Saturday, January 02, 2010

The New Year is here, with a burble.

As it has a few times now, the New Year blasted in with a blaze of paella. A friend and I had a throwdown at a neighbors' house. She dove into a seafood rendition while I put together a traditional dish with chicken, chorizo, and a few shellfish for good measure. To boot, I cooked in my tux since we (minus one, sadly) were all headed to a neighbor's house for a black tie party after dinner.

It was a hell of a time, and both paellas came up beautifully. In the past couple years I've discovered a couple of my favorite secrets for a great dish — the right chorizo and smoked pimentin. The chorizo this year was a spicy, coarse-ground variety I located at Whole Foods. It had a delicious earthy character, and just enough spice not to overwhelm the other ingredients. This year, I finished the paella on the grill and finally managed a perfect soccarat. As a nod to some other great paellas I've had, I add asparagus and freshly-roasted peppers. The final trick for the New Years paella is a nod to Southern tradition — black-eyed peas. Buddha knows with the way December went and all the plans on tap for 2010 that I can use all the luck I can get.

Kudos to my neighbors for putting together such a great evening — both parties. In fact, at the dinner house, we concocted a little dinner party for The Kid and four others, complete with a babysitter to manage a slumber party while we trucked off to the party down the street.

That said, it is the new year, following a rather ignominious end to 2009. The hiccups of life and relationships got the best of me, and I spent a good bit of December melancholy and reflective. This past year was full of challenges and tests — and efforts to move into the next phases of my life. As it came to an end, I found myself looking at The Kid and realizing how remarkable she is — and how she will never be seven-and-a-half again. I found myself licking a few wounds and getting perspective on some old ones. John and I brewed a couple stellar batches of beer. All in all, the end of the year was much like the rest, full of contrasts between high points and low points and full of teaching moments.

For the new year, I'm not making many resolutions. In fact, I've really only come up with one so far — to do the dishes whenever I use them. I consider it a small portion of a larger effort to gain control of the chaos that too-often envelopes the house. Forget the pressure of bigger resolutions; I'm sure I will come across other goals to pursue along the way.