New Years Eve is a time for elegance and extravagance. It’s pretty much the only dinner party of the year where black tie doesn’t feel like a crazy dress code. And much as I usually like to mix low brow high brow, nobody feels good about eating lasagna in a cocktail dress.
We’re starting with the easiest potato rosti in the world – they are baked rather than fried, which keeps them safely out of the way in the oven (they can also be made ahead and heated up if that makes life easier). They’re topped with sour cream, smoked salmon slices and fronds of dill. Beautiful and delicious.
Then onto fish – gorgeous pearlescent red snapper fillets, baked in individual packages with fennel, white wine and chick peas. Super easy to assemble, bake and serve up. Since we started with potatoes, we don’t need to worry about more potatoes here. Just a simple green salad with lemon on the side.
For dessert, how about a decedent creamy chocolate pot? I serve mine in white ramekins, but if you have gorgeous cocktail glasses, or beautiful tea cups or silver sugar bowls, now would be the time to use them. I decorate mine with edible gold leaf, for an extra festive touch.
Then a platter of cheese and other treats to pick at as the year draws to an end.
As a tentative plan, allow about 45 mins to prepare the food. Start with the fish parcels, and put them in the fridge ready to go in the oven later. Make the chocolate pots and put them in the fridge too. Put the rosti together and bake (better to heat them up again later than have them sit raw for more than an hour in the fridge – the starch can turn the potato black). Arrange the platter. Cut up the lemons for the starter. Make the spinach salad and stash in the fridge
Check you have plenty of ice and champagne.
Rosti with sour cream and caviar (serves 8)
I bake my rosti in a thin layer in the bottom of muffin tins. This has the added bonus of creating lots of rosti at the same time that are all the same shape. I serve three per person as a starter.4 baking potatoes 2 white onion Salt and pepper Vegetable oil (about 2 tbsp) Butter (about 2 tbsp) 1 cup of sour cream 16 slices of great quality smoked salmon 1 small bunch of dill 2 lemons
- Pre-heat the oven to 400
- Peel, then grate the potatoes and onions into a bowl
- Season generously with salt and pepper
- Tip into a tea towel and wring out until as dry as possible
- Wipe a thin layer of oil around the muffin tins to stop the rosti from sticking
- Press a tbsp of potato mixture firmly into the bottom of each hole (it should come about 1cm up the side of the tin)
- Put a tiny knob of butter on top (about ¼ tsp) – (the butter helps the rosti brown, but add too much and they’ll be greasy)
- Bake for about 35 – 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the potato – you want the tops to be golden and crispy looking. They will get there. Be patient.
- Turn out so that the bottom is now the top
- Arrange on plates with a blob of dour cream, drape over the salmon and garnish with a few strands of dill. Serve a lemon quarter on the side for squeezing.
Red Snapper with Chick Peas, Fennel and White Wine (serves 8)8 snapper fillets (if they’re really tiny, get 2 per person) 4 cans of chick peas drained but not rinsed 2 bulbs of fennel 2 cups white wine 8 tbsp butter Salt and pepper
- Lay out 8 rectangle of foil about the size of a sheet of printer paper
- Chop up the fennel into thin slices – like an onion. You can use the frondy bits too – save them to place on top of the fish fillets.
- Divide the fennel between the foil, placing it in the middle. Season with salt and pepper
- Divide the chick peas between the foil sheets, pouring on top of the fennel
- Season the snapper on both sides with salt and pepper, then place them skin side up on the bed of fennel and chick peas
- Pull the edges of the foil up and over as though you’re going to make the parcel. Pour the wine into the parcel, (about ¼ cup per parcel) ideally avoiding the fish skin
- Top the fish with dots of butter (about 1 tbsp per parcel), and the fennel fronds
- Press and scrunch the edges together to seal the foil.
- The foil packets can sit all day in the fridge until you are ready to bake them
- Place in a preheated oven at 350 for 12 – 15 minutes
Spinach Lemon Salad2 bags of baby spinach 1 lemon ¼ cup olive oil 1 tsp mustard Salt and pepper
- Zest the lemon, then squeeze the juice into a jam jar
- Add the olive oil, the mustard and a generous pinch of salt and pepper
- Shake or whisk to emulsify
- Dress the spinach leaves (you may not need all the dressing), and toss well
Dark Chocolate Pots Dusted with Gold (serves 8 )
(This serves 8 if you’re using fairly small pots. It’s super rich, so a small amount is usually plenty, but if you’re worried about it, or have larger pots, or guests who really love chocolate, double the recipe)2 bars of good chocolate ¾ cup of heavy (double) cream ¼ cup of milk 1 large organic fresh egg. Edible gold leaf, or gold icing spray (I found it at Williams Sonoma), or some shop bought nut brittle
- Break two bars of dark chocolate into pieces in a bowl.
- Pour the ¾ cup of heavy cream and ¼ cup of milk into a pan and heat until it’s just about to boil.
- Tip the hot cream/milk over the chocolate and count to 20.
- Whisk the melting chocolate into the cream until the color is uniform.
- Crack in the egg and whisk again. You’re not trying to whip up the mixture, just mix everything well.
- Pour the mixture into a jug, then from the jug into the little pots. Put the pots into the fridge and let them set for two hours (these can be made a day in advance). Let them out of the fridge 20 mins before you want to serve them to bring them to room temperature.
- Decorate with gold, or brittle or whatever you like – white chocolate shavings are lovely too.