Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years Eve 2009- Mussels, Steak Croutons, Grapefruit Salad, Mini Pizzas, Sugar Snap Peas with dipping sauces

2009 is finally upon us, and I wanted to celebrate this dawning of this new year to its fullest extent. So previous to spending the latter half of the evening bowling, I had a few friends over to gear up for the challenging night. Of course to me, having people over means cooking as much as possible- and so I did. Since Ill be leaving on vacation shortly, I wanted to keep things somewhat light, but have some decadence around as well.

I started off by making a simple salad of grapefruit and fennel. This was incredibly easy,as well as tasty and beautiful looking. I simply removed the wedges of the fruit from the rind and the peel, and then finely chopped the bulb of a fennel plant. I mixed the two together, and then dressed it with a small amount of honey as well as a scotch bonnet sherry that I was given as a Christmas present. The result of the dressing mixture was just a hint of sweet and heat that really complimented the tartness of the grapefruit and the nice anise flavor of the fennel. A few sprigs of the fennel frawn and the salad had beautiful contrasting colors as well. I think Ill be making a lot more of this salad over the next week.

To continue on the "light" theme I very easily steamed up some sugar snap peas and then immediately dropped them into some cold water to stop the cooking process once they got to the desired texture. I lightly salted them, and then made three dipping sauces for them. The first was a simple combination of mayonnaise, horseradish and Dijon mustard. I use this combo a lot on steak sandwiches and just really love the spicy/creamy flavors. The second sauce was to be Asian inspired, so I mixed the all time favorite ginger puree, soy sauce, a bit of terryaki sauce, chili paste and green onions together. The result was sweet, spicy and salty- a beautiful sauce. I'll definitely make it again, I think it might be tasty on fish. Finally the third was a honey based sauce that I added cider and Cayenne pepper to, as well as some cilantro and half of a Serrano pepper. The result was a nice mix of sweet and spicy with a great Mexican vibe.

To appeal to the "beefier" side of my guests I re created my steak croutons from a few months ago. I toasted up a wheat baguette (a mistake when I purchased it, but I ended up really enjoying the nutty flavor of the wheat), and then spread it with a fromage blanc that I was finally able to find. The only one my local store had was flavored with lavender and honey which I was slightly concerned about. I then layered that with a little parsley and fresh black pepper, and then thinly sliced steak on to the top. The result was far better than the first time I had made it. The cheese had a really beautiful, lightly sweet flavor to it that served as a wonderful contrast to the nutty bread, and the hearty steak. The parsley adds a brightness both in color contrast and in taste. These are definitely be a cocktail party go to for me.

As I sometimes feel as though my taste in food can be a little bit out there, I wanted a sure fire hit with my guests. I can think of nothing more that people love than pizza, so I chose to make some mini pizzas. Now, for some reason, my oven and I are in a slight disagreement at the moment. It appears that I want it to work, and it has no desire. No matter, I was able to score some grands biscuits, and toasted them on my grill pan, once flipped, I added some sauce and some cheese, allowed the cheese to melt, and then added some parsley to the top. I kept wishing that the cheese had melted more, but they received rave reviews from the crowd. In a pinch- they will do.

Finally, as I know that many of my guests are just as obsessed with mussels as I am, I had to make a batch. I made a nice broth of garlic, salt pepper, turkey anadouille sausage and fresh thyme, with a good 3/4 of a bottle of white wine. After reducing, I added the mussels for them to steam. I topped off with a nice combination of Asiago, Parmesan and Fontina cheeses, and the mussels were served. Unfortunately, I hadn't purchased a very nice wine for the sauce, and so the flavor of that was somewhat lacking, however the rest was quite tasty. The turkey sausage had great heat to it, and was a delicious, low fat compliment to the mussels.

As always, I found several things that I could have done differently, but all of my guests seemed pleased with the variety and the taste. I cant really ask for more than that.

Happy 2009 to all, I hope it finds you eating well.

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