Sir Mix-Mix A-Lot

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My first memory of devouring halo-halo (pronounced hollow-hollow, and Tagalog for “mix-mix”) was at an early age at Magic Wok, a Filipino restaurant in L.A. close to where I grew up. (The restaurant is luckily still around, but it’s now called Crispy House, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in L.A.) The food was soooo good; the best Filipino food I’ve ever had–crispy pata (fried pork belly), Shanghai lumpiang (Chinese-style deep-fried egg rolls), chicken adobo (braised chicken in herbs, vinegar and soy sauce), pancit bihon (stir-fried rice noodles), and of course, the house special halo-halo, a shaved ice/ice cream dessert with milk, Spanish flan, and various beans. Yes, beans. As in, frijoles.

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

Anthony Bourdain tried it for the first time on his show, Parts Unknown, and described it as, “It makes no goddam sense at all; I like it,”  and “it’s oddly beautiful.”

The standout part of halo-halo is the bright purple scoop of ice cream gracing the top of the ice-cold glass, called ube, a naturally-hued purple yam. Yes, yam. Yes, it’s purple. And it’s delicious.

Alone the beans, milk, ice cream, flan, shaved ice, and chunks of jackfruit and various jellies, are odd, but once mix-mixed, the blend of savory, sweet, creamy, caramel and sometimes tangy work perfectly well together. It actually works.

The key to enjoying halo-halo to its fullest is doing exactly what its name asks: mix! And mix! Use a long spoon to mix all the layers of ingredients together.

I haven’t had legit halo-halo in a few years, but during a recent trip to the local Asian market, I stumbled upon a quart of Magnolia’s Ube ice cream. I quickly added it to my basket and enjoyed it at home. I wanted to recreate the halo-halo that reminds me of the ones I had at Magic Wok with my family. Here’s my take on Filipino halo-halo, with homemade ube ice cream and Spanish-style flan!

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FOR THE ICE CREAM

Ube Ice Cream
Yields about 2 quarts
Recipe slightly adapted from Rot In Rice

INGREDIENTS
16 ounces (1 package) ube, grated purple yam*
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
(*Cook’s Note: Ube/grated purple yam can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
If your ube is uncooked (as most are in the package) steam it in a double boiler for about 20-30 minutes.

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Carefully remove the cooked ube and mash it with a fork.

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In a large sauce pot, heat the sugar and milks over medium-low heat till just-summering. Add in the mashed ube and mix till completely incorporated.

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Place the mixture into a blender or stick blender and purée till smooth. Mix in the heavy cream and salt.

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Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grainy bits. Discard those bits. Place the ice cream base into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

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Place the ice cream base into your ice cream maker bowl, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Enjoy!

FOR ASSEMBLING THE HALO-HALO

Halo-Halo
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
Spanish flan (recipe HERE)
Ube ice cream (recipe above)
1 can evaporated milk
4 cups crushed or shaved ice
1 jar Halo-Halo mix*
(Cook’s Note: Halo-Halo mix can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
Gather 4 sundae or chalice glasses (I used a tulip-style one). Add a scoop of the ice in each, then add a layer of the halo-halo mix.

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Layer on another scoop of ice and halo-halo mix after that till you reach about 1/3 to the rim.

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Cut the flan into quarters and place a wedge on the top of each glass with 1-2 scoops of ube ice cream. Top with enough evaporated milk to cover a 1/4 to the rim.

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General Custard

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This Spanish-style flan recipe is super easy to make. I love using this recipe to accompany this Filipino Halo-Halo dessert recipe.

Spanish Flan
Serves 4
Recipe slightly adapted from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
kettle of boiling water

METHOD
Preheat your own to 350 degrees F. Place your ramekins (or whatever vessel you’ll be cooking your flans in) into the oven on a sheet tray to warm up.

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Heat a medium-sized sauce pan to medium-low, then add the sugar until it’s caramelized and brown.

While your sugar heats up, mix together the eggs and milks in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

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When the sugar becomes syrupy, turn off the heat and immediately pour into your warming ramekins.

(Cook’s Note: Heating the ramekins beforehand helps the caramel maintain its heat and not harden immediately.)

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Carefully pour the custard mixture into the filled ramekins. Then place the ramekins into a large, shallow ovenproof pan. Fill the pan with the boiling water about 1-inch from the base of the ramekin. Cover with foil and place into the oven for 40 minutes.

