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15 June 2012

Grilled Chicken Inasal and a Tribute to My Father

Until the 2nd of January, 1999 I had a father.  Let me tell you a little bit about him.  He was the greatest pilot in the world, at least to the eyes of his daughter.  He was fondly called "Golden Hands" by his former employer because he was the only pilot who can land a C-130 cargo plane without spilling his coffee while landing.  Heck, you don't even realize that you have already touched down when he is behind the captain's seat.    He was my hero, like all daughters would say too but he truly is because he is page 13 of the Philippines' Mga Bagong Bayani (The New Heroes of the Philippines). 

He was flying for a company in Africa, airdropping humanitarian help for World Food Program for the people scattered in remote areas.  Food and medicines were essential and he and his colleagues fly around Angola and Kenya airdropping them everyday.   His days start at 4 AM and end after 12 hours.  His days were long but he loved it.  He loved the local people he stayed with and this feeling was wholeheartedly reciprocated.   

My father's last flight was concluded when the plane he was flying was shot down by a missile in Angola.   He was on a search & rescue mission of another UN plane that was also shot down a week before.  The first plane's pilot's son asked him to help look for his father.   Being a father himself, he couldn't turn down such a request. 

Father's Day is celebrated in Italy every 19th of March, the day of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph), the father of Jesus.  It is the day we dedicate to my husband, another equally wonderful father to my kids.  This other Father's Day, is what I grew up celebrating in honor of my father.  I recall making handmade cards and writing letters that were always inserted in a big envelope by my mother to send wherever my father was located.   I wished to write but there was no one to send it to anymore.   I avoided Father's Day when I lost him because I didn't have the courage to confront it.  I didn't even want to continue this little tribute to him until, at a coincidental timing, someone from World Food Program emailed me yesterday to help fight hunger in Africa by putting their banner on my sidebar.   I said yes.  From pilot to food blogger, we took on the same mission.

Happy Father's Day to the Greatest Hero in the World!

I chose this chicken recipe because it is the specialty of the simple restaurant where my father loved taking us to whenever we were all together.  It's a specialty of one province in the Philippines called Bacolod. In the capital, Manila, restaurants frequently try to recreate it but I heard that nothing can come close to the real one. The chicken is served in a typical Philippine way on wicker plates covered with banana leaves, accompanied with fried rice garnished with loads of toasted garlic. I don't have wicker plates nor banana leaves but I wanted to recreate it for my own kids to get to know its taste and maybe I can explain to them later on what special sentiments I have attached to this food. 

Have a good weekend everyone and Happy Father's Day to all the fathers out there!

Grilled Chicken Inasal

Serves 4
  • 1/2 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped  
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons strong dark vinegar like red wine or cider
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed calamansi or lime juice  
  • 2 teaspoons + a pinch of salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon + a dash of black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons annatto oil or achuete oil (if you don't have this, replace with olive oil whisked with 1/2 teaspoon paprika) 
  • 4 chicken thighs 
  • 30 g. margarine or butter, melted

  1. Pound the lemongrass and garlic in a mortar and pestle. 
  2. When it reaches a pasty consistency, add the vinegar, calamansi juice, 2 teaspoons salt  & 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Mix well.
  3. Pour the liquid in a small bowl and whisk it with 1/4 cup annatto oil.
  4. Put the chicken pieces in a ziploc bag and pour the marinade in it.  Make sure all the chicken pieces are covered with the marinade.  Refrigerate between 2 to 6 hours.  For best results, marinate them for 6 hours.
  5. For the basting sauce, combine the butter, 2 tablespoons of annatto oil, a pinch of salt & a dash of pepper in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  6. Brown both sides of the chicken in a grill, basting with the sauce occasionally, between 30 - 45 minutes.  
  7. Best served with mixed fried rice like java rice.  You can also accompany it with a simple tomato salad tossed with extra virgin olive oil, dried oregano & salt.