I hope you have all had the happiest of New Years and have made it through to 2014 safe, unharmed and relatively hangover-free. I also hope your New Year’s Eves were full of love, friends, good food, drink and great company. I know mine was, and as promised here now is the long-awaited run-down of the menu, starting with snacks and ending four hours later with a healthy serving of dessert.
This quick(-ish) run-down features comments and pictures for each dish as well as a few thoughts and speculations. I’ll make some recipes available over the course of the next week or two. If you’re particularly interested in pointers or recipes for a particular dish, please state your requests in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do 🙂
Guest photographer: You may notice a few photo credits in the image descriptions below. I was quite busy throughout the night keeping schedule, plating things and yelling at innocent bystanders. Thus, some of my pictures of my own food turned out a bit rushed. I was lucky, though, that my friend Zascha caught some pretty kick-ass shots throughout the evening and I’ve been allowed to borrow a few of them for the blog. Wherever applicable, I’ve credited Zascha for her work. Check out her Instagram profile for more awesome shots of food, travel and life in general!
Now, then, without further ado, I give you my New Year’s Eve Menu for Friends 2013:
Snack serving: Smoked beef, onion confit and seriously strong vintage cheddar on toast
For my first snack of the evening, I got hold of a nice loaf of French-style bread, cut it into little croutons that I crisped up, smeared with organic butter, topped with a slice of Bresaola and a dollop of my World’s Best French Onion Soup that I’d first reduced to a sticky mess of sweet and savory onions, then braised in beef fat. On top of all of this, I added a little slice of aged cheddar.
A simple, super flavorful snack serving that actually prompted one eater to comment: “If I’d never had your food before, this would’ve probably been the best thing I’d eaten to date!” – Wow, thank you!
Snack serving: Crispy Parmesan/vintage cheddar cheese straws with spicy mayo
A brilliantly simple snack consisting simply of puff pastry dusted with salt, pepper and hard, aged cheeses, then cut into strips, twisted and baked. For my cheeses I used a mix of my cheese monger’s best Parmesan and a seriously strong vintage cheddar.
Get the recipe: I actually blatantly stole this dish so recipe and procedure is already available here courtesy of Foodwishes.com.
I served up my cheese straws with a homemade mayo whipped with a bit of roasted garlic, some smoked paprika and a little chili powder. A sort of orange red, smoky/spicy aioli.
Wine pairing: Champagne Bollinger La Grande Année 2002
A knockout of a Champagne from the best vintage in the new millennium! This particular bottle quite honestly seemed in a weird shut down phase but was still one of the best Champagne experiences I’ve ever had. Lots of minerals, power, structure and body. With some air, gorgeous floral and fruity notes appeared in the nose . This probably has potential to age for another 10 to 20 years and will only improve with time.
My advice to Champagne lovers? Get this now if you can and hold on to it! Believe the hype, I’m flabbergasted that this is still being sold in the $100 price-range from time to time.
1st serving: Cream of Jerusalem Artichoke soup with truffles, crispy Pancetta and leek greens
For my first real course of the evening, I wanted absolute simplicity. A batch of freshly dug-up, local Jerusalem Artichokes were boiled in a light chicken stock with a few strips of Pancetta and a clove of garlic., then blended with a bit of cream and a few drops of truffle oil.
Upon serving, I whipped up a light foam of a bit of reserved stock/boiling liquid and used it to top the soup along with a few crispy rashers of Pancetta and raw julienne of leek.
Wine pairing: J, Moreau & Fils 2011 Chablis
I’ve found that the crisp bite of a young Chablis really matches the earthiness of Jerusalem Artichokes and helps cut through the richness of the cream and the strong meatiness of the Pancetta. For my tastebuds and money, J. Moreau makes a very nice, classic, entry level Chablis in a reasonable price range.
2nd serving: Butter poached pork belly, caramelized cabbage, lentils, celeriac and apple
In early 20th century Denmark, a traditional peasant or working class dinner might well have been pork belly and caramelized cabbage.
How to make pork belly and caramelized cabbage? Quick and to the point: A caramel is made of sugar and butter in a heavy bottom pot, shredded cabbage is added along with a slab of pork belly, seasoning and a splash of water. The pot is then left to simmer for a good two or three hours until the meat is fall apart tender and all juices are absorbed by the cabbage. Simple. Classic. Good.
Being of a somewhat humble family background on my mother’s side, I wanted to include a “simple” dish in my New Year’s Menu as a nod to my background and to prove that very good food can be made at very low costs.
Pork belly! Photo credit: @zwatz on instagram.com
For my pork belly and caramelized cabbage, I first poached a slab of fatty pork belly in a mixture of browned butter and olive oil infused with bay leafs, thyme, pepper corns and leek tops until fall apart tender. I then chilled it in the fridge overnight under a heavy weight to create a perfect block of pork belly that I could later slice up and crisp in a pan.
For my cabbage, I threw some of the poaching fat into a pit, added sliced cabbage and brown sugar and left it to boil down into a sweet, succulent mess.
For a little bit of show and taste, I served the pork belly up on top of the cabbage with a cold side salad of Puy lentils, celeriac, and red apples, that’d been cut into perfect little squares by my beautiful and patient kitchen assistant Tina.
Wine pairing: “Pilsner and schnapps”
In Denmark, pilsner beer and schnapps is a very traditional match for pork belly and cabbage. For my wine pairing, I got hold of a few bottles of good, old fashioned Carlsberg. I, uhh, disposed of the content and refilled the bottles with a lovely bottle of Domaine Saint-Rémy 2010 Riesling Lieu-dit Herrenweg. Alsatian Rieslings generally contain enough acidity to cut through the fattiness of the pork belly and this Riesling in particular has some pronounced flowery and fruity notes that really complimented the sweet flavor of the caramelized cabbage.
