By Donna Ellis
4:45 AM EST, December 20, 2012
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.
These marinated shrimp will make a fine co-star on your buffet. They need to be put together at least 3 hours ahead.
About 40 (for 5 per person) large, cooked shrimp
2 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons dried tarragon
4 garlic cloves, pressed
12 bay leaves
1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 lemons, sliced very thin
2 teaspoons white pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 large Spanish onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except shrimp and onion. Mix well to dissolve salt. Add shrimp and onion. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove to a zip-top bag, mix well and refrigerate for 3 hours. Drain liquids before serving.
Let's talk about anchovies. Sure, they're kind of salty, but when cooked, the salty, fishy flavor mellows quite a bit, and helps add a certain je ne sais quoi to these meatballs. You should be able to get anchovy paste at your favorite grocer's.
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups finely chopped onion
1 1/2 pounds each lean ground beef and ground pork (or get 3 pounds supermarket "meatloaf" mix
2 cups herb seasoned bread crumbs (not Italian)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
5 teaspoons anchovy paste, divided
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
3 cups beef consommé (not beef broth)
2 cups reduced sodium/fat chicken broth
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup capers
In a medium skillet, over medium-high, melt butter. Add onion and cook until soft, but not brown, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Keep handy.
In a large bowl, combine ground beef and ground pork with breadcrumbs, lemon peel and 3 teaspoons of the anchovy paste. Add Worcestershire, parsley, eggs and pepper. Add cooked onion and mix all ingredients well. Form into 1
In a large pot, over medium-high, bring consommé, chicken broth and white wine to a boil. Use a slotted spoon to ease meatballs into liquid. Return broth to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove meatballs to a chafing dish and keep warm.
Skim any fat from cooking liquid. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Add this paste to cooking liquid, stirring constantly. Simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens. Add capers and remaining anchovy paste, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Pour some of the sauce over meatballs in chafing dish. Add more sauce to chafing dish as it thickens on meatballs. Serve with crackers or good rye or pumpernickel bread.
And on to a very early New Year's Day brunch. To go with your scrambled eggs or omelets, here's a bit of sweetness to start off 2013. You might want to acquire some store bought pastries as addenda.
You can cut the dough into the traditional triangles or you can use a 2-inch biscuit cutter for round scones. You can make the dough a bit ahead, to chill about 20 minutes before baking.
2 cups cake flour
5 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon (fresh) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/2 cup dried currants
1 teaspoon finely orange zest
Powdered sugar, for dusting finished scones
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using fingertips, rub in butter until pea-size pieces form. Add cream, currants and orange zest and stir until large moist clumps form. Try not to over-mix. Gather dough into a ball. Lightly flour your hands and transfer dough to a floured work surface. Flatten dough into a five-eighths-inch square if making scone triangles or round if using a biscuit cutter. Cut 16 triangles or rounds from dough. You may have to cut some, then gather dough scraps into a square or round to make more.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Transfer scones to a baking sheet, spacing about 1/2 inch apart. Cover and chill until cold, at least 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until scones are golden and cooked through, about 9 minutes. Cool 6 minutes, dust with powdered sugar and serve warm. Makes about 16.
Wishing all a happy 2013. Skoal!
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