Tag Archives: New Year’s

My Promise for An Entertaining Year

Toward the end of our Sunday evening gathering with friends, the subject of New Year’s resolutions came up – specifically, the curious lack of anyone actually making resolutions this year.

2009 was a troubling year. At its start, it seemed as though the very economic basis our of our lives was threatened.  We swore in a new president who filled us with hope and it quickly became clear how complex and overwhelming a job he had. Locating America’s place in a changing world, extending health care without bankrupting our nation, expanding foreign wars, climate change, a daunting national debt plus the overall rancor in our national dialogue, all conspire to drive out hope. And Christmas Day brought not just Santa, but a near miss from a terrorist’s underwear bomb. So perhaps just reaching year’s end was enough. Though the sun may not be shining, the sky did not fall.

Resolutions call for a confidence in the future – an “if, then” belief. If I do this, then that will happen. If I work hard and make responsible choices, I’ll be OK. It turns out, not always.

In addition to the beginning of a year, we are at the start of a decade. For baby boomers like myself, in this decade we will pass the torch and with that passing, an inevitable question: What have all these years of resolutions added up to? What is the legacy we pass on to our children?

So here we are. Are there resolutions worth making and fighting for? I don’t know the answers to many of life’s questions. But I do promise you that friends and family are enduring. I promise you that if you entertain more at home, you will have a richer connection to friends and family. I also promise to work, through my blog and At Home and At Home Online, to help you fulfill your resolution for…More Parties. Better. Easier.

Best wishes for many delicious moments this year…At Home.

Thank you for visiting.

Steve

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Lessons from An Entertaining New Year’s Weekend

Note: If you are viewing this as an email or on Facebook, today’s long, photo-filled blog is best viewed by going to the blog site. Click on the title above to go there.

Christina and I did all of our at home holiday season entertaining over our extended New Year’s weekend. Our entertaining included New Year’s Eve cocktails for seven; our anniversary dinner for two; and, Sunday evening cocktails and light dinner for nine. Writing At Home has made me a more thoughtful, organized and disciplined home entertainer. I have always been that way professionally and my professional experience informs At Home. I have not always applied these principles at home. As a result, my home entertaining has often been more harried with too much time in the kitchen and not enough time with guests than would be the ideal.

Overall, the plan that I developed on my previous blog worked. Most of my shopping took place on Tuesday with prep work on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. My “hybrid” menus included a mix of things that I made and things that I bought. I re-used several menu items for both New Year’s eve and Sunday evening. I spread my tasks fairly well. Most of the menus used room temperature food with a only few hot items that required me to spend time in the kitchen.

Here’s a photo log with comments.

New Year’s Eve Cocktails, Hors d’oeuvres and a Light Dinner

Our New Year’s Eve “House Cocktail” was the Tangerine-Kumquat martini that I developed for our wedding. This “souvenir” label leftover from our wedding adorns our refrigerator.

The prize at the bottom of this “fruitini” is the candied kumquat — sitting at the ready at the bottom of the glass. See the previous blog, or At Home page 47 for the recipe.


For New Year’s eve, our living room coffee table was set and ready to go about 5:45 with guests invited for six. Late arriving guests gave Christina and I some welcome and relaxed alone time. Clockwise from the bottom, shrimp with cocktail sauce, assorted olives, almonds toasted in olive oil, mussels with mustard mayonnaise, citrus cured salmon with cilantro creme fraiche, roasted sweet and hot peppers, crostini and black bread, dry scallops with pink peppercorns and blood orange juice and tuna tartare.

The roasted peppers I made last weekend had too many hot peppers. I added more sweet peppers to balance the mix with the added benefit of better color. Rather than broiling the added peppers, I roasted them over a direct flame on my stove. The big batch of peppers lasted the entire weekend with leftovers to spare.

I had not originally planned to serve mussels, but I needed a good stock for the fish stew I planned for our anniversary dinner. Cooking mussels in some white wine and shallots is easy and results in a wonderful stock. The mussels were a cocktail bonus. I made a mayonnaise that I used for the mussels with added Dijon mustard as well as a the rouille that I served with the fish stew.

