published Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Side Orders: Chattanooga choices for dinner on New Year's

Years ago, my husband and I had a memorable New Year's Eve gathering. This was back when staying up past midnight was a matter of course. And waking up the next day full of energy on just a few hours of sleep was never a problem. I can remember making breakfast at 2 a.m., serving coffee and getting in bed around 3 a.m., then back up just a few hours later to start the day.

Oh how I long for that energy level. Now I struggle to keep my eyes open past 10 p.m. However, if you're one of those who still enjoys going out for the evening, most every restaurant in town will be open. Here's a list of those that will be going the extra mile to say goodbye to 2012 and welcome the new year. It's a very short list, as most places are busy recovering from all the Christmas festivities.

• Easy Bistro, 203 Broad St.: The restaurant will be offering a New Year's Eve menu with its regular entrees, but adding caviar with all its usual accompaniments, such as chopped onion, capers, hard-boiled eggs and more. In addition, the menu will be enhanced with some high-end steak dishes. Dinner will be served from 5 p.m. through midnight and perhaps beyond. But wait. The celebration continues into the next day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. when Easy opens for a Resolution Brunch. In addition to its egg dishes, such as smoked bacon-and-mushroom or asparagus omelets or eggs Benedict or eggs Johnathon, chef/owner Erik Niel will be putting a twist on traditional New Year's foods, including black-eyed pea cakes with braised collard greens. For reservations, call 266-1121.

• Broad Street Grille (at The Chattanoogan): The grill pulls out all the stops for its New Year's Eve dinner this year, serving champagne and party favors to every diner. And while toasting the new year, you'll be perusing a menu with your choice of entrees: gremolata-crusted beef tenderloin with roasted baby carrots and boursin-mushroom potato au gratin; pan-seared natural chicken with portobello eggplant Napolean and prosciutto-wrapped asparagus; Niman Ranch pork porterhouse with roasted root vegetables, tasso ciabata spoonbread and collard green slaw; or cilantro pesto grilled prawns with kohlrabi-cauliflower puree and blood orange fennel salad.

There will also be an antipasto display and a dessert table filled with sweet temptations. The hours are 5-10 p.m. and price is $125 per couple. The price also includes entrance into The Foundry for live music from Priscilla & Lil Ricky. After 10 p.m., food may be ordered in The Foundry, but without eating at Broad Street Grille, there will be a $15 per person cover charge. For reservations, call 424-3700.

• Chattanooga Choo Choo: This popular New Year's Eve destination will once again feature its prime rib/pasta buffet for you New Year's Eve revelers. Start with a trip through the salad bar that includes fresh fruit, cheese and all the salad fixings you'd ever want. Then feast on seafood pasta Alfredo with shrimp, scallops and crabmeat or grilled chicken marinara. The carving board will be filled with roast prime rib, but there will also be other entrees such as chicken picata, Caribbean-crusted talapia and fried Gulf shrimp. A nice selection of vegetables will also be offered. Hours are 5-10 p.m. and price is $21 per person. Call 308-2481 for reservations, but walk-ins will also be accepted. And the Station House is also taking reservations at 308-2473. There will be two seatings, one at 6 p.m. and the other at 9 p.m. "It's always very popular for a New Year's Eve dinner and party," said food and beverage director Yaser Hanieh.

• 212 Market: Kick off the new year with a mouthful of flavors at 212. In addition to the regular a la carte menu, the restaurant will offer a lot of specials from 5-10 p.m. Bubbly will be served at midnight for toasting. For call-ahead seating, phone 265-1212.

Off the bookshelf

Southern Living's newest cookbook, "Around the Southern Table" by cooking instructor and a Southern Living contributing editor Rebecca Lang, is one of those books that brings back memories of Sunday afternoon picnics and family gatherings around the fire enjoying comfort foods and conversation. It's little wonder, then, that the book is subtitled: "Coming Home to Comforting Meals and Treasured Memories."

The book is filled with recipes from Lang's childhood home, as well as ones she's picked up through the years and kept as is, because they are so good, or perfected to become some of her new favorites. This book is a gracious salute to every Southern cook. And it's one you'll want to sit back in your favorite chair and read from cover to cover, then get busy in the kitchen cooking.

Here's one recipe from the book for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. Filled with black-eyed peas, it's bound to bring you luck in 2013. Just be sure to plan ahead because the peas need to soak for a good eight hours.

Hoppin' John Bake

1/2 of a 16-ounce package dried black-eyed peas

4 cups chicken broth, plus more for rice

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice

3 bacon slices

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

8 ounce Monterey Jack cheese, grated on the large holes of a box cheese grater

Rinse and sort peas according to package directions. Cover with water 3 inches above peas; let soak for eight hours. Drain and rinse well.

Combine peas and 4 cups broth. Bring to a boil; cover and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions, using chicken broth instead of water.

Cook bacon in skillet over medium heat, turning once, 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in skillet. Crumble bacon. Cook bell pepper, onion and garlic in hot drippings, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove black-eyed peas from broth using a slotted spoon. (You should have about 3 cups of peas.) Discard broth. Add peas to bell-pepper mixture. Add rice, crumbled bacon and 1 cup shredded cheese, stirring gently to combine. Transfer to a lightly greased 11-by-7-inch baking dish or divide among 6 individually greased (10-ounce) ramekins. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

I hope you all have a happy new year and usher it in safely. It can't be overstated: Designate a driver if you plan to consume more than a glass of bubbly.

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