Play with fire, handle the meat, and mix up a punch bowl with The Peak’s guide to putting together a show-stopping holiday dinner.
Every meal, like a symphony, starts off with something to tease and tantalise. Just popping open bottles of champagne would be too easy – so put together a delicious punch bowl and assemble a charcuterie board for guests to graze on.
Christmas might be the time for mulled wines and eggnog, but winter in Singapore remains a remote, and frankly apocalyptic, possibility. Our punch bowl – recipe courtesy of Demi Paramita, Bacardi Legacy ﬁnalist and head mixologist of Skai Bar – is a refreshing, festive option.
Serves four, scale as needed
• Monin strawberry cordial 80ml
• Lime juice 45ml
• Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva 150ml
• Palo Cortado sherry 45ml
• Christmas spiced bitters 45ml (recipe below)
• Herbs (try mint, fennel fronds and rosemary)
• Garnishes like edible ﬂowers, citrus wheels and edible gold ﬂakes
CHRISTMAS SPICED BITTERS RECIPE
• Angostura bitters 300ml
• Cinnamon sticks 25g
• Clove 15g
• Star anise 15g
Macerate all the ingredients for ﬁve hours, strain, and bottle.
TO MAKE THE PUNCH BOWL:
Combine all liquid ingredients except the champagne, and chill ahead of time. Make the punch just before guests arrive to keep things fresh. Top the mixture with ice and champagne, then garnish.
The ﬁrst rule here: Variety. Assemble a range of cured meats, cheeses, pates and crackers, as well as dried fruit and jams to add a sweet note. It’s all about offering up different ﬂavour proﬁles and textures to keep the start of the meal interesting.
01 5J Acorn-fed Iberico Leg Ham
Spanish jamon iberico comes in different grades – look out for the de bellota label, signifying that the animals have been fed an acorn-only diet.
02 Pio Tosini Parma Ham 20-months-aged
Prosciutto from century-old meat specialists Pio Tosini, cured for at least 200 days longer than the legal requirement of 400 days for parma ham.
03 Quattro Stelle Bresaola Wagyu
Conventionally lean bresaola gets a richer upgrade by using wagyu beef.
04 Castaing Duck Terrine with Green Peppercorn
You’ll also want something spreadable to go with the crackers and such – a pate, or this duck terrine spiked with green peppercorns from French producer Castaing.
05 Roquefort Papillon Carte Noire
Rich, intense blue cheese produced in the southern French region of Aveyron.
06 Brin D’Amour
A mild, semi-soft cheese produced from sheep’s milk in the south of France, coated in a mix of herbs including rosemary.
THE MAIN ACT
Turkey might have a monopoly on Christmas, but its white, sometimes dry meat is often uninspiring. This season, surprise guests with something a little more exotic, like pigeon. Also known as squab (which are pigeons farmed for food), this diminutive option features a ﬁner texture and far more ﬂavour. While the fact that each diner gets a whole bird is already impressive – there’s an added bonus: The rich, dark meat of squab gives you the perfect opportunity to break out the special-occasion reds.
PREPARING THE SQUAB:
Tips courtesy of Timothy de Souza, executive chef of Como Cuisine
Most squabs you ﬁnd in Singapore will be frozen. Thaw the bird overnight in the fridge. Don’t do it under running water because the squab comes packed with its giblets, kidney, and liver – and doing so will leach the blood from the organs into the meat.
• Remove all the organs, and remove any stray feathers with a tweezer.
• Blanch in chicken stock, and let it sit in the stock. Tighten up the skin, and intensify the ﬂavours of the bird.
• Roast it in 180 deg C, for about 10 mins, to an internal temperature of 55 deg C. Remove to rest. The internal temperature of the bird should go up to about 60 deg C while it’s resting.
Make this with the roasting and resting juices of the squab. Something sweet or bitter to stand up to the dark meat. We’ve gone with sauternes, star anise and grapes but anything with coffee or chocolate will do too.
How to serve
Carve the legs and breast, and plate with a sauce and sides of your choice; or serve each bird whole and let your guests work a little for their food. Present the birds with sharing portions of your favourite side dishes.
TO GO WITH – BORDEAUX
Wine pairing suggestions.
Chateau Corbin 2008 Saint Emilion Grand Cru
Merlot-dominant with some age that has brought elegance and balance to the wine. Medium-body with trufﬂe, tobacco and red fruit.
Chateau Latour Martillac 2014 Pessac Leognan
Showing a little earthiness for something so young. Rich blackcurrants, cedar and complexity.
Crafted as bread, lighter than cake, and ethereally delicious, the panettone is a Christmas tradition with roots in Milan. The enormous amount of technique it takes to yield a rich loaf that’s lighter than cake and kissed with the ephemeral tang of sourdough makes it an immensely challenging bake. Yet when all goes well, the baker (and eater) is rewarded with a confection of diaphanous texture, bejewelled with spirit-plumped and candied fruit. Herewith, a worthy selection for your Christmas table.
Dolce & Gabbana and Fiasconaro Panettone
Yes, you can have your Dolce & Gabbana and eat it too. Created in collaboration with Sicilian pastry maestros Fiasconaro and housed in colourful D&G-designed tins, these are panettoni for gifting. The sweet loaves are suffused with the warmth of saffron and spiked with the brightness of candied Sicilian lemons, oranges and Mandarins. $48 from Jupiter 57 at 40 Carpenter Street
Steadfastly traditional, this sweet buttery bread is crafted with ﬂour and fresh barn eggs, and ﬂavoured with the likes of sultanas, crystallised citron rinds, cocoa butter and Madagascan vanilla berries. $40 from Culina at COMO Dempsey, 15 Dempsey Road
Da Paolo Panettone Excellente
As its name suggests, only the ﬁnest ingredients go into this festive loaf: Italian-milled Manitoba ﬂour, French butter, organic Italian eggs, dates from Egypt’s Siwa oasis, vanilla from Chinantla in Mexico and citrus fruit from Italy’s Gargano region. $68 from Da Paolo Gastronomia
SETTING THE NIGHT ON FIRE
Dust off those dessert recipes from the 1960s — the tableside ﬂambe is just the thing you need for your holiday table.
Long before the criteria for good cooking included dramatic visual appeal speciﬁcally for social media, there was ﬂambeing. Chefs from the 1800s, such as Escofﬁer, understood the value of a dessert that offered tableside spectacle. Hence the likes of baked Alaska (left, centre), cherries Jubilee and crepe Suzette (left, top). Bring back some pomp and show at dinner this festive season by setting your desserts on ﬁre, tableside of course.
Protect your eyebrows with these tips, courtesy of the good folks at The White Rabbit, who serve a fabulous and dramatic crepe Suzette and baked Alaska.
• Never pour alcohol straight from the bottle into a hot pan.
• Decant a small amount of alcohol into a cup or bowl with a pouring lip, so that you can pour the alcohol safely and gently into the pan.
• Use a cigar lighter or long match to set the ﬂame. The ﬂame output on a long match or cigar lighter is lower. Lower ﬂame, less room for error.
• Have a lid close by. If your ﬂame gets out of control, you can set the lid on the pan to smother the blaze. Make sure you use a lid that ﬁts neatly on top of your pan.
THE PROOF IN THE PUDDING
While it is easy to set alcohol vapours coming off a hot pan alight, directly igniting liquor – like for baked Alaska – takes something above 40 per cent ABV. Ideally though, you’d want spirits at about 50 per cent ABV – try overproof rum, or for a right treat, cask-strength whisky or cognac.
PHOTOGRAPHY VEE CHIN
ART DIRECTION FAZLIE HASHIM