My New Year’s Feast
I can’t believe it’s the tenth day of 2008 and I haven’t told you about my New Year’s Eve menu yet! I’m quite excited about it and I hope you will be too because I was immensely pleased with how it all came out. But before I tell you about the food, I have a confession to make: I hate New Year’s.
It’s just an over-dramatized night that is anticlimactic and extremely expensive. So, this year presented yet another challenge of not spending $100+ to be at a crowded bar and not waiting endlessly on street corners for a cab home.
My solution: invite friends over and make dinner. R and I invited over another couple and opted to make it a low-key New Years for far less money and far better food. We wanted a menu that would have that “wow” factor, but wouldn’t tie us to the kitchen all night. Here’s the breakdown dish by dish:
Dish 1: Raspberry-Brie Bites
I had high hopes for this recipe that I saw on Not Derby Pie. Rivka’s picture was so gorgeous and the recipe sounded simple and fabulously indulgent. But something wasn’t quite right. Maybe I didn’t let the puff pastry thaw enough (don’t even get me started on how I had to literally crawl INTO the freezer at the grocery store to snag the last box!). Or maybe I over-filled the pastry with too much jam. But they were nowhere near as beautiful as her picture, hence no picture displayed here. Ugly and splattered as they were, every bite was deliciously sweet and creamy. I will try definitely try these again.
Dish 2: Butterflied Chicken
This is a recipe that I’ve told you about before. Actually, I believe I raved about it. We had some issues communicating with the butcher at Whole Foods as he didn’t understand what we meant when we asked for a skin-on, boneless, butterflied chicken. What we got was a mess. So instead, we opted for skin-on, boneless, butterflied chicken breasts – one for each of us.
I love the simple beauty of this dish. Even raw, the lemon, rosemary and garlic rub make the perfect contrast with the pinkness of the chicken.
This was a great choice for the night because it tastes fantastic and you can put it all together ahead of time. Here are the before and after shots. Mighty pretty, if I do say so myself.
Dish 3: Mixed Greens Salad with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts with Balsamic Vinaigrette
It may be a mouthful of a title, but the salad was light and refreshing. The cranberries and walnuts were the perfect addition to the simple salad, giving it crunch and sweetness without being overbearing. R made the dressing from scratch and basically kept adding balsamic, salt and pepper to olive oil until it tasted good.
Dish 4: Lemon Risotto in a Cup
We found this recipe on the Food Network from one of Giada’s episodes. I loved the idea that these were individually portioned to make the perfect side dish. I like to call R the Risotto King because he truly has mastered the art. He knows exactly when to add more stock, how often to stir and can achieve the perfect consistency of the rice. We have a classic Parmesan Risotto that we make a lot, but this was a new recipe for us.I loved this recipe for a number of reasons. 1) The tartness of the lemon and smooth, creaminess of the mascarpone were the perfect combination. 2) It looked so cute in the lemon cups! 3) The lemon cups forced me to use portion control so I didn’t eat the entire pot. It really came out perfectly and I was very happy with the presentation of it all. (Get the recipe here.)
Dish 5: Individual Orange and Chocolate Cheesecakes
This was also a Giada-inspired recipe, but it was just something I stumbled across that sounded good. The meal had been on the heavier side, so I wanted to end with something light and sweet – and the little bit of chocolate didn’t hurt either. When I was making the recipe, it didn’t seem like very much batter, but it was the perfect amount for a mini muffin tin. The recipe was very simple and, aside from needing time to cook, rest and chill, wasn’t especially time-consuming. R made the chocolate cookie crust that gets pressed into the bottom of the muffin tins, while I made the filling. The real challenge came when we needed to put the muffin tin into a dish of water to bake. We should have measured this before because the tin was just slightly wider than the Pyrex dish that we had, but with some skillful maneuvering, R gently wedged it in there.
Generally, I’m not a huge fan of cheesecake, but these tiny bite-size desserts were positively pop-able. The best part was the orange zest-sugar mixture that got sprinkled on top and gave it an added burst of flavor and texture. The perfect end to our meal. (Get the recipe here.)
As you can tell, I’m very proud of our little dinner party. We still ended up spending more time in the kitchen than I would have preferred, but it all turned out splendidly and I couldn’t have been happier. Of course the champagne didn’t hurt either…