(Ed.'s Note- Every Monday, Chicago's Jason Hissong writes Windy City Cooking, a column whose title says it all. Enjoy! -Max)
The New Year
by Jason Hissong
4 January 2010
The menu: antipasto of swiss cheese and crackers, sausage, raw red peppers, carrots, radishes. Roasted fennel, parsnips, and carrots. Main course: three cheese and broccoli soup, chili with rice, and pasta e fagioli. Dessert: Oreo/cream cheese balls and chocolate cake.
My co-chef: the marvelously skilled Kate.
The guests: Jason and Elizabeth, Tim and Rhonda, Dave and Dana, Jonathan, Kara, Robb, Dana and Andrew, Garrett.
I have goals I want to accomplish every year. Not resolutions, per se. And the first goal for the last two years has been this: start the new year by cooking dinner for my friends.
So that's how 2010 began. 14 people coming to my home. People who know one another, and people new to my circle of friends.
Being in the kitchen all day is one of my favorite things to do that I do less often than I would like. So one of my 2010 goals is to cook for more people, more often.
Kate came over early, at three, and together we created this meal for our friends. And there is nothing better than that.
And, slowly but surely, people arrived until we had all 14. The chili and soups simmered on the stovetop, in the crock-pot, until serving time, having wafted the most comforting scents throughout my apartment all day. The antipasto items laid on the table, waiting for consumption nibble by nibble.
Eventually, bellies filled. Bowls and spoons piled up in the sink, and then the dishwasher. Eventually, one by one, or two by two, the guests left and at midnight there were four of us, watching garbage television, playing Uno, appetites satiated.
When I reflect back on this year's New Year's Day Dinner there are no regrets. Sure, the broccoli cheese soup could have been creamier, but it worked. There could have been a couple of tweaks to the chili, and next time I'll try a different combination of spices. There could have been an addition or two to the people who dined at my home on New Year's day but, three days later the only thing I would change is my level of exhaustion from the previous night's celebration. Everything else was just as it should be in terms of both the food and the guests.
And for that, I am thankful. And for them I will continue to cook.
What I Cooked, What Others Cooked for Me, Where I Ate
I didn't cook much worth mentioning this week other than New Year's Day Dinner. I had leftover pizza one night, mac and cheese another. I skipped dinner altogether on Tuesday. No one, save for Kate, cooked for me this week.
I was able to share meals out with a few people this week. A huge thank you to Elizabeth and Kristin for hosting the New Year's Eve celebration at Kristin and her husband Collin's place. I enjoyed a Wednesday evening meal with my friend Tracy at Julius Meinl. She had pancetta crepes while I had the turkey and avocado sandwich. Saturday night I was able to dine with Robb. Robb is an old friend who moved away with his partner, Shayne, at the end of summer. I am so thankful we had a chance to get together other than the party as he's a great friend and I miss him dearly. We went to the Pick Me Up Cafe where we both had the BTH Club. On Sunday Jason, Elizabeth and I went to the Lincoln Restaurant. It's a cozy little place right by our apartment. They both had the three pancakes and eggs. I had the Alabama skillet- chorizo and jalapenos, eggs, potatoes. Good stuff. Greasy and filling.