This New Year’s Eve we chose to stay in. I know, I know, it might sound lame, but truthfully, some of the best ones I’ve had have been spent on the couch watching Marx Brothers or Twilight Zone marathons. By doing so, I don’t have to stress about what outfit I’ll wear, nor do have to worry about spending colossal amounts of money on one or two drinks at some bar while attempting not to spill it on myself due to the tremendous number of revelers ringing in the New Year at the same bar.
What to make, you ask? Why, something decadent, of course! Something we wouldn’t prepare on an average night of the week. Evidently, when I think of decadence, I think of lobster. Yes, some think it is overrated, but being a Nebraskan, lobster (or any other seafood, let’s be honest) did not really play a big role in my formative years. So, lobster it was! I’d never cooked a live lobster before, and evidently, it was going to happen on New Year’s Eve.
Even though Nebraska is a landlocked state, there happens to be a very nice seafood shop here in Omaha called Absolutely Fresh Seafood. They receive up to a dozen shipments of fish and shellfish daily, and supply fish to 450 restaurants around the city. So, we made our way to their retail store on 120th and Pacific to make our purchases. Understand that I was feeling rather anxious on the ride there; I’d never done anything like this in my life – killed something to eat it.
Luckily, I’d received Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook for my birthday (joy!) so I had him in my cheering section reminding me that a lobster was nothing more than “a big f@#%ing bug” and all I had to do was put it in the broth and put the lid on it. “Okay,” I thought, “I can do this. I CAN do this.”
Armed with the confidence of Anthony Bourdain and a lovely recipe (Homard aux Aromates) from the venerable Julia Child, I set out to make New Year’s Eve dinner. Yes, some (most) of Julia’s recipes are inexplicably long and unnecessarily complicated, but this recipe was exactly what I was looking for, so I persevered!
I made sure to thank the lobsters for our future dinner, and into the pot they went! They steamed with a superb mixture of onions, carrots, celery, white wine, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, peppercorns, and tarragon. After their time in the sauna was up, I mixed in a lovely roux and a substantial amount of heavy cream, finishing the sauce with a combination of fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon, and chives).
On the side was roasted cauliflower and we ended our dinner with a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot. For a New Year’s Eve dinner, it was pretty divine. The clinking of glasses with Anthony and Julia would have been the icing on the cake. I owe my recently acquired confidence (regarding live lobsters) solely to Mr. Bourdain. And to Julia, I take my hat off to the outstanding flavors developed in the sauce.
Oh, and if you please, here is a short video of my experience with live lobsters.
I’m a fan of soup. A big fan. Anything that requires slow simmering and very little attention on my part is a good thing. And when I think of Thanksgiving, I always think of butternut squash, so naturally, I thought I would throw together a butternut squash soup for our first course. Then I asked myself, “What could possibly make a luscious soup such as this even better?” My answer? Bacon and lobster, of course!
Although they are a pain to peel, the flavor of a butternut squash is well worth the effort. I chopped it up along with an onion and garlic and tossed them all together with olive oil and the rendered fat from the bacon. To that, I added minced sage, thyme, and a few whole bay leaves. After a sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper, I roasted them in a 450º oven for just under an hour, stirring them halfway through to ensure even roasting.
Despite the state of our house (we’re still living out of the basement due to floor refinishing) I was still thrilled to be cooking for our Thanksgiving. The roasted veggies smelled amazing and in the meantime, I prepped the lobster tails. It was quite simple, really. I just snipped up the sides of the lobster tail and snipped up the belly side of the shell, removing it and exposing the flesh. A little salt, pepper, and olive oil and voilà!
I wrapped the lobster tails in foil packets and after the butternut squash mixture was sufficiently roasted, I removed it, and into the oven they went! Before I knew it, the soup had been puréed, the lobster was done, and it was only 1:00pm!
The finished product with lobster pieces. Delicious!
As if one dessert wasn’t enough, I went ahead and put together a quick apple tart. I’ve made them before, but usually labored over the pastry…not this time! No way! Into the freezer I went and Eureka! I had a package of puff pastry! This apple tart is the simplest way to serve a fruit dessert and if you have the right ingredients: apples, puff pastry, butter, and sugar, you should be in business!
I tossed my peeled and cored apples with a few tablespoons of sugar and a few tablespoons of brandy, but the alcohol isn’t necessary. We all know I like hooch with my food, and I feel that brandy adds a nice element to an apple dessert. I then layered the apples on the puff pastry, sprinkled it with more sugar, and dotted the apples with cubed butter. After about an hour in the oven, it was golden brown and gorgeous!
All in all, I think this non-traditional Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. Pat prepared a standing rib roast with roasted Brussels sprouts, carrots, and fingerling potatoes. And Holly prepared a lovely scalloped celery root dish with bacon. It was a nice change to spend the holiday with close friends and I hope we can all do it again soon.