Christmas Lunch 2010 Part 2
A bit delayed and perhaps a tad out of context given Christmas was over two weeks ago, I nevertheless felt compelled to post the rest of my Christmas lunch— after all, this blog is a great excuse to archive the food and convivial atmosphere for my own sake, if nothing else. This winter, my table was blessed with strong showings from both my sisters. Everyone had a wonderful time laughing, gleefully taking pictures, and simply basking in each other’s company.
After devouring my lobster rolls (Christmas Lunch Part 1), we moved onto a Tuscan Kale Salad along with some Mentaiko Pasta, both courtesy of my younger sister. I adore kale– especially when raw. Tuscan kale seems slightly sweeter, nuttier, and less bitter than regular kale, and its unique flavor was countered by an acidic vinaigrette (EVOO + lemon juice I think?) and a generous dusting of cheese.Midway through my salad, a light bulb went off in my head: Greatest Idea Ever = Tuscan kale in a grilled cheese sandwich! I imagine crisp kale, gooey cheese, and perfect bread would go over very well with moms across America. Just go easy on the butter. Why not serve it along a side of kale chips instead of regular chips? And what’s not to like about feeding your kid a superfood? :)
The mentaiko (spicy japanese cod roe) pasta served next was a family favorite. Firm, al dente spaghetti swam in a spicy cream sauce of bright orange mentaiko and sweet translucent onions. Artery-clogging and delicious, I couldn’t help but eat three servings! This went especially well with the tuscan kale salad, and I ended up mixing both on my plate, resulting in a mentaiko pasta that tasted like there was nori (japanese seaweed) intertwined in every bite.
Meats arrived next, with an osso bucco my younger sister and I made. We followed Tyler Florence’s simple recipe for osso bucco, and it turned out great! The veal shanks were flavorful and tender, and the sauce pleasantly rich. We topped the meat with a gremolata of orange zest and parsley that imparted a wonderful citrusy zing– a nice foil to the hearty dish.
Alongside the osso bucco was served a composition of roasted vegetables and fruits my older sister prepared, with grapes, golden beets, Portobello mushrooms, and shallots circling the dish. The grapes were sublime– roasting them with some thyme brought out a deep, rich, almost prune-like flavor that felt very festive and fit for the occasion; the roasting also retained the grape’s naturally snappy skin but turned the insides mushy and soft, almost like grape puree. Astonishing.
A lemon mousse made by my older sister closed out our Christmas lunch. As my sister circled the table, offering dollops of mousse to everyone, I looked on skeptically. I hate it when anything lemon -be it bars, sorbet, or spongecake- have that cloyingly sweet lemon flavor. It’s almost as if someone elected to use lemon syrup instead of lemon juice or zest.
And so I gingerly took my first spoonful, ready to quickly swallow the mousse if it ended up being too sweet. Thankfully it was perfect. Smooth, light, silken, and barely able to hold its shape, I was pleasantly surprised to find a humble lemon mousse so satisfying. It wasn’t sweet at all, with a whisper of sweetness and hints of lemon peeking through.
As my family sat around the dining table, discussing how our Christmas 2010 lunch was likely the most successful yet (not much of a history to compete against… but still!), it hit me how special this moment was. With one sister in New York, the other in Vancouver, me in Los Angeles, and my parents all the way in the Philippines, Christmas is one of the rare opportunities when all the members can come together and spend time as one big happy family.
I’m glad our Christmas lunches have evolved from haphazard competitions to collaborations ripe with camaraderie. I can’t think of a better way to bond with my siblings and show my appreciation for my entire family than spending the whole morning in the kitchen cooking a scrumptious meal for all of them.