Christmas is over and New Year’s Eve is on my mind. As a chef, this is a night to really go over the top to wow the guests and give them something to talk about with friends when the old question of “how was your New Year’s” comes up at the office.
If I wasn’t booked with a party this New Year’s Eve, I’d be hosting a small gathering at my house. I would make several different kinds of finger foods so everyone could socialize and nibble on good eats at the same time.
Here are a few suggestions. How about a quarter of an avocado stuffed with shrimp salad and wrapped in bacon? Or try mixing up some hush puppy batter and adding some fine diced raw cabbage palm into it. Fry it and then serve it on a larger piece of cabbage palm. Another winner is prosciutto-wrapped sea scallops and a dab of citrus aioli or some other fancy sauce on top. And who doesn’t like shrimp cocktails? (Made with Gulf pinks, not those nasty imports.)
If you want to serve some ribs, then cut them into single rib pieces and cut a small amount of meat off one end. The bone make a great handle to serve them lollipop-style dipped into your favorite barbecue sauce. I like to mix sweet chili sauce with a smoky sauce.
I suggest making some kind of fancied-up deviled eggs. I would fold some black truffles into the yolks along with a touch of Dijon, then pipe them back into the egg whites and cover with a nice little garnish of micro greens.
Smoked salmon can be bought pre-sliced, and rolling the slices up and placing them on a cracker with some seasoned sour cream is always good. You will find that it’s easy to arrange the salmon slices like a flower.
If you want to get crazy and really wow your guests, then grab some quail breasts. Wrap them in bacon, then toss them into them oven at 375 degrees for 6 minutes.
I could go on and on, but I want to share the recipe from a recent meal a friend and I enjoyed. There are many doves on the Placida ranch where I work in my spare time. It seems like an oasis for them, with plenty of food and protection. There are at least four bald eagles that frequent the ranch, so I’m sure they are taking some as well as fish from the ponds.
I was only interested in the dove breasts because it’s fairly easy to make a couple quick cuts and you’ve got what you need.
I wanted this to be a fast cook, so after washing and inspecting the dove breast for shotgun pellets, I simply placed them on a bed of chopped bacon and fresh green beans and then dusted them with Everglades seasoning. I roasted them at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. They came out great, and I didn’t mind the touch of gaminess in their flavor.
If you aren’t a fan of the game flavor and you have the time, you can soak the dove breasts in buttermilk overnight. The milk will pull the blood from the meat, reducing the gamy taste.
We had a nice Cabernet to go with our meal — and this time, I made sure there was a dessert.
Chef Tim Spain is a Florida native and has years of experience cooking professionally, both in restaurants and in private settings. He offers private catering and personal culinary classes. For more info, visit ChefTimSpain.com or call 406-580-1994.