Monday, November 19, 2007

Kasilyo-Topped Baked Tahong

[Baked Mussels with Cavite White Cheese]

Based on the reactions of guests who attended the many dinner parties I have hosted this year - ever since the family moved to Cavite - this is the best baked tahong I've served so far.

The topping mixture of garlic, butter and kasilyo in this baked tahong is unobtrusive - letting the taste of fresh mussels shine through and enhancing it. It is light, yet creamy, the garlicky hints contrasting with the smooth, buttery feel.

The main star here is the kasilyo. In all of those parties everybody asked my husband what I put onto the tahong, and not one could hazard a guess. The kasilyo provides a light creamy goodness that is not the saltiness of other hard, aged cheeses, nor the rubbery texture of other fresh cheeses. For those used to just a butter and garlic mix, the kasilyo adds a premium without drowning the tahong.

Baked tahong is my favorite easy-to-whip dish when visitors from out of town suddenly appear on my doorstep, or when we host large gatherings for an occasion. It is the best dish that could represent our new home, providing friends with a sample of the food landscape I am now immersed in.

I also always include kasilyo baked tahong when we have local visitors, because it is something new even to Cavitenos - I have yet to meet someone who has lived long in the area who has thought of cooking tahong together with kasilyo, which is, after all, eaten fresh for breakfast with hot pandesal.

It is very convenient to make, because all the ingredients are available year-round (except when there is red tide, of course), the tahong can be bought anytime during the day, and fresh kasilyo is sold in the public market until lunchtime. The blended mixture can be stored in the freezer for about a week.

It is also very cheap. Imagine being able to serve to about 10 people a smashing appetizer, or a main dish in tandem with a couple of dishes more, for something below P100.00. And get glowing feedback, too.

Also excellent for cocktails. Or a picnic finger food, pairing well with white wine.

Baked Tahong

1 can fresh tahong/mussels (approximately 2 1/2 kgs)
1 clove garlic, peeled and pounded finely
a full pinch of finely ground white pepper
a pinch of table salt
100 grams unsalted butter, softened
3 large banana leaf-packed kasilyo
(substitute 1 thick plastic pack kesong puti or about 200 grams fresh mozzarella)

  1. Clean the mussels by scrubbibng the shells with a steel wool, and trimming the edges. Wash thoroughly.
  2. Steam in a large pan until all the shells have opened.
  3. Remove shells from pan with a pair of tongs and let cool. Discard any unopened shells.
  4. Mash the kasilyo finely with a fork, then combine with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
  5. Break the tahong shells and throw away the empty shells.
  6. Spoon kasilyo mix on top of mussel meat. Bake in pre-heated oven on high for 5-10* minutes. Serve hot and sprinkle with spring onion leaves finely sliced (optional).

Good for about 8-10 people.

*The baked tahong is done when the kasilyo mixture is bubbly. My husband prefers them browned and crusty - with maximum crunch - about 12 minutes.

What is Kasilyo?

Other ways to cook tahong
Tahong/Halaan Tinola
Grilled/Crispy Fried Tahong

Daing na Tahong from Puerto Princesa
Isdang Cavite


Anonymous said...

havent tried kasilyo yet.. can it be bought here in manila?

Kai said...

Hi, docchef, I'm afraid kasilyo can only be found in Cavite, but the kesong puti wrapped in banana leaves sold in most groceries and supermarkets in Metro Manila is a very close approximate.