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Check for doneness, then allow to cool completely. When serving, completely trace the outside of the flan with a knife and then invert the ramekin onto a serving plate.

Call Me Miss Honey Lavender Stracciatella

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I’ve been binge-watching LogoTV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for the past month. All seven seasons. It’s an addiction I’m very happy to admit. I love me some drag queens and especially love me some RuPaul.

(PS: How has she not aged an ounce?! Get it, mama Ru!)

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I remember watching RuPaul’s talk show (The RuPaul Show) on Vh1 in the late-90s. I was in middle school when it aired, and was so enamored by Ru. What a talent, I thought; you couldn’t keep your eyes off her. I was a fan of hers then and am an even bigger fan of her now. The Drag Race competition show is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it while I’m getting dressed for work, while I’m cooking, and when I unwind after getting off from work. And while most shows lose their luster after each season, Drag Race does quite the opposite: it gains more fans and attention with every year.

When I was deciding to make a new ice cream for this week’s post I immediately turned to my mini garden I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of my favorite things I’m growing right now is lavender. The aroma is so soothing and delicious; I so desperately have been wanting an excuse to cook with it.

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My idea was to create a honey lavender ice cream with a twist–add some chocolate. Dark chocolate and lavender go so well together, I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to pair these flavors for this ice cream flavor. And instead of simply adding chips, I wanted to make a stracciatella-type ice cream. The soft, mellow taste from the lavender ice cream immediately reach your taste buds, and then these quick yet small bursts of chocolate melt in your mouth and add a lasting finish. Both flavors are undeniably perfect together, much like RuPaul and Michelle Visage!

And how great of a drag queen name is Honey Lavender Stracciatella? It’s mine now!

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Honey Lavender Stracciatella Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart

INGREDIENTS
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 Tablespoons lavender buds, dried
6 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup 60% dark chocolate chips (or bar cut into chunks)

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METHOD
In a small pot, heat 2 cups of the milk till just-scalding.

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Place the lavender buds in a separate medium-sized pan (preferable shallow).

When the milk is scalding, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the shallow pan with the lavender buds. This will “shock” the lavender and immediately extract all of the essential oils you want to obtain to get the greatest amount of flavor. Turn on the heat to medium-low and whisk occasionally to avoid scorching. Add in the honey and salt. Allow flower buds to steep in the heated milk for about an hour, adjusting the heat if it gets too hot or cool.

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In a separate mixing bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk rigorously till thickened. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk to thicken.

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After the lavender/milk mixture has steeped for about an hour, strain the milk with a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the flowers. Return half of the milk into the shallow pan, turning the heat up to medium. Place about 1/4 of the strained milk slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. This is called “tempering” the eggs. You’re essentially heating up the eggs very slowly avoiding to curdling them. Whisk and slowly add in more of the lavender/milk liquid until the mixture is warmed.

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Then add the egg yolk/milk mixture into the shallow pan, incorporating it with the rest of the heated lavender/milk base. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure not to overcook the eggs. Adjust the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat to maintain an even cooking temperature. Once the mixture has thickened to the point where the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Immediately transfer to a shallow bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool down.

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(Cook’s note: If you see the sides of the pan start to “cook” you’ve overcooked your eggs and must immediately remove from the heat and strain the mixture and place in an ice bath to cool down. When you overcook the mixture you’ll end up with a scrambled egg-tasting ice cream base, or even worse, scrambled eggs!)

Once the mixture has cooled down, remove from the ice bath. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to cool down for an additional 3 hours, overnight if possible.

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Pour your ice cream base into your ice cream maker when you’re ready to churn it. Follow churning process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you have about 30 minutes left of churning, set up a double boiler, and place the chocolate chips into a heat-resistant bowl to melt the chocolate.

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While the ice cream is churning, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate. The circular motion from the churning will create “shards” from the chocolate once it’s frozen. Which is exactly what “stracciatella” means in Italian:,“little shreds” or “little tears.”

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Cover and place the ice cream into the freezer and allow to firm for at least 3 hours.

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(Editor’s Note: All TV show screenshots in this story are property of World of Wonder Productions.)

The Horchata Made Me Do It!

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Well, summer is officially here, and temperatures are continuing to rise in Portland. It’s warm at home and it’s doubly horrendous when you work in a hot kitchen all day.

