Just Potlucky

As published on Zee Lifestyle Magazine – November 2016 Entertaining Issue

On one of their regular Monday dinners, food writer Michael Karlo Lim and his better half Vanessa East, foodtrepreneurs Cheanie and Kim Salacop, Ilaputi’s Jan and Karen Rodriguez, and BOCAS Modern Patisserie’s Jean Louis Leon join forces with Zee Lifestyle‘s managing editor Shari Quimbo and partner-in-crime Nath Ybanez for a potluck dinner to end all potluck dinners. Take inspiration from what these food creatives whipped up for your own gatherings this season.

Munchkins are a vivid part of my recollection of potluck parties from kindergarten through college. There’s always that someone who mars the tablescape with these afterthoughts. Thoughtlessness, rather, I’ve always understood that to be. While most everyone brings their best, this person brings his own convenience. I brought these so we’d really be in the theme of the Pinoy potluck.

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We were graciously hosted by the Anzani’s, who regrettably were unable to join the affair, at the loft of their food hall concept, District on 53rd. As with regular dining guests, we were treated to the house appetizer trays, the Food Sungka. Banana Chips done more like nachos and fragrant Turmeric Bread came with an assortment of dips: Hummus, Tahini Mango, Harissa and Tomato Salsa.

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Vanessa East and the author (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Vanessa East and the author (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Vanessa East's pork adobo, derived from a Mindanaonan recipe. (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Vanessa East’s pork adobo, derived from a Mindanaonan recipe. (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Mine and Vanessa’s actual pledge paid homage to last year’s adobo cook off. I’d daresay I can cook but, really, I’d rather just eat. My princess stepped up to the plate and offered to prepare Pork Adobo of her mom’s recipe. The resulting dish had me offering her marriage. Pieces of pork rubbed with crushed garlic, then seasoned with salt and ground black pepper were slowly boiled in vinegar and water on low to a total reduction. A stir-fry in the rendered fat with soy sauce and bay leaves finished it. Simple and simply delicious.

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Managing editor Shari Quimbo's Saffron Orzo (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Managing editor Shari Quimbo’s Saffron Orzo (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Shari and Nath brought in the main starch to start with her Saffron Orzo. Garlic was sautéed in butter and chicken broth was poured in with the saffron steeped on low heat. Uncooked orzo was brought to a boil in the mix and simmered to al dente until the stock has been absorbed. Oil, seasonings and fresh parsley were stirred in, making a dish reminiscent of risotto.

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Cheanie and Kim Salacop's tininolahang pinaupong manok (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Cheanie and Kim Salacop’s tininolahang pinaupong manok (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Restaurant supply-allers Cheanie and Kim brought a Tininolahang Pinaupong Manok for our turkey. A whole dressed chicken was stuffed with herbs and spices, deep-fried and rested to drain oil before a slow simmering with lemongrass, ginger and sautéed onions. The final render gave the soup body and flavor intensity. The meat’s flavors were sealed in the fry while the bath gave it back moisture.

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Ilaputi's Karen and Jan Rodriguez (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Ilaputi’s Karen and Jan Rodriguez (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
The Rodriguezes' roasted cauliflower (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
The Rodriguezes’ roasted buffalo cauliflower (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

There’s my favorite overachiever, another one of my kindred spirits in appetite and palate, Jan, with his wife Karen, bringing in two dishes plus a surprise number. Stems peeking out of what looked like deep-fried breaded chicken pieces betrayed the vegetal actuality of his Roasted Buffalo Cauliflower. Florets were dipped in a light herb and spice batter, oven-roasted for thirty minutes, rested ten and brushed with Louisiana-style hot sauce before another thirty-minute toast. A flash deep-fry finish freshened it up for service with fresh carrot and jicama sticks, and a blue cheese dip.

Jan's "Faux Gras" is made up of chicken liver with bacon fat, topped with applewood and hickory smoked bacon marmalade (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Jan’s “Faux Gras” is made up of chicken liver with bacon fat, topped with applewood and hickory smoked bacon marmalade (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

Bacon fat and pureed bacon were emulsified into a chicken liver pate topped with Applewood and Hickory smoked bacon marmalade in his “Faux Gras.” Here the regular chicken liver burst with the richness of bacon fat, making it quite like the real LeCoy. The savory-sweetness in the marmalade helped cut through the fatty goodness albeit its bacon base.

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Jean-Louis, my favorite and inarguably the best pâtissier on the island to date, brought in “Pumpkin”-Spice Eclairs for a seasonal twist. Local squash figured into custard with cinnamon and piped generously on split choux pieces with Chantilly cream. Some croquantine gave a chocolate-hazelnut crunch to the spongy textures with boudoir biscuits and chocolates for garnish.

Jean Louis Leon's "Pumpkin"-Spice Eclairs made with local squash (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)
Jean Louis Leon’s “Pumpkin”-Spice Eclairs made with local squash (Photography by Oliver Echevarria/Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, November 2016)

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Jan’s surprise was his take on the Salted Egg Potato Chips trend. Hand-cut fried potato chips painstakingly brushed with salted egg butter and sprinkled with roasted pepper flakes for a rich and flavorful profile more “salted egg” than most commercial availabilities.

Order of progression has never been established in informal gatherings around these parts. Everyone dipped into the box of Munchkins randomly throughout dinner, each one making some declaration or a Munchkin anecdote with some bravado as if to ease some or share guilt. I gathered that my attempt at bringing humor to the table worked. I also hoped the juxtaposition allowed us to really appreciate all our food experiences. After all, this is thanksgiving.

photography Oliver Echevarria

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