Wednesday, June 10, 2015

From Page to Plate: Chef Sau del Rosario's 20 Years of Love + Cooking

The celebration of food goes beyond the mere appreciation of the moment's flavors, it's the stories behind each dish, weaving its own colorful thread, that add to a memorable dining experience... 

Chef Sau del Rosario celebrates two flavorful decades of culinary excellence and adventures around the world with the launching of his book, 20 Years of Love + Cooking, last June 8, 2015 at Epicurious Manila. More than just a collection of recipes, with many cherished Capampangan family recipes from Chef Sau del Rosario's mother and mentor, the book chronicles the passion, struggle, and perseverance of Chef Sau's phenomenal rise as one of the country's culinary pillars. It is also a thanksgiving tribute to the people who were an integral part of Chef Sau's culinary journey, stories that add so much flavor to the recipes contained in the book.

20 Years of Love + Cooking is part cookbook, part memoir, retracing Chef Sau's culinary journey from his early years as a food lover in his native Pampanga, to his colorful and daring adventures in Paris, his successful stints in Asia, and his eventual return to the Philippines. The book is a virtual tapestry of stories from his family, friends, and colleagues, each providing a unique glimpse of Chef Sau as a person and as a professional. It's these stories that add a deeply personal perspective to over fifty delectable recipes detailed in the book, each one exceptionally photographed with interesting narratives behind each dish. During the book launch, Chef Sau, assisted by long-time friend and collaborator, Chef Edith Singian, prepared an elegant three-course lunch from recipes contained in his book.

Food was always a part of Chef Sau's life, from his early days as a child assisting Imang Garding, his mom, in the family kitchen, leading to his early days in Manila's top hotels to some of the world's best restaurants like Restaurant L'univer and Le Divellec in Paris. At the launch, Chef Edith Singian (L) joined Chef Sau for the demo. 

Epicurious Manila, located at the new East Wing of Edsa Shangri-La Plaza Mall, was the perfect venue for the launch. A stylish cafe, bakery and deli, Epicurious Manila offers a wide selection gourmet items, including premium cheeses, smoked and cured meats, and an extensive selection of wines.

Inside the wide and expansive interiors of Epicurious Manila, one is drawn to the many delectable offerings, like the savory Maple Ham Sandwich (L) and the creative and colorful Big Burger Cake (R), with rum-infused chocolate cake patty in between butter cake buns topped with sesame seeds. 

Selected wines from Beringer Wines were also served during the book launch along with a special three-course lunch prepared by Chefs Sau del Rosario and Edith Singian. One of the oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley, Beringer is Chef Sau's personal choice. 

As Chefs Sau and Edith prepped for the cooking demonstration, Epicurious Manila served freshly baked rolls and their signature Chicken Liver Pate to the invited guests. The perfect starter for the elegant three-course lunch by Chefs Sau del Rosario and Edith Singian.

The various ingredients for the different courses were then assembled and prepared, all under the cool and watchful supervision of Chef Sau del Rosario. The dishes were plated, and with Chef Sau's approval, served to the guests.  

Chef Sau's first course is an homage to his Capampangan roots, with his modern interpretation of the classic and traditional Tamales, served in an elegant glass bowl. The iconic Capampangan dish traces its origins to Mexico during the height of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade back in the Spanish colonial era. Unlike the original Mexican tamales, made from corn mash and wrapped in corn husks, the local version uses milled rice and wrapped in banana leaves. Also called "Bobotu" in Pampanga, the tamales was traditionally prepared by women while the men went out to vote, hence the name "Bobotu" or to "to vote" in the Capampangan dialect. Usually wrapped in banana leaves before steaming to form its shape, Chef Sau boldly applies modern techniques and presentation for an updated version, recreating traditional flavors in a refreshing new execution.

Chef Sau's version is creamier and more indulgent than the traditional tamales, with flavorful strips of tender chicken topped with peanuts and quail eggs and drizzled with annatto oil. Each spoonful bursts with familiar flavors, with a silky smooth texture releasing distinct notes from the creamy coconut milk punctuated by the nutty hint of crispy garlic bits. Chef Sau's culinary experience, from his childhood adventures in his mother's family kitchen and stints in prestigious world-class restaurants in France, are clearly represented in this Capampangan dish. Comfortingly familiar yet refreshing new and different, this was good to the very last spoonful.

Impressed with the first course, I was ready for the main dish. At Epicurious Manila's open kitchen, Chef Sau prepared the main course, and a fragrant aroma added to the sensory experience. The bold aroma of chorizo triggered my appetite once more...

Chef Sau del Rosario's Baked Barramundi Casserole with Chorizo de Pamplona was then served, an elegantly plated dish with the delicate flavor of the creamy white-fleshed barramundi punctuated by the sharp notes of the chorizo for perfectly balanced flavors. Also known as Asian seabass or "apahap," the barramundi's texture and flavor lends well with the infusion of chorizo for that extra bite and flavor. "Barramundi is a white-fleshed fish best cooked this way since it is thick and firm, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil, bake, and serve with saffron potatoes! The dish is pure, mild, and light, and simply a delightful meal in itself," shared Chef Sau.

