Basque Stage Candidate Post: Braised Pork Belly and Calamari with a Blood-Ink Sauce

This is a new recipe I’ve came up with for my application for the Basque Stage and Sammic Rising Star Scholarship.

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This is a dish that has come together after going to my family Christmas party. I am part of a huge Filipino family and on Christmas, instead of having an extravagant Christmas dinner with the usual suspects as roasted turkey and mashed potatoes, we enjoy a huge table spread of traditional Filipino food. One of my favorites being, Dinuguan. For those who are not familiar, Dinuguan is a stew made of pork (usually including intestines) cooked in its own blood with vinegar and peppers. It is also known as ‘chocolate rice’ or ‘black rice’ too make it sound a little more appetizing to the audience.

I wanted to put a twist on the traditional dish, so I have decided to combine it with a very traditional Spanish dish, calamares en su tinta, calamari in its own ink. With the huge Spanish influence in Filipino culture, these two dishes come together to make something that just makes sense.

My interpretation of this dish has pork belly that has been braised with sherry vinegar and stock. The sauce is then combined with the pork blood to make the infamous lip-puckering and savory sauce. I incorporate the squid ink into the sauce too help deepen the black color of a sauce and also to add another depth of flavor (umami) to the vinegary sauce. I then sautéed the calamari and toss it in a simple olive oil and garlic vinaigrette. The calamari adds a great textural contrast to the fatty and rich pork belly. Garnish it with a foam of garlicky alioli and have substitute piparras peppers instead of thai chilies to help balance with the richness of the sauce and the pork.

Braised Pork Belly and Calamari with a Blood-Ink Sauce, Piparras peppers, and Alioli Foam

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Mise en place!

Sear pork belly until brown on each side and add to pot with carrots, onions, garlic, sherry vinegar and stock. Braise at low temp until tender. Remove pork belly and strain liquid and reserve.

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Blend pork blood so it keeps from coagulating in the stew.

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Sauté Carrots and onions until tender and add squid ink. Cook for a minute and then add pork blood and cook for another minute. Add braising liquid and let sauce cook down for an hour to let flavors develop. Purée until smooth and then pass through a sieve.

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Clean calamari. Score the inside of each calamari. (A lot more disgusting then I was expecting!)

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Sear calamari on high heat, weighing it down with a pan pressed on top, until cooked through. Slice into smaller pieces and then toss in a marinade of olive oil, garlic, salt, and parsley.

Sear braised pork belly until crispy and warm through.

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Place steamed rice on plate with the blood-ink sauce. Place pork belly and Calamari over the sauce and garnish with aioli foam, pippara peppers, and parsley oil.

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This dish is a representation of my love for Spanish and Filipino cuisine. I am really happy with the outcome of this dish. The blood-ink sauce had all of the characteristics of the flavors of Dinuguan but with the added squid ink, it had brought another dimension to the sauce that just enhanced the sauce.  The pork belly had a vinegary kick to it that really balanced it out with the fattiness of the cut and paired perfectly with the tender squid. Overall, I think that this is a recipe that I will have to keep in my repertoire!

-Justin

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The Evolution of Filipino Food and Irbille Edibles

For Filipinos who now live outside the Philippines, the desire to eat Filipino food becomes greater. These are the Filipinos who are the most nostalgic for the foods of home. However, wherever they are they have new foods to savor and new ingredients to experiment with and to add to their Philippine repertoire. It will be exciting to see how adobo, sinigang, and kinilaw can be transformed in the United States, where all types of cuisines are flourishing and new fusions of ideas are happening every day.

Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
Memories of Philippine Kitchens

Filipino food is honest food. The type of food that you that no matter how good nor bad, it has a way of transporting you back to the islands where these dishes were conceptualized. Growing up, I have known Filipino food as one-pot meals that my mother would throw together and serve to the family with the common accompaniments; the freshly cooked jasmine rice, the small bowl of chopped tomatoes mixed with salted duck eggs and patis (fish sauce), a tiny dish that reeks of the bagoong (shrimp paste), and of course the weapons of choice, our fork and spoon. This was the norm for us every single day as far back as I could remember. Filipino food is something that will always be very dear to me, but when I think about it, it is food that I haven’t really put a lot of thought or time into getting to know. With huge bold flavors of sweet, sour, and saltiness, it has taken some time for myself to see how this cuisine is a whole lot more complex than it is ‘simple’.

