Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year's Eve

We apologize for the forgoing silliness ... we now return you to your regularly scheduled blog about New Year's Eve dinner.


I really hate New Year’s Eve … I’ve never liked the pressure to revel so frenetically, the impossibility of getting a cab, the excessive cover charges for overcrowded clubs, and the general rampant yahooism that ensues. My friend Gregg summed it up beautifully once, saying that there are two days a year in which you are socially pressured to have a great time: the first is your birthday, and the second is New Year’s Eve. On your birthday, it’s easy … it’s all about you! You get presents, drinks bought for you, etc. On New Year’s Eve however, it’s everyone’s birthday.

So I was very pleased with New Year’s 2006 … Kristen and I stayed in, rented some films, and made an elaborate meal. So I thought I’d share our menu this evening …

We started with cocktails, of course …

RUBY RUM PUNCH

My relatives in Barbados years ago related to my parents the secret to the classic rum punch, summed up in this simple rhyme: “One of sour / Two of sweet / Three of strong / Four of weak.” Sour is fresh limejuice, sweet is sugar syrup, three is rum and four is water or shaved ice. I decided to add one of my favourite cocktail mixes: the juice of blood oranges. Blood oranges have a lovely semi-sweet citrus flavour, and add a gorgeous colour to things.

¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
½ cup sugar syrup*
¾ cup Mount Gay Barbados Eclipse Rum (nothing else will do!)
¾ cup fresh-squeezed blood orange juice

You can either mix these in a pitcher and serve over ice, or shake in a martini shaker and serve in martini glasses. Either way, garnish with a few blood orange segments.

*for the sugar syrup: bring equal parts water and brown sugar to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, take it off the heat and let it cool.


After much deliberation over the meal, we decided to be a bit decadent and get some beef tenderloin fillets, and to serve them with garlic mashed potatoes and Caesar salad, with crème brulée for desert. Kristen took care of the desert, and I did the meal.


CAESAR SALAD

I don’t strictly know the measurements for the dressing—I’ve been eyeballing it for a while now—so here’s something of an approximation.

1 egg
½ cup olive oil
1-1½ tbsp Dijon mustard
a few dashes of Worcester sauce
2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 anchovy, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
one dash of Tabasco
the juice of half a lemon

You can either whisk the ingredients together in a bowl, or, if you like your Caesar dressing creamy, do it up in the blender. This should be more than enough for a single head of romaine. After dressing the salad, grate more fresh parmesan over top.

If you’re the kind of person (like me) who likes the bacon bits with the Caesar, here’s a way to swank it up a bit: get about ten thin slices of pancetta from the deli and cook them in a skillet until crisp. Remove and drain, and dice them up—putting aside a slice apiece for however many people you’re serving. Prop the pancetta slice up in the middle of each person’s salad. If you want to go even swankier, use the fat rendered from the pancetta to fry up some croutons. And if you want to go even swankier, make yourself some parmesan crisps: make piles of fresh (it must be fresh!) grated parmesan on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake at about 350-400 degrees until they are melted and just starting to brown. Whatever you do, don’t forget about them … they cook pretty quickly, and smell pretty vile when burned. Let them cool, and then you’ve got a nifty little cracker you can add to the pancetta garnish.

God love the food network.


GARLIC MASHED POTATOES

This recipe is actually a fusion of regular garlic mashed potatoes and my grandmother’s recipe. It’s very simple: peel however many potatoes you need to cook. Also, peel a handful of garlic cloves, say one for every full potato. Boil the garlic with the potatoes. When the potatoes are done, mash them, garlic included. Add a generous amount of butter and milk and/or cream (everyone likes mashed potatoes done to varying degrees of chunkiness or smoothness, so let that be your guide for how much butter & cream you use). Now, add a dollop of cream cheese and a sprinkling of onion powder.

Here’s my fun option: if you have the potatoes sitting in a non-stick pot, leave it on the stove over medium heat until they brown on the bottom. With a spatula, fold the browned bits into the rest of the potatoes. Repeat as desired, based on how many crunchy bits you like in your mashed potatoes.


PEPPERED BEEF TENDERLOIN FILLETS

My second favourite cut of beef (#1 is prime rib). And easy to cook, though also easy to overcook. If you’re the kind of person who likes well done, save your money … you’re wasted on tenderloin.

Leave the fillets out for an hour or two beforehand, letting them come to room temperature. Coat lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on a touch of salt. Press cracked black pepper into both sides.

Heat a skillet, ideally cast-iron, over a ¾ heat burner. Drop in a knob of butter, swirling it around until it coats the skillet. Place in the fillets. Let cook for 3-4 minutes a side, making sure they develop a nice dark crust. Remove and let sit under foil for at least 5-10 minutes.

Now the fun part: if necessary, add a little more butter or olive oil. Add ½ of finely diced shallots. When shallots have sweated down a little, drop in a variety of diced mushrooms (½ cup to a cup). Sautee for a few minutes, until mushrooms have about halved in size. Deglaze the skillet with red wine and beef broth. Bring to a simmer, and let it reduce by about a half.

There’s your sauce.

A further option is to slice a Portobello mushroom cap into ¼ inch slices and sautee them in butter until nicely browned. Top your fillets with the mushrooms, and spoon the sauce over top.

I realize now, as I write this up back in my parents’ study (I came back to TO today, will be flying to St. John’s tomorrow), that I didn’t get Kristen’s crème brulee recipe … so you’ll have to be satisfied with a picture:

Rest assured, they were delicious.

Happy New Year’s, everyone.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

and here i thought that the homemade bbq ribs daniel and i made for new year's eve were good.
yumm.
cook for your poor grad students like that sometime, would ya?
(yes, i realize you already have...what with the wings and all...but beef fillets and caesar salad and rum punch--wow!)

queen B said...

Ahem.

El Dorado Demerara Rum (from beautiful Guyana) will do just fine for me, thank you.

I'm just sayin'.

star*mora said...

ah being pregnant i do miss eating pricey, bloody, red meat and a good stiff drink replete with rum.

you just added more things to my list of the foods and drink that i will have immediately after having the baby...sashimi, port, brie, proscuitto, medium rare prime rib, and now some lovely medium rare alberta beef tenderloin and any drink with a lot of good rum.

i love the 12yr old dark appleton estates reserve that i have only been able to buy at the duty free in london heathrow...oh and sweet honey rum from the canary islands. yum...only a few months to go!

happy new year chris! the scots love new year's eve. my dad tells me it was bigger than christmas there but could that have anything to do with a thrifty nature? don't know.