Midnight Snacking

A New Year’s Eve buffet is the perfect way to feed a crowd.

eugenia uhl

I’ve done it all – gone to parties, given parties, painted the town red, stayed home alone – to celebrate the arrival of the new year. This year, I’m staying home – but not alone. I’ve invited about 20 friends to come celebrate with me and my husband, Rock. My guests have the option of dropping by for a short visit or staying to welcome in the new year at midnight.

For those who don’t want to have a full meal and merely want to munch, I’ll offer shrimp canapés, a velvet-textured chicken liver pâté and maybe crawfish corn bread.
 
For those who want something more substantial, I’ve decided to offer a simple and indigenous meal: a salad of mixed greens, Louisiana citrus and the best lump crabmeat I can find; creamy red beans with lots of ham and sausage; and rice, of course. Dessert should and will be festive.  

There will be bubbly for those who have designated drivers or can walk to their home in the neighborhood, as well as nonalcoholic beverages. Rock has even suggested that those who want to can nest for the night on blankets, quilts and pillows in front of the fireplace, sort of like an adult slumber party.
 
So here’s to you out there, and have a happy, joyous and safe New Year’s. May all good things come your way in the new year.

Shrimp Canapés
6 slices of thin white bread
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 thin round slices of cherry tomatoes
48 slices of ripe olives
12 cooked small shrimp
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
12 fresh dill or parsley sprigs

    
Spread the bread with the butter, and cut into 12 2-inch squares. Arrange the tomato, olives and shrimp on top of each square.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and horseradish, and dot the top of the shrimp with this mixture. Garnish with the dill or parsley. Makes 12 canapés.

Chicken Liver Pâté
1/4 cup chopped onions
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 pounds chicken livers
2 hard-boiled egg yolks (reserve the whites for garnish)
4 tablespoons softened butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup cognac
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives or green onions (optional)
Toast points or party crackers for serving
Dijon mustard for serving
Finely chopped egg whites for serving


Cook the onions in the butter over medium heat until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken livers, and cook just until the pink disappears. Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor. Put the egg yolks through a sieve, and add them to the chicken liver mixture, along with the 4 tablespoons of softened butter, heavy cream, cognac and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

Blend together until smooth. You may also add a handful of chopped chives or green onions for a little extra taste and color. Chill the pâté for 3 to 4 hours or until it sets. Serve with toast points or crackers, Dijon mustard and the finely chopped egg whites. Makes 8 to 10 appetizer portions.

Crawfish Corn Bread
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
1 cup cream-style corn
1 pound peeled crawfish tails, coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 370 degrees. Lightly grease a baking pan.

Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into the prepared pan, and bake until lightly browned, about
30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and let sit for several minutes before cutting into small squares to serve. Serves 8 to 10.

Salad Louisiana
3/4 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup fruity olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 grapefruits or 4 large oranges
4 large ripe avocados
4 heads Boston lettuce, cored, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
3 pounds fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1/2 cup minced fresh chives

    
Combine the oils, the lemon juice and salt and pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake dressing until blended. Refrigerate until needed.

Remove the peel and bitter white pith from the grapefruits or oranges. Working over a bowl to catch the juice, cut the citrus flesh into segments between the membranes, placing the segments in a separate bowl as you work. As you complete each grapefruit or orange, squeeze the juice from the membranes, and reserve the juice at room temperature. Discard the membranes. Cover and refrigerate the segments.
    
Halve the avocados, and remove and discard the seeds. Peel, and cut the flesh lengthwise into slices. Place the slices in the bowl with the grapefruit or orange juice. These can be refrigerated for about one hour before using. When you’re ready to assemble the salad, you can drain the juice from the avocados. I usually keep some of the juice to toss into the salad.

In a very large salad or mixing bowl, combine the avocados, the greens, crabmeat, fruit segments and chives. Shake the dressing again to combine, and pour over the salad ingredients. Toss to blend. Season again with salt and black pepper if necessary. Serves about 20.


If you want to make things a little less complicated, cook the red beans in advance and store them either in the freezer or in the refrigerator. They always taste better if made ahead anyway. I rarely soak my beans, but if you’re a soaker, go ahead and soak them overnight.

Red Beans, My Way
1/4 cup bacon drippings
3 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
2 cups chopped green bell peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound cooked, cubed ham
1 1/2 pounds smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 pound salt pork, chopped
3 pounds dried red kidney beans, picked over and rinsed in cool water
Water or chicken broth
Salt, cayenne and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon crumbled dried basil
4 bay leaves
Chopped green onions for garnish
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish


In a large, heavy pot, heat the bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers and celery, and cook, stirring, until they are lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the ham, sausage and salt pork. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the beans and enough water or chicken broth to cover. Season with salt, cayenne and black pepper. Add the thyme, basil and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, partially covered, for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are tender. Add more water or broth if the mixture becomes dry.

If you like the beans to be creamy, purée about one-third of the beans in a food processor, in batches, and return them to the pot. Cook for another 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves.

Serve hot, garnished with green onions and parsley, over rice. Serves about 20.


For large parties, I’m partial to desserts you can sip and that also double as after-dinner drinks, like this one. Make it in batches, and then put into one or two large containers, cover, and freeze. The mixture will not freeze solid because of the liqueurs; however, it will be thick.  



Frozen Mocha-Brandy Parfait
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1/2 gallon chocolate ice cream
1/2 cup brandy
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup dark crème de caçao
Whipped cream for garnish
Chocolate shavings for garnish


In a blender or food processor, combine the ice creams, brandy, coffee and crème de caçao until well-mixed. Pour into containers, and freeze for at least 10 hours. When ready to serve, spoon into parfait or wine glasses, and garnish with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if you wish. Serves about 20.
 

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