We had so much fun doing a progressive dinner on New Year’s Eve last year, that we decided to give it a whirl again. Same cast & crew (Ken & I and friends Hilary, Joe, Heidi, Julie and Larry) with a few new twists. Heidi threw out the idea of a themed dinner based on recipes from one of her (and Hiliary’s) favorite cookbooks, The New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen. We all loved the idea and the chance to try out new recipes and spirits.

We’d all agreed that we should tackle different courses than we made last year. Heidi was game to pull menu suggestions together and pass out assignments for each household. She also stepped up to take on the entree, and we were happy to oblige! LOL.

One evening in early December after we all attended a Louisville Brass concert at Trinity Methodist Church here in Madison, we gathered at our house for pie and coffee and the big menu reveal. Heidi presented a wonderful “menu with options” so each host could select the dishes for their course from a short list of choices. We each received a packet of our recipe options. Ken & I had the soup category, and our choices were Garbanzo Cream with Ham Cracklings or Roasted Squash Soup with Saffron Ice Cream. Both recipes looked great, but we opted for the bean soup. We had experience with squash soup, but garbonzo bean soup would be a new adventure!

Joe, Ken & I (along with a shopping list from Heidi) found lots of our ingredients and wines on a road trip to Jungle Jim’s International Food Market in Cincinnati. Spanish olive oil, peppers, serrano ham, smoked slab bacon, dried fruits, and Spanish wines were easy to find in the massive well-stocked market, and it was nice not to have to make substitutions for what the recipes required.

What a blessing to have pleasant temperatures and no rain for our New Year’s Eve progressive dinner! And what glorious food we enjoyed! Take a look at the Spanish fare – you might want to buy the cookbook!

First Course: Tapas with Hilary & Joe

Of the four tapas options, Hilary & Joe decided to make three – Eggpplant Stacks with Tomato Jam (served on genuine tapas plates from their trip to Spain), Goat Cheese Piquillo Peppers, and Sevillian Marianted Carrots. All were delightful and very different. The Fino Sherry was just the right touch!

Second Course: Soup with Sally & Ken

I have to admit, I was a little worried about the texture of of my chosen soup, Garbanzo Cream with Ham Cracklings. I assumed it might be on the gritty side. I was SO wrong! No wonder the word “cream” was in the name of the recipe – it was totally creamy! And the smoked slab bacon (cooked in the soup, but discarded for serving) gave a marvelous flavor layer. Making Pimento Oil and Parsley Oil for garnish wasn’t difficult, but I’m sure you could find delicious oils at Madison’s Galena Garlic if you didn’t want to make them. You could also substitute proscuitto for serrano ham in the Ham Cracklings if serano ham eludes you. I will make this soup again, to be sure!

Main Course: Entree with Heidi

Heidi selected Ferran Adria’s Rotisserie Chicken with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts for her main course. The dried fruits and nuts really elevate the rotisserie chicken. If you didn’t know the name of the recipe, you’d swear the bird was labored over for hours! The side of Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans & Garlic was a perfect complement to the chicken. Heidi’s wine selection of Picchetti Winery Tempranello was, simply put, outstanding.

Fourth Course: Dessert with Julie & Larry

Julie and Larry chose to make the Chocolate Covered Almond Cake. Julie was a little worried about how it would turn out… Would it be smarmy sweet? Why was it so “short”? Not to worry!! It was decadent, but not overly sweet at all. And the flavors blended beautifully. The recipe recommended a Sauterne, but a black coffee finish was the choice for me. Perfecto!

Dinner was amazing. Spending New Year’s Eve with good friends was amazing. Looking forward to another year of downtown life in Madison, Indiana – amazing! Happy New Year!

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.