My strongest New Year’s Eve association was created back in 1999 at Times Square. My father and I bundled up for the sub-zero temperatures and, with much determination but little sense, headed down there around five. When you secure a spot you are corralled in by police barricades and you can’t leave if you want to keep your place. A result is an intimate group of about a million progressively freezing and drunk people who have to pee. I recall looking in one direction and seeing a resourceful group of women creating a human privacy circle and taking turns pissing on the cement; elsewhere shirtless frat types were screaming ceaselessly, oblivious to the cold. A man next to me kept discreetly passing me his thermos of hot Baileys and coffee to which I obliged. A debaucherous scene for a fifteen-year-old. I didn’t want to leave but I did stare longingly up at the cocktail party goers looking comfortably down at us from the windows of the surrounding buildings.
To invoke that same festive atmosphere with a seedy element for a small New Years get together this year, my mind went to Prince for the music and beef fried rice for the food—which is what I had after midnight that year; I shifted gears and thought I’d create a new, ritzier mental association for New Years, inspired by the folks in the skyscrapers. Classic sounding jazz seemed the better accompaniment for that purpose. I chose the Kamasi Washington record because it is long enough to get you through both the cooking and much of the gathering. Also, it gives you the refined feel with a just the right amount of modern hip—he’s known for his collaborations with Flying Lotus to give you an idea of some of the textures he peppers in. The jazz feel still controls the musical frame throughout.
The recipe I chose involves making “cornets” to resemble ice cream cones when filled with the Crème Fraiche and salmon tartare. They are festive and bourgeoisie enough to help us feel like we are looking down at the freezing proletariat from a cocktail party in the sky (in reality we just had two couples over at our humble apartment in Beacon, NY and hoped the babies stayed asleep).
The recipe was a hit. I encourage everyone to try this out. It was far easier than I expected once I got my hands dirty.
A few pointers to add on to the instructions below…
1. If you can’t find the cornet molds cut 4″ diameter circles out of manila folder material, roll them into a cone, and wrap them with aluminum foil.
2. When rolling the molds leave large openings at the mouths of the cones—mine were a bit too small so I couldn’t fit as much tartare in as I would have liked.
These puppies are delicious and will make you feel elite, especially when paired with a flute of champagne and some Jazz. Happy New Year!
Salmon Tartare with Sweet Red Onion and Crème Fraiche Adapted from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook
1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
Salmon Tartare (makes about 3 ⁄ 4 cups)
4 ounces salmon fillet (belly preferred) skin and any pin bones removed and very finely minced
3⁄4 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
3⁄4 teaspoon lemon oil (see Sources page 315)
1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely minced chives
1 1⁄2 teaspoons finely minced shallots
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Small pinch of freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
Sweet Red Onion Créme Fraîche
1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
1⁄2 cup créme fraîche
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
24 chive tips (about 1 inch long)
For the cornets: mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth. Beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter until the batter is creamy and without any lumps.
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Make a 4-inch circular stencil (using my method above). Place a Silpat on the counter and spook batter into the stencil scraping off the excess. Repeat this until you have filled the silpat. Slide it onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.
Bake for about 5 minutes, until batter is set and they are slightly browned in spots.
Quickly flip cornets over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down, and using coned manila folder cones (or real cornets if you have them), carefully roll the rounds onto them and arrange them back on the baking sheet seam side down.
Bake for 3 to 4 minutes until golden. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so. Then remove them and let them cook for a few more minutes on paper towels. Allow the sheet to cool down before doing the next batch.
For the Salmon Tartare: finely mince the salmon fillet and mix it together with the other ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For the Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraîche: Rinse and dry minced red onions and whisk together with the other ingredients.
To complete: fill each one with onion cream first and then a dollop of tartare
Adapted from The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller