Island Cooking

Final Feast of the Year

• by Chef Jenn Farmer •

Some Chefs get depressed in the winter due to lack of garden fresh veggies and orchard fresh fruit.  But for me it is like a time when the slate is wiped clean.  The seafood is still plentiful, as well as fresh cranberries, root vegetables and squash, and more.  The brittle greying landscape gets tucked under a white blanket of snow, giving a tidy look to the landscape, and replenishing the soil and plants with necessary moisture.  Though it is in the early stages, it is the signal of beginnings.  I like the idea of starting fresh and new every year—I know it is not in any way that simple, but there is something refreshing about letting go of the old and being completely open to the new.  There is something about the holidays leading into the New Year that rings of this fresh new start for me, even if it is just in a symbolic sense.

I began to think about what I would eat as my final meal this New Years Eve. Then somehow my macabre mind began to consider the more literal last meal.  I realized it was a very hard question to answer for me. I actually stopped what I was doing and began to look up famous last meals of death row inmates.  I know this seems morbid and depressing, but actually it ended up having the opposite effect on me…but I digress.  This distraction made me begin to think about things a little differently.  I happened to mention this to another chef friend, and he then he complicated things yet further by asking who would cook it, and where?  The where was interesting, but I was going on the premise that would not matter.  I also thought that the “who” would be cooking it was a very interesting can of worms.  But that was exactly what it was, another distraction, so I got back to the original  question.

I began to ask other chef friends what they would eat.  Many said “that’s hard. Let me get back to you.”  I was actually expecting more chefs to be like Chef Todd Edwards from Black Eyed Susan’s who said “That would have to be my mother’s ham casserole, consisting of ham, egg noodles, peas, onions, butter, and cottage cheese…sounds weird, but it rocks!”  Simple comfort or nostalgic food sounds great to me.   Other chefs chose a mixture of comfort and the elegant.  Chef Jeff Weiner from the Starlight Theatre and Café and Chef Dino Chianese, a cook at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, both said it would depend on what they were hungry for that day.  But both were kind enough to give me an idea of what they would eat at that moment.  Jeff’s list would have onion soup, a fat crouton with cheese melted on top, a perfectly mixed green salad, egg rolls, and chocolate and peanut butter together-warm bread pudding with peanut ice cream, chopped nuts, and fudge.  The lists kept growing,every chef I asked had wonderful menus,  but simple or elaborate, it did not get me closer to what I wanted.

I thought it would be pretty awesome to just have a potluck with all my friends, they each bring their favorite dish, since everything they selected sounded so good.  It seemed almost right for me, but something was still bothering me, something was still missing…Then I realized the true answer to my own silly question.  I did not want to eat a last meal, but I would want to cook my last meal.  No question about it.  The act making the meal would be far more sustaining to me than the meal itself.  I don’t even care what I cook, just as long as the ingredients are fresh and flavorful.  Oh and as long as there is enough to share with everyone.

Here are some recipes I will be making to help celebrate out the old year, and welcome a fresh new one.  Enjoy.

The following appetizer is perfect for lobster, but also can be made with scallops or crab meat, or a combination.

888 Bourbon Lobster Tail Appetizers

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon shallots
  • 2 tablespoons 888 Bourbon
  • One lobster tail raw, split into quarters
  • A few tablespoons cream
  • Fresh chives, chopped for garnish
  • Garnish with fresh chervil, chopped (tarragon can be used but use less)

Heat the butter in a pan until it hot.  Add the shallots, and continue tosauté for a minute.  Lower the heat and add the lobster tail to the pan and sauté for a few minutes, or until the lobster is nearly cooked.  Remove from the heat and carefully add the bourbon to the pan, far from the heat, since the alcohol is highly flammable.  Lean back as you carefully put the pan back on the heat, and the pan flames up.  When the flame dies off, add the cream and allow it to thicken slightly.  Garnish with the fresh herbs & serve with thin slices of crusty bread to mop up the cream sauce.  Serves 2-4

This is allegedly the way President Taft made his steaks.  It also happens to be the way I like mine, surf and turf, what better way to start a new year.

Perfect Broiled Steak

  • Two perfectly marbled sirloin or t-bone steaks.
  • Salt and pepper, Softened butter

Dry off the meat carefully, and remove any excess fat.  Use this fat to season, or oil the grill or broiler.  Over medium high heat, and a clean not sooty or smoky flame, sear the steak, allowing it to sit undisturbed on the hot grate for a few minutes, then turn the steak several degrees to make diamond shaped grill marks.  In a few minutes, turn the steak.  Repeat for the other side.  It should take a total of 10 to 14 minutes for a medium rare steak.  Longer the more well done you would like it.  Remove the steak from the grill, season with salt, pepper, and a small pat of soft butter.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing the steak for the most tender and juicy results.   Serves 2

Double Secret Probation Martini

  • 3 ounces 888 Gin
  • 1 ounce 888 vodka
  • 1 ounce 888 blueberry vodka
  • One half ounce 888  ginger honey liquor

In a shaker over crushed ice, add all the above ingredients and strain into a chilled martini glass.  Serves 1-2

This cranberry sauce is delicious on pork, wild game, or the above recipe.  I like about a tablespoon of it on my steak.

Cranberry Onion Sauce

  • 4 Red onions sliced half- inch thick
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup bold red wine or port
  • 3/4 of a cup cranberry jam
  • 1 orange zested and juiced
  • 1 bay leaf, 1 allspice, 3 peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cloves, all in cheesecloth

Grill the onions until caramelized, a little char is ok.  Heat up the rest of the ingredients; finish cooking the onions in the cooking liquid.  Remove the discard cheesecloth taste and sweeten with maple syrup or honey if necessary- should be sweet and tart. Makes about 2 cups

Articles by Date from 2012