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New Year’s Dinner

by VM Brasseur on January 3rd, 2006

I think it’s becoming a tradition for me. Hosting an elaborate dinner to celebrate New Year’s Day, that is.

This is the second year that I’ve thrown the “bash.” Last year’s theme was Spanish cuisine (because I really really wanted to try making paella which, I’m pleased to say, was a success). This year, inspired by a new cookbook that my parents gave me for Christmas (Silver Spoon), the dishes were to be Italian. More or less. The menu follows.

  • Munchies
    Food available when you walk in the door.

    • Olives
      Your standard mixed variety.
    • Marcona almonds with rosemary
      Properly a Spanish food, but I saw them at Trader Joe’s and couldn’t resist.
    • Grapes
      A simple but welcome food. Chosen because they were easy and because their sweetness would help offset some of the other preliminary foods.
    • Tangerine sections
      Dubbed “Tangertinis” by the guests. Sections of clementine tangerines were marinated overnight in keylime vodka, then served in a cocktail glass, garnished with tangerine peel and fresh mint leaves.
      This seemed to be a good idea, considering how they disappeared.
  • Appetizers
    Munchies which require a bit more preparation so therefore came out as the second wave of food.

    • Prosciutto wrapped melon
      An Italian standard. Simple and delicious. Thankfully I selected a good melon.
    • Mushroom and caper crostini
      Not being a mushroom lover, I did not really taste these. None remained on the plate by the end of the evening, which I can only assume means that they were good.
    • Shrimp Butter Tartines
      Shrimp is a food which does not offend me but which I do not usually eat. Therefore I don’t really know how these tasted. Again, they were mostly gone when all was said and done so the same assumption applies here.
    • Gorgonzola Mousse
      Take three cheeses, gorgonzola, robiola and taleggio. Put in a food processor with half a pound of butter. Blend, mold, chill. Turn out onto a plate, garnish with walnuts and serve with carrots. I liked it. It’s a good thing too, considering how much was left. I guess a large mound of fat was too intimidating.
  • Primi
    The warm food makes its entrance. The party moves where all parties do, to the kitchen.

    • Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi
      The only true failure of the evening. After forming, the gnocchi are boiled to cook. Or so the book would lead you to believe. What boiling them really seems to accomplish is to create a sickly tea of ricotta and spinach as the gnocchi dissolve. It took two gnocchi for me to learn this lesson. The rest of them were baked. They were OK, but I wouldn’t call them gnocchi.
    • Orecchiette with Broccoli
      Pretty much as simple as it sounds, steamed broccoli is combined with orecchiette pasta and some spices, topped with grated parmesan and served. I liked this one a lot, but I think by this course my guests were starting to suffer from culinary fatigue. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending upon your point of view) for them, the evening was not yet over.
  • Secondi
    What in America we’d probably call the “Main Course.”

    • Roast loin of Pork
      A very simple preparation. Pork is browned in a dutch oven. Sprigs of rosemary and white wine are added. The whole deal is then roasted for an hour then allowed to rest for about ten minutes before carving and serving. I thought this turned out very well and was pleased to see a few leftovers.
    • Asparagus Rolls
      Parboil the asparagus. Wrap each stalk of asparagus with a slice of prosciutto. Dot with butter and roast for ten or fifteen minutes. Top with grated parmesan. I thought these were really good and wished that I’d made twice as much.
  • Dessert
    Because insult loves injury.

    • Hazelnut cake
      This cake contains as much chopped hazelnuts as it does flour. It’s a dense little piece of work, but still quite tasty. As half of the cake remained after the meal, I took the leftovers to work today and can personally attest to the suitability of hazelnut cake as a breakfast food purely by its affinity with freshly brewed black coffee. Which brings me to the next part of dessert…
    • Coffee and Cocoa Sherbet
      This summer I purchased an ice cream maker from an estate sale and I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it ever since. Now that I have I have to admit that I may be in love. It literally churned out some great sherbet. Espresso made with Peet’s Decaf Sumatra and cocoa powder from Scharffen Berger probably didn’t hurt.

In retrospec I admit that I went overboard. There were too many dishes, too many courses, far too much preparation required for the event. Still, it’s only once a year. And I didn’t hear any complaints from my guests. I’ll chalk that up to there being no complaints rather than my guests being too polite to voice them as it’s better for my ego that way. We’ll see whether I keep up the tradition next year.

From → Food

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