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52. A Royal Happy New Year

Renny Darling

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Dear Fans,

It often feels so nice to serve an elegant over-the-top dinner, to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary or holiday ... and New Year's Eve is certainly one of those times.  It is a time of toasting to health, happiness and peace in the New Year.  Tomorrow we will think of the practical...resolutions and goals... but tonight is filled with the hope and promise of all good things in the New Year.  This is a good menu to consider for any formal celebration, for it is appropriate to serve any time during the year.

Choose a starter. The Caviar is the easiest. The Oyster Royale is also easy, but probably very new to your guests.

All of the recipes are user -friendly. They can be prepared ahead and just heated before serving. Only the Crown Roast has to be prepared just before serving. However, have it at room temperature, seasoned and ready to go and baked for around 1 hour. Fill the center with the heated stuffing and carve it at the table with confidence and style. Don't forget, the butcher has prepared the ribs to be separated with one quick cut.

The Gougere can be baked a day earlier and heated for a few minutes before serving.  It will settle a little, but the taste will still be wonderful.  It is excellent to serve with the soup. All the other dishes can be prepared 1 day earlier and heated before serving.

For dessert, it is chocolate.  Either the Chocolate Decadence or the Chocolate Cheese Cake on a Macaroon Crust are just great.  They can be prepared 1 day earlier and brought to room temperature before serving.   The Chocolate Decadence is just that.  Choose the dessert that best matches your guests' tastes. 

Above and beyond all, enjoy the happiest of happy dinners and toast to a beautiful, joyous, New Year.

My best,
Renny Darling

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The Recipes 
Golden Caviar on Toast Points
Oysters Royale with
Garlic, Herbs & Cheese Crumbs

Cream of Apple & Chestnut Soup

Burgundian Cheese & Chive Gougere

Crown Roast of Lamb with
Bulgur, Lamb, Lemon & Chive Stuffing
Compote of Apples & Cranberrys

The Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake
with Macaroon Crust
Chocolate Decadence with Fudge Glaze
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Golden Caviar on Toast Points

This is the easiest way to serve caviar, and to my taste, one of the best.  Bland toast points, spread with the faintest amount of butter will allow the full flavor of the caviar to come through.  Serve with a dollop of Creme Fraiche or sour cream.  Creme Fraiche can be prepared 2 days in advance. And my Creme Fraich is truly, an elegant, delicate, beautiful sauce. Toast points can be made a day earlier and stored in double plastic bags.

            1      jar (3 1/2 ounces) golden or pink caviar

To make Toast Points:
8  slices, thinly sliced good quality white bread, crusts removed 
    melted butter

With a rolling pin, flatten bread slightly.  Spread each slice with a thin coating of butter, and cut on the diagonal into 4 triangles.  Place bread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350° until the first sign of color.  They should be just lightly crisped, so do not allow to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Store in a sealed plastic bags.  Yields 32 toast points and serves 6.

To make Creme Fraiche:
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup cream

Stir together sour cream and cream until blended.  Allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours or until thickened.  Cover and refrigerate until serving time.  Can be made 2 days earlier, stored in the refrigerator. Yields 2/3 cup.

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Oysters Royale with
Garlic, Herbs & Cheese Crumbs

If you are serving this as a casserole, it is best served as a small entree with hors d'oeuvres and drinks. Simply have a large serving spoon and a few small plates close by. To serve as a first course at dinner, I suggest you make individual servings. This can be prepared in individual ramekins. Simply layer crumb mixture, oysters, crumb mixture and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese on top. Heat for about 20 minutes at 350° until heated through. Casserole, or individual ramekins, can be prepared earlier in the day, stored in the refrigerator and heated before serving.

6 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely chopped
6 shallots, minced
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon thyme flakes
1/4 teaspoon sage
salt and pepper to taste

6 cups fresh egg bread crumbs, about 12 slices of bread, crusts removed and made into crumbs in food processor
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can (8 ounces) whole oysters packed in water, drained.
Reserve juice.
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a Dutch oven casserole, sauté garlic, onion and shallots in butter until onion is soft, but not browned. Add the next 6 ingredients and simmer mixture until wine is almost evaporated. Toss in the crumbs, cheese and cayenne pepper until blended. Now add enough of the drained oyster juice until crumbs hold together.

In a 9-inch round porcelain baker, layer half the crumb mixture, the drained oysters and then the remaining crumbs on top. Sprinkle top with the 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Bake in a 350° oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until piping hot. Spoon directly from the porcelain baker onto individual small plates. Serves 6 to 8.

