Media Noche: Let’s try something different on New Year’s eve.

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Let’s try something different on New Year’s eve.

Written by Jose Francisco Cruz as originally posted Media noche, the Filipino, and the six-course meal  via the Philippine Online Chronicles.

After over-indulging on Christmas noche buena with with lechon, ham, lengua, mechado, embutido and other festive dishes that can trigger convulsions of the most pleasurable kind, let’s try something different on New Year’s eve.

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What I have in mind is a six course meal prepared with the least effort but still ending up as something memorable and will win raves.

What is a six-course meal? It is a meal with six phases. Think of a slightly complex song, or a novel, or the stages of pregnancy while riding the MRT.

First comes the appetizers o,r commonly, the piece of bread with pate or whatever it is that you’d like to put on it for a spread, that’s not overly sweet. Then the salad, leafy green salad, with dressing. Then the soup, followed by two main courses. The last would be dessert, of course– ice cream, hot cocoa or cake.

First off, even before the appetizers, serve lots and lots of wine. Classic red wine, and chardonnay.

For salad, you ought to have some nuts with the veggies. Imported nuts are nice, but I’d rather use kasuy or the classic adobong mani. Then some yoghurt. I go with flavored yoghurt, and to complement the flavor of that youghurt, we put in (but not too much) an apple, or some strawberries. The reason for this is to counter the bitterness of the herbs we will include, like basil, or if you’re using some blue cheese (better to use Parmigiano-Regiano, or what they call Parmesan, but keso de bola will do nicely, or any crumbly kind of cheese). Let’s not forget the bitterness of the French dressing.

The French dressing, according to Chef Jamie, is three parts olive oil and one part acid, which could be lemon, or blueberry juice, or vinega. Add some Dijon mustard, shake well, and you have the French dressing. I added applesauce into the salad dressing to temper the bitterness.

Use coconut meat graters, or vegetable skin peelers to play with the cucumbers and carrots, so they come out in thin, wide strips, and not the usual O shapes. Operative word: Spatial. Of course, lots of lettuce, and some parsley. Use a lampin cloth for ‘centrifuging’ out the water from the vegetables. Then drizzle the dressing. Add some crunchy bacon bits too.

A Filipino version of a vegetable salad could be the seaweed in vinegar (replacing the vinaigrette in salads), and tomato slices of Cebu.

The Spanish like filleted fresh anchovies, fried for a few minutes; but a more Filipino approach would be fresh anchovies cooked in vinegar with chopped garlic, ginger, and onions – or what we call kilawin. And since we’re discussing the Spanish, how about sinangkutsang (stir-fried) prawns for tapas, eh? Just check if the prawns are fresh, with the eyes spherical, and the heads firmly attached, and you won’t be shamed. Did I mention to pour some wine? Ok. Good.

Stir-frying prawns takes about five minutes. Frying filleted anchovies, five minutes as well. You can buy them at the grocer’s, pre-prepared..

The soup. If I were to cook a soup that would be worthy of the New Year, it would be bulalo. It is beef shank, with the marrow oozing out like food for the gods.

Use plain white Chinaware. They go well with the Christmas season, as well as provide contrast to any color dish that you will put in front of your guests.
Remember, be generous with the wine.

Beef takes a while to cook, upwards of two hours to boil the meat to tenderness, but you can fire up the stove before preparing the appetizers and salad.

Now we go to the main course. It could be any two of these: fish, chicken, pork, or beef. We are after quick meals here, so the best way to go about it would be grilling.

For milkfish, slice onions, garlic, tomatoes, and place them inside the bangus milkfish belly as filling. Stitch that up, or just cover with tinfoil, candy style. Grill in scorching hot embers for 15 minutes, approximately, and you’re done. You could also roast salmon in the oven with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt in 15 minutes. Serve with some parsley.

The pork also can be set aside overnight in a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, a bit of salt, pepper, a bit of soda, and garlic. The grilling will be from 8-15 minutes. This can even be done by the guests, just assist them so they don’t burn the outside, with the inside still uncooked. Use a toothpick to check if meat from the inside still clings to it. That means it’s not yet cooked. This tip goes for roasting as well. Serve scorching hot, and don’t forget the wine.

