22 Dec2009


This was the first of three small holiday meals we are hosting this year. We normally have several fairly involved meals around the holidays but decided to pull back from previous season’s menus and while still very abundant, focus on more comfort foods. Several friends are probably wondering why the guestlists have shortened dramatically, but we have donated to charity heavily this year instead. This dinner was for our dearest friends, and we were ten at the table that evening.


When the guests arrived, we had several bowls of nuts laid out on the coffee table. Some turkish pistachios in the silver bowl… smaller than Californian or other varieties, but packed with amazing flavor. Some salted pecans which I brought from a recent trip to NY (harvested just weeks earlier I suspect), in the footed glass bowl. Macadamia nuts roasted in their shells that I discovered at Bacchus Epicerie a few days ago. And a bowl of hazelnuts for variety, but which will probably end up in some cookies down the road… In addition, we had some sliced prosciutto from a leg in the fridge that seems to keep going, going and going. And superb salametti from Citterio. On the cheese boards are a selection of four terrific cheeses including an aged Manchego, a P’tit Basque, an aged Gouda, and a spectacular Cabrales. Several of the guests were cheese fiends. :) The cheese was either in my luggage from New York, or part of a treasure trove I discovered from a wholesaler in Manila. Since I had to buy whole wheels, they will feature in all our holiday meals, and as gifts to relatives who love cheese.


To start, we had a fresh and simple seafood salad with lemon and good unfiltered olive oil. Some shrimp, squid, crab meat and one lobster cut up with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped Italian parsley. I make this once or twice a year and the holidays are definitely a good time to serve this. This was served with some Prosecco and followed by a white wine brought by guests.


The main feature of the meal was a large Clifty Farms southern style ham from Tennessee, just like this one from a holiday meal several years ago. I was so crazed I forgot to take a photo of the ham this year! The ham was served sliced, with a choice of smooth or grainy mustard and with a dried fruit compote on the side. The sweetness of the compote paired nicely with the salty ham.


What made this a “comfort food” type of meal were the sides, first these scalloped potatoes doused in milk and cream and cheese and tops broiled to a golden brown crust.


We also made one of the richest and most unctuous macaroni and cheese, with lots of cream, milk, and three or four kinds of cheeses. It is shown here being scooped into baking dishes before spending some time under the broiler to get that nice crust. I think guests were amused to be served mac & cheese at a holiday meal, but tucked in and finished two serving dishes filled with the stuff!

Also served were some baked sections of butternut squash with butter and maple syrup, and some asparagus, the token green for the evening.


For dessert we had a totally anal-retentive pecan tart, one of only 3 or 4 I have ever made, but this one had every nut lined up like their lives depended on it. :) This was served with creme fraiche. We also had an apple pie, a special request from a college roommate who used to eat half a pie in one sitting! And guests brought other goodies like Cerveza Negra ice cream, pate des fruits, and other sweets.


The table was festively set, but flowers and candles scaled back to match the menu. Guests were told to come dressed casually.


The big treat for the evening was the red wine. Friends and frequent dinner guests always provide the spectacular wine to go with the dinners we cook, and this time they brought both a wonderful and “newsworthy” wine… Several magnums of Chateau La Dominique 2001, the same wine, it turns out, that was served at the White House dinner to celebrate President Obama’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize a few weeks ago. Guests were referring to is as the “L’Obama” wine. Hahaha. It was superb.



  1. joan says:

    Oh my, it’s a mac and cheese to die for! please share the recipe when you have the time. Merry Christmas MM and family!!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 5:06 pm


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  3. Nicole says:

    Oh my that mac and cheese looks deadly specially for lactose intolerant guests! LOL! :)

    The pecan pie looks delish too! I’m actually wondering what’s good to serve for dessert for christmas eve dinner and that Pecan pie looks too good to pass up. Would you mind sharing your recipe?

