New Years Eve 2008

For New Years Eve, I decided to host an dinner and a party at my place. Kyle and I prepared a nine course meal for our guests. This was an excuse for us to flex our culinary mussels and treat our friends to a New Year’s Eve 2008 Menu.

Pâté Maison

Pâté Maison

We started the night off with some pâté I had brought back from France. The pâté comes from a shop that cans their own meat near Loubressac. To give it a nicer finish, the pâté is topped with truffles. I served this with a fanned cornichon, toast and a baby tomato.

Tuscan White Bean Soup

Tuscan White Bean Soup

The next course was a Tuscan White Bean Soup made by Kyle. This was very good. We served it drizzled with Extra Vigin olive oil and Balsamic vinegar with a slice of toasted baguette.

Mussels steamed in white wine

Mussels steamed in white wine

Following that we served steamed mussels in a white wine, lemon and shallot sauce. Most of my guests had not had mussels before, so this was a new experience for them. If you have never had mussels before, this is a good recipe to try. They are very simple to make and full of flavor. The go exceptionally well with pastas or just own their own with a good crusty bread.

Parmesan Crisps with Swedish Meatballs

Parmesan Crisps with Swedish Meatballs

Next up was Swedish meatballs served in Parmesan crisps. Each plate had three crisps on them, two of the crisps held meatballs, and the third was filled with marinara sauce–kind of a deconstruced meatballs in sauce dish. The parmesan crisps are very easy to make and wonderful on their own as crackers or can be shaped into cups as soon as they come out of the oven.

Beef bourguignon

Beef bourguignon

The next course was a bœuf bourguignon. This is a French beef stew made with lardons, onions and mushrooms in a Bourgogne wine sauce. Very flavorful, full beef taste rendered very tender by cooking over low heat for a long time.

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Brussels sprouts and savory polenta

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Brussels sprouts and savory polenta

This was followed by a roasted rack of lamb served with a wine sauce. This was plated with Brussels sprouts that had been finished in duck fat and a savory polenta with sun-dried tomatoes.

A cheese tasting came next. Brie, Cambozola Triple Creme, Doux de Montagne and a Petit Pont L’evequê.

A salad with a French Dijon vinaigrette was served next as a way to help clear the pallet for the dessert.

Gâteau (torte) au chocolat fondant de Natalie

Gâteau (torte) au chocolat fondant de Natalie

The dessert was a chocolate torte. The recipe was taken from Chocolate and Zucchini and was fantastically rich and wonderful. Soft, dense texture and a rich, deep chocolate taste.

Espresso with Creme

Espresso with Creme

Finally, espresso’s were served. And people were given the option of digistifs of Limoncello, Fernet Branca or Sambuca.

Click through the jump to see recipes for some of the meals.

Pate

Pâté Maison

Pâté Maison

Here is a photo of the tin of pate. My family brings these (and other things) back from the shop in Lavergne in the Lot near Loubressac, where my grandfather grew up.

Steamed Mussels in White Wine

Mussels in White Wine

Mussels in White Wine

This dish is amazingly easy to prepare and quite a treat. Mussels are very easy to cook and are quite versatile: they are nice on their own, better served with a good crusty bread, or in a pasta, or in a soup…

A note on the prep work: Today, many mussels are fairly clean when you buy them, but you should always check them. As you go through the mussels there are a few things to do. Using a pair of pliers, remove and “beards” coming out of the mussels. This is the “hair” that is poking out from between the shells. Any mussels that are cracked should be discarded. Any mussels that are open and do not close after given them a few squeezes should be discarded. Give them all a quick rinse in cold water and you are ready to go.

Ingredients:

2 lbs mussels
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 shallot
2 cloves minced garlic
1 medium lemon (juice and zest)

Recipe

  1. Bring mussels and white wine to a boil in a large pot. You don’t need a steaming basket or anything, just throw everything in there. Boil/steam for about 5 minutes. Remove the mussels and discard any that have not opened.
  2. To the pot add the shallot, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Simmer at least 3 minutes to blend flavors. Serve with the mussels (and crusty bread!).
Rack of Lamb, Savory Polenta, Brussels Sprouts

Rack of Lamb, Savory Polenta, Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Red Wine Pan Sauce

This recipe closely followed a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I have roasted/grilled lamb before, but usually serve it with a parsley butter rather than a pan sauce. But pan sauces are so good, I figured, ‘why not?’

It’s a two step process. First you cook the lamb, then you make the sauce. So the recipe is split as such.

Lamb
2 racks of lamb (each 8 to 9 ribs, weighing 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds), rib bones frenched, and meat trimmed of fat and silver skin
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

There is actually quite a lot of fat on the outside of the lamb. If possible, ask your butcher to remove it for you. If this is not possible, be prepared to remove what looks like a surprising about of fat.

