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Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas feasting (and the mother of all dinner parties)

And how was your Christmas?

For me, it involved two days of relentless (and totally selfless) gluttony. Two dinners were consumed on Christmas Eve, because I had to. First a casual affair at Mum's--leg ham, salads and roll-your-ownVietnamese goi cuon summer rolls.

At 10.30pm, I'm at cucina Veruca for a feast of glazed leg ham (ooh yum, that ginger marmalade glaze works a treat!), bo tai chanh raw beef salad, roast veggies and the bestest roast pork I've had this year. Made using a recipe by Karen Martini, the pork belly slab was simmered for 90 minutes, dried in the fridge for four hours and then roasted on high for an amazing pork crackling with meltingly tender fat-ribboned flesh.

11.30am Christmas Day: A family lunch of cold cuts, seafood and salad. I contribute my roast pumpkin salad with toasted almonds. After a frenzy of present unwrapping by impatient and very excited little 'uns, there's a decadent homemade chocolate tart of chocolate pastry and chocolate ganache filling (recipe by Serge Dansereau, execution by Mister Ed). We also manage a few iced gingerbread men and shortbread swirls (recipe to come) with cups of tea.

At 6pm, my digestive tract is treatening to go on strike by my eyes are wide with greed. I've managed to score an invite to Pig Flyin's Christmas dinner--he of orange souffle fame--and the sight in the kitchen is an amazing one indeed. One by one we watch he and K plate up dish after dish, a buffet table that is soon groaning with 16 (yes 16!) works of art.

Seared giant scallops paired with blood sausage or chorizo,
topped with hollandaise sauce and chervil

I'd always been sceptical about the pairing of scallops with blood sausage but this contrasting combination works wonderfully, the earthy heartiness of the blood sausage complementing the light and delicate sweetness of the scallop.

Homemade gravlax #1: salt-cured salmon with dill

Homemade gravlax #2: salt-cured salmon with lemongrass and chilli

Napkin-wrapped cutlery
(so very Donna Hay!)

Preparing the crab salad cornets

Cornets stuffed with hand-picked crab salad

The cornets were made by wrapping wonton sheets around cannoli horns
and then deep-frying until crisp. Such decadence! The crab was so sweet, the cornets were so crunchy and golden.

Stuffed cabbage rolls

Preparing the roast beef canapes

Crostini topped with rare roast beef slices, horseradish cream,
salted capers and grated lemon

Carving the Berkshire ham

A Berkshire ham! The G-man was a little confused about what this meant until I explained that Berkshire pigs, also known as Kurobuta pigs, are the wagyu of the pork world. Pig Flyin' took Veruca's tip and used ginger marmalade as the glaze and oh, what a masterful dish of perfection!

Berkshire pork glazed leg ham

The caramelised skin... ooh it was like a pork caramel lolly. Soft and chewy, it was salty, sweet and ooh so porky. If only they sold these wrapped in twists of paper by the bag! The pork itself was wonderfully moist and tender too with an amazing smoky flavour.

Le Creuset pots with homemade fruit chutneys

Chilled tomato soup with parmesan ice cream; and
almond milk with frozen white cherries

It's about this time that I start pinching myself to check I'm not dreaming. Tomato soup with parmesan ice cream? I could swear I'm in a dream about Iron Chef! But no, Pig Flyin' is dismissive of our gasps of wonder. "It's easy," he says, just melt the parmesan into cream, whisk in stiff egg whites and freeze." Uh-huh, I reply.

The chilled tomato soup is so cool and refreshing. There's also a parmesan biscuit (grated parmesan baked on Silpat sheets and then snapped into crackers) and the parmesan ice cream really does pack a frozen parmesan punch.

The almond milk was made by soaking blanched almonds in water, then blending to a pulp and squeezing out the juice. Thick and slightly tart, this was an aquired taste, although I did enjoy the frozen halves of white cherries at the bottom of the glass.

Confit of salmon dusted with ground Japanese mountain pepper
served on a bed of shaved fennel

Oh this looked very Tetsuya-style! The confit of salmon, cooked slowly in oil at a very low temperature, had a wonderfully firm texture. Pig Flyin' is a big fan of Japanese mountain pepper and I can see why. Sophisticatedly mild with nuances of lemon, there's none of the abrupt harshness one normally associates with traditional black pepper.

Greek salad, fresh beetroot salad and Israeli cous cous salad

Israeli cous cous salad (also known as mougrabieh)

This was the first time I'd tried mougrabieh, or Israeli cous cous. I loved its squeakiness, plump granules that felt like a cross between pasta and lentils.

Pan-frying calamari

Calamari ripieni - calamari stuffed with its own tentacles
served on a bed of French puy lentils

One word. Wow. I love calamari ripieni but could never fathom making my own. This was so tender, and I loved the toothsome texture of the puy lentils as well.

Buche creme citron framboise
Lemon curd, rasberry and italienne meringue log

The Buche de Noel was bought by X from Cafe Maison. This flavour is apparently the shop owner wife's favourite. X reports that the cafe is on Boundary St in Ruschcutters Bay/Darlinghurst, near the corner of Glenview St. The chocolate plaque was named with Saint-Germaine Patisserie.

Raspberry and white chocolate tiramisu

Pig Flyin' says he hasn't made much dessert--a raspberry and white chocolate tiramisu--and then he brings out homemade nougat! Cue gasps of shock and utter delight!

