This December 31 will be like no other New Year’s Eve we’ve experienced, with many people opting for at-home intimate dinners rather than large parties. Small doesn’t have to mean staid. This ultimate New Year’s Eve menu is spectacular without being overwhelming. It features land and sea delicacies with preparations that you would expect to find at a fine restaurant—but are easy to execute at home.
Let this four-course tasting menu be the evening’s main event, and enjoy the process of preparing each dish and then savoring it before you move on to the next. Dessert can be made a day in advance, but if you’re planning on waiting until midnight to eat it, you could even whip it up early in the evening since it needs three or four hours to chill.
Most recipes are for two…adjust depending on your head count. Dessert serves four—so you can treat yourself again on New Year’s Day.
Aperitif: The Fizzy Fig
2 Tablespoons fig jam
2 Tablespoons hot water
3 ounces cognac
Half-bottle of your favorite Prosecco, Cava or other sparkling wine
2 dried or fresh fig wedges for garnish
Place the fig jam and hot water in a measuring cup, and stir until combined to make a syrup. Strain out seeds if desired. Place the fig syrup and cognac in a cocktail shaker, squeeze in juice from the lemon wedge, and shake with ice. Strain and divide into two wide (coupe-shaped) champagne glasses. Top off each one with sparkling wine. Garnish with fig wedges.
Amuse Bouche:Sea Scallop Ceviche
Suggested beverage pairing: Brut Cava or Mezcal and soda with lime
4 Tablespoons lime juice
Zest of 1 lime
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 sea scallops, sliced thin into rounds (if you prefer fish, use sushi-grade yellowtail)
¼ small red onion, sliced razor thin
2 radishes, sliced razor thin
½ jalapeño, sliced thin (optional)
1 sweet potato, roasted, puréed and seasoned with salt to taste
Coarse sea salt such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
In a bowl, whisk together lime juice and zest and soy sauce to make a vinaigrette. Add the scallops, mix and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. To plate, divide the scallops between two dishes, arranging the slices in a single layer. Spoon the vinaigrette over scallops, and allow to marinate for another 10 to 20 minutes. Before serving, garnish with the onion, radish, jalapeño, small dollops of the sweet potato purée, the cilantro and salt.
First Course: Wild Mushroom Raclette
Suggested beverage pairing: Buttery, oaked Chardonnay
1 shallot, minced
4 Tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 sprig fresh or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 pound wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, hen of the woods and/or oyster, cut into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup white wine, preferably a dry Chardonnay
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
¼-pound Comte or similar cheese (such as Gruyère or Fontina), cut into 4 slices
Extra-virgin olive oil
Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish
2 thin slices of a baguette, toasted
In a sauté or small frying pan over medium heat, sweat the shallot in butter or oil along with garlic and thyme. When the onions are translucent, about five to 10 minutes, add mushrooms and cook until golden brown and caramelized. Deglaze the pan with white wine, and cook down until it completely evaporates. Add cream, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes until it’s reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To finish the dish, lightly brush two oven-safe plates with olive oil. Divide the cheese between the two plates, arranging in a single layer. If you have a kitchen torch, use it to melt the cheese until golden brown and bubbling, holding the torch four to eight inches away from the cheese. If you don’t have a torch, place the plates on the top rack of your oven under the broiler for a few seconds until bubbly. Immediately mound equal amounts of the mushroom mixture on top. Garnish with the basil or parsley and a slice of the toasted baguette.
Entrée: Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Blood Orange Gastrique
Suggested beverage pairing: Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
Duck breasts are available at fine markets as well as online at Dartagnan.com. The gastrique is lighter than a traditional sauce and has the perfect sweet-sour taste to hold up to duck. Pan-seared chicken breast is a great alternative—if you can get Frenched breasts with the wing bone attached, it makes a beautiful presentation.
2 duck breasts, such as Moulard Magret, between 12 and 16 ounces each
Salt and pepper to taste
For the gastrique…
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 cup blood orange juice (about 6 oranges)
1½ cups unsalted chicken broth
Heat a sauté pan large enough to hold both breasts over medium-low heat. Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towels, season them well with salt and pepper, and place them skin-side down in the hot pan. Cook until their fat is rendered and skin is crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn over and finish cooking to desired doneness, such as another five to 10 minutes for medium-rare—to an internal temperature of 135° as measured on an instant-read meat thermometer.
While the duck is cooking, prepare the gastrique. Place the sugar in a medium-sized heavy saucepan over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt. Stir just until sugar dissolves, then continue cooking without stirring until it turns deep golden, about five minutes. Gradually add the vinegar. The mixture will harden at first, but stir until it melts, about one minute. Add the orange juice, and boil until the mixture begins to thicken, about five minutes. Add broth, and continue boiling until it coats a spoon and is reduced to a generous half-cup, about 15 minutes.
To plate, slice the duck thin and shingle the slices between two dinner plates. Serve with the gastrique. Serves two.
Suggested sides: Roasted marble potatoes or creamy polenta…charred fennel, Brussels sprouts or roasted winter squash.
Dessert: Spiced Chocolate Pots de Crème
4 ounces excellent-quality dark chocolate, such as 72% cacao
¼ cup white sugar, plus 2 Tablespoons
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Fresh berries or mint and whipped cream for garnish, if desired
Set four four- or six-ounce ramekins in a shallow roasting pan, and set aside. Preheat your oven to 325°. Chop the chocolate into fine pieces—a few pulses in a food processor is great for this. Transfer the chopped chocolate to a medium-sized bowl, and set aside.
Place one-quarter cup of sugar and the water in a saucepan, and cook over medium heat, without stirring, to caramelize to a golden brown color. Slowly add milk and cream, whisking until combined. Add cinnamon stick, and bring to boil, then remove the saucepan from heat and let the mixture steep for five minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, make a custard base by combining the eggs, egg yolks and two tablespoons of sugar. Slowly add the hot cream mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly so that the eggs don’t scramble. Pour one-third of the warm mixture over the chopped chocolate, and use a spatula to fold the mixture until chocolate is melted. Fold in remaining custard mixture and vanilla.
Ladle equal amounts of the mixture into the ramekins, and create a water bath by filling the roasting pan with enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully place the pan in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes or until the custards are fully set. Remove the ramekins from the pan, wiping them dry. Cool for 20 minutes, and then chill completely in the refrigerator before serving. Garnish with fresh whipped cream, a mint sprig and/or berries if desired.
Spiced Espresso Martini
For spiced simple syrup…
1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
For each drink…
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce coffee liqueur such as Kahlúa, Mr. Black or Sabroso
1 ounce fresh-brewed espresso (regular or decaf)
½ ounce spiced simple syrup
Coffee beans for garnish
To make the syrup, combine sugar, boiling water and the cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and simmer for two minutes. Remove from heat, and let steep for 10 to 20 minutes until completely cool. Discard the cinnamon stick. (Pour the syrup into a cruet, and save the leftover for other recipes.) For each drink, in a cocktail shaker, combine the vodka, coffee liqueur, espresso and simple syrup, and shake with ice until the shaker itself is iced over. Strain through a fine sieve into a coupe champagne glass, and garnish with three coffee beans.