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The good eats aren’t only for Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year’s has many great food traditions as well.
e’ve gotten it all out of the way. We watched enough (so much) “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas” that we are thinking of eating barbecued otter whilst waiting for the MoonPie to drop. So far none of the kids has had the chance to “shoot their eyes out,” nor have they stuck their tongues to the frozen school flagpole. Jimmy Stewart still rules and I’m reminded that I tried in vain to name baby Henry after the angel Clarence. Yes, “Die Hard” counts.
This was the fastest Christmas season on record. Perhaps having a little one in the house, a business to tend to, a teenager buying gifts for a girl and a middle child now tasked with the role of big brother have contributed to this expeditious season. Lord knows my head is spinning. I’m ready to pump the brakes and ring in 2019 with the slowest bells available.
That brings us to a new menu. Whether it’s the night before or Jan. 1, there’s lots to look forward to. Kick off your shoes, turn on some football and get ready to eat. There is no sense in starting that diet at this point. In Mobile, New Year’s resolutions begin after Mardi Gras and you know it.
If you do have a New Year’s Eve party full of cocktails and debauchery, make dishes that can be served the next day. And remember football. Have you ever sat on your couch watching a game and thought, “I’d sure like some of that dip we had last night.” I have. Leftover dip is the Jan. 1 hangover cure.
Get a jump-start on your black-eyed peas by making Texas Caviar with lots of onions, cilantro, red bell pepper, corn, cumin and cheap Italian dressing. It’s always better after a couple days in the fridge. Don’t forget a squirt of lemon juice to brighten it up. Scoop-shaped corn chips are your crunchy vessel by which to take in this relatively healthy favorite.
Relatively healthy? I didn’t mean to sound like I was pushing a diet on you just yet. Here is a dip that has NOTHING healthy about it. It’s a crawfish cheese dip that is good enough to convert non-shellfish eaters. Once the mudbugs start showing up you can save your leftover tails, but it is best if you devein. For now we can grab a pound of frozen from the seafood case at the grocery store.
CRAWFISH CHEESE DIP
1 stick of butter
1 cup diced white onion
1 cup diced bell pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
2 lbs. crawfish tails, cooked
Creole seasoning to taste
2 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
Green onion for garnish
In a Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium heat, melt the butter to sauté the white onion and bell pepper. Add the minced garlic and cook for one minute, followed by the crawfish tails. Sprinkle a little Creole seasoning and heat thoroughly.
Next comes the cream cheese. Dump it in and watch it melt as you stir with a wooden spoon. I like to keep this dip in a slow cooker to maintain its consistency and it’s so much easier to reheat the next day. I love it with tortilla chips but toast points are probably better. I am as big a fan of plain old Ro-Tel as anyone, but this is a nice departure. Did I mention it isn’t healthy?
The first day of the year is all about the cabbage and the Hoppin’ John. There is a new person in this family who prefers collards to cabbage on this day and also seems to think it’s a good idea to mix the Hoppin’ John with the greens. I’d rather cut off my big toe. Here’s why: Hoppin’ John is sacred. Cabbage and collards are fine as frog’s hair. Neither of these need any help.
Furthermore I prefer to treat them as two separate meals. I am going to eat too much Hoppin’ John, that’s a given. The cabbage is my green and I almost always braise it in some pork fat, finishing it with beer. This go-round, my eyes are on deer sausage. Many locally processed venison sausages come spicy. If you can get some, do. Loose sausage is best.
Melt a couple pieces of bacon and cook the sausage, breaking it up as you go. Add a whole onion, diced, and half a head of cabbage coarsely chopped. Cook, stirring frequently until the cabbage gets shiny and begins to wilt.
Next add a beer, but not just any beer. Try a grapefruit shandy or some other fruity beer and bring to a boil. Drop the temp, cover and simmer until no part of it is crunchy. Spicy venison sausage and grapefruit shandy are your secret weapons.
This season will also see the return of the cheese ball. My favorite is a classic. The green onion and hard salami cheese ball is untouchable. Who would have thought cream cheese, deli salami, a little mayonnaise and a bit of grated cheddar would make such a good team? It’s the anti-dip dip!
We do a good bit of cheese and meat boards around here, but this one is worth breaking out that cute little marble-handled cheese knife someone regifted you. It sat, dormant and lonely, in the back of that drawer, pushed into the corner by training chopsticks, seven church keys, a one-handed can opener and discarded Cajun injector syringes for too long. Clean out that drawer and polish it. Cheese balls are in fashion again.
You have a few days before returning to work. Get started on your dips, watch your movies, scream at your football team. There’s plenty of eating left. Don’t rush it. Let’s live life in the slow lane for a while.