New Year’s Eve: a magical evening where we give ourselves a chance to start fresh, to do better, and of course, to PARTY (a.k.a. drink so much that we swear we’ll never do it again)! And what New Years party would be complete without some scrumptious little hors d’oeuvres and desserts? We’ve put together a fabulous menu to help you welcome the new year with a very satisfied stomach so you can face your resolutions with steely determination (and tapas and liquor)!
First, a bit about tapas….
The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”. Originally tapas (according to The Joy of Cooking) were bits of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. Neat-o. That’s not what we’re making here though. And it’s mot definitely not fruit fly season, as we nearly froze our butts off in our icy cold bakery kitchen (we’re on vacation, after all) to make these plates of little bites (you can call them appetizers if you’re not on board with the whole tapas thing). So let’s get started before Julie and I turn into popsicles.
Our New Years Eve Party for 4 Menu (which ended up being somewhat Asian influenced with a splash of Argentina…Asian fusion anyone?):
Sesame Spring Rolls with Orange Peanut Dipping Sauce
Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Chimichurri
Blue Cheese Stuffed Pears with Prosciutto and Balsamic Reduction
Toasted Almond Dessert Shooters
Let’s start with the spring rolls. These are insanely easy, versatile (you can literally clean out your fridge and find plenty of ideas for what to stuff these with!) and they’re light, healthy, and crunchy – a perfect way to start a night of indulging whilst crammed into a fancy cocktail dress and impossibly uncomfortable strappy heels. So start by either raiding the fridge for leftover veggies that look like they need a home, bits of meat from last night’s dinner, or my favorite re-use it item, leftover rice from Chinese take-out. For our Spring Rolls we started by gathering the following veggies and chopping them into a fine julienne:
3 green onions
8 snow pea pods
We also gathered the rest of our ingredients (it helps to lay everything out ahead of making the rolls, as once you are ready to assemble them, you have to work pretty quickly).
1 cup pre-cooked brown rice
sushi vinegar (if you can’t find this seasoned vinegar at the store you can use rice vinegar)
black sesame seeds
6 rice paper wraps (we used a sesame variety, but any rice paper wrap will do…you can find these at most grocery stores or Asian markets)
Now the fun part. Rice paper wraps are delicate and brittle, so handle them gently from the package. Depending on the variety you purchase, you will need to soak them in hot water for anywhere from 30 seconds (for the very thin wraps) to a couple of minutes (for thicker ones). Follow the package directions according to your wraps (hopefully they have an English version…not always the case). You will notice the wrap becoming transparent and very tissue-like. At that point, remove it from the water and place it on a clean dish towel. Immediately spoon about 2 tablespoons of rice onto the wrap in a strip down the middle. Sprinkle the rice lightly with sushi vinegar, then top with a few shreds of carrot, cucumber, green onion, and pea pods (or whatever you found in YOUR fridge…steamed chicken or shrimp, basil leaves, and jalapeno also works well in these).
Now GENTLY fold one side of the wrap over the filling, tucking in the sides and rolling forward as you would a burrito. If your rice paper falls apart, you soaked it too long. If it breaks or snaps and won’t roll, you didn’t soak it long enough.
Once rolled, as the rice paper starts to dry out a bit it will stick to itself and seal up. Sprinkle the tops with black sesame seeds (or toasted white sesame seeds if that’s what you have). Let the rolls sit on a damp towel as you do them one by one, and then cut them all at once before you serve them.
I like to serve these on a bed of lettuce leaves, as the moisture from the lettuce both keeps the rolls from sticking to the plate AND keeps the rolls from drying out.You can make these ahead several hours and keep them this way, lightly covered with damp paper towel in the refrigerator, until you are ready to serve them. Cut them in half and arrange them with some dipping sauce, and you’re good to go. Dipping sauce you say? Try this one:
In a bowl whisk together:
3 T peanut butter
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup sushi vinegar (or rice vinegar)
juice of 1/2 a large orange
3 T orange marmalade
pinch of salt and pepper
If your sauce is too thick for dipping (this depends on the type of peanut butter you are using), thin the mixture out with a few tablespoons of warm water until you get the consistency of a thick salad dressing. If you like a little spice, add a chopped jalapeno or a 1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes.
