I’m a homebody. Maybe it comes with getting older, or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m finally exactly where I want to be. Not necessarily in terms of every detail in my life, but geographically speaking, all is in order. I want nothing more than to come home to my cozy little house in Normandy after a day at work, with its fireplace and blue shutters, my cat, our garden, my artwork, my newly spring green kitchen and my computer. New Year’s Eve was no different, and we decided on a quiet night in with good food, good champagne and good company.
It didn’t take me long to decide on the menu. I knew that vanilla would be involved, and settled on a roasted turkey, marinated in a mixture of vanilla bean, honey, lemon zest and spices. I also purchased and cooked my first Jerusalem artichokes for the occasion. I roasted some spicy chickpeas for cocktail hours, and we snacked on those while sipping on homemade eggnog. Before the main dish, we devoured cornflake-coated crab cakes that were perfectly spicy and tangy, accompanied by a sweet tomato ginger jam. The dessert was literally divine, an alcohol-tinged take on classic brownies with crème de menthe and white chocolate ganache.
We had a great night, taking our time to eat and drink and dragging the meal out over the span of nearly three hours. We drank a lot of wine, ate way too much food and still managed to eat two helpings of dessert at the end of it all. We sang karaoke, made silly music videos with our iphones and danced to the top 50 songs of the 90s (according to French television, anyway). We spoiled our cat with freshly roasted turkey and snuck outside after midnight just in time to see the neighbors lighting off fireworks, and to hear the sounds of party blowers in the otherwise quiet Normandy night.
I used to look forward to New Year’s Eve, putting pressure on myself and my friends to have the best night ever, to find the bar and to have so much fun that the next day we’d have a story worth telling. The truth is, these nights rarely lived up to my expectations, and I think that the fewer you have, the better off you are. I planned on spending a quiet night at home with my man and my cat, and that’s what I did. But I also laughed a lot, ate well, and was extremely thankful to be right where I was, and right where I am. Happy New Year!
Roasted turkey with vanilla bean, honey and lemon zest
From the website Gousse de Vanille
1 5-6 lb turkey
4 T of honey
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped out
2 T lemon zest
2 T sea salt
1 T freshly ground black pepper
1 T cinnamon
2 T ground cumin
2 T olive oil
4 large onions, quartered
Prepare your bird and make small incisions into the skin around the breasts and thighs. Mix the honey, vanilla, lemon zest, salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin and olive oil in a small bowl. You should obtain a sticky paste. Apply this inside each incision, then pour the rest on top of your turkey. Add additional salt and pepper if you wish. Toss the quartered onions into your baking dish and add about 1 C of water. Cook in a 375 degree oven for about one hour, turning in the middle of the cooking time. Turn your oven down to about 325, and continue cooking for about an hour more. Don’t forget to turn and baste as need be, or to cover with foil if the skin starts to burn.