Cooks Exchange

These New Year’s Eve party recipes are a bit different. For that, they will love them all the more.

This red sauce dip is unusual but will be a big hit.
This red sauce dip is unusual but will be a big hit. Special to the Sun Herald

New Year’s Eve is almost here. If you are having friends over to celebrate, you can rush to the grocery store deli and get just about everything you need.

You are sure to find cheese and charcuterie platters, or you can make your own cheese platter from the assortments of cheeses most grocery stores offer.

The rule of thumb for cheeses and meats is to pair the ones that come from the same region or country.

You also will find salsas and guacamole, a variety of hummus and salads made from pasta, chicken and eggs. There’s enough good stuff at your local deli to feed just about any group, no matter how picky.

But, homemade is always the best way to go, and it really won’t take that much time. It also might be a bit less expensive.

Today, I offer up a few New Year’s Eve party dish ideas that are a bit different and will surprise your guests because they are not what they might expect.

And, trust me, for that, they will love them even more.

Red Sauce Dip

When you are making a classic Italian-style red sauce, and it is bubbling away on the stove, someone is going to walk by, break off a piece of bread and dip it in the sauce. Why? It is absolutely delicious. Make this slow-cooked sauce, serve it with a sliced loaf of crusty French bread, and watch your friends dig in.

1 chopped onion (buy the pre-chopped veggies if you want to save time)

1 chopped bell pepper

1-2 chopped carrots

1 cup red wine

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

1 can peeled tomatoes (imported Italian are best)

1 can cherry tomatoes

Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes

1 small bunch fresh oregano, 1 small bunch thyme

Best quality olive oil

Optional: Heal of Parmigiano-Reggiano

Sauté the beef and pork in olive oil, season with dry seasoning. When browned, remove and set aside. Add the vegetables to the same pan, add more oil and season again. Sauté for 20 minutes. Add the wine, turn the heat to high and reduce by one half. Add the canned tomatoes (and heal of parmigiana if you are lucky enough to have one) and simmer for 1 hour. Add the fresh herbs and simmer 30 minutes more. Taste and re-season as necessary.

Deep fried artichokes

This is a recipe inspired by Corks and Cleaver Italian Bistro in Bay St Louis.

1 can whole artichoke

1-2 whole eggs

1 cup flour (optional Panko bread crumbs)

Salt and pepper, pinch oregano

Ranch dressing for dipping (make your own with garlic, salt, parsley, chives, mayo, sour cream and buttermilk)

Oil for frying

Fill a deep pot half way with oil (never more than half way) and heat to 350 F. Season the flour, break the eggs and whisk separately. Drain the artichokes, add to the whisked eggs and cover well. Toss in the flour, shake off excess and deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and serve at once with the ranch dressing.

Homemade Hummus

If you want to take a short cut, you can buy a package of seasonings specifically for hummus. Blend canned chickpeas, add the seasoning and you are done.

Otherwise, use the following recipe.

1 can chickpeas

1 clove garlic

1⁄4 cup olive oil

Lemon juice

2 tablespoons tahini

1 teaspoon ground cumin

kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend smooth. Taste and re-season as necessary.