New Year, New Menu

This last week has been a cook’s nightmare. All my grand plans of preparing, cooking and baking for the holidays were put on hold by a nasty bout of the flu. The only thing I managed to cook up was a cup of tea. Thankfully, I’m on the mend and back in the kitchen, eager to make up for lost time. While I’m sad to have missed out on all the cooking that comes at Christmas, my biggest cooking day of the year is actually in the week ahead – New Year’s Eve. Every year, I make a huge (often difficult) meal that usually takes me the full day – or more – to prepare. I typically push myself to try something new. I’m still mulling over this year’s menu (and open to ideas if you have them). In the meantime, here’s a look back at the last three years and some new and different courses that I’ve made that are worth trying if you’re up for a little New Year’s Eve challenge.

2011: First Course: Pan Seared Foie Gras with Poached Pears on Brioche

Foie gras isn’t for everyone but if you like it, I encourage you to try making it at home at least once. If nothing else, it’ll make you appreciate how much care goes into preparing it in a restaurant! It isn’t typically found in grocery stores so I ordered mine from fine foods purveyor, D’artagnan. 

How to make it: Lightly toast the brioche in a broiler and set aside. Peel and slice pears thin and cook in a skillet until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Season and score the foie gras and sear it in a hot pan. Assemble brioche with pears and add foie on top with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt.

What I learned: Foie gras is finicky! Because it’s so full of fat, it melts in the pan so you have to be quick with it and make sure you have a very hot pan or else you could easily end up with foie gras “soup!” Here are some helpful tips on cooking it from Serious Eats.

How long it takes: About 30 minutes to prepare the full dish. Though, the foie gras cooks in about five minutes!

IMG_00942012: Main Course: Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon

This is the first dish Julia ever made on “The French Chef.” Prepare to hunker down for a long day of preparation and cooking. It can be especially challenging if you also choose to make the Champignons Sautés au Beurre (Sauteed mushrooms) and the Oignons Glacés à Brun (Brown braised mushrooms). These are optional but they really complete the dish.

How to make it: The recipe from the original Knopf book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, can be found here. If you are a visual learner like me, you might also enjoy watching the episode on YouTube!

What I learned: The mushrooms are SO good and such a great side dish to make on their own. Also – peeling pearl onions can be incredibly laborious. Here’s a shortcut: simply blanch them in hot water for about 30 seconds and transfer to an ice bath. Let them sit about a minute and the skins will peel right off. Need another visual guide? Here’s Martha giving a demo.

How long it takes: 6+ hours! The dish is not exactly that difficult but it does require a bit of multitasking and patience due to the long cooking time.

IMG_1416 IMG_14292013: Dessert: Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Molten Chocolate Cakes

I am not a big dessert person but last year I decided to try something that was a childhood favorite – individual molten chocolate cakes. I anticipated these would be incredibly difficult but they turned out to be insanely simple and very delicious. If you’re intimidated by the recipes above, this is the one to go for. You will NOT regret it.

How to Make it: Jean-Georges’ recipe is listed in Food & Wine magazine. I followed it exactly.

What I Learned: This is a great dessert to make if you have company. You can prepare it ahead of time and while you’re cleaning up the dinner plates, pop them in the oven. They’ll be impressive and delicious for your guests and smell wonderful coming out of the oven about 10 minutes later. Serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or, my favorite, creme anglaise ice cream.

How Long it Takes: About 20 minutes of prep and 10-15 minutes to cook. About 30 seconds to devour.

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