Note: - If you are serving this as a first course, I recommend you make 6 tp 8 individul portions in small ramekins. Simply layer crumbs, oyster, and then the crumbs on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Store in the refrigerator covered. Remove from the refrigerator about and hour before serving to bring to room temperature. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and heat at 350°until hot, about 10 minutes, depending on how chilled the ramekins were at the start.

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Cream of Apple & Chestnut Soup

This is not the usual soup...not in taste or texture.  It is exceedingly glamorous and will certainly create high interest.  Double the recipe to serve 12. Soup can be prepared one day earlier and stored in the refrigerator. Heat before serving. 

            1            apple, peeled, cored and grated
            1            small onion, chopped
            3            shallots, minced
            1            can (1 pound) chestnuts, drained and chopped
            3            cups chicken broth
            3            tablespoons honey
            1            teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
                        salt to taste

            1            cup half and half

            6            teaspoons sour cream
            6            sprinkles cinnamon

In a Dutch oven casserole, simmer together first group of ingredients until onion is soft.  Puree mixture in a food processor, using some of the broth to help you.  Return mixture to Dutch oven, add half-and-half and heat through.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a faint sprinkle of cinnamon.  Serves 6.

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Burgundian Cheese & Chive Gougere

A Gougere is an incredible bread-like pastry that is great with a glass of wine and to accompany a delicate pate or a mild cheese.  It can be prepared in a round or oval porcelain baker.  Freshly baked, it puffs up and is gorgeous to behold. This can be prepared a day earlier, and it will settle somewhat, but it is still beautiful.  Serve it warm, not hot. Using a porcelain baker makes this very easy, to bake, store, heat and serve.

            1          cup milk
            4          tablespoons butter

            1          cup flour

            4          eggs, at room temperature
            1/4       cup chopped chives
            4          tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
            1          teaspoon Dijon mustard
                        pinch of salt

In a saucepan, heat milk and butter until mixture comes to a boil.  Stir in the flour and cook and stir for 2 minutes, or until a dough forms and pulls away from the side of the bowl.  Place dough in the large bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the remaining ingredients until blended. 

Spoon the dough along the edge of a greased 10-inch round porcelain baker to form a 1 1/2-inch ring.  Bake at 400° for 15 minutes.  Lower heat to 350° and continue baking for about 30 minutes or until Gougere is puffed and golden brown.  To serve, cut with a sharp serrated knife into 1-inch wedges.  Yields about 24 1-inch wedges and serves 12.

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Crown Roast of Lamb with
Bulgur, Lamb, Lemon & Chive Stuffing

This stuffing is so delicious, I can make a meal of it.  The lamb is faintly sparkled with shallots, lemon and chives.  The bulgur adds an interesting texture.  The best way to make certain not to overcook the lamb is to remove it from the oven at 140° to 145° (rare), for it does continue to cook for several minutes and it will be a perfect medium rare when serving.  Timing is extremely important with this recipe, for it is a real pity if the lamb is overcooked.  Stuffing can be prepared the day before and stored in the refrigerator.

Bulgur & Lamb Stuffing:
            2            shallots
            2            teaspoons butter
            1            pound lean ground lamb

            1 1/2      cups bulgur (cracked wheat)
            2            tablespoons butter
            3            cups chicken broth
            2            tablespoons lemon juice
                        salt to taste

            1/2       cup chopped chives

Sauté shallots lightly in butter.  Add the lamb and cook and stir until meat loses its pinkness.  Set aside.

In a Dutch oven casserole, cook together bulgur and butter, turning and stirring until bulgur is beginning to take on color.  Stir in the chicken broth, lemon juice and salt to taste, cover pan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer mixture for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the reserved lamb mixture and chives.  Heat stuffing before serving.          

2            racks of lamb, (14 chops total; about 3 1/2 pounds trimmed weight,
                  i.e. fat trimmed,  rib bones trimmed, chine bone removed).  Ask
                  butcher to tie racks into a crown roast.  Place a meat thermometer
                  in the thickest part of one rib eye without touching the bone.                                This will help to avoid overcooking.  Cover the rib bones with foil
                   to prevent burning.
4            cloves garlic, very finely minced

Place lamb in a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Rub the lamb with garlic on all sides,  cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.  Preheat oven to 350°.  Stuff center of roast loosely with foil.  Roast lamb for about 1 hour, or until meat thermometer registers 140°, or rare.  Remove lamb from oven, remove foil on ribs and center and fill center with heated Bulgur & Lamb Stuffing.  Cover bones with decorative frills.  With a flourish, carve roast at the table.  Serve with Mushroom Wine Sauce on the side.  Serves 6.

