For me, New Year’s Eve is always at home, with just a couple, as in a literal two I believe, exceptions over the years. One was a NYE spent at Disneyland, an outing which is, to paraphrase an old Jerry Seinfeld joke, sort of the law for Orange County residents. The other was in Paris, and, to understate the matter, worth leaving home for.
This NYE-at-home usually features seafood, this year Dungeness crab destined for Louie salad and decadently oily British Columbia smoked king salmon procured from San Francisco’s Swan Oyster Depot. Sitting at the counter there at Swan on Thursday morning watching the guys packing up lots of boxes of seafood going out overnight, an address on one label jumped out—that box was on its way to Newport Beach! Lucky lucky OC people. Someday I want one of those Swan labels to have MY address on it, but I am happy to tote the goods home myself, too, if I happen to be in SF.
Sometimes the NYE menu is Russian, salade Olivier and blini and caviar, when I’ve been able to get decent caviar. (Difficult! Eric Ripert did give me a good lead for next time, though, when I spoke with him prior to his appearance at Whole Foods Huntington Beach back in November.) For this menu, I especially like classic buckwheat blini with crème fraîche and salmon caviar. And then it’s sometimes been New Orleans style… gumbo, for instance, from the incredible recipe I got from my Cajun piano tuner, great for entertaining. A vegetarian guest at one gathering confessed to me he had two servings.
This year, however, it’s Californian all the way—the B.C. smoked salmon notwithstanding, especially since it’ll be served on rye bread procured on the drive home from Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola expressly for the purpose.
A nice flute of vintage-year rosé Champagne and it’ll be Welcome, 2011!
On to New Year’s Day. Black-eyed peas are a must, for the traditional attempt at ensuring good luck. A must must must. Often I have served them in a traditional Southern-type preparation, cooked with onion and bell pepper, a little celery and tomato, a pork product—ham, bacon, maybe one of the ethereally porky smoked pork chops from Mattern Sausage & Meat in Orange if one is exceptionally fortunate—ladled into the moat around a rice island.
In recent years I’ve more often made Texas caviar as the black-eyed pea entry, the cooked peas combined with chopped onion and cilantro or parsley, tomato, and, at least for me and my eaters, lots of chopped jalapeño or other chile. Served with tortilla chips, this is a very very good way to get one’s recommended, if not downright required, b-e peas on NYD.
This year though, I thought up something different I want to try. I’ll be making with the cooked peas a spread inspired by the classic Italian white-bean puree served on bruschetta, the toasted rustic bread base rubbed with garlic while still hot. I foresee a shower of finely chopped parsley and maybe some crunchy large-gauge salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Doesn’t that sound good?
So many ways to bring in the New Year. What do you serve on the Eve and the Day? Trad or nouveau? Maybe one of the many OC restaurants with NYE events. Paris, France? Perris, California?
At any rate, happiest of New Years! And let’s just see what the fervid Orange County foodosphere will bring us all in 2011.