Despite the threat that typhoon Nina would make for a wet Christmas, we went ahead and set up the table in the garden for our Christmas Day lunch. As usual, we kept it simple. No table overflowing with food that would fill the fridge with leftovers long after New Year’s Day. We prepared and cooked just enough food for one meal. The only difference: instead of our usual one-dish meals, we grilled meat, fish and shrimps. And, to accompany them, a simple soup, mashed potatoes and a salad.
Are those traditional Christmas dishes in the Philippines? Hardly. But when have we ever been traditional? We like creating our own family traditions. Just a few days ago, Alex was saying that as far as she could remember, we’ve always roasted a whole duck on New Year’s Eve. But neither she nor I could recall what we’ve had on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day over the years. The dishes were never the same.
So, for our non-traditional Christmas Day lunch… For the soup, we had stracciatella alla Romana (Italian egg drop soup). The mashed potatoes were mixed with scallions a la Irish champ. Sam prepared the vegetable salad with apples, mangoes and roasted habanero.
Dessert was probably the simplest dish of all—fresh fruits. It was fortunate that although mangoes are not in season, Speedy managed to find ones that were delectably sweet.
The shrimps were grilled with the shells and heads to keep all the juices in. Speedy and Alex were the first to man the tabletop electric grill, with Speedy reminding Alex to take the shrimps off the heat as soon as they changed color. Speedy fiddled with the temperature control of the grill to get the perfect setting for each component of the meal.
Never overcook seafood is our motto in the house. Cooking shrimps for too long makes them tough and dry.
Because the shrimps were unseasoned when they went on the grill, a superb dipping sauce—herbed butter and lemon juice prepared by Alex—was required.
For the meat component of the meal, thin slices of pork were threaded with bamboo skewers and marinated with nuoc mam pha for half an hour (when meat is sliced thinly, it only takes half an hour to soak up the flavors in the seasonings).
And then, there was tuna. Cubes of tuna were skewered, sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled. This was the part when Sam took over the grilling from her father and sister.
See how perfectly cooked the tuna was? Lightly charred on the surface but still pink inside. Beautiful!
The weather was just perfect for our outdoor Christmas Day lunch. Cool and breezy, and the threat of the raging typhoon too distant to notice. I hope your Christmas Day meal was just as fun and delicious.
While having coffee after our meal, we discussed what we’d have for New Year’s Eve. We agreed on a menu and made a mental list of things we’ll have to buy. But what the menu is, I will keep a secret for now. I’m hoping that the photos will be gorgeously share-worthy—a fitting first blog post for 2017.
Christmas Day dinner was at the in-law’s. Traffic going to Metro Manila was terrible but the food that greeted us made up for the stress.
Later, at home, we had a bottle of Prosecco and brie to munch on while watching a horror movie.
P. S. Do you like the idea of tabletop cooking? Grilling is loads of fun. Setting up a hot pot (steamboat) is just as enjoyable.