STRANGER IN THE KITCHEN

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I love to chow down on comfort food. But cook them? Nah!

I’ve no role model in the culinary department. My Ma never counted cooking as one of her strengths. Orphaned at five, she had no mother to teach her how to navigate the mysteries of the kitchen.

Between the time Ma married at 16 to the day she died half a century later, she mustered less than a handful of dishes – pork in tamarind broth (“sinigang”), beefsteak, “adobo” and “tinola”. Everything else she fried or boiled to feed Pa and me.

I begged Ma to learn to preserve fruits so I can pass the cooking part of my Home Economics class with flying colors and make passable “leche flan”, which never held up its shape but which I gladly slurped off before it can even leave the pan.

Still, Ma’s kitchen remained a toasty little refuge with an L-shaped wooden counter more often lined with a dozen lounging cats than with pots and pans (our dozen dogs curl up on the floor). If I forget to haul in my fave cat Midnight in my bedroom at night, he’ll sulk and hide behind the warm stove till morning.

However, the prospect of sweating it out for hours, chopping, dicing, slicing, mixing things, following complex directions then washing a mountain of pots and pans and utensils made me avoid kitchens at all cost, from my teens (when I flew from the nest at 15) to adulthood.

I simply don’t have the time to cook!

So, I was delighted when Chef Ernest Gala taught me to prepare Carbonara Pasta in three minutes and Chicken Pie in five.

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And I was completely awed when I walked in his culinary school, complete with individual cooking stations and Samsung Smart Ovens that can do anything, from veggies, cakes and cookies, from entrees to main dishes and desserts.

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The Samsung Smart Oven microwaves and grills simultaneously. It also microwaves and bakes at the same time. It even defrosts, microwaves then grills.

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In all, it has 25 preset Smart Cook modes – to warm or cook specific foods like milk, chilled soups, frozen marinated chicken, popcorn, broccoli and muffins. Add to that, it has 10 preset Slim Fry modes to cook French fries-both frozen and homemade, frozen spring rolls and chicken.

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Chef Ernest Gala’s Cozy Cooking Recipes for the Rainy Days:

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CARBONARA

  • 250 grams fettuccini or spaghetti. Cook according to package directions. Drain. Serve with sauce.
  • Sauce: ¼ cup each of Mayonnaise and Cheese Pimiento, 1 can Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup
  • Topping: ¼ cup each quickmelt cheese and chopped bacon.
  • Procedure: Combine Mayonnaise, cheese pimiento and chicken soup in a microwave bowl and mix well. Cover with cling wrap. Put in Samsung Smart Oven. Set to Microwave mode at 600W for two minutes. Remove cling wrap and mix well. Return cling wrap and put back the sauce in the Smart Oven. Set to Microwave Mode at 600W for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • Remove and mix with cooked pasta. Toss. Top with quickmelt cheese and bacon.

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CHICKEN PIE

  • Topping: Prepare 500 grams cooked Instant Mashed Potato (follow package directions using Smart Samsung oven Microwave Mode). Add ¼ tsp salt and ½ tsp cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  • Filling: In a bowl, mix together 2 cups cooked chicken breast, ½ cup chopped button mushrooms, 2 tbsp chopped basil, 1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup.
  • Procedure: Put the filling in 4 ramekins. Top with mashed potato and then add one cup quickmelt cheese over the whole thing. Put chicken pies in the Samsung Smart Oven. Set in Microwave+Convection Mode and time for 4 minutes. Press Grill Mode and time 1 minute. Remove and top with fresh basil.
  • Note: To cook chicken, put 500 grams pounded chicken breast in an oven-proof dish. Top with ½ cup oil or melted salted butter. Set Samsung Smart Oven on Microwave+Grill function and time for 4 minutes. Invert chicken and cook the other half using the Microwave+Grill function for another 4 minutes. Allow to cool then chop.
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