December 25, 2006

morcon ( meat roll )

Always a part of our Christmas and New Year food tradition in the Philippines, this festive meat roll is called "morcon". Many of our traditional Filipino holiday food have a strong Spanish influence and this is just one fine example. Every year, I vividly remember the busy holiday seasons back home. Religious activities like dawn masses were the highlights of Christmas but food preparation was just as important as well. My mother used to start cooking a few days before Christmas, making morcon ( meat roll ) and embutido ( steamed meatloaf which I featured before ) first since both keep well in the fridge. Both dishes actually become more flavorful the day after cooking them. Morcon is easier to slice when allowed to cool and much better after having been refrigerated. I would always be present in our small kitchen to watch my mother cook morcon. The special cut of meat for the morcon was usually ordered from our favorite meat seller at the market several days ahead. They make sure that the meat was butterflied very carefully with no slits or holes to prevent the filling from falling out when the meat is rolled. My mother marinated the meat pieces ( butterflied flank steak ) in soy sauce and calamansi ( Philippine lemons ) for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. As the meat marinates, an assortment of fillings were sliced and laid out on a tray. The popular fillings were slices of hard-boiled eggs, Spanish chorizo sausage, vienna sausage, green olives, pork fat ( I don't care much for this ), cheddar cheese, sweet pickled gherkins, and even some chinese sausages at times. For this morcon I made, I used sweet pickled gherkins, hard-boiled eggs, cheddar cheese, Canadian bacon, vienna and chorizo sausages. The marinated meat was laid flat and brushed with margarine. Then the sliced fillings were arranged neatly on top of the meat. The meat was then rolled up carefully making sure that all the fillings remain inside. A most unforgetteable part of morcon-making with my mother was when it was time for her to truss or bind the meat roll, she always asked me to get a particular kind of string ( #20 size ) from our small store that she preferred to use. She would let me hand the string to her while she was holding the meat. Then she would start the time consuming process of tying each meat roll. Sometimes she would have five to six meat rolls to tie. It took a big casserole or pan to braise them. Lots of juicy and ripe red tomatoes were sliced ahead, along with some garlic and onions and these were first sauteed in the braising pan. Then the meat rolls were added to the pan and the heat was lowered to allow them to simmer and braise in the garlic, onions and tomato flavors. It usually took a few hours for the meat to get very tender. These holiday dishes will always remind me of the many joyful Christmasses spent in the Philippines with my family and as my husband and I together make our own memories here, I have introduced and included this traditional dish to our holiday celebrations. I'm glad that I've learned to make morcon, as complicated as it may seem. I think the time I spent cooking with my mother wasn't only a very effective learning experience but the best time we had together. In short, priceless.
Shown above :
1. Butterflied marinated flank steak was brushed
or spread with butter or margarine.
2. An assortment of fillings were sliced and arranged on top of the meat.
3. The meat was rolled up and carefully tied with string.
4. Braising the meat in sauteed garlic, onions & tomatoes.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!


  1. i wish i had the patience to do this. happy holidays to you and your family!

  2. hi santos...thanks for the note. i agree it's a challenge to make but worth the effort at least once a year :) season's greetings to you & your family too!

  3. i miss morcon! hey, you could actually post this as an entry to Lasang Pinoy 16: Pinoy Holiday Food Gifts...i was thinking of making my mom's meatloaf but i'm afraid i don't have enough time...and courage! hahaha...

  4. hi cecille - thanks for checking this out - i appreciate your nice comment & the info re Lasang Pinoy...hope u have fun trying out your mom's meatloaf recipe sometime!

  5. Hi! I haven't cooked morcon for a long time. I guess I'm tired of preparing so much food during the holidays that I didn't even think about it. Happy New Year!

  6. very pleased to hear from you again! happy new year to you & your family!