Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roasted Lemongrass Chicken Recipe

As of this writing, the chicken has been roasting in the oven for 45 minutes. Yesterday, I prepared the same for a couple of friends. This isn't my usual recipe but my guest was pregnant and she couldn't stand the smell of strong herbs. So instead of my usual thyme and rosemary, I used lemongrass instead. This is an easy one to make. Prep time is very short and most of the time you just have to leave the chicken in the oven.

So, to start, preheat the oven to 160-180 celsius.

Then get 3 heads of garlic. Cut one across the middle. And then just cut off the top portion of the other two. Then get some lemongrass and fold it to about 3 inches, and tie it with kitchen twine.
Then grind some peppercorns (about 1/2 teaspoon) and mix it with a teaspoon of salt.

Now, the next step is very crucial. Every professional chef I've seen on TV does this so I must do it, too. I really don't know why but it's a step that you shouldn't miss. Get some paper towels and dry the chicken.

Then stuff the lemongrass and one garlic (the one you cut in half) inside the chicken cavity.

The next step is likewise very important. It spells the different between perfectly roasted chicken and a total disaster. Get yourself a good kitchen twine and truss the chicken so the legs and wings are snugly tied against the body. You don't know how? Well then google it! Just type "How to truss a chicken?" and you'll get a couple of video demonstrations on how to do it. I learned that way.

Then put the chicken on the roasting pan breast side down. Put in the two heads of garlic and place it cut side up.

Cover the roasting pan with foil.

Then put the pan inside the 160-180 degree oven. Leave it alone for one hour.

After an hour, take out the foil and put pieces of butter squares all over the chicken. If you want to be healthy, pour a little olive oil instead. But where's the fun in that? And it's New Year! Loosen up and indulge in the rich, creamy flavor of butter. Now put it back in the oven. Increase the temperature to 200 degrees and keep it there for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, carefully flip the chicken on its back. Slather more butter onto the chest. Increase the temperature to 220 degrees and leave it alone for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, open the oven and saturate your kitchen with the mouthwatering aroma of perfectly roasted chicken.

Update: Here's the roasted chicken, after two hours in the oven.

The skin is thin and crisp, while the meat is very juicy and fall-off-the-bones tender. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before carving. That will allow the juices to redistribute and will make the chicken even more flavorful.

And don't ignore the garlic! It's great to spread on toasted bread or do what I do - crush it in rice and eat with your chicken. Yum!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Baguio 2006

I just unearthed these old photos from Ariel's hard drive and realized that I didn't have prints of these photos. It was a memorable trip for us as this was only the second time that Ariel and I drove to Baguio together, the first time was the day after our wedding and we stayed only for two nights before we left for our honeymoon in Palawan.

Anyway, we were supposed to go with my family. However, typhoon Reming was supposed to hit the country and my parents, brother and his then fiance was afraid to take the trip and backed out at the last minute. We just recovered from the Milenyo flooding and we were also apprehensive to leave. However, by 5am on November 30th, Manila still had very clear skies. Ariel and I decided to wait it til mid morning. By 9am, there was still no sign of the typhoon so we decided to drive up north. We figured if the typhoon catches us, we can stop and spend the night somewhere. Anyway, we got to Baguio mid afternoon and the weather was great. We later found out that Reming hit Bicol and spared Manila and Cavite.

It was a very relaxing trip for us. I brought my beading supplies and just made little accessories and embellishments. Ariel and I stayed in the Coke Baguio House most of the time.

We went out a few times to have lunch and dinner. This was my favorite photo from the trip and it was taken at Cafe by the Ruins.

It was already very cold specially in the morning. We enjoyed waking up late and staying in most of the morning.

Ariel played the guitar while I made beaded embellishments.

We cooked rice and Spam for breakfast. We love eating at the breakfast nook.

On our third day, we went to Tam-Awan village.

We explored the hiking trail and worked up a sweat.

