Living in New York around New Year's Eve is weird. Getting off the subway in Midtown early last week, I wove around crowds even larger than usual and noticed the cops setting up a wall of metal barricades. Nothing says fun like barricades, right?
Around 11:30 PM on New Year's Eve, I was watching Dick Clark--er, Ryan Seacrest's--New Year's Rockin' Eve at my neighbor Caledonia's apartment. This insanely cheery and blonde "correspondent" was asking people if it was their first time in Times Square for the ball drop. And all the people (clad in 2009 eyeglasses, of course), said, yes it was, and asked for various shout-outs to their friends and mommas back home. Someone at the party remarked, "Of course it's their first time. Once you've done Times Square, you never want to go back again."
Well put. I prefer to hunker down in our warm apartment, listen to some of my favorite albums from the past year (Estelle, Lil' Wayne, My Morning Jacket), and pick at a large cheese plate and some roasted vegetables.
Then head downstairs to a party at Caledonia's to play a round of Apples to Apples (Have you ever played this? It's great.) and drink coquitos until Dick Clark's wife comes on and gives him a shaky kiss, which is sad and creepy and sentimental to watch. And makes me reach for another coquito.
A coquito is a traditional Puerto Rican holiday drink that tastes like a cross between egg nog and a pina colada. Which means it tastes awesome. This recipe, from the Food Network, seems pretty close to Caledonia's method. Just throw it all in a blender and chill before serving.
(Makes 6 glasses)
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
2 egg yolks (Caledonia omitted these)
2 cups fresh coconut milk or 1 15 oz. can coconut milk (Caledonia used Coco Lopez, which is cream of coconut)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup Puerto Rican white rum
Place all ingredients in a blender and process for 3 minutes at high speed until frothy. Store in the refrigerator and serve chilled, dusted with a little cinnamon.
Roasted vegetable plate
Friends, I want to start a crudite revolution. No more raw carrot sticks or dried out cauliflower florets. Why not take those vegetables and roast them? It takes a little longer and the veggies won't pair with blue cheese if that's what you're going for (by all means, serve those celery sticks raw) but it's not that much harder than making a regular crudite plate. And so much tastier!
3 to 4 roastable vegetables (ideas: carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, fennel, cherry tomatoes, squash, broccoli, asparagus, etc.)
Salt and pepper, additional seasonings
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cut up your vegetables into bite-sized pieces. You can roast them all together or separately, if you want them to each have their own flavorings. If you're roasting them in one large batch, place the veggies in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss until coated and add salt and pepper and any additional seasonings like dried herbs (like oregano, rosemary, or thyme) or ground spices (nutmeg, cumin, or paprika). Place the veggies on a cookie sheet and roast for about 20 minutes, or until they start to brown. You can serve them warm or let them come to room temperature.
If you'd like to season your vegetables individually (curry powder on the cauliflower, nutmeg on the carrots), toss them in olive oil and seasonings separately, then wrap them in large sheets of foil, making a packet. Place each packet on a cookie sheet and roast for about 20 minutes. Be careful opening the packet because it will release steam. You can serve the vegetables warm or let them come to room temperature.