New Year's Eve midnight suppers usually feature simple, one-dish fare.
Why? Simple: most people prefer not to cook on New Year's Eve.
You can't go wrong with soups and stews. They have been the heroes of the one-dish meal since great-great-grandmother stoked the stove. Oyster stew, one of the most traditional New Year's suppers, is still a winner, as are bean dishes and casseroles.
The idea is to prepare them ahead, when you can take a moment or two from the busy holiday schedule, so you will be free on the day of festivities.
That means the entire menu should be simple, too. This year, we've chosen a group of do-ahead menus that are slightly more substantial than you might expect from a New Year's Eve supper.
Pick and choose among the menus to suit your style and skill. There are suggestions for handling the logistics. You may even mix them up to accommodate your needs. And don't worry if they don't exactly match. Entertaining gaffes are quickly forgiven and forgotten on New Year's Eve.
Chili is a grand dish to put before New Year's Eve guests. And it's grand for the cook too, who can prepare it well in advance and freeze it if need be. The smoked chicken brings old-time chili up to date.
With the chili we added rice, noodles or spaghetti and a mixed green salad, which are the only last-minute duties of the hostess. Prepared properly, they too can be put together early in the day.
The dessert suggestion is an orange-raspberry coupe, which can be put together a few days in advance. Peel small, whole oranges and combine with berries. Douse with Cointreau or other liqueur and sprinkle with sugar. Mix and let stand at least 24 hours, turning occasionally.
Turkey curry supper, in keeping with the holiday season, calls for other do-ahead dishes such as steamed rice (cook in steamer early in the day), fruit salad (made several hours ahead) and English trifle that is best prepared a day ahead to properly meld flavors.
Paella too can be prepared up to the point of adding the seafood, which should be done at the last moment. This could be done while reheating the paella. A bean salad is do-ahead, and so is flan. If you don't have a favorite recipe, use a standard cookbook custard.
Chicken pie made with filo dough can be completely prepared a day or two in advance and reheated in the oven to crisp the dough before serving. The pudding and bean salad are do-aheads.
Pastitsio, an ancient Greek dish, is Americanized with the substitution of salmon for meat. Baklava, homemade with our recipe or store-bought, is the perfect finale.
A Japanese curry supper is relatively new to Los Angeles. The Japanese curry base is packaged and can be prepared ahead or even at the last moment with little effort. Keep the rice in the steamer for replenishing and prepare the Diplomat Pudding or any pudding, coffee jelly or other interesting jellies ahead. Even ice cream is a good, simple dessert for this menu.
For other ideas, we've added a few entrees to incorporate into your own menu plans. Cassoulet is a perfect substantial, do-ahead supper idea. So is the Provencale tian, a French bean and spinach casserole to which you may add meat, fish or poultry.
Another fine New Year's Eve supper idea is Italian pasta e fagiole to which you can add meat. It too is do-ahead.
Then, of course, you have Oyster Stew or chowder, the all-time classic, which will blend well with any of the menu accompaniments above.
As for beverages, that's a personal choice. Some hosts stick to one kind of drink, such as Champagne or wine, while others offer a full bar.
Smoked Chicken Chili
Rice, Noodles or Spaghetti
Tossed Mixed Lettuce Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
Prepare the chili the day before. Keep spaghetti from sticking by tossing with olive oil. For the coupe, mix orange segments with thawed frozen raspberries splashed with Kirsch or Grand Marnier.
Paella L.A. Party
Steamed Basmati Rice
Papaya - Mango Salad with
Have Pimms Cup ready for guests to pick up from tray as they arrive. Prepare Turkey Curry and English Trifle a day ahead. Steam rice ahead but microwave to reheat. Arrange salad early in the day and chill until ready to serve. (Use papaya halves filled with diced mango, mint leaves and vinaigrette on a pretty lettuce leaf.)
Paella L.A. Party
Dry Sherry on the Rocks
L.A. Confetti Paella
Tossed Vegetable-Bean Salad with Creamy French Dressing
Prepare Paella up to the point of adding shellfish. Use assorted canned beans and vegetables for salad and prepare early in the day. Prepare flan a day ahead.
California Chicken Pie Supper
California Chicken Pie
Garbanzo-Kidney Bean Salad
Prepare the pie a day ahead and reheat at 350 degrees 20 minutes. Prepare basic vanilla pudding, but fold in whipped cream and add amaretto liqueur flavoring. Sprinkle top of pudding with crushed amaretto cookies.