it off. Slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch rounds. Pat dry with clean kitchen towels to absorb any excess moisture.

When the oil is ready, dunk your potato slices into the beaten eggs. Shake off any excess egg and dredge the potatoes in your flour mixture. Try to get an even coating on both sides.

Deep fry the potato slices in batches, as not to overcrowd the pot, for around five minutes or until they turn golden brown. Remove the fried pieces and drain on clean paper towelling before serving.


Maybe because it’s been almost two years since I’ve had any mojo potatoes, but these tasted like home to me. I think I got the texture right. Mojo potatoes seem like they are baked but they aren’t—they don’t have a crispy exterior and the insides are soft. My family enjoyed this effort—my nephews gobbled those taters up faster than I made them.

I regret not doing any exact measuring, but that’s how home cooking can be sometimes—I’m perennially shooting from the hip.

Review: The Professional Chef (9th Edition)

Review: The Professional Chef (9th Edition)

For the sake of my own archives, I will start reposting recent pieces written for the San Francisco Book Review. On occasion I might add some additional material that I may have left out due to space and time constraints.

A slightly different version of this review first appeared last November 3, 2011. 


I took my own advice. The Professional Chef now shares shelf space with my other favorite cookbooks.

Weighing seven pounds and six ounces, is the new edition of The Professional Chef a heavyweight worthy of shelf space? Should a person buy it if he has the revised editions of everything from Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking to Larousse Gastronomique? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. To a casual cook, the sheer volume of material can be daunting. Yet to any reader with dreams of becoming a professional, this book is an excellent start on the path of culinary greatness.

Students and restaurateurs should consider investing in this tome written by the Culinary Institute of America. The beautiful photos serve as a visual reference to almost all available ingredients in North America and as a refresher course on techniques. Indeed, reading through this book reminded this reviewer of her grueling months in culinary school. Methods for fundamental recipes are described both in detail and in “at a glance” sections, making the book easy to use no matter how much time you have.

A casual cook may be surprised by some of the proportions. Like other cookbooks designed for professionals, recipes (like for soups and salad dressings) are meant to supply a banquet. Happily, a lot of the entrées can serve ten to twelve people. While it’s too heavy to bring along on a daily commute or to even read in bed, The Professional Chef is an essential manual for aspiring and experienced cooks. It’s time to make space on the shelf.

Faux Samosas

Faux Samosas


As a girl with third world sensibilities, I have a horror of throwing out perfectly good food.  I also understand, however, that trying to finish tons of leftovers can just kill the appetite.  So while I don’t mind recycling edible, clean food… I like to do it with a little style and effort.

These aren’t really proper samosas. They aren’t even empanadas. I am not sure what they are. They are chicken pot pies but I avoid calling it that because my proper chicken pot pie is a casserole. Anyway, the silly name sorts of ensures it will be consumed. People can be very fickle about what they put in their mouths and I do not blame them.

Since I took the trouble of recycling leftovers, I decided to document the process, too.



Proportions doubled from original dough recipe of the Culinary Institute of America’s The Professional Chef (9th edition). The method, however, is pretty much what I remember from cooking school.  

24 oz. all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

8 fluid oz. warm water

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, sift the flour. Sprinkle the salt on top. Make an indentation in the center of the flour and pour the water and oil into the hole. With a large wooden spoon or a spatula, slowly mix in the liquid into the flour mixture. If it begins to get difficult to use a spoon, knead the mixture with very clean hands, trying to get everything into one big mass. When the dough is smooth, cut into two (or four) pieces and shape into square discs. Cover each disc individually with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

While waiting, consider your filling.


The Week’s Chicken Filling

For the filling of this particular version, I used my brother-in-law’s delicious chicken asado, two-thirds of a Costco roast chicken, and the last pieces of my chicken paprika. I could have thrown in a couple of other odds and ends but I feel it was important to preserve the flavor profile of the chicken asado, which I wanted to dominate over everything else. Aside from the leftovers, I assembled:

1 onion, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

leftover chicken, no skin, chopped up nicely

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

1 cup frozen peas

1 to 2 teaspoons paprika

1 to 2 teaspoons sugar

salt and pepper

I browned the onions in warm olive oil, added the chicken, tomato sauce, peas, and seasonings to taste.