It wasn’t until I had the opportunity presented to me from fellow chef, Irbille Donia, to take part of a Filipino Pop-Up Dinner that he was organizing under his catering company, Irbille Edibles. His goal for these Filipino Pop-Up dinners is to introduce our community to Filipino Cuisine in a new perspective that people might not be use too. He wanted show how Filipino food could be brought to a new level with the use of new and traditional techniques with the beautiful local produce we get here in the North West. I was pretty skeptical at first solely for two reasons. One, I wasn’t sold yet to the concept of Pop-Up restaurants. And Two, I am a terrible Filipino and haven’t really cooked any Filipino food in my life! (I know, embarrassing!) Regardless, this was a great opportunity to learn something new about something I’ve always believed I knew so much about and also take part of something that hasn’t been seen yet, that being fine dining Filipino food.

It’s been 7 months since we’ve started doing these Filipino Pop-Ups and I have got to see the progression of our team and more importantly, our food. With each Pop-Up, we have learned more and more about Filipino food, especially what Filipino cuisine really is. Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of many cultures that have forever influenced the Philippines through trade and conquests. Primary influences being China, Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Working at The Harvest Vine, which is a traditional Spanish restaurant, I have learned that it is important to know about the history of a cuisine to really understand the food. And with working at the Vine, I have found the many ways that the Spanish had influenced Filipino cuisine through the techniques we use (i.e. escabeche) and also through the products they’ve brought us (i.e. Pork, chorizo, ham, saffron, etc.).

With this kind of knowledge, it opened up a huge amount of ways to reinterpret traditional dishes into a new, yet familiar, kind of way.  What we try to do is break down each dish into a way we can reconstruct it using the same elements, yet make sure that the dish is still a good representation of the dish. This is biggest learning curve that we at Irbille Edibles have seen. Filipinos are some of the most critical people about ‘their’ food. To put it in the nicest way possible, we are the reason it is so difficult for Filipino restaurants to survive in such a demanding market. I feel that Filipinos need to be a little bit more open minded with the way they see not just Filipino food, but food in general. Just because their mother or grandmother might make the best Adobo or Sinigang around doesn’t mean that you should shun everybody else’s interpretation of these foods. As is mentioned in the quote above by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, it is an exciting thing for Filipino food that we are open to new ingredients and techniques to really see how our dishes can evolve. Also, I would like to add that it is OKAY to splurge and indulge sometime. We are known to be penny pinchers, but its ok to break the bank every once in a while. Enjoy what you have worked so hard for and spend some money on not just great food, but also a great experience.

But luckily, we’ve had some of the greatest support for what we are doing at Irbille Edibles. Not just from the Filipino community, but also from the whole ‘foodie’ community here in Seattle. We feel that we are taking Filipino Cuisine into the right direction. We have shown that Filipino food could be elevated into something greater than it already is and still keep true to the tastes. It’s amazing how much Filipino food has progressed within the last couple years. Andrew Zimmern has even declared it to be the “next big thing” in food. There are also a large amount of food trucks popping up around america serving Filipino food on wheels. And also pleanty of restaurants opening its doors and doing the same thing we are doing at Irbille Edibles. Check out La Mesa  and Kanto in Toronto, and Maharlika in New York.

In the end, all I know is that I am proud of what I am. I find it amazing that through my love of food, I was able to gain so much about what being Filipino is really about. I am a Filipino-American and am so grateful for what America and especially the Philippines has to offer. There was so much I have learned within the past 7 months and can only look forward to what the future has to hold for myself,  Irbille Edibles and of course, Filipino Food.

Photos of the many inspired dishes at Irbille Edibles:

I Had To Do It!!!!!

So I was looking through my photos in iPhoto and I came upon my pictures from a recent trip to the Bay Area while visiting family. (Miss you all and the Bay!) There were those very common vacation pictures like pictures with family, pictures of landmarks, food that you may have eaten at a restaurant, etc. But the moment I saw these set of pictures, I just knew I had to post it up here….