    Dec 22, 2009 | 5:25 pm

  4. shasha says:

    lucky friends… can we also be friends MM LOL!!! seriously you really make all of us drool with what you prepare!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 5:31 pm

  5. millet says:

    you had me at the cheese and nuts..but then you had to move on to the salumi platter, and on to the ham and seafood salad….arrrghhh! happy holidays, everyone!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 5:43 pm

  6. antonette says:

    oh my goodness! that mac and cheese looks sooooo yummy!! would you mind sharing the recipe? ill be having a get together real soon with my dear college friends and their families and i hope to share that mouth-watering pasta… hmmm i can already imagine it… i hope you’re not too busy. Merry Christmas and God Bless!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 5:58 pm

  7. jannah says:

    I also prepared bake mac and cheese for my daughter’s Christmas party, but it is nothing compare to yours :) happy holidays MM and family.

    Dec 22, 2009 | 6:35 pm

  8. sister says:

    Your pecans are perfectly lined up! Great dessert for a holiday meal, and yes, those were “new crop” pecans picked in late fall by Sunnyland Farms in Georgia.

    Mac and cheese is always very good with ham, can be made very tasty with a variety of cheeses in it. You reminded me, have to make it Christmas with the ham.

    Dec 22, 2009 | 6:57 pm

  9. Bambi says:

    “we had a totally anal-retentive pecan tart” – Looking at that pic, I’d say getting those nuts to line up required a great deal of skill and patience.

    I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Maligayang Pasko & Manigong Bagong Taon.

    Dec 22, 2009 | 10:59 pm

  10. kim e. says:

    MM, mukhang masarap ung mac and cheese! ive been trying to make good mac&cheese from scratch, pero haven’t succeeded in doing so. hope you can share the recipe when the holiday’s festivities are over :) thanks!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 11:26 pm

  11. Vicky Go says:

    If you like manchego you’ll just drool over Grazalema Payoyo goat cheese: an artisanal cheese made in Cadiz in Andalusia, Spain.


    I ordered a small wedge from GourmetLibrary.com & regretted that I only ordered a little. It was just sooooo good! When I went back to the site to order more, it was already out of stock. I guess the SFGate article had something to do with that! I’ll keep on checking the site & will definitely order more – maybe a whole wheel (they are made in small wheels) next time! Talk of melt-in-your-mouth goodness!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 11:29 pm

  12. Fards says:

    the fruit compote looked really good. what kind of fruits were in it? thought i’d like that for the ham for Christmas dinner for a change. Scalloped potatoes is a good idea too. guess what? am making The Leche Flan for dessert. found a 36% cream in a grocery store here. your roommate eating half an apple pie in one sitting made me laugh, as i did that with a strawberry/rhubarb pie i baked this past summer:). could not believe myself! MM, your friends are blessed to have you as a friend. Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. MM and the teen and your whole crew.

    Dec 22, 2009 | 11:35 pm

  13. Nina says:

    Simple but elegant table setting + comfort food + casual attire ……..couldn’t be more perfect!

    Dec 22, 2009 | 11:55 pm

  14. romwell says:

    yung cerveza negra ice cream sounds interesting cn you share recipeplease

    Dec 23, 2009 | 12:16 am

  15. natie says:

    wow, mac and cheese!! my secret comfort food…since i can’t really perfect the prep and cooking, i resort to a small box of stouffer’s..that way, i don’t pig out when the box is done. lovely, lovely meal, MM

    Dec 23, 2009 | 12:24 am

  16. Kelly says:

    Merry Christmas, Mr. MM!

    Dec 23, 2009 | 12:57 am

  17. wysgal says:

    When you invite friends over for dinner, do you invite groups of people that already know each other, or do you have a good mix of people from various areas of your life … so it becomes a bit of a socialization thing as well?

    Dec 23, 2009 | 3:27 am

  18. FM says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and chuckled when I saw your “totally anal-retentive pecan tart.” That is indeed the most mathematically precise pecan tart I’ve ever seen.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

    Dec 23, 2009 | 4:54 am

  19. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Awesome looking pecan pie!! I’m sure it tasted superb as well!!! Did you use your cache of maple syrup?

    Cervesa Negra Ice Cream……hmmmm…..very interesting….How was the kick?

    Dec 23, 2009 | 7:30 am

  20. linda says:

    I love scalloped potatoes and yours looks so good! Love the dish you served it in! What cheese did you use for the topping? just curious……..