Since I have no idea what leftovers you might be using, good luck with experimenting. Just remember to let the filling cool down before assembling the faux samosas.


To Assemble: 

On a large, well-floured board, place the chilled dough. Dig out your rolling-pin. (The CIA dough procedure uses a pasta maker, but since I sold mine when I moved, the rolling pin is an old-fashioned option.)

If you don’t own a rolling pin, a gonzo option includes any heavy cylindrical glass you may have in the cupboard. Just exercise caution while doing this. You don’t want broken glass all over your hands. A tinned soup can, without a label and absolutely clean, should work too.


With clean, well-floured hands and a well-floured rolling pin, roll out the dough, using even pressure throughout. Rotate the dough with each turn, to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of board. Roll out the dough until it reaches a 1/4 inch thickness.

At this point I would like to point out my dough is far from perfect. I can see air pockets and folds. If aesthetics doesn’t bother you too much, feel free to ignore these things in your own work too.




Dig out your pizza cutter—or any sharp chef knife—and cut the dough into squares.

Place a teaspoon or two of chicken filling in the center of the dough square.






Seal the faux samosa by pinching the edges together. 

For a bit of old-school charm, bring out a fork and primp the edges of the dough.






To finish: 

Just before deep-frying, brush the surface of the faux samosas with egg wash.

Deep fry in a good quantity of hot oil. Let drain briefly on clean paper towels before serving hot.

I think total preparation time took around two hours. It’s a lot of work but it’s still better than throwing out at least a kilo of chicken. Once these are piping hot and smothered with peanut sauce, it becomes worth the effort.

Paprika Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

Paprika Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

Last week’s experiment tasted better than it looks. I’ll probably fine-tune the proportions for the risotto the next time I make it. Please consider this a rough draft you can work on, if so inclined.


Pan Fried Paprika Chicken

4 to 5 boneless chicken breast fillets

salt and pepper


1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

red pepper flakes

1/4 cup olive oil (add more if needed)

1/2 cup white wine

Take your boneless chicken breast fillets and pat them dry with paper towels to remove excess liquid. Pound them between sheets of plastic film if you wish them to be thin. (This is optional if you aren’t bothered by thickness of the fillets and you’re too lazy to hunt for your mallet like me.) Season each fillet with salt, pepper, and paprika. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, cheese and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a roomy sauté pan. Once the oil is warm, dredge the seasoned breast fillets into the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Pan fry each piece around three to four minutes on each side, taking care not to crowd the pan. Larger fillet pieces will need extra cooking time. (This is why hunting out for the mallet was a good idea. Oh well.)

Let the cooked fillet pieces rest on a plate with some clean paper towels while making the risotto.

Off heat, deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping off the nice brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Set this aside for the risotto.



Mushroom Risotto

6 cups warm water *

1 chicken broth cube

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup portobello mushrooms, sliced finely * *

1 cup button mushrooms, sliced finely

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced finely

1 white onion, diced

2 cups Arborio rice

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated cheddar (or any nice hard cheese you have on hand)

sea salt to taste

black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter


* If you’re using dried mushrooms (fresh shiitake mushrooms aren’t available everywhere!) hydrate the mushrooms by soaking in one to two cups of warm water.  Microwaving the mushrooms in the water helps speed up the process. After at least ten to fifteen minutes of soaking, check each mushroom piece and discard any hard pieces (usually the stems.) Remove the mushrooms with a spoon, then strain the remaining liquid into a measuring cup. Whatever amount you have (usually around one cup) can be used to replace some of the 6 cups of water.

* * Don’t forget to remove the black gills beneath the mushroom caps. These things are easily peeled off once you remove the stem. Technically, you can leave it in, but it will muddy up the color of the risotto.


Dissolve the chicken broth cube in the water. Set aside.