I made a blend of olives mixing a Greek mix, smallish green Picholine, large meaty, multi-colored Cerginola, deep-green and fruity Castellanos, a smattering of kalamata and tiny arbeginas. With my preference for fruity green olives, I prefer to make my own mix as I have more control of the olive contents. See page 63 in At Home for a Brief Primer on Olives.

The citrus-cured salmon with cilantro creme fraiche lasted throughout the weekend. See At Home page 152 for Mastering Cured Salmon.

Not sure why I added tuna tartare. Really not needed and no one would have missed it. My tendency is to do too much and I need to work on that.

This is one of my favorite easy hors d’oeuvres. Thinly sliced dry scallops, dressed with lightly crushed pink peppercorns, a squeeze of blood orange, a few drops of olive oil and some large grained pink and white salt from Utah’s Great Salt Lake — a gift from a dear friend. See At Home page 149 for Dry Scallops with Pink Peppercorns.

Hot items included a Jerusalem artichoke bisque (I forgot to add the truffle oil, but it was great without it), grilled (in my grill pan) baby octopus marinated in smoked paprika, garlic, parsley and olive oil, and a cheese souffle made with gruyere, paremesan and a touch of mustard. The souffle had all the right elements – crusty top and sides, “meaty” body and a creamy interior that “saues” the souffle. I made the souffle base and prepared the souffle dish before guests arrived.  That left just whipping the egg whites, folding them into the base and popping it into the oven — a relatively brief departure from being with guests. I presented the souffle and served it at our coffee table. See At Home page 110 for Mastering Vegetable Puree Soups. See page 183 about Marinating.

Our Engagement Anniversary Dinner for Two

In the “what was I thinking” category was the notion that Christina and I would also have our New Year’s Eve Engagement Anniversary Dinner. No way. We did manage pasta with boneless beef shortribs around 11 PM, but that was it. It was not until Saturday evening that we finally exchanged Christmas gifts and sat down to a wonderful Seafood Stew. The Seafood Stew is a variation on what was a standard on Frog’s menu. Its “base” was  made with mussel stock, plus stock from cooking my shrimp for the shrimp cocktail, onion, fennel, garlic, canned tomato and Pernod (an anise flavored liquor). I made the base on Wednesday. To finish on Saturday, I just added the shellfish to the pot — colossal shrimp, lobster tails, Littleneck clams and jumbo lump crabmeat. (It was afterall a special occasion!) The finishing touches were the rouile, a mayonnaise flavored with garlic, sweet red pepper and bread, that gets mixed into the stew to enrich and big croutons to sop up the liquid. A Sancerre was the ideal accompaniment. See page 109 of The Frog Commissary Cookbook for Seafood Stew with Aioli. The recipe is also included on At Home Online, the At Home Book Owner’s companion website, along with about forty other classic Frog Commissary recipes.

Dessert was citrus fruit — navel, blood and Cara Cara oranges plus red grapefruit. I love the variation of tastes and the play of colors. The macerated cherries were a spontaneous addition — the result of the cherries catching me eye at the grocery. I love fresh cherries and thought they would provide another layer of dessert interest and a variation on a color theme. The cherries were a mistake. Imported from Chile — the cherries looked good, but were tasteless despite the addition of an overnight bath in sugar.  Overall, it was a sumptuously delicious, easy to serve — and not too heavy anniversary dinner. Read about Fresh Cherries on page 414 of At Home.

Sunday Evening Cocktails, Hors D’oeuvres and a Few Small Plates

Sunday evening’s plan included cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and two small plates. “House Cocktails” included Champagne, the remainder of our Tangerine-Kumquat martinis and traditional eggnog. See Recipe for Traditional Eggnog on this previous blog post, or on page 54 of At Home.