One thing I love so much about the Bay Area is that there is a pretty large Filipino population. I am so, so proud to say that I am 100% Filipino, so I always feel “at home” whenever I go down there, solely for the fact that I was born there and that there are so many Filipinos there that it’ll make you feel like you’re actually in the Philippines. And I have always believed, “Where there is a lot of Filipinos, there is even more Filipino food!”. And let me tell you, there was SOOOO much great Filipino food around and it made me a very happy guy. I have a lot of thoughts about Filipino cuisine, but thats for another post coming soon…. This post is primarily about one specific type of  Filipino food. Probably one of the most talked about Filipino ever, Balut!

That ain't no regular hard-boiled egg!

For those of you who aren’t of aware of what Balut is, let me break it down to you in the simplest form ever. Boiled 19 day old duck fetus. Well… give or take a day. But still… Doesn’t sound (or look) like the most  appetizing ever. Surprisingly, it is a very popular street food that is quite accessible at any Filipino Market.

My heart was pumping, my hands were sweaty, but I just knew….. I had  to do it! The funny thing is that this was my second time doing it! But still, even thinking about eating Balut still has got my stomach turning in knots.

Staci's first crack into the egg!

So I took my warm egg from the brown baggie and had started it the way I was always taught. Crack a hole in the roundest side of the egg and carefully peel the egg shells away from the bottom of the egg, exposing a “hollow” spot from an air pocket that is created when the duck is cooking. When you look into the hole you have created, you see some liquid that rests atop what looks to be an imploded-overcooked hardboiled egg. But its not…. its the duck (Gah!) The liquid in the egg is meant to be sipped out before you peel the rest of the egg to the real good stuff. The ‘broth’ actually has a large amount of flavor. It tastes like a very gamey, intense duck broth, that is at the same time, pretty light. Add a dash of vinegar, and you get a whole different complexity of flavors that I can say I actually quite enjoyed.

Staci Modeling the exposed fetus. Spoiler alert.. SHE DIDN'T EAT IT.

Next, came the exposure of the duck. I carefully peeled the rest of the eggs shell off of the poor, poor duck and then looked at it…. and looked at it… and looked at it… It wasn’t until another minute when my cousin finally grew impatient and was like, “Are you going to do it or not!! C’mon dude!” It was time. It was now or never! So I sprinkled a good amount of sea salt onto what I think was the thigh of duckling (I couldn’t tell what I was looking at actually, it just looked like a mess!). And I took a bite. A HUGE bite. I bit off more than I could take…. Literally. I remember not being able to open my jaw after the first initial bite because of what was about to come after. I closed my eyes to hide back the little tear I knew was trying to escape and then took another chew. *CRUNCH*. Oh my god…..* CRUNCH* Yep, thats a beak… *CRUNCH*… And there goes the back bone… It was one of the most excruciating 4 minutes of chewing in my life. And this was the only the first bite.

I'm going in!

They recommend eating the whole Balut in 2 bites. Why 2 bites? I really don’t know. Maybe so you don’t have visually feast your eyes on the fetus to make your experience of eating baby duck fetus a little bit more enjoyable? Who knows. All I got to say is that regardless of all the displeasing things I have had to say about Balut, I actually had a real good time eating it. The flavor of the Balut itself wasn’t that bad, it was quite good actually. It just tastes like a very flavorful hard-boiled duck egg mixed in with duck liver and had some meaty texture that you’d expect from cooked quail. But with the addition of the crunch bones and the edible beak, head, brains, and feet, I think that is what really is the deal breaker for this Filipino delicacy.

Working on my second bite....

"Oh my God, why did I agree to do this!?"

There's still SO much more! Gah.....

It was a truly amazing experience. I can’t really remember my first experience with eating balut but I can say that I will always be able to remember this one. The best part of this whole Balut eating experience was when I was finally done with my first bite, my little nieces comes up to me and says, “Are you going to finish that? I’m already done with my first one!”.  SHE’S SUCH A BEAST! =]

Thanks for reading! Until Then….

-Justin