Now onto the shrimp.
Shrimp cocktail is a New Years staple. And we all have that jar of chunky orange-red, horseradish-laden cocktail sauce that’s been in the back of the fridge since LAST New Years. Or since 1970, which is how long that style of shrimp cocktail has probably been around. So prepare to turn it up a notch with one of my favorite sauces, Chimichurri. Traditionally used on grilled steaks and other meats in Argentina, this sauce is zesty, flavorful, and goes really well with most fish. And it’s easy.
In a food processor combine:
4 cloves of garlic
3 T each of fresh oregano, cilantro, and parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 T red pepper flakes (dried chilis)
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
1 T honey (add an additional tsp or 2 to taste)
Process until the sauce is well combined and the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. This can be made ahead, and in fact, the flavors meld together nicely if they are allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.
For the shrimp, we simply marinated half a pound of large raw shrimp in the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper for about 30 minutes. The we placed them on a lightly sprayed foil lined baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 3 or 4 minutes, just until the tails curled and the shrimp were pink.
Then we threw it back to good ole 1970, filling our champagne glasses with a lettuce leaf and bit of the sauce. Then we dipped each shrimp into the Chimichurri sauce and hung them on the rim. Sometimes you can’t mess with perfection.
And now, stuffed pears. These are ridiculously easy but the flavor combination is sublime. You will need:
4 Pears, any kind, but we liked the Bosc pears best for their texture and flavor.
Blue Cheese Crumbles, about 1 cup
8 slices of Prosciutto
salt and pepper
Start by cutting the pears down the middle. I like to leave the stems on (they look prettier). Use a melon baller or small scoop to core out the seeds and make a well in the center. Place them on a foil lined baking sheet and fill the wells with blue cheese. Then wrap a thin slice of prosciutto around the pear to cover the cheese, and drizzle the whole mess with olive oil. Salt and pepper lightly.
At this point, they can be covered and refrigerated until later, or if it’s already 10 to midnight, get in the kitchen and immediately roast them in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the Prosciutto is crisp and the pears are starting to brown slightly.
Now finish them off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. This is really just 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar boiled until it is reduced to a thick syrupy consistency…easy to do, but watch it because if you walk away it can reduce very fast and burn. We did this experiment to verify the results, unfortunately. And open a window because the fumes will burn out our nostrils. Probably best to do this the day before the party so your kitchen doesn’t smell like a Chemistry Lab when your guests arrive.
Now onto dessert. Which is also a cocktail. Bonus.
Dessert Shooters have been popular for years now, probably because they are so versatile, easy to serve, and mini anything is all the rage! You can literally make a million flavor combinations of these cuties, but we chose to do a take on one of my favorite blended drinks, a Toasted Almond. So for this you will need:
a small bit of chocolate or yellow cake (you can use your own, get store bought pound cake, anything goes here…it’s really about the alcohol anyway)
a cup of sweetened whipped cream (1/2 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 tsp. vanilla and 2T confectioner’s sugar)
2T toasted sliced almonds
2T toasted coconut
4T coconut rum
4 delightfully tiny glasses and spoons
Not rocket science, in each teeny glass just layer a drop of whipped cream, a cube of cake, 1 tsp of coconut rum, a few almonds, repeat, finishing with whipped cream and a bit of the toasted coconut, and there you have it. Is it a dessert? A shot? Doesn’t matter, it’s midnight and you won’t remember any of this tomorrow 😉
Now you’re all set to commence partying! We wish you all a happy and safe New Year and may your celebration be as goofy and as tasty as ours.