In addition to a change in the New Year’s Eve menu I had planned, Christina altered our service plan. Rather than everything laid out from the start on the living room coffee table with the entire group gathered around, we switched to hors d’oeuvres on the adjacent dining room table. This enabled us to get the party started without immediately assembling en masse around the food.

A wonderful selection of cheeses along with great Metropolitan Bakery breads and some white truffle honey provided a cocktail centerpiece that was moved to the coffee table and mostly consumed with dessert.

A little odds and ends Saturday shopping resulted in my adding some quickly blanched sugarsnap peas with sesame salt for any folks who might have started their “eat less in the New Year” resolution. For me, and, it turned out for all of our guests, this particular resolution does not start until the first Monday of the New Year! The sugarsnaps were nearly untouched. See page 67 of At Home for Sugarnaps with Toasted Sesame Salt.

The pork shoulder began its marinade with garlic, limes and thyme on Friday and went into a 200 degree oven around midnight Saturday. It was covered with foil with lots of holes punched into it to maintain a moist roasting atmosphere without causing the roast to steam. Around noon on Saturday, I reduced the temperature to 170 degrees to keep the pork warm.  Covered correctly and at that temperature, you can’t really overcok this dish — even after nearly eighteen hours. See At Home page 168 for Slow-Roasted Pork Should Infused with Lime, Garlic & Thyme.

The pork became a small plated and served pork taco. On Saturday I cut the slaw vegetables – jiciama, chayote, red onion and sweet red peppers so all I had to do on Sunday afternoon was dress the slaw. I also took the standard-sized corn tacos — too large for my small plate purposes — and “punched out” smaller tacos with a circle cutter. To assemble just before serving, I quickly warmed the taco in a dry pan to soften, added some sliced and shredded pork, the slaw and a topping of a pico de gallo — a simple salsa made with cut-up grape tomatoes — a good source of flavorful mid-winter tomatoes, garlic, and red onions dressed with a touch of lime and olive oil. A few leaves of cilantro provided added flavor and a finishing touch. See the Grilled Fish Tacos with Jicama Slaw on page 197 of At Home for a variation on the taco and slaw.

The Thai chicken curry — made with green Thai curry paste — was taste-tested, finished and waiting well before guests arrived. Just before serving I heated the curry and made jasmine rice. For variations on the Thai Chicken Curry recipe I served, see page 129 of The Frog Commissary Cookbook or find that recipe on At Home Online. At Home also includes a similar recipe for Thai Lamb Curry on page 284.

Served in IKEA bowls, the Thai curry was finished with diced scallions and chopped peanuts. I had originally planned for people to help themselves off of the stove in the kitchen, but by serving time everyone was comfortably sitting around so I just served the curry — and the requested seconds.

A simple dessert included store-bought chocolate biscotti and homemade Cornmeal Sugar Cookies, plus the cheeses from cocktails, along with an au revoir to the holidays eggnog. As I have so-stated here, I am not a baker. Baking requires a set of personal attributes for precision that I lack. But these wonderful Cornmeal Sugar Cookies — developed by Anne Clark for At Home’s Chapter 19: Baking Required — are so easy even a cook can bake them. You can find them on page 463 of At Home — and read more about the remarkable Anne Clark on page 443.

So what are your lessons?

Granted, I have been cooking professionally for nearly forty years and this was a lot of entertaining in a short span of time. But home entertaining is more a matter of aspiration and organization than skill and experience. There was nothing I did this week that you could not manage and enjoy by utilizing At Home Part 1’s planning principles: Plan to Entertain and Part 2’s do-ahead focused recipes. If you do not yet own At Home with it’s companion website — At Home Online, you can order it today.

My goal for the coming year is to encourage you to entertain at home more, make it easier for you to entertain at home and to make your home entertaining better. If you know others who might enjoy and benefit from this blog, I would appreciate it if you would spread the word.

Thanks for visiting!

