The after effects of our annual Ilocos road trip include Jay's secret stash of his favorite milk candy, my hoard of crunchy biscocho from Pasuquin and not the least, mountains of bagnet and Laoag longganiza in the freezer.
The bagnet is just begging to be cooked along with pinakbet -- so it's time to channel my inner Ilocana and prepare my (to my mind) authentic Ilocano pakbet.
I enjoy making pinakbet but sometimes, it's a challenge to put the right ingredients together. It's been raining the past days so our week-end farmer's market yields only a few of the things that would make this the real Macoy (pun intended).
Authentic ilocano pinakbet has a lot of vegetables but for this time, I only have the small round talong, the mini ampalaya and there is no alucon to be found -- that crazy, curly thin string bean so I have to make do with regular sitaw.
I wish I had patani and that uniquely Ilocano chili but, of course there is none to be had.
Of course pinakbet includes onions, tomatoes, luya and fish bagoong.
Plus, a big hunk of bagnet to add some cholesterol to this otherwise healthy dish.
The vegetables are sliced and diced and ready to go!
And the bagnet has been brought to room temperature and chopped in man sized bites.
I miss my old earthenware palayok which finally broke and has yet to be replaced. So I make do with an ordinary pot. I layer the vegetables and spoon the bagoong on top of each layer. This way, I achieve a more even seasoning and saltiness throughout the dish.
The bagnet goes on top and is drizzled with more bagoong.
I think a truly authentic Ilocano pinakbet is one where the ingredients are not sauteed but merely left to simmer and cook in the bagoong, a little water and the vegetables' natural liquids.
After slow cooking over a very low fire, the pot full of vegetables and bagnet are reduced to this -- the vegetables are not crisp-crunchy as they can sometimes be in commercial pinakbet but neither are they squishy-soggy. Everything is steeped in flavor and natural juices -- of talong, ampalaya, sitaw, luya, kamatis, sibuyas, bagoong ... and yes, pork juices too!
This is a one dish meal -- the crunch and crackle of the bagnet skin has been softened to yummy goodness. Slightly bitter ampalaya and spicy luya cuts through the umay factor.
Is it authentically Ilocano? Only my inner Ilocana knows for sure!