Two of the staples we cook back in Manila are beef caldereta and "manok sa pinya" or chicken with pineapple. Favorites of both adults and kids, we cook these on a regular basis and even serve them at parties. They are both easy make-ahead dishes which keep well in the fridge, the flavors actually improve with reheating the next day. Caldereta is a beef stew dish of Spanish influence. Originally, it was made with goat meat in the northern regions of the Philippines. Since not many people care much for the strong, gamey flavor of goat meat ( I just heard about this, I've never tried goat meat ) making caldereta with lean beef has now become more popular and well accepted. Spanish chorizo sausages are optional but may be sliced thin and slightly browned in a saute pan over low heat or until the oil ( a very intense yellow orange color ) from the chorizo comes out. With a small amount of the oil from the chorizos, combined with some olive oil, lean beef strips or cubes are initially sauteed with sliced onions. A combination of tomato sauce, pan-fried potato cubes or wedges, green olives, red bell pepper strips and canned garbanzo or chick peas makes it a very colorful and attractive dish. Liver pate or spread may also be added, but I usually just omit it. The beef is simmered in the sauce until very tender. I've trying using the slow cooker for this and it turned out good too.
Manok sa pinya or chicken with pineapple is a dish that I've had since I was a kid. It's also one of the many versions of Hawaiian Chicken. This has always been a hit with most kids. I think they like the slight sweetness of it from the sliced pineapples. It's important to use some chicken parts with bones. I usually combine boneless chicken fillets cut into chunks and drumsticks and/or thighs minus the skin. The chicken bones give out so much flavor as the dish is slowly simmered. Minced garlic and onions are sauteed in a small amount of butter and oil. In Manila, we often use Star margarine, a local brand. The chicken parts are then added, seasoned with salt and pepper, and allowed to absorb the flavors of the sauteed garlic and onions for a few minutes. Some of the juice from the canned pineapples are added next. Simmer the chicken until very tender and almost falling off the bone. At this stage, a small can of evaporated milk or half & half is poured in. Pan-fry the pineapple slices until slightly browned on both sides or until the natural sugar in the pineapple caramelizes a bit. Chop into chunks before adding to the dish or you can also just use them as a garnish. Manok sa pinya, with it's slightly sweet, creamy and rich flavors is best enjoyed with steamed rice. This is definitely one of my favorite home-cooked meals.