Steve

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Recipes for Cured Salmon

Mastering Cured Salmon
Cured salmon is a versatile meal starter. Once you get comfortable with the simple process of curing salmon, you’ll be able to create your own variations. The basic cure mixture always includes sugar and salt: The salt draws out moisture and breaks down the natural protein, while the sugar provides sweetness. The recipe below uses only the basic mix, but you always want to add an accent; you can find these in the variations described below. Salmon has a high fat content that results in a firm and pleasant texture, but tuna also takes cures well. Buy very fresh fish. Avoid the narrow tail end of the salmon, as it will easily dry out and resist slicing. Thicker portions are preferred though they will need more time to be cured.
do ahead Cured salmon can be made well ahead. You can start up to three days in advance for lightly cured salmon or up to two weeks for long-cured salmon. Store cured salmon, tightly wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator.

Basic Salt and Sugar Curing Mix
1 pound salmon filet
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
flavor accent (see variations below)

1 Remove skin and trim away fat on the skin side of the salmon. Trim off the thin striated strip that runs down one side of the filet so the piece of fish is uniform. Run your finger along the top flesh, about an inch from the thick side, checking for pin bones. Remove any pin bones with tweezers or needle-nose pliers. Rinse filet and pat dry.
2 Make the basic cure by combining salt, sugar, pepper and additional flavor accent. Use a fork to distribute ingredients evenly.
3 Spread a generous piece of plastic wrap large enough to easily wrap around the fish. Spread a layer of the cure mixture in the shape of the filet. If you have cheesecloth on hand, lay that down next. The cheesecloth will make it easier to remove the curing mix. Place fish on top and add enough cure mixture to completely cover, with some cure mixture spreading over the sides of the fish. Tightly wrap the fish in the cheesecloth, if using. Either way, wrap again in a second layer of plastic. Place wrapped fish in a shallow, nonreactive container with at least some slope to contain any moisture that escapes from the plastic wrap. Next, place a weight on the fish to aid the extraction of moisture. A plate and several large cans work well. Refrigerate anywhere from 3-14 days. The longer the cure, the firmer, drier and more intensely flavored the fish.
4 Once the fish is cured to your liking, remove plastic wrap and cheesecloth. You can cut a little slice of cured fish to check. If you want a longer cure, just rewrap the fish and return it to the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the first slice, surrounded on three sides by the cure mixture, will be more intensely cured than the interior will be. If you’re satisfied, carefully scrape away the curing mixture with a knife blade. If you prefer a less salty cure, rinse salmon under cold water and dry. (If you used cheesecloth, rinsing won’t be necessary.)
5 Use a very sharp knife to slice salmon on the bias against the grain. For lightly cured salmon, cut slices about 1⁄4-inch thick. For longer-curedM salmon, cut thinner slices. Cured salmon can be eaten without adornment, dressed with a touch of good olive oil or served with condiments on fresh or crisp toasted bread.

Pepper-Cured Salmon Add 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon coarsely ground green peppercorns and 11⁄2 tablespoons pink peppercorns to basic salt and sugar mixture. Leave some residual pepper and do not rinse. Just scrape.

Coriander-Cured Salmon Add 2 tablespoons ground (preferably toasted) coriander to basic salt and sugar mixture. Just scrape and leave some residual coriander.

Salmon “Jerky” Add 2 teaspoons ground (preferably toasted) coriander, 2 teaspoons ground (preferably toasted) fennel to basic salt and sugar mixture and use 3 tablespoons total black peppercorns. Use 1 pound salmon trimmings in place of filet. Cure for 5 days. Remove mixture, rinse and dry well. Slice thinly.

Juniper and Sage-Cured Salmon Add 1⁄4 cup crushed and chopped juniper berries, 1⁄3 cup chopped fresh sage to basic salt and sugar mixture. Serve with horseradish sauce (see page 216).

Traditional Dill-Cured Salmon Add 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh dill and 1 ounce brandy to basic salt and sugar mixture. Serve with dill honey mustard sauce (see page 223).

Citrus-Cured Salmon with Jicama Relish Add finely grated zest of 3 lemons, 3 limes and 2 oranges and 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro to basic salt and sugar mixture, using a fork to break up zest. Serve with jicama relish (see page 212).
serves 8

Wrapped and curing salmon filet after about twenty-four hours.


