Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Dishes for New Year's or anytime there's a crowd

By JANINE GILBERTSON December 27. 2017 1:20AM
Macaroni and cheese becomes a luxurious, decadent dish with Gruyere, Gouda and cheddar cheeses. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

When it comes time to cook a holiday meal, I usually like to pull out the big guns. Decadent side dishes, a special cut of meat, that kind of thing.

For Christmas dinner this year, I decided to make a macaroni and cheese dish to go with a spiral cut ham, fresh green beans, and of course, my favorite cranberry pecan rolls.

Mac and cheese may not sound fancy or decadent, but trust me, it’s all in the cheese. For this dish, I shredded some fresh Vermont extra sharp cheddar, some Gouda and lots of Gruyere cheese. I also cooked some thick-cut applewood smoked bacon and added that to the dish along with Ritz cracker crumbs and chopped fresh herbs toasted in a little butter.

It was incredible. If you’re putting on a New Year’s Day brunch or need a dish to share, this will be a hit.

For New Year’s Eve snacks, bacon wrapped scallops make a fantastic hors d’oeuvre with minimal effort. This is a great dish for gluten-free guests too.

If you’re not participating in the classic Chinese food New Year’s Eve phenomenon and think you will miss that container of crab rangoon, fear not. Crab rangoon is incredibly easy to make at home, and you can adjust the filling to suit your taste.

My father loved crab rangoon, and I never quite understood what the big deal was with it. (Another strike against it was that my father was not supposed to eat anything high in fat or sugar, so every time he ordered it when we had Chinese food, I would give him a dirty look because he wasn’t following his doctor’s orders.)

Then I made it myself, and my view changed completely. Instead of a runny blob of bland white cream cheese oozing out of a wonton wrapper, I added more crab (I’ve used lobster too), and it was a totally different experience.

Whatever your plans are for the New Year’s holiday, I hope it’s peaceful, full of joy and filled with love and good, fresh food.

Gruyere Bacon Mac and Cheese

16 oz cavatappi or macaroni pasta

8 tbsp butter, divided

4 cups milk

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 lb thick-sliced bacon, cooked, drained and chopped

1 sleeve Ritz type crackers

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 oz Gouda cheese, shredded

3 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare the pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and set aside.

Butter the inside of a large casserole dish.

Cut about 2 tbsp of the butter from the stick and set aside; place the remaining butter (about 5 tbsp) in a saucepan and set over medium high heat. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour; a thick paste will form. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring constantly to form a smooth sauce.

Add the cheddar and Gouda cheese and stir until melted and smooth, then stir in the pepper, salt and nutmeg and remove from heat.

Add the cooked pasta to the casserole dish and spread the chopped bacon over the top. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and gently stir to coat the noodles.

Add the remaining butter to a saucepan and melt over medium high heat, then add the cracker crumbs and parsley. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly to toast the cracker crumbs.

Spread the shredded Gruyere cheese over the pasta, then sprinkle the buttered cracker crumbs over the top. Cover with aluminum foil and place in preheated oven.

Bake for about 35 minutes, then remove the foil. Bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, until the crumb topping starts to turn golden brown, then remove from oven and serve.
Bacon-wrapped scallops are an easy, crowd-pleasing and gluten-free hors d’oeuvre. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Bacon Wrapped Scallops

1 lb sea scallops, rinsed and dried

1/2 lb bacon

1 fresh lemon, juiced

2 tbsp butter

1 clove fresh garlic, chopped

Cut the bacon slices in half. 

Wrap each scallop with a half-slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick or mini skewer. Set on a nonstick baking sheet. 

Add the butter to a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Melt the butter, then add the garlic and lemon juice. Cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, until the garlic is lightly browned. Remove from heat and pour over the scallops. 

Place the scallops under the broiler for about 4 minutes, then flip and broil for another 4 minutes or until the bacon is browned and starting to crisp. Remove from oven and serve. 
Taking the filling to another level elevates crab rangoon. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Crab Rangoon

6 oz can crabmeat, drained

6 oz cream cheese, room temperature

3 tsp garlic, minced

1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tsp chive, minced

12 oz package wonton skins

1 egg

1 tsp water

canola or vegetable oil for frying 

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, crab meat, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, chive and salt and mix well. 

Add the egg and water to a small bowl and beat. 

Spoon about 1 tsp of the crab mix onto each wonton wrapper, then dip a finger into the egg wash and trace your finger over the edges of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper into a triangle, pressing the edges to seal. Repeat with remaining wontons. 

Heat canola or vegetable oil to about 375 in an electric fryer. Place wontons in heated oil and fry until light golden brown. Drain on paper towels and garnish with additional chopped chives, if desired.

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