I had my last annual New Year’s Day brunch in Memphis back in 2006. A lot has happened to me since then, and I wanted to have another one and welcome 2012 with a lot of love because, for sure, I am looking forward to this year! I have many blessings … one of which is my food lovin’ man who likes to get in the kitchen and create fun stuff.
Joe and I started talking about brunch a couple of weeks before Christmas and, as happens with food loving people, the menu just grew and grew. I nixed a couple of things because he can get very creative … way beyond my elementary palate, but we came up with a pretty good mix. I covered the true brunch food and the desserts. Joe was in charge of the after noon hour food … which left him much more leeway for his creativity.
I made a brie, hot sausage and egg casserole and a hash brown casserole. These are always delicious staples for brunch! I used sour cream and onion potato chips for the potato casserole and I made the egg casserole in two parts … one that omitted the meat. The recipe for the brie and egg casserole is here: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/brie-and-sausage-breakfast-casserole-10000000407846/ and the hash brown casserole is Paula Deen’s version: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/creamy-hash-brown-casserole-recipe/index.html. Both of these dishes are rich and decadent and also super efficient when you are having a brunch because they are make ahead for the most part.
Not so efficient was my dessert extravaganza … it was pretty labor and frustration intensive. I started with Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut Cupcakes – search for the recipe at foodnetwork.com … “Ina Garten coconut cupcakes” and there you have it! I followed this recipe except I made little baby cupcakes which end up being two bites of incredible goodness and makes somewhere around 6 dozen. I have made these several times before and they always turn out great and so pretty! And I love a two bite dessert. Makes me feel like I am watching my calories!
The real story here is going to be about tarts. I bought Joe several tart pans and tart cookbooks for our first year of dating anniversary in October because he is my Sweet Tart/Heart and I decided for New Year’s Day that I had, had, had to make tarts. I used a Martha Stewart recipe for Pecan and Walnut Tarts. I’m sorry but you are going to have to buy the cookbook here: http://www.marthastewart.com/338752/martha-stewarts-new-pies-and-tarts-cookb. I will not violate Martha’s copyright.
I have never actually made a pie or tart crust before having availed myself of the refrigerated grocery store version which shall remain unnamed; however, I would cheat in a heartbeat because this was really, really hard for me! I was excited to start. I don’t have marble countertops, but I had parchment paper and flour and my Mom’s rolling pin, which I felt sure would be blessed. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
I followed the recipe down to the letter including cutting the butter in literally. This was actually not a bad way to do it, but next time I think freezing the butter for 30 minutes would have made this work better.
Once the dough had “rested” I learned that the rolling pin was be-deviled. No matter how much flour I rubbed on it and what I said while I was doing the rubbing, the crust stuck. Things were not going smoothly. I wanted to scream, maybe I actually did and perhaps my neighbors did not hear … I’m not sure about that part. So I rolled out one blob of dough and cut it and fit it into the tart pans and then I had a brilliant thought … “this is much too hard! and I tossed all of that first blob into the trash. ”I will just make a graham cracker crust instead! Wouldn’t that taste so much better with a pecan and walnut tart anyway?” And how easy is that … crumbs, butter, a food processor and pressing it into the tart pans (12 small square tarts) with the pestle from my mortar? Sounds simple really. And it was and I baked the little graham cracker shells for 8 minutes and they were so pretty. And then I filled them with the beautiful pecan and walnut mixture and put them in the oven.
Not fire and brimstone, but definitely there was a whole lot of smoking going on! All of the yumminess was leaking out into the bottom of the stove. There was a nice plume of nasty smoke coming out of my oven when I called time out and tossed everything into the trash can.
That Martha, she is smart and had me make two blobs of dough after all. I brought blob number two to room temperature, got out more parchment paper, more flour and this time I avoided the bedeviled rolling pin and used a smoothed edged glass to roll out the dough. It worked perfectly and I ended up with 12 beautiful tarts … not too sweet – no Karo syrup… real maple syrup … so awesome that I will do them again in spite of myself.
So … enough about me and more about Joe. Joe was in charge of the New Year’s Day staples … black-eyed peas, cabbage … but I had some requirements. We were good on the Hoppin’ John for the black-eyed peas, but I hate cabbage unless it is almost raw … so Joe decided to make little pork slider with a nice, raw slaw of napa cabbage and carrots … so pretty and crunchy and so not slaw like. He used a red dressing on top, similar to a Catalina dressing but Joe style.
Joe made some awesome gumbo with chicken and sausage. I bought a bunch of these little ramekins at World Market – like $3 for 4 and those were our serving dishes.
Joe made Chili Bean Dip; I made some goat cheese platters with honeyed walnuts and bacon and there was other stuff … we had a lot of fun … everyone had fun. The majority of the crowd hung past the 1 pm brunch ending and watched the Titans win what turned out to be their last game of the season. Geez … Life is good! Happy 2012!