Ringing In 2013

Happy New Year! How did you ring in 2013? I spent yesterday afternoon braising beef shanks for a wintry dinner of beef shank sauce over polenta. I'd never made beef shanks before and wanted to try something new to ring in the new year. I picked up about 5 pounds of them from Whole Foods (and the butcher very kindly cut them 2 inches thick for me), got them home, and set to work. Following this recipe from Food & Wine, I seared the shanks, created a luscious tomato-wine mixture for them, and placed them in the oven to braise for 3 hours. I took them out and threw some polenta in the oven to bake for an hour. While the polenta baked, I shredded up the meat and added it back to the sauce. Then I left the sauce on a low simmer until dinnertime.

It was nearly 8 p.m. then, and our friends arrived bearing delicious cheeses from Trader Joe's (one was dusted with cinnamon and quickly became a new favorite) and a couple of bottles of wine. We gathered around the coffee table in the living room and sampled cheeses, sipped wine, and caught up on each other's lives.

Then I put together a Caesar salad served on toasts, and we moved into the dining room for dinner.

The shredded Caesar salad on toasts was another Food & Wine recipe I decided to try. I loved the idea of serving the salad over toast as opposed to topping it with croutons. I would cut the bread a little thinner next time though (it was supposed to be 1/2 inch thick, and I think my toasts were closer to 1 inch thick). The toast gets pretty crunchy when you broil it, which makes it a little tough to eat, but the homemade dressing and presentation were awesome. (And the salad was extra special because we broke into one of our wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy.)

Shredded caesar salad on toast
Shredded Caesar salad on toasts

The beef shank sauce smelled so good as it cooked away in the oven for hours, and we couldn't wait to dig into it. It tasted every bit as wonderful as it smelled and definitely lived up to my expectations. The meat was incredibly tender. You actually scoop the marrow out of the bones and stir that into the sauce too, so it's especially rich and flavorful. Over the buttery, Parmigiano-Reggiano-flecked polenta, the sauce was a hit. (I'm so excited we have lots of leftovers.)

Beef shank sauce over polenta
Beef shank sauce over polenta

After dinner we ventured back into the living room, and Jeff started a fire. We watched some of the New Year's Eve shows on TV while admiring the fire and chatting some more. Just before the ball dropped, we opened a bottle of Veuve.

And then we all toasted to the new year. It was the perfect way to celebrate. We got to have our low-key evening, catch up with friends, and entertain in our new house. I'm hoping last night set the tone for 2013. We're looking forward to many more dinner parties and celebrations.

How was your New Year's Eve?