Swirling COVID-19 or not, we never leave our neighborhood on New Year’s Eve. Instead, we have a nice dinner involving decadent things not usually on the menu, raise glasses with some neighbors, then head home well before midnight to comfort our dogs should someone set off fireworks – and someone always does.
Last week, I took a friend’s advice and called Jimmy Lee Moran, scion of the legendary Moran restaurant family, to place an order for his home-made pasta, which I served as part of my Christmas Eve dinner. Like so many, we are largely carb-avoidant in our house so I figured I would go with the real deal, top-of-the heap pasta if we were going to indulge. The angel hair pasta Jimmy delivered incomparable, the finest pasta I have ever eaten. He makes it with a Toresani-machine, which rolls the pasta—as opposed to extruding it—resulting in a product that is delicate and whisper thin.
“Ethereal. Like billows of clouds on your tongue,” my friend advised.
This was an apt description, so much so that I may be calling Jimmy for some fettuccine to use in the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo as his family served it at the legendary Moran’s Riverside.
This will make an amazing side dish served with roasted meat (duck, beef, lamb) or on its own topped with sauteed shrimp or crabmeat or shaved black truffles.
Serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as a side
- 1pound fresh fettucine noodles (preferably from Jimmy Moran)
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pats, at room temperature
- 1/3-pound grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup whole milk or half-and-half, scalded and kept hot
Bring a tea kettle filled with water to a boil. Fill a large, shallow, heat-proof serving bowl with the boiling water. Set aside.
Bring a stockpot filled with salted water to a vigorous boil. Add the fettuccine and stir to separate the noodles. Cook for one minute then taste the pasta to determine if the texture is as you desire. Do not overcook.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Keep it hot.
Loosely drain the pasta, allowing some water to cling. Working quickly while wearing oven mitts, dump the water out of the reserved serving bowl and dry the interior with a dishcloth. Add the pasta to the bowl. Immediately add the butter and mix well, tossing with a fork and a spoon. Add one fourth of the cheese. Toss gently, yet thoroughly, to break up any lumps. Add one tablespoon of the hot milk or half-and-half and toss. Continue alternating the cheese and the hot milk or half-and-half until all has been incorporated and the pasta is loose and creamy, neither wet, nor dry. Add a bit of the reserved water from cooking the pasta if necessary to achieve a creamy sauce.
Divide among serving bowls and top with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Crabmeat au Gratin is a life-long favorite so it, too, Is under consideration for dinner on New Year’s Eve. This version is from my friend Kit Wohl as it appeared in Chef Jeremiah Tower ‘s Flavors of Taste (The Cookbook Studio, 2017).
The Béchamel sauce will take about 30-45 minutes to make but that can be done the day before and kept refrigerated. The whole thing can be cooked and reheated hours later or the next day. Use the best quality cheeses you can find.
- 1/2 cup Béchamel sauce (recipe follows) NOTE: Do not substitute a recipe calling for nutmeg
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
- 1pound fresh jumbo lump blue crab meat (not pasteurized)
- 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs, no crusts
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- salt and freshly ground white pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Put the Béchamel sauce, cream, and cheeses in a saucepan and heat only until the cheeses begin to melt, stirring until they are completely mixed.
Put the crab meat in a mixing bowl, pour over the sauce mixture. Using a rubber spatula, mix and fold together thoroughly but gently, not breaking up the crab meat. Taste, then season with salt and pepper as desired. The cheeses may have enough salt by themselves.
Add the breadcrumbs to a small bowl. Melt the butter, pour it over the crumbs, and mix thoroughly. Taste. Add salt if needed.
Scrape the crab mixture into four shallow gratin dishes and spoon the breadcrumbs evenly over each. Put them in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes until the white sauce begins to bubble and the breadcrumbs are lightly browned. Serve immediately.
The secret to a smooth, ethereal, and delicious white sauce, unlike the pasty, floury, and lumpy horror it can be is to cook it for at least 30 minutes—and better for forty-five. Stir constantly so it does not stick and burn. Or put it in a double boiler and stir occasionally. Most Béchamel recipes call for grated nutmeg (this is what makes a Béchamel instead of plain white sauce)> Do not use it here. It will clash with the delicate crab.
Makes 1 quart
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups whole milk
- salt and freshly ground white pepper
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir or whisk until smooth.
Turn the heat to medium and while still stirring, cook for another 5 minutes. Meanwhile heat the milk to the boiling point but do not boil. Pour the milk into the butter-flour mixture, whisking vigorously. Use a spoon to scrape around the perimeter of the pan to ensure none of the flour mixture is clinging. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, whisking occasionally, for at least 30 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.
For those of you seeking something more exciting than dinner at home with your dogs on New Year’s Eve consider Bid Farewell to 2021 at Hot Tin, the Pontchartrain Hotel’s swanky rooftop bar. The celebration will toast 2022 in style with a festive party and sweeping views of the Mississippi River and downtown New Orleans. Known for its handcrafted signature libations, indoor/outdoor seating, and polished service, Hot Tin’s New Year’s Eve celebration promises an evening of dancing and drinking under the stars.
The cost is $65 per person in advance and tickets provide guaranteed entry to Hot Tin from 8 p.m. – 2 a.m. as well as a complimentary midnight toast. DJ Ball Drop featuring Lost Dog, the brainchild of acclaimed musician Peter Harris, will set the mood to dance the night away.
Advance tickets for Hot Tin’s New Year’s Eve soiree are available at Hot Tin NYE. A limited number of tickets will also be available at the door for $50.
That’s it from me for the 2021. Wishing everyone peace, health, and prosperity in 2022.