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Thanksgiving dinner a la Pinoy

By Vangie Baga-Reyes
First Posted 22:02:00 11/21/2007

Filed Under: Food

MANILA, Philippines―Today is Thanksgiving Day for the Americans. While as a people we don?t need another excuse to have a family gathering (like Sundays aren?t enough), we can sure use a traditional day for giving thanks as a nation.

Chef, food editor and television host Nancy Reyes-Lumen says if we ever have a Filipino Thanksgiving Day, it should be sometime ?in May when it?s the harvest season.?

But what to be thankful for? Hmmm, that?s a tough one.

While we?re thinking that one out, and since it may take an act of Congress to declare our own Thanksgiving Day, why not, for the meantime, just add a Pinoy twist to the American traditional spread of stuffed roast turkey, baked yam with marshmallow topping, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy and pumpkin pie?

Here is how some chefs would ?Filipinize? the traditional gobble-gobble dinner:

Ed Quimson, JAKA Group corporate executive chef

I will prepare Cream of Kalabasa with Kakang Gata swirl, Rellenong Lechon de Leche with Rellenong Manok stuffing, Fruit Salad Pie with Graham Cracker crust topped with grated buko and Magnolia quickmelt cheese, Baked Camote and Ube with marshmallow.?

Christian Werdenberg, Sofitel Hotel executive chef

I would adapt traditional recipes with local flavors and ingredients. An example would be turkey stuffing which I would make adobo-flavored. Traditional dried apricots and prunes could be substituted with dried mangoes. A pineapple relish would replace the traditional cranberry sauce. I will make maple-glazed kamote and pumpkin, Pumpkin Pie flavored with dayap and the traditional Key Lime Pie will be converted to Calamansi Pie. I will include Bibingka, Puto Bumbong, Adobo Pie, Baboy Humba, Embotido Pate en croute and Beef Morcon.

Nancy Reyes-Lumen, Cook Magazine editor and TV host

I will order jumbo chicken from Magnolia, the three-kilogram size or bigger. If not that, a fat duck or bibe. Of course, being the adobo queen, I will adobo this whole then roast just to brown it. My adobo sauce will be the gravy. Instead of cranberry, I will have mango and guava jelly, plus inihaw slices of cassava and kamote, the yellow kind. The gravy will be chopped liver and balunbalunan adobo sauce. The veggies will be new corn harvest, string beans and carrots. Dessert will be candied saba with sampaguita essence and passion fruit nectar. And dayap tea for beverage. Ang sarap!

Adam Mathis, The Peninsula Manila executive chef

My take on this very traditional meal is to introduce a variety of lighter and healthier options using techniques, flavors or ingredients familiar to Filipino palates. We eat more than what is necessary at Thanksgiving anyway, and I don?t see why we can?t make it a tad more forgiving to one?s arteries.

For salad, I would have Charred Hearts of Romaine with Fennel, Ubod (heart of palm) and Orange-Ancho Vinaigrette.

For appetizer, it?s going to be Turkey Skin Rolls with Roasted Pineapple. (Simply remove crispy skin from turkey. Trim fat. Cut into small pieces. Shred turkey meat into fine julienne. Mix with sweet soy bean paste. Grill pineapple until nicely brown. Soak sheet of rice wrapper in cold water till soft. Spread on kitchen towel to absorb moisture. Arrange some turkey meat, roasted pineapple, cucumber and bell pepper on rice paper and roll to form a spring roll-shaped parcel. Mix hoisin sauce with water to thin paste. Serve.)

For the main course, it?s Pan-seared Turkey Breast, Chanterelles and Baby Leeks with Port Wine-Dayap Jus. It would be nice if one could get an organic turkey.

Dessert will be Caramelized Pineapple Napoleon with Coconut Custard and Vanilla-Tapioca Sauce and Leche Flan (I know it?s not very healthy but it is good!)

All the food should be washed down with a Pumpkin Smoothie. It?s Thanksgiving, remember. (Pumpkin flesh. Bananas. Orange juice. Ground cinnamon. Combine all ingredients in a blender/food processor and blend until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass and serve immediately.)

Myrna Segismundo, Restaurant 9501 executive chef

I will apply Filipino cooking recipes and procedures to give the traditional Thanksgiving menu a Filipino flavor. We can make a pumpkin soup topped with chicharon. A roast turkey will have a relleno stuffing of longganisa, bread and ground meat. You can opt to serve the stuffing on the side with the usual liver gravy. Replace cranberry sauce with assorted pickled vegetables like atchara. Cinnamon yams can be minatamis na kamote. For a healthier meal, serve upland red rice or brown rice with dried local fruits, such as mango and pineapple.

For dessert, it has to be Guapple Pie with vanilla ice cream. You can also offer nicely aged Ilocos basi or mango rum.

Carlo Miguel, Mezzaluna executive chef

The turkey is a blank canvas that blends harmoniously with flavors from all corners of the globe. It can be applied to many traditional Filipino preparations, such as longanisa, adobo, kaldereta, afritada or even Bicol express just to name a few.

Giving it a Filipino twist can be as simple as adding Knorr seasoning in the turkey gravy or using candied kamote with vanilla custard for dessert.

At Mezzaluna, we have done a maple and brandy-cured turkey that ensures a very tender and slightly sweet flesh. We have also done a Turkey Leg Ballotine which is cooked sous vide (vacuum packed) style to give the galantine-like filling optimum tenderness and juiciness.

Though food is important in the Filipino lifestyle it is best to remember what Thanksgiving is really about―gathering with friends and family and being thankful for all our blessings.

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