Cooking For Others: The At-Home New Year’s "Prix Fixe" Dinner

EVENT: Josh’s Birthday Dinner; New Year’s Eve At-Home Prix Fix Dinner
VENUE: Phoebe’s Apartment, Flatiron
TYPE: Elaborate 3-Course Celebratory Dinner
MENU: Oysters with Mignonette Sauce; Crispy Shrimp with Cilantro-Harissa Aioli; Grilled Chermoula Lamb Chops with Cumin Yogurt Sauce; Spinach Orzo

If you don’t have a party to go to, New Year’s can be one of the most dreaded holidays of the year. And regardless of the fact that you have 364 days to plan something awesome, it just doesn’t always happen, and you may find yourselves staring at overpriced five-course prix fixe menus at restaurants you used to like and feeling the onset of dread.

For this reason, I make it a point to never be in New York for New Year’s. But no matter what city I escape to, I always end up in the same predicament. Two years ago, I found myself desperately trolling the harbor of Punta del Este, Uruguay for a restaurant where friends and I could eat and watch the fireworks without paying 2,000 pesos (which sounds ways scarier than 100 dollars) to do so. I was the only girl in the group, and therefore the only person who felt strongly about not eating pizza on the beach in my silver party dress. I ended up finding a moderately priced three-course prix fix with unlimited champagne. The boys were a little unhappy about the price, but they made up for it in the number of bottles of bubbly they proceeded to uncork and spray all over the restaurant.

Last year, Sophie and I went to visit Whitney in London. The two of us are planners. Whitney, not so much. This meant that on the 30th, Sophie and I were desperately calling every restaurant in London that we knew to try and get a three-person reservation. When that didn’t work, we started going up to strangers in bars to ask them what their plan was for New Year’s, and we wound up with an invitation to a dinner party at another ex-pat’s flat. Though it was a little awkward at first to toast 2010 with strangers, we ended up feasting on beef tenderloin, dancing excessively in the living room, and playing drunken charades until 5am. I believe our host had already gone to bed by the time we took the hint and went home.

So, in the spirit of the previous year’s dinner party success, I preach that dining with friends over a long, drawn-out, luxurious home-cooked meal is the best way to ring in the New Year.

New Year’s Eve is one of the few holidays or occasions that warrants a formal, three-course dinner party menu. This is the one time to splurge, to choose dishes that require a little more on-the-spot attention, and to use your actual dinner plates instead of the usual Chinet. The menu suggestions below are all great options. But the new entrée in the mix, Grilled Charmoula Lamb Chops, originated as a special birthday dish for Josh. Just as I suggest you do on New Year’s, when I made these chops for Josh’s birthday, I violated almost all of my usual rules and price and timing and plates.

For tips and menu suggestions, complete with the recipe for these lamb chops, read on for how to create a great New Year’s Eve “prix fixe” in your own home.

From my kitchen, ringing in 2011, to yours,


**Tips & Tricks**

Keep it intimate. The ideal party size for a formal meal is between 4 and 8, 6 being the magic number. As Whitney, Sophie and I experienced last year, it doesn’t take too many people or too many glasses of champagne to create a great dance party

Slow it down. Most people start their dinners on the later side so that they can be occupied until midnight. But you can also just plan for a long, drawn-out meal. It’s best to be on dessert by the time the ball drops. Start a little later than normal, but plan for many courses. You can control the pace, so allow for plenty of drinking time between dishes.

Plate individually, and don’t be afraid to cook to order. Since the pace is slower than at most dinner parties, don’t be afraid of dishes that require a little bit of attention during the course of the meal. Just make sure that the attention required don’t involve any advanced technique, or tasks that couldn’t be completed by a drunk person. The lamb chops below should be grilled within 30 minutes of serving, but the act of cooking them is not very difficult and doesn’t take very long.

Splurge on the booze. It’s fun to serve a different alcohol with each course, perhaps beginning and ending with champagne. You can always ask your guests to contribute. Try assigning one person to each course for an extra special experience.

**Menu Ideas**
Coconut Curry Mussels
Flank Steak with Mushrooms and Chive Butter
Grilled Chermoula Lamb Chops with Cumin Yogurt (recipe follows)

Grilled Charmoula Lamb Chops with Cumin Yogurt Sauce
Makes 2 servings

1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
1 cup cilantro leaves (plus more for garnish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin
Dash cayenne or ¼ teaspoon harissa
6 lamb rib chops (about 1 1/2 pound total), trimmed

1 cup Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the shallot, garlic, cilantro, oil, lemon juice and zest, salt, cumin and cayenne (or harissa) in a small food processor and puree until the sauce is smooth.

Place the lamb in a large Ziplock bag. Pour three quarters of the marinade over the chops. Shake them around until well-coated in the charmoula, then place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Cover and store the remaining charmoula.

Combine the yogurt, cumin, and lemon juice in a small mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. (This can be done the night before as well.)

When ready to serve, heat an indoor grill pan over a high flame. Brush with olive oil, or coat with cooking spray. Remove the lamb chops from the marinade. Grill for 5 minutes on each side, rotating each chop 90 degrees halfway through the cooking process on each side to create a nice cross-hatch. Remove to a plate or cutting board and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.

To serve, divide the yogurt sauce between two plates. Stand the lamb chops upright in the middle of the plate (teepee effect). Spoon the remaining charmoula over the chops, and garnish with a healthy handful of cilantro. Serve immediately alongside herbed rice or orzo.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Anonymous

    This menu sounds perfect and delicious! If my friends didn’t already have plans I would love to have thrown this party! Maybe next year… I need to make the steak with chive butter NYE or not. Butter on a steak doesn’t get any more decadent.

  • Blog is the New Black

    Can I come to your place for NYE?! Looks awesome!

  • Vanessa

    Everything here looks so amazingly delicious!

  • Anonymous

    Love the stories about the new bf! :) Yes, always a must to plan New Year’s waayyy in advanced, or not at all. Remember, everyone will always love you if you have a wedding on New Year’s! lol!

  • SeattleDee

    The menu is tempting, and your advice is right on target. Food, friends, fun… how can it miss?! Happy New Year.

  • Frankie

    Not gonna wait til New Year’s for those chops.

  • Angela Wu

    Nice food!! I found one website offering free puzzle games. Just take one minute to sign up then you will receive one game. I’ve done it and enjoy playing now. Would you like one? The URL is as below :

  • Pingback: Hot Blue Cheese Dip with Sweet Potato Chips -

Buy Now - In The Small Kitchen