I few years ago I decided to start my own “New Year’s Day Tradition” – a Champagne & Paella Party. This year I had a change of plans & made paella for NYE.
I didn’t have the “party” but opened it up for anyone who might want to drop by, & it ended up being me, the Pug, P & his sweet folks. That really put the pressure on, as they lived in Madrid for several years, & surely know “traditional paella” & here I am serving them “vegan paella” made not in a paella pan, but in a Le Creuset pot. I can’t help it, I’m a francophile.
To start, I set out a few “Spanish” style appetizers…
Marcona almonds are my absolute favorite, & a rare treat as they are expensive these days, but it was NYE so I went all out. I also served vegan tapenade & pita crackers.
My recipe this year came from my newly acquired & quickly beloved Candle 79 Cookbook, which was a Christmas gift from my darling Mom (I gave her a copy as well).
One of the first recipes I opened to when thumbing through the book was their Paella. I was ready to try something new & couldn’t wait to dive into this one.
The recipe was a labor of love & certainly more involved than the Paella’s I’ve made in year’s past. Save this one for when you have the time & really want to dazzle your guests. It’s worth it, but know you’ll need to carve out quite a bit of time for all the chopping, sautéing, stirring, etc…
This recipe is packed full of colorful, glorious vegetables – red & green peppers, roasted corn, cauliflower, oyster mushrooms, garlic & onions. I wanted to make this super special, so most veggies were local from the Farmers’ Market, with the exception of the corn & mushrooms, & all were organic. I am so lucky to live in Southern Cal, where you can find so many veggies in season all year. I swapped out white cauliflower for my favorite Romanesco, but followed Candle’s recommendation of using Field Roast sausage, which can be found at Whole Foods.
What can I say, it turned out pretty amazing, but who would expect any less from Candle 79? The smoked paprika & saffron gave the dish a delicate, yet complex flavor profile, while there was richness from the rice, balanced by the fresh crisp vegetables. The squeeze of lemon adds another layer of beautiful brightness.
It was a hit! Alongside the paella I served an elegant salad of butter lettuce, red onion, oranges & cranberries dressed with a Champagne vinaigrette. Lovely combination, indeed. The wine pairing was a Spanish Temprillano, recommended in the cookbook.
Much of the conversation was focused on the topic of travel. First Spain, then France of course, which was a fitting lead into dessert, a French inspired cocktail & NYE toast…
At the moment, my absolute favorite spirit is St-Germain, an artisanal French liquor made from handpicked elderflower blossoms. There are plenty of ways to enjoy this mouthwatering delight, but I prefer St-Germain & Champagne. I paired the cocktails it with the most perfect NYE cupcake….
I followed this recipe. These cupcakes were light, airy & utterly divine. A hint of strawberry syrup in the frosting gave it a pretty pink hue & extra burst of flavor. Love at first bite.
The rest of my evening will be spent with the The English Beat, who P played keyboards with a few years back. Nothing like ringing in the New Year backstage with a band that I’ve loved since I was a tween. My 16 year old self would’ve died.