There is no law that says you have to serve hors d'ouevres on New Year's Eve, but maybe there ought to be. Nothing shouts 'party' louder than an arty arrangement of beautiful bite-sized morsels.
Whether you plan to usher in 2012 by spending a quiet evening at home or by attending/hosting the biggest bash in town, keep in mind that we eat with our eyes first. That means presentation is everything and since we start the meal with hors d'ouevres, they create the 'wow' factor for the whole evening.
And don't you think bringing in a new year deserves a little 'wow?'
Most cooks have their go-to dishes that must make an appearance at certain holidays. By all means include those, but keep the element of delightful surprise alive by preparing some new treats for your guests as well.
When you are creating your menu be sure to include as much color as possible. Bowls of Satsuma oranges and pomegranate seeds (arils) add a bright element to the table.
You can add drama to your event with linens, candles, unique serving containers and other unexpected touches. It is these little things that make a big impact and signal to all that this is something special.
Make sure your guests feel warmly welcomed in your home and that you tingle all the senses. Let them hear music and laughter and breath deeply of the fragrant aromas of food cooking.
A New Year's celebration doesn't have to take a year of preparation. To make the process easier, I've included a few recipes that will make a delicious menu without spending hours in the kitchen. You have a cocktail recipe, which can be made with gin or vodka, two savory appetizers and one sweet recipe. Try one or all!
Happy New Year! Eat something wonderful!
Cranberry Gin and Tonics
Makes 10 drinks
If you prefer vodka to gin, I recommend using locally made Dogstyle vodka for these festive cocktails.
2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
3 ½ cups chilled tonic water
1 ¼ cups gin
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Bring cranberries, sugar and water to a simmer in a 3 to 3 ½ quart saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until berries just begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Drain cranberries in a fine mesh sieve over a 1-quart glass measuring cup, then reserve 2 cups cranberries and force remaining berries through the sieve into syrup. Discard solids remaining in sieve, and then add cranberries to syrup. Cool to room temperature. Transfer to a pitcher and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
Add tonic, gin and lime juice to syrup, stirring gently to combine. Serve drinks over ice in 8 to 10 ounce glasses.
Cook's note: Cranberry syrup can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Add tonic water, gin and limejuice just before serving.
Adapted from Gourmet, Dec. 2006
Makes 36 pieces
These festive bite-sized cheese balls look almost too pretty to eat.
6 ounces fresh goat cheese (chevre), room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
For decorating use your choice of these items:
Finely chopped chives
Finely chopped salted pistachios, toasted
Freshly cracked pink peppercorns
In a medium bowl, combine goat cheese and cream cheese using a wooden spoon. Form a heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture into a small ball, and transfer to a small plate or parchment-lined baking sheet; repeat with remaining cheese mixture.
To decorate the cheese balls, place pistachios, chives and pink peppercorns on separate plates and roll the balls to cover completely.
To decorate with a stripe of curry or cayenne around the circumference of the ball, make an even line of the spice about ¼ inch wide and 3 inches long on a piece of waxed paper or parchment and roll the ball along the spice.
To decorate with a polka dot of curry or cayenne, place spice in a mound in a small plate and gently press cheese into the spice; turn 180 degrees and press ball into spice again to add a second dot of flavor and color.
These can be made several hours in advance; refrigerate and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Pork Cornets with Sour Cherry Sauce
Makes about 40 hors d'oeuvres
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 1-pound pork tenderloins
½ pound shallots (about 7) peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup dried sour cherries (5 ounces)
½ cup sugar
2 5-inch springs fresh rosemary, plus 40 1-inch sprigs fresh rosemary or wooden picks
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400ºF.
Very finely grind fennel seeds, salt and peppercorns in grinder, then rub all over pork.
Toss shallots with oil in a 13 x 9-inch flameproof roasting pan, then nestle tenderloins among shallots (without crowding) and roast until thermometer inserted into thickest end of pork registers 155ºF, about 30 to 35 minutes. Put 2 layers of foil on a work surface and transfer pork to foil. Cool to room temperature about 1 hour, then wrap in foil and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
While pork cools, put roasting pan with shallots over a burner, then add wine and deglaze pan by boiling, stirring and scraping up any brown bits with a wooden spoon, 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a 2 to 2 ½ quart heavy saucepan. Add cherries, sugar and rosemary and boil until liquid is reduced to about 2 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard rosemary sprigs (do not discard any leaves that have fallen off stems). Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and chill, uncovered, until cold, about 1-½ hours.
Cut chilled pork with a carving knife or an electric meat slicer diagonally into 1/8-inch thick slices. Roll up each slice into a cornet (cone) shape and pierce in center with a rosemary sprig or toothpick to secure. Fill opening of each cornet with about ½ teaspoon cherry sauce. Discard rosemary sprigs when eating.
Cook's note: Pork and cherry sauce can be chilled separately up to 1 day. Cover cherry sauce after 1 ½ hours of chilling.
Gourmet magazine, Dec. 2006
Crisp Chocolate Marshmallow Squares
Makes about 60 squares
Who doesn't love Rice Krispies treats? By adding dark chocolate ganache with a tiny jolt of coffee flavor, the classic is turned into a sophisticated bite-sized dessert. Combining bittersweet chocolate of different cacao levels results in a ganache that has just the right intensity without being overpowering.
4 ounces fine quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60 percent cacao if marked), chopped
3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (70 percent cacao), chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Tia Maria, Kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur
1 tablespoon instant-espresso powder or instant-coffee granules.
For marshmallow squares:
¼ pound marshmallows (15 individual large marshmallows or 2 cups small)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups puffed-rice cereal such as Rice Krispies
Make ganache by melting chocolates with cream, liqueur and espresso powder in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, whisking occasionally, until smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature until thickened, about 2 hours.
Make marshmallow squares: Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with a long sheet of foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang on each end.
Melt marshmallows and butter with sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a 2 ½ to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and gently stir in puffed rice cereal. Transfer to lined baking pan, pressing mixture evenly onto bottom with dampened fingertips.
Cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes, then carefully lift from pan by grasping both ends of foil. Peel off and discard foil, then cut into 1-inch squares. Spread some of ganache on half of squares, using about ½ teaspoon ganache each, then top with remaining squares. Reheat remaining ganache in metal bowl over barely simmering water, whisking occasionally, until loosened, then drizzle over tops of squares (you will have ganache left over). Let squares stand until set, about 15 minutes.
Cook's notes: Marshmallow squares with ganache can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered with plastic wrap after ganache is set. Bring to room temperature, uncovered, before serving.
Leftover ganache keeps, covered and chilled, 1 week. Reheat as above and serve over ice cream.
Gourmet, Dec. 2006