What’s on my Christmas table?

Chefs J Gamboa and Melissa Sison-Oreta reveal the deliciously festive dishes that make it to their Christmas tables and where to shop for the ingredients

Even for experienced cooks, Christmas dinner is a special challenge. We asked two people who know best how they make the challenge a little more fuss free and fun. You don't have to cook everything right down to the dessert. Here are a list of recommended dishes for the occasion and where to shop for them.

El Cirkulo Chef J Gamboa's Christmas table

Plaza Ham
“It can’t be Christmas without ham! Might as well make it a Plaza Ham.”
www.theplazapremiumbakedham.com, +632 890 8446

Peninsula Manila pan de sal (local bun)
“My mom’s favorite, and ours too!”
www.manila.peninsula.com, +632 887 2888

MilkyWay macaroni supreme salad
“Rich, creamy and nostalgic old-fashioned macaroni salad. It’s made with elbow macaroni,  cooked chicken, honey ham, pineapple, green peas, cheddar cheese, hard boiled eggs and mayonnaise.”
www.cafe.milkywayrestaurant.com, +632 843 4124

Hizon’s ensaymada
Ensaymada
is a creamy pastry roll topped with cheese and butter. “Best with homemade hot chocolate with peanut butter. Our Yaya (nanny) ChuChu has been making our hot chocolate since forever. Ingredients are fresh milk, Van Houten cocoa powder, sugar and peanut butter.”
Hizon's has a branch at The Landmark, Makati Avenue, Makati City

Hungarian and chipolata sausages from Santis Deli
www.santis-deli.com, +632 844 1154

Reypanaer cheese
Reypenaer
aged Gouda cheese from Santis Deli
“For me, it’s the best tasting hard cheese ever. Melts well too. Terrific for grilled cheese sandwiches.”
www.santis-deli.com, +632 844 1154

Cochinillo asado
Cirkulo’s cochinillo asado
Cochinillo asado
is roast suckling pig. The best has crisp skin, is tender and tasty.
www.elcirkulo.com, +632 810 2763

Cirkulo’s paella Montaña with Portabella mushrooms, asparagus, roasted garlic and truffle oil
www.elcirculo.com, +632 810 2763. Get Chef J's recipe here

Salted caramel chocolate cake from Park Avenue Desserts
“Definitely not your mom’s chocolate cake, but close.”
www.parkavenuedesserts.com, +632 852 6141

Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Gran Reserva from Best World Beverages
“It’s Christmas! You deserve a delicious gran reserva from Rioja to celebrate!”
www.facebook.com/bestworldbeveragebrandsinc

Center for Culinary Arts Manila program director Melissa Sison-Oreta's Christmas table

Cheese platter with four kinds of cheese
“Hard cheese, white; for soft, gorgonzola, blue cheese; for semi-hard, Gouda, particularly Two Sisters, gruyere and pecorino.”
www.santis-deli.com, +632 844 1154
www.facebook.com/TerrySelection, +632 844 1816

Taittinger Brut Reserva
Wine
“Champagne or a sparkling rosé because it’s festive. For red, I always get two kinds — a heavy French wine and a light California wine. For white, I get Beringer from Epicurious.”
www.santis-deli.com, +632 844 1154
www.facebook.com/TerrySelection, +632 844 1816

Cauliflower soup, made from scratch
“We’re a cooking family. My brother, my mom and I cook.”

Mixed mushroom salad with cream dressing

Santis Delicatessen Ortigas branch
Pica-pica or appetizer
“We usually have a mix of gambas, angulas — baby eel with garlic, smoked salmon; caviar pie, spinach artichoke dip with Tostitos chips. We get the eel from Terry’s Selection, caviar from Santis, and Tostitos is available from most groceries.”
www.santis-deli.com, +632 844 1154
www.facebook.com/TerrySelection, +632 844 1816

Steak
“My brother normally does the main course because he’s a steak guy. He roasts USDA prime rib eye with his special marinade, or slices the prime roast to two inches thick and grills this with his special marinade.”

Potatoes or risotto
“For our gratinated potatoes, we boil thinly sliced potatoes in milk and garlic for 15 minutes. Then transfer the mix to a Pyrex container, top it with grated mozzarella cheese and gruyere cheese, then bake in the oven until the cheese gets gratin.”

Spaghetti and chicken wings
“A one-day bolognese — one-day because it’s literally left to simmer for one whole day — made by my mom for the kids.”

Dessert
“Whatever people give us or mango crepe that we make at home and chocolate souffle that I make with vanilla sauce.”

Flowers
“As a centerpiece, picked from our garden.”

About our insiders
J Gamboa
is executive chef of Milkyway CaféCirkuloAzu Thai and Tsukiji, and director for education of LTB Philippines Chefs Association. He holds a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Travel Administration from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, finishing cum laude. He underwent further training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Sunrice Alan Ducasse Formation in Singapore, and the Callebaut Chocolate College, also in Singapore.
Melisssa Sison-Oreta is the program director of the Center for Culinary Arts, Manila (CCA). She owned and operated restaurants such as Salumeria Café, My Little Kitchen, Mr. Rockefeller, Butter Diner, and was executive chef for research and development for the Oyster Group of Companies. She took up Hotel and Restaurant Management at the Swiss Hotel Association Ecole Des Roches, Bluche, Valais Switzerland, and has a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management.

Originally published in InFlight Traveller October to November 2015