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Put oven rack in lower-middle setting and place shallow roasting pan in the oven to preheat.
  2. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Place the racks in the skillet with the “meat-side” down in the center of the pan. The ribs should point out. Sear until it is browned and a nice crust has formed on the surface, about 4 minutes. Now stand the racks up in skillet, leaning them against each other to brown the bottoms. You may have to hold then with tongs to get them to stay up. Sear until bottom sides have browned, about 2 minutes more.
  3. (Begin the pan sauce, below.) Transfer lamb to the preheated roasting pan. Roast 12 to 15 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the center of each rack should read about 135 degrees. I just use a probe thermometer and let that tell me when it is done. Cover meat loosely with foil and let rest about 10 minutes. To carve, slice between each rib into individual chops, and serve immediately with the sauce.

Pan Sauce (continue from step 3 after transferring the lamb to the oven)

  1. Pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fat from skillet. Return the skillet to medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots and sauté until soft, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the red wine and rosemary; increase heat to medium-high and simmer until dark and syrupy, about 7-10 minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth and simmer until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 5-7 minutes more.
  5. Off heat, swirl in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve poured over the lamb.

Savory Polenta with Sun-dried Tomatoes

For this recipe, I was inspired by a few different recipes: Alton Brown’s Savory Polenta recipe, Cook’s Illustrated Creamy Polenta recipe, and a few experiments of my own with sun-dried tomatoes.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 ounce chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmesan, grated

  1. Heat about 2 tbsps olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Once hot, add the red onion and salt and sweat until the onions begin to turn translucent. This should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, reduce heat to low and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, stir occasionally to help make sure the garlic does not burn.
  4. Add the chicken stock, milk, and sun-dried tomatoes. Turn the heat to high and bring just to a boil. (Do not let boil for long as this will cause the milk to break. Don’t worry if it does, it should not affect the taste.)
  5. When it first reaches a boil, slowly add the cornmeal while whisking continuously. The whisking prevents lumps forming.
  6. Once you have added all of the cornmeal, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to prevent lumps. Taste the polenta after 30 minutes, if it does not have a creamy consistency and looks dry, add some more chicken broth. Once the mixture is creamy, remove from the heat and add the butter, salt, and pepper. Once they are incorporated, gradually add the Parmesan.

Brussels Sprouts

Yes, these are called Brussels sprouts, not Brussel’s sprouts or brussel sprouts. They are named after the city of Brussels in Belgium. And they are delicious. I don’t know why so many people fear these things. I love their taste and that they can be eaten nearly plain or with just a few small additions to boost different flavors. For this recipe, I kept it fairly simple: steam them, sauté them in duck fat, and add a bit of salt and pepper. If you don’t have duck fat around (who normally does?) you can cook them in butter and crumble some cooked bacon around the sprouts.

Ingredients

1 lb Brussels sprouts
2 tbsps duck fat
salt and pepper

Recipe

  1. Trim the root end of the Brussels sprouts to remove the dryer ‘stalk’ part of the sprout. Remove any loose or yellowed leaves from the outside.
  2. Place in a steamer basket and steam for 6-10 minutes, until a knife can be passed through the sprout without too much resistance. It should still feel slightly firm but go in easily (if you don’t have a steamer basket, you can boil them in an inch or so of water, see this Cooking for Engineers recipe for an idea how). After this, the sprouts can be held until ready for the next step.
  3. Pick a skillet large enough to hold the sprouts in one layer and place over medium-high heat. Add the duck fat and let melt. Add the sprouts and sauté for 2-4 minutes, stirring to rotate the sprouts so that they brown evenly. The outsides should crisp and this should heat the sprouts through. Sprinkle some salt and cracked pepper over them and serve.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

This cake was taken from Chocolate & Zucchini, who in turn got it from Trish Deseine’s Je Veux du Chocolat!. This is a delicious, decadent, rich chocolate torte. This is denser than a regular cake as it uses almost no flour and many eggs. If you like rich chocolate taste, this is for you. Because the chocolate plays essentially the only flavoring role in this dessert, it is essential to use high quality chocolate.

Ingredients

200g (2 sticks minus 1 Tbsp) butter
200g (7 oz) dark chocolate
200g (1 C) sugar
4 eggs
a rounded tablespoon of flour

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F and line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter and the chocolate together. (Use a double-boiler if you have one or do it in the microwave on medium power for just a few seconds at a time. Break up the chocolate into small pieces before doing this and stir often.)
  3. Transfer into a medium mixing-bowl and add the sugar while stirring with a spoon or spatula.
  4. After it has cooled a little, add the eggs one at a time being sure to incorporate each one before adding the next. (The cooling is important so that the eggs do not scramble, you shouldn’t have much to worry about though.)
  5. Add the flour and mix well.
  6. Pour the dough into the pan, put the pan into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off–leave the cake inside the oven for another ten minutes, don’t touch it or open the oven. Then put the pan on a cooling rack to cool completely. Cover, refrigerate, and take it out about an hour before serving.
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1 Response to “New Years Eve 2008”


  1. 1 Wing and a Hare January 10, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    I’m so glad to see a new entry! I love your blog on so many levels. I especially enjoyed the entries from Argentina. The New Year’s banquet sounds amazing (flexing your mussels) — keep up the good work!


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