My plans for our new year’s eve dinner proved to be more lavish than our appetites, so I reined it in after two courses. I went out to grab some provisions, though it was snowing pretty hard, and came back with some good salmon, three little Cornish hens, and a little rack of six lamb chops. I had visions of super-luxe yet homey three-course dinner (plus dessert) dancing in my head as I deftly avoided fishtailing morons in SUVs on the way home.
For the first course I finely chopped the salmon and tossed it with yuzu juice, ponzu, tosa soy sauce, minced shallot, chives, and sesame oil. A little tartare is always a nice beginning to a meal, and the only thing missing was a glass of Champagne. We agreed that one bottle was going to do, so I chose a big red for the body of the meal instead of bubbly. Turned out it might have actually been better the other way, but such is life.
The second course was just the roasted hens with caramelized turnips and wilted spinach. I had planned a nice gravy, but they didn’t throw off much in the way of drippings, and I was busy making things to go with the lamb chops so there was no gravy. But Cornish game hens are deceptively meaty. After we tucked in, it became clear that we didn’t need any more food so I put the lamb and its various garnishes away until the following year. The red I chose was a 1998 Clerico Barolo “Pajana” which, though still young, is a wonderfully sexy and deep treat of a wine, and a fine way to help call it a night by about 10:30.
Tonight, I used the lamb chops as a central point around which to gather as many leftover things as possible; we’re at one of those critical points where the fridge is packed with containers of all sorts and there’s no room for anything else, and nothing to put food in. So I took the parsnip-celeriac purée I made the night before, added the creamy cauliflower and some turnips, and blended them all together with a little yogurt and ras-el-hanout. We had some cumin-seasoned pinto beans I made the other night for a vaguely Mexican thing, so I thickened them with tomato paste and let them simmer down. There were also roasted beets made into a simple salad; I pulled them out and used them like that. The remnants of some good feta had a spin with kalamata olives and some oil to make a tangy sort of tapenade, and I also used the last of the dandelion pesto. The chops got seared with herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper, and after I pulled them out to rest I made a quick little pan sauce with wine and a pat of butter.
The chops were perfect; this local lamb is tender, sweet, and almost pudding-like when cooked rare. All the different garnishes did their predictable things with the lamb, and the sauce kind of liased it all into one big happy welcome for 2009.