The best thing about having people over for dinner on New Year's? Not having to find a cab at the end of the night. The worst part? Doing dishes at 4 o'clock in the morning. No, my friends, I kid you not.
Backing it up a bit, I'll bring you up to speed on the final guest list. When Faith and Rhonda weren't able to join, we were down to four - but then my brother's old roommate (who we'd assumed would be in Boston with his girlfriend) called, and we told him to come along for the festivities. So at a healthy five, we tackled the four course dinner I'd spent most of Sunday and Monday planning, prepping, and cooking!
Before dinner, we nibbled on some old-school appetizers - Ina Garten's pan-fried onion spread (like Lipton, but ten times better), crudites with The New Basics' awesome Green Goddess dip, and Gourmet's parmesan-onion toasts.
After everyone had partaken of some snacks and at least a flute of champagne apiece, we adjourned to the table. First up, Jean-Georges' oeufs au caviar. These were, without a doubt, the big hit of the evening. While you're supposed to serve these suckers in the eggshells, I used little white bowls I use for sorbet - so sue me, I don't own egg cups and didn't have time to make it to Sur La Table. On the bottom are eggs softly scrambled in butter (with just a pinch of paprika), then freshly whipped cream spiked with vodka and lemon juice, and, finally, caviar. I used salmon roe - it was surprisingly affordable (about $10.00 for four ounces), and the color, mild flavor and juicy texture all worked really well. Plus, unlike sturgeon caviar, it's kosher!
Next, Ina Garten's roasted tomato and basil soup (with veggie stock instead of chicken). This was fantastic - easy, and a show-stopper. Great flavor, beautiful, and can be made ahead. You can also serve it cold in the summer! (Tip: I used an immersion blender instead of a food mill, and it worked perfectly well, with less fuss.)
For our main, we has the crispy polenta with wild mushroom ragout that appeared in December's Bon Appetit. This was my first experience with a Bon Appetit recipe (I received the subscription for spending $50 at Sur La Table in October), and I wasn't overly impressed. The polenta did not crisp up easily, and the suggested olive oil and butter smoked like crazy. The mushroom ragout was good, though, and I would make it again to serve over pasta or as a side dish, even.
Finally, one of my favorite recipes of all time, Jean-Georges' soft, warm chocolate cakes. Easy as brownies - you butter and flour the ramekins or molds (twice, don't skimp, trust me), pour in the batter (which has about four ingredients), and put them in the fridge till about an hour before dessert. Bring the cakes to room temp, bake for about five minutes, and boom. It's gorgeous, it's delicious, it's dessert. These were a big hit - my brother went after the spare, and I made sure to serve them with plenty of whipped cream.
Dinner was followed by a raucous round of Trivial Pursuit and after sending the last guest home around 3:30, I did a little bit of clean-up and tumbled into bed around 6 A.M. Needless to say, New Year's Day was a quiet one.