Then we relaxed at the Baguio house. That evening, when we plugged in the laptop, there was a loud pop and then all lights went off. Ariel grabbed the flashlight (thankfully, we bought one on our way to Baguio) and told me to stay put as he would go down to look for the circuit breaker. Scenes from horror movies flashed in my mind. So I told Ariel he's not leaving me alone in the room. I went down with him and located the circuit breaker. Within minutes, the lights were back on again.

We took photos of ourselves. This was back when we relied solely on our P & S for photos. Most of the shots were grainy, but I love them all.

We also got in touch with Eric and invited him and his mom over for dinner. We ordered pizza and just enjoyed a quiet dinner at the house.

On our way home, we stopped by Isdaan in Gerona, Tarlac for lunch. No nice photos from there, only fond memories.

Overall, a fun trip. We were both glad we decided to push through with it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sewing Machine or Lens?

In less than a month, I will celebrate my birthday. It will be a different celebration this time since I'm spending a couple of days with my entire family in Singapore, instead of just with Ariel which has been the case for the past 8 years.

Anyway, I've been thinking of my "wish list" for quite some time now. At some point, I was considering an iPhone.

I have an iPod touch and I love it. So I thought my next phone should be an iPhone. Later I thought it to be impractical considering that we have "free" phone with Ariel's corporate plan. And even if I ended up adding a few thousand bucks for the Nokia N97 model that I opted for, it's still tons cheaper than if I got the iPhone. After all, I've always had Nokia from the very first analog phone. And I still have my iPod Touch, which I now use as a portable movie payer. I'm not much of a music person anyway.

Then I went on a weekend crop with some friends in Tagaytay.

I grew up with two dressmakers for grandmothers. I've learned to sew at an early age and my Barbie doll matched my own outfits. It was only natural that I use stitching in my scrapbooks. In fact, I've already bought 2 sewing machines - an old heavy duty one which survived the Milenyo flooding but is no longer working at optimal levels, and a small portable one that can't handle cardstock. So I went on a hunt for the perfect sewing machine. And I found this.

I showed this to Ariel in one of our visits to Anson's. I told him I am considering this as a possible birthday gift from him to me. Anyway, when we went on a weekend crop in Tagaytay, Mia brought her Singer baby and let me use it. In fact, I made a couple of layouts and cards with machine stitching. I got to use ALL of the stitches available in this baby. Needless to say, when I got back home, I told Ariel that this is what I want for my birthday.

That is until August 15th when I attended the food photography workshop by Mr. Ricky Ladia. I went home thinking "I've got to have a macro lens!"

I am still researching but this is what I have in mind, so far.

Of course, an L lens is out of the question unless I plan to make money out of it so this is the next best thing. Since we are going to Singapore, I thought we'll check out the prices there first before actually making the purchase.

Any reco from my photography friends? I really have to make a good decision here. I can't afford to buy new lenses every now and then so this has to be THE macro lens I will be committing with for the rest of my life, probably. Is there a cheaper option? :D

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Adventures and Misadventures in Vietnam and Cambodia - Part 3

This is part 3 of our Vietnam-Cambodia adventure. If you missed the previous posts, check out Part 1 and Part 2 first.

My ankle felt a little better when I woke up at half past four in the morning. The swelling has subsided although it was still a bit painful. The massage did help. Advil helped, too.

Another early day. Our first stop was Srah Srang, best viewed at sunrise, according to our guide book. We got to the viewing platform around 5am. It was pitch black. Several kids followed us offering coffee and breakfast. We promised one kid we will have coffee after taking photos of the sunrise. We took our post in what we thought would afford us the best view. Before long, other tourists arrived and it became a little bit crowded. We were still able to get a couple of sunrise shots.
It was a beautiful spot, perfect for a relaxing morning coffee.
Keeping our promise, we went to have coffee in the nearby stall. We also bought some bread sustain us through the morning's activities. The coffee was very good, with a dollop of condensed milk.

