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Nina Daza Puyat shares her family’s signature chicken relleno recipe

By Paola Navarrette | Images by Noel Pabalate

In her heyday, master of food Nora Daza was a lady truly ahead of her time. At a time when most recipes were passed orally, she collected, wrote, and published one of the most enduring books, Let’s Cook with Nora, the bestselling how-to guide that has become a household staple for millions of housewives in search of simple yet delicious meals for their families. Her cookbook, a treasury of Chinese, Filipino, and European dishes, has traveled far and wide, carried by Filipino expatriates abroad as their essential guide to home-style recipes.

Back in the ‘70s, Nora also took the risk of opening a French restaurant in Manila, Au Bon Vivant, and a Filipino restaurant in Paris, called Aux Iles Philippines, which had fans like feminist writer-philosopher Simone de Beauvoir and French fashion model Brigitte Bardot, who came for the fresh lumpia again and again.

Nora also hosted an instructional culinary show on television titled Cooking It Up with Nora, where she whipped up thousands of dishes. Through her TV show, she instantly became a household name. She also had a radio program, At Home with Nora.

After Nora guided generations of home cooks, it is now her own daughter, Nina Daza Puyat, also an accomplished writer, cook, and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle columnist. who came up with a brand new edition of her mother’s cookbook.

Updated version of cookbookThe updated edition of Let’s Cook with Nora

“Anvil Publishing approached me a few years ago to ask if I wanted to do a simple edit of the book. Together with food writer Cris Abiva, we worked on it for several weeks—looking through each line and each recipe,” Nina said. “My mom was a very curious person and she loved learning. She was sincerely interested in food and people, and from her, I think I got that curiosity to understand different cuisines from different countries.”

She initially planned to retest and tweak around 25 to 30 recipes, especially those that feature sponsored ingredients, but she realized that some steps aren’t clear enough.

“After many months, I realized I want to retest everything. My mom’s cookbook was launched over 50 years ago, so it was time we upgraded the recipes,” she said.

It took Nina over a year to kitchen-test every recipe and make them contemporary using ingredients available to today’s home cooks.

“The new edition remained true to the easy-to-follow recipes, but I tweaked some instructions, updated the ingredients list, and added variations so it reflects how we cook today,” she said. “If you notice in the old book, the procedures are just in one paragraph. Knowing the Millennials, they want everything in detail, so I restyled everything.”

Nina Daza Puyat demonstrates how to make her mom's signature recipeNina Daza Puyat demonstrates how to make her mom’s signature recipe

Nina did not have many memories of her mother cooking in the kitchen. In her mind, her mother was more of a career woman-restaurateur. At one point, she was operating three branches of Au Bon Vivant in Quezon City, Makati City, and Manila City.

“My mom was more of a restaurateur than a home cook. I would always see her more in the restaurant, kitchen-testing dishes for her cooking show. She was also a jet-setter who traveled regularly to New York, Paris, and Manila, where we had restaurants,” she said.

To this day, Nina honors her mother by continuing to cook her well-loved chicken relleno recipe during the holiday season.

“The chicken relleno is a signature Nora Daza dish. My mom would always serve it every Christmas,” Nina said. “In the original cookbook, it’s just chicken relleno but I made it into Daza Chicken Relleno because it’s a staple in our family gatherings.”

In honor of the launch of the cookbook’s new edition, The Maya Kitchen, which hosted the pioneering cooking competition The Great Maya Cookfest with Nora from 1976 to 1990, paid tribute to the culinary legend by hosting a special cooking demo with Nina who dished out how she updated her mom’s timeless recipe.

Daza Chicken Relleno

Daza Chicken Relleno

Ingredients (Serves five)

Marinade

  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of calamansi
  • ⅛ teaspoon of ground black pepper

Stuffing

  • ½ kilo of whole chicken
  • ½ kilo ground pork
  • ¼ kilo cooked or sweet ham
  • 5 pieces of vienna sausage
  • ¼ cup of pickle relish
  • 3 pieces medium eggs
  • ½ cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 10 pieces of pitted green olives
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • ½ cup of raisins
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon of fine salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • ¼ cup of butter

Gravy

  • 4 pieces of chicken liver
  • 6 pieces of chicken gizzard
  • ¾ cup of oily pan drippings
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups of chicken broth

Method

Stuffing

  1. Have the butcher at the wet market or supermarket debone the chicken for relleno. Marinate chicken skin in a mixture of soy sauce, calamansi juice, and ground pepper.
  2. Prepare the stuffing. Combine all ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl: ground pork, ham, Vienna sausage, pickle relish, eggs, grated cheese, green olives, capers, raisins, and tomato ketchup.
  3. Stuff the filling into the chicken. If using hard-boiled eggs, put them in the middle of the stuffing, one of the left and one on the right side of the chicken. Sew up the opening with a bright colored thread for easier removal when chicken is cooked or secure with wooden toothpicks.
  4. Brush a large sheet of aluminum foil generously with butter. Wrap the stuffed chicken in the foil, folding on top to seal tightly. Set chicken on a roasting pan.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees for one hour. Unfold the foil, exposing the top and the sides, and continue baking until golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes more. Baste chicken occasionally with pan drippings. Set aside and save the drippings.

Giblet gravy

  1. Meanwhile, prepare the giblet gravy. Boil chicken liver in water for about five minutes and then boil the chicken gizzards in water for about 30 minutes. Chop liver and gizzard. Set aside.
  2. Heat pan drippings in a small pan. Blend in flour and stir with whisk for two to three minutes over low heat. Add chopped chicken liver, gizzards, and chicken broth. Simmer until gravy is thick. Season with salt, pepper, and liquid seasoning. Turn off the heat.
  3. Cool chicken relleno completely before slicing. To serve, slice in half lengthwise, then crosswise. Serve with giblet gravy. To reheat, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
See more at: Manila Bulletin

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