Pretty much every holiday has some kind of yin-yang emotional struggle attached to it. Well, okay, maybe not President's Day or Groundhog's Day, they're fairly Switzerland-like as far as holidays go. I've never heard of someone say, "Groundhog's Day makes me cringe; I always associate it with my Uncle Ed fighting with his third wife, and everyone drinking too much and regressing to their worst adolescent selves."
BUT most other holidays do have some kind of inherent tension built it, and New Year's Eve is clearly one of those holidays. For most people, the push/pull of New Year's is the "Do-I-make-elaborate-and-very-likely-expensive-New-Year's-Eve-plans-and-get-my-hopes-up-that-it-will-be-the-night-of-my-life-only-to-be-disappointed?" vs. the "If-I-don't-plan-anything-special-will-I-end-up-feeling-let-down-while-I-watch-the-ball-drop-my-my-sofa-and-regretting-it?"
Bet you didn't know that these feelings had so many hyphens in them, did you?
I am one of those people who never knows exactly what they want to do on that emotional apex of an evening, , when one year clicks over into the next. …..5! …4! …3! …2! …1!
The drama can increase once you have kids to add to the mix. Are you with them? Are you hunting down an overpriced babysitter?
In fact, in recent years, this kid thing has actually saved me and my husband from the annual mental wrestling match. The kids are definitely old enough to notice that we are ditching them, and they're not old enough to tell us to go screw because they have their own plans (at that point — from what I gather from friends with teen children — you then get to spend your New Year's attempting to outsmart the smuggling of alcohol out of the house, and staying sober enough to be able to pick up your pukey kid from whatever clandestine party he or she attended). God, I am the worst digresser ever.
So, at this point in time, the annual dilemma is de facto solved. New Year's Eve is with the kids, because they actually want to be with us, and we're quite fond of them. And also with other people who also have kids in the same age bracket. Which is nice.
Are you wondering when I am going to get to the food part of things?
My New Year's gift to you is to spare you the blow-by-blow thinking process that got me to this menu. I will simply say that because New Year's Eve get-togethers tend to be lengthy, the idea is to have food that you can kind of graze all evening long, that the kids can cobble together a dinner-ish meal with, with a nod towards a bona fide entrée in the form of a hearty soup or a casserole that appears on the buffet around 10ish.
A New Year's Eve Dinner for a Bunch of People and Their Kids
(yes, it's a little starch-laden, I know)
• Potato Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraiche (pictured above)
• Crudites and toasted pita triangles with some dips (I'm thinking the very classic and indulgent Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip for starters) (pictured above)
• Platter of interesting cheeses with great sliced bread
• Bowls of olives
• Beef and Chicken Satay
• Pigs in a Blanket (storebought and heated up, baby)
• Shrimp Cocktail
• Bite-sized frittatas baked in mini-muffins tins
• Seeded Cheddar Cheese Straws
• Phyllo Triangles with Spinach and Feta
And for the dinner:
• I'm debating a chicken stew or a seafood stew….served over pasta
And you know what? I'm feeling quite optimistic about 2010, and I am going to be happy to cook it a nice meal for its birthday.
• See more 2009 Holiday Guest Posts here
(Images: Gourmet; Frankie Frankeny; Katie Workman)