After Srah Srang, we headed to Banteay Srei - about 20 kms north of Angkor, and almost an hour in our trusty Tuktuk. It was a great idea to start early as this temple is a bit small and can easily get crowded. Anyway, when we got there, tourists were already pouring in. It was a beautiful temple, made of red sandstone. The warm glow of the morning sun highlights the intricate carvings that cover most of the temple's surfaces. It was the most beautiful temple we've seen in Siem Reap.

Most of the outer structures are already in ruins but the carvings on the remains are still very much visible.

The inner structures are still well-preserved and are roped off to keep tourists from touching the delicate wall carvings.

Like most temples in Angkor, Banteay Srei is surrounded by a moat.

Just outside the temple perimeter, colorful souvenir shops line the street leading into the temple grounds.

Our next stop was a respite from ll the temple hopping we've been doing in the past two days. We went to the controversial Landmine Museum. It was controversial because the local government didn't support it at first thinking that it will paint a scary picture of Cambodia, and will not help boost tourism. It actually became a populat tourist attraction and even generated awareness and support for demining efforts in Cambodia.

The museum boasts of hundreds of detonated bombs and landmines, mostly collected by the founder Aki Ra.
Ariel and Sophal goofing off

After the Landmine Museum, we drove to Banteay Samre, a less popular but nevertheless spectacular temple. It's a little bit out of the way which may be why some tourists opt to skip this one.

While the north entrance welcomed us from the main road, we circled around the perimeter and entered through the east entrance instead.

Inside, it looks like a miniature version of Angkor Wat. There were very few tourists that time so we were able to take lots of couple shots, courtesy of our tour guide.

Our last temple for the day is Bateay Kdei which is actually just across Srah Srang.

The temple was in a very ruined state and it was a bit scary to walk along the walls as it felt like they were going to topple over us.

We asked our Tuktuk driver Kun and guide Sophal to drop us off at the hotel as we had an afternoon appointment at Quad Adventure. We were supposed to be picked up at 12:30pm and it was already noon. We quickly unloaded our gear bringing only our camera and wallets and headed to Apsara Burger just a few meters from our hotel. We grabbed a quick bite of Cheeseburger, fries and soda (USD8), and got into the tuktuk sent by Quad Adventure.

We were met by Herve, the owner. After a quick orientation and a test drive, we were off to the countryside. We opted to get just one ATV with Ariel as the designated driver.
We took the Discovery Tour which allowed us to see the beautiful countryside. We took short pauses every now and then to take photos of traditional Khmer houses, creeks, ducks, and kids playing. I felt like a Miss World contestant as we drove along the dirtroad. They would wave at us so I would wave back and smile, despite the fact that dust was flying all around us.

Ariel had a blast driving the ATV at full speed. I was hanging on for dear life fearing for that one bump that will send me flying out of my seat, and constantly whispering to Ariel to slow down a bit. Men and speed. Sigh. He had a great time. I could tell.

Our last stop was at the Chres Village School and Orphanage where we were able to see kids learning English and other languages. I consider this the highlight of our ATV adventure. We met some of the teachers, most of them volunteers, and watched the classes. We interacted with the kids during recess and even shared some of their snacks.

Not all the kids in the classes are orphans. Some live in the area and they go to the orphanage to learn English.

We spent a bit of time at the orphanage as our guide's motorcycle had a flat tire. We waited for the replacement tire to be sent from the Quad Adventure station.

When we got back to the Quad Adventure home base, we were handed cold towels which we used to clean up our faces. Ewww!
We tool a long shower when we got back to the hotel. Every inch of exposed skin was covered in red dust. Our clothes were very filthy and I had to clean my camera bag, too.

We decided to walk to Pub Street to take some photos along the way. Armed with our heavy tripod, we were able to take photos of the well-lighted Siem Reap river.

There were many couples dating along the river. If we weren't very hungry, we would have lingered a while longer.

After a few minutes walk, we were back at Pub Street.
We decided to try the Khmer BBQ. We were given an iron grill with hot coals inside and some kind of a channel around it for soup. We grilled the meet on top and cooked veggies in the hot soup. Yummy!

Wonderful day!

To view all the photos for day 3, click HERE.