A Jewish Christmas Eve
Lumière’s chef Michael Leviton talks about having Chinese food with his family on a non-Jewish holiday
Massachusetts' Lumière restaurant is sticking to tradition this Christmas Eve — they’re serving up Chinese food. As many Jewish families do, the restaurant has created a Chinese menu for Christmas Eve, a holiday — though big — that doesn't pertain to them. While carolers sing and churches host midnight mass on Christmas Eve, many Jewish families spend the holiday enjoying plates of Chinese food and trips to the movies.
Perhaps no one appreciates this tradition more than Michael Leviton, chef/owner of Lumière in West Newton, Mass., and Area Four in Cambridge, Mass., who will treat guests to riffs on beloved Chinese takeout dishes at his flagship bistro this Christmas Eve.
Growing up in Newton, Mass., Leviton was exposed to the Christmas Eve Chinese-and-movie-night tradition throughout his adolescence. He recreates that experience at Lumière with his take on timeless Chinese fare alongside Hanukkah and Christmas staples, all incorporating local, sustainable ingredients and a nod to classic French techniques.
Here's wha'ts on the menu:
• Chow Fun with Maine Shrimp and Black Vinegar
• Five Spice Pork Tenderloin & Crispy Braised Pork Belly with Chinese Greens and XO Sauce
• Chinese Black Chicken Soup with Ginger, Ginseng and Jujubes
• Potato Latkes with House-Smoked Sable and Sauce Ravigote
• Chicken Roulade for Two with Stuffing Galette, Wild Mushrooms and Giblet Gravy
We decided to ask Leviton about his take on the holiday and how this tradition grew in his family.
The Daily Meal: What are your favorite Chinese dishes for Christmas Eve?
Michael Leviton: Jewish Christmas Eve is a great tradition where people gather over Chinese food and movies. I have some background cooking Asian-inspired food and my formative cooking experience in San Francisco really opened my eyes to the city’s vibrant Asian communities and cuisine. We’ve been serving the Jewish Christmas Eve dinner at Lumière for the last five or six years and each holiday the options are different. Last year was the first time we served XO sauce, which was a huge hit. We really went out by drying our own seafood and it showed in our guests’ reactions. We even kept the sauce on the menu served with scallops because it got such a nice response. The holiday also offers an easier time to showcase pork, which we don’t typically do a lot of in the restaurant.
TDM: What do you serve for dessert?
ML: My desserts lean toward the traditional side. This year, we’re serving things like apple and frangipane tart, pumpkin mousse Napoleon and Valrhona Manjari chocolate soufflé cake. We’re not ruling out Chinese desserts for future Christmas Eve dinners, but need to figure out how to make them appealing to our guests.
TDM: What family traditions do you have on that day?
ML: I picked up on the tradition toward the end of high school from my friends’ families and adopted it as one of my own around my college years. Since I work on Christmas Eve, my family and I go out for dim sum on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
TDM: What are your tips for keeping the holiday simple and stress-free while serving up great dishes?
ML: I always suggest choosing dishes that only involve reheating at the last minute so you can maximize your time with your guests. Find ways to keep out of the kitchen as much as possible.
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