    Dec 23, 2009 | 7:51 am

  21. Asunta says:

    Hi MM. Do share with us your Christmas Day Menu. Would love to hear about it.

    Dec 23, 2009 | 8:40 am

  22. kurzhaar says:

    Hi Marketman, interested in your impression of the La Dominique…a rather modernist Bordeaux, don’t you think?

    Dec 23, 2009 | 8:45 am

  23. Marketman says:

    kurzhaar, hahaha, I like wine but am far from an expert. Let alone be able to differentiate it as a modernist take on a fine Bordeaux. I thought it was extremely robust and smooth. Very palatable. Excellent with the salty ham. It’s color was a bit less bright deep burgundy red than other Bordeaux I have tried. Asunta, of course we are having Zubuchon for Christmas Eve meal (brought by a person put on the plane at a certain time primarily to escort the pigs… :) But of course she is coming to spend the holidays with relatives in Manila. Linda, I used Parmesan to top it (a good Parmiggiano Reggiano), and in the potatoes I also used a semi-soft Jarlsberg, and an aged Gouda. I first warmed the potatoes in a heavy cream and milk bath… Artisan, yes, I used maple syrup and it really did make a difference. The ice cream was good, a gift from a friend, so I don’t know the recipe. FM, it wasn’t easy, since when it started baking, it would bubble up and I had to adjust the nuts to keep them in place! Wysgal, on a normal big dinner, we try to mix it up a bit. But for smaller meals like this, everyone pretty much knew everyone else. And everyone brings their favorite thing… wine, chocolate, etc. Kelly et al, thanks, my formal Christmas greetings up soon! :) romwell, sorry, they were a gift, I didn’t make the ice cream. Fards, the fruit compote recipe is in the archives. For this one, I added orange juice and zest. Vicky, thanks for the link! kim e, yes will try to post a recipe for the mac & cheese, though I did a bit of improvising as I made it. Pecan pie recipe was posted by sister in a previous Thanksgiving post, I think.

    Dec 23, 2009 | 9:51 am

  24. Mila says:

    I love the OC pecan pie picture! If you had a bakeshop and sold that pie, I’d be first in line (and standing as orderly as possible).
    MM, did you get the manchego from the folks in Paranaque? I always order one whole wheel of semi-curado from them, I’m serving some slices of it for a xmas noche buena here in China (yes I smuggled the wheel into the country).
    I was at a small market yesterday and saw the same roasted macadamias you posted about a few weeks ago. Bought some and had it for a snack last night. A smokey treat! They’re relatively inexpensive here; unfortunately I couldn’t understand the vendor when she was explaining where they were grown/processed. Southern chinese accents are complicated.

    Dec 23, 2009 | 10:36 am

  25. Lorellie says:

    ooh la la! that pecan pie makes my mouth water! lol!

    Dec 23, 2009 | 11:46 am

  26. betty q. says:

    HAPPY HOLIDAYS, MM AND TO EVERYONE! I don’t know where you get your stamina and energy baking all those goodies!

    Natie: I think it was about last year while we were on holidays that i watched the Food Network Ultimate Recipe Challenge. After seeing the episode, Iwanted to enter but hubby dissuaded me. Anyway, the comfort food winning recipe was Mac and Cheese. I made it upon returning home and regretted not making a lot!…made EXCELLENT LEFTOVERS. NOw, I purposely make enough to feed an army just so we have leftovers! I have made enough Mac and Cheese but that Ultimate Mac and Cheese lives up to its name!

    I wouldn’t recommend having it all the time, though.

    Give it a try, MM…His Mac and Cheese is unforgettable!

    Dec 23, 2009 | 12:22 pm

  27. Joyce says:

    happy holidays! =) read somewhere that since the financial crisis began last year, people have been looking back to comfort foods. mac and cheese resto in nyc http://www.smacnyc.com/

    Dec 24, 2009 | 10:56 am

  28. teny says:

    Merry Christmas MM and God bless your family! The cerveza negra ice cream sounds interesting.

    Dec 25, 2009 | 5:53 pm


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