We all could use that little extra something for 2013.
Cultures around the world have various beliefs and superstitions about the best food to eat to presage a lucky or happy new year.
Pork is favoured by some because a pig roots forward to search for its food (as opposed to other animals that root backward).
Pork and sauerkraut is eaten by the Pennsylvania Dutch and others of German extract in part because eating sour cabbage on New Year’s is thought to bring sweetness for the rest of the year.
In Italy — and other cultures — lentils are thought to resemble coins and portend good fortune in the New Year. A specialty sausage of the Emilia-Romagna region called cotechino is a traditional New Year’s accompaniment.
Preserved fish is another New Year’s tradition in many different forms and in many countries. You’ll need to get started a couple of days in advance, but gravlax (cured salmon) is relatively easy to make and beautiful to present.
Set out a buffet of all three at your New Year’s Eve or New Year’s gatherings, and perhaps one of your guests will have just a slightly better chance of winning the lottery in the new year.
Yield: about 16 appetizer servings
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ounce (about 1/2 cup) chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 (about 1-pound each) thick fillets fresh salmon
1. Make the curing mix. Thoroughly combine sugar, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
2. Lay one fillet of salmon skin-side down in a large, clean dish so that it is completely flat. Spread all of the curing mixture evenly over the salmon fillet.
3. Place the other fillet flesh-side down on top of the first fillet. Wrap the fillets tightly with plastic wrap. Weigh them down with a plate and 1 to 2 cans or other weights totalling between 1 and 2 pounds.
4. Refrigerate for 48 hours, turning every 12 hours and draining off the fluid. After 48 hours, unwrap the fillets and pat dry with paper towels.
5. To serve, cut thinly on a diagonal with a very sharp knife. Serve with brown bread and butter, if desired.
Adapted from Cooking Season by Season, edited by Emma Callery and Susannah Steel (Dorling Kindersley, 2012).
Pork and Sauerkraut
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 pounds sauerkraut
2 pounds bone-in rib pork chops
3 1/2 Tbsp flour, divided
1 1/2 Tbsp bacon drippings or vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tbsp paprika, or to taste
1. Wash sauerkraut thoroughly and squeeze dry. Place in a medium pot, add water just to cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cook covered for 1 hour.
2. Mix salt to taste with 2 1/2 Tbsp flour and dredge the meat in the mixture. In a large frying pan, heat the bacon drippings over medium-high heat and fry the meat until golden. Add onions slices and continue cooking until onions are translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Drain the sauerkraut and add it to pan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove the sauerkraut and pork to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan.
4. Mix 1 Tbsp flour with water to form a slurry. Bring the drippings to a boil; add the flour slurry to thicken the drippings. Stir in garlic powder and paprika until dissolved, then let cool slightly. Return pork and sauerkraut to pan, heat through and serve.
Cotechino with Lentils
Yield: 6 servings
1 (about 1 pound) cotechino sausage
1 Tbsp chopped onion
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp chopped celery
1 cup dried lentils, washed in cold water and drained (See note)
n Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook the sausage. If using a partially dried or heavily salt-cured sausage, soak in cold water for at least four hours or overnight. Drain.
2. Place the sausage in a pot with enough cold water to cover it. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a slow boil and cook for 2 1/2 hours. Turn off the heat and let rest for 15 minutes.
3. When the sausage has been boiling for 1 1/2 hours, make the lentils. Bring 1 litre of water to a simmer in a saucepan. In a heavy pot, cook the onion in oil over medium-high heat, stirring, until it turns a pale gold, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the chopped celery, stir to coat in the oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Add the lentils to the pot, stirring thoroughly to coat. Add enough of the simmering water to cover the lentils and cook, covered, at a very low simmer, until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. If necessary, add more simmering water to keep the lentils covered, or add some of the cooking water from the sausage for more flavour in the lentils.
5. When the lentils start to get tender, stop adding liquid so that the lentils will absorb all the remaining cooking liquid. If the lentils reach doneness with liquid still in the pot, turn up the heat and boil away the remaining liquid, stirring the lentils as they cook. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Transfer the sausage to a cutting board and cut into slices 1/2-inch thick. Spoon the lentils onto a warm platter, arrange the sausage slices on top, and serve.
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, by Marcella Hazan (Knopf, 2010)
Note: Use brown or green lentils that hold their shape.
© Copyright 2013