New Year's Eve has always been an overrated holiday in my book. For years I ignored it by hosting a big open house on January 1, complete with a pot of black-eyed peas for good luck, of course. With 30 or so friends arriving on our doorstep that day, there was no way I could go out and party the night before. But more recently Bill and I have been going to Connecticut for the holiday to visit our friends Christie and Jay and I'm learning how to celebrate in style. Despite having to dodge snowstorms on each trip, I like this new tradition and hope it will continue.
Christie and I met in 1985 when our babies were baptized together in Dallas. Subsequently both of our families moved to New England and even though we live 400 miles apart our friendship has prospered. I-95 from Maine to Connecticut has become commonplace for both of us- no map needed. Up until their college years Christopher or Emily would usually be in tow and we even stopped for a visit on our way to Emily's first semester at GW.
Very early in our friendship Christie and I found we were both interested in cooking good, healthy and at times unusual food. We discovered the wisdom of Jane Brody together and have searched out many a recipe containing olives or capers. My cookbooks are filled with notations such as made this with Christie or recommended by Christie and I have a large pile of recipe clippings that she's sent me from the New York Times. Each of our visits has been a chance to experiment with something new or show off a recent success.
This New Years was no exception. On December 30 Bill and I headed down the highway to spend the holiday with Christie and her husband Jay. When we walked into the house savory rosemary pecans and spicy olives were awaiting us, with sherry and white wine to drink. Before much time had passed Christie and I began to discuss our New Year's Eve menu. We tossed around a few ideas and looked thru cookbooks and clippings. And we came up with a fabulous meal to celebrate the old and anticipate the new. Here's the menu:
Chicken with Capers and Lemons
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Green Goddess Salad
Strawberries and Pecans Flambe'
And of course, French champagne. Make that 2 bottles.
Below you'll find some recipes. As many of us enter the gloomy, bitter, dark months of winter, I recommend inviting a few friends over to share this meal, guaranteed to chase away the doldrums. Happy New Year!
Chicken with Capers and Lemons (serves 4)
3 medium lemons, scrubbed, thinly sliced and seeded
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt or more to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the lemons in a single layer. Brush lemons with oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast until slightly dry and beginning to turn brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.
Boneless, skinless, thinly sliced chicken breast halves, about 1 pound
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups fat free, lower sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour to coat both sides. Shake off excess flour. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add chicken broth and wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until liquid has thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes, turning chicken halfway.
Add roasted lemons, capers, butter, 2 tablespoons parsley and more pepper if desired. Simmer until butter melts and chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve.
Green Goddess Salad (we used a recipe from the New York Times, available online)
Sauteed Pecans with Strawberries Flambe' (from Bragg Pecans in Hondo, Texas) serves 4
1/3 cup pecan or other nut oil
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup fresh pecans
1 pound fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 quart vanilla ice cream
Saute pecans in oil with the brown sugar until sugar is dissolved and begins to bubble. Add strawberries and warm through. Add brandy, ignite, stand back and SCREAM! Allow alcohol to completely burn off and serve over ice cream.