‘Noche buena,’ chef Jessie style
Chef Jessie Sincioco’s food should make any noche buena brighter. But she doesn’t cook on Christmas Day; her family does it for her.
“My Auntie Lita makes pork barbecue,” said Sincioco, “and we eat it while waiting for the Panawagan, which is a tradition in Angat, Bulacan, where the townsfolk narrate the Christmas story through balagtasan. It is divided into four chapters, and it starts in church at midnight, passing by four houses along the way.
Sincioco’s house is the last stop, and by 4 a.m., the family would have finished numerous sticks of pork barbecue.
“For noche buena,” she pointed out, “we always have baked macaroni, roast chicken, halabos na hipon, queso de bola and castañas.”
She used to serve her trademark Alugbati and Micro Arugula Salad with crispy danggit in tamarind dressing, but her cousins prefer Caesar salad. What the entire family loves, though, is the wild boar lechon that her uncle roasts for Christmas lunch.
“The first time we had it, we removed all the other food on the table and ate only the lechon. The crispy skin was gone within minutes,” Sincioco said. “Masarap! It’s a little gamy and not so fatty, hindi nakakasawa. My uncle sources it from the mountainside, cleans it thoroughly and seasons it.”
For dessert, they have buko fruit salad and chocolate bundt cake with fudge, cherry and walnuts—comforting flavors of home that Sincioco grew up with before working as pastry chef in the ’80s.
Her big break was winning the grand prize in the baking category of the Great Maya Cookfest in 1983. She then went on to create her own hearty dishes such as Roast Suckling Pig, Roast Turkey, Wild Rice Risotto, and Pasta à la Chef Jessie with scallops, shrimps, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.
All of these are served in her Makati restaurants, Top of the Citi by Chef Jessie and Chef Jessie Rockwell Club, and through her catering company, JCS Gastronomies Inc.
She is also known for her glorious French soufflés. And for being Pope Francis’ chef during his 2015 Manila visit.
For the holidays, Sincioco goes back to Maya Kitchen to demonstrate how to do noche buena, chef Jessie-style—with a home cook’s budget.
At the Maya Kitchen Culinary Elite Series featuring “Chef Jessie’s Christmas Table,” she made Smoked Milkfish and Bihod Pie with Croutons, a recreation of her popular Smoked Salmon Caviar Pie—a pot-luck favorite.
“Smoked salmon gets expensive around Christmas, so I made this one with tinapang bangus,” Sincioco said. “It has bihod, a caviar alternative.”
She also did Cochinillo Stuffed with Atchara Rice, a crowd pleaser. The sweet-tangy atchara rice balances the richness of the roast pork.
Her Kinulob na Manok is a stew with chicken and chorizo inspired by fashion designer Patis Tesoro; it is great for chilly Christmas nights.
Her other dishes are Mesclun of Local Greens with Marigold and Crispy Coconut Flakes in Coco-Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Tiger Prawns with Laing, and Dark Chocolate Fudge Orange Cupcake made with Cacao de Bola.
Tiger Prawns With Laing
250 g dried yam leaves
100 g pork belly, cut into small strips
50 g ginger, chopped
50 g garlic, minced
50 g onion, chopped
Cream of 3 mature coconuts
12 pc tiger prawns, deveined
1) Cook pork belly in a pan with about 1 cup of water until fat is extracted. Set aside meat.
2) Sauté ginger, garlic and onion in pork fat.
3) Add coconut milk and cook until it boils.
4) Add the yam leaves and continue cooking until half of the sauce turns to oil.
5) Season to taste.
6) Cut the back of the prawns lengthwise, leaving the tail and head intact.
7) Grill prawn until half cooked.
8) Fill cavity of the prawns with laing.
9) Bake in a pre-heated oven for 5-10 minutes before serving.
10) Finish off with chopped parsley and sili.
Mesclun of Local Greens with Marigold and Crispy Coconut Flakes in Coco-Balsamic
¼ k pako
¼ k watercress
¼ k alugbati
¼ k spinach sprig
3 g marigold
5 g coconut flakes, toasted
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp vinegar
4 tbsp coco syrup
2/3 c virgin coconut oil
2/3 c sunflower oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1) Clean, trim and wash all the greens. Drain and chill until ready for serving.
2) Toast coconut flakes until crispy. Set aside.
3) For the dressing:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Chill.
4) Arrange all the greens on a plate.
5) Apply dressing and sprinkle salad with crispy coconut flakes and marigold just before serving.
Kinulob na Manok
1 whole chicken
2 pc chorizo de bilbao or Chinese sausage, slice diagonally
4 slices salami or smoked ham or bacon
1 pc white onion, peeled, cut into quarters
2 pc medium-size whole potatoes, peeled, cut into quarters
2 pc medium-size whole tomatoes
Juice of 3 calamansi
3 long strands of onion leeks (green and white part)
¼ c soy sauce
¼ c olive oil
1 tbsp whole peppercorns
4-5 c water
Salt, to taste
String, for tying (optional)
1) Rub chicken in and out with salt. Rinse well. Pat dry with paper towel.
2) Stuff chicken cavity with 1 piece chorizo, 2 slices of either salami, ham or bacon, half of the onion, potato, tomato and 1 stalk of leeks.
3) Close the cavity by using barbecue stick.
4) Lay the chicken, breast up in a clay pot.
5) Arrange the rest of the ingredients in the pot, around and on top of the chicken.
6) Season to taste.
7) Pour enough water until the chicken is submerged.
8) Cover pot with banana leaf tied tightly with a butcher string.
9) Boil, then simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until chicken is cooked.
Smoked Milkfish and Bihod Pie with Croutons
For the cheese mousse:
275 g cream cheese
135 g fresh cream
20 g smoked milkfish flakes
20 g onion, chopped
5 g chives, chopped
5 g dill, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1½ tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper
For the pie:
15 g pistachios, chopped
50 g smoked milkfish flakes
2 pieces onion, chopped
3 pieces egg, boiled
150 g sautéed bihod
1 piece small ripe tomato
Yield: 1 6-inch pie
Using a mixer with paddle attachment, cream the cheese, add the fresh cream, onion, chives, dill, lemon juice and sour cream. Mix until smooth.
Season to taste. Chill.
To assemble pie:
1) Prepare a 6-inch ring mold at the center of a plate.
2) Sprinkle the center with chopped pistachio nuts.
3) Divide the mousse in three.
4) Pipe 1/3 of the mousse covering the bottom of the mould, creating the first layer of the pie.
5) Sprinkle this with the milkfish flakes, grated egg whites, grated egg yolks and 50 g bihod.
6) Repeat 4 and 5, ending with the mousse.
7) Chill to set.
8) Cover top with the remaining bihod. Decorate with tomato rose. Serve with croutons.
For chocolate ganache:
100 g cream
75 g unsweetened dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
125 g dark semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
Candied orange zest
1) Sift all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a hole in the center.
2) Add the egg, mayonnaise and boiling coffee.
3) Fold in the melted chocolate.
4) Line cupcake mold with paper cups.
5) Pour mixture equally into 15 cups.
6) Bake at 180 F oven for 10-12 minutes.
To make the ganache:
Boil the cream in a pot. Fold in the chocolate. Mix until smooth. Decorate each cupcake with a big rosette of fudge and candied orange zest.
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