Yeah, I know Christmas is just a couple days away, but I think people are almost as excited by OSU being in the Sugar Bowl as the arrival of Santa Claus. And why not? It’s been a fairy tale year for the Buckeyes.
So I’m jumping ahead just a little with a plan for a New Year’s Day party (you’re on your own for New Year’s Eve).
First, keep it simple. If you do celebrate the night before, you won’t have the energy to do much in the way of cooking. Serve dishes that are fit for a crowd: a big pot of chili, meatball subs, pulled pork made in a slow cooker. Below is my shortcut version of jambalaya.
Second, don’t make anything that needs much last minute attention. This isn’t the time for fussy appetizers that have to be baked a la minute or trays of time consuming hand-dipped truffles. How about a pan of bread pudding with lightly whipped cream instead?
Finally — and I say this a lot, but it’s always appropriate — clean as you go. Have an empty dishwasher before the party starts so dishes can go right in. Use your garbage disposal instead of packing the trash with food waste; new generations of garbage disposals are powerful and quiet.
Here are my winning recipes for a super Sugar Bowl party. Since the game is being held in in New Orleans, it makes sense to give your food a Big Easy flavor.
ROMAINE SALAD WITH REMOULADE DRESSING
Makes 8 servings
Remoulade is a classic French sauce kicked up in Louisiana style and often served with seafood. In this salad, I’ve put the flavors into a creamy dressing for a mixed green salad. You could also use it for a dip for veggies.
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard (preferably Creole)
11/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Creole or Cajun Seasoning
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
2 heads romaine lettuce, cut into bite-size pieces
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Whisk the mayonnaise and milk until smooth. Whisk in mustard, paprika, Creole seasoning, lemon juice and hot sauce. Adjust seasoning and consistency if necessary. (Dressing can be made up to 3 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator.)
Toss lettuce with enough dressing to coat in a large bowl. Sprinkle with tomatoes and serve.
SHORT CUT JAMBALAYA
Makes 8 servings
This dish can be made a day ahead. Just reheat it gently on the stovetop before serving.
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 pound fully cooked sausage (such as andouille or kielbasa), cut into 1-inch rounds
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
1 bay leaf
2 cups converted (Uncle Ben’s) or long-grain white rice
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) petite diced tomatoes with juices
2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup water
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Add to pot. Cook until just cooked through, stirring often, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a plate.
Heat another 1 tablespoon oil in same Dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot. Cook until no longer pink, stirring often, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to plate with shrimp.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers and celery. Cook until tender, stirring often, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add sausage. Cook until some of fat begins to render, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, seasoning and bay leaf. Stir until fragrant. Add rice. Stir to coat. Add tomatoes with juices, chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Stir in shrimp and rice. Cook until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 5 minutes longer. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
BOURBON BREAD PUDDING
Makes 8 servings
This recipe is based on one from Baking by Dorie Greenspan. Prepare it the day ahead then bake it on game day. It’s delicious on its own, but a spoonful of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream make it extra special.
8 ounces good quality day-old bread such as challah or raisin-cinnamon bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
11/2 cups whole milk
11/2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla
Place the bread in a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Pour the milk and cream into a pan. Heat to a simmer. Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture. Stir in the bourbon and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Push the bread into the egg mixture with a spoon. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan large enough to hold the loaf pan with a double layer of paper towels. Bring a teakettle of water to a boil.
Poke 4 or 5 holes in the foil over the bread pudding. Place loaf pan in the baking pan. Slide into the oven. Add enough boiling water to come half way up the sides of the pan. Bake 30 minutes. Remove foil. Bake until the pudding is puffed and golden and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes longer. Cool until the pudding is just warm or room temperature. Cut into thick slices.