Musing with Max

Musing with Max

January 2, 2012

Before and after

For years Frank and I gave a party for New Year's Eve. I would start planning right after Thanksgiving because after the first year I decided that the food would be a theme menu, whether it be a country or certain types of food; whatever my little mind decided for that year and I had to cook it all. I would do loads of research, choose what I was going make, make endless lists of dishes, rethink them, rewrite the lists, rethink it again and so on and so on. Once I decided on the menu the lists would consist of ingredients I needed and the schedule by which everything would be cooked, what could be frozen and made a couple of weeks ahead of time what neded to be cooked a couple of days ahead, etc. One of my biggest rules for these parties and menus was that almost everything had to be able to be cooked ahead and then either reheated or be able to be served at room temperature so that I wouldn't be stuck in the kitchen cooking while the guests arrived and mingled and I would be too pooped to enjoy the party. Another rule was that there would always be a variety of food groups--seafood, meat, poultry, vegetables, starch; and it all had to be served buffet style-- The week between Christmas and New Year's became a cooking marathon, I would get home from work and check my lists and schedules and cook away. I usually worked a half day on New Year's Eve but with my long commute at that time I never made it home before 4:00PM which meant getting home and making sure the table (not a tablescape, a pretentious term which I detest) was laid out, serving platters, dishes, silverware, glassware, party favors, all at the ready. Then I would get myself ready wearing all my finery and have a drink-or seven-Frank was in charge of the wine and the music as usual. Rule number three: no one could arrive before 10:00PM because since it was a New Year's party things would really get started around midnight...AND...most everyone would stay over since they'd be too inebriated to go anywhere which meant that we had people sleeping on every bed, every couch, every available floor space, wherever. The next day everyone would lie around bleary eyed in their sweats sitting around watching bad TV drinking mimosas and bloody marys until I got around to making a huge breakfast of bacon eggs and pancakes and send everybody packing by 3:00PM the latest. Fun, you say, yes it was. Except that some people behaved as if they had NEVER EVER stepped out and therefore acted in questionable behavior to put it mildly; examples of which I will not give. Sorry use your imagination. The last straw came one night when as we were all going to bed; our friend who was sleeping on the living room floor decided that he was cold and used the coffee table as a blanket. The last of the famed parties. Since then we have either found a place to go where we are not charged an arm and a leg just because it's New Year's Eve or we've had dinner at home and fallen asleep just before midnight, champagne at the ready. So when this years' going out plans didn't materialize Frank suggested I make a cuban roast pork (pernil) and invite some friends I was in my glory. I could plan my party, invite civilized people (2), cook away and stay up past midnight. So I brought out my Mom's china and silverware, the baccarat crystal,
 the antiqueFrench soup tureen my Mom gave me years ago
The silver platter I don't use enough

the funky napkin rings and nutcracker name holders and set my table

and then I started cooking

Crema Catalana adapted from Penelope Casas

2 tbspn plus 1/2 tspn cornstarch
2 2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 2 tbspn sugar
Peel of 1/2 lemon, cut in several pieces
1 cinnamon stick

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 2 tbsp of the milk. Stir in the egg yolks and reserve.

In a saucepan, bring the remaining milk to a boil with 1/2 cup of the sugar, the lemon peel, and the cinnamon stick. Simmer 15 minutes. Gradually stir the hot milk mixture into the cornstarch mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over a medium flame, stirring constantly, until the custards starts to bubble.
Discard the lemon peel and cinnamon stick, divide the mixture into 6 shallow dessert bowls. Cool without stirring.

Prinkle the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar over the custards. Caramelize the sugar using a hot slamander or a torch or under the broiler. (we messed this up so I definitely need a torch!) and we had 4 servings. Yummy though.

Merenquitos adapted from Three guys from Miami
(or, something to do with lots of leftover egg whites)

4 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch Salt
1 cup sugar
Baking parchment, sprayed lightly with PAM
With an electric mixer, beat egg whites in a large bowl until they reach the soft-peak stage. It is important not to over beat the whites at this stage.

Add a pinch of salt and continue to beat. Add a small amount of sugar at a time until you've incorporated all of the sugar into the mixture. The mixture should be very firm - "stiff peak" stage. Turn off beater and fold in one additional tablespoon of sugar with a spatula.

If you have a pastry bag, fill it with the mixture. Use one of those fancy tips that came with the pastry bag and squeeze out three-inch circles onto your baking parchment. If you don't have a pastry bag, use a spoon - not as fancy, but it works.
Bake meringues at 200° F for approximately two hours. The meringues should be dry and crispy – not brown

Roast pork-Cuban style

1 fresh ham (6 to 8 lbs.)
mojo criollo which is a mixture of bitter orange, olive oil, vinegar, cumin, pepper, oregano, and minced garlic

rub the pork with the salt, then rub with about one to two cups of the mojo.
Preheat oven to 350F, roast for 3 to 5 hours until thermometer inserted reades 170F. Let sit about ten minutes before carving

Serve with black beans and rice, avocado, tomato & watercress salads

interesting conversation and grown up adult behavior, for the most part anyway.
The next day it all looks like this
which makes me wonder, how many glasses do 4 people actually need??? And how many hors d'ourvres?
and where's Max?
worn out from all that partying

Yep, New Year's Day is the laziest day of the year. Happy 2012!

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