New Year's Feast for Eight

Chef Vagn Nielsen raises the bar on make-ahead menus with this easy yet impressive dinner.
Joy E. Zacharia

New Year's Eve Menu
1. Vegetables With Arugula Broth
2. Grilled Pork Chops With Garlic Mashed Potatoes
3. Champagne Shooters
4. Shrimp Martinis With Napa Cabbage Slaw

One of the most stressful aspects of hosting a sit-down dinner party is getting dishes on the table at just the right time. All too often we end up serving hot food cold, letting cold food warm to room temperature, or burning an ill-attended loaf of garlic bread. Sound familiar? Well, we've got just the menu to stifle your party stress.

Chef Vagn Nielsen of Proof of the Pudding, one of Atlanta's premier caterers, shares a simple yet elegant dinner for eight. Thanks to creativity and preparedness, dinner parties at the Nielsens go off without a hitch. "You can't cook dinner for 5,000, like we do in the catering business, without making most of the food ahead of time," Vagn says. We asked him and his wife, Lotte (also with Proof), to share some of their valuable tips and ideas for low-stress dinner soirees.

It may be hard to imagine your guests enjoying Shrimp Martinis With Napa Cabbage Slaw and a glass of wine in your clean kitchen right at the planned dinnertime, but here are the menu and the tools to get you there.

 

Party Timeline
1 day ahead:
  • Shred and cut vegetables for Napa Cabbage Slaw (store red bell pepper strips separately). Toast sesame seeds.
  • Cut up vegetables for Vegetables With Arugula Broth. Store carrots and turnips in one zip-top plastic bag, broccoli and asparagus in another.
  • Prepare olive oil mixture for Grilled Pork Chops. Rub over chops; cover, and chill.

 

Morning of party:
  • Cook and mash potatoes (do not add remaining ingredients). Cover, and chill.
  • Cook carrots, turnips, broccoli, and asparagus. Cover, and chill.
  • Scoop sorbet for Champagne Shooters into serving glasses.

 

2 hours before dinner:

 

1 hour before dinner:
  • Grill pork or veal chops, undercooking slightly. Cover, and set aside.
  • Assemble Garlic Mashed Potatoes; cover, and let stand.

 

20 minutes before dinner:

 

Dinnertime:

 

"New Year's Feast for Eight" is from the November 2002 issue of Southern Living.