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6 recipes to make your New Year's Eve party festive

Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Entertaining

1 stick butter, softened

2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup (6 3/4 ounces) creamy salted peanut butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cup (6 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) unsalted peanuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil across the bottom and up the 2 long sides, then lightly coat with melted butter, oil or nonstick spray.

2. Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a double boiler. Place the chopped chocolate in the top of the double boiler (off the heat). Turn off the heat, then set the chocolate over the steaming water. While you are preparing the rest of the recipe, occasionally stir the chocolate until it is smooth and melted. Let it sit over the warm water until needed.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until much lighter in color (the mixture will look clumpy and sandy even when fully creamed). You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl, but you might need to beat the mixture a little longer to achieve the same results. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a clean rubber spatula.

4. Add the peanut butter and beat well on medium-high for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl again. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork to blend. With the mixer running on medium, add the eggs, about a tablespoon at a time, incorporating each addition fully before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla. Scrape down the bowl.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the peanut-butter mixture all at once, then blend on the lowest speed just until you no longer see any streaks of flour and the batter is smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that any patches of flour or butter are blended into the batter.

6. Stir half of the batter into the melted chocolate (it may look slightly grainy, but this is fine). Stir the chopped peanuts into the remaining half of the batter.

7. Use a small offset spatula, if you have one, to spread a little more than half of the plain peanut batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. This layer will be very thin and it will seem like there is not enough batter, but it will be fine. Top with all of the chocolate batter, spreading it into an even layer (this is easiest to do by dropping big dollops of batter around the pan, then merging them with the spatula).

8. Drop the remaining peanut batter by level tablespoon in 3 evenly spaced rows of 5 dollops each. If you have any batter left, drop it in wherever you like. Drag a toothpick or the tip of a paring knife through each dollop a couple of times, swirling it into the chocolate batter around it. The batter will look very rough and ragged — don’t worry, it will smooth out as it bakes, and the slightly rugged look that remains is very appealing.

9. Bake the brownies for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Transfer to a rack to cool for 15 to 20 minutes. To remove the brownies from the pan, run a thin knife or flexible spatula along the 2 short edges to loosen them from the pan. Grasp the parchment paper or foil along the long edges and pull gently upward. Cut as desired. Serve warm.

Per serving: 235 calories; 12 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 33 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 30 g carbohydrate; 22 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 99 mg sodium; 64 mg calcium

Recipe from “The Art & Soul of Baking,” by Cindy Mushet

POTATOES, SOUR CREAM AND CAVIAR

Yield: 16 servings

16 new potatoes or very small potatoes

3 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons caviar

In a large pot of water, boil the potatoes until they are easily pierced with a fork or sharp knife. Drain. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each potato so it can stand upright, and scoop out a small hollow out of the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Fill each hollow with 1 teaspoon of sour cream and top with 1/8 teaspoon of caviar.

Per serving: 70 calories; 1 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 5 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 15 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 26 mg sodium; 13 mg calcium

Recipe by Daniel Neman

BEST-EVER MARINATED SHRIMP

Note: This dish should be started the day before serving.

Yield: 24 servings

12 cups water (3 quarts) divided

2 tablespoons Old Bay (or similar) seafood seasoning

21/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1 onion, quartered

1 lemon, quartered

30 ice cubes

1 1/2 pounds medium to large shrimp in shells

1 large onion, thinly sliced

7 bay leaves

1 cup good olive oil

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons capers, drained

2 tablespoons caper juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

4 dashes hot pepper sauce, optional

1. In a large pot, combine 6 cups of the water, seafood seasoning, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, quartered onion and lemon; bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about 4 minutes. Scoop out 2 cups of this flavored liquid and place in a large mixing bowl. Add ice cubes to the bowl, stir, and let cool.

2. Add 6 more cups of water to the pot with the hot liquid and seasonings and bring back to a full boil. Add the shrimp. When the water comes back to a simmer, immediately turn heat down to medium-low. Simmer the shrimp until pink and starting to curl, 2 to 41/2 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Scoop out shrimp and place instantly in the prepared bowl of flavored water with the ice cubes. Stir to cool evenly and add more ice cubes if all melt.

3. Let shrimp stand in the flavored water about 5 minutes. Drain, peel and devein.

 

4. In a large mixing bowl, alternate layers of shrimp, thin onion slices and bay leaves. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, capers, caper juice, Worcestershire sauce, the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and optional hot sauce. Pour over shrimp, cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain the vinaigrette, remove some of the onions (for aesthetics) and serve cold.

