Christmas Menu Ideas From a Few of Our Favorite Chefs

In this “On Foodable Side Dish,” we visit three popular Miami restaurants to learn about what chefs are cooking up this holiday season down in sunny South Florida.

Pastel De Choclo at La Mar by Gastón Acurio

Executive Chef Diego Oka brings us the Pastel De Choclo, or corn and beef pie, from Peru, his native country. This dish is one of Oka’s personal holiday favorites. What makes this dish so special is its main ingredient — Choclo, or Peruvian corn. Grown in the Andean Mountains, this type of corn comes with extra large kernels, a creamy chewy texture, and a starchy flavor that sets them apart from the North American sweet corn kernels that we are used to eating in the United States.

To prepare this dish, yellow chili peppers paste, white onion, olive oil, salt, butter, white sugar, choclo, yellow corn, whole milk, eggs, and beef stew ingredients are needed.

Oka suggests to begin preparing the filling of the pie first and to really concentrate on making the dressing the best it can be since it will impact the overall taste of the dish.

First, blend the choclo and the yellow corns together with milk and reserve. Then cook the chopped onions with olive oil and salt for 30 minutes. Later, add aji amarillo (yellow chili peppers), sugar, and butter to the cooked onions until mixture is homogeneous. Afterward, put the corn pure on a bowl and add the cooked mix. Finally, add eight eggs one at a time and mix well.

For the beef stew, sauté the tenderloin and add chopped red onions to the same pot. Let it cook slowly. Then add panca paste (Peruvian red pepper paste) to the pot and cook. To complete the stew, add salt to taste, raisins, peanuts, olives, and finish with cilantro.

To create the pie, place the beef stew on the bottom of cooking tray or bowls to later top it off with the choclo mixture. Put the cooking container in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. After it’s taken out of the oven, the corn and beef pie needs to be chilled so the flavors can be better extracted. To serve, heat the dish again and serve with a Peruvian-inspired salad.

“In the kitchen, nothing is risky. You have to do what you like and put your heart in the preparation and the flavors...,” says Oka.

“On The Rocks” (Rhode Island Scallops Crudo) at Izzy’s Fish & Oyster

Germany native and Executive Chef William Crandall tends to go for the lighter dishes when the holidays roll around. His advice when it comes to planning a Christmas menu like the one at Izzy’s Fish & Oyster, The Feast of Seven Fishes, is “No. 1, make it fun for yourself to do, and, no. 2, make sure there is a nice variety...”

Crandall’s “On The Rocks” is a refreshing dish that uses Rhode Island scallops, Florida vegetables, and citrus topped off with international spices.

To begin, scallops must be thinly sliced. Texture is added to the plate by rolling the scallops over and stacking them next to each other to add height to the dish. Then add sauce to the dish — in this case, Crandall uses a sauce made in-house at Izzy’s called Florida Orange Ponzu sauce. Its ingredients are yuzu, shiro shoyu or white soy sauce, and kosho, or Japanese pepper corn.

For flavor and color, evenly distribute thinly sliced radish in between the scallops and add edible Florida plants. To add more texture to the dish, include dollops of whipped Florida avocado blended with oils, salt and lime juice. The final touch includes a dash of togarashi seasoning, a Japanese finishing spice made with chilis, sesame seeds, and nori, or edible seaweed.

To keep the fish dish fresh and cool, this plate is served over crushed ice, hence its name.

Noche Buena Cuban Lasagna at Finka Table & Tap

You cannot experience everything Miami’s cuisine has to offer for the holidays, or year-round for that matter, without checking out Finka Table and Tap’s menus, which feature a Cuban-Asian fusion cuisine.

For Noche Buena or Christmas Eve, Finka Chef and Owner Eileen Andrade acquired her inspiration from her Latin roots and demonstrated a dish that compiles the best flavors of a Cuban Christmas dinner.

For this dish, fried sweet plantains, Cuban-style pulled pork, yuca or cassava, mojo sauce, Swiss cheese, garlic and onion mojo, and parsley are needed.

To begin, set the first layer of the lasagna, which is the chopped fried sweet plantains over a buttered pan. Next, lay the pulled pork, which has been marinated for 24 hours, complete with seasoning, bay leaves, cumin, and lots of garlic. Then lay on the yuca mash, which will give your dish the Latin touch. The final step before putting the pan in the oven in 350 degrees for 20 minutes is to place the Swiss cheese evenly on top of the yuca layer.

To serve, top it off with onions bathed in mojo sauce and chopped fresh parsley to give the Noche Buena Cuban Lasagna some color.

This lasagna is a dish that Andrade likes to make at home with her close ones.
“I think it’s always fun to incorporate your family when making a dish…,” she says.