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New Years Eve Traditions for Fuddy-Duddies

 Do you stay at home on December 31?

Hubby and I will celebrate 14 years of marriage next week.  This is the 2nd trip down the matrimonial road for both of us, so we’re not young ‘uns.  In our years together we’ve gone out on New Year’s eve maybe twice?  They were nice times.  We enjoyed dressing up, eating great food and listening to music.  The public kiss at midnight was pretty great, too.  Most years, however, we’ve stayed at home.  We don’t have to dress up, or even watch the dumb stuff on TV.  The firecrackers in the neighborhood let us know when it’s time to kiss…or whatever.  Unfortunately, the older we get, the less lively the “whatever” has been…

  • We hate crowds
  • We fear drunk drivers
  • He doesn’t drink
  • Staying awake past midnight is hard
  • It’s cheaper to stay home
  • The best New Year’s tradition happens at midnight in bed (ahem)

What are your traditions?

Reuben Tarts

reubentarts

Many Anglo homes believe good luck comes in the new year if you consume cabbage on New Year’s day.  The Irish New Year meal is corned beef and cabbage.  In the South, it’s blackeyed peas, often with rice and ham in a dish called Hoppin John.  I found a tasty diversion on the Reuben sandwich at a party about 20 years ago.  It is a simple pie made from corned beef and sauerkraut.

If you host or go to a New Year’s event, these are a great and impressive treat.  You can make them ahead of time, freeze them and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes to thaw and brown.  Don’t skimp on the ingredients if you can afford it. You can make these with canned corned beef, canned sauerkraut and pre-shredded, store brand swiss cheese, but come on, this is for New Year’s eve.  If you buy top shelf, it will cost about  $30.

16 frozen tart shells (My grocery carries the Dutch Ann brand in the freezer section, 8 to a box)
1 lb really good quality deli corned beef, chopped fine
1 cup 1000 Island salad dressing
1 T caraway seeds
1 lb Boars Head (or similar good quality) sauerkraut, drained
1 lb Jarlsberg Swiss cheese, grated

Set the tart shells out on a cookie sheet.  I use a jelly roll pan (you do have a set of these, don’t you?).  Preheat the oven to 380 F.

Mix the chopped corn beef, salad dressing and caraway seeds (the seeds give the tart that rye bread flavor).  If you have a set of measuring cups that includes an 1/8 cup, use that to fill each tart.  Otherwise, use a soup spoon and divide evenly.   Place 1 tablespoon of sauerkraut on top of the corned beef mixture.  Sprinkle grated cheese on top, evenly distributing among the tarts.

Bake at 380 for 25 minutes, or until the crusts are brown and the cheese has melted.  Serve in the tins.

Goetta Pie

goettapie

New Years Breakfast needs to be substantial.  My best friend Clairee turned me onto Goetta years ago.  She’s from Cincinnati, so she grew up on this odd combination of steel cut oats and sausage.  It’s the kind of subsistence food a practical German culture would invent to stretch the meat through the winter.  It’s kind of meatloaf-meets-porridge.  You either love it or not.  We adore it, and every time we’re in Northern Kentucky, we load up the cooler.

We usually just slice the Goetta (pronounced “guh-duh”) and fry it slowly on the electric griddle, smashing it flat, until it’s brown and crispy on both sides.  It takes about 30 minutes.  We’ll eat it solo, or put it in a sandwich with a fried egg and cheese on a whole grain sandwich thin.  It’s very high in fiber, although the fat content is also high.

Today called for something rib-sticking and special, so I made up a pie.  This is so simple it practically doesn’t require a recipe, so pay attention.

Goetta on the bottom.  Scrambled eggs in the middle.  Cheese on top.

Okay, so I jazzed it up just a bit.

  1. Cook Glier’s Goetta (accept no substitutes) slices very crispy.  Place the HOT slices in the bottom of a pie pan.
  2. Crack 6 lovely brown or high omega 3 eggs (like Eggland’s Best) or farm fresh (if you’re lucky enough to have a source) and add 1/2 tsp Penzey’s Mural of Flavor.  If you don’t have a big jar of “MOF”, get some. I put it on veggies, in eggs, on fish, in soups….it’s my go-to seasoning.
  3. Melt 2 T butter in a non-stick pan and lightly scramble the eggs.  Don’t murder the eggs by over-stirring them.  Just pull the cooked part away from the bottom of the pan a couple of times.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the eggs are about half cooked.
  4. Put the half-cooked scrambled eggs on top of the Goetta in the pie pan.
  5. Cut a dozen grape tomatoes in half and place them, cut side up, on top of the eggs.  You can substitute plum or salad tomatoes.
  6. Cover with shredded cheese.  I used what I had on hand, which happened to be Gouda and a bit of Mexican blend.  Cheddar or Swiss would work.
  7. Put something crunchy on top, like cereal flakes, crushed potato chips or bread crumbs.  I used a couple of handfuls of crushed sweet potato chips.
  8. Bake at 380 F for 25 to 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the chips are browned.
  9. Let it stand for 5  minutes to set, then serve like pie.

