New Year's Day Brunch

January 5, 2015
At Home with Friends


New Year’s Day Brunch Party: The Food

When I was a kid, my parents always had a New Year’s Day brunch. The menu featured lots of Jewish deli food, bagels and cream cheese and lox (which we now call “smoked salmon”), corned beef, pastrami, potato salad, cole slaw, other cold cuts, lots of pastries and of course my mother’s blintz souffle. It was always buffet style and people would come throughout the day to eat, watch football games, and celebrate the New Year. I remember these parties with great fondness.

I can still see my mom carefully and methodically arranging the fish platters. Most of my mom’s menu was cold because the buffet was set up to last until the football games ended. I also remember feeling that, depending on the football schedule, the party went on a bit too long, too late into the afternoon and sometimes early evening.

I started having New Year’s Day celebration more than 10 years ago. My New Year’s Day Brunch is less about football and more about the food and getting together with good friends to set the tone for the year.  My mother’s influence is obvious. My menu always includes some of the traditional foods she served: bagels and cream cheese and lox, blintz souffle. I’ve expanded this to include dishes I want to eat, I have tasted on my travels throughout the year, and surprises that will delight my guests. Also, because this is New Year’s Day, I always include enough foods that will settle a stomach for someone who might have done a bit too much celebrating the night before. This is the meal to serve lots of carb options.

The blintz souffle is the perfect cure for a hangover and wonderfully delicious. It’s very simple to make and in fact is prepared the day before and baked the morning of the party. I was pleased that it was such a hit. Many of my guests remembered their mothers making a version of this dish and it brought back great memories. Food has such power to take us back to earlier times and places.

The shakshuka was my attempt to replicate eggs cooked in tomato sauce that I had eaten in Morocco. When I described this dish to a foodie friend, she said, “Oh, you mean ‘shakshuka’.” So it had a name. I used my memory to create the flavors in the tomato sauce and used Moroccan spices of course. It was a huge hit. I love coming back from a trip and sharing with friends some of the foods and flavors I’ve enjoyed.

The lamb hash also had a bit of Moroccan influence as you will see from the recipe. I had thought about making lamb hash earlier this year when I had leftover leg of lamb. This recipe does double duty. The leg of lamb itself is rubbed with a paste which includes prunes, spices and dijon mustard. It’s roasted slowly in the oven. I toss red potatoes or baking potatoes in the oven at the same time. You slice and enjoy the lamb with delicious gravy the first night and use the leftovers for hash. The hash was an experiment that turned out to be a keeper recipe.

I guess I was thinking a lot about childhood memories and food and I got a hankering for chicken livers. My father and I used to love sauteed chicken livers and scrambled eggs for breakfast. No one else in the family liked chicken livers so we didn’t have them very often. About 10 years ago, I developed a recipe for chicken livers and mushrooms in chasseur sauce.  I really didn’t know if anyone else would eat chicken livers, but I decided to make them anyway. I was delighted to overhear the comment “I love chicken livers and these are amazing!” Also, I made extra thinking I would have leftovers the next day with some scrambled eggs. I had one lonely liver left. I probably will make a batch in the next two weeks so I can get my fix.

Roasted fingerling potatoes and roasted multicolor organic tomatoes rounded out this food menu and complimented the other dishes.

In addition, for those with a sweet tooth, there was fresh fruit salad, an apple fig cardamom crumble, rich Greek yoghurt, lots of pastries from the deli, and homemade pumpkin monkey bread. The biggest surprise of the party was that most of the pastries were left. With so much good food and really fresh bagels, people didn’t go for the sweets. Is this a trend for 2015? I will keep you posted.

I’m just starting to think about 2015, my parties and my travels. I don’t know where my travels will take me and the parties aren’t yet planned. I can only hope that wherever I go, I come home inspired to create new dishes, incorporate new flavors and bring my family and friends a little “taste” of my journey.

Happy New Year to you and your friends and family!


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