Who else hates New Year’s Eve? Anyone? I never could figure out what I was supposed to be doing on this, the most Amateur of Amateur Nights.
Times Square was never an option, dinner out was always an overpriced snooze, and staying at home to cook a romantic meal just resulted in overwhelming levels of drunkenness as I tried one mixed drink experiment after another.
Bad news all around.
So we started hunkering down at our friend Bryan’s house in Boston six years ago and it’s worked out incredibly well.
It’s such a great compromise: All I have to do is cook lots of food, I don’t have to drive anywhere, and the party just happens around me with a rotating, crazy, always amusing cast of regular characters.
After the first year’s ad hoc affair where I cooked a few random appetizers and munchies, we started assigning themes to the party food.
As the crowds grew from seven to now more than 70 people, we of course couldn’t leave well enough alone, and the tradition got a little more elaborate every time.
In 2005, Bryan decided we should attempt paella, despite having way-too-small skillets incapable of holding enough rice to feed 20 people. (A nor’easter at the last minute left us with a lot of leftovers anyway.)
In 2006, the Chinese Year of the Pig—Bryan’s favorite animal—gave us inspiration for a few Asian courses.
In 2007, Bryan and his boyfriend LeeMichael’s gut-renovation condo in the South End necessitated a few trips to IKEA, so we hosted a Swedish-themed party influenced by the frugal retailer.
Last year, in honor of Bryan and LeeMichael’s upcoming wedding, we celebrated the food of the Netherlands, the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.
Even before the first Dutch oliebollen and oudejaarspot were set on the table in 2008, I made an executive decision to take a year off from obscure culinary challenges.
2009 would be simple and delicious: an Italian feast.
Having an entire year to prepare and a massive library of recipes from which to choose, I couldn’t resist going a little nuts (so much for simplicity) and make as much as I could from scratch—breads, pastas, sauces, ricotta.
Had I thought of it earlier, I would have even tried homemade mozzarella for the first time.
The final menu was gut-busting:
- Arancini with Gruyere and Parmesan
- Handmade grissini
- Antipasta with marinated olives and artichokes, lupini beans, chianti salami, black pepper salami, and pepperoni
- Bruschetta bar with handmade ciabatta and fresh ricotta, pesto, sun-dried tomato relish, and balsamic ceci beans
- Grandma Barber’s meatballs and sauce
- Caesar salad with rocket
- Orecchiette Bolognese
- Baked gnocchi with marinara and fresh mozzarella
- Chocolate salami
- Cranberry-almond biscotti
- Sesame cookies
- Polenta-rosemary pound cake with mascarpone cream
Desserts can sometimes be a stretch depending on the country we’re “visiting” that year, but Italy posed no issues.
One of the more experimental buffet components, however, was the chocolate salami.
Don’t freak out—there’s absolutely no meat involved.
Melted chocolate, almonds, dried fruits, and crushed vanilla wafers make a cookie log that when sliced, look unnervingly like a traditional salami.
Disturbingly named, but this chocolate salami was universally adored by the Champagne set!
- 1/2 pound (8 ounces) semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 ounces chopped almonds
- 7 ounces vanilla wafers, coarsely crushed
- 1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries
- 1 tablespoon candied orange peel
- 2 egg yolks
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl placed over a pan of simmering water until smooth.
- Add the sugar, almonds, vanilla wafers, raisins, and orange peel and mix well.
- Remove from heat and thoroughly incorporate the egg yolks. Let cool 10 minutes.
- Divide the mixture in half onto two large sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap and form into cylinders.
- Wrap tightly around the "salami" and twist each end to seal.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the salami is fully chilled.
- Slice into thick rounds to serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 162Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 79mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 14gProtein: 2g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.
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