Per serving: 103 calories; 10 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 31 mg cholesterol; 4 g protein; 1 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 439 mg sodium; 23 mg calcium

Recipe from “CookWise,” by Shirley O. Corriher

LEMON CURD CUPS

Yield: 30 servings

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

1 cup minus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

3/4 cup strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

30 mini phyllo dough cups

Whipped cream, optional

1. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and water and set it aside. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with 2 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil. Check to see that the water is at least 2 inches below the top portion of the double boiler.

2. Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into the top of the double boiler (off the heat) and whisk until blended. Add the lemon juice and mix well. Reduce the heat until the water is at a gentle boil. Place the egg mixture over the water and cook, whisking constantly but leisurely, and scraping the edges frequently so the eggs don’t scramble there, until the curd is very thick, about 7 to 15 minutes. A finished curd should hold its shape; when the whisk is lifted and a bit of curd falls back into the mixture, it should remain distinct on the surface rather than blending back into the mixture. Do not allow to boil.

3. Immediately strain the curd through a strainer set over a medium bowl. Use a rubber spatula to push the curd through the strainer, leaving any bits of scrambled egg. Add the cold butter pieces to the curd, burying them so they melt quickly. Wait 1 minute, then whisk until the butter is completely melted and blended with the curd.

4. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd, then set the medium bowl in the large bowl of ice water. Once the curd has completely cooked, use or store in the refrigerator (with the plastic wrap still on the surface) for up to 1 week.

5. Fill the mini phyllo cups with the curd. If desired, top with whipped cream.

Per cup: 74 calories; 4 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 43 mg cholesterol; 1 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; no fiber; 18 mg sodium; 6 mg calcium

Nutrition analysis did not include whipping cream.

Lemon curd recipe from “The Art & Soul of Baking,” by Cindy Mushet

MAC AND CHEESE CANAPÉS

Yield: 24 servings

2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 cup elbow macaroni (uncooked)

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese

1 cup grated Cotswold cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly coat it with nonstick spray and then add 1 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan, using the back of the spoon to spread the cheese mound into a thin circle. Repeat twice, so you have 3 cheese rounds cooking at once. Once the cheese is golden, after about 2 minutes, use a small spatula to carefully flip it over. Cook the other side until golden, about 20 to 30 seconds, and then immediately transfer the rounds to mini tart pans or other small molds, such as small glass ramekins.

2. Press a second tart pan or small ramekin on top of the first to mold the cheese rounds into a cup shape. Cool for a few minutes, then lift off the top pan, remove the Parmesan cup, and set aside. Repeat making cheese cups until you have 24 (this will take about 1 cup to 1¼ cups of the Parmesan cheese. Be sure to reserve 1 cup of the grated Parmesan for the macaroni and cheese).

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and macaroni and return to a boil. Cook, following the package instructions, until the pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.

4. While the macaroni is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Pour the cream into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and simmer gently over medium to medium-low heat (be careful so the cream doesn’t bubble up and out of the pan) until it is reduced by half, 20 to 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheddar, Cotswold and the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan cheeses; whisk until the sauce is completely smooth. Stir in the cooked macaroni and remove from heat.

5. To serve, fill each Parmesan cup with the macaroni and cheese, and sprinkle with parsley.

Per piece: 125 calories; 9 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 27 mg cholesterol; 6 g protein; 5 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; no fiber; 294 mg sodium; 175 mg calcium

Recipe by Peter Callahan from the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership cookbook published by the US Department of State

HOME-CURED SALMON (GRAVLAX)

Yield: 16 servings

1 pound salmon fillet

1 cup salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped

Pepper

1. Rinse salmon and pat dry. Place on a rack in a baking pan. In a bowl, mix together salt, sugar and dill. Add plenty of pepper. Spoon the mixture heavily on top of the fillet; it should rise at least 1 inch above the surface of the fish. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place a cutting board or another baking pan on top. Add a few canned goods to weigh it down slightly and refrigerate 24 to 36 hours.

2. Scrape off all of the salt and sugar under a running faucet. Slice thin on the bias and serve on slices of pumpernickel cocktail bread with dollops of sour cream, if desired. The cured salmon should keep, refrigerated, at least 1 week.

Per serving: 43 calories; 1 g fat; 1 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 6 g protein; 2 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; no fiber; 906 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium

Adapted from “The Frog and the Redneck” cookbook, by Jimmy Sneed