Wednesday, 24 July 2013

How to cook the perfect Beef Nilaga 

With a clear broth and really very basic, straightforward ingredients, Beef nilaga (or, more colloquially, Nilagang baka) looks deceptively easy to cook. But just because it does not have any sarsa, or a special marinade, does not mean you can just do as you please. Beef nilaga is actually even harder to cook because the taste of your dish will essentially come from your ingredients, nothing more; except maybe a pinch of salt and some spices to taste

Here are some tips on how to cook the perfect Beef nilaga straight from Chef Gene Gonzalez, Chef Instructor and president of the Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS), Chef Patron of Café Ysabel and World Gourmand Book Awardee (twice!). His show Chefscapades is currently being shown on Lifestyle Network.

•    “When choosing meat for Beef nilaga (slow-boiled beef), go for the ones that have some fat and litid (connective tissue). I would recommend the following cuts:  kneecap, shins and shortplate as they have connective tissue and they give off good flavor.”

•    “Cook the beef until it is tender. You’ll know this when the meat sticks to the bones but can be gently pried off. The connective tissue should also be firm but tender.”

•    “Put in vegetables last, about 2-3 minutes before you serve the dish. Let it simmer. Starches like potatoes or plantains should be put in the pot around 30 minutes before serving.”

•    “Remember that a good portion of your water will evaporate while you are cooking. A standard amount of water would be about 12 cups per kilo of beef. This will be reduced to just 7 cups when you finish cooking.”

•    “If you want a cloudy-opaque broth, put in onions, shallots, leeks and pepper first and let them simmer for a few seconds. Then, put in your meat. This will help in giving flavor to your broth.”

•    “To get a clear broth, put the beef in a pot with water before anything else at room temperature. After a few minutes, let this simmer until it is tender. This will preserve the meat fiber.”

•    “Personally, I like to make a Visayan hybrid of the Beef nilaga. I put in green or semi-ripe plantains (saba), cabbage, pechay, a hint of lemongrass, tangkwei (a Chinese herb) and a slice of bamboo shoot.”

•    “Complement your Beef nilaga with grilled or fried fish; stir-fried seafood; or steamed vegetables in shrimp paste (bagoong) or anchovy sauce (or the Philippine version: patis).” 

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