New Year’s Menu

This just goes to show you my impeccable organizational skills of late. Of course I should have posted it before New Year’s, but I only devised it on the 30th, and I was absolutely sure it was way too ambitious to make. But, lo and behold, it wasn’t. I wasn’t even rushed, given the low (really low) pressure of our low-key celebration (can I use any more “low”s in this sentence? didn’t think so). The whole thing took me probably two hours hands-on throughout the day. Yeah, it’s not like Eria would sit still or nap for two whole hours while Mama does cookery stuff in the kitchen. And Tata was at work, of course, so no bonus there. She did spend parts of the process in her bumbo chair on the counter, busying herself with thoughts and trials of growing her hands longer so that she can reach the very enticing things Mama was manipulating. You know, things of the child-friendly variety: knives, forks, sauces, hot in temperature, and myriad other cool stuff from the point of view of a five-month-old who would like nothing more than to stuff the whole world into her mouth and chew on it. Oh, the dreams of babies…

So, it’s not pretentious, and it’s not difficult, and it certainly isn’t timely. But it’s tasty and easy. And that passes the mark in my book any day of the year.

Appetizers:

1. Smoked salmon and cream cheese tortilla rolls
2. Gougeres

Gougeres and salmon rolls

Main:
3. Oven-baked ribs (with Ina Garten’s bbq sauce) with sweet potato fries and pickled green tomatoes

ribs, sweet potato fries, pickled green tomatoes

Desert
4. Apple Torte with whipped cream

apple torte with whipped cream

New Year’s Dinner was at six o’clock. Yeah, you heard me. Did you also hear my yawns? We were in bed by 10:30 and consoled ourselves that we celebrated the New Year with the Easterners. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics with Eria’s dinner. She had acorn squash and I’m happy to report she loved it (and was in bed by 7). Now that you’re all up on your schedule, would you like some recipes as well?

Here goes:

1. Gougeres: I took the recipe from Laura Calder. I love her unpretentious cooking which always yields tasty and good-looking dishes with minimum effort and unfancy (am I inventing words here?) ingredients. I used smoked paprika, ’cause that’s just how creative I am. I also used a highly arbitrary combination of gruyere (no accent grave, again. will you ever forgive me?), asiago, and parmesan, ’cause that’s what I had in the fridge. Yeah, and I don’t even own a piping bag, so I used two teaspoons. They work wonders, I tell you. Oh, and who has time to brush those things with milk. The came out yummy even without it.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup water or light chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to season
  • Pinch of paprika
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 x large eggs
  • 4 ounces Gruyere (or asiago, or parmesan, or any hard cheese you have) cheese, very finely diced or coarsely grated
  • Milk for brushing

What to do:

