Six celebrated chefs served us delicious holiday dish ideas
Josh Boutwood’s Roasted Duck with Braised Brussels Sprouts
As the corporate chef of the Bistro Group, Josh Boutwood made his mark with the Test Kitchen, where he turned the group’s actual test kitchen into a reservation-only restaurant. Since then, he’s branched out in Bonifacio Global City with Savage, where his cooking methods focus on the use of fire, smoke and ash, and Helm, an intimate, 10-seat restaurant with a tasting menu — three turns that solidified his status as one of Manila’s most exciting chefs.
Born in England to a Filipino father and an English mother, Josh quite naturally chose to prepare a roast for our Christmas feast because, well, he’s British. “This is a very traditional holiday dish back in the UK,” he says. “Ducks are plump at that time of year and are best served as a family meal, carved tableside.”
- Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes: “Holidays are all about tradition, and these two ingredients are customarily served along with a roasted duck.”
- Cranberry jam: “The flavor of duck meat is balanced out with the sweetness of the cranberry preserve.”
- Duck: “We age the ducks to improve tenderness and flavor. Getting the duck grain-fed is equally important, as the overall flavor is cleaner.”
Q&A with Josh
What do you love most about the holidays? Spending uninterrupted time with family.
Favorite Christmas memory? As a kid, running down the stairs for the Christmas tree. Now, watching my kids run down the stairs.
What would you give to someone who has everything? Nothing.
What’s your go-to stocking stuffer? Chocolates and candy. Also, an orange. It’s a tradition.
What’s one thing you always love to receive? Something unexpected.
Christmas isn’t complete… Without family.
All I want for Christmas is… Good food.
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Amy Besa’s Mixed-Shell Paella
Along with her husband, chef Romy Dorotan, Amy Besa shuttles back and forth between her two Purple Yam restaurants — in Brooklyn, New York, and Malate, Manila. The dynamic duo also shone a spotlight on chicken adobo when they first served it at Cendrillon, their former restaurant in Manhattan. Amy’s on a mission to make sure that at Purple Yam Malate, “every dish utilizes local and indigenous ingredients that are unknown, undervalued and ignored — especially those that are quite accessible to everyone”.
She brings a mixed-shell paella to the spread to reinforce her point. “We fail to notice many ingredients because they are common and local to our environment,” she says. “I want people to experience them for the first time, just like they want to taste exotic ingredients that have to be imported.”
- Aromatics: “Instead of saffron and meat broth, we balance our clam and snail broth with lemongrass, ginger and freshly squeezed coconut milk.”
- Seafood: “The traditional Spanish paella usually uses meat like chicken, rabbit and chorizo to flavor the rice, along with saffron. But our Philippine paella reflects the bounty of our seafood.”
- Heirloom rice: “We’ve been making Philippine-style paellas with heirloom rice from the Cordilleras since 2006 (at Cendrillon), and I like Ominio and Tinawon Fancy — they’re chewy, nutty and full of flavor.”
- Shellfish: “Romy, a Bicolano used to eating snails (kuhol and tabagwang), saw all these miniature shells at Cartimar, during the early-morning seafood sale: pilipit (twisted snail), geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”, actually a saltwater clam) and razor and Manila clams along with tiny crabs. So he got all of these not only for aesthetic reasons (they all matched in terms of size), but to create a flavorful broth to be absorbed by the heirloom rice for a paella. Each type of shell is cooked separately in the broth to bring out the best flavor in each one.”
Q&A with Amy
How will you be spending the holidays this year? As always, at the restaurant, Purple Yam, to be with friends
What’s your go-to stocking stuffer? Sorry, I don’t do stocking stuffers. I like giving gifts that we make ourselves — usually Romy’s homemade jams and preserves. People are always happy with that.
What’s one thing you always love to receive? A note or card with a personal message that someone bothered to think about and write. I love reading personal messages that mean something.
Christmas isn’t complete without… Loved ones.
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Allan Briones’ Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb
When the Peninsula Manila wanted to add a new spin to Old Manila, their signature fine-dining restaurant of 41 years’ standing, they turned to chef Allan Briones, who once worked with culinary superstar Marco Pierre White. Allan joins our holiday chowfest with an herb-crusted rack of lamb with sherry-glazed mushrooms, tomato confit and pickled shallots. “This was our favorite dish to serve in Dubai during the festive season when I was still working with Marco Pierre White,” he says. “It’s a beautiful dish to look at and makes for a great Christmas table centerpiece, plus it’s also a palate pleaser. It never fails to hit the spot.”
- Lamb: “The star of the dish is more tender than mutton or hogget and appeals to most meat-lovers, so it’s an ideal meat for big family gatherings.”
- Shimeji, oyster and shiitake mushrooms: “Along with all the other ingredients, these mushrooms complement all the components of the dish, while balancing the gaminess of the lamb.”
Q&A with Allan
How will you be spending the holidays this year? At work. It’s one of our busiest seasons, but once I’m done, it’s straight home to my family.
Favorite Christmas memory? The Christmas of 2012, when the family was 100% complete in attendance.
What would you give to someone who has everything? Words of wisdom. A high five. Maybe a beautiful set of kitchen knives.
What’s your go-to stocking stuffer? Candies, specifically gummy bears.
What’s one thing you always love to receive? Cookbooks. Keep them coming!
Christmas isn’t complete Without… Kids, course!
All I want for Christmas is… A lot of free time.
