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Post-New Year dinner

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The companion, I suppose, to our pre-Christmas celebration is our post-New Year dinner. New Year’s Eve we go out to a restaurant; early in the new year, we make ourselves a gourmet dinner. Normally this happens much closer to January 1, but with Jan 1 being a Tuesday this year with back to work occurring on Wednesday, we put it off until the following weekend.

I actually pondered inviting other people over for it this time. But what happened is what usually does when I think of having people over for dinner: I over-think myself out of the whole idea. How much will my gluten-free friend manage to eat? (I remain fuzzy on exactly what does and doesn’t contain gluten.) Do my friends who don’t eat red meat consider lamb red meat? Does my friend who only eats read meat consider lamb red meat? Does anyone have a shellfish allergy?

Perhaps I need less complicated friends. At any rate, it was just the two of us, again. And maybe it just as well, as it turned the menu would have left my imaginary guests entertaining themselves for semi-long stretches while we were in the kitchen cooking, because very little of the meal could be prepared in advance.

Partly because I had been thinking of having guests, and you’re not supposed to try new recipes on them (not that it’s stopped me before), all of this year’s items were ones we’d made previously, though never combined in this way. While in some ways it seemed unfortunate not to try new stuff, the fact is we rarely make these gourmet items any other time of year. So why not repeat some of the greatest hits of the past?

First up: Mussels and clams, steamed in white wine flavored with lemon grass and green curry paste, then finished with cream and coconut sauce. I don’t know what it was this time, as the recipe involved virtually no added salt, but the broth tasted almost too salty. Almost, but not. Maybe from the mussels and clams themselves? The mussels were just great, though. Lovely texture, almost as if we didn’t live very far from the ocean.

Mussels and clams in coconut lemongrass sauce

I was going to serve this with the Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc it cooked in, but we ran out (the bottle had been opened before), so we had Ice Cuvee with it, which I think was better. That’s a mix of sparkling wine with just a bit of ice wine, and that slight sweetness nicely offset the salt. The playlist accompanying this course was The Beautiful Ones (that is, lovely-sounding songs).

Ice Cuvee

The main course featured lamb loin chops with sides of Brussels spouts and wasabi mashed potatoes. Everything was simple to do, but the two of us having to manage timing and coordinating the three items was moderately challenging. Mostly fun, though, actually.

The lamb just had to be seared on each side in olive oil, then baked at 400. Then in the same pan, I prepared a jus of red wine and beef broth (organic). The mashed potatoes were your basic red potatoes, diced (skin left on) and boiled, then when tender, mashed with light sour cream, low-sodium chicken broth, some butter, and yes, wasabi paste (as in, the green stuff they serve with sushi). The Brussels sprouts were steamed slightly, then cut in half (Jean did much exclaiming about burnt fingers), and pan-fried in olive oil. Those were then topped with more olive oil, fleur de sel, and fresh lemon juice.

Lamb, Brussels sprouts, and mashed

Man, this all turned out really well. The lamb was maybe a bit overdone, but still had some pink, and tasted amazing. Ms Paltrow is right, and this is a good way to prepare Brussels sprouts. And fresh mashed potatoes are great with a little zing!

We served this with a very easy-drinking 2009 Chateauneuf-du-pape. And listened to the Thoughtful playlist—songs with smarts.

Dessert was the one item that I could prepare in advance: A chocolate souffle recipe from the Epicurious website. (We still don’t own ramekins, though, so they still ended up in an assortment of custard dishes, corningware, and whatnot.) It’s basically melting chocolate, mixing it with milk, then with egg yolks, then beating whites and folding those in. And, sugar is involved as well. Then everything is placed in the ramekin substitutes in the fridge, awaiting later baking. While preparing I listed to my “Long ago and far away” playlist of songs I hadn’t played in the past year—that is, songs I didn’t listen to in 2012. New year, new songs.

The later baking produced ooey-gooey good molten chocolate warm dessert, served with port. Playlist for the eating: Love, the sweetest thing: romantic songs.

Chocolate souffle with port


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