Looking for low-stress entertaining ideas for New Year’s? The incomparable Crescent Dragonwagon—author, culinarian, speaker, playwright, mentor and all-around good spirit—shows you the way with this excerpt from her always delicious and thought-provoking “Deep Feast” blog. We’ll share one of this affirmed cornbread lover’s recipes for Extra Moist Cheese and Black Pepper Cornbread (link below), with additional links to recipes from Crescent to complete the perfect brunch. Be sure to check out her website where, in addition to “Deep Feast,” you’ll find information on her workshops, recipes, and essays on life and its many challenges.—Editor
Forget The Resolutions And Enjoy Brunch!
I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions. But when it comes to hosting a nice, relaxed New Year’s Day brunch, that’s a whole different kettle of black-eyed peas.
Since I’m always fascinated by food as a window into human hopes, fears, aspirations, and customs, I have offhandedly been exploring for years the traditional New Year’s dishes said to bring luck. If you look at those dishes, you can also get a good idea of what human beings equate luck with. (Money is a major contender, but by no means the only one.)
The Guiding Principles
What I’ve always looked for in the general vibe of this occasion is guided by a few principles:
One: by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, everybody is partied-out. Over the holidays. Not as in hung-over (hopefully), but as in over-over: over fancy party food, eaten standing up in slinky, glittery, and/or dry-clean-only garments. The allure of artichoke and crabmeat dip, brie wrapped in pastry, Christmas ham, Chanukah latkes, of I’ll-just-have-one-more-tiny-slice-of-pecan-pie, has worn thin (even as we inevitably, have worn fatter).
By New Year’s Day, “simple” is sounding good, and stress-free/low-key even better. (And no Christmas music. Please! No Christmas music! I was ready to go postal at “Holly Jolly Christmas” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Day of the Year” back around December 15th! So… I say, jazz; acoustic folk maybe. But that’s just me.)
Two: it’s got to be easy on the host. Incrementally done-ahead dishes are good. Unfussy, easy-to-serve dishes are good. Dishes which are easy on the post-holiday wallet are good too. Buffet, not sit-down. Open-house timing, spread over two or three or four hours, not at a set time. Not too many people (no press of the crowd) but not too few (while 6 to 8 is perfection for an intimate sit-down dinner party, it’s just not enough for this kind of thing).
Three: fancy, no (see number one); delicious, oh yes, of course. Even the most informal drop-in party is still a party. The food should taste as good, and be in some way special. Yet it ought to be be as comfortable as the day’s clothes feel—jeans, Uggs, sweaters you can throw in the wash.
Look Forward With Hope
Four: in keeping with the occasion and the many cross-cultural New Year’s traditions of lucky foods, what’s served should look forward, with hope. Even if you’re resolution-free, at least by the calendar it’s the dawning year’s first hurrah. As at all beginnings (though I think every day is one), we may pray for wisdom, courage, and humility.
But it doesn’t ever hurt to wish for good luck, too.
A Sample Menu And Recipe Links
Here is my take on a just-terrific New Year’s Day brunch menu. This gives you plenty of do-ahead time. For many of the world’s cultures, as I’ve said, have cooperated in providing us with a number of traditional good luck foods for the various New Years celebrated around the globe, and I’ve riffed off of that here.
And that these foods are delectable, healthy, inexpensive, easy to do ahead—well, that, in itself, is just plain good luck.
Editor’s Note: You’ll find a link for Crescent’s Extra Moist Cheese and Black Pepper Cornbread here. In addition, you’ll find recipes for these other brunch dishes on her Deep Feast blog (with more to come)!
- Spicy-Smoky East-West Black-Eyed Peas
- Brazilian Style Collard Green Salad
- Southern-Style Gluten-Free Cornbread
- Four-Citrus Pico de Gallo
- Golden Orange-Pecan Cake with a Citrus Glaze
It simply doesn’t get better than celebrating New Year’s with The Dragon!