They say that as the end of the year approaches, one must purge themselves of the old to make space for the new. But there are some things old that I will hold on to as long as I live. Like the Noche Buena meal I’ve been eating for the past 29 years of my life…
It’s a treat that the entire clan looks forward to! A menu that is served only once a year with hardly, or more often than not, no leftovers. If you miss it, then you will have to wait for another 365 days. And who would even want to wait 365 days? Definitely not me.
On Christmas Eve, we, Paternos, celebrate with a killer meal. Literally. Perhaps that’s why it’s meant to be eaten once a year? Aside from the fact that it takes hours, sometimes days to prepare.
QUESO DE BOLA
For starters, while waiting for the main event, we munch on the traditional queso de bola (Edam Cheese ball encased in bright red wax) triangles. Only Marca Pina or Marca Pato are the brands allowed on the table. None of, what my cousins call, the queso de queso: bastardized Edam Cheese, which is really regular processed cheese encased in traditional bright red wax.
The queso de bola triangles are best paired with paper-thin slices of Hok Shiu (Did I spell it out right?) or Chinese ham on top of lightly toasted French bread. Again, the family also prefers particular brands, since my lola (Bless her foodie soul) stopped making them from scratch. Since we feel that Majestic ham’s quality has deteriorated in the recent years, Adelina’s or the classic (my Quiapo born and bred father has been eating this since days of yore) Excelente chinese ham is served on the Christmas Eve table.
In the past years, the chinese ham was actually served in chunks rather than paper thin slices. But this year, we’ve had professional help from my sister chef, who masterfully sliced the chinese ham into its paper thin perfection.
Of course, I try my very best to restrain myself from stuffing my mouth with too much cheese, ham and bread to make way for the main event. At least, part one of it. I must say this is MY favorite. A melange of ox tripe, chickpeas, ox hooves, bell peppers, and (ohhh lala!) chorizo bilbao. Oh yes, the much coveted chorizo bilbao. We, Paterno cousins, spend each Christmas eve gathered round the bowls of callos, fishing for the most chorizo bilbao. Literally fishing for them!
I prefer to have my fill of callos in a bowl with a splash of red Tabasco sauce and paired with lightly toasted French bread. But in the event of ravenous hunger for the much anticipated Christmas feast, callos on top of a mountain of white rice is just as good.
Onto part two of the main event, the chicken galantina. It is one of my father’s kitchen pride and joy is to have perfected the family heirloom recipe of Chicken Galantina. Deboned whole chicken stuffed with meaty goodness: ground pork, vienna sausage, scrap ham. Ahhhhh…meat on meat on meat on meat goodness. Carnivore’s heaven.
I usually pass up on this dish since we still have a number of birds stocked in our refrigerator. Plus, I do prefer to age the birds a bit, making it the perfect post holiday tummy stuffing meal. Slices of Chicken Galantina panfried in butter and then served with a squiggle of japanese mayonnaise. Japanese mayonnaise and no less.
The perfect way to end the Christmas feast is a bowl of creamy fruit salad topped with roasted cashew nuts. Never mind the cream, it’s a no guilt indulgence because it has loads of fiber. No kidding! It has fruits right? Peaches, pears, bananas, grapes, cherries…the works! Throw in nata de coco and kaong for some bite.
Just thinking of the entire meal makes me want to fast forward to Christmas 2011! Truly some things, no matter how old, you wish would never change. How can you even let go of such timeless traditions?
As the end of 2010 approaches (a few hours left!), I am now looking forward to our traditional Media Noche / New Year’s Eve feast 🙂 Can you guess what we are having tonight?
Have a Delicious 2011 everyone!