  1. Heat the oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Put the butter in a heavy saucepan with the water or stock, salt, pepper, and paprika. Bring to a boil and pull from the heat. Dump the flour in all at once, and beat until smooth with a wooden spoon. The mixture will pull away from the sides of the pan and form a ball. Put the pan back on low heat and beat for a minute to dry the paste somewhat. Remove from the heat and let cool about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon after each addition. You want a smooth, soft, glossy paste that falls easily from the spoon. Stir in the cheese. Using a pastry bag, pipe 1-inch/2.5 cm balls onto a buttered baking sheet, or simply drop the mixture by spoonfuls. Brush with milk so they will emerge golden and shiny. Bake until puffed up, nicely browned, and feather light when you pick one up, 25 to 35 minutes.
2. Smoked Salmon Rolls:
This couldn’t be easier. When I told my sister-in-law about them, she immediately said she’d take them to work for lunch. Which, you know, not being employed, struck me as a brilliant suggestion. Here goes:
Ingredients:
  • tortillas (I used whole wheat, but the green ones would have looked so much better)
  • sliced smoked salmon (about six slices per tortilla)
  • cream cheese
  • capers
What to do:
  1. Spread cream cheese over tortilla.
  2. Spread the smoked salmon slices  and capers over half the tortilla like so
smoked salmon rolls
3. Roll the tortilla and put it in a plastic wrapping in the fridge.
4. Leave in fridge for 10-15 minutes, so it’s easier to cut.
wrapped salmon tortilla
5. Cut into 2 cm slices and serve. Or don’t cut and take to work to enjoy on your lunch break.
3. Ribs with Ina Garten’s BBQ sauce.
These were so delicious, yet easy enough to make for a weekend dinner. Honestly, I had some of them cold in the following days and they’re still good. The good thing about them is that most of the fat will melt into the baking dish, so they’re not as fatty. And because of the prolonged baking, the meat falls off the bone and it make you think of pulled pork… in a good way. Ina Garten’s BBQ sauce courtesy of  smitten kitchen. I halved the recipe and it was perfect for two racks of ribs with leftovers:
ribs
Ingredients:
1. Ina Garten’s BBQ Sauce
2. Two racks of pork ribs
What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 300F
2. Place ribs on cookie sheet or other baking dish large enough to accommodate them and slather generously with the sauce on both sides.
3. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 2.5-3 hours.
4. Take them out of the oven and let rest for 15 minutes (not essential).
Sweet potato fries:
I looooooove sweet potato fries. I could eat them any day of the week. Plus, all that vitamin goodness. (Yes, that’s all I’m thinking about when I hear the word ‘fries’). Normally, as a person striving for healthy cookery, I bake them. But I only have so much oven real estate in my kitchen and it was already quite crowded. So I fried them (isn’t that why they’re called fries?).
I used one yam (it was quite big – around 250 grams) and cut it up in sticks about 1 cm wide. Then I heat some oil and fried them. Yeah, I sure did.
yam fries
If you’d rather stay on the healthy side, toss yam sticks with olive oil, about 1 Tbsp, then place on cookie sheet and bake at 375 F for about half an hour, rotating them once.  They’ll be nice and crispy. And yummy. It’s all about the yummy factor.
4. Upside-down apple torte
Now this is the easiest good-looking desert ever. Good enough for company. And versatile enough to use with different kinds of fruit (my favourite is sour cherry or apricot). The cake remains the same, and the technique is the same. It’s also incredibly easy to adjust the recipe for more or fewer mouths. The rule of thumb is for every egg, one heaping Tbsp. of flour and one Tbsp. of sugar. And you’re on your way.
Ingredients for the fruit topping:
  • 5-6 gala apples, or another kind that holds its shape well
  • 4-5 Tbsp. sugar (depending also on how sweet the fruit is)
  • 1-2 Tbsp water or fruit juice
  • if you’re using apples, cinnamon (to taste, cca. 1 tsp. and nutmeg 1/4 tsp. work well)
Ingredients for the cake
  • 3 room-temperature eggs
  • 3 heaping Tbsp. flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • zest from one lemon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • pinch of salt
What to do:
– preheat oven to 325
– put the sugar and liquid in stovetop-safe baking dish and let sugar caramelize.
– add apples/other fruit and let soften for a while (10 mins?)
In the mean time start working on the cake
– whip egg whites till soft peaks form
– add half the sugar and whip till glossy
– whip yolks with rest of sugar until sugar is disolved and the yolks become a lighter yellow and increase in volume
– add the yolks and the rest of the ingredients over the whites and combine trying to maintain as much of the incorporated air as possible. Cut through the mixture with a spoon and lift from underneath.
cake parts
– pull fruit mixture from stove fire and pour the cake mixture on top making sure to even it out.
– place in the oven and bake for 35-45 mins, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
– take out of the oven and run a toothpick by the edge of the cake, so that the margins don’t cling to the dish
– let rest for 5-10 minutes
– place the serving dish upside down on top of the baking dish and with a decisive quick movement turn the cake upside down. The fruit juices will seep into the cake yielding mounds of yumminess.
apple torte
Enjoy!
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