New Years Eve. I never much cared for the holiday until nine years ago when we were invited to a party by a foodie friend. The jist of it was that each couple cooked a course. We ate from 7:00 in the evening until 2:00 in the morning and now it is my favorite holiday ever! Oh my gosh, the excitement of NYE starts New Years Day, even before that first cup of coffee, when we start planning what we are going to make the next year. This is a serious “competition”. On the surface that is not what it is all about, but underneath it all, that is what drives us! Everyone pulls out all stops. Provencal fish soup with saffron rouille; cucumber kimchi with Asian pear, Korean chile, pine nuts and chives; strawberry black pepper granita; crushed potato cakes with arugula, black caviar and crème fraiche.
One year Seth, culinary school alum, constructed a whole medical themed “milling around” appetizer course, lobster bisque in syringes, tuna tartar with tobiko in Petri dishes, breadsticks in beakers. I will never choose the “milling around” appetizer course after that! Tough act to follow. We’ve come a long way. For foodies, there were quite a few obstacles to overcome, lactose intolerance, veganism (shudder), aversion to gelatin. That usually meant making two versions of a dish, such as Seth “meat is my middle name” Deysach always has to do, papradelle with braised lamb shank, wild mushrooms and veal demi glace for half the crew and papradelle minus the lamb shank and veal demi glace for the rest of the crew. Yes, we have come a long way, with everyone now at least being fishatarians, thank goodness. I think Laura’s lobster poached in five pounds of butter seven years ago might have been their downfall.
Yes, this party has evolved…courses are now served on matching dishes courtesy of Searah and Dawne and their addiction to shopping at CB2! Here is the exact email with photo included! No kidding!
“And I just wanted to let you know that we have the following dishes (so you can plan your plating!)…
24 Orange Apostrophe-shaped plates (very small)
14 Round white “bread” plates
12 Medium sized white appetizer plates (with rounded corners)
20 Large white dinner plates (with rounded corners)
16 Clear straight-sided double old-fashioned glasses (not good for hot)
20 Smallish White Oval Bowls
I have to say, I am a bit of a wine snob and was appalled that people spent days making their dishes and would bring Yellow Tail Chardonnay to quaff, or should I say swig. I talked everyone into handing over $25 per person and finalizing their dish by the day before, that was the hardest part, and I now pair all nine courses with appropriate wine, with Greg’s help, the bigger wine snob of the group! We aren’t drinking gewürztraminer (as it starts at $17 a bottle, but we aren’t drinking liters of wine anymore either.) Last year was the most amazing, when Damien of Candid Wines paired our entire menu from his portfolio. Even the Yellow Tail die hards were swooning!
This year was a smaller group, eleven people instead of the normal eighteen. The emails, eighty in total, started flying on December 7th, to be exact, with everyone claiming their course. Searah always makes dessert and mignardise; those after dessert sweets that you eat at least four of, even though “you can’t eat another bite”. She has mignardise tattooed on the back of her neck, so no one argues with her. Plus she went to pastry school, enough said. I think this year was the best dessert yet, salted caramel pots de crème with chocolate sesame tuilles. Heaven!
Since Mr. Meat was absent this year, we took over the entrée, smoking duck and salmon days before the big event. These wonderful smoky meats were plated with roasted corn arepas, which I had been testing for weeks, a sour cherry sauce and topped with a slaw of shredded napa cabbage, Brussels sprouts & julienned beets in a creamy mustard dressing. Phew, a mouthful, a yummy one, though.
Cullen took a different strategy to impress. He went rustic and hearty, with a simple yellow winter vegetable soup of sweet potatoes, rutabagas, apples, carrots & paprika. This may have been understated, but talk about impressive. This is my new winter staple and it can be yours, too. The recipe follows. It’s warming, comforting and simply delicious. Oh ya, I forgot to tell you, the secret weapon in it is butter. Mmmm…. Mmmmm… good. Thanks Cullen.
Actually I want to thank Laura, too, for inviting us to this wonderful celebration of good friends, good food and great style. I can’t think of a better way to spend NYE.
“Yellow Winter Vegetable Soup”
Serves 8-10 (or 15!)
3 carrots, coarsely chopped.
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped.
1 rutabaga, peeled and coarsely chopped.
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped.
10 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 stick of butter, softened.
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary.
6 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. paprika
Place the carrots, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and apples in big pot and cover with chicken stock. Stir in the salt and pepper. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until vegetables, are very tender, about 25 minutes.
Drain and reserve the stock. Return the cooked vegetables to the pot. Add the butter, nutmeg, rosemary. Roughly mash veggies with a potato masher until chunky. Return the stock to the pot and bring to a low simmer. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into individual bowls. (ed. note.–where else would you ladle it???)
Garnish with green onions and paprika.