For New Year’s Dinner, I chose to go with the “The New York Times” menu.
I think it will do the difference I’m seeking for. I’m quoting it for you:
“For New Year’s, a Bit Fancy, but All Relaxed”
“THOUGH it can be great fun to go out for New Year’s Eve, this year I’m staying home. I’m not in the mood to fight the crowds, but I’ll happily cook for a small group of friends and celebrate around the table for hours.
There’s something kind of retro about New Year’s Eve. So the menu should be somewhat classic, maybe even vaguely “Continental,” with a nod to caviar and red meat. The food, like the evening, should be a bit fancy, but relaxed.
More to the point, the dinner needs to be festive but easily accomplished in a small kitchen, a great meal but with limited gymnastics. You don’t want to do much cooking once the guests arrive, so some do-ahead dishes are key.
You’ll need some little snacks with aperitifs, but not too many. Many old Parisian bistros serve good-quality plain salted potato chips, which are considered the perfect accompaniment to Champagne. This French habit is well worth mimicking. Serve the chips in small bowls, silver if possible. The pairing also works with cava and prosecco. Other snacking choices are cheese straws, green olives, fennel slices and celery sticks. But of course a few raw oysters would never go amiss, if someone is handy with an oyster knife.
For a first course, a crisp salad of smoked sablefish, spiked with a mustard-horseradish cream made in advance and a generous spoonful of wild salmon caviar. (Or upgrade to sturgeon caviar.) Garnished with endive, radish and watercress, it gets a spritz of lemon and a sprinkling of sea salt at the last minute. The plate goes together quickly, yet wows.
For a main course, a version of steak au poivre made with meaty Muscovy duck breasts. Cooked to a rosy medium-rare, they are served with a tart red wine sauce and a buttery purée of celery root and potatoes. For the sauce, use the wine you’ll drink. (If someone gives you a truffle, chop and add.) Trim and season the duck up to a day ahead. Make the sauce ahead and reheat it. Keep the purée warm in a double boiler.
Dessert is a bright, icy granita made from freshly squeezed tangerines. Served in wineglasses, it can be embellished with a splash of good bubbly or served as is. It is astonishingly good, clean and light, and takes mere minutes to put together. Afterward, move on to more decadent purchased sweets, like fine chocolates or macarons. Or bring out the dates and pomegranates.