Wanna save about $100, $200 or maybe more? Stay home for New Year's eve. And Valentine's day. This also works for birthdays and anniversaries. I'm not suggesting you be a party pooper, just that you do your celebrating at home. Turn what could be loud and boisterous into intimate and romantic with a meal just for two, or four if you prefer a little more company.
This isn't about a big multi-course extravaganza, in fact I suggest the opposite. Something simple, yet elegant and a bit of a splurge since you're not going out. One great menu is a seafood platter, mostly raw oysters, clams, poached shrimp, cracked crab, or if you can't handle that some takeaway sushi served with champagne will do nicely. The other idea is fondue. Don't laugh, it's really good! Make it two course and have cheese fondue followed by chocolate fondue.
The secret to fondue is to thicken the wine first, heating it gently after adding a slurry of cornstarch and kirsch or water, THEN add the cheese. Use whichever recipe suits your fancy (there are plenty on the internet) but if you use this technique you can't go wrong. Because fondue gone wrong is not pretty. I like to go light on the bread cubes and serve boiled mini Yukon gold potatoes, baby boiled white onions, and asparagus spears, but do whatever you like. For those on the Atkins diet, sausage chunks would be delicious, I'm sure.
For dessert--chocolate fondue. Or maybe skip dinner and just gorge on chocolate fondue instead? Now there's an idea.
I bought a medium sized butter warmer last year that is intended for serving butter with shellfish (think lobster or crab) but I use it for chocolate fondue. It cost less than $10 and it's the perfect size for two people.
Some good quality chocolate, a little heavy whipping cream and a variety of things to dip--that's all there is to it. Pound cake cubes are a must and chunks of banana, and try raspberries instead of strawberries.
Either of these menus are minimal preparation and practically no "cooking". Light on the clean up and fun to eat. Who says going out is more fun than that?
Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!