Afterthought:  I think it could have used some gravy in there, like under the eggs.

Goat Cheese Appetizers

Goat Cheese Galore

Some people don’t like goat cheese (Chevre).  I’m a real fan, and think it’s one of those foods you can blend with just about any type of flavor.  Here are two beautiful party appetizers that are as delicious as they are stunning to the eye.  One I adapted from a recipe.  The other is an outright cheat after I had something similar at a party.

Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte

I first came across this eye-popping party treat in a Southern Living holiday magazine in (I think) 2003 (or was it 2005?)  I was in the Pensacola, Florida airport waiting for a flight back to Northern Virginia.  I’ve made it over a dozen times, and it never fails to impress party guests, both visually and in its amazing combination of flavors.  The tangy, slightly sweet tomatoes, creamy cheeses and savory herbs are the perfect match.

Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte

Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte

Vegetable Cooking Spray

1 cup dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped in a food processor.

3 cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

10 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 stick butter (salted or unsalted) softened

6 cloves garlic, minced (I used 6 frozen garlic cubes)

1 bunch fresh parsley 

1 cup (about) fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Garnish: fresh parsley sprigs

Assorted crackers

choppedsundried

Lay plastic wrap on the bottom of a 6″ springform pan, stretch it tight, and put on the side ring.  Lightly oil the inside of the ring.

Chop the sundried tomatoes (I used a nifty gadget:  food processor attachment for a wand mixer) until essentially diced.   Press the tomatoes into the springform pan nice and even and flat with a spatula.

pressingsundried


Put all the goat cheese, butter, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and garlic in the bowl of a large food processor.  I have a Hamilton Beach model that has a honkin big bowl. Mix on medium until it gets going, then up the speed to high until the cheese “lays down” and is smooth.  

cheesetortefilling

Scoop out half the cheese mixture onto the tomatoes and smooth it out with an offset spreader or spatula.  Wipe the sides of the springform pan and get this as level and smooth as you can, so it makes a nice, even layered look when you unmold the cheese.

Smoothingcheese

Here’s where I learned to save a lot of time and trouble over the original recipe.  Using scissors, snip the tops off the parsely, straight off the bunch (you washed it first, right?)  Then do the same with the fresh hydroponic basil you bought from the grocery store.  Don’t bother too much with the exact amount of herbs—it really doesn’t matter!!  You essentially want a “handful” of each.  Then crack a generous amount (about a teaspoon) of black pepper directly into the processor bowl.  That’s right…just put the whole herbs right into the bowl.  Why chop them first when you have all that electric power!!

herbsincheese

Put on the lid, mash the button, and whir away until the cheese mix is smooth and a nice, speckly green.

herbedcheese

Spread this on top of the white cheese in the mold.  It should fill the pan the rest of the way.  Level it off, and cover with plastic wrap.  Put it on a plate, so the oil from the tomatoes won’t go all over your refrigerator.  Chill for at least 3 hours before you plan to serve it.

To serve, just pull of the plastic wrap, pop off the springform ring, and flip it onto a serving plate.  remove the last bit of plastic and admire your “hard work.”  Use a cake server to yield perfect wedges.

Note:  if you want a thinner mold, simply substitute a larger springform and increase the amount of tomatoes.bigprocessor

 

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log

I think you can buy something like this at Trader Joes and at some deli in New York City.  I bet they aren’t as good as mine.

1 bag (5 oz) dried cranberries
1/4 cup brandy (any flavor)
2 tsp cinnamon
1-10 oz roll goat cheese (chèvre)

Chop the cranberries in a food processor.  Add the brandy and cinnamon.

Spread the cranberry mixture evenly on a sheet of waxed paper in a rectangular shape that is slightly higher than your cheese log is long and about 6″ long.  Put the cheese onto the berries about an inch from one edge.

Pick up the waxed paper from underneath and roll it around the cheese, pressing as you go, until the berry sheet is completely wrapped around the cheese.  Use your fingers to pat the excess onto the ends of the log.

Transfer the coated log by rolling it onto plastic wrap (because the juices will soak through the waxed paper and cause it to disentegrate).  Roll up the plastic and twist the ends to seal it.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours to allow the cheese to firm up.  Serve with firm crackers.

cranberry log

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