My wife and I have no plans for New Year’s Eve. We will probably stay home with the kids, and if we are awake at midnight, it will be an accident. I would say it is going to be a quiet night, but there are no quiet nights with three kids. My only solace is that the weather should keep the noise from fireworks to a minimum. This pleases me because I am a curmudgeon and do not like the sound of explosions after 10 p.m.

For the blog this week, I thought I would write about the difference between aspiration and reality.

 

New Year’s Eve menu I’d like to cook:

Raw oysters with caviar and mignonette sauce – Champagne.

Salad of frisée with jumbo lump crabmeat and brunoise of mango, red onion and peppers – Sancerre.

Cumin-crusted lamb tenderloin with red wine-thyme sauce, potato gratin and lacinato kale sautéed with garlic and chile – Amarone della Valpolicella.

Chocolate soufflé with brandied cherries – Sauternes.

 

New Year’s Eve menu I will probably cook:

Cucumber, tomato, feta and mint salad – white or maybe rosé wine from a screw-top bottle.

Chicken baked with garlic and tomato with pasta – white or maybe rosé wine from a screw-top bottle.

Gummy worms, or possibly bears, ice cream, maybe some leftover Halloween candy – white or maybe rosé wine from a screw-top bottle.

 

There is some … variation between the two menus above. The reason for this variation has to do with the aforementioned children. You may note that the menu I will probably cook is somewhat abbreviated as compared to the menu I would like to cook. In truth, however, there is much I’ve left out. I believe you will understand after I provide a bit more detail as to how I see the night proceeding.

 

First, I will start peeling a cucumber. Hopefully I will have purchased at least three because my 3-year-old daughter will immediately approach and demand “cumber!” She will (mostly) consume one cucumber, though we will find pieces of cucumber later in the week between the cushions of a chair, under the table and mixed in with her “Peppa Pig” dolls. God help us all if I did not remember to get an extra cucumber.

Next I will start slicing the last of the tomatoes I harvested from my garden before the recent rains finished the work started by vicious, devious inchworms. I will be interrupted by my 3-year-old asking for more “cumber.” She will accept a banana instead. My 9-year-old will complain that she is hungry. My wife will tell her that dinner is not far off, but we all know she’s going to eat a microwaved Whole Foods burrito with Frank’s Red Hot sauce, and my wife and I will put up only token resistance.

I will return to making the salad – washing and cutting the mint into ribbons, salting the tomatoes and dicing some feta. During this time, my 14-year-old son will take a break from his Xbox to inform us he is “starving.” He will open the refrigerator and stand in front of it until the warning “beeps” begin and will continue standing in front of it until I tell him to close it. He will wander into the pantry, then return to the refrigerator, at which point I will run down a list of the things he can have as a snack. He will say that he is not that hungry after all and can wait for dinner. He believes this, but it is not true.

I will preheat the oven and trim and season the half-dozen or eight chicken thighs I am going to cook. Before I finish, I will have washed my hands four times to attend to various requests from the children because I do not want to give my children pieces of “cumber,” glasses of milk or anything else contaminated with raw chicken.

Eventually I will manage to open a can or two of chopped tomatoes and retrieve 20 or so whole, peeled garlic cloves. I will put the chicken into a preheated (400°) oven, skin side up, over the tomatoes and garlic, and set the timer for 20 minutes.

My son will return to the kitchen and tell me that, in fact, he may just take me up on the suggestion that he eat some of the prosciutto I bought yesterday, as well as three or four small oranges and some cheese. He will also let us know he might make some tea. He will ask what kind of tea we have and, upon seeing the look I give him, will remember that the tea is in the pantry and that he is capable of looking.

My wife will suggest a glass of wine, and I will hold up a half-empty glass to demonstrate that the idea had already occurred to me. I will pour her a glass of wine. For form’s sake, I will also add a splash to the chicken.

I will start filling a stock pot with water, at which point my 3-year-old will now ask for a “chocolate peanut butter sandwich,” and again, I will make only a half-hearted defense that “dinner is almost ready” before giving in and slathering two pieces of wheat bread with Nutella and Jif, cutting the crusts off and asking her if she prefers it sliced in triangles or squares. I will not say, “IF YOU PEOPLE WOULD HAVE JUST LEFT ME ALONE, WE’D BE EATING BY NOW.” That message is being broadcast loud and clear by my general demeanor if not the steam coming from my ears. My 3-year-old will ask, “Daddy, did you forget something?” I will pour her a glass of milk. I will then pour my 9-year-old a glass of milk.

I will remove the chicken from the oven and take off the skin, which I will put on a foil-lined baking sheet to crisp up while the chicken finishes at 350°. About 10-15 minutes later, I will drop the pasta into boiling water, and not long thereafter I will begin grating Parmesan cheese and putting food on plates. The entire meal will be consumed in under 15 minutes, during which time I am reminded of a nature show I saw once showing a pride of lions devouring a gazelle.

All of the above also assumes that I have not forgotten something and left the house to go to the grocery at least once during the time between peeling the cucumber and putting food on plates, which happens more often than I’d like to admit and for which I cannot blame anyone else. Believe me, I would blame someone else if I could, but despite my skill at blaming other people, I cannot credibly pin this one on the wife or kids.

 

Ultimately we’ll have a fine New Year’s Eve, and spending it with my wife and kids is preferable to cooking the first menu, or anything, for that matter. I hope you have a safe and happy New Year.