Filipino Feast


I'm a sucker for a reason to make a meal... and I love when the reason comes with a kickstart for what to eat. It's part of the reason we ended up with all those multi-course meals for Downton Abbey last year.

If I'm doing some slightly more adventurous cooking, it tends to be on Sunday. More time for prep. More time for errands. More time for reading the recipe two and three times. So, last Sunday was the season finale of Survivor and seemed like another great occasion to try something different. While a part of me wanted to just pull together a favorite fish dish from my repertoire, it felt like an opportunity to try some Filipino inspired food. The rationale being that this season of Survivor was held in the Philippines.

The meal itself was actually rather easy to pull together. It isn't a "one pot wonder" meal ... rather two - but that's okay. There isn't any fancy prep required. Just simple chopping, sautéing, and patiently waiting for the rice. It isn't exactly the most photogenic meal ever but I think that's the nature of the beast.

Here's how it goes.
Chicken Afritada (based on this recipe)
A few notes on this dish before you get started.
  • Chicken. This recipe called for chicken thighs and I'm not a huge fan of them - but I used them. Next time I will use chicken breasts because I just really prefer that cut of chicken. 
  • So filling. The final dish is so filling and hearty that you'll be surprised how much you end up with for leftovers. 
  • Rice. I don't have a rice cooker but this would be a great occasion for one. I can't even describe how terrible I am at making rice. I'm the worst. I would be voted off the island first for not being able to provide edible food. 

(Step 1) Marinate the chicken thighs in soy sauce and black pepper for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
(Step 2) In a dutch oven over medium heat, heat the canola oil and brown the garlic and set aside.
(Step 3) Add the chicken, and brown on all sides. Add onions and season with fish sauce. When the onions are soft and transparent, stir in the tomato paste. After two minutes, stir in the water, sugar, potatoes, half the bell peppers, Tabasco, bay leaves, and reserved garlic. Let come to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked and the potatoes are fork tender.
(Step 4) Add the remaining bell peppers and cook for about 7 minutes more. Season to taste with additional fish sauce, black pepper, or if you desire more heat, Tabasco. Remove bay leaves and discard. Serve immediately over rice.

Lengua de gato (based on this recipe)
When I was looking for dessert inspiration, there were a lot that looked amazing but significantly more involved than I was hoping for. There were only going to be two of us, not 8, so a cake seemed a bit much. I found these cookies and was won over quickly. They called for "calamansi" rind which I absolutely could not locate ... and had a really challenging time figuring out a reasonable substitute. Seriously, go ahead and Google it. I'm not sure how something could be lemon, lime, and orange all at the same time but it seems possible. So, I just used lime and went with it.

These cookies end up like a shortbread consistency. They aren't really sweet like a chocolate chip cookie, so don't expect that. They also aren't exactly something you'd bring to an American cookie swap but that is exactly what they are used for in the Philippines. Lenguas de gato are a classic Christmas cookie in the Philippines.
(Step 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets and set aside.
(Step 2) Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed. Add vanilla and calamansi rind and beat on medium. Add egg whites and continue to beat until very lightly textured.
(Step 3) Slowly stir in the flour and add salt.
(Step 4) The original recipe suggested using a pastry bag but I felt like my dough was too thick for that - maybe I did something wrong... So instead I just rolled it into a log and cut it like refrigerator cookie dough. Worked like a charm. Bake until cookies are very lightly browned around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them immediately from the pan and cool on cooling racks.

Shopping List
Chicken Afritada
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 inch pieces
2 bell peppers (red, yellow or a combination)
2 bay leaves
several dashes Tabasco Habanero Sauce, to taste

Lengua de gato
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon calamansi zest (I used lime)
1 T lime juice
2 egg whites
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt

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