Peru: Recipe for Papa a la Huancaína

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10262178_744512732293468_1356980109194298924_nPapa a la Huancaína is a Peruvian salad with boiled potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce. It is an appetizer that I first got an opportunity to taste when my sister(mi hermana) from church brought it one Sunday afternoon and then my second time was at a holiday party.  See the recipe.  -Crystal Johnson, MCCN Editor

Click for Recipe

Christmas in the Philippines

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known for gorgeous Parols ( Christmas lanterns), Tarlac province comes alive Photo Credit Wikipedia


Christmas in the Philippines, one of two predominantly Catholic countries in Asia (the other one being East Timor), is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar. The country has earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season, with Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season lasting up until Epiphany.

World’s Longest Christmas Season

The Philippines has earned the distinction of celebrating the world’s longest Christmas season. Although faint traces of the coming Christmas arise beginning from early September, it is traditionally ushered in by the nine-day dawn Masses that start on Dec. 16. Known as the Misas de Aguinaldo (Gift Masses) or Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) in the traditional Spanish. These Masses are more popularly known in Tagalog as the Simbang Gabi. Christmas Eve on December 24 is the much-anticipated “noche buena” — the traditional Christmas feast after the midnight mass. Family members dine together on traditional noche buena fare, which includes the quéso de bóla (“ball cheese”, usually edam cheese) and jamón (Christmas ham). Usually, aside from the already legal holidays which are Rizal Day (December 30) and New Year’s Eve (December 31), other days in close proximity such as Christmas Eve (December 24), Niños Innocentes (December 28), and the Epiphany (traditionally, January 6) are also declared as non-working days. In Asia, Christmas is also the liveliest in the Philippines, since the country is one of the few predominantly Christian nation in the continent besides Russia, East Timor, Georgia and Armenia.

Food Traditions

For Filipinos, Christmas Eve (“Bisperas ng Pasko”/Spanish: Vísperas de la Navidad) on December 24 is celebrated with the Midnight Mass, and immediately after, the much-anticipated Noche Buena – the traditional Christmas Eve feast. Family members dine together around 12 midnight on traditional Nochebuena fare, which includes: queso de bola (Spanish: “ball of cheese”; this is actually edam cheese), “Tsokolate” (a hot chocolate drink made from cacao and traditionally from crushed peanuts which add a pleasant grittiness and nutty flavor*.) and jamón (Christmas ham). Some would also open presents at this time.


*Source Wikepedia

*-Definition of Tsokolate-Desserts come first

Corona del Mar, CA: Five Crowns for Christmas Dining

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-1This year’s Christmas Eve dinner at Five Crowns will inevitably reach capacity as have most years in the past. Local families, alum guests and new faces will fill the English-inspired tavern to celebrate the holidays with the ones they love and indulge in a culinary experience to remember. The Christmas Eve menu boasts the Lawry’s Restaurants group’s signature Prime Ribs of Beef dinner prepared traditionally with au jus, Yorkshire pudding, organic whipped cream horseradish and choice of sides. Additional main course options include the classic Filet Mignon with a truffled Bordelaise, Scottish Salmon, Australian Lamb Sirloin, Linguini with kale “Bolognese,” and the coveted pan roasted Christmas Goose with sweet potato gratin, bread stuffing and goose demi.

“It’s amazing to see our patrons stand in line before we open to make a reservation for Christmas Eve dinner,” commented Corporate Executive Chef and Vice President, Ryan O’Melveny Wilson. “It’s a family tradition that my grandfather started almost 50 years ago and to see it continue and thrive today is truly inspiring.”

For those more interested in dining at home during the holidays, Five Crowns’ Executive Chef, Steve King, will create your holiday dinner to-go with just 48 hours notice. Guests can pick up a complete Roasted Prime Rib of Beef Au Jus dinner with all of the classic accompaniments with simple cooking and reheating instructions to enjoy the seasonal tradition at home.

Also through the holidays, Five Crowns adjacent gastropub, SideDoor, will play host to Sunday Sessions Brunch. New brunch menu items include Continental Pastries with lemon curd and marmalade, Malted Waffles, and Green Eggs and Ham Benedict alongside continuing favorite dishes the SideDoor Avocado Mash, Chicken Pot Pie, and Fish ‘n Chips. Brunch is served against the soundtrack of DJs spinning records 11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. every Sunday.


Throughout the years, generations of loyal customers have returned again and again to celebrate special occasions at Five Crowns and this holiday season the tradition continues.

Five Crowns was established in 1965 and is a member of the Lawry’s family of fine-dining restaurants, which includes Lawry’s The Prime Rib with locations in Beverly Hills, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Hong Kong and the Tam O’Shanter in Los Angeles.  Lawry’s Carvery, with locations in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, and at L.A. LIVE, Los Angeles, represents the company’s unique quick-service concept. SideDoor is the group’s gastropub concept with locations in Corona del Mar and Chicago. The Corona del Mar location is housed within the historic Five Crowns building.


