In many countries, new year celebrations begin on the evening of December 31—New Year’s Eve—and continue into the early hours of January 1. On this day revelers often enjoy foods that are thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people eat a dozen grapes right before midnight-symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead. In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and insure future financial success, as in Italy where lentils are eaten and in the southern United States where black-eyed peas are served for dinner. Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary and Portugal. Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, are found on the table in the Netherlands, Mexico and Greece. In Sweden and Norway rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve. It is said that whoever finds the almond can expect 12 months of good fortune.
Other customs that are common worldwide include watching fireworks and singing songs to welcome the new year, including the ever-popular, “Auld Lang Syne”. The practice of making resolutions for the new year is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot.
In the United States, the most well known New Year’s Eve tradition is the dropping of a giant ball in New York City’s Times Square at midnight. Millions of people around the world watch the event, which has taken place almost every year since 1907. Over time, the ball itself has ballooned from a 700-pound iron-and-wood orb to a brightly patterned sphere, 12 feet in diameter and weighing in at nearly 12,000 pounds. Various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of symbolic items ranging from pickles to pelicans to possums at midnight.
New Year’s Eve is a perfect opportunity to show your softer side by planning a romantic dinner for the special person in your life. Enjoying delicious food in a romantic setting with someone you care about is the perfect way to help make sure your New Year’s Eve is special. Here is a suggested festive dinner menu for two, that is intended to inspire your planning for a special evening. The cooking of this dinner comes together quickly, if you do most of the preparation ahead of time, so that you have plenty of time to enjoy the evening with your loved one.
Italian Rice Balls
Rice symbolizes prosperity and wealth, so rice balls are good for New Year’s and wedding celebrations in many cultures. Another nice touch you can use with these is to put a small cube of mozzarella cheese in the middle of each rice ball. The rice balls can be prepared ahead of time and reheated in a moderate oven.
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup uncooked white rice
- 1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
- Olive oil
- 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, in cubes (optional)
- Marinara Sauce
In a bowl whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, basil, pepper and salt; cover and refrigerate.
Pour the chicken broth and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a large saucepan and bring to a boil; stir in the rice, cover and reduce the heat to low.
Cook the rice until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 17 minutes.
Remove the pan the from heat and gradually pour in egg mixture, continually stirring rapidly to coat the surface of the rice and prevent the egg from scrambling; allow rice mixture to cool in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Pour bread crumbs into a shallow dish.
Dampen your hands with water and roll 1-inch balls from the rice mixture. If using the mozzarella, insert a cube in the center of the rice ball. Be sure the rice completely covers the mozzarella.
Coat each rice ball with bread crumbs.
In a small, deep skillet, heat enough oil to an adequately brown the rice balls. Fry the balls 4 to 6 at a time, turning as needed to ensure even browning. Drain on paper towels.
Serve warm with heated marinara sauce.
Arugula and Tomato Salad
- 3 cups arugula
- 1 tomato, cored and cut into wedges
- 1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
- 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Dash ground black pepper
In a jar with a screw top lid, combine shallots, oil, champagne vinegar, lemon peel, salt and ground black pepper. Cover and shake well. Makes about 1/2 cup.
Arrange greens, tomatoes, cheese and hazelnuts on two serving plates. Dress with some of the salad dressing.
Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca
- 2 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets
- Salt to taste
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 4 thin strips
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 3 tablespoons lower-sodium chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
- Lemon wedges (optional)
- ½ bunch asparagus
Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet; wrap 2 prosciutto slices around each cutlet, securing sage leaves in place.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place asparagus on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven to roast until desired tenderness, usually 15 minutes.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken to the pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.
Combine broth, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil to the skillet; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk.
Place chicken and asparagus on serving plates and spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
Chocolate Truffles With Liqueur
The truffle yield will depend on how small you roll the truffles; You should get at least 15.
- 3 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature ( do not use margarine)
- 2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted through a sieve to remove lumps
- Unsweetened cocoa powder, for coating or rolling
In a microwave using medium-low power, melt chocolate in a medium-sized bowl– about 1 minute.
Whisk in butter and egg yolk until blended; then whisk in liqueur and powdered sugar until smooth.
Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.
Shape mixture into small balls, roll balls in cocoa, then place in tiny foil or paper cups.
The rolling process can be a bit of a messy job; if mixture gets too soft, return it to the refrigerator to stiffen up again.
