New Year's Eve Crowd-Beater Dinner

Tori Ritchie - Thanksgiving Guide - Early Show Segment 11/14/2006
If you don't feel like battling big crowds on New Year's Eve or paying big bucks to dine out, why not entertain at home?

Invite some friends over for a sophisticated, tasty, easy-to-prepare meal or, if you're not up for throwing a dinner party, consider an intimate dinner for two!

On The Early Show Wednesday, cookbook author and cooking teacher Tori Ritchie suggested a crowd-pleasing menu to usher in the New Year with a fun meal you can enjoy in the comfort of your home.

Ritchie was in the flagship store in Manhattan of specialty home furnishings retailer and Early Show partner Williams-Sonoma.

The menu is one of Ritchie's personal favorites -- something she really does like to prepare and serve on New Year's Eve to her friends and family. She says it's suitable for a large crowd or a romantic meal for two.

The main event it crabs. The type of crab you use depends on where you live, but even if you're far from the sea, fresh crab is really special on New Year's Eve. On the West Coast, Ritchie likes feast on Dungeness, but stone or blue crabs work, too. Be sure to order fresh, crabs in advance from your fish monger. If you want, they will cook, clean and crack them for you. She serves her crabs with her own, freshly-made mayo. You can use a bottled one, but it's simple to prepare yourself. You can serve the crab cold or re-warmed over a steamer. Ritchie likes to serve these family-style on a big platter, along with all the tools.

Another key: artichokes, which are just coming into season now and can be prepared easily in a sauté pan.

The dessert is lemon tart. Ritchie loves it because the lemon flavor is a great way to end a seafood meal. This tart can be prepared the night before. You need it to chill, so it sets.


Ritchie's Favorite New Year's Eve Dinner:

Cracked Crab with Horseradish Mayonnaise
Pan-Roasted Artichokes with Garlic and Lemon
Lemon Curd Tart

Cracked Crab with Horseradish Mayonnaise

Cracked crab makes a simple, yet elegant main course for a celebratory meal. Blue or stone crabs can be used if Dungeness are unavailable; adjust the cooking time accordingly. If time is short, purchase freshly-cooked crabs and ask your fish monger to do the cleaning and cracking.

For the horseradish mayonnaise:
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable, corn or safflower oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
3 Tbs. prepared horseradish
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbs. warm water

For the crabs:
4 quarts water
1 Tbs. salt
3 live Dungeness crabs, each 2 to 2-1/2 lb.

To make the horseradish mayonnaise, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, mustard and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil until an emulsion forms. Combine the remaining olive oil and the vegetable oil in a cup with a spout. Drop by drop at first and whisking constantly, gradually add the oil mixture to the emulsion. Stir in the garlic, the 1 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice and the horseradish. Season with salt and pepper and add more lemon juice, if needed. Whisking constantly, add the warm water to thin the mayonnaise slightly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To prepare the crabs, in a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, add the salt and the crabs, immersing them completely. Boil until the crabs are cooked and the shells are red, about 12 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the crabs to a plate and let cool slightly.

Working with 1 crab at a time, place the crab on its back. Pull off the small triangular apron-shaped shell flap and discard. Turn the crab over and lift up and snap off the large top shell and discard. Remove the dark gray intestines and the feather-shaped white spongy gills from the body and discard. Rinse the body well. Using a large, heavy knife, cut the body in half from the head to the tail. Cut each half crosswise into thirds. Using a lobster cracker or a mallet, crack the claws and legs. If the crabs have cooled, warm them on a steamer rack over boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes.

To serve, arrange the crabs on a platter and serve with small forks or lobster picks for extracting the meat. Offer the horseradish mayonnaise on the side.

Serves 6.

Adapted from "Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Winter," by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997)

For recipes for Pan-Roasted Artichokes with Garlic and Lemon, as well as Lemon Curd Tart, go to Page 2.