Five Crowns and SideDoor are located at 3801 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar, CA, 92625. Valet parking is available. For more information visit and

The Neely’s Creamed Collard Greens

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Creamed collard greens

A few years I got the opportunity to interview Patrick and Gina Neely of the Food Network and we talked about a variety of things.  Among the recipes mentioned, was creamed collard greens.  I tried this recipe and it has been a winner for me. It puts a spin on the classic African American preparation of collards and gives a robust earthy taste to what would be the typical creamed spinach.


4 bunches collard greens, tough stems and ribs removed
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 large shallots, minced
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Click for Directions

See MCCN Editor’s Interview with the Neely’s. 

A Dashing of Christmas Card History

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Sir Henry Cole started the custom of sending Christmas Cards in 1843. A Civil Servant based in the U.K., Cole developed theChristmas Card Histor holiday card idea with a friend, John Horsley. The two men designed the first card depicting people helping the poor and a family enjoying a large Christmas Dinner.

The first Christmas Cards sold for 1 shilling each. Those cards are now very rare and very valuable. The cards were first sent via the Public Post Office and gained popularity when printing methods improved and postage dropped.

Christmas Cards made their way to the United States during the late 1840’s. It wasn’t until 1875 when Germany’s Louis Prang began the mass production of cards, that everyone in the United States (besides the rich) was able to participate in exchanging seasonal greetings.

Early Christmas cards featured Nativity Scenes, flowers, children, and plants. Modern day cards are now very creative with tunes, 3-D pop-ups, and anything you can imagine. The popularity of Christmas Cards may never go away, but during the 2013 Christmas Season, the world was hit with a new phenomenon: The Viral Christmas Greeting Video.

For more information on the origin of Christmas Cards check out

Chef Jamie Oliver’s Spicy Jerk Ham

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Easter is a ham’s time to shine, but Thanksgiving or Christmas—fuggedaboutit! “No more!” says the pig. Tired of being the other meat, your ham is claiming center stage this holiday season. Move over turkey! Chef Jaimie Oliver adds a Caribbean spin to pork with this recipe for Spicy Jerk Ham.

For poaching

  • 1 x 5kg leg of ham
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 6 Scotch bonnets, halved
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 stick of celery, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 small leek, washed and roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves,
  • 1/2 bunch thyme,
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Jerk marinade

  • 6 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons allspice
  • 1 tablespoon cloves
  • 2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 red onions, peeled and quartered
  • 8 Scotch bonnets chillies, stalks removed
  • 250ml dark rum
  • 250ml malt vinegar
  • a small bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked

Ham glaze

  • 3/4 jar good quality, fine-cut marmalade
  • 125ml golden rum

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Memories of hot cocoa—a cup of warm comfort

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I used to drink chocolate milk when I was a kid; it was a real quick fix. Just pour some milk in a glass and add two tablespoons of the powdered chocolate and that was it. This wasn’t my favorite beverage, but it was a good enough drink to settle down with on a Saturday or after school on a weekday. Sometimes my mother bought the powdered strawberry mix, but I didn’t drink the strawberry milk. That often stayed right in the cabinet unused. It wasn’t until I was just out of college and visiting my aunt at Christmas when I tasted something different—hot cocoa. Now, I’m not going to say that I never had hot cocoa before because I’m sure that I did, but this time it was so memorable.

chocolate with marshmallows

Take an occasion like Christmas. Add on a spoonful of Christmas music like Donny Hathaway and little Michael Jackson from the Jackson 5 Christmas Album ( a classic in a lot of African American families).  Sprinkle in some family with just a pinch of understanding about how precious this Christmas was because it would probably be our last holiday with my aunt, who was dying from an incurable disease. Then serve this reality with a cup of hot cocoa fully loaded with marshmallows from the hand of that loved one. This made for a special cup of hot cocoa and a memorable experience.

My aunt was a very direct person—intentional in getting in your business, especially if your business was raggedy. She loved you straightforward. She was the kind of aunt that said what she thought and didn’t mince words, like the time she asked my 22-year old boyfriend what he wanted with an 18-year old girl. Talk about OMGeesh! Soooooo embarassing! Do you think I told her that? No way! I just went with the flow and watched him sweat. Survival of the fittest dude!

My aunt had no children of her own, but that never stopped her from making her influence felt. She was strong and intelligent and she expected her neices and nephews to be that way too. However, she was a little different on this Christmas. It was just a few months after we learned of the disease she had been living with for seven years. It had robbed her of her full-figure. It had stripped her of her smooth glowing brown skin and left a ash-gray cover over her normally vibrant brown complexion. She was frail—less than 100-pounds—but she was still just as strong, just as concerned and just as loving as ever. So that Christmas she fretted over her neices because she wanted to and since then, hot cocoa with marshmallows has always felt like a cup of warm comfort. It takes me to a time of love and celebration that was so fleeting and sweet, and much like those fluffy marshmallows I could just lay back on the memories and rest for a while.

My aunt died the following summer, but oh how I remember her unabashed love, advice and correction. I will also always remember the way she loved on me with a cup of warm comfort that made everything all right that one Christmas.

Click here for a homemade recipe for hot cocoa with marshmallows.