Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday menus 2007 Part 1

A few weeks ago Jep & I were discussing his paella recipe while walking through the mall. Jep and I have been friends for 20 years, since highschool. He's an intensive care doctor who, when he's not saving someone's life, is modifying his airsoft rifle or designing smoke grenades, honing his katana, reading Dumas, grilling lamb chops or making paella. I covet his santoku. "Oh I do love sharp things!" he gleefully declared while we were looking at the Victorinox and Solingen displays.

Later that night as I drove him back to Medical City he was admiring my Microplane zester. "Hey this is a rasp. Does this work on cheese?" Like me, Jep is a gear freak, creatures of both the workshop and the kitchen."Hard cheeses, yes: Parmesan, Romano, Gruyere..."

"JB & Jep should switch kits for one day. JB will have to cut vegetables with scalpels, and Jep will perform surgery with ladles. (imitating medical TV-series doctor) Sir, we're going to have to amputate your filet mignon" This was from Luis, another one of the gang from highschool. Luis is an award-winning writer who is working on his third book. He was born to eat pizza. Back in college when the local Pizza Hut ran an all-you-can-eat promo Luis and I shocked the staff of many a Pizza Hut branch. Once, we were seated next to a couple of jocks boasting loudly to each other as they went for the world record. They were stacking uneaten pizza crust edges beside their plates. Apparently eating just the filled part counted as eating a whole slice. Whatever. I guess they needed the crusts because keeping count beyond 10 was too much of a challenge. They refused soda, because it filled the stomach. These guys had it all figured out. "Pizza's my staple food, man!" boasted one as he wolfed down his 11th slice-minus-the-crust. Meanwhile, Luis leisurely munched on his 30th & I on my 27th slice in between sips of Coke and reading Luis' newly-bought X-men comics. No uneaten crusts on the table. No shooting for records. Just two friends enjoying a snack over comic books. The waiter nervously eyed the last two slices on the table before serving us another whole pizza.

Last week Jep's wife Miko flew in from Chicago. Jep hired me to cook a welcome home buffet for twelve. The menu: Antipasti platter of olives, roasted garlic and capsicum, fluted mushrooms sautéed in lemon butter, crostini, and my own homemade pesto with whole pignoli; Pigeon Pastel; Prune-Glazed Baked Pork Belly; Pasta alla Puttanesca; Blackened Chicken with Brandy & Rosemary Demiglace. Steph was my sous chef for the day. For dessert we made Pavlova Nests filled with Creme Chantilly and topped with fresh fruit. It was a challenge cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen. I had wanted to do an ocular inspection but our schedules wouldn't allow it, and Alabang was so far away. Steph and I came armed to the teeth just in case. Jep hovered over us the whole time. I showed him how to flute mushrooms and he took up the challenge. It was intense. He couldn't quite cut it (pun intended) on that first attempt, but Miko joked that he would practice in secret and next time we saw each other he'd be showing off his new skill. I believe he would.

Now I am working on my menus for several other cooking gigs. Christmas is a busy season. I'm glad school will be out after this week as I have to concentrate on work... be continued