Mushroom Wine Sauce:
            1/2         pound mushrooms, sliced
            2            cloves garlic, finely minced
            2            shallots, finely minced
            2            tablespoons butter

            1/4        cup dry white wine
            1           can (10 1/2 ounces) beef broth         
            3           tablespoons chopped chives
            1           tablespoon chopped parsley
                        salt and pepper to taste

Sauté together mushrooms, garlic and shallots in butter until mushrooms are tender.  Add wine and simmer mixture until wine has almost evaporated.  Add broth, chives, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer sauce for 5 minutes.  (Sauce can be prepared 1 day earlier and stored in the refrigerator.  Heat before serving.)

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Compote of Apples & Cranberries

Apples with cranberries make a nice Winter compote.  This one is fruity and on the tart side, and a lovely accompaniment to the lamb and bulgur.  This can be served slightly chilled or at room temperature. 

            4            large apples, peeled, cored and sliced
            3/4            cup orange juice
            1/2            cup cinnamon sugar
            2            tablespoons lemon juice

            1 1/2            cups fresh or frozen cranberries

In a covered Dutch oven casserole, simmer together first 4 ingredients for 15 minutes.  Add the cranberries and continue cooking for about 8 minutes or until cranberries are popped.  Serves 6.

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Chocolate Decadence with Fudge Glaze

Deep, dark, delicious and totally decadent, is this moist chocolate cake, sparkled with the flavor of apricot and chocolate and beautiful with its dark, shiny chocolate glaze. Save this recipe for the special moments, as this is what chocolate dreams are made of.

            1/2         cup butter, (1 stick), softened
            1            cup sugar
            4            eggs
            1/2         cup cocoa
            1/2         cup water, at room temperature

            2/3         cup flour
            1 1/2      teaspoons baking powder
            3/4         teaspoon baking soda
                        pinch of salt (optional)

            1/2        cup apricot jam. Mash any large pieces.

Cream butter with sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir together cocoa and water and add, beating until blended. Stir together next 4 ingredients and add, all at once,  beating until blended.

Divide batter between 2 parchment-lined 10-inch springform pans and bake at 350° for about 25 minutes, or until cake tester, inserted in center, comes out clean. Allow to cool.

When cool, place one layer on serving platter and spread top with apricot jam.  Place second layer over and spread evenly with Fudge Glaze.  Allow to set at room temperature.  Cut into wedges to serve. Serves 12.

Fudge Glaze:
            1/2            cup sugar
            1/2            cup cream
            1/2            cup cocoa, sifted
            1/4            cup butter (1/2 stick)

In a saucepan, beat together all the ingredients, and simmer mixture, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until glaze has thickened slightly. (If you own a candy thermometer, temperature should reach 236°.)  Allow glaze to cool slightly before frosting cake.

Note: - To make life a little easier, bake cake in one springform pan until it tests done about 35 minutes. Then top with jam and then drizzle the Fudge Glaze.

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The Ultimate Chocolate Cheesecake
with Macaroon Crust

This is one IMPRESSIVE dessert that is also immensely delicious.  If you love cheesecake and are "mad" about chocolate, this is a little treasure you will use often.  It is a dense filling, so please don't overbeat. You do not want too much air incorporated in the filling. Just beat until blended, no more.

           2            tablespoon butter
            1            cup macaroon cookie crumbs

      1 1/2           pounds cream cheese, at room temperature (3 8-ounce packages)
            1           cup sour cream, at room temperature
            3           eggs, at room temperature
            3/4        cup sugar
            2           teaspoons vanilla

            1           package ( 6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

In a 10-inch springform pan, spread the butter on the bottom and sprinkle crumbs evenly over all. Pat crumbs gently to form a base.  Set pan aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla until blended.  Do not overbeat.  Beat in the melted chocolate until blended.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake at 350° for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool and them refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Overnight is good, too.  Decorate top with a generous sprinkling of grated chocolate. To serve, cut into wedges and keep the portions small.  Serves 12.

Note:
-Can be prepared 1 day earlier and stored in the refrigerator.
-2 tablespoons of Creme de Cacao can be added to the cream cheese mixture, if you enjoy the subtle addition of liqueur.
-To melt chocolate in microwave, place in a glass bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Stir and microwave for another 10 or 15 seconds. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.
-To chop chocolate: Place 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in bowl of food processor . Pulse a few times until crumbled in small pieces. Sprinkle over cheescake. You can make extras and store them in a jar. Great to sprinkle over ice cream.

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WISHING YOU ALL
A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR,
FILLED WITH JOY AND PEACE.

ENJOY WITH LOVE,
RENNY DARLING
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