The Reluctant Give Giving Guide
It’s about that time that I turn slightly green, not with envy but more that Grinchly green hue.
Why? Not because I’m a true Grinch but because of everyone’s rush – namely the retailers – to
get to Christmas as soon as possible, we’ve seemed to have bypassed Thanksgiving as an
afterthought. Thanksgiving was the holiday in our family that was hosted by the Tatsumoto
clan so it was something I looked forward to every year. And since I grew up Buddhist,
Christmas didn’t have the religious significance most of America associates with the holiday. In
the rush to fatten their registers, retailers even have Christmas leap frogging Halloween. But in
the spirit of the season, I’ll give in and make merry…
Smoke Two Joints…
Because I work for the Federal Government, both recreational and medical use of marijuana is
still prohibited and we do have random urine drug screening, sometimes several times a year
though I’m not worried at all as the only smoking I do is with food including various proteins,
carbohydrates and even fat. Though my latest contraption is on a smaller scale. Namely to
smoke various raw seafood and cocktails. It’s basically a handheld smoking gun that’s powered
by two AA batteries. The smoke is pumped into a sealed box or pan or under a glass cloche and
simply left to sit for a minute or so to give the seafood or cocktail a light “kiss” of smoke. And
because it’s only about the size of a medium flashlight, you can also bring it to parties over the
holidays to wow the host with your mixology skills.
Grub Hub Anyone
No, I’m not suggesting that you order food from a restaurant to be delivered to your host’s
home. In fact, I don’t even endorse having it delivered to your home even if you’re the host – if
you do purchase food from a restaurant to serve to your guests, at least “doll” it up a little to
make it appear you put some effort into feeding your guests. What I am endorsing is transport
systems that take your culinary creation from point “A” to point “B” that keeps cold foods cold
and hot foods hot. You can find various insulated food carriers that can transport up to two 13”
x 9” pans to your destination keeping your creation hot or at the very least, very warm. Some
also include gel packs that can be microwaved for additional heating capacity. These same
insulated carriers can also transport cold food items keeping them chilled and if they include the
gel packs, the packs can be frozen for prolonged cooling capacity.
At our recent workplace Thanksgiving potluck lunch, the Mrs. suggested I make my Asian Sweet
Rice Dressing which basically is sweet rice cooked with bamboo shoots, rehydrated shiitake,
water chestnuts, chestnuts and lup cheong with some oyster sauce, shoyu and five spice powder.
I did all of my chopping the night before and pre-soaked the sweet rice overnight so that all I
had to do was mix everything together, place it in my trusty Tiger MiCom multicooker and hit
the start button.
Of course, since we normally leave the house about 5:45am and the first lunch doesn’t start
until 11:00am lasting until 2:30pm, that would mean that the rice dressing would be sitting at
room temperature from a little over 5 hours to almost 9 hours. That’s potentially a lot of time
sitting in the “danger zone”. The danger zone? Yes, the danger zone which is between 40 degrees
Fahrenheit which is just above refrigerator temperature to 140 degrees Fahrenheit which is the
maximum temperature most water heaters can be set to. As a rule of thumb, food should not
remain in the danger zone for more than 4 hours. Some public health nutritionists actually set
a tighter danger zone for just 2 hours so while my rice dressing might not pose a culinary risk
for the first set of luncher’s, those who start lunch after 12pm are playing culinary roulette. Of
course, I could simply leave the rice dressing in the cooker and set it to warm but my workplace
lunch room isn’t equipped with very many electrical outlets. Therefore, I simply transferred my
rice dressing to my Tiger Thermal Magic Cooker which is simply a stainless-steel cooking vessel
placed inside of a dual walled, vacuum sealed outer container that keeps food very hot for
extended periods as the vacuum sealed outer chamber reduces heat loss to a minimum.
Therefore, my Asian Sweet Rice Dressing remained hot until the last of my co-workers sampled
Entertaining Should be Fun!
Most of all, entertaining whether you’re the host or the guest should be fun. You shouldn’t
have to stress over your culinary creation as the holidays are mainly about people whether it’s
connecting or re-connecting with acquaintances with food and drink being secondary. Of
course, if you feel you have to roast that perfect A-5 Wagyu rib roast served with the perfect
black truffle infused Perigueux sauce or that perfect Duck a l’Orange, then you’re self-inflicting
your own holiday stress.
And I’ve learned that even if you pull off culinary perfection, some diners may not prefer their
beef medium-rare or well done. Some may not like raw seafood, some avoid all seafood and in
my own personal world, I have two good friends who have very severe shell fish allergies.
For starters, in the 50th, raw seafood always has a place on anyone’s tablet whether it’s sashimi
or poke’. And while most poke’ is purchased, it also is simple to prepare and can be made well
before leave the house or the guests arrive. For sashimi, I simply adorn the bottom of the
serving plate with either finely julienne cabbage or daikon “strings” sliced from a mandolin.
They help to maintain the moisture level of the sliced fish and once it’s plated, I wrap with
cellophane to maintain the moisture in the sliced fish.
Salad courses also keep the stress level low as most of the ingredients can be prepared well before
party time such as salad Niçoise, Panzanella or whole grain salads. They simply need to be
transported in a cool travel vessel (soft sided cooler) or kept in the refrigerator prior to service
(if you’re the host).
Finally, for proteins I favor braising poultry, pork or beef as the timing between dish
completion and service isn’t critical at all. I can also easily transport braised dishes in my Tiger
Thermal Magic Cooker… sometimes I simply leave it the cooking vessel especially if it’s cast iron
as cast iron Dutch ovens maintain heat quite nicely and Le Creuset and Staub also make
decorative tomato and pumpkin shaped cooking vessels.
For Those not Culinarily Inclined
We do have several acquaintances who don’t cook nor do they pretend to be cooks. In this case,
a nice hostess gift, floral arrangement or bottle of Champagne is always welcome at most
households. Especially Champagne but if you feel the pocket pinch for the real McCoy, simply
purchase any domestic Rose sparkler for this cocktail I first highlighted about 3 years ago in the
The inspiration for this cocktail comes from the French 75 which combines two of my favorite
libations, Champagne and gin. Though this libation contains no gin, I created my Hawaii twist
to the French 75 and wanted to originally call it the Hawaii 5-0 but I’m pretty sure that the
name is copyrighted, so since my cocktail has two Hawaii based libations, Kai vodka and
Lokelani Rose sparkling wine and it’s garnished with the state flower, I call it the Hawaii 2.5.
Point five because the Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup is actually made Down Under.
The Hawaii 2.5
1 bottle of chilled Maui Wine Lokelani Rose sparkling wine
6 Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup hibiscus buds
1 oz ginger liqueur
2 oz lychee liqueur
3 oz Kai lychee vodka
Mix the ginger & litchi liqueurs and the vodka then pour 1 ounce of the mixture into
Champagne flutes. Place one hibiscus flower in the flute and top off with 4 ounces of Lokelani
Rose sparkling wine.