January 1 to January 8, 2012 A home-style Chinese banquet: What better way to welcome the tastes of a new year than at a Chinese banquet. Not in a restaurant, mind you, but in the comfort of someone's home. And so, just a few days ago, our friends and neighbors, Simon Liu and Susan Goldberg-Liu, invited us to a "dumpling fest" at their gorgeously restored brownstone. Along with their son Max (just home from Paris) and daughter Emma, our daughter Shayna learned to fill and fold her first dumplings (see photo), while Simon tended to his homemade chicken broth in which they all were poached. We had dumplings of shrimp and sausage, some of "just sausage" as Shayna's still shy of seafood, along with some naked fishballs. They reminded me of Italian gnudi, which are ravioli without the ravioli skin. Rounding out the meal were roast duck, pork and cuttlefish purchased in Brooklyn's vibrant Chinatown, where Simon has his art-and-restoration studio. It was all washed down with a rioja from Spain and a sauvignon blanc from Argentina. Everyone said no thank you to the barrage of chocolates and gingerbread men that followed, and then, of course, we ate them all.
A New Year's leg of pig: I often make an extra turkey on Thanksgiving because, in my opinion, it's not a party without copious leftovers for guests to take home. With that in mind, I encouraged my husband to roast an entire leg of pig for New Year's Eve even though were only eight for dinner and even though he pointed out that, after allowing for the bones, we'd have over two pounds of pig per person. Dutifully, he cut deep slits into the meat and stuffed them with a chop-up of fresh rosemary, sage, thyme, hot peppers, sea salt and an immeasurable quantity of garlic -- these being the seasonings for a classic Italian porchetta. The resulting roast looked like a bronzed sculpture sitting on our kitchen counter, and after he'd carved enough for double portions it still resembled a Henry Moore. No matter, I simply invited another shift of friends for lunch on New Year's Day and after slicing off food for a dozen guests, there it was, slightly diminished, but still hulking. Eternity has been described as "two people and a ham" (perhaps by Dorothy Parker). After a couple of meals of leftover leg, a roast pork ragu with penne rigate and several sandwiches of garlicky pork, sriracha, sliced tomatoes, arugula & pickled red onions, we just tonight saw the last of it -- except for stock made from the bones, which reside in our freezer waiting for a day in some uncertain future when our appetite is at last restored. Mozart and Sausages: No more flowers for me. Instead send me pork products from La Tienda and regale me with marzipan candies that evoke days gone by. Such were the gifts from my brother and sister-in-law last week. Part birthday gift, part holiday tidings, these edible treasures were firsts for me. First the candy: Known as Mozart Kugeln, packed in a delightful red tin with tiny portraitures of the composer, these are deluxe confections exquisitely filled with marzipan, made from "fresh green pistachios, almonds and rich hazelnut-nougat, enrobed with delicious milk and bitter chocolates." They have been made in Germany for more than 150 years and delighted my guests who unwrapped each elaborately-foiled candy with great affection. Add to that, a selection of Spanish sausages so fine as to make one swoon. From La Tienda, a family-owned company who gleans the best artisan products from Spain and ships thousands of order per week to homes across America, came three amazing products -- one entirely unknown to me -- sobrasada Mallorquina, a semi-soft chorizo that is meant for spreading on crusty bread. It is superb. Add to that, a cured sausage Sorio made with smoked paprika, and a Spanish-style salami flavored with black pepper instead of the more typical paprika. (www.latienda.com)
Arthur Schwartz's Pasta and Lentils: A vegetarian gift to all for the New Year. In Italy, lentils are good luck for the new year and so this is my wish for all. Made by the maestro himself, we enjoyed it tremendously on New Year's day. Click here for the recipe.
One hunded wine glasses: We washed at least this number by hand. A variety of shapes and sizes, for champagne, wines, moscato passito di Pantelleria, and Liquore Centerba, a digestif made with 100 herbs -- which was very helpful at the end of such a week.
Here's to a delicious 2012.