With natural moisture of salmon removed by the action of the salt gathered at the base of the dish.
Unwrapped filet ready to scrape and rinse.
Scrape away crust of salt, sugar, cilantro and citrus zest, rinse and dry.
Citrus-cured salmon sliced and ready to go. Add crostini or sliced bread and a dip and you have an easy, every-ready and elegant hors d’oeuvres.


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The Perfect Hors D’ouvres for a New Year’s Weekend

Cured salmon, often referred to as gravlax, is the perfect do ahead hors d’oeuvres for the long New Year’s weekend. Cured salmon will keep happily in your refrigerator for more than a week.

Right now Christina and I are not sure of our plans — except for New Year’s Eve when we celebrate the anniversary of our engagement with a dinner for two at home.  But I made a large batch of roasted sweet and hot peppers last week — I added more sweet this weekend as I had too many hot — and Sunday I began a citrus-cure of two pounds of salmon. I’ll make some crostini tonight and know that I have two at-the-ready hors d’oeuvres for welcoming guests…whenever they appear. The following recipe is from At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking & Entertaining. The recipe suggests a two to three day cure, but you can make a lovely and light cured salmon with a twenty-four hour cure. The length of the cure is also dependent on the thickness of your filet with a thin filet requiring a shorter cure. My filets were fairly thin and the salmon was perfectly cured after twenty-four hours though a longer cured would have intensified the flavor and produced a somewhat drier outcome — not better, just different.

Mastering Cured Salmon

Cured salmon is a versatile meal starter. Once you get comfortable with the simple process of curing salmon, you’ll be able to create your own variations. The basic cure mixture always includes sugar and salt: The salt draws out moisture and breaks down the natural protein, while the sugar provides sweetness. The recipe below uses only the basic mix, but you always want to add an accent; you can find these in the variations described below. Salmon has a high fat content that results in a firm and pleasant texture, but tuna also takes cures well. Buy very fresh fish. Avoid the narrow tail end of the salmon, as it will easily dry out and resist slicing. Thicker portions are preferred though they will need more time to be cured.
do ahead Cured salmon can be made well ahead. You can start up to three days in advance for lightly cured salmon or up to two weeks for long-cured salmon. Store cured salmon, tightly wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator.

Basic Salt and Sugar Curing Mix
1 pound salmon filet
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
flavor accent (see variations below)

1 Remove skin and trim away fat on the skin side of the salmon. Trim off the thin striated strip that runs down one side of the filet so the piece of fish is uniform. Run your finger along the top flesh, about an inch from the thick side, checking for pin bones. Remove any pin bones with tweezers or needle-nose pliers. Rinse filet and pat dry.
2 Make the basic cure by combining salt, sugar, pepper and additional flavor accent. Use a fork to distribute ingredients evenly.
3 Spread a generous piece of plastic wrap large enough to easily wrap around the fish. Spread a layer of the cure mixture in the shape of the filet. If you have cheesecloth on hand, lay that down next. The cheesecloth will make it easier to remove the curing mix. Place fish on top and add enough cure mixture to completely cover, with some cure mixture spreading over the sides of the fish. Tightly wrap the fish in the cheesecloth, if using. Either way, wrap again in a second layer of plastic. Place wrapped fish in a shallow, nonreactive container with at least some slope to contain any moisture that escapes from the plastic wrap. Next, place a weight on the fish to aid the extraction of moisture. A plate and several large cans work well. Refrigerate anywhere from 3-14 days. The longer the cure, the firmer, drier and more intensely flavored the fish.
4 Once the fish is cured to your liking, remove plastic wrap and cheesecloth. You can cut a little slice of cured fish to check. If you want a longer cure, just rewrap the fish and return it to the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the first slice, surrounded on three sides by the cure mixture, will be more intensely cured than the interior will be. If you’re satisfied, carefully scrape away the curing mixture with a knife blade. If you prefer a less salty cure, rinse salmon under cold water and dry. (If you used cheesecloth, rinsing won’t be necessary.)
5 Use a very sharp knife to slice salmon on the bias against the grain. For lightly cured salmon, cut slices about 1⁄4-inch thick. For longer-curedM salmon, cut thinner slices. Cured salmon can be eaten without adornment, dressed with a touch of good olive oil or served with condiments on fresh or crisp toasted bread.

