AT FOSTER’S MARKET, my gourmet shop and cafe in Durham, North Carolina, our relentless holiday season starts around Halloween and continues until we close our doors on the last day of the year. My tradition of New Year’s Day brunch marks the first opportunity to exhale and celebrate another successful season with friends and colleagues.
Although I call it “brunch” and serve brunch foods, such as a Bloody Mary Bar with fresh and pickled garnishes, Sweet Potato Biscuits with country ham and all the fixings, a relish tray with deviled eggs, and Cheesy Grits Soufflé, the party doesn’t start until two in the afternoon. (I am realistic about what time my friends in the hospitality business will wake up!)
I’m the type of person who sets up her house two days in advance so I can enjoy how pretty everything looks for as long as possible. I also steal a few minutes here and there to do what can be done in advance. So, on New Year’s Day, I wake up, have a cup of coffee, pull the Espresso Shortbread Cookie dough out of the refrigerator to bake, toss the Beet-and-Citrus Salad with the vinaigrette, and do other last-minute touches while I wait for the house to fill with friends. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year.
BLOODY MARY BAR
Stir together 8 cups tomato juice, 2 cups vodka, 1/3 cup prepared horseradish, 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce, 3/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes), 1 Tbsp. hot sauce, 2 tsp. sea salt, and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Serve over ice with assorted vegetables. Makes about 3 qt. Hands-on 10 min., Total 10 min.
CHICKS IN A BLANKET
Dough-wrapped chicken-apple sausages are best fresh from the oven, so bake one batch at a time and serve warm.
1 (8-oz.) can refrigerated crescent rolls
1 (12-oz.) package mini smoked chicken-and-apple sausages (24 links)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds (optional)
Spicy Mustard Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375°. Unroll crescent rolls; separate into triangles. Cut each triangle into 3 long triangles.
2. Place 1 sausage link on wide end of each triangle; roll up triangles around sausages, starting at wide end. Place, point sides down, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
3. Brush rolls with egg yolk. If desired, stir together sesame seeds and next 2 ingredients, and sprinkle over rolls.
4. Bake at 375° for 14 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with Spicy Mustard Sauce (recipe below).
Note: We tested with Aidells Chicken & Apple Sausage Minis.
Makes 8 to 10 servings. Hands-on 20 min.; Total 1 hour, including sauce
Spicy Mustard Sauce
Stir together 1/2 cup honey mustard, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper, and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.
Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 12 hours.
Makes about 1 cup. Hands-on 5 min., Total 5 min.
SWEET POTATO BISCUITS
Serve these from-scratch biscuits warm with butter, honey, and jam, along with two platters— one with seared slices of country ham and pepper jelly and another with deli ham and pimiento cheese.
5 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter cubes and shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender or fork just until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and chill 10 minutes.
2. Whisk together buttermilk and sweet potato. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
3. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, reshaping scraps once. (Do not twist cutter.) Place rounds on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake at 425° for 18 to 20 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Remove from oven, and brush tops of biscuits with melted butter.
Makes 3 dozen. Hands-on 30 min.; Total 1 hour, 20 min.
Play with different citrus here, such as tangelos, blood oranges, or clementines.
3 medium-size fresh beets
3 Ruby Red grapefruit
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 cups loosely packed arugula
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Trim beet stems to 1 inch; gently wash beets, and place in an 8-inch square pan. Add 1/4 cup water, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes or until tender. Uncover and cool completely (about 30 minutes).
2. Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice from each end of grapefruit using a sharp, thin-bladed knife. Place, flat ends down, on a cutting board, and remove peel in strips, cutting from top to bottom following the curvature of fruit. Remove any remaining bitter white pith. Holding peeled grapefruit over a bowl, slice between membranes, and gently remove whole segments. Reserve 1/4 cup juice.
3. Whisk together olive oil, next 4 ingredients, and reserved 1/4 cup grapefruit juice in a bowl.
4. Peel beets, and slice into wedges. Arrange arugula on a large platter; top with grapefruit and beets. Drizzle with vinaigrette; sprinkle with pistachios. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 8 to 10 servings. Hands-on 30 min.; Total 2 hours, 10 min.
CHEESY GRITS SOUFFLÉ
4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
2 cups uncooked regular yellow grits
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 Tbsp. butter
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter a 3-qt. baking dish; freeze 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, and cook, whisking often, 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in milk, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 to 4 minutes or until grits are creamy.
3. Remove from heat, and stir in corn, next 7 ingredients, and remaining 3 tsp. salt. Spread mixture in prepared dish. Place on an aluminum foil-lined jelly-roll pan.
4. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until puffed, firm around edges, and slightly soft in center. Remove from oven to a wire rack, and cool 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 to 10 servings. Hands-on 25 min.; Total 1 hour, 20 min.
ESPRESSO SHORTBREAD COOKIES
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate-covered espresso beans, chopped
1 Tbsp. finely ground espresso beans
1/2 cup Demerara or turbinado sugar, divided
1. Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
2. Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients in a medium bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until blended; stop to scrape bowl as needed. (Do not overmix.)
3. Divide dough in half. Turn 1 dough portion out onto wax paper, and shape into a 10- x 2-inch log. Sprinkle log with 3 Tbsp. Demerara sugar, and roll log back and forth to adhere. Repeat with remaining dough portion and 3 Tbsp. Demerara sugar. Wrap logs in plastic wrap, and chill 2 to 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut chilled dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and place 1 inch apart on 2 lightly greased baking sheets. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp. Demerara sugar over cookies on each sheet.
5. Bake, in batches, at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden around edges, switching baking sheets halfway through.
6. Transfer to wire racks; cool 5 minutes.
Serve immediately, or cool completely.
Store up to 4 days.
Makes about 4 dozen. Hands-on 45 min.; Total 3 hours, 15 min.