Grilling of meats is usually done in 15 minutes.

The chicken can be roasted. Most would use whole chickens and stuffing and hurling them into the oven. That would take too long. Use instead drumsticks with hips attached, one for every guest. You can cook these in half the time it takes a whole chicken to roast. The plus is everybody will have an equal area of crunchy chicken skin. Yum!

Throw in some small potatoes, with the skin on, a few garlic cloves, and halved onions.

Cooking temp. Unfortunately, temperature, yes, even temperature is relative. What will be 1.5 hours at 200 degrees Celsius for me, might be quicker for you. I guess it has to do with the type of oven. The newer ones tend to be of a size not unlike microwave ovens. I got a cool tip from Rachel Allen. She roasts the chicken for half of the time it takes to cook, and only then does she add the rub, with a little bit of olive oil. This way, you don’t burn the rub, and you baste the chicken as well. The rub can be salt + pepper + ginger + thyme. For beef, add rosemary. If you’ve got fresh herbs, the better. Premium groceries have fresh herbs from Tagaytay.

Gravy. The stuff of legend. The secrets of which many would be willing to kill for. Yummy magazine delivers in their gravy recipe. About two tablespoons of drippings (olive oil used in the roasting plus the meat oil, and garlic and onions), you heat in a saucepan, then dissolve a bit of flour in water, and pour that bit by bit onto the saucepan with the drippings, whisking as you do so. A bit of salt and pepper, and voila! Gravy pa lang, ulam na! We love gravy.

The beef can be roasted, as well as the pork. But it takes too long, at 200 degrees Celsius. The pork belly can be turned into lechon, but for the skin to turn into crackling, you’d either have to turn on the flame on top of the oven (for grilling) for an hour, or shock it with boiling cooking oil after cooking.

With the beef, there’s a very thin line between undercooking or overcooking it to the consistency of freightliner-wheel interior rubber. If you’re insistent, use foil for two hours while roasting pork or beef. All the action happens in the last hour after you remove the foil. Just be on your toes.

I would much rather go with frying T-bone steaks. Season with salt and pepper. Put in two tablespoons of cooking oil before the butter, so the butter doesn’t burn. One-inch thick steaks can be cooked in 3-5 minutes. This will be like fried prawns. When the color turns from red to brown, and the blood has oozed out, then it’s cooked. Two inches and above in thickness, and do as the chefs say – 7 minutes in a flat pan without oil, turning over after every minute.

For dessert, mango float, and other no-bake cakes will do nicely, saving you more time. Muffins, after preparation, take only 35 minutes to bake. The banana muffins are classics. The same goes for cookies. Rhum bundt cake takes an hour to prepare, and 45 minutes to bake.

Bibingka, puto-bumbong, and other rice cakes you can easily procure near the Catholic churches.

What if you have balikbayans hankering for Pinoy dishes? The tip here is to stick as close to the original Filipino recipe as possible if you plan on serving everyday dishes for your Media Noche. Watch cooking shows, and you will notice that the chefs are able to cook sumptuous dishes very quickly because they keep things simple.

So how much time does it take for a six-course Medyo Noche?

Shopping time – 1 hour, preferably in the morning

French green salad – 1 hour
Stir-fried prawns – 5 minutes
Bulalo soup – 2 hours

Main course options
Grilled milkfish, large – 15 minutes prep; 15 minutes grilling
Pork barbecue – 12 hours marinating (the longer the better), 15 mins grilling
Roast chicken thighs – 1.5 hours
Pan-grilled T-bone steak – 10 minutes

Banana muffins – prep 45 minutes, baking 35 minutes
Hot tablea cocoa – 30 minutes

Thus, a total of about 8 hours, 6 if you skip the roast chicken.

This, to me, is a delicious way to start the year right.

Photo from: www.lakadpilipinas.com

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