For my schnapps element, I made a granité of young Danish Whisky (Isle of Fionia Single Malt Øl Snaps, it’s great!), lemon juice, apples and quince. I served it up in a schnapps glass to act as an acidic palate cleanser with a bit of a bite.
3rd serving: Slow-roasted leg of wild boar, potato gratin, celeriac purée, red burgundy/vintage port glace, Brussels sprouts and apples.
My third and main course saw things go from relatively simple to relatively elaborate.
I’d gotten my greedy little hands on a bone-in leg of wild boar that I started out giving a 24 hour soak in a decent bottle of red Burgundy wine along with a few shallots, half a head of garlic, a lot of thyme, some bay leafs, pepper corns, Worcestershire sauce and sherry vinegar.
After the bath, I gave the leg a quick very hot sear to form a crust, then cooked it low and slow in the oven for about 12 hours at a steady 65 degrees. While my beast was cooking, I added the reserved marinade to a pot along with a half bottle of Graham’s 2008 LBV vintage port, about a liter and a half of venison stock and a few handfuls of mushrooms. I reduced, strained and reduced some more until I was left with about a single cup of seriously flavorful, concentrated Red Burgundy/Port glace.
My sides for this dish consisted of individual potato gratins, purée of celeriac and a hot salad made of Brussels sprouts, red apples, honey-glazed walnuts and Pancetta scraps.
Wine pairing: Marrenon Selection Parcellaire ORCA 2010 Vielles Vignes
I’ve had this particular wine before at a wine tasting (chronicled in this post) and found it a lovely, young, closed wine with tons of potential. At the time of tasting I remarked I wished it had been given a bit more time to breathe. For my New Year’s main course, I decided to use this wine but decanted it for four hours before serving and was rewarded with a powerhouse of a red wine, bursting with black berries, pepper and other spices… Yum!
4th course: Palate cleanser – Pear and Sauternes wine sorbet with a shot of spiced rum
Sometimes cooking multicourse dinners makes for some pretty interesting by-products. For my dessert course, I wanted to do a Sauternes poached pears element and since pears were on sale, I got a few more than I needed and cooked them up as well.
The “left over” pears, I blended with the poaching liquid, a bit of sugar, some apple/quince juice and a few splashes of the newest addition to my rum collection: Ron de Jeremy – a rather curious and humorously named and branded product that does, however, taste mainly of vanilla, making it perfect for the application. After a freeze and a stir, a freeze and a stir and a freeze and a stir and a freeze, I had a deliciously fresh but not cloyingly sweet sorbet with a strong pear flavor profile, a noticeable vanilla aftertaste and an utterly perplexing complexity courtesy of the Sauternes wine.
Pear and Sauternes sorbet, dig in! Photo credit: @zwatz on instagram.com
After the heaviness of the main course, this served as a refreshing, light pre-dessert or palate cleanser to get everybody in gear for the great finale.
Wine pairing: N/A
For this dish, the wine and booze was well contained within the dish itself. No need for an additional wine pairing.
5th serving: Pear poached in Sauternes, selection of Danish cheeses, broken apple gel and pickled rosehip relish
Unbeknownst to a lot of people, Denmark actually produces a lot of world-class cheeses. Mass production and Cream Havarti may have knocked us off the World Cheese Map for a few decades, but hey, we’re back and there are countless proud small scale producers out there producing cheeses in every category from Danish Blue over goat cheeses and semi-firm cheeses to wonderfully complex hard, cave-aged specimens.
I wanted to create a plate to showcase some of the stuff our fine, little country has to offer and so I came up with a nice little selection of a mild and creamy blue cheese, a tangy semi-soft goat’s cheese and an absolutely wonderful, local, cave-aged Gruyere-like hard cheese. To compliment the cheeses, I added in a few extras: a relish of pickled rosehips for the blue cheese, a spicy apple cider vinegar reduction with ghost chili syrup for the goat’s cheese and a bit of broken apple gel to go around.
Poached pear and selection of Danish cheeses. Photo credit: @zwatz on instagram.com
To please my sweet tooth diners, I added a final element in the shape of half a pear poached in sweet Sauternes wine. The final result may have been a bit big for a dessert serving, but eh, what can you do?
Wine Pairing: Chateau Charrier Sauternes 2004
Speaking of byproducts… Since I’d had to use about half a bottle of Sauternes for poaching my pears, I saw no need to just discard the rest of the bottle, so I served it up with my dessert. At this point the bottle had been open for about a day and a half and had really opened up, displaying dominant notes of preserved fruits, fruit syrup, mouldy cellar notes and an underlying but never cloying sweetness. All in all, a match made in heaven for the wide array of flavor components found on the dessert plate.
But wait, there’s more… Recipes are coming!
Well, that’s it for now, guys. I hope you enjoyed this little run down on my last dinner of the year. I certainly enjoyed cooking and presenting it. I do owe credit where credit is due, though, so…
A great big thanks to Tina for helping me prep, execute and plate dishes. To Emelie for helping in serving them up and helping in keeping the kitchen space nice and tidy. And lastly to Zascha for helping snap some pictures of the dishes that were way better than I could’ve hoped for. And, of course, to all my lovely friends and co-diners for sharing the adventure with me, providing thoughts and feedback as we went.
I know a lot of you will be wanting recipes for some of these dishes and don’t worry, I’m in the process of writing individual posts as you read this. They will be posted over the course of the next week or two. Anything in particular you want a recipe or notes on? Let me know in the comments!