Entertaining | A winelover's New Year's Eve dinner


A winelover's New Year's Eve dinner

After the tradition-bound cooking of the Christmas period (from which the family will never let you deviate . . .) it’s good to branch out a bit with your New Year’s Eve meal and also pick some dishes that will allow you to drink some serious wines. Note you need to start the beef two days in advance.

Warm scallop salad with crispy pancetta and parsnip crisps

An extravagantly indulgent starter from my book Cooking with Wine which can be rustled up just before you sit down at table.
serves 6

2 tbsp olive oil + a little extra for dressing the salad
150g diced pancetta
18 large fresh scallops, preferably diver caught
100ml full bodied dry white wine such as a Chardonnay or Viognier
3 tablespoons fish stock or water
2 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche
A small bag of mixed leaf salad
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the parsnip crisps
1 medium parsnip (about 200g)
Vegetable oil

To make the parsnip chips, peel the parsnip and cut off the root end to leave you with a piece about 10cm (4 inches) long and 3-4 cm (1 1/2 inches) wide at its narrowest point. Shave off fine slices with a mandolin or vegetable peeler. Fill a wok about one quarter full with vegetable oil and heat until very hot (about 190°C/375°F or until a cube of bread turns golden in 40 seconds). Fry the parsnip slices in batches, a few at a time, removing them as they brown with a slotted spoon and drain them on kitchen towel. Sprinkle them lightly with salt.

Season the scallops on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a separate frying pan and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the pancetta until crisp then remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Pour off the fat from the pan, return it to the hob, reheat for a minute until almost smoking then lay the scallops in the pan. Cook them for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes depending how thick they are then turn them over and cook for the same amount of time the other side. Set aside and keep warm. Pour the white wine into the pan, let it bubble up and reduce it by half. Add a splash (about 3 tbsp) of fish stock or water and keep bubbling away until you have about 3-4 tablespoons of juice. Return any juices that have accumulated under the scallops to the pan and stir in the cream. Check the seasoning, adding pepper to taste and a little more salt if you think it needs it, warm through for a few seconds then turn off the heat.

Divide the salad leaves between six plates and scatter over the pancetta. Drizzle the leaves with a little olive oil and season lightly with salt and black pepper. Lay 3 scallops on each plate and spoon the pan juices over them. Arrange the parsnip crisps over the top.

Wine suggestion: a good Chardonnay would be perfect with this dish. Other smooth, lush whites like white Graves, other blends of Sauvignon and Semillon or southern French blends of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier would also be good.

South African sugar-cured chateaubriand

This unlikely-sounding recipe comes from one of my latest books, Steak. It’s a version of one I tried in a stunning restaurant called Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek and is one of the most successful ways I’ve found of cooking beef fillet. A perfect dinner party dish - everyone will ask you for the recipe! Note that you have to start the preparation two days ahead though.

Serves 6

1 kg châteaubriand, cut in one piece from the centre of the fillet
For the cure
30g coarse sea salt
4g each of black peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns and coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp herbes de Provence
1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
50g light muscovado sugar
50g dark muscovado sugar
To finish
2 tbsp light olive oil
15g butter

Put the salt, both lots of peppercorns and the coriander seeds in a mortar and pound with a pestle until coarsely ground. Add the garlic and pound again. (Or you can do this in a food processor but don’t reduce it to a powder.) Tip into a shallow dish and mix in both sugars. Trim any external fat off the châteaubriand and pat it dry. Place it in the dish and rub thoroughly with the sugar mixture. Cover with a double layer of cling film and put in the fridge for 48 hours, turning the meat occasionally. (The moisture in the meat will dissolve the sugar, creating a rich marinade).

When you come to cook the meat, heat the oven to 225°C/425°F/Gas 7. Rinse off the marinade and pat the joint dry with kitchen paper. Heat a cast iron oven-proof frying pan or dish, add the oil, then, when that has heated, the butter. Once the butter has melted place the meat in the pan and brown well on all sides (about 5 minutes in total). Transfer the dish to the oven and roast for 12-15 minutes for a rare joint and up to 20 minutes for a slightly better done one (you don’t want to overcook it). Set aside on a warm plate to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Carve the meat into medium-thick slices, arrange 2 or 3 slices on each plate and serve with a spoonful of Essential steak sauce (below) to which you can add any juices that have run off the meat. A smooth French-style potato pure and lightly steamed vegetables like asparagus or green beans go well with this.

Wine suggestion:
Because of the spicing, this is the perfect dish to partner a vibrant young, new world red. As it’s South African inspired, I suggest a Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon or other classy Cabernet or Cabernet blend from e.g. Western Australia, Coonawarra or the Napa Valley.

Essential steak sauce

A simple way of making the rich ‘demi-glace’ that forms the basis of many professional kitchen sauces

1 tbsp olive oil
10g butter
110g shallots, peeled and roughly sliced
125ml red wine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
150ml fresh beef stock
1 tsp butter paste*
Salt, pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce

Heat the oil in a pan then add the butter. Once it has melted add the shallots, stir and cook for about 10 minutes until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine and balsamic vinegar, bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced by about three-quarters. Add the stock and simmer for another 5 minutes. Strain, return to the pan and whisk in the butter paste with a wire whisk. Bring back to the boil and simmer until thickened. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce.
* to make butter paste mash together equal quantities of soft butter and plain flour until you have a smooth paste.

Eton Mess with Chestnuts (aka Vacherin)

I’m having one of my period infatuations with an ingredient. Currently it’s chestnuts, not least because I’ve discovered that creamy, chestnut-based puddings are the most brilliant foil for certain styles of sweet wine (see below)This is a really easy recipe you can put together from store cupboard ingredients.
Serves 6

1 medium-sized (about 435g) tin of sweetened chestnut puree (or unsweetened puree and 2-3 tbsp sugar syrup)
2 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut flavoured liqueur) or rum (optional)
150ml single cream
284 ml double cream
1 tbsp vanilla sugar or caster sugar and 1/2 tsp of vanilla
6 medium-sized meringues or meringue nests
6-8 marrons glaces (candied chestnuts), roughly chopped

You will need 6 sundae dishes or other dessert glasses
Tip the contents of the tin of chestnuts into a food processor. Add the Frangelico and rum, if using, and the single cream and whizz together, adding a little extra sugar if you think it needs it. Add the vanilla sugar (or sugar and vanilla essence) to the double cream and whip lightly until it holds a soft peak (just holds its shape). Just before serving, break up the meringues roughly by hand. Put a little of the meringue in the bottom of each glass, cover with a layer of the chestnut cream then spoon over a layer of whipped cream. Repeat twice, finishing with cream then scatter a few chopped pieces of marrons glaces over each glass. Voila!

Wine suggestion:
I drank a glass of Vin Santo with a similar dish in Paris recently (see The Best Food and Wine Matching on the Planet) so can strongly recommend that. Good alternatives would be a Hungarian Tokaji, a Passito di Pantelleria or Samos Muscat from Greece.)

Photograph by: William Lingwood

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