Homemade cranberry and pistachio nougat with ginger juice

Cranberry cupcakes with white chocolate icing

My cranberry cupcakes pale in comparison to Pig Flyin's efforts. But I don't care. I'm just so grateful I scored an invite!

And most impressive of all was the calm and peaceful state of the kitchen throughout the entire preparation time. Oh we're not worthy, Pig Flyin', but we're so very very glad we're your dinner party friends!

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Stomachs Eleven Christmas - 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008
21 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/29/2008 11:56:00 pm


  • At 12/30/2008 1:22 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    All I can say is wow...god almighty...how did you fit all that in? Then again, if the food is good, how can you not?! I'm in absolute awe at Pig Flyin's dinner party...*mouth wide open*.

  • At 12/30/2008 2:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!! :D

  • At 12/30/2008 3:00 am, Blogger Irina said…

    Wow, that looked great! We made cabbage rolls as well as buche de noel amongst other things... yum!

  • At 12/30/2008 3:53 am, Blogger Gun said…

    You owed me BIGGGGGG!!!

  • At 12/30/2008 8:17 am, Blogger anarcist said…

    Wow! What a magnificent spread!

    The scallops with sausage, the crab coronets, the beef crostini and salmon confit all look amazing.

    The presentation looks really professional for homemade food.

    My Christmas:

  • At 12/30/2008 8:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What an amazing effort by Pig Flyin! Making your own nougat is heroic, and parmesan icecream sounds like a degustation menu.

  • At 12/30/2008 10:33 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've been checking your site everyday wondering where you have been Helen. Now I know, you've been recovering from this spectacular meal.

    This is probably the best Christmas meal I've seen in a while! Actually, one of the best home cooked meals I've seen for a while in general. Top effort!

  • At 12/30/2008 1:52 pm, Blogger trishie said…

    What amazing food! Looks like you had a wonderful Xmas feast.

  • At 12/30/2008 6:02 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow, that looks like the most spectacular feast! Yum!

  • At 12/30/2008 6:03 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    hi helen, looks awesome. i love the idea of how you served the scallops and also the wonton cones. i'll have to learn to do and try myself.
    have a happy new year!
    simon :-)

  • At 12/30/2008 9:08 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    This looks amazing! The scallops with blood sausage and crab salad cornets are both brilliant entertaining ideas

  • At 12/30/2008 10:25 pm, Blogger Y said…

    Everything looks SO good! I can't believe you made it through so many parties! Did you have to be rolled out the last door? I know I would've!

  • At 12/31/2008 12:28 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Karen - Oh it's quite staggering how much food I can fit in if I try :) I don't think that's necessarily a good thing though! But with such amazing food, I think everyone found a litte more room!

    Hi lild - Thank you. Hope you had a lovely Christmas too and here's to a wonderful new year ahead.

    Hi Irina - Yum. Sounds great. I think I might try making a buche de noel next year. Half the fun would be decorating it, of course!

    Hi Gun - LOL.

    Hi Adam - What a great Christmas feast you had yourself! It all looks great!

    Hi Arwen - I would love to try making my own nougat but I will have to invest in a sugar thermometer first. I was amazed by the parmesan ice cream too. Such decadence!

    Hi Howard - lol. It's been non-stop feasting, but hasn't everyone else been, too? I don't think anyone will be able to surpass this meal, except Pig Flyin' of course!

    Hi Trishiekoh - It was utterly amazing. I'm so glad I got to partake in such a feast. Hope your one was merry too.

    Hi tummyrumble - It was! I wish I could do it all over again!

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - No ideas were mine - it was all Pig Flyin's creative genius. The cornets are a great idea, I agree, and the scallops looked so fancy. Happy new year to you too!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - I wonder if these dishes will be recreated all over Sydney in the coming months :) They are great ideas for dinner parties.

    Hi Y - lol. I seriously needed a digestive break after so much good food. I think I rested for about 12 hours, then I was back into the feasting again :)

  • At 12/31/2008 11:38 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What an amazing spread. How lucky were you!

  • At 12/31/2008 5:28 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Veruca Salt - I know. I was very grateful indeed!

  • At 12/31/2008 5:38 pm, Blogger Camera Girl said…

    Oh my goodness didn't realise all the shot was from a single day!! They look delicious and it definitely beats my Christmas on a plane!

  • At 1/01/2009 8:16 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Camera Girl - Not just one day, but one night :) It was a feast indeed, and whilst plane food is rarely great, the best part is arriving at your destination!

  • At 1/02/2009 11:49 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    May I wipe the drool from my chin now. That was the best piece of food blog writing all year. Heres to many more in 09.

  • At 1/02/2009 9:37 pm, Blogger Annie said…

    Holy crap! That is the most amazing spread ever! Pig Flyin' should be very proud! And parmesan ice cream *drools*

  • At 1/03/2009 12:04 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think Pig Flyin' has missed his calling....I bet Maeve would have been impressed.

  • At 1/03/2009 2:17 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Peter - Thanks, although I'm not sure it was the best piece of food writing. Perhaps the best post of food porn instead :) Hope to continue to serve up plenty more posts in 2009!

    Hi Annie - I know! We were slack-jawed with amazement. The parmesan ice cream was out-of-this-world.

    Hi DiveMummy - Perhaps he should be the next Homecook Hero for Good Living! He could star in an episode of Gourmet Safari as well!


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