WITH little time to make restaurant-style food, my aunt Tita Blitte has found many ways to hasten what takes at least 30 minutes of cooking time.
“I call it my ‘chicken cheats,’ although it’s not always chicken that I cook,” she said one morning.
“Lola Blitte, what does chicken cheats mean?”
My aunt replied, “It means that I have found shortcuts, that’s all.”
“Wow, your food tastes good, Lola. How much more if you took the ‘long cut’ way!” the kid said in praise of my aunt’s cooking.
Before I get lost in the conversation, let me share some of my aunt’s chicken cheats, which need not apply to chicken only; it’s just a term.
Chicken Guisado. When buying roasted chicken, my aunt has half of the chicken chopped in small parts and wrapped separately from the other half, also chopped into small portions. She serves the plain roasted chicken for lunch and the chicken cheat for dinner.
My aunt makes chicken guisado using the other half of the roasted chicken. After sauteing onions and garlic, she adds water, five whole peppercorns, three fresh oregano leaves (to be discarded when the food is ready), green onion, sliced carrots, wedged potatoes, black mushrooms, salt, soy sauce and oyster sauce to taste.
She watches 24 Oras while the chicken is simmering. When it’s all fragrant, she adds a bit of slurry (equal parts of flour and water) to thicken the chicken stew. She calls out, “Dinner!”
Breezy Pochero. This no-sweat cheat uses linat-ang baboy or pork shank soup that’s available in karinderias or kitchenettes. My aunt’s favorite karinderia makes good and plain linat-ang baboy, which she “doctors” at home.
To the soup, which she dilutes with water, she adds one cup tomato sauce (optional); chick peas; ripe saba or cooking banana, sliced into portions; cubed potato; small cabbage, quartered; a couple of green beans; five black peppercorns; and patis (fish sauce) to taste. When the veggies are done, it’s time for lunch.
S&S Chicken. Make spicy sweet and sour chicken using buttered chicken from your favorite roadside chicken stand. Roll the chicken in bottled sweet chili sauce and sprinkle with minced green onions for that home-cooked effect.
Sometimes my aunt sautes sliced carrot rounds and bell peppers, which she coats with the sweet chili sauce to add to the chicken cheat.