THERE ARE THOSE at our house who would settle for beer and popcorn for their New Year's Day meals if they were left undisturbed to watch the football games on TV. There is the occasional house guest, pale and wan after New Year's Eve revelry, who mutters darkly while lacing a mysterious tomato-juice concoction with hot pepper sauce. Someone else is liable to be searching for club soda or mineral water and a place to sit quietly.
One would think that such a weary and washed-out crew of celebrants would be permanently uninterested in food, but the resilience and staying power of our friends and kin are remarkable. They are a diverse lot, and contentious about their "good luck food" on New Year's Day. A simple, straightforward meal, innocently planned, inevitably turns into a cook-fest as all the contingents stir, bake, steam and whir as their superstitious needs dictate.
I do not understand this at all. If one has black-eyed peas to ensure loose change, greens to assure folding money and some kind of pork to guarantee good health and good fortune in general, what more could be needed? "Sauerkraut, that's what," says my damnyankee husband. And potatoes, chimes in another of the Northern persuasion.
Then there is the grits/hominy faction. Someone always hankers for salt mackerel, oyster stew or country ham. Close behind are the proponents of jambalaya ("If you know how to fix it without making the rice gummy") or something spicy to assure zest in the coming year.
Such a mad mix of suggestions ravages pantry and freezer and clogs the kitchen with a conglomerate of chefs, happily assuring good fortune. Here are some of their lucky recipes. QUAIL (8 servings) 8 quail 4 tablespoons butter 3 tablespoons flour 2 cups chicken stock 1/2 cup sherry Pepper to taste 1/2 slice bacon, cut in small pieces
In heavy skillet quickly brown quail in butter. When brown, set aside. Add flour to butter, cook roux about 3 minutes, constantly stirring and scraping sides and bottom of pan. Add broth, sherry and pepper. Place quail in sauce, put small pieces of bacon on quail breast, cover pan and simmer gently for 1 hour. (Can be done equally well with dove or pheasant--but pheasant will need longer cooking.) DIXIE BASTING SAUCE FOR PORK (About 3 cups) 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon celery seed 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup vinegar 1/4 cup worchestershire sauce 1 cup ketchup 2 cups water 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce 1 tablespoon butter 1 medium onion, chopped
Mix all ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Pour over pork and baste frequently while roasting. (Good for boneless pork loin, spareribs, fresh ham, pork chops.) RUTABAGA AND APPLE (4 to 6 servings) 1 medium rutabaga (about 1 pound), peeled and cubed 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and sliced 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 2 tablespoons butter Salt to taste
In covered pan, cook rutabaga in small amount of boiling water until just tender--about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain well. Place half the rutabaga in 1-quart casserole, add half the apple, sprinkle on half the brown sugar, dot with half the butter and sprinkle with salt. Repeat layers. Cover and bake in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. BOURBON SWEET POTATOES WITH ORANGE SAUCE (8 servings) 4 pound sweet Potatoes 1/4 pound butter, softened 1/2 cup bourbon 1/4 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon allspice 1/3 cup orange juice 1/2 cup chopped nuts Orange sauce: 1 cup orange juice 1 tablespoon cornstarch 1 cup brown sugar 4 tablespoons butter
Cook potatoes, covered, in boiling salted water for 35 minutes. Cool slightly, then peel. Mash potatoes; add butter, bourbon, brown sugar, salt, allspice and orange juice. Beat until fluffy and smooth. Spoon mixture into buttered 6-cup baking dish. Sprinkle nuts on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. To make sauce, mix orange juice and cornstarch. Place over medium heat and stir in sugar and butter. Bring to a boil. Stir constantly until sauce becomes thick and translucent (5 to 10 minutes.) Serve in a separate dish. HOPPIN' JOHN (6 to 8 servings) 1 cup dried black-eyed peas 1/2 pound salt pork or bacon, finely diced 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1/2 cup onions, finely chopped and sauteed 1 tablespoon bacon fat 4 cloves garlic, crushed 3 cups cooked rice Seasoned salt to taste
Cook peas according to package directions. Add remaining ingredients and place in a buttered 1 1/2- to 2-quart casserole and bake at 350 degrees until liquid is absorbed, about 30 mintues. BUTTERMILK BISCUITS (10 to 12 biscuits) 2 cups flour 4 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons sugar 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup shortening 3/4 cup buttermilk
Stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in center and add buttermilk all at once. Stir just until dough clings together. Turn onto floured surface and knead 10 to 12 strokes.
Roll out to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter, dipping cutter in flour between cuts. Place biscuits on ungreased baking sheet and bake in 450-degree oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden. NO-TOSS LAYERED SALAD (8 to 10 servings) 1/2 10-ounce package chopped, fresh spinach 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 teaspoon sugar 5 to 6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped 1/2 pound bacon, fried and crumbled 1/2 head iceberg lettuce 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed 1 large onion, chopped 1 cup mayonnaise 1 cup sour cream 1 cup grated swiss cheese
In a large salad bowl, layer spinach. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Layer eggs, bacon and lettuce. Season again with remaining salt, pepper and sugar. Top with uncooked peas and onions. Combine mayonnaise and sour cream. Cover top of salad with mixture; seal edges. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. EASY SAUERKRAUT
Drain one-half the liquid off any size can sauerkraut and replace that liquid with apple juice, champagne or a semisweet white wine. Heat in saucepan and serve. ROAST FRESH HAM
Sprinkle fresh ham with salt to taste. (May also sprinkle with thyme or sage.) Place in covered roaster and bake at 325 degrees 20 to 25 minutes per pound. Uncover last half hour of cooking time. When ham is done, and still warm, remove skin and sprinkle or polka-dot ham with black pepper. Good hot or cold. Garnish with pickled crabapples or brandied peaches. BAKED CRABMEAT ON ENGLISH MUFFINS ((6 servings) 6 english muffins, split Melted butter 12 slices tomato 1 pound crabmeat 2 tablespoons onion, minced 2 tablespoons green pepper, minced 4 tablespoons celery, minced 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Toast english muffins and brush with melted butter. Place two halves in individual oval baking dish. Top each half with tomato slice. Mix crabmeat, onion, green pepper, celery, worcestershire sauce, black pepper and mayonnaise. Heap mixture on top of tomato slices. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts and is lightly browned. THE DOGMATIC BLOODY MARY (1 Bloody Mary)
(Note: Never make more than one at a time. Burn all recipes that suggest or even hint at the fact that it is possible to make a batch of Bloody Marys at once.) 1 1/2 ounces vodka 3 hearty splashes worcestershire sauce 6 dashes hot pepper sauce (or to taste) 2 shakes celery salt Clam/tomato juice to fill glass Wedge of lime
Fill an 8-ounce glass with ice cubes. Put ingredients in glass in order listed. Squeeze lime wedge. Stir.