Category Archives: holiday

Baked Chicken And A Dog Named Vishnu

Baked whole chickens are just about the simplest thing you can make with limited time and resources and still come out with a creation that would merit the reaction “Wow!” I made it first in high school under the direction of a teacher who also taught me how to make lasagna.

Doesn’t it look amazing? So easy!

Many years later while broke and jobless in a house in Quezon City, Philippines, we gathered our resources to buy a whole jumbo chicken which I marinated and baked. We ate it for Christmas dinner and proceeded to cocktails and guitar playing. And then our dog named Vishnu quietly reached up onto the dining table and grabbed the rest of the chicken, prompting our screams as she ran out the door. Vicoy, an uncle figure in that household, chased after Vishnu and pulled the bird out of her mouth and brought it back inside. We then asked what he planned on doing with a carcass that had already been inside a dog’s mouth and on the ground. Disgusted, he threw it back out for Vishnu to feast on for her best and last Christmas. (Poor dog died the folowing year shortly after nursing her only litter.) But again, I digress.

This gravy is so simple but so rich with the flavors of rosemary, oregano and garlic.

Serving a whole roasted bird with shiny brown crispy skin could be just as rewarding as serving a labored-over lasagna. But the difference in prep time and the versability of a baked chicken is hard to beat. I hope you enjoy one of my favorite dishes to make and I hope you also get the WOW you deserve. Continue reading

Christmas Ornaments

Being away from my home country for the past decade, we try to keep holiday traditions intact by decorating and setting up a real Christmas tree. I can’t wait to be back home for Christmas again, but until that time our celebrations will have to make up for the festivities we’ve missed. 
Merry Christmas to one and all!

 A parol is a traditional Filipino Christmas lantern.

Wooden star from Budapest.

Wire star from Vaci Utca market, Budapest.

Glass piggy from Prague.

Swarovski star.

Ernie chasing after Bert.

Bokeh it up!

Capiz (mother of pearl) parol ornaments from the Philippines.

Christmas Ham

I’ve made a Christmas ham since my teenage years in the Philippines and continued the tradition when I moved to New York, developing my recipe to use locally available ingredients. This ham is popular among Filipinos but is a general crowd pleaser as well. It’s always festive and very easy and inexpensive to make. Total cost for this is around $20.


Whole smoked pork butt, sized according to one’s stockpot capacity
1 big can pineapple juice
1 small 1-pound box Domino’s dark brown sugar
1 big can pineapple slices
1 small can crushed pineapple
1/4 cup dried cloves
10 or so pieces Maraschino cherries
Green garnish leaves such as parsley, brocollini, etc.


Remove plastic packaging from ham and place in a stockpot. Set aside one cup of brown sugar. Into the pot add pineapple juice, the rest of the brown sugar, and cloves. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Cool and refrigerate pot with soaking ham for 1-2 days. On day of occasion, simmer pot for 1-2 hours on low heat and then set on glass baking dish. Create a mixture of crushed pineapple and brown sugar moistened with the soaking sauce and coat ham. Sprinkle more brown sugar and cloves on top and bake uncovered for 1 hour at 375F. Remove promptly and arrange in round decorative dish with pineapples, cherries, and garnish leaves (as in photo).

Sauce: Reduce soaking sauce in stock pot on medium heat until 1/2 original amount. Add sugar to taste or to thicken. Slice ham thinly and serve topped with warm sauce.


Holiday Brunch

I’ve developed a fail-safe quiche recipe through the years and experiment with fillings here and there.
Uncooked corned beef, spinach and sundried tomato tapenade quiche.
Uncooked pastrami and onion quiche.
An experiment in table napkin folding.
Flowers a day too late.
Potato gratin.
Cooked pastrami and onion quiche.
Cooked corned beef, spinach and sun-dried tomato tapenade quiche.
A plate with all, and a side of sausage.
My standard brunch recipes below. Mangia!


White Cheddar Potato Gratin
4 lbs russet potatoes, sliced thinly
2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
1/4 cup rosemary leaves
2 small shallots, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 13X19 rectangular glass or porcelain baking dish. Arrange potato pieces in layers on the dish. Once halfway full, sprinkle half the cheese, rosemary and shallots. Continue layering the potatoes, and sprinkle the rest of cheese, rosemary and shallots. Dissolve salt and pepper in the heavy cream and pour on potatoes. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake covered for 1 hour. Bake uncovered for another 45 minutes until top is brown. Let stand 20-30 minutes before serving.

Standard Quiche Base 

2 frozen 9″ pie crusts
1 cup grated gruyere, gouda, or white cheddar cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
2 cups filling of choice (see below*)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake pie crusts until brown, about 10 minutes. In a bowl, beat eggs, add milk, and a dash of salt and pepper. Arrange pastrami, onion and mushrooms, and cheese on the pie plates, pour in milk mixture until crust is filled. Bake for 45 minutes at 375, or until fork comes out clean from center. Let stand or 15 minutes before serving.

***Fillings may vary. Some combinations I’ve used are spinach (2 cups chopped spinach, frozen or fresh, blanched and drained/squeezed dry), spinach and bacon, pastrami/corned beef and onion, mushrooms and onions. Use two cups of filling (one cup for each pie). The possibilities are endless!

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