Aditya Muskita: Hearty Feast

For Aditya Muskita, head chef of Attarine, the Christmas feast is the meal everyone in the family has been waiting for all year.

Christmas is one Chef Aditya’s favorite holiday traditions. For generations, his family has passed down a recipe for a Bruine Bonen Soep (Dutch brown bean soup). For the holiday feast, one of his grandmothers would make a big pot for the family.

The batch would last for days, sometimes all the way to the new year. Over the time, the soup only got better as the beans cracked open and developed more flavor.

“For that span of days, that’s all we would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Aditya said, adding that the family would also have roasted duck. He said how much he loved his mother cooking whole poultry for the festivity,” said Aditya.

Aditya, who as a teenager worked at his parents’ food stall in one of suburban Jakarta’s wet markets, comes from a big family with mebers with diverse backgrounds. “That’s why during Christmas, there was always plenty of food to feast on: a variety of food and so many presents! But above all, I mostly like the sharing part. Every one of us would bring food to the table. It’s like a potluck, with lots of choices and flavors.”

Growing up with diverse food, Aditya said his cooking style leans towards modern simplicity while using the best ingredients around, which mostly means local produce. For him, all the components have to serve a purpose. “I won’t use a leaf or a flower for the sake of aesthetics,” said Aditya, who also believes in balanced elements.

During the holiday season, Aditya aims to serve meals that would reflect diversity while keeping the simplicity and balance, as he showcased in a number of dishes for FoodieS.

The fist dish was a mix of zucchini, mushrooms, edamame, and keciwis (a wild cabbage plant) baked in keciwis custard. He developed it with Executive Chef Jacob and served it for Attarine’s first anniversary in October. The ingredients were baked gently in a skillet. “The custard binds everything and combines all the different vegetables as one.”

The second was a chicken glazed with young brem (rice wine). The main ingredients were chicken, brem and lentils. The chicken was brined for 12 hours in a four percent salt solution and left it hanging in a chiller up to 24 hours to dry the skin. Then he stuffed the chicken between the skin and meat with brown butter before proceeding to take the brem and glaze the chicken over time while roasting in the oven. The sugar content in the brem gave a nice color and gloss to the end product.

“We simply serve it with a nice stew of green lentils that has been cooked with Alang-Alang stock to give a particular grassy note that works very good with poultry. It’s effortless–home-style–but with a lot of focus on the details, like the moisture and crispiness.”

Next was the Beef Wellington wrapped in kluwak and mushrooms. Aditya made a paste out of the kluwak to form a mushroom duxelle. With kluwak’s unique earthy flavour, the paste has a very earthy, bold and savory character.

“We’re going to bake the meat in a brioche crust instead of a regular puff pastry. The bread is more buttery and moist, absorbing the juices from the meat just enough that it doesn’t become soggy and cakey. We’re serving it with a herb sauce and sauce from whipped egg whites and garlic. The dish is perfect with the vegetables baked in keciwis custard.”

What Christmas meal would be without some hearty desserts? To close, Aditya prepared doughnuts with a caramelized coconut milk dip. The fried dish was made from old-fashioned yeasted dough and with icing, palm sugar and salt to finish.

“I like to use salt whenever I’m making something sweet. The salt balances out the flavor and makes it more delicious as it provides contrast. Serve with an eggnog punch to complete your Christmas dinner, top to bottom.”

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Written by Tatu Hutami Photographs by Dennie Ramon December 12, 2017.