Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Puchero, Filipino-style


I had a craving for Filipino-style Puchero the other day. This was one of the staples that my Grandmother did on Sundays and one of my favorites. Puchero is a type of stew composed of pork or chicken, sausage, vegetables, plantains, garbanzo beans, and tomatoes. The combination of different flavors gives this dish its unique flavor. The local Filipino eateries around here rarely make this, so I had no choice but make it.

Puchero Traditional-style
Puchero served traditional-style

Again, I found a recipe at Panlasang Pinoy that I can use as a base. The first time I made this, I asked my Tita (aunt) if it was close to what Grandma did and she said that Nana fried the bananas first, perhaps to get that caramelization and bring out the sweetness. As I’ve seen in the Food Network, I decided to treat each ingredient “with love” so I opted to pre-fry the sweet potatoes as well.

The missing ingredient is Chinese Sausage. I remember that this is one of the things that I ate first because I enjoyed its sweetness. The Pork Puchero did not use sausage though, but I remember Nana using this. I referred to the Chicken Puchero recipe on how to prepare it (again, it involved treating it with love and pre-frying).

Puchero Ingredients
Someday all of these would be stew
Buying Stuff. In this case, procurement was the challenge. I had to go to three different stores, four if you count our local grocery store to get my “normal” pantry items.

My first stop was Seafood City for the saba banana and bok choy. Seafood City is one of the few places, if not the only one, around here that one can get saba. One can use plantains, but it is not the same. This was actually my favorite part of this dish, so I added another half. Remember though… key to cooking is balance.

For the bok choy, I actually just bought some last night for my stir-fry, but I think we only have two leaves left. Plus, my husband said that he loves bok choy so I bought a whole bag. He can have bok choy for a week.

Next was Ranch 99 for Chinese Sausage and Sweet Potatoes. After looking at the price, I decided not to get Chinese sausage since the last time I made this, we did not finish the last package. I thought Aidell’s Chicken-Apple sausage would be a good substitute (and guaranteed to be finished). I actually also bought my fish sauce in Ranch 99, because Seafood City only had Filipino style fish sauce. I have heard once that if one prefers milder flavor, use Thai or Vietnamese style (It also has a bit of sugar).

Puchero cooking
The term "Puchero" was derived from the word "Stew Pot"
I also bought my pork here this time. I hesitated before, but a friend said the Ranch 99 has the freshest meat available. I bought stew meat this time to save money, but I’ve used pork tenderloin in the past. Panlasang Pinoy actually recommends using Pork Belly.

I also went to the Mexican market to get the garbanzo beans. Actually, I could have bought this at my local grocery store, but I prefer getting this at the market because it is more economical (and I can get tamales and menudo for lunch – since it will take a while for this to cook).

Last stop was to my local grocery store for basics and stuff that I missed: onion, garlic, (organic) tomatoes, and tomato sauce.  For some veggies, I prefer using organic to avoid pesticides.

One last note before the recipe: This actually takes a lot of preparation. I could not imagine my Grandma doing all this, but I do remember that she had some help (but it wasn’t from us grandkids – she preferred for us to study). It also takes some time to simmer, so allocate at least two hours.

Here’s what I have so far. Try it and let me know what you think.


Pork Filipino-Style Puchero
Based on the recipe from the Pork Pochero recipe from Panlasang Pinoy and some childhood memories

Ingredients
  • 1 lb pork stew meat, cubed, fat trimmed off, but do leave some.
  • 1 piece Chicken-Apple Sausage (I like sausage so I added another half. Also if available, use 3 pieces of Chinese Sausage, sliced thinly)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon whole pepper corn
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chick peas (garbanzos)
  • 1 large plaintain banana (ripe), sliced (if this is your favorite, you can add more)
  • 1/2 medium sized sweet potato, cubed
  • About 1/4 cabbage, sliced for consistency
  • 1/4 lb long green beans
  • 1 bunch bok choy
  • 1 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 teaspoons of fish-sauce, divided (recommend Thai or Vietnamese-style)
  • Pepper to taste
  
Directions
  1. Heat cooking oil in a cooking pot. I used my Dutch oven.
  2. Fry the sweet potatoes and bananas. Remove from pot and Set aside.
  3. Fry the sausage. Remove from pot and Set aside.
  4. Sauté garlic, onions, and tomatoes. Add some pepper and 1 tsp of fish sauce (for salt, to season)
  5. Season pork with pepper. Add pork to the pot and cook until the color turns light brown.
  6. Put-in remaining fish sauce, whole peppercorn, water, and tomato sauce. Stir.
  7. Add sweet potatoes, plantains, and chick peas. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Add cabbage and long green beans. Cook for 5 minutes.
  9. Stir-in the bok choy. Cover the pot and turn off the heat.
  10. Let the residual heat cook the bok choy (about 5 minutes).
  11. Serve with rice. Enjoy!

Verdict

This recipe is very close to what my grandma did. To mind our sodium intake, mine used half of the fish sauce called for in the original recipe, but it tasted just right.  I think more may be too salty (I may still need to pay for it the next day with water retention).

My husband loves this dish. He hesitated with the bananas at first, but really enjoyed it. I probably should have used two.

Also, instead of white rice which is more typical in Filipino cuisine, I used a blend of brown rice and quinoa, just to get the extra fiber and protein.

Puchero with elevated presentation
Elevating my presentation

A challenge for me though is the ideal way to handle the peppercorns when cooking. The traditional way of making puchero is to have the peppercorns all over the dish. However, it is rather unpleasant when you bite into it. I may try it ground next time (and reduce the amount).

It is a bit mind blowing that the ingredients came from different cultures: Filipino, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, and now with the quinoa, Peruvian. I am not sure where Chicken-Apple sausage originated (Italian? California?). In reading the Wikipedia article about Puchero, I did not realize that there are other types of Puchero in South American countries and Spain. This is truly an international dish.

I need to try out a slow-cooker version of this to perhaps make it easy for me. With that, I either have to half the recipe (or more) since I have a small crockpot: a project for another day.

Hope you enjoy!


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