I’m one of those lucky people who get to welcome the New Year in with a birthday. The only problem with being born on the first of January is that most people either want to spend it recuperating from their over-indulgence of the night before or hunkered down in front of the TV watching football. What I’m really saying is that nobody usually wants to celebrate it with me. But, this year, my great buddies, Dean and Stuart, prepared a delicious and good luck bearing lunch to welcome in 2014 as well as to say “happy birthday” to me.
Champagne began the proceedings and then we went straight to a terrific Thai-flavored noodle salad with the noodles signifying a long life for all of us. This was followed by a beautiful whole fish – the silvery scales representing silver coins. It was accompanied with a kinda Asian take on hoppin’ John, the New Year’s Day good luck dish from the American south, a golden cornbread – representing the gold of our prosperity wishes -, a watercress salad, the green for money and the shape of the leaves those coins again. Blessings were heaped on all of us. My birthday cake was a perfect pavlova, the Australian national dessert (Dean is from New Zealand and Stuart from England, but they have lived in Australia for most of their adult lives) made by Stuart. I guess you have figured out that this was a very memorable birthday celebration and one that I hope extends health and prosperity to all.
Dean’s New Year’s Fish
1 whole pink snapper, scaled, gutted and cleaned
Salt and pepper
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 bunch dill
4 ribs celery, cut, crosswise, in half
About 2 cups dry white wine
Olive oil for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Cut one of the lemons, crosswise, into slices. Quarter the remaining 2 lemons. Set aside.
Using a sharp knife, diagonally score the flesh of the fish three times. Season generously with salt and pepper, inside and out, and rub into the scored marks. Stuff the cavity with lemon slices and a few parsley and dill sprigs.
Lightly oil a baking dish large enough to hold the fish. Cover the center with the celery and loosely pack in the remaining parsley and dill along with the quartered lemons. Add just enough white wine to generously cover the bottom of dish.
Lay the fish on top of the celery and drizzle olive oil over the top. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes or just until barely cooked through.
Serve whole with the pan juices as a sauce.