Millie: I have learned many lessons during the last six months; the most meaningful is the appreciation and celebration of life! So many people I have known all my life, or even briefly, yet for a purpose, have gone on. I now eagerly look forward to little celebrations on Zoom or any virtual means because of the pandemic.
Karla and I live 10 steps away from my sister Dorcie's home and I am so glad we were invited to join in their family's celebration of her husband Benjie's birthday. To follow IATF's guidelines, we were socially distanced and wore our facemasks, but took them off while eating and drinking.
Karla: In preparation for tito Benjie’s birthday dinner, Tita Dorcie asked me to help her prepare a birthday spread. This year, we came up with a Spanish-themed dinner. I discovered that Barcino recently launched their ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook line through their website. Together, Tita Dorcie and I checked out their offerings and built a menu around it. Since the dinner was still for another day, I froze everything except for the rice.
On the day of the dinner, my cousin and pseudo-sous chef Benjo, came over around 5:30 p.m. to help me put the dinner together. Under my supervision and instruction, he was able to perfectly season a whole chicken with salt, pepper and paprika and roast it with garlic, lemon and chicken stock.
While that was in the oven, we made appetizers, using the jamon Serrano from Barcino. I chopped them into smaller pieces and mixed it in a garlic-mayo dip on top of La Petite Fromagerie crostinis and garnished with blue Ternate petals from our garden.
And finally, it was time to make the paella. The birthday boy, Tito Benjie, personally went to the grocery that day and purchased prawns and mussels to add to his paella. I sautéed the prawns just until they were half-cooked, slightly steamed the mussels and set both aside. Without throwing out the seafood broth, I used the same pan to heat the Barcino paella stock with chicken and the packet of chorizo. Once the stock was boiling, I added in the rice and turned the heat down, as per instructions provided. I covered the pan and set the timer for 20 minutes.
Five minutes before the time was up, I added and decorated the top of the paella with prawns, mussels and green olives, and covered it again for the remaining 5 minutes and it was all set, just in time for dinner.
By the time I got to our neighbor’s house, we had a full spread on the dinner table. The lazy Susan was so full that we could barely turn it!
For tapas, we had the jamon Serrano on crostinis, air-fried Barcino croquetas de chorizo and sautéed chorizo. Isn’t it obvious that we like chorizo and jamon? Haha!
Millie: My youngest sister Dorcie, whom we call our “one-hit wonder,” surprised us with two versions of lengua. The first was the regular kind with mushrooms and light-brown gravy, and the second version with a creamy sauce. The ox tongue cuts were thick and tender. Everyone was impressed!
The birthday boy was not to be outdone. Benjie insisted on cooking one of his family's favorite dishes, the Fabada! To my surprise, he ate it with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Actually, Karla had ordered Barcino's Fabada, which came frozen, ready to heat with matchbox cuts of pork belly, blood sausage and a favorite ingredient we can never have enough of: chorizo, ahhh! But since Benjie had already made his own version, we decided to keep the Barcino Fabada for yet another meal.
Little did we know that Dorcie had a backup plan, just in case, if all else failed. Haha! She also served us The Plaza's boil-in-bag callos Madrileña. It comes frozen and vacuum-packed. We call it “boil-in-bag” because you literally drop the entire bag in a pot of boiling water for five to seven minutes if the contents have been thawed, or 12 to 15 minutes if straight from the freezer. We ate the callos and fabada as pica-pica or tapas-style with crostinis while chatting and laughing, as we reminisced about funny moments.
In keeping with the Spanish theme, for our meal ender and to sweeten our palates, Dorcie's daughter Bea ordered our favorite Brazo de Mercedes from La Brazzoria de Lasevil and, as usual, I had the oozing yema filling, making everyone laugh at me.
There was actually so much food that evening, yet I don't know how we managed to finish off five bottles of wine between the six of us!
I believe Filipinos will always find a reason to celebrate. Be it for the blessing of a newborn baby or a union of two hearts, in Thanksgiving for another year, or for having lived a full life. For this, I am grateful.
By: Millie and Karla Reyes(Philstar.com)
Sep 17, 2020