Friday, September 21, 2018

What’s for Noche Buena, chef?

Some wait for midnight to open their presents, some prefer to sleep it off and wait for Christmas morning, which makes sense since Santa has yet to fill the stockings.

But before the surprises and shrieks of joy by the tree, the family gathers around the table for the Noche Buena.

The food is as special as the occasion and the kitchen is busy the entire day for the preparation.

I remember the times when mom was still with us. She would have all the ingredients ready days before and as early as the break of dawn, we could hear the bustle in the kitchen. Before the end of the day the dining table would be filled with her specialties—ham cooked for hours, macaroni salad, queso de bola, embutido and her special chocolate cake.

For the hardworking chefs who have been very busy cooking for everyone during the season, they may be too tired to whip up something for Noche Buena in their homes. Or are they? I asked them what specialties are landing on their tables tonight.

Moe Uy, Hungry Ape PH.

At Noche Buena, we always have the traditional Filipino food we love. I call them the “usual suspects.” They bring out fond memories and traditions we hold dear during Christmas. However, I sometimes like to veer away from what’s usual and whip up something new. Thankfully, my family enjoys what I concoct whenever I see their satisfied smiles after their meal.

Tonight, I cook for them Smoked Brisket and Burnt Honey Mustard Glazed Salmon.

Mia Pineda, Sunahama Noodle Bar.

We’re a big clan and we’d need a caterer to feed everyone. It’s a tradition to have Noche Buena in one of the hotels.

But for my family, I cook lunch on the 24th and prepare something everybody can enjoy. I can whip up a mean beef stew with fresh pasta, and when my brother brings home a fresh catch from Tandag, I cook lobsters and crabs in brown butter truffle sauce.

Nikki Gotianse-Tan, D’lish.

With Christmas round the bend, and as I hang my apron up for the year, I can?t help but feel a little panicked that there is not much left to do in the kitchen anymore. My thoughts turn to noche buena and how I myself haven?t yet had the pleasure to prepare it. Perhaps that will be my holiday resolution for next year. And unlike the gift-buying that I always wish I start earlier, I would like to be in the merry thick of preparing my Noche Buena in 2018.

My Noche Buena memories of Christmas Eve at home with my parents and sister always call to mind the comfort of family and richness. Heavily glazed holiday hams, native hot chocolate, kakanin and buttery rich pastries. Recreating that time through what we ate will definitely be my launching point.

Preparing a tasting plate of D-lish?s spreads - the Truffle Chicken Liver Paté, Arugula Pesto Spread, Onion Jam - along with some artisanal enriched breads and crusty rolls would be a lovely addition. Having some freshly roasted chestnuts, almonds and an assortments of Malagos cheeses would also be ripe for the picking. Left to my own devices in the kitchen, I would love to make an old- fashioned fruit salad or cold shrimp salad, callos, a risotto or paella and perhaps a roast beef meant to generously doused with gravy.

The best part, really, will be that I have another eleven months to perfect all these to give my family an unforgettable holiday feast that will warm all our memories till our next Noche Buena.

Pauline Benedicto-Malilin, Rekado.

As a newly married woman who’s spending with Christmas with my husband’s family, I will be cooking my mom’s traditional ham just like how it’s prepared and served in my home. It’s something that will make me feel I’m still with my family in Davao and something I’m bringing from my home to my husband’s family home.

Patrick Co, The Fat Cow

For tonight’s family meal, I’ll be preparing a very home-cooked menu, which will be a departure from the food I cook in my restaurant. Kalderata, kare-kare, pasta that’s overly sweet we all love, a straight up fruit or macaroni salad. It will be the
simplest and most comforting food any Pinoy will love to eat during Noche Buena.

Carmina del Rosario, The Crazy Cook.

I will have all sorts of tradition we have on the table. Along with my mom’s specialties and a couple of dishes we order, I will be adding pan-fried foie gras, home-made Gravlax with roasted capsicums and chevre, prime rib roast with horseradish and red wine au jus to the Noche Buena menu.


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