Horchata (or Orxata de xufa, depending upon the flavors and Spanish or Latin American region) was originated in Valencia, Spain, where they traditionally use tigernuts (chufa nuts). In Mexico and Guatemala, they use rice as the base of the drink. The Mexican version is what I grew up drinking. (I have also, however, had the Spanish version a few years ago when I vacationed in Spain. It is also, very very good.)

On my day off last week, I made these Mexican Horchata popsicles to help cool down. (And who doesn’t like horchata? It’s so freaking delicious!) I had some leftover horchata base at home and decided to bring it to work to treat my fellow co-workers.

When I started pouring glasses of the Horchata and distributing them to the prep kitchen, more of my fellow cooks came up to me, asking for a glass. Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared for such a demand and only had enough to feed a few of my co-workers, so I had to think fast and bulk up the batch I had made on-the-fly.

I slowly went down the line and passed glasses of the ice-cold Horchata I had made to all the line cooks. Even in 100-degree weather and a full house of diners (in arguably one of the busiest restaurants in the city), the guys didn’t hesitate to take a second and gulp down that ice-cold cinnamon sweetness. In just a matter of seconds–faces full of sweat, and urgency turned into big smiles of pure delight and relief.

When I returned to my station and went back to work, in a matter of moments I heard calls for more Horchata.

“I’m gonna need more of that cinnamon drink,” said one.

“That was the best Horchata I’ve ever had,” said another.

“This is my first Horchata and I know it’s the best one I’ll ever have,” exclaimed another.

Haha.

And then my sous chef came up to me and pleaded that I make Horchata for all the Back of House once every week.

OK, alright. That’s a deal.

While this Horchata mix is clearly delightful on its own, freezing them into popsicles makes them even more appealing, especially in 3-digit weather.

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Mexican Horchata Popsicles
Recipe adapted from The Candid Appetite
Yields 10-20 popsicles (depending on the size of your molds)

INGREDIENTS
1½ cups long grain rice (uncooked)
4 cups hot water
1-14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup coconut milk
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dark rum

a streetcar named devour mep horchata

METHOD
Place the rice, hot water, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, and cinnamon sticks into a large bowl. Stir the mixture to combine well.

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Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap at room temperature for about 1½ hours. Discard the cinnamon sticks and strain the rice, reserving the liquid in a separate container.

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Place the rice in a blender or food processor. Blend on medium-high till the rice is pureed and smooth. Slowly add in the reserved liquid. Once all of the liquid has been pureed, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Discard rice paste remnants.

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Stir in the ground cinnamon, sugar, salt, and rum to the strained mixture. Place the horchata mixture into popsicle molds.

Set popsicles in the freezer for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight before serving.

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When ready to serve, gently run cold water on the outside of the mold to loosen and release popsicle.

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Marta! Marta! Marta!

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And now a scene from one of my favorite movies:

(This scene in Clueless always makes me laugh. Cher is so ignorant clueless, she doesn’t realize that her maid, Lucy, is from El Salvador, not Mexico. And that they are, in fact, two different countries. Luckily, hunky Josh sets the record straight.)

I first learned how to make traditional El Salvadorian pupusas with a very fiesty 50-something-year-old woman named Marta. I worked with Marta at a restaurant a few years ago; she was our dishwasher who’d come into work every day with the reddest lipstick and a full face of makeup and her curly hair all styled perfectly. You wouldn’t think she came into work to wash dishes by the way she presented herself. She took pride in the way she looked, and always joked to me and the other cooks that she was a “hot mama.”

Marta didn’t speak a word of English, so we communicated with each other in Spanish. Marta called me “Selena” because I would often belt out a song by the Tejano singer when I’d bring dishes to the dishpit, and she would be there, smiling brightly as I sang the words to “Como La Flor” with such passion and conviction. (Marta was one of my biggest fans.)

I learned in our conversations that she owned a pupuseria in El Salvador. How fortunate was I to work with a real pupusa expert?! “Mira, Selena,” she’d say, as she brought me and the staff pupusas con chicharones (shredded pork) and share them with the staff. I wanted so desperately to pick her brain and learn how to make the pupusas myself. So after a while we began serving her pupusas once a month in the restaurant, and guess who made them with her? Yep, me. Working next to her as she formed and shaped the pupusa balls at lightning speed was so impressive. It was, at first, quite difficult catching up to her. (She had been making pupusas for 40+ years.) But I was determined to be well versed in pupusa-making. And after a while, I got pretty good at it! Here are the recipes I remember making with Marta.

