Here’s something new that I’ve been doing since school started two weeks ago – menu planning! Yup, in my almost 16 years of motherly existence, this is the first time that I’m actually planning meals seriously.
The kids, being older and wiser, just won’t settle for alternating fried egg and tocino breakfasts now. Adobo lunch boxes don’t excite them anymore either. To make sure the menu doesn’t get tiring, we thought of planning the meals.
Menu planning actually isn’t as intimidating as it appears. Here’s how we do it.
My family went to Choi Garden Restaurant on Annapolis Street in Greenhills for the first time a few weeks ago. I remember now – it was the day we got Parker. We had to bring Parker home from Tiendesitas, so we had late lunch.
During weekend lunches and dinners, Choi Garden gets pretty filled up. Though it has its own building, it could be hard to get a table during peak hours. So be early, or call to reserve a table. Better yet, go in for late lunch or dinner, like we did. Hehe. (We still had to wait a bit to be seated though, and the car valet-parked.)
The downside of going in late is that most best-sellers would have ran out already. I wanted to try the Fried Pigeons but they ran out.
Nevertheless, we were happy with our acquiring-Parker celebratory lunch.
Yang Chow Fried Rice (Php320 for a small serving). I loved the succulent shrimps. It was a bit too oily for me though. Since Nate is allergic to eggs and shrimps, we got a cup of steamed rice (Php50) for him.
Yesterday, I suddenly missed home and craved for igado – a comfort food for me. So I decided to whip it up for dinner. I tried to recall mama’s Igado Recipe.
Igado is a classic Ilocano dish that’s a staple during our family gatherings. For me, the best igado recipe is done by my Mama. Hers is always a hit.
The pork, liver and heart, along with potatoes, carrots and red pepper, are sliced painstakingly into long, thin pieces. If it’s a big family gathering, imagine the kind of production that goes into slicing alone! Kilos and kilos of meat – bloody task indeed.
I grew up in a pig-raising family. My forester-agriculturist Lolo Indong had a full ‘apartment complex’ of eight pigpens at the back of his house in the province. Each pen is as big as a good-sized bedroom, hahaha! But Lolo never raised the pigs for commercial consumption (as far as I can remember). I guess it was just a hobby for him.
The highlight of Lolo’s piggy hobby comes during December. The rest of the year, one pig (or two, depending on the number of guests – apos, balikbayan children – coming home for the holidays) is fattened up and prepared for the table. The sad fate of pigs… 🙁
In Baguio, my parents also raised pigs, though on a smaller scale. Just the same, a pig was always fattened up for Christmas. The slaughter is always scheduled in the early morning of the 23rd. Or the 24th? I don’t remember very well now.
But I remember the house would be abuzz with activity – dad sharpening knives, an uncle setting up the area near the pen, a wood-fire burning, a huge pot of water boiling on it… The pigpens were located down a 20-step or so descent from the main house, surrounded by thick bamboo groves. The pigs are agitated, probably feeling the tension in the air.
Once we hear the holiday pig crying, my sisters, cousins and I would gather and watch from above. I’ll spare you the gory details. (Oh well. I know it’s cruel. But how do you think the meats we buy at the market get there? I aspire to be vegetarian… One day. One day…)
The Christmas buffet table, of course, always included the hearty igado… along with Mama’s Christmas Ham… and dinuguan… and dinakdakan… and barbecue… Oh my, what a carnivorous family we are!
Sorry, I got lost in memories. Anyway, here’s the igado recipe done Mama’s way. I hope you enjoy it!
Last Sunday, it was my turn to do the market rounds. I bought some “maskara” – the term used in the meat market for pig’s face. 😛 Literally, the skin from ear to ear – cheeks, snout, chin – is the part used for cooking sisig.
I haven’t cooked sisig for a while. We (manang L, Ate Jo, and myself) rolled up our sleeves to prepare this wonderful family favorite. First, we had to thoroughly clean the maskara. Then we boiled it to tenderize. Afterward, I had the whole maskara piece chopped into several parts for grilling.
The grilling is important as it will give the nice smokey flavor, as well as make the skin crispy. Since the meat is already cooked, the grilling has to be quick, the temperature very hot. Turn often to get an even golden color and avoid burning.
The really hard part comes during chopping. I asked Manang L to sharpen the knives so it will be a breeze. I sauteed the chopped pork in lots and LOTS of onions. The mixture gets a final “crisp-izing” treatment at the oven. I topped the sisig with an egg and returned it to oven for another 30 seconds.