Want to have a successful year 2000? Eat something lucky on New Year's Eve. Culinary superstitions abound on this momentous night. Even cabbage is considered lucky in some countries.
So the only question for people planning a New Year's bash: which food does the job best? Here are three suggestions for fortunate food that adapt to a millennium menu:
In the southern part of the USA, Hoppin' John is the thing to eat. The dish is made from black eyed peas and rice; sometimes, a coin is buried in its midst just before serving to ensure the finder a happy year. This recipe, adapted from a book called "Old Creole Days" by Celestine Eustis is a little unusual because it calls for sausage but it's mighty good, nonetheless. (Kielbasa will do nicely.)
1 cup black eyed peas
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large sprig parsley
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 pound smoked sausage, coarsely diced
1/4 pound smoked ham, diced
2cups long grain rice
Cover peas with water; soak overnight and drain. Combine peas with 6 cups water, onion, bay leaf and parsley in large saucepan. Bring to a boil, and simmer until peas are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf and parsley.
Meantime, fry bacon until crisp; add sausage and ham and fry 2 or 3 minutes longer. Add to the cooked peas, season with salt to taste.
Add rice to pan and simmer, covered, 15 minutes unti moat of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand for a few minutes to finish drying out. Makes 8 servings. (Can be prepared ahead of time and reheated.)
No one really knows why herring dishes are considered lucky when the year turns -- but they are, they are. Most hosts will simply serve herring in sour cream or wine sauce with crackers to ensure their guests' good fortune. But here's an idea for a salad that can be placed on a buffet. The recipe comes form "The Joy of Cooking" and it is excellent.
POTATO AND HERRING SALAD
2 cups diced boiled potatoes
1 1/4 cups marinated or pickled herring fillets
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon minced chives or onion
6 tablespoons sour cream
Toss all ingredients but paprika in a bowl. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Makes 6 servings. (Dark brown bread is a nice accompaniment.)
Another note: Many cultures believe that any food thing in the shape of a ring is good luck it symbolizes completing a year's cycle. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating doughnuts on New Year's Day will bring good fortune. But you could substitute these cookies.
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 egg, separated
2 cups flour
Red and green candied cherries, optional
Cream butter and one cup sugar until light. Add egg yolk and mix well. Stir in flour to make a stiff dough.
Pinch off one tablespoon of the dough, Roll between hands to resemble a cigarette. Join ends to make a ring. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet and brush lightly with unbeaten egg white. Sprinkle with remaining sugar and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes. If desired, decorate with green and red candied cherry bits while still warm.