Happy New Year!
I hope all of you had a wonderful, fabulous holiday season, no matter which holiday(s) you might have celebrated! I missed having access to my computer (and thus, to all of you) but it's also nice to take a break and just spend time with my loved ones. I had a wonderful time, even bowing down and taking on a helper role (instead of the director) in the kitchen, standing beside my mother and my little sister (both kitchen goddesses themselves). Christmas is my family is steeped in tradition. My mom decorates the house to the hilt - which makes it truly like a homecoming for me - and it never quite feels like Christmas until I see the Christmas tree lit up and brimming with all of the ornaments my mom has collected from around the world and during all our years of school, the candles burning in the windows, and Alabama's Christmas album playing over the loudspeaker. Many of our traditions, however, are all about the food: Crab soup on Christmas eve, a delicious new breakfast recipe every year, and Prime rib with horseradish sauce for Christmas dinner. It's something I look forward to every year, especially because I've never made them myself, and this year was no exception.
When I returned to Eugene after the holidays, prime rib was still on my brain. We were tired from driving for two days and going non-stop while we were in Colorado, so we weren't feeling like bar-hopping or being crazy for New Years Eve. We decided to ring in 2006 at home. To make it special, we decided that it was time to drink the 1982 Carmenet, and to do it in style, with a delicious dinner to accompany it.
We were told that the wine was ready to drink, now, and the best way to get the full experience from it was to use those big, balloon glasses. So I went out on New Year's Eve and bought two of the biggest balloons I could find...so big, in fact, that little 5'0" tall me had to use two hands to hold them.
Now, what to have with a rich, red wine? Red meat is the classic accompaniment...so what's the most extravagant red meat I could think of? Prime rib! So that's what we decided to have. I had I been eyeing a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine for a rosemary roast, so this was perfect! I decided that roasted, carmelized pearl onions and wild rice with scallions and truffle oil would go nicely with everything, and a simple green salad with homemade croutons to finish things off. For dessert? Another recipe I had been eyeing: Dark Chocolate Pie with Cocao Nib Praline, this one from Gourmet. Yum. We went to the grocery store, got all the ingredients, and I started cooking.
The closest to a 'prime rib' I could find, was a 'sirloin roast'. I'm not sure what the difference is exactly (I'll have to look that up), but it was still delicious. I patted it dry, rubbed it with salt, pepper, and minced garlic, then threaded rosemary sprigs through the twine on all sides. I browned it on all sides in olive oil heated to almost smoking (about 10 minutes), then put it in the roasting pan and stuck it in a 350F oven. It took about 45-50 minutes - I took it out when it reached 125F and let it rest for about 10 minutes, covered with foil (this is for medium rare - the final temperature was around 135F). It went really nicely with a dollop of prepared horseradish sauce.
The side dishes were easy. I peeled the pearl onions (okay, here's where I called in Loving Boyfriend for reinforcements...it sucks to peel pearl onions!) and then boiled them for about 5 minutes. After draining them, I let them sit in a 3:1 ratio of sherry vinegar and honey for 10 minutes, then roasted them in the oven while the roast was cooking. This was a recipe originally from Cooking Light magazine, but I wasn't able to print it out from the computer, so that was my recollection of it, and it worked just fine, and tasted incredible. The onions take on a tangy sweet carmelization that's just fabulous.
The wild rice was also simple. This was another Cooking Light recipe from recollection. I simmered some locally grown brown wild rice in a 2:1 ratio of chicken stock to rice for 45 minutes in a covered sauce pan. When it was still a bit chewy (not crunchy), I fluffed it with a fork, added some thinly sliced scallions and about a tsp. of lemon zest. I also drizzled on some white truffle oil because I remembered there being comments about the original recipe with walnut or olive oil being a bit bland. It came out incredibly flavorful, but still nice and light.
Before we sat down to our New Year's Eve feast, we had to open the wine. This was where our luck chimed in to say hello - the cork was very fragile! It wouldn't come out and just kept crumbling into pieces! After about three wine openers and a small paring knife, and taking it all in stride, we were finally able to get the cork out (with only a few cork pieces to mar the deep red color of the wine).
We swirled it, breathed in deeply to get all the aromas those big balloons could hold, and tasted our first sips of a wine that is only 4 years younger than ourselves (2 years older than my youngest sister!). It was very aromatic, with full flavor, a deep red color and none of the bite or dryness of some of the other 'big reds' that we've had.
The final act of our meal? Dessert! The pie was a bit labor intensive, but good, although I only got through half a slice because it was FAR too rich for my tastes. I actually felt kind of sugar-sick after eating that half too. So I plan to play a bit with it, and someday, when I have it figured out, I'll post the recipe for everyone, as it is a very elegant-looking dessert. My first order of business will be a regular crust - the crust as is was melted butter and flour and sugar and it was really buttery and sweet, so hopefully that will take some of the edge off. Another essential component was what the recipe called for (that actually saves the pie in my opinion): unsweetened whipped cream.
All in all, it was a perfect way to ring in the new year... and to end an old one (don't worry, we did have a bite each of black eyed peas right after midnight - with salt, pepper, thyme, and scallions - just for good luck). Now, on to those resolutions!