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Francis Lim’s Rosemary Chicken with Mushroom Cream Pasta
The unassuming, almost shy mastermind behind Nav Modern Thai Cuisine and Tipple & Slaw enjoyed rave reviews during his two stints at the prestigious food expo Madrid Fusion. On any given day Francis Lim can be found cooking up a mean chicken curry or his signature Burnt Mac ’n’ Cheese, but he whips up full-on nostalgia when the holidays roll around. He brought a big serving of rosemary chicken, stewed tomatoes and mushroom cream pasta, a dish he always enjoyed as a young kid. “My eldest sister would prepare it during her free time from work, somewhat as a hobby,” he says. “That was even before I knew how to cook. She barely remembers how to make it anymore, so I always try to re-create it based on taste.”
- Cream: “A light cream pulls all the flavors of this dish together, balancing it out.”
- Stewed tomatoes: “For some texture and acidity.”
- Mushrooms: “For a different flavor profile and additional meaty texture without piling on more meat.”
- Chicken: “Skin-on grilled chicken, cooked in its own fat, tops off the dish. I choose to serve the fillet whole, instead of in slices, so it feels more bountiful.”
- Rosemary: “Makes the dish extra fragrant and adds a smoky, citrusy flavor to the chicken.”
Q&A with Francis
What do you love most about the holidays? That I get to cook what I don’t usually make in the restaurants; eat everybody else’s cooking instead of mine; and that I get to sleep.
Favorite Christmas memory? Waking up on Christmas Eve to open presents and eat porridge.
What would you give to someone who has everything? Food!
What’s your go-to stocking stuffer? Socks?
What one thing do you always love to receive? Shirts.
Christmas isn’t complete without… Ham and macaroni salad.
All I want for Christmas… Is a vacation.
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Glenda Barretto’s Malagos Chocolate Minoron
When people think of Christmas staples like puto bumbong and bibingka, two very Filipino rice cakes, we think of Via Mare, the iconic restaurant that put all our favorite Filipino dishes on the map. Still at the helm of Via Mare after more than 40 years, esteemed restaurateur Glenda Barretto now oversees a thriving restaurant empire. For our Noche Buena feast she keeps things sweet and heartfelt with a serving of her restaurant’s signature treats. “Sometimes called moron, minoron is a traditional Visayan kakanin, or rice pastry, the Visayan counterpart of Luzon’s suman,” Glenda explains. “It’s made from glutinous rice, fresh gata (coconut milk), and local cacao. During lazy afternoons in my hometown in Samar — as with any town in the Visayas — we’d always have minoron for our merienda, dipped in freshly made tablea (roasted and fermented cacao).”
- Coconut meat: “Grated fresh coconut is an especially wonderful supporting ingredient that enhances the flavor of the tablea and rice.”
- Pulped peanuts: “These add a subtle taste, just enough to elevate our main stars.”
- Tablea: “These roasted and fermented pure cacao beans give minoron its chocolate stripes, and are one of the main things that differentiate it from Luzon’s suman. I use Malagos Chocolate from Davao.”
- Rice: “We use two varieties — Sinandomeng and malagkit (glutinous rice), soaked overnight — in our recipe.”
Q&A with Glenda
What do you love most about the holidays? That they open up the rare opportunity when I can shamelessly spoil people I love with the food that they love, because they’ll be off strict diets.
Favorite Christmas memory? Nothing in particular comes to mind, but it’s the simple gatherings with my family that I treasure most — unhurried and festive.
What would you give to someone who has everything? I would give them time in the form of a home-cooked meal or a treat they love.
What’s your go-to stocking stuffer? I abhor giving gifts for the sake of it. My go-to stocking stuffers are well-thought-out treats — something light to snack on the go.
What’s one thing you always love to receive? I personally treasure handwritten notes and letters. I have some from several decades ago that I still keep.
Christmas isn’t complete without… The warmth of family.
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Baba Ibazeta-Benedicto’s Strawberry Shortcake
If you’ve ever lost yourself in Nono’s Chocolate Oblivion -— moist chocolate cake, whipped chocolate cream and crushed walnut praline — you have Baba Ibazeta-Benedicto to thank. Baba named the trademark dessert of her bakeshop, Classic Confections, after her father, and just last year she opened the doors to her restaurant, Nono’s, her foray into comfort cuisine — expanding her following from dessert lovers to those seeking a savory taste of home.
For this holiday spread, she whipped up her Sylvia’s Strawberry Shortcake, a dessert she named after her mother. “Most strawberry shortcakes come with white icing and are topped with strawberries,” she says, “but I mix the cream and fruit together for a taste of strawberries in every bite.”
- Strawberries: “Whole strawberries — fresh or frozen — add a hint of tartness to the filling and icing.”
- Whipped cream: “I mix the strawberries and whipped cream together — you get the strawberry flavor everywhere and create a vibrant color, as opposed to traditional versions of this recipe.”
- Chiffon cake: “Made from egg yolks, oil, flour and sugar, chiffon cake is light and airy but also moist. I love how it doesn’t clash with the flavors of the filling.”
Q&A with Baba
Best thing about the holidays? Celebrating with the family and eating.
How will you be spending them this year? Usually Christmas Eve is spent at my mom’s house with my dad’s side of the family. After dinner my husband and I rush to my brother-in-law’s house for dessert! Christmas Day is spent with my mom’s relatives.
Favorite Christmas memory? Spending Christmas Eve at my lolo’s house, with a tree surrounded by gifts and having dinner with all my cousins. As kids we couldn’t wait to open our gifts.
What’s your go-to stocking stuffer? Almond crunch, sugar cookies or any sweet treat from Classic Confections.
What’s one thing you always love to receive? Food and Christmas cards with photos.
Christmas isn’t complete without… Family.
All I want for Christmas is… To eat without packing on the pounds. Seriously, I’m happy just spending time with my family over a good meal.
This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of Smile magazine.