Pepper-Cured Salmon Add 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon coarsely ground green peppercorns and 11⁄2 tablespoons pink peppercorns to basic salt and sugar mixture. Leave some residual pepper and do not rinse. Just scrape.

Coriander-Cured Salmon Add 2 tablespoons ground (preferably toasted) coriander to basic salt and sugar mixture. Just scrape and leave some residual coriander.

Salmon “Jerky” Add 2 teaspoons ground (preferably toasted) coriander, 2 teaspoons ground (preferably toasted) fennel to basic salt and sugar mixture and use 3 tablespoons total black peppercorns. Use 1 pound salmon trimmings in place of filet. Cure for 5 days. Remove mixture, rinse and dry well. Slice thinly.

Juniper and Sage-Cured Salmon Add 1⁄4 cup crushed and chopped juniper berries, 1⁄3 cup chopped fresh sage to basic salt and sugar mixture. Serve with horseradish sauce (see page 216).

Traditional Dill-Cured Salmon Add 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh dill and 1 ounce brandy to basic salt and sugar mixture. Serve with dill honey mustard sauce (see page 223).

Citrus-Cured Salmon with Jicama Relish Add finely grated zest of 3 lemons, 3 limes and 2 oranges and 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh cilantro to basic salt and sugar mixture, using a fork to break up zest. Serve with jicama relish (see page 212).
serves 8

Wrapped and curing salmon filet after about twenty-four hours.

With natural moisture of salmon removed by the action of the salt gathered at the base of the dish.

Unwrapped filet ready to scrape and rinse.

Scrape away crust of salt, sugar, cilantro and citrus zest, rinse and dry.

Citrus-cured salmon sliced and ready to go. Add crostini or sliced bread and a dip and you have an easy, every-ready and elegant hors d’oeuvres.

A Family Christmas

It was not quite over the river and through the woods, but a trip up 95 and 287 brought Christina and I to Larry and Susan’s for our traditional Christmas Eve and Christmas Day family gathering. As previously noted, Larry is an an ambitious and excellent cook. Shortly after arrival, with Pomegranate-Lemon Martini from At Home in hand, we began our Seven Fish repast gathered in the kitchen. Larry always produces a printed menu that both lets guests know what’s ahead and provides a memento of the evening.

Citrus Cured Gravlax not pictured


Smoked Trout Dip

Boquerone (Anchovies)

Olive Ripieni di Pesce (Deep-fried olives stuffed with fish) not pictured
Regina’s Marinated Cod with Carrots not pictured

Steve’s Mediterranean Seafood (Shrimp & Scallops) Cakes with Green Olive Tapenade

Panko-crusted Calamari with Lemongrass-chili Sauce

Swordfish slowly cooking in olive oil with a little rosemary

Olive Oil Poached Swordfish with Blood Orange Salsa

Paparadelle with Poached Egg and Caviar

Buche de Noel

Christmas Cookies and Toffee

Four hours later, happy, sated and a bit exhausted — everything was delicious with the unquestioned best of show being the Swordfish and the Paparadelle.

Christmas morning was a noshers delight with some evidence of middle-of-the-night visitors. Susan’s pumpkin bread spread with cream cheese and the left-over smoked trout dip were the highlights.

Followed by a wonderful Christmas dinner.

Wine-braised hanger steak and short ribs of beef with a gratin of celery root and potatoes and asparagus with blood oranges. For dessert, Buche de Noel and Christmas Cookies and Toffee Redux. While the food was memorable, most important was the traditional gathering of family and friends and the ritual of food that surrounds that gathering.

Thanks for visiting.
Steve

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