I have to be honest. I’m not always a big fan of New Year’s Eve…it all feels like, as my friend calls it, forced fun. You feel like you have to do things rather than WANT to do them. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good party – especially with good friends. When you’re single like me, New Year’s Eve can feel overwhelming and honestly, a little sad. But I think it’s good to embrace New Year’s Eve – with choices, like staying in. Celebrating at home means you can eat or drink at your own pace, choose your own menu and stay in your comfy clothes…or get all dressed up. It’s up to you.

When I started my holiday collaboration with Eddie’s of Roland Park, I immediately knew I wanted to write about staying in on New Year’s. Steaks and crab cakes danced in my head. And even though it was only mid-November at the time, I was starting to actually look forward to New Year’s Eve.

Treat yourself. Isn’t this part of the whole “self care” thing? Yes, it is. So, yes, I recommend steak and seafood. A really good salad. Wine that you spend a little more on…maybe a grown up cocktail like Manhattans. Buy a gorgeous dessert or plan on a simple dessert like sorbet or gelato in case you get drunk. Haha, sorry, it could happen.

For the steak, head to Eddie’s and talk with the excellent butchers at both locations. For a test run with friends (and a photo shoot) got some ribeyes and used my favorite reverse-sear cooking method I learned from Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats. It takes an extra step (slow, low oven first) and a tiny bit more time…but it’s a great way to control the cook temp and also the steak cooks very evenly. Also, do NOT marinate your steaks. Nope. Here’s what you do: Take the steaks out of the butcher paper, add salt and freshly ground pepper on all sides (rub it into the steak) and you can also smash some garlic cloves and roughly smoosh those on the steaks. You can also add garlic to the pan later if you prefer. Same with rosemary. But honestly, using salt, pepper and then basting in butter is plenty fine. Also, if you don’t want to do the reverse sear, here is another easy option from Tasting Table using garlic, lemon, rosemary, s+p. Really simple and really good.

Next up, crab. Now, me, I love steamed crabs. Picking for hours…you know, the experience of it. That is my absolute favorite thing ever. (HOWEVER.) Sometimes you just need someone else to do the work and hand it over. This is where you buy vs. make: Eddie’s crab cakes and crab balls. Do it. As I wrote in my last Eddie’s post, people all over Baltimore have been passing Eddie’s work off as their own for years – it’s amazing! So, if you’re including friends in your New Year’s dinner, maybe get the crab balls and serve them as an appetizer. I may have eaten four myself…so maybe think on how many you’ll need (ie: how much you want to share…) for your people. When in doubt, order more, of course.

I have a little bit of an obsession with salads. I’ve already written about how much I love a good Caesar. It’s definitely the litmus test of a cook. Some of my favorite salads ever have been at Hersh’s in Riverside (just south of Federal Hill) because chef/owner Josh Hershkovitz knows that the melding of both textures and flavors is essential when creating a great salad. His salads always have interesting textures in addition to the perfect dressing to go with it all. While we’re at it, have you had the kale salad at Dylan’s? It is incredible. And the Caesar at Orto. OMG. So, thanks to chefs who’ve taught me a thing or two, I now add nuts, toasted bread crumbs, seeds, etc, to salads whenever I can. So, I guess what I’m saying is don’t make your usual salad…make something memorable.

As for sides, I’d go to Eddie’s and buy some mashed potatoes, green beans, asparagus, etc, at the deli counter. You could also buy some Brussels sprouts in the produce section and here’s how I do them. Cook a few slices of bacon until it’s as crispy at you like, dry on paper towels. When you can handle it, roughly chop the bacon slices. Pour some of the bacon fat into a glass jar and put it in the fridge for when you need a fat to cook in. Leave a thin layer of fat in the pan. Slice the sprouts in half and blanch them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain, then immediately throw the sprouts into the warm pan (medium-high) and cook them on both sides. Don’t let them burn or overcook. Add the chopped bacon and mix. Keep warm in the oven until serving. YUM.

Wine…hit Eddie’s on Roland. Ask them for help in choosing wines to pair. With this menu I’d go with a French Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc to start and then a nice Pinot Noir for the steaks – but those are my favorites. You can always ask the folks at your favorite wine shop…they know best. Lauren at The Wine Source is my go to person.

Oh, back to those cocktails I mentioned. Need a little Manhattan tutorial? Here you go. And, think ahead and make Bloody Mary mix during the day on New Year’s Eve, so the next morning all you need to do is add vodka. Or not…I often enjoy a virgin bloody, extra spicy, please!

Oh, and that gorgeous dessert I mentioned. Check out these chocolate dipped poached pears – they are steeped in mulled red wine, filled with sweet mascarpone and then hand-dipped in dark Belgian chocolate. Holy moly! And they are only $4.99 each, which seems like a steal to me. Mike Morgan’s photo is gorgeous, too!

What are your New Year’s plans? Tell me in the comments…