Has the hype of 2012 fallen upon you yet? Me? Ummm, not so much. Every year I find myself secretly looking for ways to avoid masses of people (and the crazy amateur pyrotechs among them...seriously almost said good-bye to a kneecap one year!) In the Czech Republic it's quite popular for anyone who no longer sees the appeal of rivers of cheap bubbly in the city center bars to hide away in a cottage in the mountains with friends. Good food and drink are brought, and games are played.
Wherever and however you bring in the new year, if you are looking for an easy and elegant New Years Eve meal, simply pick up a few ingredients that are a titch out of the ordinary, but keep the preparation and number of flavours limited. This guarantees a special dinner, without sweating in the kitchen for hours before a new beau arrives, or lugging multiple grocery bags up to the mountains for one dinner.
Fish has such a history when it comes to New Years dinners, it's hard to want to pull away from it. Hunting down some New Zealand green-lipped mussels from your fishmonger (or in the Czech Republic, look in the Asian markets, like on Olomoucká street in Brno) makes for a definite treat. Using Italian squid ink pasta (spaghetti al Nero di Seppia) creates a striking visual contrast, and adds to the subtle depth of seafood flavour. I took the easy route and used already dyed spaghetti, but it's only a little bit more effort to buy a jar of the black dye from an Italian import shop along with some fresh pasta for a little DIY.
After the mussels and squid ink pasta are procured, the rest is a cinch. Garlic, shallots, tomatoes, white wine, and a hint of chili peppers make this a New Years dish that practically cooks itself!
Another variation - with fresh fish and basil:
Continue to Recipe...
Recipe: Mussels and Tomatoes on Squid Ink Pasta
Time 30 - 45 mins
2 Tb olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 red chili pepper, diced
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb. mussels (12 of the large green lipped New Zealand variety)
fresh basil (optional)
1) Start the pasta water cooking. Finely chop the garlic, shallot, and chili pepper. In a high-sided pan, gently heat these three seasonings in the olive oil, just until fragrant.
2) Toss the pasta into the water. Cook 9 minutes...al dente style.
3) Slide the tomatoes into the pan, and coat with the garlicky oil. Add the wine, bring to a low simmer, and stick a lid on the pan. Cook 2 minutes. Add the mussels and a few spoons of the pasta cooking-water. Cook 5 minutes if they are fresh or completely defrosted, or 8 if partly/mostly frozen. Keep the lid on the whole time and just shake the pan a bit.
4) Drain pasta and add to the mussels to coat with the sauce. Salt/pepper and add basil if you wish.
Dobrou Chut' / Enjoy.