Chef Edith Singian then prepared one of her signature desserts to cap the three-course lunch. Since the time they worked together several years ago  showcasing the very best of  Capampangan cuisine, a close friendship cemented by even more collaborations followed. The aroma of butter then whets your appetite and you're ready for dessert... 

Chef Edith then reveals the finished product, her Spanish Bread Pudding with Caramelized Macadamia and Citrus Zest, a rich and moist pudding draped with a thick and sweet caramelized glaze. "Tita Edith's melt-in-your-mouth recipe topped with caramelized macadamia and candied lemon citrus zest is definitely a must-try. It is almost like eating leche flan but with a good zesty and nutty texture and flavor" is how Chef Sau described Chef Edith Singian's signature dessert.

And Chef Sau described it perfectly. A velvety smooth consistency sets Chef Edith's indulgent Spansh Bread Pudding from the usual pudding, with the richness of the pudding tempered by the citrus zest and the macadamia adding both texture and flavor. It's the perfect dessert to cap a memorable lunch celebrating the culinary journey of Chef Sau del Rosario. The three-course lunch is just an appetizer of sorts, with more than fifty other recipes shared by Chef Sau del Rosario in his book, 20 Years of Love + Cooking, from traditional Capampangan family recipes, classic recipes from Europe, Asian-inspired recipes and indulgent desserts. The past twenty years have molded and refined Chef Sau del Rosario, and there's still more to come. Currently the Culinary Director for the Center of Culinary Arts (CCA) Manila, Chef Sau del Rosario also serves as chef consultant for Bluewater Resort Properties in Cebu and Cauayan Resorts in El Nido, Palawan. Here's to another twenty years, and to more stories from Chef Sau del Rosario...

You can recreate the featured dishes with the detailed recipes below. Better yet, grab Chef Sau's book for even more recipes...

Chef Sau's Tamales
(Serves 4)

For the Tamales Mixture:
250 g rice (milling can be done in the market)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsps cooking oil
1/4 cup annatto oil
4 tbsps fish sauce
3 cups coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
100 g cooked ham, sliced into square pieces
250 g cooked chicken breast, cut into strips
1/4 cup peanuts fried with garlic, ground
4 salted eggs, quartered
banana leaves

To make the Tamales Mixture:
1.  Soak rice in water for at least 2 hours then grind coarsely.
2.  In a wok, saute garlic in oil until golden brown. Set Aside.
3.  In the same wok, place the annatto oil and blend in fish sauce, rice and coconut milk.
4.  Stir constantly over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until rice is cooked.
5.  Mix well to avoid scorching on the side of the wok.
6.  Season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble:
1.  Place half cup of tamales mixture on the center of the banana leaves.
2.  Top with slices of ham, chicken, a teaspoon of ground peanuts, and a quarter slice of salted egg.
3.  Wrap tamales in banana leaves and tie with a string.
4.  Cook tamales in bamboo steamer for 30 minutes.
5.  Serve either chilled or hot.

Chef Sau's Baked Barramundi Casserole with Chorizo de Pamplona
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup olive oil
200 g chorizo de pamplona, sliced
600 g potatoes, sliced
2 leeks, sliced diagonally
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken stock or water
salt and pepper to taste
1 Kilo barramundi fillets, seasoned with salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil for brushing
1/4 cup sliced flat-leaf parsley

1.  Pre-heat the oven at 375 degrees F.
2.  Heat 2 tbsps olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.
3.  Add chorizo and toss occasionally, for about 2 minutes.
4.  Add potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes.
5.  Add leeks, saffron, chicken stock, salt, and pepper.
6.  Bring to boil and add more chicken stock as needed to partially cook the potatoes. Correct seasoning.
7.  Place the seasoned barramundi on top of thepotato mixture and drizzle the remaining olive oil.
8.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
9.  Brush with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Chef Edith's Spanish Bread Pudding with Caramelized Macadamia and Citrus Zest
(Serves 4)

For the Pudding:
170 g trimmed and frozen white bread, sliced thinly
10 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 big can full cream evaporated milk
1 cup melted butter
caramelized macadamia nuts
candied citrus zest

For the Caramelized Macadamia Nuts
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup macadamia nuts

For the Candied Citrus Zest
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup lemon, lime, and orange zests, sliced thinly

For the Pudding:
1.  In a bowl, mix the bread, eggs, sugar, and milk.
2.  Drizzle the butter and fold until well blended.
3.  Pour in prepared pan.
4.  Cover pan and steam for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
5.  Cool completely and unmold.

For the Caramelized Macadamia
Cook sugar in medium heat until sugar is dissolved (do not stir), then add the macadamia until coated with  caramelized sugar.

For the Candied Citrus Zest
Boil sugar with lemon juice and water until it forms into a light syrup. Add zest and cook firther for 5 minutes and let it cool.

To Assemble:
1.  Slice into desired size, place in a serving dish, and top with caramelized macadamia nuts.
2.  Garnish with candied citrus zest.

Chef Sau del Rosario's book, 20 Years of Love + Cooking, is available in select National Bookstore and Fully Booked outlets for P 1,295. The book is also available in and for online orders.

Epicurious Manila is located at Level 1, East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza, Ortigas or call 570-7741 for inquiries.

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