Recipes for a delicious New Year's Eve
Spaghetti Carbonara is just what the partiers ordered — at 4 a.m., after a long night of ringing out the old and ringing in the new.
YEARS AGO my husband and I hosted a New Year's Eve dinner party, our first fancy affair in our new home. This was before we became parents, before it became a struggle to stay awake until midnight.
We dug our seldom-used wedding gifts out of deep storage (boxes in the garage at the time). Waterford crystal candlesticks, Riedel champagne flutes, Royal Doulton china, two silver chafing dishes, and the sterling flatware we'd found in a Magazine Street antique shop on our New Orleans honeymoon, all gleamed against a vintage lace tablecloth.
We invited our best friends and another couple, a budding young chef and his wife whom we'd only recently gotten to know. Everyone dressed up, which meant sparkly dresses on the women and no jeans on the men. Anticipating that wine would flow like Snoqualmie Falls, we'd asked them to spend the night. I put a chocolate truffle on each of their pillows.
My husband and I collaborated on an elegant menu that would unfold in stages over the evening. After nearly two decades we can't recall exactly what we served. I know our friends brought caviar and Cristal. We had smoked salmon, too. We surely made Marcella Hazan's "Noci in Camicia," walnut halves wearing a "shirt" of Parmesan butter. It's a favorite nibble to this day, and one that goes so very well with Champagne.
Beyond those, I remember tiny crab cakes, petite lamb chops, a rice pilaf and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. Dessert would have been biscotti and pizzelles, cookies that are still a Christmas baking tradition at our house.
Midnight was only the party's halfway point. The hardwood expanse of our then sparsely furnished living room made a perfect dance floor, lit by the Christmas tree. We swayed to David Sanborn's plaintive sax, swung to Sinatra and sashayed to Ellington.
One by one the wives faded and went up to bed. The husbands partied on. Around 4 a.m., they were hungry again. Assessing the ingredients at hand, the chef volunteered to make Spaghetti Carbonara to enthusiastic response. That's when I said, "Buona notte." I left them in the kitchen grating cheese, frying bacon and cracking open beers. It was nearly noon on New Year's Day when everyone gathered for breakfast. The chef was the last to appear, bleary-eyed with a sheepish grin and chocolate truffle matted in his hair.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Dean Rutz is a Times staff photographer.
Noci in Camicia
Serves 6 to 8
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
¼ pound shelled walnut halves
In a bowl, combine the cheese, butter and basil until they become a smooth paste. With your fingers, scoop a small amount of the mixture and apply it to the walnuts, leaving about one-third of the nut exposed. Place on a serving dish without overlapping and chill until ready to serve.
— recipe from "Marcella's Italian Kitchen" by Marcella Hazan
Serves 4 to 6
Carbonara has a creamy texture, but there isn't any cream in traditional Roman recipes. The silky sauce comes from tossing hot pasta with raw eggs (in a bowl, not a skillet) as in this recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan's son, Giuliano. "The hot pasta partially cooks the egg," he explains. "If eating raw eggs concerns you, this dish may not be for you." Use the freshest eggs and best quality cheese you can find.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 ounces pancetta, sliced into ¼-inch strips or diced*
¼ cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Fill a pot for the pasta with at least 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, put the oil, butter and pancetta in a 10-inch skillet and place over medium-high heat. Cook until the pancetta begins to brown but not long enough to make it crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until it is reduced by half. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. When the water boils, add about 2 tablespoons of salt, put in the spaghetti and cook until al dente.
4. While the pasta cooks, combine the parsley and cheeses in a large serving bowl. Add the eggs and yolks and season lightly with salt and generously with pepper. Whisk to blend thoroughly.
5. When the pasta is done, put the skillet with the pancetta back over high heat to get it hot quickly. Drain the pasta and add it to the egg-and-cheese mixture in the serving bowl. Toss vigorously. Pour the contents of the skillet into the bowl and toss again. Serve immediately.
* Look for convenient 4-ounce packages of pre-chopped Citterio pancetta at Trader Joe's.
— adapted from "How to Cook Italian"
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