Keep truffles refrigerated in a covered container; remove about 30 minutes before serving to take the chill off them.
- Roast Pork & Arancine, BBC Saturday Kitchen (catherinefulvio.wordpress.com)
- Plan your New Year’s Eve Menu! (robertrothschildfarm.wordpress.com)
- New Year’s Eve Celebration (annascuisine.wordpress.com)
- Lamb Cutlets in Moroccan Style (theculinaryjourneymadesimple.wordpress.com)
The most commonly sung song on New Year’s eve, “Auld Lang Syne” is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet, Robert Burns, in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. Burns transcribed it (and made some refinements to the lyrics) after he heard it sung by an old man from the Ayrshire area of Scotland, Burns’s homeland.
But it was bandleader Guy Lombardo, who popularized the song and turned it into a New Year’s tradition. Lombardo first heard “Auld Lang Syne” in his hometown of London, Ontario, where it was sung by Scottish immigrants. When he and his brothers formed the famous dance band, Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the song became one of their standards. Lombardo played the song at midnight at a New Year’s eve party at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1929 and a tradition was born. After that, Lombardo’s version of the song was played every New Year’s eve from the 1930s until 1976 at the Waldorf Astoria. In the first years it was broadcast on radio, and then on television. The song became such a New Year’s tradition that Life magazine wrote, “if Lombardo failed to play Auld Lang Syne, the American public would not believe that the new year had really arrived.”
Probably the most famous tradition in the United States is the dropping of the New Year ball in Times Square, New York City. Thousands gather to watch the ball make its one-minute descent, arriving exactly at midnight. The tradition first began in 1907. The original ball was made of iron and wood; the current ball is made of Waterford Crystal, weighs 1,070 pounds and is six feet in diameter.
A traditional southern New Year’s dish is Hoppin’ John—black eyed peas and ham hocks. An old saying goes, “Eat peas on New Year’s day to have plenty of everything the rest of the year.”
Another American tradition is the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The Tournament of Roses parade that precedes the football game on New Year’s day is made up of elaborate and inventive floats. The first parade was held in 1886.
A common symbol of New Year’s is the Baby New Year. This is often a white male baby dressed in a diaper, a hat and a sash. The year he represents is printed on his sash. According to mythology, Baby New Year grows up and ages in a single year. At the end of the year he is an old man and hands his role over to the next Baby New Year. Other symbols of New Year’s are spectacular fireworks exploding over landmarks and clocks striking midnight as the year begins.
Entertain At Home
Invite a few close friends to ring in the New Year with an easy, intimate party at home. Champagne is the classic New Year’s Eve beverage, but this year you can change things up by making fruity cocktails with that bottle of bubbly
The wonderful wafer-thin pancakes, called crepes, fill a niche in contemporary dining. Made with light sauces and fillings, they suit today’s desire for healthy fare. Crepe refers both to the individual pancake and the filled creation. Fast to assemble and filled by a variety of savory fillings – fresh vegetables and herbs, seafood, poultry, and meat crepes can serve as appetizers, first courses, and entrées. Filled with seasonal fruit, souffles, sauces, sorbets, or ice cream, they become sumptuous desserts.
Crepes are ideal to make ahead, refrigerate or freeze and fill later for a party or informal gathering. They are easy, dramatic, and fun to serve. They can be prepared early on the day of the party or let guests spoon on their own fillings.
Basic Crepe Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Oil for the pan
Cooking Instructions for the Crepes:
1. Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the milk and water. Whisk the milk and water into the flour mixture until the batter is smooth and well blended.
3. Whisk in the eggs and melted butter until blended.
4. Strain the batter through a sieve into another medium-sized bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to give the batter time to rest.
5. Heat an 8-inch nonstick skillet or crepe pan over medium heat. Lightly brush the pan with olive oil.
6. Ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter into the skillet and tilt the pan in all directions to evenly coat the bottom.
7. Cook the crepes for about 30 seconds or until the bottom is lightly brown. Loosen the edges with a spatula and flip the crepe over.
8. Cook the underside for 10 to 15 seconds or until it is set, dry and browned in spots.
9. Slide the crepe onto a flat plate and cover with a piece of wax paper.
10. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing the pan with more oil as needed, and stacking the crepes between wax paper. The crepes may be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.
Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Crepes
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced dill
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 pound sliced smoked salmon
- 3 cups baby spinach (3 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced and quartered
Make crepes and set aside.
