Jan 1st – After a full night’s sleep (I try to get to bed before midnight so I can start the New Year off well-rested) I began thinking about guests arriving in the afternoon. We (my friend and I) are “at home” New Years Day 1-5. “at home” is an old fashioned way to say we are entertaining friends who might like to drop by. We spent the week between the Holidays cleaning and preparing anything that could be done ahead of time.
Pate Maison, French terrines, potted shrimp, and pastry shells were all ready to bring to room temperature. Sauces and dips were finished, and the fried chicken balls ready to be reheated. Puff pastry was thawed, but still had to be stuffed with prosciutto, Gorgonzola & Parmesan, then rolled out and baked, sliced prosciutto was ready to be spread with arugula, goat cheese and fig preserves before being rolled and drizzled with lemon oil, and the vegetables were ready to be washed and cut for the vegetarian tray.
I know, people buy so many packaged dishes these days you must wonder what we were thinking of. You can never be sure the vegetables in those store-bought trays are as clean as if you washed them, or if they are as fresh. Besides, they always come with a prepared dip made with unpronounceable ingredients – who wants that? My big concession to convenience is to buy puff pastry! I already know that my pastry shells are better; ditto the pate. No one makes terrines or potted shrimp anymore, so they have to be from scratch.
Here’s our food philosophy: when we prepare food from scratch we know what is in it and where it came from.
The morning passed faster than the food could be prepared, and it was 1 o’clock when I opened the first bottle of champagne. We toasted the New Year and did all those last minute things before guests arrived. We put a couple of logs in the woodstove, rearranged the flowers, and chopped garnishes for the trays of food. Everything was ready before the door bell rang.
The afternoon and evening were spent singing and making music – and eating, of course. The “Swing & Sway Sweethearts” performed duets, individual tenors and baritones sang, Mozart duets were played on the Steinway, and poems were read, all to everyone’s applause. Seven bottles of champagne later, Auld Lang Syne was sung and the last of our friends safely on their way home.
Starting the New Year right means spending the first day with good people, good food and good music, with the hope that every day to follow brings at least as much into our lives.
With wishes for the same for you — Happy Year Everyone!
Recipes – Pate Maison from the “Silver Palate Cookbook”, terrines from Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking”, pastry from James Beard, (sorry, I don’t remember which one) prosciutto from the current Saveur Magazine. Chocolate chip cookies (modified by replacing 2/3s the chips with cocoa nibs) from the “Essential New York Times Cookbook”.