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El Salvadorian Pupusas with Curtido and Salsa Roja
Yields 5 pupusas; 1 quart curtido; 1 pint salsa roja

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CURTIDO
1/2 head of small green cabbage, julienned thin
2 each carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 white onion, julienned thin
1/2 cup white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

FOR THE SALSA ROJA
1 each canned tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
1 bunch fresh oregano, picked
1/2 white onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, tops cut off and deseeded
1 each lime, juiced
Kosher salt, to taste
splash olive oil, to taste

FOR THE PUPUSAS
2 cups masa harina (corn flour, I used Maseca)
2 cups water
1 cup shredded habanero jack cheese
2 jalapeños, minced
oil for frying

METHOD
FOR THE CURTIDO (cabbage slaw)
Mix the shredded cabbage, onion, carrots in a large bowl. Sprinkle salt and add in the vinegar and herbs. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Set aside for at least 1 hour to allow the cabbage to break down.

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FOR THE SALSA ROJA
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor till fully incorporated. Add salt to taste. Set aside.

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FOR THE PUPUSAS
In a large bowl and with your hands, mix the masa, salt and water till the dough is thoroughly mixed and feels like slightly wet clay or Play-Doh.

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Divvy up with dough and form into large balls. You should have about 5. In a small bowl add the minced jalapeños and shredded cheese. Add a splash of water to help bind the cheese-chile filling together.

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Fill a small bowl with lukewarm water. This water will help you when working with the pupusa dough, as it may harden and may become difficult to shape. Take one of the masa balls into your hand and flatten it onto your palm, creating a plate-like shape. Place a dollop of the cheese-chile mixture into the middle of the masa ball.

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Bring the outer sides of the masa to the other side to close the filling. Press down on the sides together to seal the seams. Shape the pupusa balls into a saucer-like shape. Dip your hands into the water bowl to add moisture to the dough if needed. Using some of the water also helps to close the seams and any cracks the dough may create.

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Fill a cast-iron skillet or shallow pan with about a half-inch of oil and turn the heat onto medium. When the skillet is hot and a little haze is over the oil, slowly add in the pupusas without overcrowding the pan.

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Allow the pupusas to cook for about 5 minutes per side. Using a heat-resistant spatula, place the fried pupusas onto a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat till all pupusas are cooked off. Serve with curtido and salsa.

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Let’s Cross Over

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For the last leg of Liz’s journey, she finds “LOVE” in Bali. Meeting her future husband, Felipe (real name: Jose Nunes), helped change her way of thinking. She discovered that she can find balance with love and spirituality. She not only found love in the form of her soulmate, but she also found love in the friends she met (not just in Indonesia, but throughout her journey) like Ketut Liyer, Wayan Nuriasih and Tutti.

I felt that a sweet dish would be the best representation of Liz’s time in Bali. I could just imagine young Tutti making these fun and easy-to-make sweet treats with her mom.

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Gemblong (Indonesian Sweet Rice and Coconut Fritters)
Yields about 14 fritters

INGREDIENTS
2 cups sweet rice flour (I used Koda Farms Blue Star® Mochiko)
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk, heated
1/4 cup water
2-3 cups oil, for frying
1 pint coconut-caramel sauce (recipe HERE)

METHOD
In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk and water till almost boiling. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Set aside.

Place the oil in a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat till oil is shimmering (not exactly boiling but very hot!).

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Mix together the rice flour, coconut flakes and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
Slowly add in the heated liquids, using a rubber spatula to mix it all together. Once all of the liquid has been added use your hands to finish incorporating the dough. The dough should be slightly damp, like cookie dough.

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Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or scoop, portion out 12-14 balls of dough. Form the dough balls into about 1/2-inch thick, cylindrical patties.

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Place one of the patties into the frying oil to check for proper temperature. The patty should start frying immediately but not so much that the fritter begins to burn quickly. Adjust temperature of oil as needed. Fry the dough for about 2-3 minutes then flip, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the oil using a pair of tongs and place onto a paper towel-lined platter to cool down.

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Once cooled down (about 10 minutes), dip into the caramel sauce (recipe HERE) and shake off the excess sauce, and place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined sheet tray to dry.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)