Well, you've done it again. Made it through another, undoubtedly hectic year. Almost. A time to look back and to look ahead. And who better to do both with than dear friends and neighbors (maybe even family.) To mark the close of 2012 (and good riddance), may we suggest an easy to arrange New Year's Eve "Span the Years" gathering? This one is built for speed and endurance featuring as it will a smorgasbord type buffet to while away the pre-midnight hours, and a mini-brunch to send your dear ones home happy after greeting 2013.
We turn to fish again — this time smoked — as the mainstay of your pre-midnight activities, which undoubtedly will include games — board games and Wii, if you have one. We also include an ample supply of Kurtbullar (aka Swedish meatballs) for the nonfish eaters. After your champagne toast, you'll whip up some scrambled eggs (or omelets if you want to get fancy), using some of that smoked fish we mentioned. Plus some yummy scones. And lots of coffee to perk up flagging energies. .
The main virtue of this smorgasbord is ease of preparation. There are a few items you'll have to put together, ahead of time, but the only things you'll actually be cooking are the meatballs and the scones, which can be done ahead. But the only culinary exercise you'll actually have to do at the party is to cook the eggs (unless you have a self-proclaimed omelet chef among your guests).
The stars of your buffet will be the varieties of smoked fish you buy at your favorite deli(s). These can include salmon, trout and whitefish and whatever else appeals. Two or three pounds total is plenty for 8 or more. You're going to arrange the fish in a large platter. You're going to fix a mustard-caper sauce for dunking, and a fennel and cucumber salad to intersperse on the platter with the fish. You're going to arrange the above on a lovely, light green bed of Boston or butter lettuce.
On another platter, you're going to arrange some favorite sliced cheese, those of your favorites that have a bit of personality — Muenster, provolone, Italian sharp — you know what I mean.
Oh, and some store bought hard-boiled eggs, which you'll cut into wedges and add to the cheese platter (or the fish platter). And find a place for some mini-gherkins (sour, of course).
Additionally, you're going to shop your favorite bakery (supermarket or membership club is/are fine,) for a wonderful assortment of European style breads — pumpernickel, rye, French baguette. You can include rye crisp crackers, Triscuits, and other hearty crackers that are on the market these days.
Sauce and salad:
3/4 cup spicy brown mustard
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2/3 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup drained capers
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
For the sauce and salad dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together brown mustard, lemon juice and dry mustard.. Gradually whisk in oil. Pour half the mixture into a small bowl. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the sugar, plus the capers and shallots. This is the sauce you'll arrange in the middle of the platter with the smoked fish.
Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar to the remaining "sauce." This is the dressing that you'll drizzle over the veggies in the platter.
For the salad: Trim the fronds from 3 fennel bulbs, then quarter, core and thinly slice fennel (about 3 cups). Thinly slice an English cucumber on the diagonal to yield about 3 cups. Combine in a large bowl. Mince enough fennel fronds to make about 6 tablespoons. Add to salad. Add some dressing and toss. Taste for salt and pepper. Arrange on lettuce-lined platter along with smoked fish. Drizzle on more dressing, if you have any left.