FAMILY FESTIVE FEAST
What’s on the festive tables of two celebrated chefs
Christmas is a big deal in France. Come December, every state in the country starts to get dressed in their festive best, from the rustic Christmas markets and décor of Normandy to the glitz and glamour of Paris. Similarly, homes will follow suit; advent wreaths are hung and Nativity scenes are set up on windowsills. It all culminates on Christmas Eve, when the most important tradition of France takes place. Before midnight mass, families must gather for le Réveillon de Noël.
The Réveillon dinner is where the French truly go all out. Premium ingredients and the finest wines are brought out, and Réveillon dinners can last up to six hours. (Staying at the table for long hours is part of the French tradition.) It is a time of merriment and wonder, especially for children, when greeted with a massive table filled to the brim with the grandest festive dishes.
It’s how Vianney Massot remembers his Christmases at home. The 27-yearold, who helms one Michelin-starred Vianney Massot Restaurant, remembers the atmosphere and air of excitement at his family table. He has fond memories of his grandmother and mother toiling away in the kitchen to prepare mouthwatering signatures for Réveillon.
The menu for Réveillon changes from region to region, but a mainstay will always be a gorgeous golden brown roasted bird. It doesn’t have to be turkey; the entire range of French poultry is used, from chicken to quail to pheasant to goose. However, Massot remembers his grandmother’s La Pintade (guinea fowl) the best.
“My grandmother does it in a very traditional way, serving it with foie gras and roasted chestnuts. The smell is simply intoxicating; it really gets me in a festive mood,” shares Massot. His mother would always prepare the Bûche de Noël (yule log). The Christmas musthave sports cherry, chocolate and almond mousse, which are classic flavours for a yule log. At Vianney Massot Restaurant, the Bûche de
Noël is reinterpreted into a modern, contemporary form: La Pomme de Pin. Almond mousse is carefully piped to resemble a pinecone, before the cake is finished with ‘snow’ and edible soil.
What will Massot bring to his family’s table, now that he’s a celebrated chef? “My trademark Le Macaroni. Everything about it just matches what Réveillon is about,” he says. And he’s not wrong; the foie gras filling hidden within the macaroni and copious amount of black truffle is in line with the lavishness of ingredients used during Réveillon. Pair the dish with a rich port and Armagnac sauce and you’ve got a sumptuous Christmas feast.
“My grandmother does it in a very traditional way, serving it with foie gras and roasted chestnuts. The smell is simply intoxicating; it really gets me in a festive mood” Vianney Massot's La Pintade is inspired by the traditional festive roasts his grandmother would make as a centerpiece to a Christmas feast.
Do not be confused when you hear the jingling of bells, the soulful voice of Michael Bublé, and spot adorable Christmas decorations at every street corner of Philippines during September. The country is known for organising the longest Christmas fiestas yuletide parties begin four months early.
And just like her country’s love for the holidays, Lisa Revilla, executive chef of The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar, and her family are also massive fans of Christmas. “A typical Revilla festive feast is a gathering of over 100 people, including my extended family. Held in one of the function rooms of our ancestral home-turned-hotel, the dinner includes a large spread of festive dishes served buffet style with carving stations. We will also fire up the barbecue to grill chunks of meat,” shares Revilla.
A staple on the table is the Chicken Galantina, a must-have for Revilla’s lola (grandma). This fowl dish is only served during Christmas, and is traditionally made from deboned chicken stuffed with farce meat like minced pork, ham, olives, sweet pickles and red bell peppers. Every household has a different interpretation of their Chicken Galantina. “Lola doesn’t have a recipe for this – she relies on muscle memory. The Revilla version features pork, cheddar cheese, olives and ham stuffing, and the stuffed chicken is then roasted instead of steamed, for added flavour,” says Revilla. Unlike her lola, Revilla’s mum go-to dish is the Ensaymadas, a classic Spanish pastry with layers of butter and sprinkled with queso de bola cheese.
As for Revilla, she has added an Italian twist to the classic Lechon. “For the Porchetta Lechon, I use traditional seasonings
– a mixture of salt, black pepper, red chillies, garlic, lemongrass, scallions and cider vinegar – but I prepare it the Italian way. And when I cook it, instead of cider vinegar, I use coconut vinegar made by my uncle – it’s aged coconut sap freshly harvested from the tree,” she shares. And this is what the Christmas at Revilla is: traditional, familiar with a touch of modernity.
Ditch the log cake; this is Lisa Revilla's mama's favourite Christmas treat, Ensaymada. “A typical Revilla festive feast is a gathering of over 100 people, including my extended family. Held in one of the function rooms of our ancestral hometurned-hotel, the dinner includes a large spread of festive dishes served buffet style with carving stations. We will also fire up the barbecue to grill chunks of meat.”
A contemporary re-imagination of Massot's mother's Yule Log: La Pomme de Pin Vianney Massot Restaurant's signature Le Macaroni, a dish fit for an elegant Christmas feast.
Inspired by her trip to Italy, the Porchetta Lechon is Revilla's take on the classic dish. Chicken Galantina, a must-have from Lisa Revilla's grandmother.
PHOTOGRAPHY EDDIE TEO STYLING DARRYL PESTANA