In a bowl blend the cream cheese, lemon zest, shallot, capers, dill and salt and season with pepper.
Fold each crepe in half. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture vertically down the center of each crepe. Lay the salmon over the cream cheese. Fold one side of the crepe over the filling, roll to close and serve.
In a medium bowl, toss the spinach with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and add in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on the side of the salmon crepes.
Mushroom, Spinach & Cheese Crepes
Yield: 12 crepes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/4 lbs mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced ( about 8 cups of any combination of white button, shiitake, oyster, portobello, chanterelles or whate)
- 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 (10 ounce) packages fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and coarsely chopped
- 5 ounces cream cheese, cut into small cubes
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
Make crepes and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms all at once and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until they begin to brown. About 10 minutes.
Stir in the parsley, thyme, garlic, salt & pepper. Cook for 1 minute.
Reduce heat to medium and stir in the spinach. Cover & cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes.
Uncover & add the cream cheese, stirring until melted.
Spoon mixture down the center of each crepe. Roll up crepes and arrange side by side in a 13×9 baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Cover pan with foil and heat until cheese melts, about 15 minutes.
Serve warm with sliced tomatoes and red onions.
Ham and Asparagus Crepes with Parmesan Cheese
Make crepes and set aside.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups diced or thinly sliced ham
- 18 to 24 spears of asparagus
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper, optional
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, or about 1/2 cup if finely grated
- More Parmesan cheese for topping
Cut ham into small dice or slice thinly.
Heat oven to 500° F.
Toss asparagus with olive oil to coat thoroughly. Arrange in a single layer in a shallow baking pan; roast for 10 minutes. Remove and let the spears cool.
In a medium saucepan, saute the onion in butter until tender. Add the garlic and chopped red bell pepper and saute for 1 minute longer. Stir in flour until blended. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper, parsley, and the shredded Parmesan cheese. Continue cooking, stirring, until thickened.
Grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 350° F.
Place a crepe on a plate. Arrange ham and 3 to 4 spears of asparagus on the center of the crepe. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of sauce over the ham and asparagus; roll up or fold as desired. Arrange in the prepared baking dish; pour remaining sauce over the filled crepes. Sprinkle with more shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake until hot and bubbly. Serve with tossed salad.
Classic Champagne Cocktail
- 3 drops bitters
- 1 sugar cube
- 1 ounce Cognac
- 4 ounces chilled Champagne
Drop bitters onto sugar cube; let soak in. Place sugar cube in a Champagne flute. Add Cognac, and top with Champagne.
- 1 thinly sliced peach
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 cup Simple Sugar Syrup, see recipe below
- 1 bottle champagne or other sparkling white wine
In a pitcher, combine ice, peach, raspberries, blueberries, lemon juice, and simple syrup. Slowly pour in champagne or other sparkling white wine.
- 2 parts sugar
- 1 part water
Bring the water to a boil.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, stirring constantly.
Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat. (Note: Do not allow the syrup to boil for too long or the syrup will be too thick.)
Allow to cool completely and thicken, then bottle.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried lavender
- 4 bottles (750 mL) dry Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled
- Fresh lavender sprigs, for garnish
Bring sugar and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in dried lavender. Remove from heat. Let cool completely. Strain out lavender. Refrigerate syrup until ready to serve (up to 1 month).
Pour about 6 ounces Champagne and 1 1/2 teaspoons syrup into each flute. Garnish each with a lavender sprig.
Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail
Serves 10 to 12
- 2 1/4 cups freshly squeezed or frozen blood-orange juice or regular orange juice
- 2 750-ml bottles champagne, chilled
Pour 3 tablespoons juice in each champagne flute. Fill flutes with champagne, and serve.
- 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 bottle (750 ml) dry sparkling wine, such as Cava, Prosecco, or Champagne
Set a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl; set aside. In a small saucepan, boil ginger, sugar, and 1/4 cup water until syrupy, about 2 minutes. Pour through sieve into bowl, discarding solids. (To store syrup, refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 1 week.)
Pour 1 tablespoon syrup into each of 8 tall glasses. Top with sparkling wine, and gently stir.
Do You know the lyrics?
Print it off for your guests.
“Auld Lang Syne”
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou’d the gowans fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.
- New Year’s History: Festive Facts (history.com)
- Boston’s Best New Year’s Eve Parties (boston.cbslocal.com)
- Alternative New Year’s Eve (calmyourbeans.wordpress.com)