Warm some of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and sauté until soft, for about three minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

With the remaining olive oil, sauté the onions for five to six minutes, or until it has a nice, slightly caramelized look. Add the rice, stirring to coat with oil, and cook for a few minutes. When the rice is golden brown and begins to smell lightly toasted, add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, stirring constantly for even absorption. When the 1/2 cup is almost absorbed, add another 1/2 cup, and continue to stir. Repeat this process until all the liquid is absorbed, ending with the white wine from the chicken. It usually takes twenty-five to thirty minutes.

Turning off the heat, add the mushrooms and any of its liquid, butter, and the cheeses, stirring well so distribution is even. Season with salt and pepper.

My Truffle Treats

My Truffle Treats

A longer version of this post first appeared on my old blog last December 19, 2008. 

Drunk Truffle Balls

450 grams cookie crumbs

My chocolate truffles, as photographed by Che Katigbak. Gusto Magazine, 2005.

80 grams apricot jam

60 ml rum

115 grams chocolate, melted (for filling)

40 grams glucose

500 grams chocolate (for coating)

chocolate vermicelli, nuts, and sprinkles

In a bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the jam and liquor. Add the 115 grams of melted chocolate until well blended. If using glucose, warm it up in the microwave for about 30 seconds and add to the mix.

If it looks too mushy and moist, gradually add more crumbs until its consistency is easy to handle with clean hands or spoon out in mounds. Shape into bite-sized balls and let set in the refrigerator. This takes about an hour.

When the truffle balls are set, melt the remaining chocolate over a double boiler, stirring occasionally. Dunk the truffle balls into the coating chocolate and sprinkle on the vermicelli, nuts, or sprinkles. Alternately, if you don’t want to get your hands messy, you may arrange the truffle balls over a rack with a pan underneath to catch any drippings. Spoon the chocolate over them. Decorate and let set.

These keep for about a month in the refrigerator.


Additional notes:

The original recipe is from John Slattery’s Chocolate Cakes for Weddings and Celebrations but I’ve changed so many things—like dry cake crumbs to cookie crumbs!—I guess I can call it mine.

I use my surplus homemade cookies for this recipe, which is rather buttery to begin with, so I have to add around 200 grams more crumbs to make it work. To get a fine crumb I grind everything up in a Cuisinart. Store-bought cookies, especially those that are on the dry side, should work well. I’ve used my homemade chocolate chip, dark chocolate, macaroon, and spice cookie crumbs and they all taste fine.

The same rule applies for the jam. Apricot is great but if you only have strawberry or raspberry on hand that will work too. I’ve even accidentally used a low-fat jam before and it still turned out good.

Regarding the liquor, I started out exclusively with rum but then I tried brandy and vanilla vodka. Tita Ana gave me this twenty-year-old bottle of Kirsch to play with and it’s highly potent in these treats! Can you omit the liquor? I don’t think it’s advisable since the liquor will help it keep fresh for longer.

Some friends asked about the addition of glucose. I used to make this without it. While flipping though some old notes from cooking school, however, I noticed my old truffles recipe added that ingredient. When I tried it, I noticed that it gave the mixture a better consistency after setting—and a more professional-looking caramel-chewy center. If you can’t find glucose, though, you can skip it. I only figured this out last week and I’ve been making these balls for almost a year. I haven’t really figured out how much glucose I should add, either, so give or take a couple of grams shouldn’t hurt too much.

For the chocolate, block chocolate is preferable over chips. Some chips don’t melt very well, that’s why I don’t like using them unless it’s the only thing I have on hand. Anyway, it’s nice to have contrasting colors for filling and coating, so any combination between white, milk, and dark chocolate will both look and taste great.

For the toppings, anything goes. Chocolate vermicelli, sprinkles, and nuts all work well. Rice crispies get soggy if stored for too long, and nobody I know seemed to like marshmallows. Lately I have also tried chopped candied cherries. These taste great, especially with a dark chocolate filling drunk on Kirsch…

Lastly, for a professional look (if you’re giving these babies away), wear plastic gloves while transferring the truffles to small muffin liners before boxing. You want them to know it’s handmade, but you don’t want greasy fingerprints all over the treats.

Anyway, that’s it. I hope this motivates some of you to make it for Noche Buena! Cheers and Merry Christmas.